by c welch
A slightly diffrent version of the first
All My Tears
“When I go don’t cry for me, in my Father’s arms I’ll be.” The words rasped out from under the gray, musky sheets, damp with wear and sweat. Ms. Barbara Ellen was dying. She had been dying for years but just simply refused to go. People started to claim that she had been dying so long that she and death had become close friends and confidants. You bring Ms. Barbara Ellen into a sick room and nine times out of ten, that sick person is up walking round like he’s never been ill a day in his life.
The Young Preacher who comes up the mountain from the Town to talk about the higher power and rebirth claims that it is all those potions and remedies and the light of god he brings with him. But the mountain people know the truth. They would never tell the Young Preacher he was wrong though, they would just smile and nod and send for Barbara Ellen.
There were always people like the preacher coming up the mountain. People who think they can offer a better life, their life. But they always left defeated in the end. They soon came to be like snowstorms in April, a nescience but something you just have to brace yourself for and ride out to the end. The biggest of these nesciences was a woman called Mrs. Silvia Unis.
She was a big woman whose arm folds flapped up and down when she walked and had a tendency to point meaty fingers at people when she was angry. Unlike the Young Preacher who meant well and always brought gifts of rich, sweet chocolate to the children, salt and pepper to their mothers and tools to their fathers, Mrs. Silvia only seemed to bring the wrath of the lord. She was a god-fearing woman who believed she was General in God’s army. She was a complete contradiction to the mountain people. While they were quite, she was loud, while they were subtle she was heart wrenchingly blunt. She would stamped up the mountain in her ford SUV every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night to give the mountain people a fiery and hell bent sermon more fierce and bone rattling then anything the Young Preacher could have delivered.
The mountain people were not religious as the Young Preacher and Mrs. Silvia were, although they knew and believed in the lord. Most of the people’s sermons and scripture readings came from the tattered old bible in the Willopy’s house. Old man Willopy would flip through the yellowing pages and recite from memory the words he had heard his father read. No one on the mountain could read or write. The words spoke of the lord and the father, the son and the Holy Ghost. But to the mountain people it all meant one thing. The mountain. The mountain people believed that the mountain was alive and that each and every stone, tree, and blade of grass should be worshiped. Mrs. Silvia became livid at these ideas and was constantly damning the people to hell for their barbaric, voodoo practices. Her muddy brown eyes flaring and pudgy checks turning as red as the flames she was damning them to. But in the true mountain fashion, just like with the Young Preacher and his tonics, the mountain people would smile and nod and go about their business. They had beliefs and traditions of their own that had been cemented in their brains and hearts by series of grandparents, parents and elders. Nothing Mrs. Silvia said could change their minds now. No matter how she fumed or claimed their barbaric traditions would lead them to the fiery depths of hell where Lucifer himself would turn the spit.
It was Mrs. Silvia’s fiery beliefs that caused her to be hovering in the corner the night of Barbara Ellen’s death. The room was the only room in the small house. Barbara Ellen and her three sons slept, ate and lived all together in this one tiny room. Ask Barbara Ellen how she liked such close confinements and she’s laugh and say,
“Snug and homey, just like a house should be. Besides you only need the one candle to light it.”
Then she’d put a plump red hand on her round belly and laugh. Barbara Ellen was always like that, cherry all the time. She could make the sunshine even in the black spring storms that flooded the streams and made everyone miserable. One smile from Barbara Ellen and you spent the rest of the day with a big grin on your face and a hop to your step. She believed that everyone was good and that anybody could do anything. The Young Preacher said she was an optimist, but everybody knew that she was just Barbara Ellen.
For all of Barbara Ellen’s fine ways it was today that people were wishing she had been meaner to them. Maybe if she yelled at a neighbor or hit a child or stole or cheated then it would be easier to lose her, to say goodbye. As it was Barbara Ellen was nothing but a good woman, who made all the people on the mountain mourn as if it was their kin they were losing and not just a neighbor. It seemed that the mountain its self was mourning the upcoming loss of Barbara Ellen. Clouds so black, thick and fierce that not even one of Barbara Ellen’s famous smiles could clear them away and bring back the sun. The wind was so strong it threatened to tear down the trees, and the rain came down heavy and hard in sheets so that you wouldn’t be able to see your hand if it was smack in the middle of your face.
It was because of this awful weather that only Mrs. Silvia, the Young Preacher and Barbara Ellen’s three grown boys, Jacob, Saul, and Able were present for her death.
Years on the mountain with few other families had lead to a series of “selective” breeding. Years and years of the same genes being swapped from one baby to the other with no chance or variation had left its mark on Barbara Ellen’s boys. All three had some form of deformity. Physical in Jacob, Mental in Saul, and a mix of both mental and physical in her youngest Able.
Barbara Ellen was a good mother to her sons. She protected and cared for them long after they were grown. The boys had been babied so much that Barbara Ellen, lying on her deathbed, feared that they would be unable to care for themselves and would follow her to the grave shortly after she left. She would have felt differently if one of them had a wife or at lest a sweetheart to look after them. But as it was they would never have that. They scared most all the girls on the mountain, and going down the mountain was out of the question. No respectable person went down the mountain to the town below. Nothing but sadness was there. The people who lived her were corrupted with greed and hate.
Since The mountain people needed things like pot, plans and cloth from the town, and being as it is quite near impossible to get these things without going to the Town several men were always chosen to go down twice a year to represent the mountain people collectively and sell the variety of jams, jellies, pies, ointment and “local folk art”, as the Towns people called it, to the mass of tourists who would show up to buy real mountain memorabilia.
The men would come back with their supplies and money as well as fascinating stories about the strange tourists who threw paper wrappers on the ground and asked for “sugar free, gluten free” jellies or asked how many calories in a meat pie or if one of Rebecca’s famous Rhubarb strawberry crumble tarts had any trans fat in it. The men wore pants with most of the legs torn off and little bags strapped around their waist, laughing and carrying on about how grand it must be to b one with the wild. The women walked around with their faces and hair all done up, either falling all over and adoring the goods or turning their noses up at them.
Barbara Ellen heaved a sigh under her quilts that quickly turned into a deep throaty cough. She ran a hand over the multicolored squares that made up the quilt. It was musty and slightly stiff to the touch from the rough blocks of soap used to wash it with. Her quilt, the one she made with her own weathered hands when she was fourteen and baby Jacob was only sixteen months. She had sewn it together from bits of cloth that were of no more use around the house. Every square and patch was a memory from her past. As she ran a yellowed finger over the cloth she wondered what would happen to this old quilt. Lota old memories in the old worn out rag. Shame to let it go to waste and rot in the ground with her as her burial shroud. She raised her head to tell Jacob to keep it with him and saw that he had his large misshapen head in his hands. Loud sobs rocked his body. She looked at her other boys and saw that Able had the same reaction as his oldest brother. Saul stood apart from his brothers with his face against the wall and his thick fingers curled into fists.
Barbara Ellen parted her dry cracked lips and tried to offer some words to comfort her sons. She started to sign an old song that her mother had sung to her on her own deathbed.
“When I go don’t cry for me, in my Father’s arms I’ll be. The wounds left on my soul will be healed and I’ll be home. And I will not be ashamed for my savior knows my name. It don’t matter where ya burry me, I’ll be home and I’ll be free. No it don’t matter where I lay, all my tears will be washed away.”
Barbara Ellen felt a cold comfort come over her. All the pain she had felt had faded away making her feel as if she was a child again, full of life and vitality. She knew that this was the end. She looked at each of her sons and said in a clear voice,
“Fair well, to all fair well.”
Then looking straight in Saul’s angry eyes said to him in a voice slightly above a whisper,
“When death comes to call on you, will he know your name too?”
Then she was silent.
Sivia Unis stepped out of the house onto the porch. She breathed in the clean smell of rain and damp. The ancient porch had been built on an after thought years after the original house had been built and proved to be of little shelter for Silvia. The wind was so fierce that it blew the rain sideways and back ways and all ways making it impossible to escape the vengeance of the wicked April storm.
Silvia didn’t mind the rain as long as it got her out of that horrible room with those monsters and that sickening stench of human death, illness and fesses. If Silvia had had her way Barbara Ellen would be in a sanitary hospital were she could have had a privet death away from decent people
She pulled her red felt jacket tightly around herself and bounced up and down on the balls of her feet to ward off the chill of the wind and rain that had started to creep into her bones. She heard a loud rasping cough behind her and quickly turned around, her hand reaching inside her coat pocket and desperately clutching a small spray bottle of mesas.
Sitting wedged into the corner, where porch meet house, sat Whiskey Joe. Silvia couldn’t tell it was him by his face, but the smell of malt whiskey that rolled of him was enough to composite an accurate identification. Had she been able to see his face she would have seen an old weathered face with unruly gray hair and beard. Years of drinking had made his bright blue eyes of youth into muddy blues that sunk into his skull and that looked at you and past you and at the same time far away from you.
Silvia was opposed to Joe for more than one reason. The lack of personal hygiene was only one of many habits that Silvia despised. Mostly she hated his values and ethics. Whiskey Joe had made his living from making large quantities of moonshine for the mountain people. He had no problem selling one of his brown bottles of whiskey to a forty-year-old or a four-year-old as long as they had the money. His love for Barbara Ellen did not help him in Silvia’s eyes either.
To Silvia it was a sin to have a lover you were not married to, especially at their ages and with Barbara Ellen a mother. It was simply scandalous.
“I shouldn’t be surprised that you are here.” Silvia said, each word dripping with unimaginable hate.
“I don’t suppose that Barbara Ellen’s recent demise has urged you to see the light and stop your sinful ways.”
Joe tilted his head up and in a rough severed voice started to sing,
“I’ve been a moonshiner for seventeen long years. I’ve spent all my money on whiskey and beer. I go to a hallow where I set up my still. I’ll sell you one gallon for two dollar bills.” His voices begin to weaver and thin until he stopped singing and fell silent.
The young preacher woke up three days after Barbara Ellen’s death in a warm soft bed. He was back at the rectory after several hard days of settling the