(Playing catchup of re-posting the "Draft Written to Blog: Clementine")
Clementine pushed the egg around in the grease. She hated runny yolks, so she fried it until the entire egg was hard. That’s how her grandma had always eaten them. Her daddy had liked his eggs runny and he’d take his fork and smash the yolk into the white, then he dip his toast or biscuit into it, swirl it around until it was soppy with egg, and take a hippopotamus bite. He’d say, "Eat up girl. You need meat on them bones."
After her egg was fried, Clementine grabbed a biscuit from the pan, smeared fresh-churned butter on it, and sat to eat her breakfast with a cup of black coffee. Her house was quiet, too quiet. Not the good quiet that includes all the critter noises and the wind sawing branches and the creek guggling, but the quiet that comes when too many voices have been talking in her head, swirling round and round, then hush with a sudden still. She knew that quiet meant only a pause, that moment of waiting before they all started up again, all the people she’d ever known, even the ones she’d rather forget, or even the ones that hurt too much to remember.
In that pause, in the eye of the storm in her brain, she chewed her food, slow slow; slow enough to delay the next thing she had to do. But soon, the plate was empty, her cup was empty, and it was time to rise and get ready. She rinsed her dishes, dried them, put them up. A cardinal called. A squirrel chattered.
A voice said, "Chil’ you sick?"
"No’m," she answered. "I’m not sick."
"Then why you spitting up you breakfast this morning?"
"Just not agreeing at me, Grandma."
"Uh huh. That so."
"You look peak-ed. You been look peak-ed. You sure you ain’t got sum-thin’ to tell you grandma?"
"Uh huh…Wale, I may be a old woman, but I ain’t stupid. I got a potion to make that’ll he’p.”
"No, grandma! I done need no potion…"
"Hesh up…let grandma he’p you…"
Clementine headed to her bathroom, took off her chore clothes, drew her bath, got her towel and washrag, climbed in the tub and sat as it filled. Her bones ached from the chores. Her young self and her old self felt as if they were coming together in a rush, clashing together like wind against trees.
She cleaned herself in her claw-foot tub, the iron cold on her bare bottom. Stroking the washrag over her skin, she couldn’t believe that skin was hers. For it was wrinkled and spotty. Seemed only a little while ago her skin was smooth and tight. Even the color didn’t look right. Aaron always said her color wasn’t to be ashamed of, but to wonder about where it came from. Clementine smiled, scrubbed her feet, in between her toes, on the bottom. She always washed from head to feet, just as she was taught. The old lye soap was long replaced by Dove. She loved the smell of it, the creamy of it, how it slid easily over her skin, as if she was washing with cream instead of soap. She felt like a queen when she used the Dove and it was her secret pleasure. Once she knew better and wasn’t so stinky and dirty, Aaron said her skin smelled like sunshine after rain, he was so silly sometimes.
Her momma was as white as the biscuit innards she’d just eaten. Her daddy was like the toasted part at the top. Her grandma was like Clementine; their skin looked as if they’d been in the sun too long. When she was young, that was seen as a bad thing, to have skin that wasn’t milky-pale. Aaron hadn’t cared at all, and he’d stroked her skin and told her she was the color of the coffee he drank—milk and three spoons of sugar was how he took it.
Clementine dried off with the towel in her favorite color: Red. She’d splurged on that towel, same as she’d splurged on the Dove soap. It was her secret—big fluffy red towel and bars of fancy soap. When she had to wash the red towel, the old thin ones felt scratchy and mean. Next, she put on her panties and bra, then her slip, then she brushed her hair, put it back in the ponytail and into her bun. She went to the chiffirobe and took from the hanger her mourning dress. The black dress slithered over her body, and it felt as if she were being suffocated, even though the dress was loose on her. It scratched at her, binded her, choked her—she hated the dress, hated what it meant it was time to do. She slipped on her black lace up boots, and then last, her black gloves and hat. It was time.
It looked like rain, the clouds gathering. Clementine hoped it would rain, she hoped it soaked her through and through. She wanted to feel cleansed by the sky, she wanted the black dress to soak and cling. She wanted the sky to open and pour its contents upon her head. She wanted to have to swim to the spot. She wanted to wade through miles of water and mud. She wanted her boots to fill. She wanted—she wanted, that was just it. Clementine wanted. Maybe she wanted too much maybe that’s why things had gone like they’d gone.
She walked to the spot. No rain. The sun peeked through the clouds, as if in apology. She bent down to her knees in the green grass surrounding the clearing. The little clearing had a few shoots growing and these Clementine pulled up. She straightened the cross, brushed away stray leaves. Finally, she lay upon the grave of the little one. Lay her body down, lay the left side of her face on the earth and whispered to the little one, told it about her morning, how the memories wouldn’t stay away, how they swirled and tossed and blew, how she didn’t want to remember, but she must. She kissed the ground, liking the taste of soil, the grit of it. She said, “You would surely be an old man now. You’d be a old man and I’d still be you momma. I’d be you old old momma and you still be my lil’ one. You might say, ‘Momma, leave me be, I’m old. I know what to do.’ And I would say, ‘Hesh up, you still my boy. You still my baby and I can say what I want to.’”
Clementine kissed the earth again and lay there. Lay there until her bones hurt too bad to lay anymore, and still she lay there, long after the sun moved over her and behind her. Long she lay there, listening to the voices. She scream of a bobcat and she was back…