The girl came on a bright sunshiny day. In Clemmie’s books, the ones she kept hidden from her momma under the loose floor boards in her bedroom, strange or bad things all the time happened on stormy nights with the wind blowing the trees around and the lightening zippy zapping in the sky. But in real life, things happened when they cared to happen, and the girl came on a day when Clemmie felt like running through the grass in her barefeet and then flopping herself down to let the sun warm up her face—even though her momma told her she’d get freckles, and worse she’d not have a fair complexion. Clemmie didn’t give five owl hoots about her complexion.
But she couldn’t run in barefeet right then, and she couldn’t raise up her face to the sun. Because the girl was screaming and crying and holding onto her belly. Clemmie’s grandma leaned over the girl, stroking her hair back, whispering to her. Clemmie leaned over to hear, but she couldn’t catch the words her grandma said. She did hear the girl, though.
“I am sick. I am sick and dying.”
Clemmie’s grandma shook her head, said, “No child. You got a tiny seed of a babe and it’s wanting to come on out.” Clemmie’s grandma looked up at Clemmie, her eyes all light up with mad, and shook her head again. She asked, “Who done this to you? You’s too young to be holding no baby inside you. Barely got your womanly time, I reckon.”
The girl turned her face into the fresh hay. Clemmie’s grandma all the time had to fix up people in the barn, since Clemmie’s momma raised up such a racket and had her a big whopping headache and then would say, “See what you have done? See there? With your noise and your messes and your herbs and crazy poor people coming here?” And Clemmie’s grandma wouldn’t even fuss back. She’d just turn on her heel and walk away.
The girl let loose a sobbing cry like a calf after the teat. Then she said, “I ain’t wanted to do it. He made me to do it. I ain’t wanted to.” Then she set out to crying so hard, the ground shook underneath her, and Beauty whinnied twice.
Grandma’s mouth went into straight line. She rubbed the girl’s stomach, then she picked up the cup full of thick greenish-black medicine and said, “Drank this down, girl. All of it, and I won’t hear no complaints bout the tastes.”
The girl stopped crying long enough to take a tiny sip. She made a face and was about to complain anyway, but Clemmie’s grandma gave her a look to stop frogs from hopping. The girl closed her eyes and swallowed ever last drop, then lay back on the hay and took to crying again.
Clemmie’s grandma looked at Clemmie again and said, “You don’t let this come to pass for you, child, you hear? You stand hard, even if’n you have to beat somebody to a mess, you don’t let this come. This here girl ain’t but a baby.”
Clemmie nodded. She looked at the girl tossing around on the hay, crying. Then the girl grabbed her stomach and pressed, crying harder. She looked to be younger than Clemmie, but it was hard to tell, specially since Clemmie felt like a woman most times herself. The girl wouldn’t look at Clemmie, and turned on her side, curled into a ball, and then let out a scream. Right when that scream passed, blood came out from under her dress.
Clemmie’s grandma petted the girl, whispering kind words, and then she set to helping her get cleaned up. Clemmie didn’t want to see any more, but she had to. She had to learn so one day she could do what her grandma did. But she knew one thing. She weren’t ever going to let no man get in her and make a baby. She weren’t ever going to let nobody have her laying on the hay screaming while a little piece of nothing came falling out her body. Poor little thing draining out didn’t look like nothing but nothing.
Clemmie’s grandmother asked the girl again, “Who done this to you, girl? You tell me straight away right now!”
The girl wiped her eyes, and then said so low, Clemmie wasn’t sure she heard right, “Daddy done it.” Then she set up to wailing so loud, all the animals ran off to hide, the barn doors shook, the sun left and the dark clouds came, the wind stopped and then took up to howling, the bugs stopped flying, and Clemmie’s grandma stood up tall with her face holding such a fury that Clemmie stood up and stepped back.
Clemmie’s grandma said, “Go get your daddy, Clemmie.”
Clemmie ran from the barn, her head whirling around. The girl’s daddy done that? She couldn’t wrap her mind round such a thing. Her own daddy was good and tall and strong and kind. What kind a daddy would hurt his own little girl? She went to hunt up her daddy, while all the time the girls crying rang round and round her head, all the while she kept hearing that whisper, “Daddy done it…”