APPALACHIAN DAYS WRITING CONTEST
There wasn’t much Andi wouldn’t do to get a smile from her mother. It wasn’t that her mother didn’t smile; it was more likely that she didn’t smile at Andi. Andi pressed close to her mother as she loaded jeans into the wringer washer. She could smell Noxzema on her mother’s freshly scrubbed skin and the faintest hint of her mother’s second cup of morning coffee. Andi tried to get closer. There was nothing more comforting to her than the smell and presence of her mother, but her mother slid her body along the rim of the enamel tub to the farthest point of the semi-circle between them, reminding Andi of the half-moon she had prayed to the night before. “Please let my mother love me,” she prayed. Andi saw the outline of her mother’s baby-filled body as she moved toward the sunlit door leading outside to the yard where the clothes line stretched over the pink peonies her sister Gail had planted in rows around their rented white frame house. Andi stepped off the river stone step into the noon day sun and asked if her mother needed help with hanging the heavy jeans that Andi remembered could stand alone as if someone were in them when she helped her mother carry the frozen denim legs inside to thaw and dry during the cold winter months. She wished her mother had a clothes dryer, especially with another baby on the way. She wondered if her mother would love this baby.
"Andi,” her mother yelled. “Go get your sister,’’ and then holding her abdomen, she dropped to the grass just missing the clothes line pole that held the sagging row of wet, heavy denim.
Andi ran to the porch where her sister was rocking her baby brother. “Mama needs help. Come on. Mama’s sick. I think the baby’s comin.”
Andi’s older sister Gail jumped up and ran with her baby brother clutching her shoulder with his hands and her waist with his tiny fat legs in an attempt to stay connected to his jolting, wobbly sister running without shoes toward her mother who had collapsed.
Blood soaked her mother’s pants, and she lay lifeless as flies landed on the beads of sweat across her forehead. Gail handed her baby brother off to Andi and started yelling at her mother to wake up, to speak to them, and then she started to sob when she couldn’t get her mother to answer. Andi looked at Gail and asked, “Is she dead? Is Mama dead?” Gail felt with her freckled hand for her mother’s pulse.
“I am afraid she isn’t going to make it, Joe. She’s lost way too much blood.” The doctor pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with an arthritic hand that had delivered all but two of the babies in Willow Cove, and those two babies had come into the world faster than Doc Silver’s horse Madam could run. Andi’s father walked the floor in front of the window that led to the porch where Andi and Gail sat crying and peering in every so often to check the status of their mother’s health.
“I think the baby can make it though, if we go ahead and take her now,” Doc Silver said in a sad low tone barely audible to his window audience. Andi announced to her sister whose eyes were swollen and red from the steady tears of a girl about to lose her mother what she had just heard from pressing her ear so hard against the glass that it cracked the seal around the pane. “She will be my baby,” Andi announced to Gail. “I will take care of her and love her and she will know she is loved. She will have a chance, Gailie. Don’t you see. Mama didn’t want her, but I do and I am gonna make sure she knows it, too. I am gonna take good care of her and when she grows up she is gonna leave here and she won’t have to have babies she doesn’t want.”
About the time Andi’s sister realized what her sister had just declared, Doc Silver asked if they wanted to see their baby sister. Andi tiptoed across the wooden floor and peered into the cradle at the wrinkled face of someone she called “Marcy” after a lady she had read about in the Ladies Journal who sold grapes for making wine from her own vineyard up North.
Andi lifted her baby sister up and pressed her soft baby face to her own cheek. “I love you, Marcy,” whispered. “I will always love you. From this point on, you belong to me, and I will take care of you always.” She turned and looked at her mother’s lifeless body and felt nothing but relief for her. “No more babies, Mama,” she said as she touched her mother’s icy hand. The ebony mantle clock struck three, and at that moment Andi thought she saw her mother floating out of the room in a long flowing red gown dancing like a little girl set free.