Another Peek at Phoebe


“Yes, Maseppa?”

“Before you read your book, will you milk the cow now, before it gets dark? Give Ginger water and grain, too? Zeke will be late with his deliveries tonight.”

“Yes, Maseppa.” She put the scrap of paper that she used for a bookmark on page three hundred thirty- eight. She looked at the last page… four hundred seventy- four. She had never read a book that long. If she could stay up later tonight, she should be able to finish it.

She grabbed the tin pail from the hook in the storage shed, and rinsed it at the outside pump. She shoved the door of the barn with her shoulder. It rumbled along its track, and the afternoon sun lit up the barn floor. Bella, their Jersey cow, mooed at her from her stall.

Phoebe tossed a couple pitchforks of hay in front of Bella. She set the three-legged stool nearby and put the tin pail beneath the swollen udder. Phoebe leaned her forehead on Bella’s side and began squirting the white, creamy milk in the pail. At first, it made a kind of ringing sound like a bell, but after the bottom was covered, the streams of milk foamed into bubbles as it hit the surface. Butterscotch rubbed against her legs and the cow’s legs. Bella tried to swat her away with her tail, stinging Phoebe instead.

“Ouch! Here, kitty,” She sprayed a stream at the kitten’s face and laughed as it got all over her fur.

She set the pail near the door and filled Ginger’s water bucket and poured a scoop of grain in her bucket. She tossed a pitchfork of hay in the corner of her stall and gave her an extra scratch on the rump. She carelessly leaned the pitchfork in the corner, but it fell over. As she bent to pick it up, something dark moved away from her hand in edge of the pile of dried grass.

Phoebe stared at the spot. It hadn’t looked like a mouse. It looked bigger. Maybe it was a rat or a weasel. She grasped the pitchfork and dropped it deeper into the hay. Again something moved. She raised it again.

“No! Don’t git me!” The hay scattered and a young woman crawled out. Her face was dark, and her eyes were like white moons in a midnight sky. “Don’t tell no body I’s here!”

Phoebe couldn’t move. Her eyes told her that this was a negro, one of those strange breed that she had heard about at school. She knew that their skin was black, but it really was! She subconsciously reached out her hand, as if to assure herself that this was real. The woman sat shivering as Phoebe touched her head of tiny braids and sweaty forehead. She pulled her hand back, ashamed of her childish rudeness.

“I’m sorry. I never saw a black person before.”

“Don’t tell no body ‘bout me, please, miss!”

“Are you a slave? Are you running away?”

“I’s ain’t stayin’ long. I jes need t’ rest fer a spell.”

“Maseppa is good. She will give you some food.”

“No! Don’t tell no body! Dey’s lookin’ fer me!”

1 comment:

LauraLee Shaw said...

Man, oh man, YOU are a gifted fiction writer! This was great, vonnie!


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