Fiction: A Widow’s Tale

Posted: May 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

Vagabond

It was 1940 and I had buried my husband, Abel Thatcher, during a hot and humid Georgian summer. At the age of thirty-nine, he went to sleep one night and never woke up. His death didn’t surprise me since he drank hard liquor every evening when he returned from the fields, drenched in sweat. He wasn’t much to look at but he was my husband. And so it was that everything he owned fell into my possession. I lived in his two-story white frame house and had funds to live in a comfortable manner, even though we’d never been husband and wife in a marital sense. We shared separate bedrooms.

Able never laid a finger on me––not one kiss. He asked that the meals be cooked on time and the house cleaned with not a speck of dust left on the mantle. I lived in silence and did as he asked. His library was full of books and so I read and learned much by my own devices. He accompanied me to church, in silence. Our marriage was what he referred to a business venture.

I’ll tell you a little about Abel Thatcher, not that it makes any difference after he’s dead. You see, he had a right good fortune of land inherited from his first wife’s estate. He took great store by her, for a picture of her hung in every room of the house. She was beautiful and had died in childbirth. He’d never stopped grieving and probably worked himself too hard, since his death came at a relatively young age for a man. Sometimes he’d call me by her name of Leigh Anna. I’d lower my head and say, “Emma, Mr. Thatcher, my name is Emma.” He said he’d never have affection for another woman after her. He married me, because it was good business. He told me these details after our vows had been said.

To understand how I came to be Mrs. Thatcher, I must elaborate. When I was twenty years of age, Mama considered me a spinster or an old maid. Daddy showed me only kindness and often told her that it was my decision to marry or not. We lived a normal family life. That is; until Daddy fell dead at the door of our home one evening, with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. He lay on the carpeted flooring before Mama and me––motionless.

She showed no emotion and threw the flowers in the trash before the undertaker was called upon to take him away. Mama was a newfangled female who took great store in vanity and what money could buy. She arranged his burial for the following day, so she could be on the watch for another husband. “I am a widow,” she said. “I will be the wife of a man of means.”

A fair looking woman, Mama didn’t go into mourning. She met her next husband at Daddy’s funeral and did not resemble a grieving widow at all. At Daddy’s grave, a stranger named Ludwig Prosper comforted her. He was a widow too, and a man of means, so that was that. They married two weeks following Daddy’s passing. Thereafter, Mr. Prosper and his bank account moved into our home.

For me, Mama said I wouldn’t be happy with a step-daddy and it was time for me to marry. She sang and dawdled around the house and told me she planned to marry me off to the best candidate. I had always led a sheltered life and was hesitant to change more. Mama became busy with the interrogation process for nigh to a month till Abel Thatcher appeared at the door. She never asked me if I liked him; and he never spoke to me enough for me to know his manner, intentions, or even the tone of his voice. In short order, I knew only what she told me about him, which wasn’t much.

So it came to be that Mama enjoyed her new husband who suited her and coddled her just like Daddy had always done. It wasn’t enough though; Mr Prosper wanted to travel, to Mama’s delight. She packed trunks and she and the new husband took a train to Chicago–a place she’d never been. I was to lock up the house and cover the furniture. Someday the house might be needed she said.

All the while, I was in shock and alone for the first time. Mama never remained for the formal vows between Abel and me, for he paid her a fine sum before she and her new husband left for Chicago, a city she had always wanted to visit. I was in an empty house with the basic essentials until Abel married me at the courthouse before a justice of the peace. He possessed the emotions of a man who had bought a work mule for the fields.

A short-lived marriage to Abel left me alone for the duration of six months. Afterward, I sat many days at the dining room table with a cat at my feet. I attended church and men looked in my direction; I looked away, but I was still young and time passed to my thirtieth birthday. I felt foolish knitting and sewing quilts with the women of the church. I knew there was more to life, but was at a loss to know what it was. One year bled into the next and I became––thirty. Hired hands kept up the lands Abel Thatcher left me and I kept reading books and anything that caught my fancy.

The more I read, foolish ideas entered my head. There had to be more in the world and I didn’t know how to be happy, for I had no experience in that situation.

It was in the month of July and the usual humid summer smothered me. I pushed up the windows and turned on the fans and mostly dreamed. When I went to the General Store, men spoke to me and stared. I became flattered and looked in the mirror more often. I was certainly not homely. It was nice to be noticed and I wondered why I’d waited so long to come to life and notice such things.

One weekday I went into the General Store to stock my pantry and had the hired man, Claude, drive me home in his old Ford truck. He was a nice-looking man and lingered at the back door. We never exchanged much in conversation, but I told him I read a lot and wrote notes to myself about flowers. I sketched them. He asked if he might stop by some evening to view my drawings. My mouth was agape and I changed the subject and told him to pass the word that I needed a new hired man to work in the fields that had been flooded that spring.
He said he’d ask around. With a sad look upon his bearded face, he left. I closed the door and leaned against it I wondered if I was becoming like my mother with her vanity and demands.

Sustenance of the farm was vital. I knew I must keep the crops in good order, so that I would never be in want. Weeks passed and the rains didn’t stop. One day I was at the kitchen sink and heard a tap. I dried my hands and unlatched the screen door. I had glanced in the hall mirror and brushed my hair to be acceptable, no matter the hand behind the tap. A rough-looking rogue of a man stood before me. His eyes burned into my flesh. I told him he looked like a vagabond with his burlap sack on his shoulders and he nodded in agreement. He said to call him that name, it would be sufficient. He was hungry and needed employment. He heard I needed a worker, as he sat with men playing checkers at the General Store.

He explained his time of hardship and emphasized his poor condition and said he was always hungry. Being a charitable woman, I allowed him entrance and bid him sit at the dining room table while I fixed him food to eat. He removed his hat and seemed much obliged.

It didn’t stop there. I sat across from him and watched him ravage an entire roast beef, potatoes, and carrots with bread. I wondered how he could be so hungry. He didn’t answer; but he did ask if I had a spare bedroom that he might use, while he worked in the fields and around the farm. I had plenty of rooms, for a two-story house, and agreed. I set a fair wage that he was agreeable to and so the business between me––his employer and he–the employee, began. He was to sleep in Abel’s bedroom.

That same night after I’d settled him in, I got to thinking more and more on the stranger. At breakfast the next morning, I asked how he knew I needed help on the farm. He was quick to answer that he’d heard it at the General Store, and mentioned that he’d told me the same thing the day before. My head spun at such a slight memory lapse. He assured me that he was a hard worker and wouldn’t bother me. He said his mama taught him to respect all women and his daddy taught him how to make women happy—only and nothing more.

I thought on his words about making women happy after he’d worked for me a few weeks. I wondered what he meant. I’d never been happy, so I had no notion of what that was. I knew to go to church, get up in the morning and do the necessary chores about the house and farm. I was a fair employer to the hired hands, but could not think of one single thing that made me happy. I had existed. My farm hands never approached me other than questions about work, and all had wives and many children. Vagabond was a strange man and true to his word. He was a hard worker and seemed to do everything correctly. I sensed he had a background of manners, but never questioned his personal life.

The working association went on for about six months when he said he’d have to be moving on. He informed me that he couldn’t stay in one place for long. He was cordial and thanked me for my kindness. I thought hard when he told me this at the dinner table. I’d watched him for six months. His muscles were firm and he had long hair that he pulled behind and tied with a black band. His eyes were a strange black-blue color and he had a dimpled chin and strong jawline. I couldn’t imagine myself alone in that big house after I’d gotten used to him being there. Alas, he left me without any farther expectations, but it was none of my business.
Once again, he stood with his burlap sack of clothes swung over his shoulder. We shook hands, he thanked me for my kindness, and we said our goodbyes, or so I thought.

A month passed and a storm blew in from the sea to farther inland. It was rain and wind, the likes of which I’d never seen before. I secured all window shutters and battened down the hatches, so to speak. I’d survived storms before and all was well. I lit an oil lamp and arranged candles, in preparation of loosing electricity, and went to sleep on the parlor sofa with my favorite quilt. Each time I awoke to heavy gales of wind, it occurred to me, for the first time since Vagabond worked for me–I was a lonely woman. Something was missing.

I had lost all sense of reasoning, for I could not bring myself to pick up my old telephone and call women from the church. Something came over me that I never knew before. I missed that vagabond of a rough looking man. It was a surprise to feel such an uncomfortable manner and the wind blew harder with the rain.

My concentration was a blur and I knew what loneliness was. I figured it had taken me long enough to find out. A knock came at the door amid all that rain and wind. Careful, I opened the door enough to make out who was knocking at such a late hour. The lights flickered and I didn’t know what to expect.

There before me in the space of the half latched door was Vagabond’s image. He was soaked through with his meager burlap sack in hand. His hat was droopy from the rain and he shivered. He asked admittance and said the weather prevented him from departing the area. He seemed humble and asked if he might stay until the storm passed.

Strange thoughts entered my mind. Things I never understood, but I extended my hand. He put down his burlap sack and took my hand in his. Fascination commenced and I looked into the darkest eyes I’d ever had the pleasure of seeing. We said few words, but I saw into his soul; he was as alone as I. His hands were cold like frost and I wanted to warm them. I bid him to come into the house and change into dry clothes. He found the bedroom he’d used when he worked for me and I told him he was free to change into my Abel’s clothes, for he wouldn’t need them anymore.

I paced and listened to the man wash up and change clothes. I held my ear to the washroom door and felt shame, but it didn’t stop me from listening. Memory stalked me and stealthily worked through the feelings of solitude I’d known for years. I was nicer looking than some women who had huge families and husbands, or women who walked the streets in search of secretive business. Vagabond should find me charming enough. Why could I not stop thinking about a hungry vagabond that probably only had the wages he’d earned in my employ? I must have gone mad from being alone for so long.

I returned to the parlor and fought my yearnings and imaginings and paced the kitchen floor. I moved from room to room and climbed the steps to pace the rooms upstairs. I knew then that I was no lady and my intentions toward that man were not pure. I had had enough of wondering what happy was and tapped on his door.

He was surprised to see me. The long sleeved work shirt of Abel’s was unbuttoned and I saw thick hair on Vagabond’s chest. He apologized and began to button that shirt one button at a time while I stared. The wind blew hard and I shivered. I told him I wasn’t myself at all, but I needed to ask what he had meant by his daddy teaching him how to make women happy.

He stepped toward me a bit and reached for my trembling hands. I was frozen in a position that prevented me from releasing his fingers when he attempted to pull away. He told me I was a lady and he couldn’t do any teaching like that. I didn’t listen. Concentration disappeared the minute I let that man into my house. I couldn’t take it anymore. It rained harder and I felt possessed. The next thing I knew I was in Able’s bedroom that we’d never shared and Vagabond was telling me all sorts of shocking things his daddy had taught him to make a woman happy. With my hands to my face, I must have appeared a fool.
“I shouldn’t have told you that, Mrs. Thatcher, you’re a gentle lady of beauty and integrity.”

I listened and wanted to know more. Shameless woman that I was, I knew what to do. I pushed the man down and proceeded to expect some of the things his daddy had taught him to do to a woman. I felt I must be made happy! His eyes were large and he was a shocked man. The lights went dim and I felt a new boldness mixed with shame. In my crazed state, I wanted to make him my prisoner. After he was weary, he fell asleep. I lay beside him listening to his heavy breathing and snores. I knew what to do the following morning.

I prepared Vagabond’s breakfast and took it to his room–locking the door behind me, I tossed the key into a vase and approached him in his waking. He was locked in and wasn’t going anywhere. I had no good intentions. The next few days were a blur after that for I ravaged him an entire week until he was too weak to protest. He was not going anywhere and it rained more every day, so he couldn’t have done much traveling anyway.

I became stubborn and impatient with Vagabond and he was clearly afraid of me when I tied his right hand to the bedpost and locked him in. I was thoughtful enough to see to his cleanliness and meals. When darkness descended, my shrieks and wails were loud but not of pain. I was in paradise and wondered why I had imprisoned myself for an eternity to experience “happy.” My screams of peace and this new thing called happiness controlled me to madness. The man begged to be allowed to leave. He said he had enjoyed being with me, but he was weaker than he had been when he was starved for days without food. He was a mysterious captive and I was a reluctant female. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. The thought of not feeling a human’s touch made me weep in his presence and I begged and pleaded him to stay; he begged and pleaded to be released. I didn’t listen.

Days later, while my captive slept, a tap came upon the door. I was reluctant to answer for fear of being discovered as a kidnapper, although Vagabond was a man. I relaxed to see a female neighbor who lived down the road. Her husband waited in the truck and told her to rush, before the rain picked up again. Her umbrella was blown inside out. She’d heard screams of pain and wanted to check on me and make sure I was well. She said the wails had gone on for days and echoed through the fields and woods. I assured her I was fine and turned around for her to see for herself. Convinced, she left and I locked the door twice: the latch and the bolt were firm and strong.

Satisfied that all was as it should be, I prepared Vagabond’s meal and set it aside to unlock his bedroom door. I was in a maniacal frame of mind with what I saw. Vagabond had escaped! He had left in such a hurry out the window that it was still up and the screen torn aside;rain blew to the floor. I wept and called his name. I looked down the road from the open window; he was gone, without a trace. All he left was his old burlap bag with his dirty clothes. I searched through the remains and found nothing out of the ordinary. He had taken Abel’s coat and dressed in his clothes and even took his good Sunday hat.

I sat in the floor and cried his name, in vain. My Vagabond who had never been mine was gone. I was alone again and the thought of alone after companionship and happiness was most depressing.
I felt hopeless and went to unlock the front door and stood, as rain drenched my clothes. The screen door banged against the wall with the rush of wind. It was difficult to determine my teared face from the rain upon me. I fell to my knees and prayed. I prayed for more wind and rain.

Comments
  1. About this write. Originally, it was one of my poems and I just went with it for the write. It’s included in my next book of short stories.

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  2. […] has a lot to offer on her blog, from her haunting poetry to great fiction pieces like A Widow’s Tale, to wonderful vignettes of her life. She even describes her own dealings with submitting writings […]

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    • I am behind on comments, but wanted you to know how grateful I am that you critiqued my writing/blog. I appreciate it and after getting to know your writing and how truly professional you are–I am honored that you took the time to SHOWCASE my blog.
      Thank you!

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  3. loricarlson66 says:

    What a delicious and mischievous tale Wyn! I still have my doubts about that Vagabond, but the widow sure seemed happy with him 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, he did come out of nowhere. 🙂 I loved that she was the one in control for a time anyway.

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  5. […] Fiction: A Widow’s Tale — a delicious and mischievous tale! Adult content, though not graphic. […]

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