Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chapter 19 - If the Truth Be Told

September 1948

On Saturday morning Solomon was up at the crack of dawn. He woke thinking about spending the day with Becky. It was a perfect fall day. The air was crisp and dry. He showered, shaved, and went downstairs. Ma was still sleeping in so he started breakfast.

When she smelled the coffee brewing, she came downstairs. “Ye’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning,” she said.

“It’s too pretty outside to lie in bed,” he said taking the toast out of the oven. He grabbed the honey out of the cabinet and put it on the table.

Ma helped herself to some cheese omelet. “Be careful in them woods, and remember the old mine on Buzzard Mountain. Don’t be messin’ around it.”

“Ma, I’m twenty-one,” he laughed.

“I know, son. I say things like that for myself.”

“Just don’t worry,” he said smiling.

Solomon cleaned up breakfast dishes and put a few more items into his backpack. Girls need toilet paper in the woods, he thought as he added it.

He parked his truck behind Becky’s car and walked up the path to Jerry’s cabin.

Becky stepped out on the porch in denim pants and a white middy blouse. She’d left the top buttons undone. A white silk scarf was tied around one wrist. She planned to use it to pull her hair up if she got too warm. “Morning,” she said.

Solomon grinned and said, “Good morning.”

“I have a thermos of iced tea and sandwiches and apples,” she said. “Is there room in your backpack?”

“Sure,” he said. Solomon set the toilet paper on the kitchen table to make room in his backpack for the thermos of tea. He put in the two bags of food, and then he put the toilet paper back on top.

He didn’t think anything about it, but Becky thought, I’d hold it all day before I’d ask him for toilet paper.

There was no path. Not many people went over Buzzard Mountain on the way to Lake Blarney, but it was a short cut from Jerry’s cabin. Solomon had walked these hills since he was little. He’d walked them with Pa Shiver, and then he’d walked them alone after Pa died. It was fun to be able to share them with Becky.

“Lake Blarney’s on the other side of Buzzard Mountain,” he said pointing to the hill behind Jerry’s cabin. “Lot’s of folks from the cove go there to fish. And in the summertime, it’s good for swimming. The climb on this side is steeper than the other side,” he said. “We’re taking the short cut this morning.”

“Shortcuts are good,” she said already sounding out of breath.

Solomon smiled at her and said, “Holler at me if I get to walking too fast.” He offered his hand as she climbed over a fallen log.

Halfway up the mountain, Solomon stopped at a rock outcropping that overlooked Rooster Cove. “Let’s sit here for a spell,” he said putting down the backpack and pulling out a jar of water.

Becky’s face was flushed and red, and she was panting. “Thanks,” she said, “nice view.”

Solomon swung his leg over a rock so that he was facing her. I like this view better, he thought.

“You can tell I’m not used to doing this sort of thing,” she said finally catching her breath.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I was going too fast, wasn’t I?”

“No, it’s fine. I need the exercise,” she said pulling her hair into a ponytail with the white scarf. Raising her arms exposed her navel.

It was hard not to stare at her. She really was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. “You can see my house from here,” he said pointing to a white two-story frame house.

“Oh,” she said, “I’ve noticed that house. It always looks so clean and neat, and the flowers in the yard are so pretty. You said you live with your grandmother. Where are your parents, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“My father passed away when I was two years old, and my mother didn’t feel that she could raise me alone, so she gave me to my grandparents to raise.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, “was your father sick?”

“No, he was hit by a car in Knoxville,” he answered.

“Oh, that’s tragic,” she said.

“How about you?” Solomon asked. “Where do your parents live?”

“They live in Greensboro,” she said. “My dad’s an accountant and my mother’s a fifth grade school teacher. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“You’re a long way from home,” he said.

“Yes, I guess I am.” She looked off into the distance. “I uh…” She cut her eyes at Solomon, and then she looked off again. “My boyfriend and I had some problems, and I just needed to get away for a while.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m a good listener, if you want to talk.” Solomon knew that self-disclosure was an indication that she liked him and felt comfortable with him. He was glad about that.

“It does help to talk,” she said. “Uncle Jerry’s a good listener too.”

“Where’s your boyfriend?” Solomon asked.

“We were in school together at Boone,” she said. “He transferred to law school at Chapel Hill this year.”

“I see,” he said, “you’re a long way from Chapel Hill for sure.”

“Yes,” she gazed into the distance again.

Solomon allowed the silence. He was curious, but he didn’t want to push her.

After a while, she said, “I wanted to go to Chapel Hill with him, but he didn’t want me to come with him. So I came to stay with Uncle Jerry.”

“Your boyfriend must be crazy,” he said smiling.

“I understand how he feels. He’s got three years of law school. He doesn’t need to be saddled to a wife.” She looked up at Solomon. Something else was on the tip of her tongue, but she held back.

She was so quiet that he finally said, “Ready to go on to the top?”

“Okay,” she said.

Solomon stood up and held out his hand to help her off the rock. She was having trouble figuring out where to put her foot. He stretched his arms out and asked, “Can I help?”

“Okay,” she said reaching for his shoulders.

He put his hands around her waist and lifted her off the rocks. The knowledge that she was pregnant with a little boy flashed through his mind. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to spook her. She might not even know she’s pregnant, he thought.

“Thanks,” she said.

It took another thirty minutes to get to the top of Buzzard Mountain. It was difficult to see the panorama because of the trees, but Becky could see Lake Blarney sparkling below. “Oh my...that is...beautiful!” Her chest heaved as she struggled to catch her breath. Her face was flushed again. She was wet with perspiration this time.

She’s getting dehydrated, he thought. He looked at his watch. “It’s almost noon. I think we’ve gone far enough for today. Let’s find a shady spot to rest and have lunch.”

She nodded in agreement.

Solomon found a spot under an oak tree where a carpet of leaves had accumulated. He spread a blanket on top of them, and they both sat down. He got the water out of the backpack and handed it to Becky. She drank almost half of it. She poured water into her hand and splashed her face. Then she lay back and put her knees up taking the pressure off the small of her back. Her chest and abdomen rose and fell forcefully as her body attempted to recover.

Solomon lay down on his side and propped up on his elbow watching her.

“I didn’t know…I was so…out of shape,” she said struggling to talk.

He smiled, “You’re a good sport to try. I hadn’t thought about how difficult the climb could be.” Lying on her back like that, Solomon could see her belly button again. Will I ever know her well enough to kiss it, he wondered?

Becky put one hand behind her head and turned to look at Solomon. “Are you in college?” Her breasts bulged over of the top of her lacy bra.

In his work, Solomon had seen everything about a woman’s body. He’d seen every nook and cranny and cleavage from every possible angle without feeling any sexual attraction. But everything about Becky aroused him. “Not yet,” he said, “I’ve been saving money to go.”

She turned on her side and propped her head up with her hand. “Where do you plan to go?” The change in position caused the top breast to pile up on the lower one.

“I’ll go to the university in Knoxville for three years,” he said, “and then I plan to go to medical school.”

Becky smiled and nodded. “I’m impressed. When will you have enough money saved?”

Solomon had been saving for five years now, and he had the money. He was waiting on the Hezekiah Wall Foundation to hire a doctor. Solomon was treating all the patients towards the end of the doctor’s life. He had been running the clinic under Dr. Wall’s medical license, but the doctor had been dead now for two months.

“It’s complicated,” he said. “I hope to start by this time next year.”

She smiled at him, “Being a doctor is a big responsibility. You hold people’s lives in your hands.”

Solomon smiled at her.

“Where do you work now?” she asked.

“I work at the clinic out on the highway, and I work for my grandmother.”

Oh crap, I hate to hear that, she thought as she smiled at him. “I guess working at the clinic has let you know whether or not you can take being a doctor,” she said.

“I guess so,” he chuckled raising his eyebrows as he nodded.

“How long have you worked there?” she asked.

“Five years,” he said.

“I’ll bet you’ve seen a little bit of everything in five years.”

“Pretty much,” he said.

Becky was fretting. If I go to that clinic about my pregnancy, he’ll know. She sat up and curled her feet under one hip. A serious look spread over her face.

Solomon sat up too. He unpacked their lunch bags and the thermos of iced tea. Becky had made ham and tomato sandwiches with apples and peanut butter cookies for dessert.

“What days do you work there?” She hoped to sound nonchalant as she tried to figure out when she could go without running into him. Privacy was important to her.

“Every week day,” he said.

Oh double crap, she thought. “What’s the doctor’s name at the clinic?” she asked.

“It was Hezekiah Wall,” Solomon said, “but he passed away two months ago.”

She looked confused. “But...what happens if someone needs a doctor now?”

“That’s the complication that I mentioned,” he said smiling. “The Hezekiah Wall Foundation is looking for a doctor, but they haven’t found one yet.”

She stammered, “But…but...what do folks do if they need a doctor? I mean...who do they see now?”

Solomon felt Becky’s anxiety rising. He didn’t want to, but he was going to have to tell her that he was practicing medicine without a license. He took a deep breath and said, “They see me. During the last years of Dr. Wall’s life, I took care of his patients. I worked under his medical license. Whenever the Foundation finds a doctor, I’ll go to college and to medical school.”

“Oh my goodness,” she said putting her hands to her cheeks, “you do have a big responsibility.”

“It’s rewarding,” he said.

She looked down at the blanket. She hated to ask him what was really on her mind, but she couldn’t think of any way around it. “Well...what do the women of Rooster Cove do if they’re expecting a baby?” She quickly cut her eyes up at him.

“Some use the clinic,” he said, “and some call my grandmother. She’s a midwife.”

“And…and you said that you work for her too,” she sighed as a powerless resignation began to sink in, “and I suppose you deliver babies as well,” she said.

“Yes, I do,” he answered. He wished he could make this easier for her, but for now he could only let the situation play itself out.

Becky could think of no way out of this distressing predicament. Her body language indicated that she felt nauseous.

Solomon poured water into a napkin and handed it to her. “I’ve been training with Ma since I was twelve years old,” he said. “I am...a midwife.”

Becky took the wet napkin and held it against her throat. “Well, I might as well tell you right now. I’m expecting a baby.” She said it quickly.

“Okay,” he responded and waited. He didn’t know where she wanted to go with this conversation.

“Say something!” She was on the verge of panic.

He reached across the picnic spread and touched her hand. “It will be alright, Becky. Everything will be just fine.” His touch infused her with serenity. He gave her his strength like Sarah had taught him. Becky actually felt it flowing into her hand and up her arm. When the warmth of his touch reached her neck, it spread in all directions following her central nervous system. She looked into his peaceful blue eyes and wondered how he was able to do that to her. She had felt something like this once before when she had her tonsils removed. A tranquilizer shot had made her feel the same way. How on earth could he do that by simply touching me? she wondered.

She said calmly, “I don’t want you to deliver my baby. It would be too embarrassing.”

“I understand,” he said, “Ma can deliver your baby.” His smile showed his dimples. “I’ll bring flowers.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful.” She looked genuinely relieved.

“I told you everything will be just fine.”

“Yes you did, didn’t you?” Becky said.

“Does your boyfriend know about the baby?”

“Yes, he knows. He feels that he can’t have a family right now with law school and all,” she said. “He wanted me to have an abortion.”

“But you didn’t want to?” Solomon asked.

“No, I just couldn’t do it,” she said. “I don’t know why. I just couldn’t do it.”

“There are a lot of reasons to support not having an abortion,” he said.

“Yeah,” she said, “it’s illegal!”

“There’s more to it than that,” he said. “When a woman becomes pregnant, all her hormones have one goal—to support the pregnancy. Her body undergoes a lot of changes. It’s more than an end to menstruation.”

Becky winced at the personal nature of his words. It was disconcerting to her that this handsome man her own age knew so much about how her body worked.

Solomon hesitated when he saw her squirming, but then he continued, “Milk glands in a pregnant woman’s breasts become active. Nipples get dark with melanin, and their oil glands become active to prevent cracking. The network of arteries and veins to the breasts and uterus becomes extensive. The woman is flooded with hormones that cause her endometrial lining to thicken and grow in her uterus. If she has an abortion, those hormones are abandoned in her organs. Studies show higher rates of cancer in women who’ve had abortions.”

“I didn’t know that,” she gasped. “Have any women in the cove had abortions…that you know of?”

“Oh gosh, yes,” he said, “a lot are done by granny women. I see them when something goes wrong.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Some bad infections happen with dirty abortions,” he said, “and sometimes there’s hemorrhaging.”

“Sounds bad,” she said.

“It can be,” he said. “Do your parents know about the baby?”

“Yes,” she said, “they’re pretty upset about it. When they found out that Robbie, that’s my baby’s father, didn’t want to get married, they set it up for me to come and stay with Uncle Jerry until the baby’s born. That’s so none of their friends will know about it…and none of mine either.”

“Then they want you to give the baby up for adoption,” he said.

“Yes,” she responded.

“And what do you want to do?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said smoothing out her napkin on her thigh. “I guess I’ll give it up for adoption.” She looked up at Solomon and said, “I really love Robbie. I hope we can get back together next year.”

Solomon nodded. “Have you seen a doctor yet?”

“No,” she said.

“Promise me that you’ll see my grandmother next week.”

“Okay,” she said.

Solomon packed up the lunch bags and the blanket. He put the trash in his backpack. He noticed the toilet paper, took it out, and offered it to Becky.

“No thanks,” she said smiling.

The hike down Buzzard Mountain was easier. They got back to Jerry’s cabin a little after three o’clock.

Becky asked, “How do I get an appointment to see your grandmother?”

“What day would you like to come?”

“Would Monday be okay?” she asked.

“Monday would be fine,” he said, “between nine and eleven.”

“I’d like you to be there too,” she said, “just to introduce us.”

Solomon left and Becky went inside the cabin. Jerry was in his favorite overstuffed chair. “How’d it go?”

“It went okay,” she said. She took off her shoes and flopped down on the sofa. She twisted her mouth to one side in frustration and rolled her eyes. “He’s a midwife,” she sighed.

Jerry looked over his glasses and chuckled, “Fancy that.”

Ma Patsy was outside working in her flower beds when Solomon drove up in the yard. She stopped and watched him get out of the truck. He’s not exactly walking on air, she thought.

“How’d it go?”

“Fine,” he said.

“Just fine?” she asked.

He laid his backpack down and stooped to pull a few weeds out of the moist soil. “She’s pregnant,” he said. “She’s coming to see you on Monday. She’s got a boyfriend, but he doesn’t want her to keep the baby. She has a lot going on in her life right now.”

Ma nodded her head, “I see.”

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

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