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  • Mj Pettengill

A Monocle Curl


Lewis Hine Collection
Lewis Hine Collection

On their own terms, Life and Death preferred the cloak of darkness. Tho’ a solitary struggle was common, assistance from a kind soul, like Mamma, brought about light. For what it was worth, she shined, endurin’ whatever was required of her in a time of need. Just as Silas would say, livestock and deadstock—can’t have one without the other. Imagine, day without night, joy without sadness, love without hate. Such thoughts kept me awake at night.

Somewhat frantic and unaccustomed to his role as the new king, the young white rooster that I named Franklin, crowed too many times. Mamma entered our room just as he stopped. I pretended to be asleep, but no one could sleep through that. Even if he didn’t crow too much, too loud, and too fast, I never went too far into my dreams when Mamma wasn’t near. I remained still, peekin’ with one eye while she fell asleep. I liked to look at her when she didn’t know it. She cursed her yellow dress, but it wasn’t what I saw. Maybe beyond the fence, the color of a dress mattered, but it didn’t trouble me.

When she felt sad about it, I would point out all pretty things yellow, like dandelions, finches, and the moon. She thanked me, but I knew that behind her smile was a sad place, a place where she went to hide her truth from me. I loved her more for that. She taught me without ever realizin’ it herself. What she didn’t know was that those things from beyond the fence weren’t real, not anymore, and never for me. I had hoped to keep it that way. What she knew or felt from there was no longer a part of her. We lived somewhere else. There was no reason to be sad all the time thinkin’ about it. I couldn’t sort it out for her. Her curl fell over her eye, just like mine did. She said that only very special people had a monocle curl and that they saw things differently. I believed her. I knew that we were special, but so was everyone else. We had our own kind of special. Like Elam, no one knew, not even me at first, that he was just special. Fear was a story that we told ourselves when we got confused and didn’t take the time to sit still. Samuel J. Hodgdon II, June 20, 1878 Excerpt Down from the Tree Book Three, Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series