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  • Mj Pettengill

I Screamed at God - (Excerpt)


Woman in Mourning, Fine Art America

It was just after daybreak when Moses Blake—a long time family friend and man about town—fetched me at the train station. Not asleep and not awake, I had full command of my senses. Once again, I inhabited my private, inexplicable world, the hidden door to my heart, the place where I felt whole. I went there durin’ difficult times. After Papa died, I found myself there often, for it was my only hope in findin’ spiritual refreshment and revival of faith. It had become the secret breathin’ of my soul. It wasn’t somethin’ that I talked about, really, but I found great comfort there. Although removed from the outer world, it was the only time I wasn’t woefully alone.

Moses stood before me with clouds of smoke curlin’ about his face, matchin’ the thick swollen clouds overhead as if they were goin’ home. The pained look about him would surely be the cause of unendin’ tears to flow from my own eyes. I am not certain of how I managed to walk, but I did.

“Sarah,” he said, “how was your trip?”

If I had responded, I would have fallen into a careless state, losin’ all respect that I had guarded for a lifetime. I could only stare at him, ponderin’ whether I was breathin’ or not.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he drew on his pipe. “This ain’t easy, I know. You must be tired and hungry. Come on, your sister’s waitin’ on ya.”

Somewhat wobbly from bein’ on the train for what felt like weeks, I made my way to his cart. Bein’ the gentleman that I knew him to be, he offered his arm for support. I thought that leanin’ upon him in any way would be the end of me. Refusin’ help, even the simplest kind, was a weakness in my nature. In spite of my weariness, I reached for the backboard and pulled myself up.

He gave me a look, yet all I desired was for the strength to endure. I looked away from him and did what Mother taught us to do in the face of fear. I screamed at God, but only in my head.

God, where are You? It is Your guidance and protection that I seek in my needful time. It is Your support that I call upon in my distress. Please forgive me for leavin’ Mother and for my disobedience and wildness which stirred up my pure mind. Do shine Your light as I walk in darkness. I must pay for departin’ from the right way. I am unworthy to utter Your name. Although I feel much anguish of spirit, I will trust in Thee, Amen, Amen, Amen.

“We couldn’t help your mother, poor soul, but Abigail acted in a way that most men couldn’t have done. That girl saved most all the critters in the barn all by herself.” He shook his head.

“She did?”

“Yep, she rounded up the chickens, pigs, and that favorite cow of hers,” he said.

“Lizzy?”

“Yep.”

“Is there anything left?”

“Not much, I’m afraid. It was quite a blaze.”

“Did she get Old Gray?”

“Is that her horse?” he asked.

“Yes, yes it is.” The memory of my sister ridin’ with a spirit that could never be broken brought about a weak smile.

“Ayuh, the horse is fine.”

“How did it—”

“I don’t know what happened, why your mother didn’t get out,” he said. “Abigail did hurt her ankle and got some burns, but it coulda’ been worse.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to ignore him. When we turned down Brown’s Ridge Road, I wondered how it was possible that I was still alive, because takin’ a single breath required strength that I feared I did not possess. In the awfulness of that moment, I thought that I would die right there on Moses’s cart, less than a mile away from my home that I dared not look upon.

“Stop!” I cried. “Stop! I cannot go any further.”

He stared at me.

“Did you not hear me?” I screamed. “Let me off.” I lifted my skirt, about to jump.

“Whoa!” He yanked on the reins, and we came to a halt.

“I cannot and will not,” I said, jumpin’ down from the carriage.

“Sarah,” he said, “you can’t jest get off here. Your sister is waitin’ for you at the house. We gotta’ get to the church for the funeral.”

“I can’t,” I said and continued walkin’.

The rain didn’t bother with even the briefest introduction, it slammed us with a sudden surge, rushin’ to overwhelm.

He toked on his pipe, starin’ straight ahead into the punishin’ rain. “Sarah, I know this must be painful, but we gotta’ do what’s right. Now, come on.”

“No!” I started to run.

He jumped off the cart and chased after me. When he grabbed my arm, we both almost toppled over. I paused and looked into his eyes, this time seein’ beyond the grit and into the kindness.

“It hurts now, probably like nothin’ you ever felt. I know you girls was close to your mother, but you have to accept it. You have to be there for Abigail, too.”

He embraced me, which I feared would hinder my strength to resist him. It was at the moment of embrace, of compassion and love, that my soul would be overwhelmed. I knew that he was right. I had to reject the fear and pain and go with him.

Again, without words, we approached the cart. I allowed Moses to help me onto the seat—a pool of rainwater. How muted I was, as my heart refused to be comforted. We rode in silence. I screamed inside, that is until the charred ruins of our farm came into view, and the scream made its way to my lips.

The cart nearly spilled when we struck a deep, water-filled rut, and a rather large crow fluttered and squawked, almost collidin’ with me. It flew to a nearby branch where it perched, knowin’ and waitin’, watchin’ with a forbiddin’ eye. The tempo of the rain increased, poundin’ like never before.

“Mother…” I reached towards the wreckage of my whole existence. As fast as they came, my tears stopped. My eyes followed the thin lines of smoke that rose upwards from the blackened debris, fightin’ to remain, swirlin’ and vanishin’ into the rain as if nothin’ had happened. I looked up at the crow as if it somehow held the answers to questions yet to be asked. Sarah Hodgdon

September 3, 1872

Ossipee, New Hampshire EXCERPT: THE ANGELS' LAMENT - Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series - Book Two


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