The Book of Numbered Souls: # 188
I had many mothers. Abigail Hodgdon, known on this side of the fence as number 188, was taken away in my sixth year. When she carried me in the womb, she was but a child herself. Those who thought of us as cursed were mistaken. No sign of heavy burdens rested upon her delicate frame; no apparent scars marked her fair skin; nor had she any visible flaws. Her beauty lay in raw, wild imperfection—stained fingertips, a scarred heart, and tangled hair—a pearl at rest in the dirt. I knew not the source of her radiance, out of place in the deeps. Perhaps she was above an angel—a bein’ that strayed down from another world—turnin’ shame into dignity, fear into courage, and hate into love.
Within the confines of a shabby yellow dress, reserved for harlots, she was chained to her sins. However, in grace, she rose up against her punishers, keepin’ whole her spirit and pure her heart. Her faith kept her free from those bonds. There was no room for judgment. For I was blessed to be her bastard son, named after her father, who had been fatally shot durin’ the war.
Samuel J. Hodgdon, II
County Poor Farm, Ossipee, NH, 1878
Excerpt: Down from the Tree
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