THESE DAMP STONES, a novel-in-progress by Sheryl Monks
She heard a coal truck climbing the steep grade coming toward her. When it crested the hill, its driver hollered out the window and whistled at her. “I love you, Little Omie!” he exclaimed, and she turned around in the road, walking backwards and smiling big as she waved at the man. He was just a baby, eighteen years old. A Red Hat at the number four mine.
“I love you right back, Donnie Surrat!”
The boy tapped the truck’s horn and an Ooga-ooga sang back at her, and she laughed and shook her head as she went on her way.
Then fool-like she met him at Adams’ spring
No money he brought her, nor other fine thing
No money, no money to flatter the case
We’ll go and get married, they’ll be no disgrace
Her mind drifted to the boy she had thought she loved long ago. It had been nine years now. T.J. Mullins. What would he be doing right now, she wondered. His people had been clannish, or he would have married her; she knew he would.
John Lewis, John Lewis, please tell me your mind
Do you intend to marry me or leave me behind
Little Omie, Little Omie, I’ll tell you my mind
My mind is to drown you and leave you behind
Please pity our baby and spare me my life
I’ll go home a beggar and won’t be your wife
He hugged her, he kissed her, he turned her around
He threw her in deep water where he knew she would drown
He jumped on his pony and away he did ride
The screams of Little Omie went down by his side
The temperature was much warmer now and she heard a single tree cricket, what her mommy and others called locusts, singing nearby. The sound, Sudie always thought, was like a giant rattlesnake. In a month, the whole mountain would be consumed with their deafening song. She stopped walking to attend a stitch in her side. The steep grade of the road had propelled her forward faster than she realized, and she doubled over to ease the pain. She spun herself upright and dug a hand into her side to massage away the knot. After a while, she caught her breath and the pain eased. She set off again, this time slower than before.
Behind her came the rumble of the dump truck she’d seen in the yard. She glanced over her shoulder at it but kept walking. The driver slowed and lowered the gears, but when it came up beside her, it kept going on with no offer of a ride. She might’ve liked a ride about now, but she was almost at the foot of the mountain and that eased her mind some. The song was stuck in her head and not singing it began to irritate her.
It was on last Wednesday morning, the rain was pouring down
The people searched for Omie but she could not be found