THESE DAMP STONES, a novel-in-progress by Sheryl Monks
I’ll tell you a story of Little Omie Wise
How she became deluded by John Lewis’s lies
Outside, she heard the whine of the dump bed lifting and then the gravel raining down into the yard. When she reached the end of the upstairs hallway, she straightened upright and rubbed a fist at the small of her back. There was no wax for polishing, but while the water still stood on the tiles, the old floor gleamed and glinted in the light.
She picked up the pail of dirty water by the handle and made her way toward the back staircase, proceeding toward the crude little kitchen downstairs, which Art had fashioned for the girls. There was running water in the house, and she placed the mop in the sink while she opened the back door and pitched out the dirty water.
He told her to meet him down by Adams’ spring
Some money he’d bring her and other fine things
She rinsed the pail in the sink and set it on the floor. The sour mop turned her stomach, but she took it up anyway and ran it under water as hot as her hands could stand. When the water ran clear, she turned off the spigot and divided the mop into thirds and commenced to wringing out each section by hand. There was a split forming at the first joint of her middle finger, and it pained her to twist so on the mop, but it had to be done. When the mop was clean, she shook it out and stood it on its end outside on the porch to dry, taking in a deep breath of fresh air that settled her stomach some. She came back inside and washed her hands and dried them on an old flour sack she used as a dish towel.
There wasn’t anything else to do, so she thought she’d walk into town for a pack of cigarettes. She only had four left, and she had plenty of time before the men started showing up from the mines. She’d saved quite a bit of money, more than Art would’ve liked, and thought she might go see a show at the matinee – there was still time if she hurried – and maybe eat at that little hamburger joint. She would look and see if there were any pretty outfits at the Five and Ten. Art liked for them to spend their money on clothes and make-up. For a while, she’d been ordering nice wigs from a catalogue at the feed store, but the woman there didn’t like her coming around and told Art that Sudie better not step foot in there again. Art liked the wigs, too, though and sometimes he’d place the order and pick up Sudie’s packages himself, and the woman didn’t seem to object to that.
Sudie kept her money in one back pocket of her jeans, her cigarettes and lighter in the other. It was a warm sunny day, nearly June already, and she stepped outside barefoot. Once she’d hobbled over the gravel to the paved road, she lit up a cigarette and hummed the tune again. From the top of Warrior Ridge, she could see out over the whole town and the valley beyond. She was walking off the mountain, so the trip into town was an easy one. It was coming back that would be hard.