Friday, 16 October 2015

The Disappearance of Esther

The wind couldn’t decide which way it was going that day, neither could she. Esther had only just got herself the way she liked (the way the boys liked) when she stepped out through the door, and a gust of Sheeba desert sand blew in her eyes.

“Ma eyes, Mama, they’re stinging. They’re hurtin’ so bad.”

And then she flapped her hands like she was taking off. She felt it made her look lady-like.

But Mama wasn’t listening, her ears were tuned into some preacher telling the good folks of Wyoming County that they were all going to Hell, one way or another. And every time the preacher stopped to inhale, Esther’s Mama would let out a little ‘Praise Be’ – then she’d get on with making her nails look real pretty (the way the men folks liked).

It was one of those days in town when the wind finally settled on blowing from the East, sending the sand right into folks, doors, porches and lives. When that wind blew it only meant one thing, trouble was brewing for someone, somewhere in town.

I know what you’re thinking, this writer is a bit short on common sense, but I tell you from the bottom of my heart – when that wind blows, strange things happen to the good folks of Fort Brighton.

One autumn, back in those days when you could count on another person keeping to his word, the wind blew for three days without stopping. It tore at the woodwork, scraped the windows, and kept everyone inside. Wasn’t that the week that Esther’s uncle decided to shoot himself right in the head. Except that the sand jammed his pistol and he got so mad, that when the storm had died down, they had to take him off to a secure place just outside Richmond.

Esther was disappointed about the wind, since today was the day she had decided to strut up and down the sidewalk in order to attract a husband. It was her way of getting out from under her Mama’s roof. Her Mama had more time for Jesus, than she had for Esther (at least that’s what she told anyone who’d listen).

Esther pressed her nose to the window asking the wind god to tone it down a little, so that she could go outside and start her new life - but the wind god wasn’t listening. Still, it didn’t stop her looking and wishing (something all the kids did in town).

It was just after Esther’s Mama had said that she was going to lay a while in her room and could Esther listen to the words of the pastor – praise be - and tell her on her awakening about any important points he had made.

Esther was used to all this and making up terrible lies. She’d tell her Mama that the pastor had told folks to give their children a dime to keep them on the Lord’s road. So Esther’s Mama would give her a dime, just as the pastor had apparently said.

When the wind had died a little it was possible for Esther to see up the street as far as the livery building. That was when she saw the big, big car. Man, it was pretty and white. Wind or no wind, Esther decided that the car looked like money and with money came a possible husband. The radio pastor was telling the good folks that God was an angry God, but Esther couldn’t care less as she slammed the door behind her. Hard enough, so that it would waken her Mama.

Her eyes were streaming with tears by the time she got to the car but she still strutted and preened her way all the way up the sidewalk.

“Whatcha doing?” She asked the man (in a way that she knew men liked).

“Well howdee little lady,” he said, as he took his hat off. “I’m getting this good man here to fix my tire. It got hit by a rock out there in that unkindly desert of yours.”

Esther bent over the car hood pulling up her dress (the way she knew men liked).

“Well ain’t you the pretty one,” said the man.
When her eyes stopped hurting, she saw that he was probably old (over twenty five, for sure) but still, he was well dressed and definitely had money (praise be).

Yea, he would take her to as far as the next town if that was what she was looking for. She giggled (just like her Mama did to the man who came for the rent when she had no money). She flapped her sand-stinging eyes at him and she was sure he was taking it all in. No wedding ring (could have taken it off – a lot of these travel business folks did) – so what if he was, she’d get what she could out of him and then move on.

As they headed out of town, the sand and wind just seemed to keep on blowing but Esther didn’t care, she was free from Mama. The man’s automobile had a big Bakelite radio, ‘well, I do declare’ – she had uttered on seeing it, because she’d heard it in a movie once.

The only station he could get on the radio was the one with the pastor, who was telling folks that Hell was a lot closer than you might think.

Esther didn’t notice the man smile to himself in the mirror when he thought of what he was going to do that night, and where he was going to hide the body. 

bobby stevenson 2015

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