This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 845 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, seen on Maggie’s blog. https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/
I turned eleven in the fall of sixty-four, and the winter that followed was a hard one. The ground froze fast, and the snow came early. I was sitting by the fire one morning when momma rushed past, pulling her heavy shawl around her shoulders. She let some snow in as she opened the door on her way across to the outhouse.
She was there an awful long time, and I started to get worried. Eventually, I pulled on my worn-out boots and daddy’s old storm cape, and walked out back. I called through the door a few times, but there was no reply. There was nothing for it but to get close and look through the circle cut in the wood. Momma was sprawled on the plank across the box, and had blood all over her legs, which was pooling on the floor. She was whiter than the snow on the roof.
I ran all the way into town for Doctor Roy. By the time I got there, the sweat was freezing on me, and my breath felt like my lungs were full of ice splinters. He drove me back in his buggy, and stopped right outside the outhouse. After he looked at momma inside, I knew from his face she was gone.
He took me to the Bloy place, the next farm up to the north. May Bloy was my momma’s cousin, and her and her husband didn’t have no children. Ned Bloy and the doctor went back to sort out things at home, and they took George the hired man along too. George was getting old, but could still pull his weight with farm work and chores. They came back after dark, bringing daddy’s tools, the good plow, and the ox. George stayed on to tend to some jobs needing doing, and came back just before momma’s funeral that Friday. They buried her in the town graveyard. I reckoned it must have been some job to dig deep into that frozen ground.
Mrs Bloy cared for me until the next spring. The war ended, and my daddy came home from the army. They told him in town where I was, and I was on the Bloy’s porch when I saw him walking up the long path from the turnpike. His gray uniform was gone, and he was wearing brown homespun, no better than a tater sack. He shook Mr Bloy’s hand, and thanked him for all he had done, then kissed May on the cheek. She started crying, but he wiped away her tears. “Don’t fuss now, May.” I thought he looked more like my grandpa than my daddy. Not that I had ever seen Billy Fuller. May insisted he stay and eat, and he was asleep in the chair soon after.
The next morning, Ned bloy took us home in his flat wagon, the tools and plow in the back, the ox tied on behind. He had given daddy two horse-steaks and a bottle of whiskey, and told him to let him know if he ever needed help. We got the fire going, and daddy cooked the steaks. Then he sat drinking the whiskey, and smoking his pipe. He didn’t ask me anything about momma, and I thought it best to say nothing.
In the fall of sixty-one, my older brother Calvin was old enough to join up. Daddy thought he had better go with him, to watch out for him. The boy was impulsive, and had never been further from home than the town. Like most farmers in the county, we never had no slaves or bond-servants. They lived and worked on the big plantations around Richmond, mostly. Daddy talked to momma, reckoned she could cope as he wouldn’t be gone too long. I was very young, but remember momma crying when they left.
They ended up in the same company, part of A.P. Hill’s division. Calvin never came home. He was killed in Fredericksburg, on the first day. That was only some sixty miles from home. Daddy wrote and told us a Yankee sharpshooter did for him, and it was quick. They always said that though, when one of the boys got killed. Daddy only came home the once, after Gettysburg, in sixty-three. He brought me a big knife, and told me it was a Yankee bayonet. Then he showed us the scar in his side where he had been stuck with that very bayonet.
“He was a red faced boy, kinda plump. Reckon no more than eighteen, and ready to do for me. I bashed his head in with the butt of my rifle, and didn’t notice that there bayonet sticking in me until after. The doctor poured alcohol right in there, and an orderly sewed me up. Hurt like hades, I tell you”. He fashioned a belt for me from a leather strap, and said I should wear the bayonet in it at all times.
“You protect your momma now, Phin. Case them Yankees get down here causing mischief”.