Excerpt of Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon
(Page 6 of 14)
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She looked at me with surprise just as we came to her desk, where three people
stood waiting for her return. All old farmers, I realized, with their hands full
of books. I expected them to be angry, having been made to wait like that, but
they all lit up and practically shone as Mary came near them.
Well, well have to fix that, she said, winking at me, before taking her seat
behind the desk. Why dont you sit next to me while I help these gentlemen?
She smiled up at the first man in line as I sat on a stool nearby.
Shakespeare, I see, Mary said to the man. The sonnets. Theyll make a
romantic of you yet, Joe.
I swear that old farmer blushed all the way down to his collarbone. I liked
Troilus and Cressida, he said. You were right about thatun.
Mary smiled, then picked up another book and put it in with the one he was
holding. Youll like this even better.
I watched Mary check out books for at least half an hour before the library
began emptying out. I stared at her mass of hair, so black it seemed to glint
blue in parts, and her brown shoulders. My sister had brought home a movie
magazine once and I had felt the same way then, looking at the women with pale
hair and dark lips, their eyebrows like swooping lines across their foreheads. I
touched my hair with my hands, imagined my body stretching up and filling out,
covered with swishing fabrics like the ones Mary wore. This is what it means to
be a woman, I thought. She picked up each book and thumbed to the cards in the
back, and I watched her strong, sure hands.
I sat on the stool, praying she wouldnt tell me to leave.
After a while, when the library had cleared out, Mary turned to me. Its
busiest in the mornings and evenings, she said. Mostly I have the afternoons
to myself. She smiled. So tell me, why dont you know how to read? Arent you
No, I said softly. My folks dont believe in schooling. Im supposed to work
in the fields with the rest of them, but they dont want me on account of my
smallness. I could feel my face growing red and lifted up my hands to cover it.
Dont believe in schooling? she said. What do they have you do all day,
I looked up at her, nervous, but saw she wasnt laughing. I used to have to do
chores but my house is so big, I couldnt do much. I cant do anything right is
what my mama says. Sometimes I sneak out and hide in the fields or come to town
to watch people. My mama wants me to eat potatoes and stretch my body in the
window so Ill get bigger. Then I can make my contributions, she says.
Well, you should have visited me sooner because that doesnt sound like much
fun at all. She laughed. Thats the craziest thing Ive ever heard, in fact.
I took my hands slowly from my face and rested them in my lap. I looked up at
her and smiled.
You know, she said, leaning in closer, I didnt get along with my family
Yes, she said. My father was not a nice man. I left home as soon as I was
Oh, one day I would like to do that. All of a sudden it seemed possible that I
could leave Oakley some day, just like that.
You will, she said. Theres a big place for you in the world, no matter what
you think now. Youre like I was when I was your age, back when I thought I had
no place at all.
I just looked to the floor, my heart beating wildly.
What do you love to do, Tessa?
Excerpted from Rain Village
by Carolyn Turgeon. Copyright © 2006 by Carolyn Turgeon. Excerpted by
permission of Unbridled Books. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.