Excerpt of Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon
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That tramp! Black-haired Jezebel!
My mothers voice screeched into the house, from the yard. Up in my room, I
thought a storm had come until I saw the bare windowpane, the butter-colored sun
I ran down the wooden steps and out the front door, peered through the railings
on the front porch. My father was out by the hedges again, clipping as if some
devil had possessed him, sweat streaming down his face and the shears sprouting
from his giant body like antlers. For two days now all wed heard were the
sounds of metal slicing against metal, twigs being snapped through and dropping
to the ground. The crops in the field were going to ruin, but my father didnt
care. Our front yard was already adorned with an elephant, a lion, and a peacock
with a spray of leaves fanning behind it. The hedge he was attacking now was
fourth in the line that hemmed in our yard, blocking it from the country road
that stretched all the way to town.
STOP IT! my mother screamed, beating on his back with an umbrella. My meek,
religious mother who spent her days bent over in the fields and her nights bent
over a Bible. Stop that infernal clipping!
No one could so much as raise a voice to my father without his hand coming down
on them. I winced for my mother and braced myself for the beating that would
surely come, once my father went back to normal. If he ever went back to normal.
I had never seen my father get himself into such a frenzy. Two days ago hed
returned from market with a basket half full of eggs, picked up the clippers,
and started going at it. Now the slicing sounds had made their way into our
dreams, and we didnt know if hed ever stop.
I heard my sister Geraldine behind me, breathing loudly, hunkering down and
pressing her face to the rails. Its that new librarian, she whispered. Mary
Finn. The one thats making all the men crazy.
He sold eggs to her in town just before this started, she said.
I leaned back against the steps. Mary Finn. I knew exactly who Geraldine was
talking about, of course. When Mary Finn had arrived in Oakley earlier that
summer, farmers had suddenly started walking miles out of their way to pick up
the classics of English literature, and a constant stream of women had started
coming by to visit my mother, whispering about the new librarians wild gypsy
past and the secret lovers who visited her after the library closed. Men
wouldnt be able to sleep for days after Mary Finn walked by, the old gossips
said, and if her blue cats eyes met theirs, they were liable to start writing
feverish poetry late into the night, or painting murals filled with flowers and
beautiful women, set in places theyd never seen.
A woman like that is nothing but trouble, my mother clucked, as if she were
commenting on a bad harvest. But I saw her clutching her rosary beads, which she
started carrying around everywhere even though we didnt have an ounce of
Catholic blood in us. I saw the way she began watching my father out of the
corner of her eye.
My mother turned and saw us crouching on the steps. Get off of there! she
screamed, storming toward us. Geraldine, get in the fields and help your
brothers! Tessa, get back to your stretches!
Geraldine took off running. I turned to the house, but my mother reached me
before I could get away and grabbed me by the collar. You stay on that bar
until supper, Tessa Riley, she hissed, dragging me into the kitchen. No wonder
youre not getting any better. You dont even care that everyone thinks youre a
freak? You dont want to improve yourself?
She pushed me to the window, and I scrambled up and grabbed the curtain rod she
had rigged for me, back when she still thought my body could pull and stretch
out like taffy. Hanging there, I could see Geraldine and my two brothers bent
over the corn outside. The sun seared into their skin. As my mother slammed out
of the room, I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of metal against metal,
of twigs snapping and falling to the ground. Tears slipped down my face. I was
not a normal child: I was twelve years old but just barely cleared four feet;
the kids I passed on the way to market called me a munchkin or a freak; my hands
were shaped like two starfish and as small as plums.
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.