After I got the wash finished, I was left idle and pleased to enjoy sin number three. I followed a path I'd worn in the dirt from looping it ten, twelve times a day. I started at the back of the main house, walked past the kitchen house and the laundry out to the spreading tree. Some of the branches on it were bigger round than my body, and every one of them curled like ribbons in a box. Bad spirits travel in straight lines, and our tree didn't have one un-crooked place. Us slaves mustered under it when the heat bore down.
Mauma always told me, don't pull the gray moss off cause that keeps out the sun and everybody's prying eyes.
I walked back past the stable and carriage house. The path took me cross the whole map of the world I knew. I hadn't yet seen the spinning globe in the house that showed the rest of it. I poked along, wishing for the day to get used up so me and mauma could go to our room. It sat over the carriage house and didn't have a window. The smell of manure from the stable and the cow house rose up there so ripe it seemed like our bed was stuffed with it instead of straw. The rest of the slaves had their rooms over the kitchen house.
The wind whipped up and I listened for ship sails snapping in the harbor cross the road, a place I'd smelled on the breeze, but never seen. The sails would go off like whips cracking and all us would listen to see was it some slave getting flogged in a neighbor-yard or was it ships making ready to leave. You found out when the screams started up or not.
The sun had gone, leaving a puckered place in the clouds, like the button had fallen off. I picked up the battling stick by the wash pot, and for no good reason, jabbed it into a squash in the vegetable garden. I pitched the butternut over the wall where it splatted in a loud mess.
Then the air turned still. Missus' voice came from the back door, said, "Aunt-Sister, bring Hetty in here to me right now."
I went to the house, thinking she was in an uproar over her squash. I told my backside to brace up.
Excerpted from The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Copyright © 2014 by Sue Monk Kidd. Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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