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 streaming in.
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.
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