Conjuring Macie (an exercise)
In fiction you are supposed to make stuff up, I heard, and mix it real careful with stuff that happened and have a big disclaimer at the beginning about how none of this can be construed to resemble the life of any person living or dead except by coincidence, and as long as you change the names you can get by with it. Which works fine except in my case I want to tell a fiction about my grandma Macie and the names are part of it, you see.
Macie Nadine Kendall was born of Bertha Olive Kendall (nee Edgell) on the top of a mountain in West Virginia in 1924. Now I could change her name, and change her mama’s name, and change the name of the mountain, but it wouldn’t do much good because as soon as you went to the right part of West Virginia and asked about this fiction I’m about to tell they they’ll tell you just as sure as the stars in the sky that story ain’t about who you’re saying it’s about, it’s about Macie Nadine Kendall. And they’ll probably tell you a hundred other stories I ain’t even gonna tell you, some likely fiction, some likely not. So you can see the problem.
The problem is that everyone knows Macie Nadine and her sister Maysel Narine, who come out about nine minutes apart during a snowstorm one January night in 1924, the fourteenth and fifteenth children born to Bertha Olive and Francis Lee Kendall.
And now we’ve walked right into the horns of this fiction dilemma, because in point of fact I can’t find anyone who ever heard this particular story except me. And I dunno who told it. And I can only find weather back to 1945 for Fairmont, WV, which is the closest thing I could come up with to the top of that mountain where Macie was born. So the snowstorm gotta be taken as fiction. I remember it that way, a snowstorm and a set of twins. I could say that’s the way it happened but I don’t rightly know, and neither do you so best leave it alone.
Top of the mountain was the big farmer and the big farmer just means the most prosperous farmer. It may seem strange as to why the top of the mountain would be the big farmer if you’ve heard stories about valley land being more fertile and easier to work than mountain land. And all that’s true but in point of fact this was a place called Duck and in Duck there ain’t no valley land to be had anyhow. And when there ain’t valley land to be had and the mountain ain’t too tall the best land is going to be there at the top, fairly flat and level and as long as you can sink a well to get water it’s no real hardship to be at the top of the mountain, just a bit longer walk back up from town when you have to go buy sugar and nails once a month.
Which is how Ma & Pa tell it to folks when they’re puffin themselves up. But the reality is, it’s worse’n that cuz every summer about the end of July the well dries up and rest of the summer you gotta take a wood pull cart with all the washing and a couple big water jugs down the hollers to use the spring, and then haul the whole thing back up the mountain every day. And of course the boys ain’t have to do it because they’s up there doing boy stuff, supposedly plowing and hoeing and such, though you never much see em do.
Daddy always says that’s why God gave him so many daughters, so there’d be somebody to haul the washing back up the hill in August. And God did so provide, about that Daddy was fer sure right because before me and Maysel come along they already had Pearl, Myrtie, Hazel, Chloe, Iza, Delphia, Violet and Vera. And that’s not counting Bonnie who didn’t ever get big enough to haul any washing before we had to bury her out among the stones.
Adam lives in Richmond with his family and the tumbling fur-tumbleweeds of various animals, domesticated and otherwise.
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