This is one of my #FridayFlash fiction stories. Each Friday, members of the #FridayFlash group on Twitter write fictional stories of 1,000 words or less and share them. Join in the fun by clicking on the #FridayFlash banner on my sidebar!
Beulah bolted through the back pasture as fast as her nine-year-old feet could run. She fell to her knees by the pond, choked with pain, the tears streamed down her cheeks. At last, she was far enough away from her family’s farm house, relatives and friends to release her torment. This place was her only refuge to flail her pain at God.
She desperately tried to silence the memories of recent events that plagued her distressed mind. “Stop it!” she cried, her hands covered her ears.
Beulah could hear the terrifying screech of her Mama’s voice that shot through her heart as she awoke in the middle of the night, “Burt, come here! It’s Dean, hurry up… Call the doctor!” She never heard Mama yell, except when it was time for supper. This was the night in 1932 when her thirteen-year-old brother, Dean, died from complications of an ear infection.
“She moved that boy too soon, shoulda left him downstairs by the stove where it was warm. That woman just doesn’t like anything out of place.” At the funeral, Beulah overheard her uncle talking to his wife.
“Why didn’t you use the poultice?” Accused grandma when she arrived.
Beulah recalled the sounds of gut-wrenching sobbing. It was the first and only time she heard Mama crying. Beulah was scared and crept up to the attic. But the sound followed her through the floor boards and she stared out the attic window with her arms crossed, barely breathing. When it was time to fix supper, Mama got up and never cried again.
This was the beginning of the most haunting sound of all, the silence that deafened. The new supper routine was set, Papa looked down at his plate, oldest brother, William, gulped food and left to be with friends, Mama cooked, never sat until everyone was finished. Beulah was lost and looked for respite from the pounding silence.
Papa worked longer hours on the farm. Mama cleaned the house until her hands were raw. At church, Beulah’s parents became quiet and withdrawn. They darted their eyes away from those that knew of their curse. Beulah surmised from other’s reactions that God was judging them for their negligence.
Over the years, Beulah tried other ways to help the family remove the blot from their good record. For a short time, she behaved cheerfully and became the happy one in the family. She hoped they could forget for a moment. Despite her efforts, Beulah became invisible. Pain was already wrapped around each family member as an invisible shield of insulation. She learned that emotions had no place in her family’s world.
The memories that entered Beulah’s nine-year-old body continued to circulate through her blood and through the blood of her family like a virus for many years. It transmuted into a new form of numbing thoughts they used to earn redemption and dull the pain.
“Gathered the eggs…good harvest of corn this year…invited the neighbors over…wrote letters to family…attended church service…preserved strawberries on Saturday.”
The only words spoken to each other concerned chores, guests for dinner, and events at church. Mama recorded what they accomplished each day in her diary. There were no feelings, ideas, hopes or dreams written in the entries, only good deeds. It was the proof that they were working hard to earn their righteousness and it gave her hope for a reprieve from guilt.
William was a good boy, married a local woman, worked for the Farm Bureau, and was very successful. Beulah eloped with a wild man who brought grief to them all. But neither could change the buried pain in the family. Beulah concluded she was guilty of wrong-doing. She engaged her daily chores in another attempt to redeem herself, this time for the sin of marrying the wrong man and failing to help her family.
Through their lifetimes, Beulah and her mama continued to do their chores, be good to others and record it in their diaries. Surely they have now earned a place in heaven where they could find everlasting peace.