“Rita Ruth McKendrick, why you always talking to yourself?"
Talking to myself? Them damn fools, thinkin’ I’d waste time telling myself things I already knowed.
But the others saw her lips move and drew their conclusion: Rita Ruth talked to herself. One old fool claimed it started with grace at breakfast and she just kept going.
Rita Ruth did not say grace. Never in her life had she said grace. Or gone to church or read the Bible. What mattered was Rita Ruth believed in God, though the way she understood Him was murky. And she was proud of the murkiness. God is unknowable.
God had taken her baby. Now that was knowable. The why of it, unknowable. Even the man who thought he knew everything couldn’t say why God took Jimmy Jack, could not answer that one question. Yet he wanted her to answer his question. The man had “Doc” in front of his name. Thought that gave him the right to ask.
“As a child, Rita Ruth, were you ever mistreated by anyone, anyone at all?”
Never told him, not in the years she’d been there. This time, she was set to say. Had to, it was eating her up inside, the keeping quiet.
You ready, Doc? Well, there was ten of us, Ma, Pa, five boys and us three girls. Lived in the old Church on River Street at the time. Charity, thanks to them Methodists. ‘Course Pa was a big man and Ma just a slip of a woman. So she couldn’t a done a thing ‘cept what she did when she got sick of what Pa did. And I reckon that’s what you’re after, Doc, what Pa did, the reason Ma shot him.
Doc closed his eyes, put a hand to his forehead. “Rita Ruth, you have to speak up if you intend me to hear what you’re saying."
Rita Ruth struggled her body out of the chair, walked across the darkened office, walked the empty corridors, walked and wondered what was wrong with Doc? She’d spoke up, loud. She’d screamed it, what Pa did.
Copyright: © 2011 Margie Hamilton
Margie Hamilton is a UC Berkeley graduate, living in Grinnell, Iowa. In between, she enjoyed her career as a technical writer during the exciting Dot Com era. She looks forward to attending the Iowa University Writer Festival writing summer class. Reading, writing and movies pretty much keep her out of trouble.