Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 499
By B.A. Sarvey
Soiled. Mama hurled the word like a stone.
Huddled, half-naked, shivering before the shed, the girl dug fear electrified toes into damp grass. Hauled out by her hair, she tried to robe her shame with her silken locks—Lady Godiva without a horse; the boy, interrupted, flailing tall weeds with bare legs, hungry arms, scrambling away from Papa and his shotgun like he was trying to outrun a bull. Behind her, a sharp crack, a whiff of acrid smoke.
It was an eternity before the boy wormed near again. Tossed pebbles at her window. Let her know her old man had missed. Days—during which a hydra of uncertainty gnawed at her innards. She couldn’t eat, heaved up bile—bitter in her mouth like shame which nothing could cover. Fear, guilt—not just fear he was dead. Fear of the other thing already growing inside.
No one would want her, now. Mama’s scathing pronouncement. Soiled. The word sneered from her mouth like she was spitting out soured milk.
Shame grew, stretched her belly like a balloon. But Mama was wrong. The boy still wanted her. Vowed to forever.
It was a quiet affair, witnessed by the boy’s father, the JP, and Mama, stoic in her blue mother-of-the-bride dress, betrayed only by her sour milk expression. Papa refused to come. The boy’s mother blamed the shame on the girl, spouted lacerating invectives even as he slammed out the door, rending her heart.
In time, Shame became a golden child, nourished by soil and sun, soaking up rain like a willow branch driven into the earth. The guilt was forgotten. Her name, chosen by the boy, was the only reminder. Grampa, won over by her small fingers worming into the dirt, showed how to place seeds, tamp down soil. Together they watched things grow. And the boy who helped create Shame was gradually forgiven.
But Mama hadn’t been quite wrong. And the girl who bore Shame was not quite right. The boy may have wanted her then. By the time he gained acceptance, though, he was again flailing at the tall weeds of an entanglement he hadn’t sought. In time, he had made a fine house, a fine living. Good pay afforded him a chance to play. She never asked his whereabouts, loved him unconditionally. Felt the stigma of Shame. Quietly accepted that this was the best she could expect.
Now, watching Papa, sweat-sheened face tomato red, toiling to shovel
Shame’s new garden from the sunbaked clay, she felt soiled anew. Betrayed.
He should have been there. Said he would help. “Must have gotten held up,” the apology climbed past her toad of a tongue. Papa was old. Too sick for digging. “Should have been…hours ago….” The hydra in her gut gnawed. Mama voiced no criticism, only twisted her mouth with that sour milk expression.
Never there anymore.
Never for her. For everyone else, yes. Even strangers.
She forgave him the shed.
She would never forgive him the iris garden.