Hattie Jo

She lay in her twin bed listening to the hum of the refrigerator and the hundreds of different little songs the birds were singing outside her window. Slowly, she opened 
her eyes. 6:00 am. It had been years since she’d needed an alarm clock to wake her up this early, decades even. She pushed herself up into a seat and swung both of her legs to the 
side of the bed in accurate succession. A practiced move, done many many times over many many years. She grabbed a robe from her closet and tied it around her tiny waist 
very tightly. Why are mornings so cold? Even when it’s 100 degrees outside, mornings are just so cold.

She sat back down on the bed and reached for a pair of thick socks she had tossed on the floor the night before. She pulled them onto her small feet and paused for a 
moment. And just for a moment she remembered walking with her mother; the way her small hand had fit perfectly in the clasp of her mother’s larger one. The way mud on 
the river bank smelled early in the morning and the way it felt between her toes when she was given permission to take off her shoes and wade into the water. She 
remembered hugging her father, the way her small check felt against his neck, and how he always smelled of sweat mixed with dirt from working all day building fence.  She remembered exhaustion from playing outside on hot days with her sister.  The way it felt to lay down in the cold grass when the summer days were waning into night, and the imprint that her sweaty body left in the green blades when she finally got up to go inside.  She remembered the first time she put makeup on her face and she remembered how beautiful she looked with her features so 
accentuated.  She remembered the first time a boy looked at her and wanted her; the power she had felt in knowing that she could turn him away.  She remembered the first 
time she was with John, and how it hadn’t been special or nice or pure the way she had imagined. It was sweaty and primitive and maybe something she didn’t want to do 
again.  She remembered the first time she held her daughter; the way the child’s small hand fit perfectly in the clasp of her own, and how quickly and deeply she had fallen in love 
with love. She remembered the first time her son came home from school with a black eye, and she remembered the blinding anger and hatred she felt toward the boy who 
had inflicted it upon him.  

She remembered standing on the porch and watching all four of her children run around the farm.  She remembered the smell of the pig shit and the honeysuckle, the chicken frying in the kitchen.  The sound the ice made when it clinked in her glass of tea and the feeling of sweat running from her neck down to the small of her back.  She remembered when the freeway was built through their farm and the shift she made from mother, to mother and father as John slowly drifted into depression.  She remembered waiting on the porch as his truck sped up the driveway on Saturday nights. The way the gravel was thrown as he parked quickly and crookedly; an action fueled by rage and liquor.  She remembered him waking up their young son to tell him stories of how his life hadn’t gone according to plan, and she remembered ferociously chasing him out of the house with a broom when the stories turned physical. 

She remembered all of the emotional deaths, and all of the literal ones. That was enough, she thought. She straightened herself up. Her feet found the thick carpet on the floor of her bedroom. She stood and shuffled into the kitchen.   


“Mornin’, mama,” Little John said to her. “Good mornin’, son.”

The Mustard Chair

She shifted in the chair she had selected to write in. It was mustard yellow and old. A hand-me-down from her mother’s house, and before that, bought second, or third, or fourth hand at a thrift store. Things always had a way of inspiring and holding weight with her. Not because she was materialistic, but because they were tactile versions of the emotions clouding her brain. She could clean her things, and move them, and manipulate them, and rearrange them, and make them orderly.  In a way, they helped her to do the same for her emotions. But it required a lot of time of repose. Of solitude and of relaxation. It required stillness and silence. A shutting out of sorts. Those times are difficult to come by these days. Even when you obtain them, they can easily be laid to waist by the handheld blue light we all so contagiously glance down at. The tiny window that we hold in the palms of our hands that stimulates us with other people’s daily activity and of all the things they are doing that we aren’t and that we may never do. What an interesting time to be alive. 

Anyway. The mustard chair. It had been a while since she had chosen it as the spot from which she would create. After all, it was the spot of so many past painful realizations. It was the safest place she had had at the time, but now it taunted her most nights, as she sat on the couch across from it. She saw in its dated, yellow, corduroy seat, a reminder of the lies she had told herself. It sat like a cat curled up and lazy, falling in and out of sleep while she worked tirelessly to find a new source of inspiration that wasn’t dependent upon great pain and heartache, and lies and too much drinking. So today, she decided to take over the seat, so that those old memories wouldn’t have a spot to curl up. She wrote about what was most painful to her in the most poetic language she could devise. Language that wasn’t really relevant to the time. The words weren’t incredibly sophisticated, but the way she spun them was of a different era all together. One where vice wasn’t stylish. And being truthful, especially to oneself, was valued more than telling lies for the sake of the harm they would bring to further adventure and exploration. 

She thought about where she had come from and how far she had traveled to get to where she now was. Isn’t it interesting how no matter how much time passes we still have the inner voice we had as a child? It’s vocabulary has enhanced, but it’s vulnerability is just the same. Her inner voice was ever-questioning and at times painfully insecure. Oftentimes she found herself dwelling so much on her past pain, that she spoiled certain moments in her present. Like the time she was told she was the most beautiful woman in the world by the one man she knew really meant it.