Thursday, April 19, 2018

 Chewing Tobacco

Skies so clear and blue and soft they stretched forever over the green of the hills.  A road that cut through the thousand bits of green,  sloping and narrow and so very strong and bright with it’s deep red clay.  A 6 year old girl running with abandon.  Through the side fields until she reached the dusty red road.  Skirts flying and knees hitting each other mid air.  Long grass tickling ankles and shins.  Head bopping from side to side with arms pumping.  Hair flying behind, little bits of it getting caught in the corners of her mouth.   And suddenly finding herself going downhill, so her own momentum and the sudden additional speed of the sloping trajectory made it feel like she most probably could take off into flight, or tumble in a magnificent roll, tripping over her feet that couldn't possibly maintain such a speed.  And her little lungs gasping and burning.  Adrenaline and joy in equal parts washing over her.  And the pounding of her little feet vibrating in her ears as she threw herself into a stop at the bottom of the hill.   

She’d been sent to the store with a fistful of coins and a secret mission.  She loved to run down the hill from their farm, lunging as fast as she could, each time hoping for more speed, and landing at the corner where the road flattened out in the little village with it’s circle of store and school, two churches and a cemetery.  

This lovely little race would begin when Edgar slipped Elsie coins and whispered to her not to let her mother know.  And she knew her job held a special importance.  How she loved this secret duty.  Running down the hill like a colt to the little country store, buying her father a tin of chewing tobacco, and trudging dreamily back uphill to find him and quietly slide him the contraband little round tin.  Or, if he’d been called off to a neighbour’s or had driven into town with the eggs or any other errand away from the farm, they had a little place for her to hide it.  There was a gap in the wall of the boot closet, behind the shelf beside the sink, not big enough to be noticed, but certainly big enough for a clandestine little tin of chewing tobacco.  And she would stash it silently in the wall.  

And although Elsie kept her word, and never ever told her mother, of course Winnie knew.  Inevitably she would pinch his cheek and say, shaking her head, but smiling, “aaach Edgar, get rid of that”.   And he would return a sly little smile and continue with his work.