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Excerpt from "Apron Strings"

Chapter 16: Ethel 1930

by Mary Morony

Havin’ no job is doubly hard on a man. The more time went by, the nastier Early got. One night I came home and found him blind drunk in the kitchen, ravin’ ‘bout how I was a no good, two timin’ tramp. He beat me bad. So bad I was laid up for a week.

Roberta came over to see me the next day. When nobody answered the do’, she let herself in. “Yoo-hoo, anybody home?” she called as she poked her head first into the sittin’ room, and then the room ‘cross the hall.

“Git’er outta here,” Early groaned.

“How I’m suppose ta do that, me layin’ up here in bed beaten bloody?” I hissed. “You the one that got us here; you be the one the git her out.”

Roberta stuck her head in the room. She gasped as she looked ‘round the room at the mess and began sputterin’ “Early Thompson, ya outta be ashamed a yerself! Is true then what people been sayin’ bout you and yo’ first wife. You best be breakin’ that habit, you hear me? Or I got news fo’ you: If’n I ever hear ‘bout you layin’ a hand on my sister again, Imma be comin’ for ya.” She turned on her heels and stomped out. I never felt so loved by my sister before or after.

Early moaned and turned his head ‘way from me to face the wall.

As I lay there in bed achin’ ‘bout everywhere a body could ache, I thought about what people said ‘bout Early when they thought I couldn’t hear ‘em. He killed his wife. I knew that wasn’t so. He beat ‘er and that’s why the baby came early. That could be the case. Befo’ his wife died he was a no good drunk. Her dyin’ sobered him up. Now I had never been one for confrontation, but I looked over at that man, who I loved with all my heart, and suddenly I wanted to kill him. Never mind that I was hittin’ the bottle pretty hard myself. Suddenly I was mad as hell that he’d let hisself slip with me.

“Look here,” I said, not turnin’ to look at him, just facing the wall; my voice hard as stone. “I know what they says ‘bout you. They says you was a drunk afore. They says you beat yo wife. They says you cleaned up because she died. Well, you listen good. I’s your woman now, and if you can do it for her, you can do it for me, and befo’ it’s too late this time. I ain’t sayin’ you cain’ drink. But if you lay a hand on me again, Lord, I swear I’ll put your sorry self outta yo’ misery.”

Now, Early hadn’t turned around, but I could see his head shakin’ back an’ forth on the pillow, and I could hear his breath comin’ out in sobs as he said, “I cain’ be drinkin’ at all, I know that now. I’m makin’ a solemn promise to you right chere, righ’ now.” He got outta bed and shook worse than a colicky horse, his right hand on his heart and the other in the air jest like he was standin’ befo’ the judge. “I ain’t never takin’ another drop a alcohol. I love ya too much, Ethel. An’ thas a promise,” he added, “that I aims to keep. I ‘spect ya to hol’ me to it, too. I ‘spect ya to leave me high an’ dry if’n I drank another drop.”

“You ain’t gotta worry ‘bout that,” I said. He got back in bed. The sheets was rough as sandpaper ‘gainst my sore, bruised skin, and the shifting mattress felt like a fast ride on a bumpy road. “I’ll do more than be leavin’,” I said tryin’ my level best not to move any more than I had to.

Mary Morony is one of six children. She was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. The mother of four children, she earned a bachelor of arts in English at the University of Virginia, with a concentration in creative writing, when she was in her forties. Morony was inspired to write Apron Strings by the relationship she was privileged to have with her family’s maid, who taught her love and acceptance with warmth, humor, and unending patience. The author lives on a farm in Orange County, Virginia, with her husband, four dogs, and her daughter’s cat. Apron Strings, 2014, ISBN 9780615951799, is available on Amazon.com, BN.com, and bookstores everywhere.

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