Note: The people pictured above are some of my maternal ancestors working the land
Dear Reader: this is a flash fiction piece of only 500 words. It is the eleventh installment in the 12 Short Stories challenge I am participating in this year. I hope you enjoy it.
John sat by the fire and readied his shot gun. His wife stood at the window staring out at the land. “We can’t stop ‘em, you know,” Abby said.
“I will or I’ll die tryin’. Lincoln signed that paper sayin’ we gets our land. My blood, my sweat, and my tears is the nutrients them plants grew on. It’s why them white folks so rich and we ain’t got NOTHIN’ to show for it. Lincoln signed the law sayin’ we get land. Somebody killed him and now they tellin’ me this land ain’t mine no mo? Hello no. Onliest way they gettin’ this here land is by killin’ me.”
“Let ‘em have the land, John. All we need is each other.”
“All we need is the land, Abby. How we gon’ feed ourselves? We free now, but a man ain’t free if he got no land to sustain himself. I ain’t askin’ for no handout. This here land is rightfully mine. I worked this very piece of land, and my daddy before me. From before the sun rises each day ‘til its so dark all you can see is the stars in the sky. I can taste the dirt and tell you if we’s gonna have a good crop or a bad one. I know where the good dirt is, where the bad dirt is. I know where the water gathers, and where the sun lingers. Me and this land is one.”
The ratty old wicker chair creaked as John got up from it. He placed his shotgun with care next to the hearth, walked over to the window and stood beside Abby. “Is it worth dyin’ for, John,” she said, her voice just above a whisper. John put his arm around her and pulled her close. He stared out the window beyond the land at something only he could see. A meaningful quiet hovered between them for a moment before he spoke.
“How many folks we watch die out there in them fields? How many times we watch someone get whipped til they skin fall off cuz they didn’t pick enough cotton? How many babies we watch be put to work in these fields when they was just knee high to a grass hopper, Abby?”
He put his hand to her belly. Abby covered her mouth to stifle a sob as tears ran down her cheek. “How many babies we done lost cuz you wasn’t allowed to rest proper like you needed,” he said. Abby turned to John, buried her head in his chest. He wrapped his other arm around her now and rested his chin on her head, tears of his own running down his face now.
“We been spared bein’ sold off from one another. But that’s the onliest thing we been spared. Every body we loved been sold away from here.”
“Or died here,” Abby said.
“This land the only connection we got left to them, Abby. So we’s stayin’. Cuz this land is all we need.”