H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
Solemn and the Hassles
Down the steep lived the few trailer park folks nobody ever saw out to barbecue, drink outside, drain their tanks, mow their lawns or pop fireworks on the Fourth. Bledsoe, Mississippi, summers could be spectacularly cruel or gloriously pleasurable. Those ones at that end stayed oblivious either way. Those ones either could not afford to or did not think to erect awnings, post tents, attach patios and decks. Those ones never strung Christmas lights—no snow to punctuate their parts, but still. They didn’t rear tulip trees for the honeybees to flirt with. Those ones didn’t bother to scrub campers to a higher value in their eyes. They kept it spare. All of them, however, peeked out the curtains and saw the treasure, not the trash.
Gilroy and Pearletta Hassle were among the ones who stayed in. Solemn looked for Pearletta—from time to time. She sensed remembrance of a time her father had given the woman, barefoot, a ride home. Solemn remembered the way their car had gone, the direction the woman’s trailer pointed. In her mind, she was a spy. She checked on the woman often. But when she snuck out in dark to go find that woman’s trailer, down the steep and past the well, the all-around trees with their shadows sent her home quick.
Solemn saw Pearletta was very round at a summer’s Solstice, but back slim by the following start to school. Solemn had seen plenty of pregnant ladies, but none with crow’s feet and gray roots. Pearletta was worn. Any new mothers Solemn saw were all fresh from prom formals and yearbook photos. And other pregnant ladies gave parties. They bought home soft, colorful bags. Whether she was round or not, Solemn only saw brown grocery bags and black plastic sacks in Pearletta’s hands. She and the man in her trailer kept the blinds closed all the time—even in the day. The couple gave no shower or announcement or viewing invitations or birthday party for the baby. No one even knew if it was a boy or a girl. No one saw it until a Star-Herald obituary announced it was gone.
But let’s not skip ahead.
Solemn was close to her again, once. Pearletta hung clothes on the line until the end of the pregnancy. Pearletta thought to pass Solemn her line for a jumprope. But when Solemn thought the woman saw her through fluttering sheets, she ran away. Pearletta did see Solemn. And again. More even. Once, she bumped into Solemn on one of the walks she took to manage her hips. The woman smiled at the girl she called ‘pretty.’ She didn’t stop to talk. After the baby came, the man started to drive Pearletta to a town laundromat. Solemn wanted to come back and watch the sheets blow, know the woman saw her, trot away, play it. Before dark, Solemn could hear the baby cry from the trailer windows. She sat on the well to listen until it got too dark. She thought to ask Pearletta to babysit the baby, to hold the child and stare into its eyes. But Solemn was young. And Pearletta had never shaken hands with her mother. It was inappropriate to ask without that.
Kalisha Buckhanon’s novels are Upstate, Conception and Solemn (Spring 2016), all published by St. Martin’s Press. Her awards include an American Library Association Alex Award, Friends of American Writers Award and Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose. Places she and her work have been featured include: Essence, People,Guardian/London Observer, Michigan Quarterly Review, London Independent on Sunday,Mosaic Literary Magazine, Colorlines, London’s Pride, The Root, xoJane, BlogHer, SheKnows, Intellectual Refuge, Stockholm Review, Atticus Review, Black Renaissance Noire, Hermeneutic Chaos and more. Kalisha has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City, and a B.A. and M.A. in English Language and Literature both from University of Chicago. You may visit her at Kalisha.com.
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