------ from chapter 2 of This Red Earth--in 1983, Amanda writes about something that happened in 1957.
Amanda picked up a framed black and white photo taken the afternoon of her tenth birthday when she and her brother still were friends. Next to her cake was her grandmother’s prized antique cut-glass pitcher. Minutes after her father snapped the picture, Stephen tweaked her hair and she pushed him back, knocking over the pitcher. It hit the edge of the steps and shattered. Lemonade splashed everywhere.
“Don’t move!” her mother ordered. “Stephen, get me a broom! And a bucket of water!”
“No,” her father said. “Just use the hose.”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Amanda whimpered, and even now Amanda could remember her mother saying, “Now, now, Amanda. What is, is.”
They cut the cake later.
“Lemon-soaked, but tasty,” her father said, winking at her.
At family gatherings she and Stephen laughed about the cake, but Amanda still felt bad about breaking her grandmother’s heirloom pitcher. Even now she couldn’t forget that it was Stephen’s teasing that caused her to lose her balance and trip, even it were an accident.
Four years later when her father died the real quarrel between them occurred. Standing by her father’s grave, she lashed out at Stephen, “If you hadn’t gotten that trashy slut pregnant, Father wouldn’t have died.”
Stephen’s face turned hard and pale. “You bastard, I never want to talk to you again.” he hissed and turned away.
It was an estrangement still not resolved. Since that time there were no Thanksgiving or family gatherings. If Stephen heard she was coming, he made sure he had business elsewhere. For years, Amanda sent her brother an obligatory Christmas card, but he never sent her one. Finally she gave up.
Amanda put down the photograph and went into the den. The television was
on, and her mother was nodding over an open book. All of a sudden, it hit Amanda. If after all these years she still could feel bad about breaking her grandmother Emma’s pitcher, then her mother’s sorrow had to be awful. The rift between her and Stephen not only had broken her mother’s heart, it had shattered her life. She turned off the television, took the book, and covered her mother with a pink and rose afghan. As she did so, her mother opened her eyes.
“I’ll mend things with Stephen,” Amanda said. “I promise."
A smile crossed her mother’s face, and she closed her eyes. But as Amanda placed the book on the coffee table, her anger flared. How dare Stephen treat her the way he did? She swallowed hard. His indifference was infuriating.
Amanda went to her room and picked up her pen, but she was so upset, she could not write a single word on her southern stories. Instead, she opened her Journal, where the night before she had written,
July, 1983: Thirty-six miles inside Dillon County, a country highway turns off abruptly between two fields. Six miles beyond that, a dirt road turns off between a stand of pine and sweet gum trees, and a mile farther, a rural mailbox marks the beginning of a long, rough lane that leads to a white house. Legend has it that anyone who drinks a drop of Catfish Creek water will never leave Dillon County.
That certainly did not apply to her.
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