“That Henson boy, he let his daddy’s place go to hell,” said Donnie Mitchell. He was the oldest of the men, and the most likely to slip whiskey into his cup. “The only thing he has growing is his wife. And I ain’t sure he knows how to harvest her.” The other men laughed.
Did they not see us sitting in the corner?
Bessie Sullivan, poor thing, looked ashamed. She was a big woman, with soft green eyes and hands as large as a man’s. With her Irish red hair, and those girlish dimples, I thought she was very pretty. Of all the women I knew, she was the kindest and most soft-spoken. She made beautiful quilts from old curtains and worn-out dresses. It was delicate stitch work. Surprising, considering the size of her fingers. She was shy, as I suppose we all were, and she blushed easy. She was as red as a candy apple. Donnie could have been talking about her. Or about any of us, really. We were done with our blossoming years, and were full-grown woman. I am still convinced that men like Donnie Mitchell are deep down afraid of feminine flesh.
I still don’t know why any of the wives were invited. We were mostly ignored, usually forgotten, and, when they took notice of us, deliberately cosseted us like children. Why do you bother taking me, I asked Jeremiah once. He shrugged and said it was just polite business, and we should probably go somewhere together sometime.
He was no better than the rest.
Maybe it was weak to bring along a wife, but no one could say so because they were all in the same place. Or maybe we were there to lend these get-togethers some semblance of civility. Their conversations got rowdy, with many a good goddamn and hellfire, but I’m sure it would have been worse without us. We were the ice water to the heat of their language. Or maybe they just didn’t know what to do with us. It could have been that simple; we were parcels with ribbons they felt obligated to bring along.
I don’t know why that strikes me funny. But good goddamn and hellfire, it sounds about right.