Toulla Laid Down Her Gun©
An original magical realism novella
You know, some of the daily events on a plot of farmland signal to a child that life holds more than the sweet grass breeze of tall cane, not just gentle spaces. Whatever is growing will eventually have to be reaped. Or dispatched. And eaten. A child born into farm life tends to the urgent necessities, mindful of just how much heartfelt care to give. A child born into farm life is sensitive that life is bigger than the farm.
Listen to this one.
Pa-Pops always says,
Don’ go sout’ pas’ deh property boun’jry.
West in front of the house see the wrought iron gates, the big one for cars and the smaller walk-through one next to it – the way out to school, out to the marketplace – fresh fruit and cheap stuff, out to church if anyone ever wanted to go…not that anyone inside here ever wanted to. East side of our house… the pink-outside and green-inside shed with the distillation apparatus for Mama C. Past that, the cane is growing. Look around and you see where the hog pen is. The chickens. The rabbits. The goats go in and out. Not too sure how though, maybe they jump the fence. I never see them leave. Never see them coming back. I only know when they are here and not here. Then, left side of the shed door, the tree stump for Pa-Pops’s morning ritual. Look north to see the mountains. At the edge of our property southside, a solid line of trees standing thick and tall, the guards at the border… hard to see past them. Those trees are not our property anyway. Past the trees is Lake NONit – because no one named it.
Pa-Pops always says
Trouble’s about that lake. Is why it ent have no name. People don’ even want to call it naught but lake. The lake hav’ monsters. Monsters that will take yuh life. Yuh life is safe here, Toulla. Toulla, yuh hear meh?
Two willow trees, side by side, twin sisters at the edge of our property, look at the border guards. I climb the limbs easy-easy because they make stairsteps, and from the top, a clear view through to the lake. So calm. No monsters. But Pa-Pops never lies to me…not that I can tell anyway. Still, days when I sit on the highest limb of the willow twins, my eyes go over the border trees and make up a picture of the doings out past the lake. Away, well away, from Mama C in the morning – her call to wake up – sharp as the rooster out back, Pa-Pops and his sadness, and the tick-tick tick-tick of this funky little farm. Pa-Pops was no holy man abiding Mama C, the drunken sinner, but before that day when everything changed, I was not ever afraid of my pa or my ma. I am the two of them.
Toulla Ederede was a question in her mother’s mind. That distant morning when she woke, Cerafeena knew she had coupled with someone. Cane liquor phantoms in the hours before carried away any clue whether it was her husband or someone dissipated enough to have swum in that river with her. Who to tell? Once she is in those burning waters, the woman who would become mother to Toulla transforms into torrents of temperament. Let loose by cane liquor, drunken contortions summoned the life such that was Toulla’s.
That is long days ago, and her feet had taken her where she could not have imagined, but they compelled her to find a course. Toulla never followed her head; no, she was always led by her feet. For, when she landed in this world, her feet arrived first. We all come into the world with our gifts and that other part we don’t talk about as much about — curses. For Toulla, the itch signalled that one awoke in those feet. And to quiet it, she found she just had to walk. Her bare feet touching the soil of the family plot provides some relief. She knew because she would raise one foot and it would start again and the only relief would come from continuing to move. It wasn’t always that way.
Until she was 13, Toulla had her usual life. Her mother would wake her with a call for ‘More’. Toulla would shake off whatever dream had carried her away from the farm and quickly run to the shed that held the distillation apparatus and bring back a bottle of More. She didn’t even know any name for the substance, except More. More would begin her day. “More” and a clumsy embrace from her mother. Was it a show of maternal care or was it gratitude to have her shouting answered?
Toulla knew this also: If she did not respond to “More”, a clumsy embrace would be replaced with urgent hands, grasping her shoulders. Shaken until “More” brought silence. More. When she was three or four she responded to it as if it had been her name. “More” put her mother to sleep for the morning just as it woke Toulla up. With her mother out of this world, she would search for her father. He had a different name for her.
Petuolla, look these cards. These cards predic’ a hard day today, nuh?
Author’s Note: This is the second preview of my latest writing — a fictional, magical realism telling. The next part of this adventure is finding the right publisher, the one who says, ‘Yes!’
My first publication is the non-fiction eBook In Through A Coloured Lens, a self-published compilation of over 100 of my most enduring current affairs opinion columns that first appeared in Share Newspaper (sharenews.com). That effort received five stars at Amazon.ca. I’m grateful for the more than 1000 people who downloaded that book and look forward to what is to come as Toulla Laid Down Her Gun makes its way into the world. I’ll keep you posted.