Faye holding her latest book HALLEY and wearing the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction.
My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction. Awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction. (see the following web address for more information) http://www.newsouthbooks.com/pages/2015/10/20/halley-wins-moonbeam-awards-silver-medal/ Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon
The summer of the year I had turned eleven Mama decided she had to go back to work at the mill. Our family owed money for groceries and car repairs and who knows what else. Now that we had electricity, we even had a power bill. The only job she could get was on the “night line,” the same shift Daddy was on.
“Faye’s plenty old enough to tend Jean, Johnny, and Jerry,” he said when Mama began fretting about us being home alone until after midnight.
“I took on the work of a woman by the time I was eleven,” Mama answered. “But I didn’t want that for my young’uns.”
I kept hoping that Mama would change her mind. After all, she had been talking about going back to the mill ever since Jerry was six months old. He was nearly three now, and sort of toilet trained. I guess that was the deciding point with her–that and the fact that our grocery bill at Bagley’ Grocery was approaching $300.
That first evening Mama and Daddy headed off to work together, she was practically hanging out the car window giving last minute instructions. “…and don’t forget to wash up before you go to bed” were the last words I heard.
As long as we had daylight it wasn’t too bad, though the house seemed awfully quiet and somehow empty. The boys played in the dirt next to the back porch instead of venturing to the far side of the garden or to the edge of the woods as they usually did. Jean stuck by my side like glue and her eyes were large and scared. Then we heard a distant roll of thunder and both boys were on the porch in a flash. Jean was wringing her hands.
I had to act brave.“It’s just a little cloud,” I told them, “but I guess it’s time for you boys to get cleaned up anyway.”
By the time John and Jerry were washed and in their night clothes, the wind was whipping through the trees and lightning was making jagged patterns through the sky. I thought of the boy in our neighborhood struck by lighting only a few months ago. He had been helping his mother gather clothing from a wire clothesline. I jerked the hairpins from my hair. Jean did the same. Everyone knew metal drew lightning.
I turned on the light in every room with all three kids trailing after me. Jerry was beginning to cry for Mama. Rain began and I thought of the open windows. Running from room to room, I slammed them down. The lights flickered off and then on again.
“The flashlight!” I cried and ran to get it out of the drawer next to Mama and Daddy’s bed.
Lightning flashed and thunder rattled the window panes.
“The flashlight’s metal,” Jean cried.
I turned loose of that flashlight as if it were a red hot poker.. “Let’s get in Mama and Daddy’s bed until they get home,” I said. It was the only wood frame bed in the house. When we were climbing in I remembered that it had metal springs. Maybe the mattress would protect us. The lights flickered out and this time did not come back on. I hugged Jerry to me on one side and John on the other. Oh, how I wished that Mama and Daddy would drive up.
Gradually the storm wore itself out, and Jean and the boys slept. I could not sleep. I strained to make out and identify each sound. Minutes passed. Hours passed.
Finally, finally, I heard a motor sound just outside. Then I heard Mama and Daddy’s voices. I lay down and closed my eyes. The door opened and I heard Daddy fumbling for the light cord. “Guess the power’s off,” Mama said, “I’ll get the flashlight.”
The flashlight clicked on and Daddy pulled the sheet off us. “Well, just like I told you. Faye managed fine. Didn’t you, Faye?”
“Yes sir,” I answered. I didn’t have the courage to tell him the truth–that I wasn’t ready to take on the job of a grown woman.