Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Not Enough to Share

   Victoria Petersen was my mother's aunt by marriage, she was small, black as night, and toothless. her face was so wrinkled it was impossible to see through the folds of loose flesh and get a picture of its shape. she wore the numberless petticoats of her generation. this swelled her figure to a thickness that made her tiny face seem oddly out of place, in repose, her shrivelled-up little body looked lifeless. but she had sharp, shrewd eyes that flickered in all directions and missed very little.
   Now, as she presided over the  supper table, the oil lamp from the central ceiling refter shone full on her white curls. Her sharpness glowed out of her shadow's face. Victoria Petersen finished serving. We all stood with heads downcast while she prayer. It was a long prayer. It began with the food we were about to eat. Then it went to the eggs there were about to lay, the caw and her calf, It even remembered the dog, then Victoria played for my mother, my sister, myself and the whole of that branch of the family, oh Lord, the prayer swung from our branch of the family to her own. She asked God to spare the trains she went on. She had two children to feed and clothe, And this, Dear lord, reminded her of the wicked woman who had left her son with two young girls and gone off with another man to the pleasure of the evil city, " you know what to do with such as her, Oh Lord, don't you? you will punish her and show that sin does not pay....."
   By the time that Victoria Petersen had finished playing, the food was cold. My mother looked at her food then at Victoria. " I'm sure the Lord would like us to have our food hot, Auntie." she said " thank you, Patricia, but i think I've lived with the Lord much longer than you have." I caught the glint of a smile on my mother's face as she bent over her food. We were half-way through our meal when there was a knock at the door, Thing happened fast. Victoia whisked away the two pots under the bed. The little girl gathered up the spoons and took them to the washing-up bucket in the corner. Then Victoria took our half-eaten plates of food and pushed them far back under the bed. "Now talk and laugh," she snapped.
   My mother said something.Old Victoria opened her mouth and cackled away as though genuinely amused by something funny. The knock sounded again. "I think there's somenoe at the door," Victoria's voice was loud enough for the outside to hear. My mother went to the door. The priest and his wife came in. "We thought we might call on you tonight, Sister Petersen," the priest said. "It is very beautiful of you, Reverend." " But do not let us keep you from what you were doing," the priest said, looking at the bare table and the fire with nothing on it. "Yes," said the woman. "Have your supper and don't mind us." "We have already eaten," Victoria Said. "But come and sit down." The priest bit his lower lip as though deep in thought. "Anything wrong?" Victoria asked. The priest turned to his wife. "Did you take the medicine to the sick old man, my dear?" A look of horror spread over the woman's face. "I must ask you to excuse us, sister," the priest said. "I understand, Reverend," Victoria murmured. They hurried out. " See if they have gone," Victoria said."My mother went, " They have gone." Victoria got the Food from under the bed. "Seems you were right Patricia. The Good Lord seems to want us to eat warm food tonight. I'll put it all back in the pots to warm up."
    "Why not pray while it's warming?" my mother said. A wicked glint showed briefly in Victoria's eyes. She prayed. There was no need for her to remind God how hard times were. He knew, too, that she had done her best by the preacher and his wife. Why, only today she had walked her poor legs sick collecting for the preacher's rent. And she had fed them three times this week. And God knew how big their appetites were and how little she had. There were others who had more. As for this little thing of tonight, well, she and God understood each other. They both knew what hard times meant, even if younger people had silly thoughts. Amen.

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