by Saundra Mitchell Read author interview December 15, 2004
Cigarette smoke lingers, and more than washday, more than calving, more than detassling corn, Mollie hates cigarette smoke in her kitchen.
It came with the tan-suited policemen, three of them with thick black gun belts and hats they keep lifting to let some of the Kansas breeze in, not that there’s much of a breeze.
If there were, Mollie’s neat little kitchen wouldn’t stink of Marlboros, but as she puts on water for another pot of coffee, she decides she’s starting to get used to it.
She can hear the police talking, their slow drawls dripping on the porch and melting through the boards. She doesn’t like strangers, either. They all leave a remnant behind. Sometimes a glove, sometimes a pamphlet talking about God and His Son the sacrificial lamb, and that’s clutter.
Whoever God is, Mollie’s damned certain he’d find a better way to spread the word than little two sheets printed on paper so cheap it feels oily and smokes purple-blue when tossed on a fire. If she had her way, missionaries would do their witnessing by revival only.
Every summer—in fact, one’s due anytime now—a revival tent springs up on somebody’s back forty. She doesn’t have to get close enough to get the salt-sweaty taint of unfamiliar bodies on hers; she can stand at the fence and listen to the music, the hallelujahs, the talking in tongues, and afterwards, she baptizes herself in the bathtub.
Once, she baptized herself for nearly six minutes, and would have gone on to seven if Jack hadn’t pulled her up. Spitting out Ivory soap, ninety-nine and one forty-fourths percent pure, Mollie watched him under a sullen weight as he whipped a threadbare towel off the rack and shoved it into her hands.
He didn’t even help her from the tub, and she’d been eight months pregnant then. Fat and round with Little Jack, she struggled over the side and cried in the middle of the floor until her hair dried, then went downstairs to fix supper.
With a sharp nod, Mollie quits overfilling the percolator and slams it onto the stove. Outside, wheels crunch over dirt and stone, and Mollie runs to the door to watch Jack slide out of the old Chevy. He pushes past the police, waving a hand to say he’ll talk to them soon enough, but he hurries up the wood steps to catch his wife in a hard embrace.
Burying her face in his shoulder, Mollie apologizes for falling asleep, and swears she should have known better when she saw that strange couple stop at the mailbox and idle. The whole time, Jack rocks her and says it’s not her fault. He smells like orange soap again today, just like Lindy Schuster down at the Dew Drop Inn.
Interrupting, the tall deputy says, “We’re going to find your boy.”
With a breath through her mouth to keep from inhaling remnants, Mollie hopes they don’t look in the old well.
About the Author:
Saundra Mitchell lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two children. She's been the head writer for Dreaming Tree Film's Book of Stories short film series for four years, and her first feature will be produced in 2005. She doesn't have spare time, but if she did, she'd enjoy reading and harassing goats.
About the Artist:
A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.