The Moon and Mazie Grace
by Drema Hall Berkheimer
Mazie sat in the outhouse, underpants pooled at her feet. She leaned over, praying to a God she no longer believed in that she’d see blood, but the white cotton was unsullied. Anguish swelling her throat, she railed at the moon rising over the mountain.
Girl, heat this coffee up. Girl, that fire needs stokin’. Girl, git water in here afore dark. Her daddy talked that way to her momma too – woman, do this, do that. But her momma was dead now and didn’t have to take it no more.
The boy child her momma bore back in the spring never caught ahold of life. She sat on the porch all night, the baby a rag doll in her lap. At daybreak Mazie took the baby from her and held it while her daddy dug the grave. After that her momma didn’t have it in her to live.
Mazie’s daddy faulted her for living instead of the boy. He beat her for leaving the butter out or cooking the beans too dry or forgetting to mend his britches. He’d beat her lifeless for having a bastard baby. And if he knew Alders done it, he’d go after him too, maybe shoot him so folks would think he got mistook for a wild hog. Not that she cared. Every time Alders caught her, he shoved her in the bushes and had his way. He was the son of a boss man at the coalmines, and she was nothing but a piss-ant girl with not a soul to help her.
Then Ma Addy came to mind.
Mazie waited in the doorway until the old midwife beckoned her inside. I’m gonna have a baby, she said, speaking loud so Ma Addy could hear, and I don’t want no baby. Ma Addy looked hard at her – Chile, you listen close to what ol’ Addy tell you.
Like Ma Addy told her, Mazie gathered the bitter vetch and other herbs and made the drink that purged her. She visited her mother’s grave, planted a wishbone at the head and a feather at the foot so the wish could take wings.
And she waited.
The first stirrings filled her with dread. By the next full moon, she smiled unbidden at the tadpole fluttering in her belly. Not long after, she named her – Mazie for herself and Grace after her mother. Mazie Grace. She liked the sweet sound of it. Mazie Grace, you come when your momma calls you, she’d say, but not in a mean way. Mazie Grace, you’ll catch your death in that evening damp. Mazie Grace, I got to tell you about a baby rabbit I seen. She’d leave soon, find a proper place for her and Mazie Grace.
Mazie sat in the outhouse again, underpants pooled at her feet. She grunted like a pig to ease the pain, quell the fevered need to push her insides out. Blood running down her legs, she railed at the moon rising over the mountain.
Drema Hall Berkheimer is published online and in print journals, and won 1st Place Nonfiction in the 2010 WV Writers competition. A Dallas resident, she is writing a memoir about growing up in post-Depression West Virginia. Contact Drema.