The apple in my mouth turned to bile, as the smell of corn and tobacco mingled with the odor of my own fear. My entire body began to tremble, my hand shaking almost uncontrollably. It moved as if of its own accord, seeking out the solace of my sewing basket. What I began hours ago, I would finish, now, before those horses arrived, carrying a far worse fate with them. I was drawing the scissors out of my basket when a shadow fell across me. The moon had just come out, and Anna had stood up, still leaning against the wagon:
“Right on time.”
She looked from my wide eyes to my sewing basket, nodding toward my still bloody left forearm.
“You didn’t really think I’d stop here and just wait on those patrollers to come collect us up, now did you? Really? Miss Willow, you-
The thundering of hooves drowned out the last of her words, but her eyes, and her down-turned mouth, told me all I needed to know. She was such a young thing, but held so much more wisdom than I’d ever learned. When, after all, could I ever have learned to trust my fate, given what I’ve seen of this world?
She touched me almost tenderly on the shoulder, bringing my thoughts back to the present.
“Do you know how to ride a horse?” she looked at me, then glanced at the two white men who were now dismounting in front of the wagon. I shook my head no.
“Well, you will just have to learn something quick, because we are taking these two good horses across country for a little while, at least until we get out of Maryland, Delaware, too.”
“I heard we had to go all the way up to Canada now.” I had no idea of what the plan might be. I had heard talk of a law that the Senator was proud to have forced through, buying him two horses for the price of one, some said. Coffles were no longer to be seen, chained misery shuffling up the Market Street from the Wharf, so that our good White citizens can look respectable in the eyes of those envoys sent from distant lands. Particularly the English. At the same time, any of us who manage to escape our bonds can now be safe only across the border from the land of our own birth, in British Canada.
“Yes, yes we do. And there we will go.”
She looked at me so steadily that I could feel my former mourning turning to hope, if not to joy, beneath her gaze. Just then, one of the white men cleared his throat. He was standing nose to nose, at the head of our horse, holding the reins of both the wagon and his horse.
Anna patted me on the shoulder, turned, and walked over to him, straight and tall. She now seemed to be far taller than she had first appeared. They exchanged a few words as they both turned toward the second horse. Anna took the reins from the other white man. She showed no fear of them whatsoever, almost as if they had known each other for some time. She turned back to me, leading both horses over to the side of the wagon where I still sat, my head nearly level with the wagon’s walls.
She switched the reins of both horses to her right hand, holding out her left to me, and I rose up, stepping over the side of the wagon, and down to the ground. It hadn’t been nearly as far as I’d imagined. That wagon had been my world for some hours, but now it seemed small, fragile. Then I looked up at those horses, and I felt small, and fragile. Gather up your courage, girl! Oh, Willow, don’t you weep, either. The song reminded me of Mary, bringing my sorrow from yesterday back with it. Not now. There is a time to mourn, and a time to dance. With horses, too. I looked to see where the white men were. They were facing away from us, as respectful as could be. It was a wonder to me, though I was grateful. I gathered up the hem of my dress and bunched it around my waist. I felt indecent, but there was no help for it, if I didn’t want to break my neck up on this huge beast. My head hardly reached the animal’s back.
“I guess it’s time for me to learn to love this horse. Miss Anna, will you teach me?”
I saw that twinkle in her eye, for sure, this time!
“I surely will, Miss Willow.”
And with that, she patted the saddle of the horse nearest me, “Her name is Mary,” bent down and touched my left foot, looking up at me “Put your foot in the stirrup, and I’ll catch you around the waist to help you up into the saddle.”
“You mean I’m to ride like a man?” I had no idea how I would ever stay on top of that horse, as big as he, I mean to say she, was.
“If you want to get away, yes Ma’am, you do. You might want to open your bodice a little, too, so you can breathe.”
One of the white men cleared his throat, just loud enough for us to notice. Time to get a move on. Then, as if she’d read my thoughts,
“Time to get a move on, here, Miss Willow. You just trust me and old Mary here, you’ll be fine, she won’t let you fall, and neither will I.”
For a moment, as I looked into her almond eyes, I thought I might just fall.
This is the third scene in my new series Ann&Anna. I hope that this series will move you to learn more ways to help use our history to build new tools.
I look forward to your thoughts.
1.) What are your thoughts on the song references in this part of our story: do they resonate with you?
2.) Share your feelings about this part of our short story, and how it connects with you, please.
3.) Write your own story, post or tweet that uses those thoughts.
Dear Readers, ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness, #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind?
Support our key #PublicDomainInfrastructure & #StopSmoking at least for CCOVID-19:
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare, and
4. good #publictransport
-we can learn from the past Stayed on Freedom’s Call for free,
by Teaching and Learning (Lesson Plans offline) in the present, to
help build a kinder future: Do Better (was Baby Acres): a Vision of a Better World
Peace ! שָׁלוֹם
Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BSCS
the year, 2021 CE = year 12021 HE
(Online pdfs of 5 month GED lesson 11 of 67 plans…), and
Babylon 5 review posts, how story inspires learning…)
Stayed on Freedom’s Call
includes two ‘imagination-rich’ walking tours, with songs, of Washington, DC. New interviews and research are woven into stories of old struggles shared by both the Jewish and African-American communities in the capital city.
Shared histories are explored from a new perspective of cultural parallels and parallel institution-building which brought the two communities together culturally and historically.
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.