Speakeasy #110 – Swimmin’ Hole

School-Field-Trip_7305464832_lMy life began with a funeral.

Mama liked to say grief drove her to the “indiscretion” she’d had while her husband was down at the church, prayin’ for his mama’s soul to rest in peace.  My real daddy was a mechanic at the garage in our small town, fixin’ up broke down vehicles.  Mama’s beat up ol’ station wagon bit the dust of the dirt road leading from our farm to the highway as she was leavin’ for the funeral.  My daddy, Amos, came out in his truck, hitched our wagon to the rear and bundled mama into the front and drove ‘em both down to the garage. 

To hear mama tell it, one thing lead to another and before she knew it she was hobblin’ down the road to the church, sore as you like.  I like to think they was in love.  But then again, if they was in love, why ain’t my daddy here?

Needless to say, when nine months later rolled ‘round and I came out lookin’ like a chocolate swirl shake, mama’s husband knew what was what.  I’m guessin’ he got pretty worked up, what with mama sleepin’ with a black man and all.  Daddy had turned tail and run off by then, mama said.  Her husband, who I called pa ‘cause I didn’t know no different, left for ‘while, came back and it was like nothin’ happened.  He wasn’t ever mean to me, but it was like I wasn’t there.

I used to play by the pond out past our farm.  Lots of kids went there and used it as a swimmin’ hole in the summer.  Those were the days before school got serious and before the town dried up with drought makin’ everything crumble between your fingertips soon as you picked it up. 

One hot day, I was down at the hole with some other kids.  They was a bit older than me and about to go into high school.  I pretty much kept to myself.  Like my pa, people seemed to do their best to look through me.  If they didn’t look through me, they looked right at me with such hate on their faces that it made me sick to my stomach.  I’d rather them not see me, given the choice.

Jacob, a freckle faced kid who acted like the world owed him a favour started it first.  He sat up in a tree limb, dangling over the pond, while the rest of us dipped our toes in from the dock that was fallin’ to pieces. 

“How come your mama and your daddy white but you’re black?”

He didn’t say my name, didn’t look at me but everyone knew who he was talkin’ to.  I didn’t answer.

“D’you hear me, girl?”

“What d’you mean?”  I pretended to be dumb.  Usually that helped in these situations.  No one expected a mixed girl to know much of nothin’ anyhow.

“Your mama’s white.  Your daddy’s white.  How’d that happen?”

“’Cause my daddy ain’t my daddy, he’s my pa.”  The answer made perfect sense to me.

“I heard your mama slept with that coloured man at the garage.”  Amy flung droplets of water across the pond, glittering like diamonds in the sunlight, with her big toe.

“That makes you a half-breed,” Jacob piped up.

Cicadas filled the silence that followed with their loud calls, making me deaf.  I’ll never know who started it, but they began a chant of “half breed, half breed” that followed me across the sharp-grassed field and all the way home.

That was the last time I went down to the swimmin’ hole. (600)

An exercise in voice this week for the speakeasy… I fiddled a bit with it in Sweet Kiwi so thought I might give it another go.

Oh, and this is the second to last speakeasy before the mods go on summer break… head on over to read some other fabulous pieces before they shut up for the summer (lucky gits!).

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1.  Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

13 thoughts on “Speakeasy #110 – Swimmin’ Hole

  1. I have one suggestion. If this is supposed to be in America, you want to use American spelling for “colored” and “favor,” in keeping with the rest. If it’s not America, I apologize, but I’m from the South and this is definitely a southern story. Nice work.

    1. You’re absolutely right. I’m originally from Kentucky but living here in the UK for the last 5 years has definitely taken it’s toll on me. And spellcheck and autocorrect here don’t help at all with that unless I manually reset them to US English… and I always forget to do that.

      Thanks for calling me out on it. And you’re most certainly right, this is a southern story, no doubt about it.

      1. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. Depending on what part of Kentucky you’re from, you may or may not consider Louisville an actual part of Kentucky. 🙂

  2. I like the way the child seems to still have her dignity. This story is more universal. Race aside, there are so many variations in real life. Being from the deep South, mixed race is the tip of the iceberg of this child’s origin and story. It is also a story that can be developed in any locale. Racial topics have to written with great sensitivity but it is worthwhile. I think how other places than the South as a locale could be interesting as an expansion of racial interaction and lets face it, acknowledgement that racism is a pervasive scourge that is not isolated to the American South.

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