Leaving Gee's Bend

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham Read Free Book Online

Book: Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Irene Latham
    “Hmmm.” Aunt Doshie creased her brow, then leaned over and put her ear on Mama’s chest. “Looks to be the same as what Allie Bendolph was suffering with before she passed.” The room fell silent as Daddy and Aunt Doshie looked hard at one another.
    Was Aunt Doshie saying that Mama was gonna die? Just like old Mrs. Bendolph did? It felt like my throat was closing up. Like any second I wasn’t gonna be able to breathe.
    Aunt Doshie shook her head and drew her mouth into a thin line. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bennett.” She folded her arms across her chest and stepped away from Mama. “But it don’t look good.”
    “It’s influenza, then?” Ruben said, his voice small and quiet.
    Aunt Doshie leaned against her cane. “Looks like it. And with her chest rattling the way it is, and the fever hanging on so long . . . reckon she’s got herself a touch of pneumonia too.”
    Daddy covered his ear and fixed his eyes on Rose. He didn’t say a word, not one. So the rest of us didn’t neither. It was like the news was so awful he had to block it out of his mind. Like if he didn’t hear Aunt Doshie say it, then it couldn’t be true.
    But I had heard Aunt Doshie loud and clear. Influenza. Pneumonia. Them words was bigger than I was. And folks right here in Gee’s Bend had died because of them words. Wasn’t no more than two weeks ago that we’d sat through Mrs. Bendolph’s funeral. One Sunday she was in church, the next she was dead.
    It couldn’t be right what Aunt Doshie was saying. Wasn’t nothing new, folks dying. But not my mama.
    “Aren’t you gonna help her, Aunt Doshie?” I said. “Aren’t you gonna do something?”
    “Ain’t nothing to be done here. Except wait and see.”
    “What do you mean?” I said. There had to be something Aunt Doshie could do. “Don’t you have some potions or something?” I looked from her to Daddy. “You have to do something. Aunt Doshie, Mama would want you to at least try!”
    Aunt Doshie narrowed her eyes and pointed her finger at me. “Now don’t you sass me. Not after what you done.”
    It was like she had taken a switch to me. What if it really was my fault?
    From the pallet, Mama started coughing. Small coughs at first, but they grew into coughs so big they pulled her head right off the pillow.
    Aunt Doshie put her hand on Daddy’s shoulder. “You got to keep everything clean. Don’t want to be passing this to nobody else.” She smoothed Rose’s hair with her fingers. “And give her as much water as she’ll take. Dribble it in her mouth same way you done with the baby.”
    She looked over at Ruben, who was staring into the fire. “Ruben, you boil up some water and pour it in a bowl. Then set that bowl on your mama’s chest.” Aunt Doshie pointed to the spot right below Mama’s chin. “Right here. But be careful so you don’t burn her, you hear? Then cover her head and the bowl with a quilt. Like a little tent. The steam will loosen up her chest so her breath can come easier.”
    Aunt Doshie turned back to Mama and used the corner of the quilt to wipe her mouth. “And watch for more blood. If she starts coughing a stream of blood, you’ll know it’s in the Lord’s hands. Ain’t nothing left to do then but pray.”
    It felt like there was a bag of fertilizer on my chest. I was the only one that knew just how long Mama had been coughing blood. Even though it wasn’t no stream of blood the way Aunt Doshie was saying.
    “Daddy?” I said, my voice quivering as tears slid down my throat. I wanted him to wrap his big arms around me. I wanted him to tell me everything was gonna be okay. That it wasn’t as serious as Aunt Doshie was making it out to be.
    But Daddy wouldn’t look at me. He just shook his head and stared at the floor.
    The cabin began to spin around me till nobody was left but me. The room was silent and spinning, and I was alone in a place I ain’t never been before. If I didn’t get out of that room I was gonna bust right open

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