posted on Apr, 24 2007 @ 08:48 PM
Maria Otto wafted into the kitchen as Riquetta rinsed the breakfast cooking pans.
“Riquetta, we’ve had a death in the family. Dr. Otto’s mother….please prepare the parlor for visitors. I’m going to tell Gene,” she said
as emotionless as talking about the weather.
“Yes’ m’”, Riquetta replied.
She watched as Mrs. Otto walked outside and loomed over Gene and his painting project. After speaking quickly to Gene, his face fell and turned away
from his mother. The emotional distance between them was visible and appeared it could not be bridged. Neither had the desire to even meet halfway.
Riquetta watched Mrs. Otto return to the house and retire upstairs. After she knew there were no eyes to see her, Riquetta went outside to Gene. She
found him crying with his fists in his eyes.
“Gene, tell me why cry….”
“My Grandmama is dead. She played with me and gave me candy…..she talked to me about boats.,” he said through his tears.
“No cry…No cry” Riquetta had a thought .“Want to talk to her again? One time more?”
“What?” Gene looked at her puzzled through red eyes
“See her again? One time to talk to her again? I will do for you.”
“But she’s dead.”
“Yes, but one time I can get for you to talk her again….one time…again.”
Riquetta hoped she could recall the spell her mother taught her long ago for the spirit of a dead loved one to visit. She remembered it involved
water, a glass under the bed, paper, a name written on it. If she thought hard enough she would remember and Gene would not cry. She had made a vow to
herself not to utilize her voodoo upbringing but she just wanted him to stop crying.
“Well, yeah, I want to see her again.”
“I will do…tonight…you will see her again.”
His smile warmed her and made her forget the scabs forming on her back for a moment. In the other moments in between, she thought of the man on the
cross and of……forgiveness.
The men and women in their finery paraded through the house all day paying respects for the dead mother of Dr. Otto. Hushed voices, limp hand shakes,
rosewater perfume smells in the parlor. Riquetta noticed the face he wore before the people in his house was different than the one holding the
whistling leather strap over her bed. One day, she thought, he will wear that face before me and all will be well. We will join in forgiveness.
After the visitors had left, Riquetta crouched scrubbing the steps when Dr. Otto burst through the back door and grabbed her arm, jerking her to her
“How dare you bring your devil talk to my boy’s ears you filthy beast!” he screamed as he pulled Riquetta up the stairs to her room.
“No, no devil talk, no sir….not me!”
“Gene told me your going to help him talk to his dead grandmother…. This filth in my house will not be tolerated. This is the Lord’s house and I
will not have you corrupt my child with this blasphemous nonsense!”
“No…he was sad…he cry so bad…just to stop him cry….I…..”
“Be silent!” he screamed.
They had reached the top of the stairs and he released her arm with a shove into her room.
“On your knees before the Lord!”
Riquetta’s heaving cries echoed in the room and she kneeled before the man on the cross. Dr. Otto slammed her door and she heard the lock click
behind him. Riquetta stayed upon her knees until they tingled and fell numb after an hour in the same position. She knew the footsteps would be coming
soon and her mind reeled with the possibility of what actions she could take to end her nightmare. She would try to remember the verses from the black
book that spoke of forgiveness and recite them back to Dr. Otto. He would be proud of her and change his mind and put the same face on as he had put
with the parlor guests.
Yes, she thought, the man on the cross…he loves the man on the cross who forgives. I will tell him of the forgiveness….he will change and not beat
She heard the footsteps…….he’s coming.
Forgiveness….the man on the cross says……the black book says so.
This time he did not come alone. The boy followed behind the looming shadow of his father.
“Let me show you how we deal with heathens who do not bend to the will of the Lord, son. Take your blouse off Riquetta”
The boy’s face showed fear and contempt but Riquetta saw an emotion in his eyes after the third lashing…….resolve. He did not care that she was
being beat before his eyes. Forgiveness….there is none. The love he did not receive in this house had not spared little Gene. Riquetta knew he would
grow to carry on the legacy of his father. Riquetta mourned the loss of innocence even as the welts rose below her ribs.
“He’s lost to me….,” she whispered to the man on the cross.
Whistling straps…..Riquetta had trouble breathing. Her eyes failed her and then blackness.
Riquetta stripped her blood-stained, threadbare dress and sat naked on the dusty floor. Before her, she lit three candles in a half-circle. In the
middle of the circle, she placed the soft straw stuffing in pile. Riquetta began her chanting as she had heard countless times in ceremonies such as
these in her homeland. Her hands moved and hovered rhythmically over the straw pile.
With this act, she knew her quest for goodness was abandoned and she allowed the hate for the Otto family to spill from her mouth and infuse her
chanting. The gods she invoked fed from her hate and heeded her call like an old friend in trying times. Eyes rolling back, limbs and body given up to
the dark spirit filling the circle…….she felt it enter the circle and her hands guided the darkness to the straw pile.
It’s here……enter……stay. The straw rose unassisted from the floor to Riquetta’s hands…..chanting…..whistling straps…bloody
mouth….hate and vengeance in every strand of straw….stay here.
Riquetta felt her body jolt forward and tighten and then…….it’s over.
Riquetta quickly wiped the sweat from her body and dressed. She retrieved her sewing supplies and cloth remnants from under her bed and set to work
with no conscience. Sewing, stitching, mending, fingers bleeding from pin sticks she could not feel.
Finally, it’s time for the straw…..breathing, waiting for a home. She uses the straw to stuff the body of her creation and is careful not to leave
any behind. All must go in……