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An Upside-Down Sky
Ann Kendrick went about her day as always, cooking, cleaning, feeding the livestock, and bringing the fresh chicken eggs to the town market. Her children, Sarah, Rose, and Joseph, were off from school for the summer, but they spent their days by the stream and in the baseball field until the sky began to darken and Ann summoned them in for supper. Sarah, her face framed by her long brown hair, was a studious girl of thirteen, while Rose, nine, was a carefree tomboy with her golden-blond hair always pinned in pudgy braids. Joseph, on the other hand, was a mama’s boy who, at age six, showed his love by bringing home frogs and snakes for his family. But they were good children who gifted all their sweetness, love, charm, noise, mischief, and worry to their mother each day.
Oftentimes, Ann would awaken her children early in the morning to tend to the horses, pigs, garden, and crops with their father, Thomas. Thomas worked at Bates Mill, but the majority of his earnings came from his farm. Everyone worked together to make the best living they could for themselves. Life was seemingly simple and trouble-free when everyone did their duties, and the Kendrick family became like a tightly-woven blanket, able to withstand certain hardships and mend together any loose threads- such as when the clouds shrouded the sky and the hail storm claimed their wheat. The hail seemed to take the best of Thomas. But Ann, strong-spirited, placed in his hands the seeds for the next crop and told him that an upside-down sky can sure tear up all the land in Missouri, but it can’t put a finger on their family.
Like every other family, however, upside-down skies touched the Kendricks once in awhile, like on this particular day, when Ann had something to prove to her husband.
“Annie, I’m home!” Thomas burst in at 7 o’clock, accidentally slamming the door behind him.
“Tom, please don’t slam the door like that.” Ann clenched her teeth as she chopped up vegetables for a late supper.
“I’m sorry, honey.” Thomas placed his hand on her shoulder, “Are you okay?”
“Well, your son brought home a little present for me today, again. I don’t want to talk about it now. How about he tells you himself?” Ann glared at Thomas. “And I got a late start on supper. Go find Joseph.”
“I saw him run to the outhouse when I got home. I’ll talk to him when…”
“Hi Ma! Hi Pa!” Joseph opened the door and dripped mud onto the floor in front of Ann. Thomas quickly scooped him up in his arms.
“Did you let him go, Joseph?” Ann questioned.
“Yes, Ma. But I just don’t see what the problem is. I really, really wanted…”
“What is this all about?” Thomas budded in, placing Joseph down. Joseph paused, looking down at his feet.
“He brought in a raccoon. A baby raccoon, while I was in town.” Ann said in frustration. “And he made such a wreck, naturally…and you wonder why I am making dinner so late.”
“Honey, I never questioned…”
“That’s not the point. Well, maybe it is. Maybe it’s time to question your son.” Joseph shuffled over to the ladder and scampered up to his loft.
“My son? He’s a boy! I did things like this when I was his age!” Thomas chuckled.
“Thomas, please. Don’t you see! Your son got mud on my floors, and he brought in a raccoon. A raccoon! A frog from the creek is one thing, but a raccoon? I am busy cleaning and cooking and tending to everyone all day. I don’t mind it really. In fact, I love it because I love you and I love our family…but sometimes, it’s too much. I’m tired.”
“Honey, I understand. I’m tired, too. I worked on the farm all day until midday, and I just came home from the Mill.”
“Yes, but I’m not tired in that sense. I’m tired of…”
“Ma, when is supper? Rose and I are getting hungry up here, and you told us that you would call us down when it’s close to ready.” Sarah called down from the loft.
“Ma, it’s okay. We don’t have to have supper…” Rose attempted to help.
“You know what, honey, it is late. I’m exhausted. Let’s turn in for the night.” Thomas agreed with his daughters.
“What about your son?”
“He’s fine. The raccoon is nothing.”
“That’s because you weren’t here! You didn’t have to look at that thing, chase him around, or throw him and his waste out of the house.”
“Well at least it’s over, right? I’m sure it won’t happen again.” Thomas laughed.
“Happen again?” Ann said in surprise. “This happened so many other times with frogs and snakes and worms and… bad grades…and…everything that you let go, and somehow I do when you do!”
“He’s only six!”
“And everyone is begging for dinner, and now you all are going to bed.”
“Tom, do you know what it’s like to be a mother and a wife?”
“No, but I am a father and husband, and… are you okay? You are talking about problems that don’t even exist.”
“You’re still not seeing everything I do and why I’m tired.” Ann shook her head, sorrowfully. “And I pity the women who have husbands who will never see what we do.” Thomas looked at Ann inquisitively, and she continued, “I just heard that there are many problems in the city because women are rebelling against the law. I just don’t understand how husbands can take everything that it rightfully the wife’s! If a man wants to send his children to the orphanage, he can without her consent. It’s not right! We need to share our rights and our responsibilities. Men need to understand and appreciate the role of women!”
“I do appreciate what you do! And I don’t see how that is relevant to our family, honey. I think our family is fine. I’m not even sure how this dispute came about…and why should the law be changed? I just don’t see why we should change something that works.”
Ann stood silently for a moment. The children had already gone to bed, and everything was still except for the darts bouncing between Ann and Thomas’s eyes. Ann took a deep breath after some thought and walked to her room, reaching under the bed to pull out her bag.
“What are you doing?” Thomas questioned.
“I’m going away for a few days. I’ll go to the hotel. Come if you need me.” Ann prayed that he would come, although she knew that he would need her. That was the point. Ann packed her bag swiftly with determination and a glimmer of adventure in her eyes.
In shock and in partial fear that he would again escalate the situation, Thomas stood silent as he watched his wife leave the house.