I guess I should start by telling you my name. It’s Emmaline. Folks just call me Emma when they call out to me at all but I’ve always wished they’d call me by my full name. My momma gave me the name because she’d read somewhere that it meant peaceful home. I believe that was what she wanted more than anything in the world by the time I was born. She never got it.
I live in the woods a ways outside of a town in southern Oregon. I’m thirty-two years old and I make a living as the local moonshiner. You’ve probably never thought that a woman would be involved in such a business, and if I could have done something else I would have.
You see, my father died when I was sixteen. It was about six months after momma died. He had a still out in the woods in back of our house. Being sixteen and on my own I didn’t have a choice but to carry on his business. Men kept coming to the door looking to buy whisky and so it was only practical that I should take their money. My father’s shotgun kept loaded by the door stopped them from thinking I might be good for anything else.
The reason I’m writing all this down is that I’m the same age my momma was when she died and the things that happened sixteen years ago still weigh on my mind and I’m hoping that committing it to paper will bring me some peace. I’ve never known what that’s like and I sure wouldn’t mind finding out. I’ve never had anyone I could confide in so this is what I’ve decided to do.
My folks were from rural Washington. They went to school together and when momma was fifteen she fell pregnant. I’ve never liked that expression but that’s how my father always said it. Guess it meant he thought he wasn’t responsible. Anyway, I never heard the details but I guess they got married soon after and then my father took her away from her family. He didn’t like them knowing his business is the way momma put it.
They settled in southern Oregon and being as how he never was much for regular work he started selling booltleg whisky on the sly. I heard talk that he’d taken over from the man he used to buy from and that the man had died in mysterious circumstances.
Things were never good around our house. Father was a mean drunk and drunk was what he was most of the time. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t hollering at momma and hitting her when the mood took him.
I used to hide under my bed and sing to myself until the yelling stopped. That usually meant he’d passed out or fallen asleep. Momma would come and get me and tell me everything was going to be all right. I used to pray she’d be right about that some day.
Things went on like that until around my sixteenth birthday. It was then that momma took real sick and couldn’t get out of bed. I was used to seeing her with bruises and she even had a broken arm once but it was a day after they had a really bad fight that she couldn’t keep going. I tried to nurse her back to health and I told father she needed a doctor real bad but he didn’t care. Said she was just being lazy.
She died a few days later. Just wouldn’t wake up one morning. I cried the whole day and night and didn’t get any sleep. Father howled like a banshee and I could hear him cursing her all to hell. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do so I just stayed in my room with the door locked.
When I finally came out her body was gone. Father told me I was the woman of the house now and I’d better do my duty. I wasn’t sure what that meant but I knew it wasn’t good.
Part 2 Tomorrow