Not all of us were the fighting type. Some of us just wanted to survive. He was a fighter, Able. Anything said to him that he didn’t like, he would make sure you knew he didn’t like it. Sometimes, with a simple yawn or stretch, he would make his indignation known. Other times, he would raise his body, allow all of his muscles strength to meet you, and position himself for whatever fight he was ready to participate in.
He once told me, “I’m always ready to go if Mastah’ want to go.”
Usually, the flex of his power ended in overnight cotton picking or some type of beating. Even though Master Williamson was afraid of Able, he knew able wouldn’t run and would take whatever punish came when nobody was looking.
I love Able with everything in me and I’d marry him if he’d ask me. But he won’t marry me because he says I don’t fight. He said I’m not the fighting kind.
“I got kids Able. I want get back to em’ one day. A fourteen year old boy out there coming’ a man all on his own and a seven year old daughter with nobody to protect her from mastahs’ and men who wanna hurt her. I can’t be out her fighting for myself and starting trouble when I’m supposed to fought for them. I told em’ I was coming back to em’ and fighting for em’ means lowering my head when Mastah’ Williamson come by my way then I lower my head.”
But it was more than lowering my head. It was hiking up my skirt or getting down on my knees. Able would kill me with his bare hands if he knew how I laid down for Master Williamson. I stopped fighting back a long time ago. I gotta get to my babies and this type of fight, while bad for the pride and esteem of a woman, is what will keep me alive to see my children again.
It’s almost midnight; I can tell by the moon. Master on top of me for the third time this week and I’m waiting for him to be done. I stare at the splinted cracks of wood over my head as the scratch from the straw in the barn digs into my back. I don’t think on the pain. I imagine my babies playing with the moon. Like I can see them right in front of me.
But tonight, feels like forever. Master whisper promises of my children in my ear. He says he sold them out by Georgia. He says they are at his brother’s house and my daughter is yellow enough that she’s learning to read. The smile on my face is met by Able’s strong arm as he grabs Master from on top of me and flings him across the room. Master and Able tussle on the floor, both getting punched a time or two before Master gives up and runs out of the barn with his pants still around his ankles. I reach for Able but he smacks my hand away. He walks away from me and I get no sleep that night. I just watch my kids play with the moon.
The next morning, Able comes out to the field to do his work workout fear. His head is higher than usual and the swollen bruises on his shoulder is a battle scar he wears proudly. I suppose he thinks because he made it through the night, he won. He’s probably thinking that Master won’t do or say nothing cause everybody saw Master run out of my room with his pants around his ankles. Looking around the yard, Master is no where to be found. But it’s Able’s face that turns a pale white as he reaches the middle of the cotton field. There I am. My body is hung up like a scarecrow. I got lashes filled with straw and bloody cuts all over my back and front. The cotton around my feet is red and filled and leaking.
Able does his work with no yawning or sighing. All his indignations seems to have found rest in the bottom of his throat. He just starts surviving.
I guess cause now, there’s nobody to fight for.