Woman

Emma Denaples '19
Wyoming, 1869
 
The grasses are dying, or, maybe, already dead. They jab at Susan’s knees from underneath the blanket, as brittle and keen as straw.

And, yet, she kneels.

Hands so calloused that they are wholly yellow sit on Susan’s lap. She wears a bonnet, the brim only just revealing her face, and a sensible skirt. The skirt is made of a colored cotton that mirrors honeyed oats. She turns her features towards the sky, and they smooth.

The clouds almost reflect the dandelions that once bloomed among these grasses, but the vibrancy of spring is long gone,  as is the cerulean behind them. Now, only an ashen amber greets Susan’s eyes, which, alone, are blue.


A jackrabbit huddles low to the ground near her. It is cold- too cold. It has no fat, no insolation. Susan is unaware.

“My Lord,”
she whispers, her hair tucked away out of modesty, “everything is changing.”

Wind whistles past her ears, taking her words away with it. She shuts her eyes, and the small circles of blue disappear behind lids.
“People are speaking of women as they never have before,” she continues. Susan’s voice does not betray her age, for it is warm and mild. It does not announce the subtle lines on her face, nor the few grey strands that have nestled themselves amongst her blonde locks. “They are forgetting, I fear, that Eve was born of Adam- born to serve, not stand beside.”

Susan thinks of her husband.
“Even my Joseph, who carries the namesake of the great son of Jacob, tells me of women voting and working. Has he lost sight of Rachel and Leah, who were nothing more than wives and mothers?” She gently presses down on her skirt as the wind tries to root itself between her legs. “Has he lost sight of Rebecca before Rachel, and Sarah before Rebecca?
“The fruit of our harvest this season was meager. Are you angry, my Lord? The land has died, the sun rises long after I do and sets long before. There is no more to reap for winter. This year,” her lips begin to tremble, “we are going to suffer.”

Susan opens her eyes again. They are glassy with tears.

On the outskirts of this open plane, many huddles of trees rise. Their branches rattle against each other and clutch their last few leaves. Their trunks, tall and golden black, cling to a dwindling food supply.
Susan is no witness to this struggle. Her chin remains up, her face serene.

The underbelly of her blanket is not damp. Everything is dry, crisp. Despite this, Susan feels the back of her dress begin to cling. The perspiration was not inspired by heat; no, it is the product of fear.
“Please, my Lord.” Her skin has a flaxen tint and the doctor worries for her metabolism. “Please, don’t punish them too severely. They have forgotten; they are fools; but, they are lonely fools.” She is silent for a moment. “They are lonely. They believe that if they let women vote, more of our kind will come. They believe that they will find a bride. But these are not the means to find a bride- you did not intend for my sex to vote, to sit among the men at dinner. And you are our Lord- my Lord. It pains me to see them neglect your words in this way.”

The tears spill over. Wind blusters them away.

“I fear that they are ignorant. I fear that they are blind, and they are going to ruin us all because they are forsaken. But, please, my Lord, they are not evil. Please … please don’t strike them down. Please don’t strike us down.”

Susan looks toward the moon, which has commanded its reign of the sky. The horizon glows a creamy white. The stars interrupt the sky. . It is nearing dusk. The blanket on which Susan prays is just as old as she. Fraying at the edges, it was once as pale as snow, but now answers more easily to butter. Forty more years, and it will be as pigmented as butterscotch.

There is an argyle pattern on it, woven in strands of burgundy and juniper. Susan’s initials-
SD- are embroidered in the corner. A field mouse, his fur a tarnished cider, paws at the solidified soil. He is looking for seeds. There are none.

“My Lord,”
she whispers, again, “I’m sorry. They are fools, but they are not evil- they are strong, kind men. They are givers of car; they are workers. They are your children.”
Silence breathes in silence.

Overhead, a red tailed hawk glides in lazy circles. Susan follows it with her eyes, and then looks down at her own lap. When three wet stains dare to blemish it, she is surprised. She has just realized that she is crying. Her powdered cheeks become streaked.

In the trees, far away, a bronze fox slinks across the ground. Its hips stick out, as pointed as the mountains behind them, and its tail drags along the ground. Black paws precede bristly hairs. To the hunter tracking this canine, it is only a walking pelt. At least the fox is scavenging for food. Killing for sport is not glorious.

Susan, still staring at her blanket, wonders, for a brief moment, if she is speaking only to herself. For her life is nearing a half century, and she has never heard a response.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers one final time, and, still, the wind carries this sentiment away. Susan presses her fingers together and lowers her head even more. And she feigns security, forcing the warble that had poisoned all of her words before away. “In the name of the Lord,” she says, “Amen.”

-2017 Magazine
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