I’ve been thinking about how to tell the rest of this story. These events occured prior to Martha’s death; I didn’t learn of them until twenty years later.
(taking a deep breath…)
Remember Martha’s sister Mary? Well, Mary came down one evening and asked my mom to help her with a problem. There’s no good way to say this: Mary came home from work that day to discover a baby boy in their garbage can. He was Martha’s and he was dead. Martha had delivered him that morning, by herself. She them smothered him to death, wrapped him up and put him in the garbage can. Mary wanted my mom to help her clean him up and bury him on the hillside behind their house, and it needed to be done quickly before Mrs. West came home.
So that’s what they did.
I can’t begin to imagine what this was like for my mom. She was thirty years old, plus or minus a year. She had been dragged to this God-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere, plunked down next door to these crazy women, caught up in their nightmare of a world. When she confided in her husband, he didn’t believe her. She told him she and Mary had buried the baby’s body behind the West’s house. I think he may have suggested she get some therapy.
Remember Rex the german shepherd?
(It’s not what you’re thinking…)
A short time later mom and dad were in the front yard when Rex trotted down the hill carrying a very large bone in his mouth. It was probably a beef bone. But seeing that dog carrying a bone finally made my dad see the light, so to speak. Mama said he blanched and practically passed out.
Later, on a Saturday morning, Mama piled me in the car and we headed to town. She bought me a piano of my own so I wouldn’t go next door to practice anymore.
When she told me the rest of the story, she asked, “Don’t you remember all of the strange out-of-state vehicles coming in and out at all hours? There were always strangers at the West’s. They were most likely into prostitution and drug and gun distribution.” I vaguely remembered, but mostly I remembered playing the piano for Mrs. West in her living room, with Martha there listening. Both of them would gush over me and ask to hear more. I was happy to oblige. They were there. They were listening.
We moved away in June, 1974. To this day, my mother has never been back.
Can’t say as I blame her.