Charlottesville Virginia was a growing southern town but as most towns in the South it had its affluent neighborhoods and its poor neighborhoods. One of the families that lived in the rundown section of town was the Spivey family. The family lived in a wood framed home not far from the Rivanna River where they made a meager living as best they could. Times were hard for the Spivey family and there were times when Martha Spivey didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
The Spivey family was made up of four girls and four boys and Martha Spivey raised the family by herself without any help from her worthless husband Alfred.
Alfred a short man, slight of build was the town drunk and had no talents aside from spawning children. It was rumored that he was suspected of having several illegitimate children among the town’s whores.
The Spivey brothers made up a bunch that was considered bad, good or challenged. Earl was a six foot bully who terrorized his sisters especially the youngest ones. He sought out the most defenseless ones to harass. He had a rough complexion, red hair and large buck teeth that protruded out from under his upper lip showing off their nasty yellow stains. Earl’s only redeeming quality was that he always talked about joining the army. Folks laughed at him and teased him that if he joined the army he would probably spend most of his time in the stockade. He was the oldest son of Martha and Alfred, although many folks in Charlottesville thought he was the product of rape because of his resemblance to Matt Davis, the local card shark and womanizer. His red hair and tall frame kind of gave it away.
Randy was the next brother in line by age. He was short and had dirty blond hair that he kept at collar length. Of the four boys, he was the hardest working and most motivated. He was probably the most likely to make something good of himself and this is why Martha looked to him to be the families future provider.
Randy was well liked around town and the locals hired him to do odd jobs here and there. He didn’t chase the girls in town but he did have a friend named Carol Krane who lived with her family near the woods. They met in school and were very close, you could say best friends. He and Carol were near the same age and liked many of the same things. Carol thought Randy had a boyish face but in his own way she felt he was very handsome. When he wasn’t working, or reading his favorite adventure books, he was talking to Carol about getting away from Charlottesville and starting a new life for himself. He would often ask her to go with him to the great West to start a business and a new life. They talked about how they could run a mercantile business and how the Santa Fe trail had opened up endless possibilities for a man or a woman who had enough starter money and the guts to try something new.
Alexander was the second to the youngest boy in the family and was considered a bad seed by most who met him. Older brother Earl always picked on the girls and fought with Randy but Alexander was sneaky and vindictive. He never could forgive his brother Randy for being his mother’s favorite and he took every opportunity to discredit Randy and make him look bad. Alexander hated his family and vented his frustration out on his mother and siblings. Randy tried to stay away from Alexander because any time he was near bad things seemed to happen. There was the time some windows were broken in town and Randy was blamed, or the time a neighbor’s horses were let loose and Randy was blamed, a shed fire, graffiti on the church, and his mom’s garden destroyed. Alexander always shifted the blame to Randy.
Rodney was the youngest boy in the family, he had a learning disability. He always stayed close to Martha because she was very protective of him. Earl and Alexander teased him and made him cry until Randy would rescue him and take him to Martha.
The oldest daughter, whose name was Becky, was mean to other kids and liked to throw rocks at people who would pass by their cabin, her younger sisters worshipped her and Becky definitely had an influence on them. She treated them like they were her personal servants who needed to wait on her hand and foot. The other three sisters, Bernadette, Sally, and Susan fell right in line and always did what Becky demanded. Becky did not like Randy’s friend Carol at all and was outraged when her mother invited Carol to live with them after Carol’s family was killed in a suspicious house fire.
The Krane family died in the fire that destroyed their house. The fire burned the house to the ground after a kerosene lamp fell from the kitchen table and burst into flames quickly engulfing the wood framed house. Carol was lucky to survive and only did so because Randy had happened to be in the area and saw the flames. He rushed in and pulled her out before the burning house collapsed on the rest of the sleeping family. Neighbors wondered how Randy could have been in the area at that time of night and many suspected that he had a little more to do with the fire then just saving one of the victims.
The truth was Randy was following his brother Alexander who had taken to robbing items from the neighbors houses at night while they slept. Alexander sold what he stole for cash in nearby towns. Randy wanted to catch Alexander in the act and confront him about it. One night he followed his brother to the Krane’s house and watched his brother through the window as Alexander looked into each cupboard and drawer in the kitchen of the sleeping family’s home. Alexander put the stolen articles into a flour sack and then moved onto the next drawer or cupboard.
The fire started when Randy made a sound at the window, Alexander turned quickly from the cupboard and clumsily hit the lit kerosene lantern that was on the kitchen table knocking it to the floor. Alexander quickly ran from the house with the booty laden pillow case, and Randy ran after him trying to catch him to recover the stolen property so he could return it to the Krane family.
Randy saw the reflection of the fire streaming through the woods ahead as he chased Alexander. He stopped and turned back and ran to the house. The flames were engulfing the entire structure and were burning with a fierceness that frightened Randy. He somehow entered the window of the room where Carol slept and carried her unconscious body back out the window. He tried to re-enter the house but was beat back by the intense flames. He watched as the house burned to the ground and Carol’s family was taken from her in a mass of flames and cinders. As much as Randy despised Alexander, he kept silent about what happened that night. Randy never revealed the truth. Martha had a powerful guilt that lead to her decision to take Carol into her home to raise her as her own even giving Carol their last name. Carol often wondered if Martha knew that Alexander had something to do with the fire.
Randy and Carol always supported each other in the poor Spivey household. Randy protected Carol from his brother Earl who constantly picked on her, Becky encouraged Earl because she hated Carol. Randy would try to get Earl to stop picking on Carol but then Earl would turn on him and Randy would suffer because of the thrashings he received from his larger and stronger brother. Carol always felt frustrated after Randy stepped in to protect her and then got pummeled for his trouble. She hated Earl for the beatings he gave Randy. But there was another brother she hated even worse, and that was Alexander.
Randy continued to work hard at many small jobs, socking away the money so he could eventually start his mercantile business. One day while exploring the old mill they found a safe place to hide the money. In the ruins of the mill next to the Rivanna River, was the perfect place. They found a hiding spot under the old floor boards of the abandoned mill. Whenever Randy got paid for odd jobs he would give part to his mother and then late in the night he and Carol would slip out of the house and go to the mill and hide the rest of the money under the floorboards at the old mill. They always had to be on the alert and keep an eye out for anyone who might try to find where they were keeping their savings. Alexander was the one who they feared the most and they knew he would try to steal it.
One thing that bothered Randy was Alexander always asking what Randy was doing with the money he was earning at the various jobs he performed. Randy would just tell him that he gave it to their mother, but Alexander knew different and Carol could see that Alexander meant to have Randy’s money. Carol hated Alexander and felt Alexander was pure evil and often would shudder at even the slightest contact with him.
One day while Randy and Carol were having a picnic and relaxing on the banks of the Rivanna near the mill. They heard a commotion and spotted two people on the river bank. The couple looked to be destitute and weary from their travels. They were two Negros and Randy suspected they might be runaway slaves. One was a large male and the other a female who appeared pregnant. The couple seemed frightened because they had been spotted, but Randy spoke to them gently and soon had their confidence. Boada introduced Kisha and himself to Randy and Carol. Carol fussed over Kisha and offered the two some of their picnic food. Seeing that Boada and Kisha needed some food and a safe place to get rested, Randy and Carol assured the runaways they would be safe and they could count on Randy and Carol to help them. They spent the next two days caring for the runaways. They brought them fresh clothing and more food but the best thing they did for Boada and Kisha was to make arrangements with Mr. Powers to take them to the North. Mr. Powers was a white man who was sympathetic to runaway slaves and did all he could to move them along the underground railway to freedom.
The day came for Randy and Carol to take Boada and Kisha to meet Mr. Powers, Boada was very nervous, but once he met Mr. Powers he was sure he was a good man and trusted him to help them. Carol gave Kisha a big hug and wished them well on their journey. Randy shook Boada’s hand told him to be safe and take care of Kisha and their unborn child. Boada told Randy he was very thankful for what they did for them and didn’t know how to repay him. Randy told him not to worry about it but to make a good life for himself and his family. Boada felt an appreciation for this white man that he had never felt for any other white man. This man was a very good man and he would never forget him.
Mr. Powers helped Boada and Kisha into the back of his wagon and covered them with a canvas. He climbed up on the wagon and started the team down the road. Boada wanted to repay the two white people somehow but did not know how he could then he thought about the stones in the two pouches. He knew they must have some value. Suddenly the tarp lifted and Boada held out an arm and his hand held one of the leather pouches. He yelled for Randy to catch the pouch and tossed it in his direction.
Randy caught the pouch in his hand and felt its weight. He didn’t look into the bag right away but put his arm around Carol and they both waved one last time at the departing wagon that held their new friends, bound for freedom.
After the wagon was out of sight Carol asked Randy what was in the pouch. He opened it and poured out the stones. Carol thought what an odd gift for Boada to give Randy; even though they were pretty they were just stones. Randy on the other hand knew what they were and jumped up and clicked his heels. He explained to Carol that the gift from the poor runaway slaves was going to pay their way to the West. After explaining that they were uncut diamonds he grabbed Carols hand and they ran to the mill and excitedly buried the pouch under the floorboards with their cash savings. They walked away knowing now they could finally take that trip to the West and start their own mercantile company. They had never been happier.
A short distance away hiding in the woods a shadow moved. Then a head lifted from behind a stump. Alexander was getting an eye full and grinned from ear to ear. He finally knew where Randy kept his secret stash.
That night Randy and Carol lay on the porch and stared into the clear sky and talked in hush tones about their plans to leave for the Santa Fe Trail. They were so excited that they couldn’t sleep. Randy told Carol they should prepare to leave at the end of the week, but first he had promised the good Reverend that he would paint the church steeple. This would be his last job before they left.
Someone else in the house couldn’t sleep that night. Alexander was plotting and scheming against his brother and making plans of what he would do after he stole his brother’s stash. He would leave home and never look back, but first he had to do something about his brother. With Randy out of the picture he could take the savings that Randy had accumulated and not have to fear that Randy would come looking for him. But how could he get rid of Randy. His mind pondered this throughout the night.
Friday afternoon Alexander ran into the Reverend’s office and yelled for help as there had been an accident. He claimed he had just found his brother Randy on the ground below the church steeple.
The Sheriff was called and it was determined that Randy had an unfortunate accident. It was very hot that afternoon, and Alexander expressed to the Sheriff that Randy must have fainted from the heat and fallen from the steeple where he had been painting. Carol always suspected a different scenario.
There was no investigation and Randy was buried there in a pauper’s grave outside of Charlottesville. Carol would visit every Sunday and leave fresh flowers on Randy’s grave along with a few sorrowful tears. Martha was never the same and at times would just sit and stare off with a sad expression on her face.
Soon after the funeral Alexander disappeared and left no word of his departure or where he might be going. Nobody knew what happened to him. Some of the town’s people thought that the death of his brother had upset him so much that he ran off and killed himself. Carol knew better. One trip to the old mill unveiled the truth; Alexander had stolen the diamonds and money and had run off to live on his brother’s stolen wealth.
After Randy’s death, Carol became as hard as the rest of the family and she fought constantly with her sisters, especially Becky.
The oldest sister Becky hated Carol. She felt that Carol was an extra burden on the family that they didn’t need. Becky claimed Carol wasn’t blood related and therefore wasn’t real family and Becky claimed her mother Martha had gone mad when she adopted her. Becky always felt the adoption was just a farce and not really official. She couldn’t understand how her mother could bring another person into their home to live, when they were barely able to feed themselves.
As usual, Bernadette, Sally, and Susan followed Becky’s lead. About the only time they were nice to Carol was when Becky was gone or asleep.
Martha always loved Carol and hated the way that her own children treated their adopted sister. She was kind to Carol and always took her side, which made Becky the more hateful. Martha took Carol under her wing and taught her things like cooking and sewing. Things that her daughters never wanted to take the time to learn.
Martha’s husband Alfred was killed when he was caught stealing a mule he wanted to sell for drinking money. Martha was left to raise the children alone and managed to keep some food on the table until she died. Some say she died from a broken heart and the stress from the rough life they lived. Becky said she died from the burden of having Carol in the house and as a constant reminder of both her dead son Randy who she missed so dearly and Alexander, the evil son she could never forgive.
After Martha’s death the family broke up and the children all went their separate ways. Carol heard that Alexander had become a warden of a prison. She started to keep track of his whereabouts and kept in touch with people in the town where the prison was located. She hoped that someday she would be able to track him down and exact her vengeance on him for the death of her family and Randy, the only man she ever loved.
© Copyright 2016 Michael Young. All rights reserved.
Book / Historical Fiction
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