Elizabeth Jones

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Short story about a slave.

Submitted: July 16, 2012

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Submitted: July 16, 2012

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Elizabeth Jones

Elizabeth. Elizabeth Jones.  That be my name.  My great granddaddy was a slave, my granddaddy was a slave, and my daddy was a slave.  I guess you say that I be following in my family’s footsteps.  I’m sure you thinkin’ that I must pick cotton and work hard outside all day long, but my job is dif’rent than that.  I work away in the kitchen all day.  You know those white women don’t like gettin’ their hands messy or nothin’ like that.  There are parts of my job that I not proud of.  My life ain’t been easy, but I do what I gotta do.

Michael Smith has owned me my entire life.  Normally people be bitter about this sorta stuff, but I just take life day by day.  I never thought my life was dif’rent ‘til the day my mama told me ‘bout how we was not the same as “normal” people.  “Baby, come sit down.” she says.  “We be different than everybody else.  It’s not normal for people to be treated this way.  We are what people call ‘slaves’.  We don’t work for money.  We be doing this because Mr. Smith owns us.”  My heart darn near sunk in my chest right then and there.  Five years old and I already be carryin’ that burden for the rest of my life.

Six years old was the age that we got put to serious work.  I learned to cook and clean.  I was Mr. Smith’s favorite, and then that was a good thing.  My mama died when I was seven.  She be cookin’ dinner when she spilled the batter for the chicken on the floor.  Before she could ‘splain herself Mr. Smith started whippin’ her.  It be the worst thing I seen in my life.  She lay there on the floor cryin’.  I tried to wipe the blood away from her raw back, but there was too much.  I watched the life leave my mama’s eyes.  From then on I be the head slave of Mr. Smith’s house.  I took on duties my mother did and worked my ars off every day.  Before the sun came up I would get up and do all of the outside work, collectin’ eggs, milkin’ cows, and makin’ sure there are no leaves or twigs on the yard.  Mr. Smith was ver strict about how his yard looked.  Once the sun came up I’d go inside and cook breakfast for Mr. Smith and his family.  I didn’t mind the cookin’ part.  I love cookin’ me some good food.  I’d clean the house, make it all nice and pretty so the Mrs. wouldn’t get upset.  They never liked havin’ company with any sorta blemish in the house.

I loved their kids.  Sally and Michael Jr. were the sweetest kids I knew.  It made me so sad that they were gonna turn out just like their parents.  I never really had to take care of the kids, that was someone else’s job, but I did get to be around them sometimes.  That was what I looked forward to every day.  Growin’ up without a mama was hard.  I didn’t have anyone to really talk to.  My daddy was always workin’.  He never got breaks.  Mr. Smith was hard on him.  There were times that my daddy would work an entire week day and night without rest.  He died when I was 13.  After that I got moved into a shack closer to Mr. Smith’s.  My little brothers and sisters were sold to another master.  I never saw them again.  I buried my feelings down deep ‘cause if we showed emotion we were whipped.  The only thing that comforted me was my mama’s bible.  I could only read a couple passages that my mama had taught me.  “Treat others as you would like to be treated” and “I can do anythin’ through Him who gives me strength” or somethin’ like that.  I think those were the most important anyways.  Mama always was tellin’ me that.

One day I be cookin’ eggs for Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  I started late so I wasn’t bein’ careful like I shoulda been.  I had to measure exactly one half teaspoon of salt and pepper to put on the eggs, but instead I just sprinkled some of both on and served the Smith family.  Mr. Smith could taste the dif’rence and he took me out back.  I can remember the fear that trembled through my body.  “I should whip your hands since you were being careless, but if I do, you may never get the eggs right!  Lean over that log!”  I knew he seen the fear in my eyes that day.  I did as I was told and knelt down over the stump of a cut down tree and took my beatin’.  “There won’t be any crying or else you get more whips!” he said in his spiteful tone.  I did my best not to wince.  To this day, I still feel all 14 whips and can hear the harsh high pitched crack of the leather hittin’ my back.  I guess I can be thankful that I was only 14 ‘cause we got one whip per year of age.  Well dependin’ on what we did that is. 

After that day I never ran late again.  I got up an hour before I had to so I could be done with the outside chores and start breakfast early.  I was flat out exhausted by the end of the day, but I do what I gotta do.  Soon after that more chores were added onto my list.  Mabel, the slave that cared for the kids, started gettin’ old and feeble and they sold her to another owner.  I took over her job of carin’ for the kids.  Sally and I were the same age but Michael Jr. was about three years younger than us.  Mr. Smith had me around the house all the time and soon he moved me into the servant’s quarters in their house.  I thought this was a good thing, with bein’ in a warm house ‘n’ all, but I was ver’ wrong.  I woulda picked stayin’ in a dirty ol’ shack that the wind blew right through than be that close to Mr. Smith.

August 3, 1836 was the first time it happened.  Mr. Smith’s hands were around my neck threatenin’ to suck the life out of me if I made one noise.  I knew then why Mabel never talked.  I was not only Mr. Smith’s slave that day, but now I was his concubine.  Any meanin’ that I had in my life was taken out of me.  The next day after cookin’ breakfast I sat at the kitchen table.  Mr. Smith was gone for a few days and the Mrs. was havin’ her hair done so I knew I was gonna be alone for a good two hours.  I pictured the shack that my family lived in.  The smell of the old pine boards that were used as walls.  The dirt floor.  The bible sittin’ on the table, warped from over-use.  One bed sittin’ in the corner of the shack with a folded blanket on the end.  The candle that shed soft light through the room.  Mama always called it the light of Jesus.  It gave us somethin’ to live for.

My days never seemed to end.  Mr. Smith didn’t give me breaks no more.  I was gettin’ older, just not old enough.  With nothin’ to live for it was hard to keep wakin’ up every day.  One day Mr. Smith was in a bad mood.  This was never good for me.  I be cookin’ breakfast for Mr. Smith and the family when he decided to do his weekly yard check.  That day was the only day of my life that I hadn’t been ready.  Oh, Lord.  Please help me.  I ain’t done my job right and Mr. Smith is gonna be so angry with me.  Please spare me and let my beatin’ be short.  Amen.  I said a prayer real quick to myself ‘cause I knew this was gonna be bad.  Mr. Smith walked outside.  I will never forget the stompin’ of his boots.  17 steps ‘til he was outside.  17 steps ‘til my fate would be determined.  17 steps ‘til my scarred back would become open wounds again.  I shuddered at each of those 17 steps.  I tensed waiting for Mr. Smith’s reaction.  I knew there was gonna be a lotta leaves on the ground.“Elizabeth.”  was all I heard Mr. Smith say.  I knew now this was gonna be bad.  I looked down at my feet.  I could see every crack and scar.  Dirt covered my toes.  I took those 17 steps to meet the man who held my life in his hands.  “Elizabeth, you will pick up every single one of these leaves.”  I got down on my hands ‘n’ knees, crawlin’ around like some sorta animal.  I grabbed the first leaf when I felt the searin’ pain of the whip across my shoulders.  I winced from the shock.  Then I got another.  “You know my rule about flinching.” he spat.  I put the first leaf in my pocket and reached out for the second.  The third crack hit my back.  I could feel blood soaking through my rags they called a dress.  54... 55... 56...  All the leaves were picked up.  “I bet you won’t forget to pick up leaves again.” he said as he laughed and walked away while he was wipin’ my blood off his whip.  Please forgive me, Lord for hatin’ this man so much.  I could feel my world slippin’ away.  “Mama, I will see you soon.”  I whispered as my world turned to black.

I could feel cold water drippin’ on my back when I finally opened my eyes.  I tried to roll over but the pain was too bad.  “Shh, don’t move Lizzy, I’m taking care of you.” Sally’s voice said as she gently touched my cheek.  Tears started stainin’ my cheeks from exhaustion and pain.  “I’m sorry, Lizzy.  I will make it feel better.  Let’s get up and go in the house so I can put some cream on your back.”  Every move I made sent pain everywhere.  Sally helped me stand up and walk to the house.  I laid down on the bed after I took my dress off.  Sally got some cream and rubbed it on all of the open wounds on my back.  The cream soothed the gashes on my back.  I felt like I could drift off and never wake up again.

After a few days I felt better and was put back to work.  Mr. Smith was gone a lot now which made life a lot easier for me.  All of the slaves that he had were starting to get old and they weren’t getting enough work done so he spent most of his days at auctions buyin’ new ones.  After Mr. Smith came home from an auction one day, a new slave started takin’ over my house and yard work.  Violet was her name.  I knew things were gonna change for me since I didn’t have many jobs to do anymore.  Sally and Michael were old enough that they didn’t need me lookin’ after them.  Then it happened again.  I knew then why Mr. Smith got another house slave.  I was in Mabel’s shoes and Violet was in mine.  I could tell she was confused at why I never talked, but I couldn’t speak a word of what was going on.  My life seemed endless and day after day was the same routine.  One day I started feelin’ funny.  My stomach was churnin’ and I was throwin’ up all day.  Bein’ a slave we weren’t allowed to be sick.  Sally was takin’ care of me when Mr. Smith got home.  “Get up and stop being so lazy woman.  You have things you need to get done.” Mr. Smith said with a snarl.  I got up and went to the bedroom where I knew he would want me.  “You’re having my baby.  Don’t tell my wife or you won’t live to see it.” with that he slapped me and left the room.  I sat there not knowin’ if the sting of the news hurt worse than the slap.  Dear Lord, please help me with this chapter of my life.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do..  I wasn’t sure if prayin’ was even helpin’ anymore.

Nine months went by and I gave birth to my baby.  Mr. Smith put me back out into a shack so his wife wouldn’t see my baby.  You could tell that my son was Mr. Smith’s son too.  Jeremiah was his name.  It wasn’t long ‘til the Mrs. noticed me missing from their house.  I was sittin’ on my little bed when Sally busted into my little shack.  Scared the devil out of me.  “Mama’s coming and you better hide Jeremiah before she gets here!” she said with a look of panic on her face.  I didn’t know how I was going to hide him, but before I could even move Mrs. Smith walked through my door.  She took one look at Jeremiah, turned, and left.  Next thing I know, she was leavin’ the house.  A few weeks went by and she still wasn’t back.  Mr. Smith’s health took a turn for the worst.  Michael Jr. started takin’ over the plantation.  I wasn’t doin’ any kind of work since Jeremiah was born and Michael Jr. wasn’t makin’ me do anything.  It worried me ‘cause I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to stay there anymore.

Mr. Smith died and for once, my life started changin’ for the better.  Michael Jr. took me into their house as if I was family.  I got a room that wasn’t servant’s quarters and I got to eat meals with the family.  I hadn’t ever eaten so much in my life and after a while of livin’ in there I started to get some meat around my middle.  Jeremiah was gettin’ big.  He had a lot of Mr. Smith’s features.  It was like I was lookin’ into Mr. Smith’s eyes, but now they were kind.  I reached back and touched the raised scars on my back.  “You ain’t never gonna be mean, are ya Jeremiah?” I cooed at my little man.  Michael Jr. knocked on my door and came in.  “I’m sorry for how my father treated you.  You won’t have to live through that anymore.  I wanted to ask if you will live here with me forever.  I will take care of you and Jeremiah.  I’m going to keep the other slaves here but it won’t be like it was before.  Things are looking up, Lizzy.”  I felt joy that I never thought I could feel.  I couldn’t find any words to say, nothin’ ever happened to me like this before.  Lord, thank you for this great blessin’.  I smiled.  “Michael, I would love to stay.”  He hugged me.  “This is my thank you to you, Lizzy, for making my childhood wonderful.  You loved me more than my parents loved me and I want to make your life better.”  My life was takin’ a turn for the better.  My life wasn’t easy, but I did what I had to do.


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