Excerpt from chapter 16 - Bitter Peelings


I woke up with a start. What was that noise? Was someone out of bed? How long ago had I

heard the bed creak? I fumbled in the darkness to make sure Mamma was still sleeping, but

her bed was empty and the sheets cold.

I whispered into the emptiness: Mamma, where are you? I raced into the hallway.

The register in the floor over the kitchen breathed cold air. I bolted down the stairs. The

wind had caught the opened porch door and it slapped the side of the house over and over

again. Dampness leaked into the kitchen. I grabbed my cardigan from the hook by the stove

and flew outside. The door slammed behind me. I knew she was drawn to the water, so I

headed for the government wharf where she had gone earlier in the week.

Fog rolled in like a thief, stealing all that was familiar. I scrambled through the field

and prayed. Please, God, help me find Mamma.

The steel plant boomed and roared. Blinded by clouds of thick fog, I stretched my

arms out in front of me to avoid the thorny branches that sprang out of nowhere and

snagged my sweater. Another boom from the steel plant and the mist oozed a reddish glow.

I saw her like a ghostly apparition on the wharf. Her silk nightie curled around her ankles.

Haze swirled and circled and wove around her shadowy shape and then draped like a

shroud around her sagging shoulders. I didn’t want to startle her as I crept slowly through

the pebbles and pungent seaweed that curled along the waterline. Waves lapped against

the pilings. I leaped onto the wharf. Her blank eyes stared into the night.

Gingerly, I moved toward her.