Courtney Rose: Fiction : February 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement I grew up chasing off guinea fowls and picking wild strawberries from the backyard. Cupping lightning bugs in my palm, eating pinto beans and cornbread, and licking honeysuckles in my bare feet. Calling and being called “honey, sugar, dumplin’, pumpkin, sweetie pie.” Saying, “I reckon we’ll meet y’all over yonder if the creek don’t rise.” Blessing hearts, stopping for a coke and coming out with a Sprite. Not minding your eggs with a little blood on ’em. Buying bread and milk in preparation for the single inch of snow. Telling folks, “It’s not the heat, but the humidity that gets ya.”

Grandma Minnie was the Queen of Buttermilk Biscuits and Throwing Plates. Pop was the King of Fried Chicken and Tennessee Whiskey. My mama sang in the church choir and could put the fear of God in me all the way from the choir loft with one look. Daddy walked out on us and married a Yankee. And I am the southern girl stuck in the suburbs who still hates wearing shoes.

Where You Run Off To

Elizabeth ran to the woods, and buried her underwear, fingers in the mud. But the blood still came, dripping scarlet into the meaty earth by her bare feet. She pressed hard between her legs, and her fingers came back coagulated and black. Face scrunched up, dark curls flying, she rubbed her hands into the earth, but her skin only turned grimier.

“Elizabeth, where you run off to?” Mama called from the back porch.

Her mother’s voice kindled tears as she ran back, the last of her life trickling down her knees.

“Sugar, where your britches?”

Mama plopped her in the bath and covered her earthen skin in a frothy white mass of lavender and sweet grass as Elizabeth tried to explain, her words hiccupped like the bubbles popping around her.

“What you go do that for?”

Gave her defiled self back to the earth, that’s what she go do that for– the only one who will know what to do. Her mother wouldn’t understand.

Mama pulled her to stand in the tub, and smiled. “There, that’s better.”

Elizabeth looked down. She had burnt the water, bloodied it, and didn’t feel clean.