Friday, November 8, 2013

The last straw

In her mind’s eye, like a picture in a frame on the wall, Linnea saw herself at this moment in the rain and mud dragging her cow along. Where was her vanity now, that had made of her self a spotless spruced-up citified woman that any man would be proud of? Her hair blew around her face in sodden strings. She was without her corset, and had left her dignity in the drawer with it. Her Mother Hubbard was ugly and shapeless, her shoes a caution. Another year of this and what would she be like? She! who went to the wedding at the Seelys’, who could go to the Tabernacle and sit there as handsome as anybody, who could window-shop down Main Street, who could drink coffee with friend after friend—what would she be like? A cow, that’s what! As dumb and heartless and soulless and clompy and manure-heeled as a cow! And not in a class with Bonnie either.
     She stopped tugging and pulling suddenly and let the rope go. “No, sir,” she said out loud, “I’ll be damned and double-damned if I’ll do it! No, sir, by God Almighty,” she said, glaring upward through the rain and closing down her umbrella as though she had got safe at home under a snug roof. “I might not set the world on fire and I might be just as poor a sight and just as no-account in one place as another, but I’ll be damned and double-damned if I stay buried in this HOLE, pulling a COW around without a CORSET on and nobody to care whether I live or die! I’ll be TRIPLE-damned if I will!” she said. “Was I born to be planted out on ten acres like a tree and left there? No, I was not!” she said. “Was I born to have some double-damned man plant me where he wanted me and leave me there? No, I was not,” she said. “Was I born with sense enough to get in out of the rain? No, I was not,” she said, “but I’ll LEARN some sense or I’ll fall over dead trying. A house don’t have to fall on me!”
     And there it was. That was the last straw, that broke the camel’s back. A little thing, for size it up and it’s always some little thing. Not the cupboard falling on Rudie, not the mosquitoes or flies, not the loneliness and isolation, not the frozen potatoes, not running out of fuel and keeping the children in bed two days, boiling her coffee over the flame of the lamp, until Olaf sent out the load of coal he promised, not running out of flour and being two days without that, not getting scared to death in this God-forsaken place that every cough was pneumonia and every stomachache an obstruction of the bowels. No. It was dragging a cow through the mud in the rain with her shoes making that nasty, sucking, clopping, slopping, mucky sound every time she lifted her feet and the cow pulling back and her wet hair blowing in her eyes like a witch’s.
     --From The Peaceable Kingdom

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