Carla Campbell: Sweating Walls

Fall '13 TOC

 

In the news article, Printed in the Chowan County Chronicles On July 10, 1957 her life is frozen in time. Photographs of her do not exist. Her clothing and birth record were shredded and burned. The generations before her are gone. No one remembers exactly what she looked like. Some refuse to speak her name: Mildred bore four children and they do not know her as mother. Her grandchildren know only her name.

Mildred lived in a small town in Chowan County, North Carolina. Her home was surrounded by cotton fields that were harvested in late August early September. Her unapologetic ways was all anyone would speak of. They say her tongue was fierce and curt. They also say that her hands were calloused and bruised from the hard labor in the cotton and tobacco fields.

Mildred's hands ached, her feet ached, and her heart ached for love. The love of a man gave her solace. The attention, any attention- from her lover was welcomed at any cost. Her children were not going to ruin her happiness, no way, and no how. Her grandmother told her, "child, that man is going to be the death of you." Mildred's response was, "Old lady, you stay out my business and mind yours."

The children she bore came one man at a time. The oldest was four when she was left alone in the house; Althea had called for her mother then realized that she had gone. She had run out the door and searched for her. She soon realized that her mother had walked down the dirt road path with a friend. So she ran after her mother. Althea stopped within inches of her. She saw the unwanted look on her mother's face. Mildred said, "Child, I got something for you when we get back to the house."

The punishment was severe and the child no longer called out for her mother ever again.

Althea was sent to live with her grandfather and aunt. Mildred bore a second daughter, and she was sent to live with a great aunt and Mildred bore a third daughter, Deborah, and she was sent to a family who lived about five miles away. The molestations and the beatings were too much for Deborah to bear so she often ran away only to be brought back to her place of torment.

It was in the heat of the day when Mildred came home from the fields with her four year old son. She had been working all day. She took a wash cloth and began soaking her face with cool water from the pump in the kitchen. She changed her sweaty clothes and put on a dress. It was pay day and, as usual, she put her money in a sock and pinned it to her brassiere.

Haywood was her latest beau and he was the father of her son. They often fought. Mildred sat down in the house with the doors and windows opened. She looked down the road as the hot summer winds began to stir up the dust from the ground. In the distance, she could see Haywood coming up the road approaching the house.

He walked in the house and muttered and complained about how hot it was. Sweat dripped over his temple, down his cheeks, and onto his sweaty shirt. He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face and neck.   "Woman where's my dinner?"

"I worked just as hard as you in that field today. I am just as tired as you are. " Mildred said.

Haywood slapped her face. Mildred fell out of the chair and onto the floor. Her son began to cry, telling his daddy to stop. Mildred picked herself up off the floor and hit him back. They say that Mildred could pack a punch as strong as any man. She was tired and she had just about had enough with Haywood.

Haywood slapped her down again and this time he asked for her money. She fiercely responded, "This is my money! I slaved over this shit! To hell with you!"

Haywood ripped her dress. He knew she pinned her money to her brassiere.

"Bitch, you are going to give me that money." Mildred bit him on the hand.

"Go to hell!" She shoved him. He stumbled over the couch. Mildred told him to get the hell out.

Her son hid underneath the kitchen table. He cried and screamed," Mama! Daddy! Stop! Stop!"   "Haywood walked out onto the back porch, reached for his double barrel, and aimed it at Mildred.

Her son screamed in the background and without hesitation Haywood ended the discussion.

Her brains were splattered on the walls and onto the floor. Her lifeless body was removed. Before he was taken to prison, the Sheriff forced Haywood to clean up the mess that he had made. He scooped up her brains from off the floor. He scrubbed the blood from off the wall.

They say that on rainy and hot summer days, you can see her blood sweating through the walls.

 
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