EXT: RUTH'S BACKYARD
Ruth is standing on her porch, watching the sunset.
I used to spit when I was a little girl. You know that moment, when your mouth fills up with too much phlegm? You're running as fast you can, flying through the wheat fields, all knees and elbows, and you just want to see that wad of mucus go soaring over the brown stalks, streak toward the sunset?
Not that we said "mucus" when I was a little girl, or "phlegm" for that matter. We didn't have any word for it at all. Except "Don't." That's all Mama used to say, anyway. It was almost always followed by, "That's not ladylike. Who's going to want you, dressing like that?" It turns out running wasn't ladylike either, legs and arms akimbo and dresses smudged with dirt. I learned to walk with careful steps, and to tsk softly when grass stains smudged the hem of my skirt.
I thought it would be different when I married Daniel. The first night, bursting with the freedom of it-me, alone with my husband, in our very own home!-I leaped onto the bed and bounced the mattress, good and hard. I remember his lips pressing together, flat and unyielding as the ground he worked year after year. The way his mouth worked around the words like they were marbles, dropping to the ground: "Doris, stop acting like a child. You're a grown woman."
I slapped my daughters silly when they went out of the house without girdle, hose, gloves. When they did cartwheels in skirts, chewed gum, or laughed in church. They were serious, sober girls. They made good marriages. Their children were quiet.
Mama's been in the ground for decades. Daniel passed fourteen years ago next April. Nobody's wanted me in all that time, no matter how I dress. Last week I was having a cup of tea by the window while my granddaughter visited for Easter weekend. I looked out and saw my eldest great-granddaughter flying through the wheat fields behind the barn, her hands batting away the stalks. She was wearing her nice, white dress and the ribbons on her sleeves were streaming behind her, catching in the last golden rays of the sunset.
For a moment there was warmth on my face and wind in my hair. Heavy heads of grain snagged on my sleeves and grass swished against my legs. But only for a moment. That's all it was.
(Spits forcefully on the ground. Exits.)