Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spivvins' Other Secret

Susan sat down at Spivvins family table. The people around her were nice, but distressed by a bad concern. Tom and Sarah - the Englishman and the Esquimeaux woman - told their boys and girls to introduce themselves. Thaddaeus, Colin, Sonya, Cora. And the little toddlder who was introduced by Sonya: Patrick. All of them had black hair, but less straight than their mother's. And their eyes were a bit wider and more European than hers as well.

"As you remember," said Tom, "this is my wife, but what I didn't tell you is ..."

Here the Esquimeaux woman, Sarah, continued:

"I am an outlaw under Canadian law. A fugitive. I should have gone to residential school, I might have been sterilised. Pa took me away in time. I grew up in hiding, and I have not learned to read or write. Does that make me a bad woman?"

"Of course not!"

"And yet some say I am a bad mother. I cannot read or write."

"But they can learn that in school here?"

"Yes, but if you ask one social worker here, I am setting a bad example."

"By not having been to school so they could have prevented you from having the children you are setting an example to? I would certainly call that a good example."

"That is not what the social worker thinks. What is her name, Tom?"

"We called her Cholmondeley* Major at school."

"And what did she do to Eustace?"

"She tortured him so she could know your secret. That I am Catholic, that you were promised to me and an Esquimeaux. And, of course, that you never learned to read or write."

"Did he tell?"

"He told me he did not. But someone did. At least the fact that you cannot read or write, since everyone already knows we are Catholics and you are an Esquimeaux."

"But the worst thing is, I eat and drink other foods than English do."

"And so do I, of course."

"I drink holly tea."

Susan wondered: "Isn't holly poisonous?"

They cracked up in a laugh, and it was brave enough of them to do so.

*Cholmondeley is pronounced Chumley.