Honie Briggs

Seriously!

Millie Hollingsworth knew first hand the difference between functioning alcoholic and dysfunctional drunk. Her father, Bertram Edwards, had been both. Bertie, as he was called,  lived in the mill village with his wife, Gail and their daughter, Millie. He was a mechanic at the textile mill. His manner was as rough as his features and he didn’t think twice about telling the boss in no uncertain terms what he thought about the mill’s rules. His temper got the best of him on the job more than once. The last time he was fired, Gail had to take a job at the mill doing piecework on the night shift just to keep the lights on.

Gail was the stereotype of a woman who confuses dreams with ambition. She had made no plan for her life other than to get married, and to make it worse, she had no inkling of self-worth. Just a fairy tale version of how life was supposed to turn out for people who had hope. Hope the bills would get paid, hope there’d be food on the table, hope the sun would come up. Hope was all she passed on to Millie. Well, that and a wooden box with angels carved into the lid. She called it a hope chest, but it was only a small box with a hinged lid that held a Bible and a couple of cotton handkerchiefs; one pink, one blue. Gail embroidered puppies and the initials M.E. on them when Millie was a baby. It was this inheritance that Millie took with her when she was thrust into a life she would ultimately grow to despise.

Life in the mill village wasn’t easy for anyone. Everyone was poor, but after her mother died, for Millie it was one misery after another. Gail’s death left the family with no income and another mouth to feed. Witnessing her mother’s death after childbirth, often deadly for women who didn’t get proper medical treatment, was the first in a long list of traumas Millie endured. Being taken from the only home she’d known was the second. With not even a feigned interest in social convention and no self-imposed requirement of any kind to meet his family obligations, Bertie often stayed gone for days, leaving Millie, who was only ten years old herself, to care for the newborn as best she could. Millie made diapers from scraps of cloth intended for a baby quilt that Gail had snuck out of the mill. A neighbor with a goat and a few chickens, Millie had learned, provided their breakfast many mornings because her mother slipped into the neighbor’s yard and helped herself to fresh eggs or a little goat’s milk. “Love your neighbors as yourself,” she’d tell Millie as they sat down to eat. A lesson Millie kept with her all her life.

Mr. Tillman, their neighbor, caught Millie taking eggs like she’d seen her mother do many times. He’d suspected the egg thief was a fox and was surprised to find this skinny, barefoot wild child with her hand in the coop. He spun Millie around on her heels. She screamed and dropped the eggs.

Tillman yelled, “Look what you’ve done you no good, dirty little thief!”

Millie shouted, “Love your neighbors as yourself you stingy old coot!” and ran as fast as she could. Before noon, Millie and her brother became wards of the state. Three days had passed before their father realized they were gone.

24 thoughts on “It’s Life’s Illusions We Recall

  1. This Honie was wonderfully done. Each character drawn distinctly and with fine lines.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thank you for that, Val. I have to resist the urge to create too many characters. It’s getting, not necessarily easier to keep it to a manageable number, just less difficult to knock one off before I add another one.

  2. mairedubhtx says:

    A beautiful piece of writing, Honie. thank you.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      You’re kind compliment is much appreciated.

  3. artsifrtsy says:

    Wow, so rich, I found myself feeling it all.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hey Lady. Thanks so much for taking time during your travels to visit. I appreciate your comment. Hoping to have something worth an audit soon.

      1. artsifrtsy says:

        Alas, my travels are over, I’m back in the real world. This was seriously mesmerizing. Can’t wait to read more.

  4. Love love love. So many little vignettes within this, so much of each character is clear even in this brief piece. Beautiful stuff, my friend.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thank you Madame. It’s a work in progress for sure. I think I’m getting closer to a finished (or at least a more readable) product.

  5. acflory says:

    I was going to get straight into work this morning, but thought I’d pop in, just for a second. I am so very glad I did. 🙂 Lovely piece of writing Honie, seriously good. Like everyone else I want to know what happened to that wild child!

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      So nice of you to pop in, even for a second. Thank you for the compliment. That wild child…who knows what will happen next. 😉

      1. acflory says:

        Well, you’ve whetted our appetites now. You can’t stop telling her story!

  6. Allan G. Smorra says:

    This is powerful on many levels, the obvious and the sublime. You have said so much by saying so little.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Allan, you know just what to say. Thanks!

  7. “Hope was all she passed on to Millie. Well, that and a wooden box with angels carved into the lid.”
    Inheritance
    Love your neighbors…
    Honie, this is seriously seriously good. So well done that to say anything about it is to take energy away from it.
    More?

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      That means a great deal to me. You know this is a follow on from this post – https://honiebriggs.com/2013/04/22/on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven/
      Beyond Belief is taking shape and yes, there is more. Much more.

      1. I thought so – so worth the effort – it’s just outstanding…so staying tuned.

  8. The Hook says:

    You should be very proud of yourself, young lady.
    Well done!

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Well, kind sir, I thank you. Proud though, not yet. I’ve work to do. Much work. I do, so very much, appreciate the encouragement.

  9. Susan says:

    A writer makes a whole person, someone quite alive in my own imagination, having evoked scraps of humanity I have encountered here and there (since I have lived long enough). You did it in only a few sentences each for three people. Look at you. Thanks for the this. “Confuses dreams with ambition” rocks, btw.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Susan, you know your opinion means the world to me. Thank you, for EVERYTHING!

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    What an evocative post, even more so because it’s so easily true for so many people.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Carrie, it is sad that so many people can relate. I do want to find a way to inject humor into the story too. THAT will take finesse. I hope I have it in me. 😉

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