William had been a prideful man, too proud to ask for help, too proud to leave the share-cropper shack on the flats of the Mississippi River flood plain to seek work in the big city – north to St. Louis or south to Memphis, though there was little work for anyone these days. Just how long does a Depression last? So his family struggled and hungered and suffered, until 4 days ago when Essie sent Waymon to fetch the doctor, no matter that they didn’t have the money to pay, William was sick in bed – William was never sick in bed!
The doctor said it was “just a stomachache, something he’s eaten. Just put a plate warmed in the oven on his belly and he will be fine in the morning.”
Essie heated one of the only china plates she owned, wrapped it in a flour sack towel and slipped it under the quilt atop Williams nightshirt just as the doctor had ordered. Sometime during the night it happened. His appendix ruptured. With William’s scream of pain, Essie’s world changed. There was no way to move him, no telephone to call for help and she couldn’t send Waymon out alone in the night on foot. All she could do was wait and pray and hope.
By sunrise, William had developed a fever – a fever like Essie had never seen. She sent Waymon to fetch the doctor. By the time they returned William was dead.
“Wave at Papa, Wilma Jane,” she told her little girl as they drove away from the cemetery. What were they going to do? Where were they going to go? Who would take care of them now that William was dead?