With a Hammer for My Heart
Publication Year: 2014
With a Hammer for My Heart is the story of Lawanda, a precocious, poverty-stricken fifteen-year-old girl from Cardin, Kentucky, who dreams of attending college. When Lawanda's friendship with an alcoholic World War II veteran named Garland is misinterpreted by their fellow townspeople, a tragedy calls her future into question.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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I'm wanting to go to college. Nobody in my family has ever done it and we sure can't pay the bills, but I'm still planning to go. Last summer I tried to get a job to save money, but I soon found out there's not enough work here in Cardin for grown people, much less kids. I wasn't old enough to drive, so I couldn't...
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When I married June, I was dumb as a chair and light-headed as a willow. Any wind could blow, any hands could cart me from place to place. As long as I had June I didn't care. I figured it would all work out. Well, it has somehow. But we've had to saw off...
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It was at Little Splinter Creek Church that I saw what I saw. It's been thirty-five years and I remember that night like the nights my younguns was born. Perry Roby had took the Spirit and was shouting "Damnation" up one side of his breath and "Praise Jesus" down the...
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The second time I saw Garland was about two weeks later. Something was bothering me I didn't think I could tell my family about. And I couldn't talk to anybody at school. That's where it happened. So I thought I'd try Garland. It was Saturday again when I hiked up there, October air...
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Now I live in a bus, two buses, matter of fact. One's full of books. Other one, if I don't watch out, is full of bottles. Come summer, I got the biggest garden you ever did see. My corn runs around the hill, beans climb like something Jack might have planted. I...
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The next day was Sunday and I rode over with Mom, who had to take Mamaw a quilt top. That's one of Mamaw's jobs—she runs up quilts for people. By machine. Some folks look down their noses at that, but Mamaw says she can do it a lot cheaper and faster...
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"It was hard being turned out of Little Splinter. I was weaned on that church—it was beans and buttermilk to me. Every time there was a service, my mommy had us all there, scrubbed and shiny, with our hair skinned back. I was baptized from that church, married...
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I couldn't say anything after Mamaw quit. It was bad enough that they'd thrown her out of church because she said she saw God. Isn't that why you go to church? I mean, really? But to find out they took her gift of healing and then pretended it didn't exist— well, it made me want to scream. But I didn't think anybody...
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When I got home from that first healing, I fixed supper same as usual. Got the kitchen cleaned up, June, Burchett, and Dolan to bed, then poured some coffee and tried to tell John what had happened. I was still so wound up, I felt like my hands was on fire. He...
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Garland and I could talk about anything; that's what amazed me, once I quit being scared. He never cut me off like my folks did, and while his meanness didn't go away, I figured out it was just a pose, like kids in the hall trying to be cool. He listened too. I...
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Something's bothering that girl. Now she's gone off up the hill with Mommy. What a pair: Lawanda, who thinks the world will open its arms, and Mommy, who believes God already did. I don't know what to think about it. Now I have always loved my mommy, and not just because...
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I have to tell you I was shook up about Garland. Pm not sure what I was scared of except that he might not let me get away from First Bus. I was mad at him too. Why did he have to spoil things? At the same time, somehow I hurt for Garland. He wasn't...
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I didn't say this to Lawanda, but I knew after our talk I'd have to go see Amos. I just told her to wait, give me time to think. Driving back to Little Splinter Creek I wished for the old road, gravel path alongside the creek. I like to ride rough...
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Mad old woman goes off and leaves me with this box. I watch her, then turn and steady myself, putting my hand on the heater. Hot as God's tongue. Blisters my hand so, I can hardly hold the box or a bottle. Never had a woman cross my doorsill but brought...
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Now we're into it. Now we're really into it, boys, and I don't know who's going to get out. I been a jailer a long time and the way I see it, we get two kinds of clients: the dangerous, who pass through once, and the regulars, who come and go like family. This Garland's...
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Gait called me first thing Monday morning to say he had Garland in jail. He sounded all wound up but wouldn't say over what, so I took my lunchtime to go find out. Now I look at people sort of like I look at cloth. It may come to you stained and twisted, snagged or singed, and...
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Dear Garland, I heard at school about you being in jail and the Messer boys breaking in First Bus. Pm really sorry. I'll go up and check on things if you want. I want you to know I am not mad anymore. You just surprised me is all, right when I needed somebody on my side. But it'll be two years before I go to college. Can't...
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I got a bad taste in my mouth—metal and burning, like I touched a live wire. On top of everything, Lawanda gives me this letter, gives it to me for Garland, saying, "I know you think he's bad, but he's my friend." When I said, "You weren't supposed to...
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I set off to see Amos in jail with a heavy heart. And some holy oil. He can't receive the Host, of course, but I thought he might accept a healing. I've only got so much to offer: Good News again—God loves you, died for you, for sins you haven't...
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A thousand wonders, the high holy man says. Relax, there's more terrible things could still happen. It's crazy—people smashed, lives tore up forever, and folks say, Well, it's a thousand wonders it wasn't worse than it was. Yeah. The car that killed her kid...
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Nearly a week had gone by and I hadn't heard from Garland, so I decided to ask Dad what was going on. It was Saturday afternoon right before the football game came on TV. Dad was sitting on the couch with his little kit of polishes, ready to take on
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I held Lawanda for a few minutes, all the time thinking how fake it was, feeling I could keep Lawanda safe. Whatever had gone on had already happened and I hadn't known about it; whatever was up ahead—well, she'd be on her own soon. I could no more protect Lawanda than I could stop the earth from turning...
FROM GARLAND'S NOTEBOOK
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. . . and I've got all these younguns, children, bodily U.S. government issue, army-approved. Girls and boys I kicked once. Do they remember. Weeds in a ditch. I couldn't lift him. My own boy. Nora all loose-limbed like Lawanda. Those times she was under me. Nora with a face like anybody's. She didn't
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The only place I could think of to go was to Mamaw—I guess because she sees stuff other people don't. Lucky for me, the next day was Sunday and Mom and I were going over to Little Splinter Creek to make stack cakes. If you're not from the mountains, you've probably not...
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I got to think, Mother Jesus. I got to study. I got to listen to the wind. Maybe when our walls close in, it's just Your big old heart a-beating. Listen. John's snoring in his La-Z-Boy; the stove clock's ticking. Except for them, it'll stay quiet as Jell-O till the 2:00 A.M...
FROM GARLAND'S NOTEBOOK
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I ain't crazy. I am not crazy. I ain't drunk. I ain't stinking. I am not drunk. I am soper. Sober. / own my own bus. I own my own body. I'm alive in spite of myself. In spite of whole nations. In spite of acres of cratersy headstones. I got a purple heart but not where you can see. Kids, grandkids—your progenitor is still breathing! How...
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Nora Garland was a Sturgill before she married, so the first thing I did was call her cousin Marylee. I'm not set up to lie, so I just said I'd heard Garland was in jail and that put me in mind of Chloe, which...
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Mamaw was standing across the street when I got out of school Wednesday. She didn't smile or wave, just waited for me to find her. In a thick brown coat and with her head tied up, she looked like a bird, feathers ruffed out against the cold. I had the weirdest...
FROM GARLAND'S NOTEBOOK
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If I could come back over the bridge now—aw, Hickcock blew the bridge, don't you remember? Last thing he did. Against the sky, everything splattered. Canaan said, "Goddamn! You can pulverize anything!" Said it before we saw Hickcock, his square hands. I would have sent him back. On the line too long. He'd...
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Here I say I want to go away to college, and just leaving overnight made my hair hurt. Of course, that was different. I didn't know where I was going and nobody was supposed to know I was gone. All I knew was it would take me five hours to get there, so...
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So she comes blazing into my life with a wild tale about my daddy and a mane of hair like the youth of steel wool: Lawanda Ingle— is that a name? Gets me off center, all wobbled into memory, promising to go back with her to Cardin, and then gives me...
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listened to Nancy Catherine pull out, Mamaw labor up the porch steps, Mom rant. Then we went, all knotted up, into the house. Mom and Dad sat on the couch, I sat in the dump chair, and Mamaw took the rocker in the corner. Taking a deep breath, I reached back...
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It's well past dark and into high stars when I get to the jail. There's a trio of wise men in lights on the courthouse lawn. All they are is lights, like low constellations. My horoscope. What am I doing here, old man, boozer and beater? Have I come back for more? What could you do to me in jail? That's what I'm asking myself when I tell Mr. Gait who...
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She leaves me, that big hulk of a woman. Leaves me with these hands: what they've let go, what they've throttled. Spitting image. I could have had her around like a mirror all these years. When Lawanda turned up in my garden I thought I could start all over, thought the rag of her hair had wiped the slate...
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If I hadn't just come from the jail, I'd think this was the ugliest room in captivity: bile green walls, orange chenille bedspread, yellow rug like a mangy dog. A big petri dish to grow headaches . . . It's not just my head, though. My heart's like a lockbox. I can hardly sit up for the weight of it. Amos Garland. Old...
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Here I am in American history class. People are giving reports they copied out of encyclopedias. It makes me want to scream. This afternoon Fm supposed to talk to Nancy Catherine. What can I tell her? It's not like I've got anything to hide. The only thing...
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I was supposed to meet Lawanda at 4:00 P.M., but at 3:30 the motel phone rang. "Mom says why don't you come on and talk to me and then stay for supper," Lawanda said. "Sure," I said. "I don't eat meat, but—well, never mind." I was mumbling, trying to come to. "Listen, Lawanda, could...
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Hiking downhill, I thought about this talk we were headed for. Sex was what Nancy Catherine wanted to know about. It was so stupid. I hardly knew any more about sex than I did when I first got the news. Mom wouldn't tell me a thing about it. I don't mean when...
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There's no talking to Howard Ingle. He's got sex in his head and he can't hear a word I say. Some men are like that: it don't matter if it's sex they want or sex they call the Devil's—the world gets shrunk to the fork of somebody's legs. I went by the We-Suit-U to try to talk to Howard. Didn't...
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"Okay, Lawanda," I said, "I hear you. And for all the hurt the old man inflicted on his own kids, it never was sexual. I'm not sure that proves anything for you, but . . . " She nodded, blew her nose in her napkin. I changed the subject. "We'd better head for that dinner. What do you suppose...
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I stormed out the back door and stared at our steep patch of yard. That's my life, I thought. Open a door and walk into a mountain. It was cold and I didn't have a coat and I was glad. I wanted to get numb. I wanted to freeze all the questions: Nancy Catherine's, Dad's, mine. Was I in love with Garland? Stupid idea. But how would I know? It's not like I'd...
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They're going to let that man out, by God. Lawanda won't say what he done, and what he wrote won't hold him. I've tried to talk to Curtis Ballard, get him to promise not to go bond, but it's like his eyes are sealed, his ear flaps sewed over. "Good at heart," Mr. Ballard says. "Whatever Garland may have written, I...
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When I left the Ingles', I went back to the motel, thinking to settle in for the night. I couldn't do it. I'd seen too much: the buses, Howard's blindness, that I was on Lawanda's side. I couldn't lie down with a shrieking orange carpet and that. So it occurred to me to take another hike up Cade's Hill....
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I could see the maps on the ceiling start to curl. But then something blew up like God Almighty and I was running and it was Lawanda, Lawanda burning, which couldn't be, and I jerked off my coat and she was already on the ground, rolling. I threw it over her,...
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Mother Jesus, let Your eyes be the headlights pulling me across this mountain. I've driven many a night but it's never been this black. "Not Lawanda," is the only prayer I got in me, and that's no good. It is Lawanda. Already is. I'm the one says you don't...
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I got Lawanda and Howard to the hospital, called June and went to pick her up, then drove to the jail. I had a few singed places, but nothing that wouldn't keep, and anyway, it was my heart that hurt. I wanted that notebook so I could read and judge...
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One nurse is hunting with a needle under my collarbone. Another nurse is cutting my clothes off and Fm ashamed. Charred skin comes off with the T-shirt, the long strips of jeans. I look for the pink-white surface that was me. All that's left is...
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At Druther's, I was afraid to open the object in question. "Mead Paper," it said on the front, and I thought of honeyed wine as I drank Styrofoam coffee and stared at the plastic orange bench. I also thought of Pandora's box. If I opened this, who knew what would fly out? I might agree with Gait. Then what?...
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They wouldn't let us stay with Lawanda. Had to see how bad off she was, they said, and get her evened out. They steered her into a holding room and sent me out a-shaking. June, who until that night had always sneaked off to smoke, was puffing the waiting...
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The nurse treated me like a patient or someone as old as Mommy. Had her hand under my elbow, a coo in her voice. Didn't know I don't faint. Walked me back through the blue door, told me there would be machines, tubes. She didn't know I'd been with my girl...
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June came back looking like a scarecrow with half the stuffing gone. You do something, her eyes said. She told the nurse, "Take Mommy back now. I'll go see Howard." So a nurse led me one way and pointed June in another. I had to wash and get all covered up, then she took me to Lawanda. Swaddling clothes, was what I thought when I saw her...
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When the adrenaline faded, it took my self-assurance with it. I shook like a tambourine as I walked Daddy to the car. How did I get into this? Wasn't it just last night I'd pulled up at this jail, determined not to let my father near me? And now Fd sprung him, more or less as my responsibility. Me, who...
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She could call it whatever she wanted; it was Lawanda I was thinking about, not baby Nancy Catherine. But she got all blue-faced anyway, had to blow her nose before we got through the second set of doors. "Don't run out of tears too early in the night," I told her....
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I think I'd be all right if I could just get free of all this, if I could just get up and move around. But I'm tied and tethered—there's even something going into my chest—and I'm shut in this machine who knows where in the sky. I want down! I want out! It's so...
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As we walked back to the waiting room, I felt like I still had to see Howard Ingle, but now my message was different. I didn't want to rant. Could I say, "She's forgiven me, she'll forgive you too"? That wouldn't make sense to him. Could I say I did the same thing to my daughter, only it started half a world...
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It wasn't that easy, by God. Nobody knows what Lawanda went through. I come the closest because I did have burns, but they were nothing like Lawanda's. And the scars don't matter on me, long as my hands work, long as my arms can lift and bend. But Lawanda's...
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Now that Garland's living in the world, I can't just hike up Cade's Hill anytime and expect him to be there. The truth is, I can't hike. I can walk very slowly up the access road HUD cut to put in the trailer. But I call first. Garland protested about getting a phone, but Mom said if he was working for her, he'd have to. Isn't...
Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Kentucky Voices