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THE WlDOWRomulus Linney REBECCA TULL HER NAME WAS when she moved here. She was the daughter of a preacher from the Shenandoah Valley, from a town and a church more refined than what she had to face on this backof -beyond North Carolina mountain. I was about eleven or twelve. I was at the house-raising for the family, which was just Rebecca, her Virginia preacher father, and her mother. I wasn't so slow I couldn't see her looking the men over while they scored off the logs, laid a rock foundation, and chinked the house dry with river-bottom clay. She never hid it neither, smiling, laughing, sashaying about while speculating on men's back muscles, front muscles , sweat and swearing, hands and fists, legs, tongues, lips, shoulders, tops and bottoms. And when, into the four rooms and a loft, we moved that family's Virginia furniture, silver goblets, oak chairs, the table for the family Bible, and hung two painted pictures of her momma's momma and her daddy's daddy on the wall, she even smiled at me. She was the most beautified young woman I had ever seen, and I had been mountain ready since nine or ten to start seeing one. It wasn't long before men came courting. Well, three men. She expected more, sitting there in that room made for her, under the satisfied faces ofher grandmother and grandfather. She was a widow reasonably young, with rosy cheeks, pouty smile, wet lips, bedtime eyes, and a pushed-up bosom she understood how to heave. First came Clink Williams. He was young, good-looking and full as a flood of himself. He told her he had about as much use for a blue-blooded Virginia sweetheart as a pig for a Bible. But here she was in Dog Slaughter Creek, her husband died on her, she was hot as a horseshoe in a forge, and she'd marry again, since any woman looks at men the way she did at her house-raising had to marry or bust. She told him that between what a muscle-headed man like him saw at that house-raising and what was truly going on was a great big twopiece sodbusted difference. She told him she had no need to marry a man whose preference was forever at the front of his pants. As he left, he told her she might be a high-born widow with Daddy in the church, but she was twenty years old, and men on this mountain commence low-rating a woman the day she hits fourteen. As the only young man in Dog Slaughter Creek not married, so long, he'd be back. 154 · The Missouri Review Next came Slade Foley. He was maybe sixty-five, most likely more. She said he should speak to her daddy. Slade Foley said he wasn't studying her daddy, he was studying her, just like she studied him at that house-raising. So walk outside with him a little ways and she could study him some more. She asked if he thought she was so dizzy all he had to say was lie down and she'd do it. He said, that has been known to happen. She said, to a bubble-headed milkmaid maybe, but not to her, and Slade Foley let her hear it. He told her men here didn't dance Virginia reels. No man here had time for such stuttering and stammering around. His first wife died of pneumonie, second of distemper . He was still feisty and might consider her. Outside, right now, or next week when they married—either, how about it? She said she wasn't throwing her life away on a back-slope cowpath to a split-britches-hasty, shallow-headed fool forty years older than she was. If it was the ugliness of him or nothing, so be it. Before she'd give over her days on earth to a clod-faced, bark-faced, slit-eyed barnyard roughneck, she'd live alone every last day of her life. As he left, Slade Foley told her no, she wouldn't. Nights on these slopes are cold...


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