I always did it when Ma was takin’ a nap so I wouldn’t get caught. These days she’d practically fall into her bed every afternoon. I could tell she was real worried and was getting sickly, and I didn’t want to add to her troubles.
I’d move real slow in the coop and whisper real soft to the hens to keep them quiet. I’d gather a couple dozen or so, then creep into the bathroom, movin’ real wide around that one creaky floorboard. I’d wash ’em good and sneak outside, runnin’ through the orchard when I was out of sight of the house.
I felt pretty guilty inside and wondered if sneaky, thievin’ girls go to hell. But I figgered that if it was one thing we could spare, it was them eggs. Our hens and our apples were about the only things we had plenty of.
As much as I was scared of hellfire, I just couldn’t get those eyes outta my mind. They just looked so….empty. Like the life had plumb been sucked outta them.
It always made me think of when Daisy had birthed a bum calf. We nursed her for a few days, but she just didn’t have the strength. When she died, I was the first to see her. I’d been haunted by those dead eyes every since.
That’s what theirs looked like, and I’d have given anything and faced a thousand hells just to see them smile.
Their Ma said it was the constant hunger. She said they cried and fussed a lot at first, but after a few months they just gave up. They stopped playing and would just wander around, looking all hollow-like.
So Ma wondered why our hens stopped layin’ as much, but those kids of our migrant workers started comin’ around. And when one of them smiled at me for the first time, all my worries about the torments of hell scattered from my mind.