The Secret

by Stephanie Brannick

Mama never did come out and say what really happened that summer and folks acted like it was just one of those things that occur in the course of everyday life, but it wasn't. Daddy took off after the doctor arrived, hiding out from the pain of not being able to do much for Mama, but he came back soon enough to find out how to tend to her stitches. Pastor Dave stopped by to offer a prayer of recovery and let neighbors in to leave fresh baked offerings, grasping their hands in thanks as they whispered and cast woeful glances at the bedroom door. The next morning, it was all but forgotten when a man's body was pulled from the river causing a quite a ruckus in town, but seeing as nobody claimed him; he was buried a few days later without so much as one person to send him into the loving arms of Jesus. By the time my brother Joseph was born the following spring, I had given up on asking Mama how she'd gotten those bruises around her neck, and just kept myself busy with changing diapers and helping with extra chores around the house after school. I figured if the secret was too much for Mama to tell, then it's better to be buried all this time, and not something for some gangly southern girl to be knowing, and besides, Mama always did know best.

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Stephanie Brannick is occasionally known as Goat Girl.