|Western Fiction posted September 29, 2013||Chapters:||...31 32 -33- 34...|
Hell in Kansas.
A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO
Chapter Thirteen -- Part one
Jo has been delivered to her uncles in Cawker,Kansas. The next few chapters will deal with her abuse from her uncles. It will be a little graphic.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN – PART ONE
Ending of the last chapter: It was on the afternoon of the second day when Melinda found her new parents. Jo ran over to the window and saw her in the back of a wagon. The two friends waved goodbye and stared at each other until the wagon was out of sight.
Jo had an empty feeling in the pit of her stomach. She sat alone on her bench as the train started moving and hugged herself as tears rolled silently down her face.
The young girl remained quiet. She sat on the bench, staring out the window without seeing any of the flat landscape. At the many stops, she did not watch the children as they were selected. Mrs. Swartz sat down beside her, but Jo continued her blank stare out the window.
“The next stop will be Cawker. Your uncles will be waiting for you. Do you have any questions?" She stared at the emotionless child.
“No, ma’am. I will go with them.” Jo turned and faced her. “Thank you, for all you have done.”
“You’re welcome, child. I'm sure you will be happy with your uncles.” She placed her arm around Jo’s shoulders, pulled her closer and kissed her on the forehead.
Jo leaned into her without speaking, or reacting.
“Wait here until I come and get you.”
“Yes, ma’am. I will.”
Mrs. Swartz gave her shoulders another squeeze, stood and walked to the back of the car.
Jo returned her vacant stare out the window. Then she crossed over to watch the children line up. The train stopped at Cawker, Kansas, and she stared at the group of adults interested in adopting a child. She didn’t see two men together in the small crowd. I wonder where my uncles are.
Mrs. Swartz addressed the group thanked them for their interest in adopting a child. Strangers gawked at Jo, but she ignored them. The children were prodded and asked all types of questions. A few of the kids were chosen. Those not chosen returned to the train and waited. There was very little conversation.
“Jo, would you come here, please.” Mrs. Swartz motioned for her from the back of the car. Jo walked toward her, looking at the two men behind the woman. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Joann, these are your uncles, Devin and Steven Wiley. Gentlemen, your niece, Joann.” Jo curtsied. “Hi.”
“Hi, right back at you," the older man said, tipping his hat.
Mrs. Swartz led everybody to a small table outside.
"Do you, gentlemen, promise to take care of your niece, Joann?" Mrs. Swartz sat at a small table outside the railroad station. She stared at the uncles until they answered.
"As if she was our very own daughter," said the tall one, who was Uncle Devin.
"She has no clothes. I am authorized to give you ten dollars to buy whatever she needs." She placed a yellow piece of metal, with fancy drawings on it, on the table.
The younger man picked it up and bit it before putting it in his pocket. "We'll do that right away, ma'am."
Mrs. Swartz dipped a pen into the inkwell and had the two men put their marks on the adoption papers. "You have custody of your niece, Joann. About every six months, I will be asking about her." She stood and held her arms out for Jo, who stepped into her hug.
She kissed her above the eyes. "Enjoy your new family, Joann."
"I will try," Jo promised. She really cares about the children.
Everything went well at first. Jo’s uncles got her a new dress and undergarments. Uncle Steven took her to the school house, where she became a member of the first grade. It was too far for her to walk to and from school, so her Uncle Steven took her to school and picked her up afterward.
On her return trip, Mrs. Swartz visited the farm and admired her new dress. She approved Jo’s bed and the curtain which gave her "privacy." The next day she left on the train and Jo’s uncles placed a brown jug on the table.
I've never seen a jug like that before, Jo thought as she brought each of them a bowl of stew.
The uncles began to whisper whenever they were in the house. Once, as she returned from using the outhouse, she overheard part of their conversation.
"Wait until after the Sheriff visits," Uncle Devin said. Steven noticed her and grabbed Devin's arm. They kept quiet as she walked past them into the house.
What's their big secret? Jo wondered, but ignored them.
They followed her inside. She started cutting up some vegetables for their evening meal.
"Steven tells me you're doing good in school. How do you like it?"
She looked at Uncle Devin. He's never been interested in my schooling before. Why would he start now? "I like it fine."
"Good. We are expecting the Sheriff to pay a visit. If he asks you about the school, tell him what you told me." Devin took a drink from the brown jug and wiped his whiskered chin with the back of his hand.
Jo wondered how they knew the Sheriff was going to visit but did not comment on it.
Two days later, Jo looked out the window as a strange man rode into the yard. Steven, who was working in the garden near the house, greeted him, "Howdy, Sheriff, what brings you out here?" Devin came from the barn and walked toward their visitor.
"Morning, Steven & Devin. I received a wire from a Mrs. Swartz asking me to check up on your niece."
"Get down, Joann is in the house preparing dinner." Devin smiled; Steven appeared to be nervous.
When Jo saw the sheriff get off his horse, she walked over to the stove and stirred the stew. Then she placed an extra bowl and spoon on the table along with a glass of water. She turned around and stared when the three men entered.
"Joann, this is Sheriff Decker. He wants to ask you some questions."
Jo wondered why her Uncle Devin sounded so friendly. She curtsied and welcomed their visitor. She noticed the tall man had a large rope of hair under his nose and a very big gun belted on his side. Why would the sheriff want to talk to me? I haven't done anything. Is he going to take me to another juvenile home? She felt her stomach tighten. Jo used a hook to remove the pot off the fire and set it on the small cutting table. She brought each a bowl over and filled it. Then she placed a large loaf of uncut bread on the table.
Uncle Steven sat down at his regular place and motioned for her to join him. She turned and brought the butter crock over and set it by their visitor. Then she sat in her usual chair and looked up at the Sheriff. "What kind of questions?"
Uncle Devin sat beside her and reached over to get his glass of water and bowl of stew.
What's going on? That's not his seat. Jo kept her eyes on the visitor.
Sheriff Decker chuckled. "A no-nonsense young lady, you get right to the point. Thanks for the vittles." He blew on his first spoonful and tasted it. “Pretty tasty.” After finishing, he leaned back in his chair and smiled.
Jo ate part of her dinner and tried to smile back at him but she felt anxious. Is he going to take me away and lock me in a dark room? His first question surprised her.
"How do you like living with your uncles? Are they nice to you?"
"I like them. They are real nice. Uncle Steven takes me to school and picks me up afterward. Uncle Devin watches over me and teaches me things like cooking and house-cleaning. He won't let me near the animals. He's says he doesn't want me to get hurt."
The sheriff stared at Uncle Devin, as if waiting.
"She's never been on a farm before. Some animals can be dangerous if you aren't familiar with them." Devin placed a protective hand on Jo’s shoulder
Uncle Devin's answer seemed to please the sheriff. He asked Jo a few more questions, which she answered with confidence. Finally, he stood. “Thanks for the vittles, but I must be getting back to town.” He glanced at her. "If you ever need me, I'm in the courthouse. It's that big building across from the school. You gentlemen best mind your p's and q's." He left the house, got on his horse and rode away.
Why would I need the sheriff? Jo wondered. Why did he warn Uncle Devin and Uncle Steven?
Uncle Steven's face lost its color. "He could be trou …"
"Don't worry about him. He won't be back for months." Uncle Devin glared at her. "Don't you think you need to clean up, here?" He walked outside with Uncle Steven following him.
Why would they be worried about the sheriff visiting us? Jo wondered. She started clearing off the table.
Several days after the sheriff left, things changed for the worse. One evening, Uncle Devin finished eating the food she fixed. He had a funny look on his face when he glanced at her. "You haven't had a bath since you've been here."
Neither have you or Uncle Steven. Jo thought but answered, "No, sir, I haven't."
"Well, get some water in a bucket, use the soap and wash yourself; undress first." He grinned when he glanced at Uncle Steven.
"You want me to undress here?" She didn't like their grins.
"That's what I said. We're family, so it doesn't matter if we see each other naked." Uncle Steven pushed the brown jug that they'd kept hidden from the Sheriff, toward him and Uncle Devin took a big swallow.
I haven't seen either of them without their clothes, and the only time they've seen me without my dress on was when I sleep in my bloomers. She stared at them.
Uncle Steven took the jug back and brought it to his lips. After he took a big swig, he lit one of his smelly cigars.
Her Uncle Devin grabbed her arm. "Do what I told you, get naked, or do I have to undress you myself?"
He sounds angry. I only have two dresses and I don't want him tearing this one. She started unbuttoning her dress.
The two men drank from the jug and snickered as Jo removed her dress.
“Keep going.” Uncle Steven rubbed his hands together.
"Shouldn't I draw some water first?" She folded her dress and laid it on her chair.
Uncle Steven took a big puff on his cigar. "You're supposed to get the water after you get naked."
Soon, Jo stood before them in her birthday suit. She tried to ignore them and picked up the bucket.
"Put the bucket down and come here!" She jumped at the sound of her Uncle Devin's snarling voice.
"I thought you wanted me to wash myself." His glare made her feel uneasy.
"Never mind that foolishness. Get your ass over here!"
When she didn't get close enough for him, he grabbed her arm and jerked her closer.
Thank you randrphotos for the use of your image. "The House next door 2."Pays one point and 2 member cents.
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