Western Fiction posted May 18, 2013 Chapters:  ...23 24 -25- 26... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Jo receives her punishment and gains a champion

A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO

Post Chapter Nine - Part Four

by c_lucas

Jo is to receive two lashes from a stiff rope. She is lost in the system and must fend for herself.
End of the last post:  Jo heard the sound of metal against metal and felt a cool draft as the guard left her cell. She heard the familiar sound of rats and mice scrambling around.
She got on her knees, crossed herself and prayed, “Saint Brigit, Nana Kennedy, I be needing your help! Please!!”
The naked child’s mind filled with images of the old woman she called “Nana-Grandmother.” Child, it be a terrible fix yeh be finding yerself in, but Brigit has a reason for it. She be letting me visit for a while, but yeh need ta be on yer own.
A very soft light filled the damp cell and a pink mist floated over the child. The Irish dialect enhanced the feeling of warmth flowing through Jo.
“Why is this happening to me, Nana?” she asked and waited for thoughts to come to her mind.
Cailin, yeh be Brigit’s sword and must be tempered before yeh can be heping others.
“Tempered?” An image of a twig followed by an image of a tall snarled Oak tree filled her mind. “You mean to become stronger?” Jo felt an increase of her nana’s energy flowing through her.
Aye, child. Yeh will protect those weaker than yeh and have a knight to hep yeh.
A rat squeaked at Jo’s foot. She looked down. “This will be my knight?”
Her nana chuckled. Brigit be a maker of jokes. A wee knight for a wee cailin. What will yeh be calling him?
In the soft light, Jo stroked the rat and picked it up. “I’ll be calling him ‘Sir Rudy.’”
As yeh grow older, yer knight will be bigger and stronger. Brigit be allowing me to light yer cell this time only. Yeh’ll be th’ only one ta  see it. The rest of yer time, yeh will be in th’ dark.
The pink mist dissolved, and Jo felt the cell’s chill. Jo heard the lock being removed and Rudy fled under the mattress.
A stout middle-aged woman, holding a torch entered. Jo remained on her knees. The woman put the torch into a holder on the wall. She closed and padlocked the door. “Stand and put your hands against the wall.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jo moved to a corner and placed her hands on the wall.
The woman’s rough hands grabbed her shoulders and repositioned her away from the corner. She pressed Jo’s face into the rough stone and kicked Jo’s feet back until the girl was leaning with her weight against the wall. “You’re to receive two lashes. If you cry out or move away from the wall, you’ll receive more. Keep your face against the wall. Do you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“You spoke. That’ll make it three lashes. Do you understand?”

Jo nodded without moving her face from the wall, a trickle of blood flow down her chin.
“Now, you’re learning.” The woman waited and when Jo didn’t move, she struck the girl’s back with the stiffened rope. Jo bit her lips to keep from crying out. When she didn’t hear anything from Jo, she lashed the girl’s bare butt, adding more force. Jo drew blood when she bit her lip to keep from crying out.
The woman's last blow showed the woman's strength,  and landed across Jo's shoulders, catching the girl by surprise, but she remained still.
“Ouch! A damn rat bit me!”
Jo remained still as the woman struck the floor several times, muttering, as she removed the lock.  The woman guard retrieved her torch. “Stay there until I tell you to move.”
The girl remained leaning against the wall. “Thank you, Rudy.”

The rat climbed up her leg, resting on her shoulder, licking the trickling blood.

Jo leaned against the wall and dozed. Rudy, having stopped the flow of blood, remained on her shoulder. It jumped to the floor and under the mattress, when the woman unlocked the padlock.
The girl awakened, but remained in her position. She became fully awake when the woman guard poured water on her back, causing it to sting.
“Ouch! Damn rat!” The woman cried out again and again as Rudy climbed her leg, biting her as he traveled.
Jo heard the rattling of the padlock, as the woman hurried to escape from the cell. The door opened and slammed shut. Jo heard the click of the padlock, followed by an unidentified noise.
“You won’t get any dinner until you catch that damn rat and throw its dead body through the feed door.”
“Ma’am, how can I do that when you have me leaning with my face against the wall?” Jo worried her question would lead to more punishment.
“Get off the damn wall and find that blasted rat!”
“I’ll catch him for you, ma’am.” Jo stood and leaned against the wall. She felt Rudy climbing her leg and reached down to grab him. The girl stroked the rat’s back. “Thank you, Sir Rudy. I’m afraid we'll go hungry tonight.”
The pink mist returned. Jo got an image of her nana Kennedy holding a dead rat by the tail and throwing it out the feed door. Yeh’ll be having yer dinner, me cailin. Call out and let yer jailor know you caught the rat.
“Did yeh killed the rat to hep me?” A scene filled her mind of a street she did not know. Dead rats and people covered the streets. “Mammy told me about the ‘Black Death’."  Mrs. Becker screams bounced off the walls. "Won’t she think she’ll get sick because Rudy bit her?"  Jo got an image of her nana laughing.
Jo became wide awake when she heard someone unlocking her cell. Hunger pains were a painful reminder that she did not get her portion of bread and water. Rudy jumped off her chest and disappeared.
Two people bearing bright torches entered the cell, placing them in holders on the wall. One carried a twenty-four inch stool.
The naked nine-year-old held an arm across her face to ward off the glare of the torches. She sat up, conscious that the whip lashes on her back didn’t give her any pain. She flexed her shoulders.
“Come here,” Mrs. Griffin demanded. “The doctor needs to examine you.”
Shocked that one of her visitors was a man, Jo got up and slowly walked toward them.
“Hurry up, girl. We don’t have all night. Dr. Cohn has to examine every child down here for rat bites.”
The man lifted her onto the stool. “Please stand still.”
Jo stood still as the doctor checked her body. “No bites. She’s has three bruises on her back.”

“Three?” Mrs. Griffin grabbed Jo’s arm and turned her around, causing her to almost fall off the stool. “Stand still.”
“Jo Wiley. I’m trying to, ma’am.” She got her balance and stood still.
“Still playing your little game!”
“Jo Wiley. What game is that, ma’am?”
Dr. Cohn laughed. “Have you had any schooling?”
“Yes sir, two grades. First grade at the Catholic’s School and second grade at Nana Sullivan’s School.”
“Touch your head and pull your ears before answering me.”
“Why are you down here?”
Jo touched her head and pulled her ears. "Mrs. Griffin thought I was making fun of her when I obeyed her and said my name before I spoke to her. My mother taught me to curtsey to show respect to an adult. Mrs. Griffin thought I was making fun of her when I asked the meaning of two words she used. I was just following what Aunt Heather taught me. If I didn’t know the meaning of a word, I was to ask.”
“What words did you not know?”
Jo touched her head and pulled her ears. “Humorous and mocking.”
“Okay, you can stop touching your head and pulling your ears. Humorous has several meanings and mocking mean making fun of some one. Used with mocking, humorous would mean being disrespectful.  Were you trying to be disrespectful to Mrs. Griffin?”
“No sir, she said to always tell her my name before I spoke to her. Then she slapped me when I asked what the words meant.”
“You’re going to believe that child over me? I know when someone is being serious and when they’re being disrespectful.”
“It’s what you didn’t know that caused the misunderstanding on your part. Jo was reared in a Catholic family and taught to show respect at all times. She will do what she's told to do without question.” The doctor didn’t seem to be worried over the expression on Mrs. Griffin’s face. “Would you please go get her clothes? She will leave here immediately.”
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Thank you, Lndslmn for the use of your image, "Shadow Girl."
Irish Dialect
Nana Kennedy-Mid wife who delivered Jo.
Saint Brigit-Celtic warrior goddess
Pink mist-represents positive energy
Cailin/cailin -Irish for young girl
Nana - Granny
Yeh - you
Yer - your
Yerself - yourself
Ta - to
Th'- the

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