Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Tithe

The Tithe
Bobby Derie

Down in Corn Rock, the first pregnancy in a girl's life is a solemn occasion.

I say a girl, because most of them is girls. The older women don't try to hold off the younguns, not at that age. The unspoken agreement is that it's better for them to get it over with, while they are young. Because it's not so sad to lose a baby when you're fifteen or sixteen, as it is when you're twenty-six or thirty, and might not have another.

That's not to say every child is taken. Maybe eight or nine in ten. Just enough to give the young girls hope, for when their wombs quicken, or to lay on worry for them as maybe aren't ready to be a mother. And there's a body of lore about it, unspoken among the menfolk, that the women know by watching and doing. How the babe has to be born for it to count, and if you go ask the midwife for the right herbs or go into town for an abortion, the loss may fall on the next pregnancy.

Some families left, rather than face what might happen. One or two came back, after. Some with children, others empty-handed. It didn't seem to make no difference. If there's a rule for the thing, it's not something to my calculation.

The girls can feel it too. The tension in the air. The not-knowing. It's a kind of madness at times. We've had years at school...the whole of the tenth grade class may have swelling bellies, ten or twelve girls, and ain't a one of them wondering who'll be the lucky one. Whose baby will be born alive.

Well, I say lucky.

Those as survive the tithe, they ain't always quite right.

But that's another story.


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