Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hair (07/04/19)
TITLE: Real Riches
By Betty Castleberry
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It takes me an hour to get to school in the mornin’. If the weather’s bad, sometimes it takes two if the bus can make it to the holler at all. But I don’t mind stayin’ home. Ain’t nothin’ more beautiful than the sun turnin’ the snow into a sparkly white blanket and icin’ the trees like a fancy bakery cake.
I’m sixteen now and got my driver’s license. If I had a car, I could get myself to school, but I ain’t got one. Even if I did, I couldn’t buy no gas for it. Sometimes I get my license out just to look at it. Beside my name, Amelia McNew, is my picture. I see my long hair and think how it fits my face. Most folks say it’s my best feature. Daddy says it’s the color of a new copper penny. Mama told me it’d only been cut once just to get rid of the baby fuzz. She gave me her mama’s silver-plated hairbrush. It’s the only fine thing I’ve ever owned. I used to sit in front of the mirror and brush my hair ‘til it shined.
My hair ain’t long no more. It’s chopped off past my earlobes, but it wasn’t my idea. A boy at school come up behind me and cut off a huge hunk of it. I felt the tug at the back of my neck and heard him a-laughin’. When I reached back to touch my hair, it was gone. I turned around to see what happened and saw him standin’ there grinnin’ and holdin’ my cut-off hair like it was a prized scalp or somethin’. My blood started boilin’ and my cheeks got hot. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t; not in front of that bully anyhow. I waited ‘til I got home. It might be prideful, but I loved my hair. When you don’t have much, you cherish what you do have.
When I came home and Mama saw it, her hand flew up to her mouth and I thought she was gonna pass out. She didn’t have no choice but to cut the rest of it plumb off. She hugged me when she was done and said it was okay for me to cry. Daddy said he wished that kid was a man because he’d whoop the tar out of him. His face was beet red and his voice sounded kinda high-pitched. He ain’t a violent man, but I ain’t never seen him like that.
Daddy’s laid off from the coal mine again and that didn’t help his mood. He’s tryin’ to save up to buy a generator. There ain’t no electricity back in this holler. Some of the kids at school call me Outhouse ‘cause there ain’t no indoor plumbin’ either. Those mission folk that brought me clothes are s’pposed to help build us a bathroom with a toilet and a shower, but it ain’t happened yet. We’re still bathin’ in well water.
Anyway, I think the reason that kid chopped off my hair is that he thinks I’m weird. He said I talk like a hillbilly, but that’s how folks in the holler talk. My grades are good, ‘specially in English, so I ain’t ignorant. It’s just what I’m used to.
The more I ponder it; I know I’m blessed. We’ve always got a full table thanks to Mama’s chickens and garden. We ain’t never been cold ‘cause Daddy chops enough wood to last the winter and gets up in the middle of the night to tend the fire. Me and my brothers make our own fun. We go fishin’ and we sing and dance. I can play the fiddle and I ain’t never had a lesson. God just gave me the know-how.
The Bible says revenge belongs to the Lord, so I ain’t gonna hold nothin’ against that hair-choppin’ bully. Besides, I might have not have no iPhone, but it don’t matter. You better believe I’m rich.
This story is fiction, but there are thousands of families who live in Appalachia without running water or electricity. If you would like to help, contact appalachianmissions.com or inquire at your local church.
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