I write twice a week in the Watson Room at Forbes, the public library in Northampton, Massachusetts. It’s a simple space, dedicated, according to a brass plaque, to the memory of Julia and Rosa Watson, who made generous bequests. There are built-in cabinets with locked glass doors, full of old books, all bound in the same black with gold letters on their spines. Statistics of Coal. Geology for Beginners. Select British Poets, Hazlitt. Don Juan, Byron. Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Scott, volumes 1, 2 and 3. There are six long, wide windows with green blinds, which look out over the library parking lot. The cars and the people seem vivid but far away.
By SUSAN STINSON
Elisha Hawley turned nine years old six weeks after his father had laid violent hands on himself and cut his own throat. Rebekah, Elisha’s mother, made apple flummey seasoned with cinnamon and ginger for breakfast and let him have the last of the bacon with pea soup for supper. She made doughnuts, despite the heat, and let him lead the evening prayer, even though his older brother Joseph mouthed a silent gobble gobble gobble as Elisha stammered over the verse. Life was rising as loss burrowed in. Elisha wanted to snicker at Joseph, or weep with relief that his brother was trying to be funny, but he swallowed all that and sounded out the scripture more loudly, evenabomination, which he didn’t know how to say. Rebekah fixed her eyes on Joseph as Elisha mangled the vowels, then gave them each half a doughnut and a sip of cider before bed.