INSPIRATION: Years of the culture telling me men were monsters who would trample my timorous soul if I let them.
The character Katherine McCullough came from a dusty unfinished diary in a university library. While doing missionary work (which at the time I thought was savaging a culture) her young son died of lockjaw after stepping on a rusty nail on a barge while crossing the Mississippi to visit his mother. Served her right! I callously thought (btw Katherine’s son doesn’t die in the book).
The original intent of the novel was to trash missionaries and keep the myth of the noble savage alive and well. Then I did research. Turns out I had a lot to learn about human frailty on all sides.
My mother said the problem with me was that I didn’t respect my husband. I wondered what it would look like if I did respect a husband. My ex-husband thought John Weldon was him, but Weldon was the man who wanted to quit his addiction and that made all the difference.
Katherine and I are not one. She married for love. Despite my best attempts to force modernity upon her, she never took the bait. I married with the intent of dominating a man before he could destroy me. But life doesn’t work that way, does it? Fear is a destructive force.
Katherine’s voice echoes the thoughts and feelings of the women my mother often told me about. The women who came before her. The quiet ones.
Weldon reentered his home.
“John, I’m sorry over the state of things and…what I said,” Katherine whimpered.
William sat washing dishes on the floor, making more mess in the process.
“Willy, what are you doing?” Weldon complained as he raced around ignoring Katherine’s words. Forgiving her would make it more difficult to escape so Weldon hardened his heart to Katherine’s pleas, finding it pathetic that she would not get up from bed. He shoved everything into a sack.
“John, I haven’t gotten the chance to clean those, I…”
“I can see that…and stop crying!”
“I don’t understand why you hate me!” Katherine sobbed. “What have I done? Why am I so hard to love?”
“Kate, your children love you.”
Katherine flew from the bed at Weldon. “How could you? Why did you bring me here just to kill me with your words? I need you!”
“You’re pitiful,” Weldon said. “Get off me. I can’t take it anymore. You smother me!”
“Smother you? I love you!”
“Katherine, I don’t love… let me go,” Weldon said softly, trying to believe his words. He pushed her away.
Willy let the last of the dishes sink back into the dirty water and ran to his father. “Please don’t leave us!”
“Clean up the mess you’ve made, William,” Weldon said, detaching himself from his son’s grip. He threw the sack of laundry over his shoulder and walked double time to the beautiful laundress awaiting his call.
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