~~~Dio and carrie Anne had proceeded to fetch the week’s laundry and the linens from the orphanage and carried the large bundles back to the Laundry on China Row. Business was slow, so Dio gave Hepzibeth some greenbacks and suggested that she take herself, along with Jiu and Bo down to Miss Estwee’s for some pie and coffee. The latter two, as you may have gathered from their names, were a couple of Celestials who were workin’ for Dio at the time. Bo was a nice quiet young man, and Jiu was this sort o’ plain gal who might have been his sister, or maybe not. Hard to say about those things sometimes.
Anyhow, Dio kinda felt like Carrie doin’ her punishment was something that didn’t require other folks to be hanging around watching, so she told Heppy, Bo and Jiu to take their time and just have a morning off, with pay, of course. Hepzibeth, as usual, shook her head in a disapproving sort of way, as such extravagance offended her Scottish sense of frugal practicality. Mind you, some folks will argue that the notion of Scottish folk being a mite close-fisted with their pennies is one of those silly generalizations about an entire class of people that is something of an exaggeration. As far as I am concerned, ‘tis nothing more than one of those spurious notions that get repeated and reinforced by the lazy-minded draftsmen who make the odd-looking drawings as a sort of social or political commentary in Harper’s Weekly (and similar publications that rely on mass sales to the lowest common denominator for their fiscal survival). In the case of Heppy, however, I will go so far as to warrant that the cliche was to some extent accurate, bein’ as the gal did in fact embrace frugality with an almost religious fervor.
Bo and Jiu, on the other, looked pleased as punch. From their perspective, this was just further evidence to them that Missy Di-oh was probably a little bit on the high side of mad, but that her particular brand of lunacy was like that of the blessed Happy Idiots, and a source of good fortune to people like themselves. They thanked their Boss Lady most graciously and dashed off in Hepzibeth’s wake towards Miss Estwee’s and the pie.
Carrie Anne was somewhat surprised to find that Dio did not leave the entire task to her. Without wasting a whole lot of words on the subject, Dio set carrie Anne to hauling water from the creek to put on the stove to heat up. Meanwhile Dio started sorting the soiled items and doing the pre-wash treatments: milk on the urine stains; kerosene on the blood and grass stains. It did not make Carrie Anne feel any better that Dio seemed to be punishing herself as well as her.
As Carrie Anne was just beginning on agitating the first batch of clothes in a tub of hot water and lye soap, Roku sauntered in.
Dio looked up from some particularly unpleasant stain in someone's drawers that she was working over with a concoction made from pig droppings (for the ammonia in it, you know).
“Howdy.” replied Roku. “Oh... catchin’ up on the laundry, ah see.”
Dio smiled lightly. “Well, actually, Roku....as much as I know you would have enjoyed chuckin’ the gals in the river...I thought a better thing to do as a punishment fer Carrie Anne would be to set her to washin’ all the linens an other laundry from the orphanage, an’ for her to be thinkin’ on how Alonzo is mebbe a pain in the ass cuz he ain't got no one to tell him better an give him no attention.
Roku nodded. This seemed to be an agreeable sort of plan to her.
Dio went on, “After all, he has to live at the orphanage, which truth be told is kind of a lonely place these days.”
Carrie Anne did not look up from the tub full of clothes she was agitating with the wooden paddle. She was thinking that she had been lonely plenty of times with no one telling her how to behave, but that she had managed to not be a pain in the ass to anyone...that she knew of, anyhow. Even though she was thinking this, she said nothing, and kept spinning and turning the paddle.
“Well, ah told Elizabeth to go to church and pray for his forgiveness for doin such a fool thing,” said Roku. She then looked sort of thoughtful. “While ah am sure ye gave Carrie Anne a good talkin’ to...an’ this here is a fine punishment as well...did ya spank her good? Ah hopes ya spanked her so good her butt was red and raw.”
Dio sighed. “Roku, did gettin’ spanked ever do you any good as a chile?”
“Oh yes! Ah learned not to do bad things cause ah didn’t like to be spanked. Ah think Carrie Anne needs ah good spankin’ for almost drowning that feckless kid.”
As she listened to Roku, Carrie Anne had slowed down agitatin’ the clothes to almost nothing. She thought, “If anyone hits me, I shall run away to live with the indians. They probably won’t want to scalp me if I just ask to join them, instead of trading whiskey to them...that was a dumb idea anyhow.” She was feeling a growing level of irritation with Elizabeth, although she wasn’t quite to the point of thinking it had all been her friend’s fault that they were in this situation.
Dio, however, did not seem swayed by Roku’s argument. “Ye know... funny thing..when I got whupped..back before m' pa stopped givin’ a shit about what I did or din't do...the whuppin’ din't make me behave no better..jus made me look fer ways to git even. I spit in m pa's soup one time after he whupped me...”
Roku frowned. “Well, ya is unusual in that regard, Dio. Most folks spank the tar outa theys kids when they does bad things, and they grows up good.”
Dio briefly considered pointing out that in Roku’s case, she had evidently been spanked as a child a good bit, and had grown up to be a part-time prostitute who was very comfortable with killing other human beings--so maybe perceptions of “grows up good” were kinda sorta relative. But she thought the better of it and let it go.
Instead, she took a different tack in statin’ her case: “Roku, I know lots o’ folks wallop they young’uns somethin’ dreadful, an’ apparently the Good Book tells em that’s the right thing to do an’ all. Unfortunately, that must ha’ been writ down in the part o’ our Bible that Papaw used fer kindlin’ one real bad winter, so’s I never got to read that bit.”
That made Roku laugh, but Dio’s face was deadly serious as she continued. “I ‘spose I’m jus’ a ignerant heathen savage in that sense. Probbly spent too much time around injuns. Ye know, injuns is greatly fond o’ chillun, an’ as a rule they generally don’t beat their young’un’s with the regularity an’ enthusiasm that civilized folk seem to. So’s here my way o’ lookin at it--Carrie Anne, in the strict sense of it, ain’t my chile. An’ I ain’t her ma. But I do think of it as she is on her way to bein’ a Kuhr. So I reckon I might do better treatin’ her as such...doin’ this the way m’ Papaw woulda done. That is why I have set her to a punishment that involves doin’ somethin’ worthwhile, what ain’t a waste o time and that gives ‘er somethin’ to reflect upon.
Roku had one of those expression on her face that indicates that the person wearin’ it is seriously reconsdierin’ their position. Finally she commented, “Make her work...great idea...”
Dio smiled in response, relieved that she was somehow getting through to her friend.
“But ah still think a spankin’ on top of that shud do wondahs.”
Dio exploded, “HECATE’S BREATH, ROKU!” LOOK...LOOK AT THESE HERE!”
She held up the set o’ boy’s under-drawers she had been working on.
“Goddamit! Feast yer peepers on this badger stripe runnin’ up the backside o “Lonzo’s spare under britches...I'm thinkin’ this task is a gonna be a worse punishment for Carrie Anne than I expected.”
Dio muttered as she tossed the drawers into the pile that was to go in the washtub next, “Holy christ on roller skates, din't this boy ever larn to wipe hisself?”
But Roku was not done yet. “I am so disappointed in Carrie Anne...ah thot for once, heah is a nice lil’ gal, not like Geoff nor Addi...”
Carrie Anne, trying not to cry, was biting down on her lip until it was bleeding. Dio on the other hand was getting a tad exasperated.
“Goddammit, Roku! She IS a nice lil’ gal! She jus’ made a mistake like we all do. An’ at least the slack-jawed lack-wit din't go an’ drown!”
They continued working in silence as Roku watched. Dio dumped out the now muddled gray water from the first loads, and filled the wash tub with fresh hot water from the big copper boiler on the stove. Carrie Anne brought buckets of water from the creek for rinsing out the items that had been washed. Her hands were getting raw and chapped from the lye soap. There were also a couple places she had scalded her hands on the boiler and the stove, and those stung something dreadful.
Finally, Roku broke the silence. “Heah is what ah am goin' to do concernin’ Carrie Anne...ah is goin' to ignore her and she is gonna have to earn my friendship back. Ah nevah been friends befoah with a little girl, but she so dissapointed mah self...”
CarrieAnne was just lugging in another bucket she had filled from the creek, water sloshing on her feet. She stopped, sat it down, and said in a quiet voice, “I'm sorry Roku."
“Bein sorry ain’t cuttin’ it with me, Carrie Anne,” replied Roku. “Ya has to earn back mah friendship...ya needs to learn this is the kinda consequences what happens when ya does somethin’ bad.”
Dio was getting tired of this. “Roku...Hon, it's the first mistake I seen this chile make...I reckon she's gonna make a bunch more b'fore she's got to my age.”
Roku may have picked up on the weary tone in her friend’s voice. She stood and headed for the door. “Ah is going to walk ovah to the Church to see if Elizabeth is still in theah, prayin’ like ah told her to...see y’all latah. Gots to see if Elizabeth obeyed me or not.”
Dio nodded as she wrung out yet another shirt. “Take care, Roku.”
Carrie Anne regarded the murky used wash water and the thought crossed her mind that running away and being killed by renegades might have been preferable. She did not relish the prospect of doing this again once every week for a month.
Dio carried a basket of damp laundry out to the line and began hanging it to dry. CarrieAnne dragged another basket out, but found she had a small problem.
“Dio...I can't reach to hang 'em
Dio went over to Bu’s and found a wooden box in the kindling pile. She came back and set it on the ground for Carrie Anne to stand on. The girl took an armload of bed linens, hopped on to the box and began hanging things up.
“How come...how come you aren’t makin’ me do all this myself? Why are you helping me?”
“Dio sighed as she continued hanging wash at the higher end of the clothesline. “Well...lessee...ye think yer larnin’ something doin’ this?”
“Well, Hon, I ‘spect I had some larnin’ to do as well. Still tryin’ to figger out how this livin’ with a chile is ‘sposed to work. I’m responsible fer ye now...an’ so I needed to face up to my responsibility in this fer not ridin herd on ye better. “Sides...you ‘n me...whatever happens, good or bad, or in-betwixt, we’s in it together.”
Carrie Anne noticed that her hands still stung from the scalds and the lye soap. She rubbed them on her damp dress.
“Go rinse them hands off in the crik, Hon,” suggested Dio. When the girl did so and returned, Dio handed her a clean dry towel.
“Thank you.” said Carrie Anne quietly.
“That's all right, Hon.
Carrie Anne looked down at her feet and wondered what Elizabeth was doing. Dio was pulling her waistcoat and jacket back on, and then she buckled on her pistol belt. Once she was fully reassembled she gently put a hand on Carrie Anne's shoulder.
“Carrie Anne, when ye make a mistake from now on, I want ye to come to me about it...face up to it, like a Kuhr..like would make Papaw Marcus Aurelius proud to have ye fer a great granddaughter”
Carrie Anne nodded her head slowly, "Yes ma'am. I'll do better, I promise.”
Dio looked satisfied with this assurance. “I trust that ye will. Allright now, go find ‘Lizabeth an’ tell her that yer supposed to bop her if'n she does somethin’ stupid like this again in future...an’ also tell her that I am givin’ her leave to do the same to you if'n yer the one who comes up with some boneheaded ideer.”
Carrie Anne finally smiled back a little. “Yes’m. I'll tell 'er.
Dio peered into the little girl’s eyes. “You ok now?”
CarrieAnne Dubrovna nodded her head and answered quietly "Yes’m"
“You understand that jus cuz you made a mistake, I ain't a gonna turn you out?” asked Dio gently.
To be honest, Carrie Anne still didn’t believe this was true, but she nodded her head in agreement anyway. "Yes, I know"
They moved out onto the porch and Dio closed the door to the laundry. Without looking at Carrie Anne, she added in a surprisingly soft voice, “You also understand that even when yer makin’ a mistake--I am still gonna love ye? An’ I hope when I make my share, yer still gonna ...well never mind...I think we understand each other.
Carrie Anne could tell that Dio’s mind was somewhere else right now...she suspected that Dio had gone back to west central Texas, to her parents’ place on the edge of the Comancheria. She didn’t know all the details, but she was aware that something had happened between Dio and her folks back when she was little, that somehow, they had blamed her for something...that they had stopped caring about her...but Carrie Anne said nothing. She only nodded her head and forced a little smile.
Dio was smiling as well, but it was a strangely sad smile. “Now ye go find ‘Lizabeth, ye hear?”
After Carrie Anne had run off down China Row, Dio decided to head over to the Gem. Kit and Clay and Sparrow and some other folks were hangin’ around, and it made Dio feel better to be not be alone right now. Clay got her some coffee, and they were all goin’ on at some length about Alonzo and his unexpected dip in the Whitewood. A preponderance of the wittier comments seemed to be at Alonzo’s expense.
Dio explained about the nature of the punishment she given Carrie Anne, and most of the folks seemed to think it was pretty good way of handling things. Most of them also got something of a chuckle out of the notion that Roku, of all people, had directed Elizabeth to the church to pray for enlightenment and forgiveness.
Suddenly they heard the pounding of small boots and shouting.
“DIO! DIO, Please! Come quick!”
They all turned to see Carrie Anne at the doorway to the Gem, her dress and stockings wet and smeared with mud.
“Hon! what is it? What's wrong?!” asked Dio in alarm.
“OH Dio! I saw Elizabeth throw herself into the swollen creek! And Miss Roku had to jump in to get her...and I had to toss her a rope so they could get back out, and...oh Dio, it was terrible....”