Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In Memory of Tillie Olsen

Tillie Lerner Olsen
Author, Feminist, Activist
January 14, 1912 - January 1, 2007

From Yonnondio From the Thirties by Tillie Olsen

The whistles always woke Mazie. They pierced into her sleep like some gutteral-voiced metal beast, tearing at her; breathing a terror. During the day if the whistle blew, she knew it meant death--somebody’s poppa or brother, perhaps her own--in that fearsome place below the ground, the mind.

“God damn that blowhorn,” she heard her father mutter. Creak of him getting out of bed. The door closed, with yellow light from the kerosene lamp making a long crack on the floor. Clatter of dishes. Her mother’s tired, grimy voice.

“What’ll ya have? Coffee and eggs? There aint no bacon.”

“Dont bother with anything. Havent time. I gotta stop by Kvaternicks and get the kid. he’s starting work today.”

“What’re they going to give him?”

“Little of everything at first, I guess, trap, throw switches. Maybe timberin.”

“Well, he’ll be starting one punch ahead of the old man. Chris began as a breaker boy.” (Behind both stolid faces the claw of a buried thought--and maybe finish like him, buried under slaty roof that the company hadn’t bothered to timber.)

“He’s thirteen, aint he?” asked Anna.

“I guess. Nearer to fourteen.”

Continued at Woman-Stirred

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