Though she was never married, everyone called Lillian Ross “the widow.” Never in her presence, mind you, but few knew her by any other name.
“You know me not at all,” Lillian said, “I am a living ghost.” There was no one to listen. She spoke to herself and dead men. Sometimes there were tears.
New Hampton, Iowa was a small town where everyone knew everyone, and gossip substituted for any lack of fact. It was fair to say there were no strangers in New Hampton, but Lillian was as close as they came. Once a resident of another town by the same name, she moved from that New Hampton, to the new in 1895. She was glad to leave New Hampshire behind, but not excited to make Iowa her new home. She no longer felt she belonged anywhere.
I In the Burying Place may see
Graves shorter there than I:
From Death's Arrest no Age is free,
Young Children too many die;
My God, may such an awful Sight,
Awakening be to me!
Oh! that by early Grace I might
For Death prepared be.
There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
Holly Allgood had warm chicken blood dripping from her fingers. Feathers and viscera coated the tree stump where she’d just beheaded and gutted the doomed creature, its quivering heart giving up three last beats in her hands. An ill wind blew through the apple trees as Holly tore the entrails from the chicken. This bird had only the smallest of livers, portending lean times ahead, and the heart pointed in the wrong direction. Holly did not know the meaning of an upside-down heart, but was sure it had something to do with love. Holly believed that if this bird was to be trusted, her future prosperity and happiness were in question. This was a shame, because Holly loved life.
No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)