John climbed up to the loft, looked over the rail, and laughed. Then he came back down. Magya watched him nervously. What was so funny? He hadn’t talked to Annabel, only laughed.
He went to his shed for ten minutes. When he came back inside he was stinking of whiskey and grinning like a fool. The demon was back! Where did he get whiskey? From that evil mining camp? She yelled, “Get away from me!” But it did no good this time.
Twenty years before he was drunk with smooth lines from Shakespeare. That’s how he’d charmed her. After they married he lost Shakespeare and took whiskey every night. But for seven months–the journey west–he had been sober. Now the dirty beast returned.
He tossed his glasses aside and plunged at her. “Now you–be my wife again!”
She cried out, “Help me, Annabel!” She jumped onto the ladder and climbed as fast as she could, but John was right behind her. Laughing, gripping her legs as she screamed tumbling into the loft. John followed and she backed away quickly. She grabbed the broom but it wouldn’t come loose. He brushed it aside, laughing. The rooster! No more of that. Not ever. Rather die. “Stay back, you dirty beast!”
He peeled his filthy gloves revealing the horrid nubs of his fingers. He said, “My hen, she’s all alone now.” He was chortling, giddy, all roostered-up.
She held her bosom in her hands but her hands were too small to cover them. She tried reasoning. “Remember, I raise him like my own boy–and you said you’d leave me be.” Her voice trembling, “You need dirty things, you go to King’s tavern and buy you an Island Girl.” Shocked that she’d said that to him, then she screamed, “Leave me be!”
He grinned, lunging at her.
“No! Keep back!” Must not let this happen. Not another baby! Their first baby was born dead. Then giving birth to Annabel had nearly killed her. When he began kneading her like dough, she gasped.
He laughed again, “Oh, that pretty song, too.” He tore at her buttons. There were fifty white buttons down the front of her black Sunday dress.
She slapped him so hard it sounded like a rifle shot, but he didn’t stop. Finish him off, say anything. “Annabel and I leave–”
John pulled with all his strength and buttons flew like shining stars.