Family resemblance

Library of Congress sharecropper photo
Library of Congress, Dorothea Lange photographer, 1937

The story so far… “Family Secrets ” and “Reminiscing

“Send them all home, Casper.” I took the bundle from him, and sat on the floor, cradling it in my arms.

“Whaddya gonna do?” He took off his ball cap and ran his hands through his hair.

“I’m not sure yet, but for now just get them out of here. We have to figure this out.”

I understood why Casper thought the desiccated remains he found weren’t human. Back in my grandparents’ day, the term was Siamese Twins. Today, the more correct terminology is, “conjoined.” While he was gone, I inspected the babies.

Fused at the rib cage, they had one set of legs, but two sets of arms and two heads. They weren’t newborns, they had to be as much as a year old when they died.

Just as Casper came back into the house, I saw a gold locket tucked inside the collar of the hand-sewn frock the babies were wearing. With a little legerdemain I removed the necklace, and hid it in my pocket before Casper could notice.

“What the hell, Roxie?” He tool off his cap again, rubbing his head, unnerved by his gruesome discovery.

“Casper, these babies are no more a part of my family than they are of yours.” I gently laid them on top of a tarp the men had spread over the floor.

“Mine?”

“Your granddaddy helped mine build this house.” Casper helped me off the floor.

“Well, they ain’t none of my kin.”

“I don’t think they belong to anyone in the valley.” I said.

Casper looked confused.

“Think about it. If any one in our families, or any of the other ones who’ve been here for generations, had conjoined… okay, Siamese… twins, everyone would have known about it.” I said. “They would still be talking about it.”

He frowned, but silently nodded his agreement.

“There were a lot of migrant workers back then, I bet a few helped raise the house.” I took Casper by the elbow, and walked him toward the kitchen in the back of the house. “Could it be that one of them left the babies here?”

“That’s possible. There were always itinerants coming through here back then.” Casper opened the back door, and held it for me to walk out. “I don’t understand why your grandma and granddaddy didn’t smell it? Must have stunk up the place.”

“If someone set the babies inside the wall soon after they died, yes, the decomp would have been awful.” I sat on the porch swing and Casper paced the worn wooden floor. “I think, from the way they look, they were left there after they’d been dead for a while. That would fit with the migrant scenario too.”

“Why’s that.” Casper said.

“If the family was always moving around, maybe they wanted their babies to have a permanent resting place, maybe wanted to leave them with a big family, and not just bury them alone somewhere along the road.”

“Yeah, migrant’s were superstitious like that. I remember my granddad telling me stories.”

“I think we should call Sheriff Mason. He can get Dr. Simon to determine when they died, and maybe how.” It was starting to get dark. I wasn’t sure if the chill in the air was from the sunset, or from the day’s revelation.

“I’ll ring him up. Day-um Roxie, this is downright creepy. You still want to live here after this?”

“Do you think you can get the crew back here to finish the refurb?”

“I really don’t know. Let’s see what Mason says about this first.” Casper walked out to his truck, and out of view.

I took out the locket the babies had been wearing. Working a thumbnail between the halves, I popped it open. The photos inside were in remarkably good condition. The tiny cameos were of a man and a woman. A couple who were familiar.

I put the locket back in my pocket, then went to wait with Casper.

This week’s Studio30 Plus: “Legerdemain” and/or “Sleight of hand”

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