News gunned across every church from Springfield to Mississippi after the birth of Abigail. Her mother, Nancy’s womb belted the length of the Union States. When her water broke, she drained more than 3,000 square miles through central Illinois and flash flood corn and pumpkin seeds her father had planted. When Nancy farted, she could manage a perfect C and A-minor chord depending on the time of day. Some say the infant was longer than a train traveling through 180 cities and seven states. Others said the Sangamon river hissed and spectacled over 264 miles to the Illinois River. Size was the least of Nancy’s worries. Shortly after the birth, objects started nose-diving out of her vagina. Several empty bottles of Brandy, most of someone’s cattle, a dozen cats, a few pigs, a horse, turkey, goat, and more than a crate-full of Bibles.
When Nancy’s melancholy descended on Abby, the littlest busk of three children, Nancy was listless, trembling, and a stench bayed over her breath of cattle, sheep, and horses. The doctor said it was Milk Sickness after they tried to get her out of bed. When she vomited without stop and an odor of chemicals presumed off the skin, the doctor prepared the family for the worst.
Thomas, the imperious, fuddled father of this tribe was a farmer, a carpenter, but couldn’t read or write. He was forthright in his rage, humiliated any scribbled page that dared question him. He sequestered another wife, Sarah, who lived three cabins over, a few weeks after Nancy shriveled.
Abby grew up in the countryside eating five meals a day beneath legs surging upwards toward new horizons, over mountains, long faces, furies, evasions; she grew and grew and once again, grew. Never cared that a suitor could find her, she bent over rooms to enter them. The younger brother died. The sister had notches in the wood of the door frame. Thomas, their father, threw his knife up into the wood beams. That’s as near as Abby would ever come to a measurement.
Abby’s second mother, Sarah, came with a pack of children. She took a liking to Abby whose clothes were stitched for midgets and kept Abby from standing straight for years. Sarah put her needlework aside and started sewing clothes out of women’s quilts and scraps from clucking pouches of Kentucky tongues. Sarah found the perfect log and set it along Abby’s back and between her armpits. Abby rose into the sky, one of the first true phoenix’ of the 1800’s.
And so why, the subterfuge of gender? Abby racked through the headwinds of jobs available for females? Domestic servant, farm worker, tailor and washerwoman. Son of a gun no, she said. I’m planting my oak tree feet in the god damned white house. I am going to be president.
Abagail Abe Lincoln became the 16th president and 1st woman president. News swam its way to the Carolinas where Andrea Andrew Johnson waited her turn. After that, it became hersay:
Ulalia Ulysses Grant
Ruth Rutherford Hayes
Janey James Garfield
Meg Tuite is author of four story collections and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging. A story of her’s is included in the ‘Best of the Small Press 2021”. She teaches writing retreats and online classes hosted by Bending Genres. She is also the fiction editor of Bending Genres and associate editor at Narrative Magazine. http://megtuite.com