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Scheaffer, C. Gibson (ed.) / Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XXVI, Number 3 (March 1927)

Fist, Gladys
The unwalked way,   pp. 19-24


Page 19

THE UNWALKED WAY
By
GLADYS FIST
"rELLA, finish pressin' your dress
in a hurry. It's nearly time for
them pills I got this morning.
I can't reach my water."
Della violently snapped the cord
from the iron and jerked her dress
from the brown, scorched board. Try-
ing to do anything for herself was
hopeless; she might as well quit. She
had not time to lengthen her dress,
much less press it.
"I'm comin', Grandma. It isn't
time for that medicine anyway;
you're only to have it every hour."
Hurriedly running the back of her
hand over her lip she wiped tiny
glistening beads of perspiration from
it; her lip always perspired when she
was tired or nervous. The perspira-
tion felt cool and sticky on her hand
and made prickly sensations run
through her body.
"Della! Come on! If you'd stop
moonin' and thinkin' of Joe, you'd do
something."
Della felt her face grow hot. Joe!
Mooning! Thinking! She had not
been thinking of him-consciously at
least. His vision though was always
with her; Joe, with his red hair and
hungry blue eyes; Joe, with the fine
golden hair on his hands. Her grand-
mother did not even want her to think
about him, God, not even think. She
could not have him; he said that he
could not marry her as long as the old
woman was dependent on her. Her
grandmother didn't realize that she
was dependent, that she was drag-
ging Della away from life; no, her
grandmother never questioned her
own belief that the duty of the young
was to care for the old; she did not
think that Della was sacrificing for
her; she was so enveloped in old age
that youth to her was nothing more
than a convenient automaton by
which her own comfort was made se-
cure. The old woman, ever sympa-
thizing with the "pains God had la-
bored her with," had been swallowed
into the immensity she had made of
them-nothing else existed save the
pills and Della, both of them only for
her.
"Are you comin' ?" The voice,
heavy with tears, fell about Della.
"Yes, Grandma, I'm here now. I've
got to find them first; you've got so
many boxes and bottles, it's hard to
find the right one. Here they are."
Della stepped into the darkened room;
it reeked of candle-tallow, drugs, and
body. She stepped out of her slip-
pers; she had never been allowed
to walk on the carpet with her shoes
on, neither had any one else except
the Doctor. Mrs. Grunden had her
reason-a reason almost as old as the
carpet; she had bought it twenty-five
years ago. Mr. Grunden had stepped
on it after cleaning and greasing the
carriage; the rug was smudged and
greasy; a big spot blackened its pink-
ness. Mrs. Grunden had not spoken
to Henry for two days; she was hurt
and silent, but when Henry had died
a year later, (he left her nothing but
three children, a melancholy voice of
resignation, and a fishing rod) the
formerly odious spot became sacred,
and the rug was revered. No one
could step on it; it lay soft, and pink,
and a little black on the floor in the
front room. The coffin had rested on
the spot-now it was twice hallowed.
When Mrs. Grunden took sick she
wanted the rug near her; she thought
that it brought her in closer contact
with "poor dead Henry." She had de-
bated with herself whether or not she
would be committing a sacrilege in
giving the rug over to common use.
She had decided to compromise by
having the rug in her room, but al-
lowing no one who had shoes on to
step on it excepting the Doctor. The
Doctor would not have been allowed
to either had he not known Henry,
"and set up with him the fearful
night he had died."
"Della, that spot," Mrs. Grunden's
voice trembled with superstitious
fright.
[19]


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