In the book of the heart there is no mention made of plumbing,* and in Octavia’s marriage this was an important omission. She and H.C. had cobbled together their pennies plus his inheritance and they’d bought his family’s farm.
The back step was a giant slab of rock and outside the back door there were always pansies growing, watered by the left over dishwater that someone sloshed across the kitchen and tossed in their direction. The kitchen was the center of everything and was the warmest room in the house with its wood burning cook stove, busy from dawn until dusk. Upstairs the wind whistled through rattling windows and the plaster walls without insulation, upstairs where the children slept two to a bed when they were shooed away from the house’s center.
Off the kitchen in the area between the house and the barn was the original two-seater privy. Although it had been years since it had been used, the grandchildren and later the great grandchildren visited it out of a sense of horror and adventure to imagine the icy wind that raced across the back pastures, over the ice coated snow, gusting up under the barn, consolidating its power to blast up the two holes cut in the wood bench. They shrieked to imagine sitting with their naked butts for such torture.
The past was still present in the steep hill beside the house, topped with an old metal hand pump, a remnant of the days of hauling water. The kids brought their sleds to its peak in the winter and in the summer rolled down through the grass and dandelions, risking bee stings, to sit up at the bottom with the world spinning sideways and try to run, like little drunk sailors, Octavia’s sons, and sons in law, and grandsons said laughing.
*Russel Edson as quoted by Natalie Goldberg