She would make these statements, usually at the table, in a tone of gentle insistence as if no one held them but her, and the large hulking Joy, whose constant outrage had obliterated every expression from her face, would stare just a little to the side of her , her eyes icy blue, with the look of someone who had achieved blindness by an act of will and means to keep it. When Mrs. Hopewell said to Mrs. Freeman that life was like that, Mrs. She was quicker than Mr. Hopewell said. Freeman said.
When they had no guest they ate in the kitchen because that was easier. Freeman always managed to arrive at some point during the meal and to watch them finish it. She would stand in the doorway if it were summer but in the winter she would stand with one elbow on top of the refrigerator and look down at them, or she would stand by the gas heater, lifting the back of her skirt slightly.
Occasionally she would stand against the wall and roll her head from side to side. At no time was she in any hurry to leave. All this was very trying on Mrs. Hopewell but she was a woman of great patience. She realized that nothing is perfect and that in the Freemans she had good country people and that if, in this day and age, you get good country people, you had better hang onto them. She had had plenty of experience with trash.
Before the Freemans she had averaged one tenant family a year. The wives of these farmers were not the kind you would want to be around you for very long. Hopewell, who had divorced her husband long ago, needed someone to walk over the fields with her; and when Joy had to be impressed for these services, her remarks were usually so ugly and her face so glum that Mrs.
Hopewell excused this attitude because of the leg which had been shot off in a hunting accident when Joy was ten.
It was hard for Mrs. Hopewell to realize that her child was thirty-two now and that for more than twenty years she had had only one leg.
She thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times. Her name was really Joy but as soon as she was twenty-one and away from home, she had had it legally changed. Hopewell was certain that she had thought and thought until she had hit upon the ugliest name in any language.
Then, she had gone and had the beautiful name, Joy, changed without telling her mother until after she had done it. Her legal name was Hulga. Hopewell thought the name, Hulga, she thought of the broad blank hull of a battleship. She would not use it. She continued to call her Joy to which the girl responded but in a purely mechanical way. Hulga had learned to tolerate Mrs.
Freeman who saved her from taking walks with her mother. Even Glynese and Carramae were useful when they occupied attention that might otherwise have been directed at her. At first she had thought she could not stand Mrs. Freeman for she had found it was not possible to be rude to her. Freeman would take on strange resentments and for days together she would be sullen but the source of her displeasure was always obscure; a direct attack, a positive leer, blatant ugliness to her face — these never touched her.
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And without warning one day, she began calling her Hulga. She did not call her that in front of Mrs. Hopewell who would have been incensed but when she and the girl happened to be out of the house together, she would say something and add the name Hulga to the end of it, and the big spectacled Joy-Hulga would scowl and redden as if her privacy had been intruded upon. She considered the name her personal affair. She had arrived at it first purely on the basis of its ugly sound and then the full genius of its fitness had struck her. She had a vision of the name working like the ugly sweating Vulcan who stayed in the furnace and to whom, presumably, the goddess had to come when called.
She saw it as the name of her highest creative act. One of her major triumphs was that her mother had not been able to turn her dust into Joy, but the greater one was that she had been able to turn it herself into Hulga. However, Mrs. It was as if Mrs. Something about her seemed to fascinate Mrs. Freeman and then one day Hulga realized that it was the artificial leg. Freeman had a special fondness for the details of secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children.
Of diseases, she preferred the lingering or incurable. Hulga had heard Mrs.
Hopewell give her the details of the hunting accident, how the leg had been literally blasted off, how she had never lost consciousness. Freeman could listen to it any time as if it had happened an hour ago. When Hulga stumped into the kitchen in the morning she could walk without making the awful noise but she made it—Mrs. Hopewell was certain- because it was ugly-sounding , she glanced at them and did not speak. Hopewell would be in her red kimono with her hair tied around her head in rags. She would be sitting at the table, finishing her breakfast and Mrs.
Freeman would be hanging by her elbow outward from the refrigerator, looking down at the table. Hulga always put her eggs on the stove to boil and then stood over them with her arms folded, and Mrs. Hopewell would look at her—a kind of indirect gaze divided between her and Mrs.
Freeman—and would think that if she would only keep herself up a little, she wouldn't be so bad looking. There was nothing wrong with her face that a pleasant expression wouldn't help. Hopewell said that people who looked on the bright side of things would be beautiful even if they were not. Whenever she looked at Joy this way, she could not help but feel that it would have been better if the child had not taken the Ph. It had certainly not brought her out any and now that she had it, there was no more excuse for her to go to school again. The doctors had told Mrs.
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Hopewell that with the best of care, Joy might see forty-five. She had a weak heart.
Joy had made it plain that if it had not been for this condition, she would be far from these red hills and good country people. She would be in a university lecturing to people who knew what she was talking about. And Mrs. Hopewell could very well picture her there, looking like a scarecrow and lecturing to more of the same.
Here she went about all day in a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweat shirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it. She thought this was funny; Mrs. Hopewell thought it was idiotic and showed simply that she was still a child. It seemed to Mrs.
Hopewell that every year she grew less like other people and more like herself — bloated, rude, and squint-eyed. And she said such strange things! Do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not? We are not our own light! Hopewell had no idea to this day what brought that on. She had only made the remark, hoping Joy would take it in, that a smile never hurt anyone. The girl had taken the Ph. Hopewell at a complete loss. All day Joy sat on her neck in a deep chair, reading.
She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity. One day Mrs.