Fall River, August 1892
It was such a very hot day, the air flapping like a thick cloth in her face. She escaped the chores in the house, wandered into the yard.
The prosecution said she didn’t visit the barn; the dust hadn’t been disturbed, they said, but Lizzie remembered the baking heat of the place, so parched a stray spark might’ve set it alight. The whole day was like that, tinder-dry, ready to go up.
Abby was feather-dusting the furniture, fat slapping above her elbows, sweat wetting the armpits of her dress. Bridget was washing windows; you could hear the sloppy sound of the water from the back end of the yard.
The sky was stretched like the skin on a drum, the sun beating there in a fury. Lizzie turned a fretful circle in the yard. She longed for lightning to slice the sky wide open, for the kiss of rain on her sun-battered skin.
She went indoors before Father returned from work. She wore the cotton calico, sky-blue. Later, she put on heavy silk, winter bengaline they called it, navy-blue with pale flowers printed on the skirt. Too much dress for such a warm day. She was glad when the police took it away.
Abby saw her coming, tried to run. Whack, whack, whack. Her head wouldn’t leave her shoulders, not quite, too many rubbery rolls of flesh in the way.
Father was weary, propping his cheek on a cushion like a little boy. One whack and he was gone. Red pearls beaded the wall behind his head.
Lizzie rolled paper and lit the stove. The hot day sucked up the smoke and turned the wood to white. She thrust the axe in.
Ash leapt and clung to the ruddy head of the blade, flying up from the hearth like feathers.