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Hephzibah House stories.


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For your consideration, some of my wife's writings from Hephzibah House

Karens Story

I did not like Karen. She was smart and she knew it. She was so smart that she did not have to work the normal work duties with us, she was assigned office work with the secretary. She spent her work duty time collating the mailing list. Everyday she sat in a corner of the kitchen with a small table full of address trays. From her perch in the corner she would spot anyone making a mistake and inform staff. She secured her position by tattling on any one she could. Karen seemed proud of her role as an informer and I secretly called her "Kapo" after the jewish prisoners who supervised and reported their own people in exchange for better treatment in the German concentration camps.

Karen was about 30 pounds underweight like most of us but she carried herself with an exaggerated primness. Her thin hair and hollow cheekbones took on a cruel set under her watchful gaze. She had hungry eyes just like all of us, but I imagined she subsisted on power more than food. I truly disliked her.

Karen took one looked at me scrubbing the floor at her feet and smirked. She got up and with chin held high marched over to Miss Sharon. She loudly reported that I was displaying a bad attitude, grumbling under my breath and slamming around my bucket.

It was not true. I was upset, but in no way was I portraying anger.

I knew what was coming. I knew I was to be paddled for a bad attitude based on nothing more than Karen's word. I knew that trying to plead my own case would only make things worse for me. I followed Miss Sharon to the Blue Room and hoped Karen would choke on her tongue.

One day, a few weeks later and out of the blue, Karen was brought before us red-eyed and shaken. Miss Diana stood beside her and looked smug, her chest puffed out, her hand around Karen's upper arm.

Hiccuping Karen confessed to living a lie, being prideful, and faking her salvation.

I took pleasure in her fall from grace. She was stripped of all of her rank and privilege. She lost her position on the mailing list. She was placed on “shadowâ€. Shadow meant she must be as close to her assigned staff member as a shadow at all times. She was not to speak, or look at anyone. She was to essentially disappear in the bustling close quarters of Hephzibah house. She was to become a “shadowâ€.

I gloated the first week she was on shadow. It was nice to have someone else lead prayer before meals, someone else getting a chance to answer questions. It was gratifying to see her having to tag along with staff like a puppy on a tight leash as they moved around the room. Her abject misery seemed just.

The second week I was less pleased, I had never seen a shadow last more than a few days. What horrible thing must she have done? I began to feel guilty and drop my gaze when she moved past me trying to clumsily follow staff with her eyes glued to the floor.,

Ten weeks passed and Karen was visibly changing. She seemed to sink into herself. the bright, snapping intelligent eyes that never missed a thing, faded. She spent hours staring at the floor or the wall and had learned to move with staff without even a glance towards them or looking at her destination.

Thirty weeks passed and she was pale with dark circles around her eyes. Her hair was falling out in handfuls. She had begun wetting the bed. She did not respond in any normal way to the sounds and activities around her.

Forty weeks and proud, intelligent Karen was an empty shell. She would sit quietly and not move unless she heard someone approach. she would then press herself towards the wall. I thought of a trip I had taken with my family to the pound when I was a child. The imprisoned pups leaped and pawed at the bars of their cages. Friendly or hostile the dogs clambered for attention. Some slavishly eager to please, some angry and menacing. There was one dog, a skeletal puppy with deep scars and a misaligned hip who did not jump to greet us. This dog jumped towards the furthest corner. He cowered there, pressed into the corner facing away from me. He was shaking with fear as he made a puddle on the newspaper beneath him.

This is what they had done to Karen.

Karen was released from “Shadow†after more than 9 months. She was allowed to talk (IF staff could clearly hear every word she said and IF she discussed only edifying and approved subjects, and IF it was an approved talking activity) but she was not the same. She appeared to be a mindless drone. She parroted what she was told with an insipid smile. She went through the motions~but Karen was long gone.

I found I missed her. I found that I longed to see just a glimpse of her old spark. I would gladly go to the Blue Room just to have Karen back tattling and haughty with her razor sharp tongue and quick wit, Those long months of Karen's silence I learned that I loved her. I learned that it was a empty and hollow world if those with larger than life personalities, those who challenge us, those who do not conform are marginalized and destroyed.

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Connies Story


She looked like a beautiful Viking warrior princess. I smiled, Hephzibah house had not dampened my imagination. Connie, impossibly tall and athletic stood facing into the wind. Her golden hair in thick braids so heavy even the strong breeze did not stir the massive plaits as they hung past her shoulders. Her ridiculously voluminous culottes whipped around her exposed sun browned legs snapping impatiently. Her tired tube socks, the elastic long gone, sagged around her slender ankles. The wind had taken her heavy shirt, oversized for the sake of modesty, and plastered it tightly against her upper body. The excess fabric ballooned out behind her as she leaned slightly into the wind. Every visible bone jutted out sharply, she was dangerously underweight, but she carried herself with confidence and strength. I felt like a silly little girl beside her. I tried to copy her stance, I longed to have her presence.

Connie was a few months older than me and had been at Hephzibah house several weeks longer than me. I followed her lead and stood silently in the cold wind until we were given instructions. Talking was allowed at Hephzibah House IF it was an approved talking activity, IF you talked to only those girls named on your Talking List. IF you talked loud enough and clear enough for staff to hear everything you said, and IF you only discussed specifically approved and edifying subjects.

We waited silently, careful to keep our faces towards Miss Diana who was talking to Pastor Williams. Pastor Williams was wearing hip waders that were held up by thick suspenders and looked more farmer than pastor as he chewed on a piece of grass and adjusted his hat.

“That’s what I need, ‘GIRL POWER!’ †He smiled like Gomer Pyle and affected a prissy arm flex.

As always he seemed enormously pleased with himself. .

Spring came early to Indiana that year and the small creek that ran across the back of the property was flooding its banks. I am not sure what was wrong with the septic system but it was malfunctioning and emptying into the garden area that was down a steep slope from the septic tank. The septic overflow mingled with the spring thaw leaving the garden a slew of mud and waste. .

Miss Diana motioned for us and we were told that Pastor Williams had to turn the tainted soil but could not propel the Roto-tiller through the wet slop. We were to grab the ropes he had tied to the tiller and pull the machine as he controlled it. We stepped inside the make-shift harness and I glanced at our thin sneakers and then at his waders. I sighed in resignation, it was not as if we could refuse. I took a deep breathe and stepped behind Connie into the waste and mud. Immediately I sank halfway to my knees.

Yards of heavy polyester knit fabric turned into lead weights as it soaked up the filthy water and threatened to slip right off my body. My hands were occupied with the rope so I clamped my elbows down on the fabric at my waist. At Hephzibah House a wardrobe malfunction was never innocent or unintentional. Exposing even a hint of skin at my waist would be considered deliberate seduction. The punishment, severe.

It was difficult to keep my balance as I pulled one foot after the other out of the sucking mess. My drenched culottes hopelessly tangling with each step. I threw my body weight into the rope and strained for all I worth. Strong and determined Connie was beside me doing the same thing.

Nothing happened.

We paused, and with a nod of agreement we counted to three and heaved in unison.

Ron Williams let out a huge triumphant yell,


The tiller was moving. We now had momentum on our side, but moving our feet through the slime was treacherous. Connie was the first to fall. She went down hard on her knee and would have landed face first in the filth if she had not dropped the rope and caught herself with her hands. I reached out and grabbed her arm hoisting her upright. It was disgusting. The smell made your eyes water and Connie was now dripping. I met her eyes. I expected her to be crying but she was smiling with a conspiratory glint in her large hazel eyes.

She shook the filth off her hands and grabbed her now soaked rope. Looking towards Miss Diana who was watching us from the garden edge she smiled and keeping her eyes straight ahead she explained in a sing song-y voice that no one could hear what we were saying over the Roto tiller’s motor. Just to be safe we punctuated the afternoon with songs and quoting Scripture but we were able to speak freely, to talk about our families, our dreams, our fears. Subjects that were taboo at Hephzibah house.

Williams, behind us was in a different world and having a grand old time. He could not hear us clearly, but his voice boomed above the motor. He made jokes about having a matched set of high stepping fillies and at one point yelled out that he would help us out and save us the effort of grunting and groaning. He then proceeded to loudly groan and moan and gasp. Making a mockery of the incredible effort it took to pull his tiller as if we were no more than beasts of burden. Pastor Williams trotted behind us well protected in his waders while Connie and I had to practically crawl through the contaminated mud.

I noticed Connie was breathing funny. My brother had been asthmatic and I recognized the sound of a wheeze. I asked her about it and in bits and pieces she told me how she was asthmatic and had an inhaler when she arrived at Hephzibah house. Her inhalers had all been confiscated and she had had a couple severe attacks when she first arrived. She told me how she had been on her knees begging and pleading for her inhaler. She described her fear and panic as she struggled for each breathe, each inhalation clamping her lungs down tighter and tighter. Certain she was going to die, she stopped fighting and held her head in her hands, willing herself to relax. Little by little as her jagged gasps slowed and she sucked in the precious air she became aware of the staff saying she was just being dramatic and if she had enough breath to ask for her inhaler she did not need it. I was speechless. What if she had died?? What if they had waited too long??

Typical of Connie’s affable, unflappable nature she chuckled and admitted the laugh was on her. She had not had a full blown asthma attack in several months.

I was not so sure. I watched her ragged breathing and her nostrils flare. I thought of the inhaler locked away in a closet some 5 miles away at the house where we slept. I prayed with every gulp of the wretched, foul air that she would continue to breathe right along with me.

By the time we finished tilling that garden Connie and I had fallen several times and were both completely covered in the most unspeakable filth.

Ron Williams stepped out of his waders dry and clean and prattled on and on while I took off my glasses and searched for a clean spot on my shirt tail to wipe off the lenses.

We were wet and shaking with cold. Our feet were numb, our hands were sore and blistered. It had been a good day I reflected as I sat in blissful rest next to my new friend.

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My wife doesn't have reliable internet where she is right now so I am helping her. My daughter got the writings posted to my wife's site and I reposted them here because I may not be smart enough to maintain the website :doh: but I can do this :clap:

for more sorrow, you can read more here.


Thank you for reading.

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