Trouble Down South Art Challenge
Painting No. 9
Here is another painting on the theme of slavery for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge with Leslie Saeta. My paintings are reflective of the stories in my Trouble Down South and Other Stories short story collection and my novel Bootlegger Haze (Books One and Two).
This is a painting of an arsenic jar, containing a poison used in a dish that Rubeline, a slave, prepared for her horrid mistress. The painting was inspired by my short story “Missus Buck–Part Two (A Short Story)” in which slaves are subjected to treacherous treatment at the hands of their master’s mother. She wreaks havoc on the slaves, forcing the feisty slave Rubeline to take action in her own way. Here is an excerpt from “Missus Buck–Part Two (A Short Story).
For the last two weeks, Horatio helped out in the kitchen while Victor was preoccupied with learning to play the piano. Horatio was learning all aspects of cooking and cleaning from Rubeline and Aunt Virginny. He even learned some secrets of making elaborate dishes from the leanest cuts of meats, those fitting for the refined taste of Missus Buck. Horatio missed Victor, but only for brief moments. He was learning so much from Rubeline that before he knew it, the time seemed to just fly by. In the evenings, he was entertained by Rubeline and Aunt Virginny who filled his head with wild stories of ghouls and goblins, rendering Horatio practically an insomniac, his refusing to go to sleep for hours for fear of being snatched up and taken away by ghastly demons in the night.
Rubeline took a box of arsenic from the kitchen cabinet used to kill rats under the front porch and in the barns out back of the house. She placed the box on the counter. It had a prominent image of a skeleton’s head with crossbones on it. The rats had become a great nuisance the previous year, ruining much of the grain stored in the bins and the sweet potatoes and white potatoes kept in baskets under the barn shelter. The pesky critters ransacked much of the food products needed to prepare meals for the Massa’s table and for the slaves in the fields, and Rubeline did what needed to be done to rid them of the violators. Horatio watched intently one day as Rubeline mixed the contents with water and sugar and poured it strategically around the base of the house. She warned Horatio to never touch the box, for the contents could cause immediate death.
Aunt Virginny headed out back to bring in a basket of potatoes to prepare to peel. Horatio noticed the box with the skull and crossbones and figured Rubeline was preparing to kill more rodents, but Rubeline never mixed the contents with water and sugar as she had done before.
Rubeline set Horatio down at the kitchen table to help snap some peas and shell a basket of butter beans, something he thoroughly enjoyed. Aunt Virginny returned to the kitchen, washed two batches of potatoes, and began to peel them. Rubeline cut up the opossum into small sections and placed them in a cast-iron skillet hung on a metal nail over the fireplace. She poured enough water into the pot to cover the meat sections and slid the lid over the top and let it simmer over the fireplace. Horatio was becoming a good helper for Aunt Virginny and Rubeliine who took him under their wings, especially shielding him from the brashness of Missus Buck.
As the day wore on, Rubeline finished preparing all the vegetables for the stew and in a separate pot let them simmer over the fireplace. It wouldn’t take as long for them to cook and be added to the opossum stew. By one that afternoon, the food was almost ready to serve. Missus Buck had requested that she and Victor be served in the parlor near the piano so as not to interrupt Victor’s lessons.
When the stew was ready, Rubeline sent Aunt Virginny down to the lunch yard with a pot of stew to feed the field hands and told Horatio to go with her and help. Horatio wanted to see Victor play the piano and decided to stay with Rubeline who had not seen him standing at the back kitchen door watching as she prepared two trays for opossum stew, potatoes, and cornbread. She set the trays down and reached for the box with the skull and crossbones on it. Rubeline scooped a small spoonful into one of the bowls of stew and set the box on top of the cabinet. Horatio knew what the contents of that box could do. He knew it killed the rats, many of the rats that ran around the barns and under the house. He wondered why Rubeline would put it in the stew. Rubeline, unaware that Horatio had seen her, picked up the trays of food and headed for the parlor, Horatio following behind unnoticed.
Rubeline entered the parlor and set the tray meant of Victor on a small table designed especially for him. Then she placed the tray for Missus Buck who was seated on the sofa on the coffee table in front of her. She made sure the bowl with the spoonful of the arsenic was set in front of Missus Buck.
Prints are available for purchase of the painting “Arsenic Poisoning.” Prints are available in sizes 8 x 10, 11 x 14, and 16 x 20 inches (unframed). Email Katrina Williams at stepartdesigns at hotmail dot com for prices.
Check out the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge with Leslie Saeta–http://www.lesliesaeta.blogspot.com/.
I am an artist and an author of southern and historical fiction and short stories. View all my artwork on my artist page at Daily Paintworks.
Check out more of my artwork at my Art Blog–KPWms Art Studio.