He was not the type who usually came into her little shop. She had handmade quilts, lace, and crocheted caps and mufflers, things like that. Usually it was a wife and mother with little ones’ faces buried in her skirts who dropped by to pick up something she just could not get done on her own. They were always slightly embarrassed, because a good wife and mother would get all the cooking and darning and knitting done as well as have a new quilt made for each winter. She’d say how hard it was to raise a family, offer some sort of nicety to ease the sting. Sometimes there would be a single man who’d come by, often older, a widower, perhaps, who needed to stock up on items to keep house. Once a young man come by to buy a quilt for his sister’s hope chest—she was to be married in a month. She thought that was right nice. But this man did not look like he kept a good house. As he staggered in it was quite clear to her that he was not only dirty, but stinking drunk.
“May I help you, sir?” she asked, rising from her rocker next to the potbellied stove. He muttered something that she could not understand. He looked at her and managed to focus his eyes.
“So you’re the new woman in town,” he said, lurching forward.
“Yes, I’ve just recently arrived. Is there something I can get you?”
“No husband, nor other family,” he said, grinning in a very ugly way.
“If you’re not here to purchase…” she managed to say before he reached out and pawed at her shirtwaist. She gasped and stepped back, but he just kept coming forward. She felt the stove tools in their stand against the back of her leg, grabbed one, and thrust it toward the man.
“Huh!” She had just poked him in the belly with the poker. He stood there.
She was utterly petrified. She was indeed alone, and had no idea what to do. She could not think. She lifted the poker and brought it down right on the man’s head. The bar made a thunk against his scalp.
“Ah!” he yelped. He stepped back. The poker was down by her side now, and she swung it up in a sweeping arc and caught him sideways in the neck this time.
“Unh!” was what he said, and he turned and lurched for the door. She lunged and stabbed him in the back. Then she followed him out. She still was not thinking, she just kept swinging the poker and noticing the man’s cries when she made contact. Someone grabbed her from behind and held her arms down by her side—she wasn’t sure who it was. The man fell.
“Damn!” said the man holding her still. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord!”