This Dark World / Higher Ground
A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost
by Carolyn S Briggs
'Carolyn Briggs writes with unflinching honesty
and the remarkable story she tells cuts to
the marrow. Her journey rewards with a clarity
of insight that is itw own grace and redemption.
This is a work that truly enlarges the human
Excerpt from This Dark World - Chapter One — "Lost"
I was perceptive enough, even then, to doubt I could save myself. I spent the first sixteen years of my life being the short girl, the one who looked like a little kid, the one to whom grown-ups used baby talk even when I was in junior high. My grandmother called me a dwarf once, simply a joke, but in her remark, I heard a slip. I knew there had actually been a dwarf in our family, some relative of Grandma’s from Missouri. I had seen pictures of him wearing tiny overalls and holding a pipe in his short, fat fingers. I was convinced that Grandma had let out the family secret. And when a travelling salesman stopped at our house with a child-size accordion, it appeared my fate was sealed.
The salesman was from Duluth. He strapped the silver-and-red monstrosity over my shoulder, stood behind me, and put his large, doughy fingers on top of mine. He pressed my finger onto the keys. Up and down the scale we went; Mary had a little lamb…” we went and all the while he stretched the accordion apart and then pushed it back together. I could smell coffee and cigarettes on his breath and feel the scratchy lapel of his suit on my cheek. I felt swallowed whole, as if I had disappeared right inside the salesman. By the time we were done with our recital, he turned to Mother with great excitement. “She’s got real talent, ma’am,” he said. “You don’t see this kind of natural ability very often.” Mother politely asked for prices and terms while I stood with my arms at my side, looking down at the gleaming white keys and the rows of tiny silver buttons.
It was cold and silent in the kitchen again, no whoosh of air and coffee, just me in my saddle shoes trying to keep from toppling over. “And she might like to make it a career, you never know. Tiny little girl like that playing an accordion, well, that’d really be something,” he was saying. I pictured myself a thirty-year-old dwarf with an accordion strapped to my chest. Little children staring and mother trying to turn them away while my sturdy little legs tapped out time, my hand flying up and down the keyboard. I would work the the circus, probably, and I would have a clever name: Tiny Tina or Midge the Midget.
Mother turned the salesman down. “I just don’t think we can afford it,” she said softly. The salesman shook his head in regret. “I hate to see you pass up this opportunity, ma’am. I really do. How about you, short stuff? Don’t you want to play the accordion?” “No,” I whispered. “It’s too heavy.” Tears sprang to my eyes then. The burden of looking out for myself seemed almost too much to bear.