Mary Tryphena was four years old when her sister was born. She’d been told so little about life at the time she didn’t even know her mother was pregnant. Her father walking her into the backcountry as far as Nigger Ralph’s Pond one morning, showing her how to catch spanny-tickles in the shallows with the dip net of her palms. The infant girl asleep in her mother’s arms when her grandmother came to fetch them back to the house that evening.—Who is that? Mary Tryphena asked.
—This is your sister, Eathna, her mother said.—Found her in the turnip patch, naked as a fish.
It seemed too fanciful a notion to credit but she had to admit there was something vaguely turniplike about the bruised and nearly bald head of the child, the vulgar purple and pale white of the skin.