The nineteenth of May was kind to Kansas, weather-wise. Sweet Ada Fisher went out walking, digging the heels of her boots into the moist earth, wandering but not alone, never alone, always accompanied by ghosts. Ada knew ghosts and she took orders from them. Glancing right, she’d smile, tuck her ear toward the open air atop her shoulder and listen to the unnamed, the unseen, until she had a reason to move or a reason to speak. Till then she was still as a post and just as quiet.
That same day turned unkind to Ada, who had never been a mother, despite always wanting to be. Upon seeing a baby alone on a clapboard porch while out walking, she was ordered by her ghosts to seize it for her own. Ada wrapped the baby in a blanket and held it in her arms. She believed with all her might that it was her very own womb that carried this baby into being.
Only hours after she had brought the baby home and fed it cow’s milk; after she had tied a ribbon around its big toe for the baby to reach down and play with; and after Ada had rocked the baby to sleep, the Treece, Kansas police, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts came knocking on her door, searching for the missing baby.
Ada had nothing to hide. She opened the door for them with the baby straightaway in her arms. They asked her if this was her baby and she said yes. They asked her for the name of the baby and she said Eleanor. They asked if the father of the baby was at home. There is no father, she said. Gone and left, they asked. Never was here, she said.
I won’t go calmly, I heard her say as the police took the baby away from her. She screamed, and the police put a potion onto a rag for her to sniff in order to get her into the buggy.
The legal punishment for Ada was lenient, but it’s true that whatever darkness had taken her over before she met the baby has only gripped a stronger hold on her since that day. She no longer walks the path by her house. She picks grasshoppers from her yard and saves them in postal envelopes. She doesn’t look in the direction of neighboring children. She keeps her head toward the ground most of the time. But even if she is a grown woman with an infantile mind, the neighbors call her Sweet Ada Fisher because she is first and foremost a kindhearted soul, meaning no harm. She only wants a baby of her own, and that kind of want can produce darkness in a woman.