FOR THE LOVE OF HORTENSE
BY - NANCY TERRELL
Many years ago, I recall it was sometime in the early 1990s, I read a story that deeply impressed me. Somehow I misplaced the story or failed to remember its title, as I often do that when I become so absorbed in a tale that it takes my entire concentration. Anyway, we were anchored in North Sound, Virgin Gorda – one of the many lovely anchorages of the British Virgin Islands. My lover had gone to Road Town for a few days to work and I was left alone on our 37’ sloop, Antares, where I had the delight of spending my days as I chose. With a good toddy and an absorbing book of short stories I fell into our hammock and began my leisure.
I remember the story in its entirety but not in its particulars so I will take the liberty of recalling it for you here as my memory best serves me. It took place in one of the northeastern states, I think it was Vermont; the era was at the turn of the 20th century, when times were slow, money was scarce and hard earned, and the weather determined not only your crops but your state of affairs.
There was a sickly middle-aged woman with several children. As is so often in stories of the less fortunate, her husband had left her and money was scarce. All of the children but one worked as best they could to provide for their ill mother – running errands when they were smaller – working in the local garment factory when they were older, say eleven or so. One of the girls was a plump young thing who had the most beautiful face. Named after her maternal grandmother, Hortense, she was chosen by the others to stay home and nurse her mother, cook, sew and manage the house and finances. At these things she became quite efficient but despite the loving care she gave to her mother she soon died.
Hortense’s brother and sisters grew to maturity and soon left home to start families of their own leaving their, now fat sister, to stay and manage the small home where she had lived all of her life. Being so big that she could not really work, Hortense took to growing vegetables, cooking and canning, baking and preserving so that she would always have something to eat. She did not like going to the nearest town to shop and walking, at her size, was much too uncomfortable and slow; so kindly neighbors, who had known the family for years, would buy her staples in town and deliver her wood. In this way she kept to herself, spending most of her time in bed reading and snacking.
The summer of her twentieth year she decided to have a vegetable & lemonade stand in front of her frame house and offer passers by refreshments in order to raise a little cash for herself. It was during that summer that a travelling salesman visited the stand, bought some lemonade and promptly fell in love with the beautiful Hortense. Her weight didn’t bother him at all for her lovely demeanor and manners coupled with her serenity held her in his highest esteem. After several trips by, within several hot days, he noticed that she lived alone and asked her if she needed any help with her chores. Now Hortense may have been pushing the scales on her weight but there was certainly nothing wrong with her brain. Needing a man to do many of the chores, including going to town, she replied that indeed she not only needed, but would enjoy having a man around.
Albert, for that was his name as his mother had loved smoking Prince Albert cigars, moved in and began making Hortense’s home his domain. He took a job at a nearby factory so that he could be near his new love. Driving to work one day Albert was so lost in reverie about the softness of Hortense’s body, for it had rarely seen the sun as Hortense was always covered from head to toe while working in her garden; her face securely veiled. Consequentally, her skin was as pure white as a babe’s; thinking these thoughts, Albert unfortunately collided with a tractor severally damaging his car beyond repair while returning from work one day. As insurance was not available in those days he took the car as a total loss and walked to work.
Hortense’s mother had been so ill that she had never been told about matters concerning love and the body. Therefore, when Albert began making love to her on their bed one evening she had no mental restrictions, apprehensions or expectations. He treasured her body so deeply that he was always thoughtful and kind, loving to see her swoon as he tickled her private parts with his tongue. Hortense loved Albert deeply. Having lived at home all of her life she did not know about anything but a rural life and food. The more she was loved the happier she was and the more she ate. Albert loved Hortense’s many layers of flesh and used her folds creatively, just as he used her ample breasts. He was never in a hurry and the two would spend hours in bed each night.
Each afternoon, after a grueling day at the factory, Albert would walk home alone – consumed by thoughts of what he would do with, and to, Hortense that evening. Hortense didn’t talk a lot but in their few conversations Albert gathered that his love had been ill as a child and could never either menstruate or have children. This delighted him as he had no intentions of sharing his love, either mentally or physically, with anyone else – neighbors, children or Hortense’s siblings.
Year by year the two became more isolated and Hortense’s weight increased until she could barely get out of bed - only for bathing and private matters. And each night, as Albert walked home from the factory, he would obsess about Hortense’s sensuality and what they would do that night. Sparkling granite rocks lined the road that Albert traveled and it seemed to him that their shine led a path right to Hortense’s doorway – a sign that what awaited him inside was indeed a gift from the gods of love – a signal that he was, indeed, on the right path in his life – work and love. Wasn’t that all that a man needed in life?
Hortense finally became so fat that she could no longer bathe herself – an occurrence that Albert totally enjoyed as he would wash in-between her many folds with his hands, with his penis and with his tongue. She would laugh and giggle as he did this with her bath sometimes taking hours to complete. Her climaxes were wonderful as she gave in to each touch of Albert’s enjoying his manipulations to her body to the fullest.
Albert had always loved sex – even as a child. Having grown up on a farm his happiest hours were watching animals couple. When he was nine his older brother brought home an Eight Page Bible, as it was called – a small book of photographs featuring fornication in many different positions and ways. This book fascinated him. Long after his brothers were asleep Albert would lie in bed and drool over the pictures as shown by candlelight. He memorized each position, adding his own variations with his sensual imagination. He had consequently made love with every girl he could find, whether young or older, innocent or promiscuous, beautiful or ugly, fat or thin during his teenaged years obviously becoming quite proficient in style and attitude – always delaying his climax for hours until he could at last stand it no longer. As one would expect, he was quite a hit with the ladies.
Hortense was different though. In her naivety she had no preconceived notions. She had her own home, with only the routine that he provided and the added advantage that no one was there to pass judgment on either of them. Their lovemaking hours each evening were just that - “theirs” with no interference from anyone.
In the early autumn, nine years after the two lovers became intimate and after a summer of intense sun, Albert arrived home one day to find Hortense sprawled on the floor – dead. She had obviously had a heart attack from carrying such an enormous amount of weight. As it was impossible to move the immense body to the bed he moved the bed to the floor where, over several days, he was able to inch her decaying body on top of it. During these days he had lovingly cleaned her body, making love to it all the while, but her lack of response and the ensuing stench drove him to call the local undertaker and have her body embalmed.
As was the custom in rural America, Hortense was buried next to her mother in the back yard. Tombstones were expensive then, as they are now, and Albert felt that nothing that was made locally was good enough to honor the memory of Hortense anyhow – so each day as he walked home from the factory he would gather one of the medium sized granite rocks that lined the road – gently placing it on Hortense’s grave until a monument took form.
Albert lived another fifty years and continued to work each day. His routine of bringing a rock home for Hortense’s memorial became his obsession with his memorial to Hortense becoming his passion. By the time he died, during the Depression of the 1930s, Hortense’s gravesite had become a state treasure with people going out of their way, during their travels, to visit the beautiful monument dedicated to a long forgotten women by her lover. Today it is listed as one of Vermont’s national treasures with Albert being buried at Hortense’s feet.