Barret remembers his childhood, and why he voted yes to Mako. Drabbly.
He's not very good at rememberin' - all the memories of his short childhood are sepia-toned and dusty, brief snapshots taken through a smog-smeared windowpane - but the things that do spring to Barret's mind when he is pressed to recall them are quite enough to make the big man plant his feet in and balk when others start to talk of rejecting the Shinra Company's offer.
He remembers his daddy coming home every evening at six covered in coal dust and sweat, a huge black shadow silhouetted against the orange of sunset and the dusky purple of the ever-looming Corel Range. Eli Wallace had such dark skin you couldn't even tell about the soot, really ... not until you saw it dripping off his nose into the dust of the street, anyways. There was usually a splotchy trail of coal-dust-sweat leading all the way from the mines to their front porch, if you cared to follow it that far. Daddy Wallace used to laugh and say it looked like all his color was comin' off, especially when Mamma got out the washbucket and made him scrub down before coming inside the house.
"You can drip your color all you want out there, Eli Wallace," she would always say, "But you get any of that smut inside my house and your ass is going to be black and blue, just you wait and see."
And then Daddy would laugh his deep booming laugh and splash well-water all over the front stoop, trickles and rivulets and miniature waterfalls of inky wetness sluicing off him and into the dirt of the pathway below. That was Barret's favorite part of the day, Mamma making dinner inside and Daddy washing himself off in the cool evening air and all the brothers and sisters getting underfoot and laughter floating everywhere on the nighttime breeze ...
It was the only time he ever saw either of them laugh. Usually Daddy was too tired from working in the mines all day to do much more than come home, wash himself, eat by candlelight and go straight to bed afterwards. When he came down with the cough even eating and sleeping became a chore; more and more Barret would hear the screen door squeak open late at night, followed by a mighty bout of coughing and retching just outside that made the boy stuff the feather pillow over his head to block out the awful gagging noises that never seemed to let up for hours and hours on end.
By the end of it his big burly poppa had hollows where his cheeks had been, and he didn't laugh no more. He lay there in the big four-poster bed with his sightless, glazed eyes boring a hole through the cabin's roof, and the only time he ever made a noise was when he was coughin' up blood-flecked black froth onto Mamma's nice clean counterpane, stitched many years before. They put him in the ground wrapped up in that quilt - with the stains on it like there were, there wasn't much other use for it, really.
They buried Daddy in the biggest goddamned casket Barret had ever seen. That was Barret's final memory of his daddy, lying in that big ol' coffin that could have held a damned piano if it hadn't been holding Eli Wallace instead.
He remembers his Mamma too, flared calico skirts and an all-embracing presence that smelled of cinnamon and apples and lye and cheap perfume and not unpleasantly of sweat. She had wanted so badly to send her oldest boy to school in Costa Del Sol, where he could get a proper education and make something of himself outside the world of Corel and its mines. Unfortunately he had been needed to take care of his younger siblings while Mamma scrubbed the floors and cooked the beans and hung washing out to dry; she had promised he would go to that fancy school when things got better, but then Daddy had gotten sick and Barret had been needed around the house more than ever. When her husband finally died Willie-May Wallace had been a broken shell of the pretty woman her son remembered. The smooth, soft, coffee-and-cream-colored skin had gotten wrinkled and weathered very fast, tender hands chafing and chapping from being in a bucket of soapy water day-in day-out in case her beloved's mouth needed wiping when he coughed up that sticky black sputum all over himself. She had threatened her man with ten thousand different kinds of hell if he ever got coal dust inside her spotless house, but once the coughing fits really got bad she seemed to forget those words awfully quick.
There had been no schooling for Barret, and not much of a life for Mamma after Daddy passed on. She worked cleaning other people's houses to get the bills paid, but scrubbing one house free of soot and smut in Corel had been enough of a strain as it was. She died soon after her husband, nails blackened with the stuff, fingers twisted into weird and unnatural shapes from a lifetime of doing other people's chores. All she left Barret was the ability to read, a laboriously-taught skill doled out when the harried woman had the time to sit on the front porch step with a slate and a bit of chalk and try to teach him for a few minutes every other day. It wasn't much, but it was somethin'.
From that point on Barret had been the bread-winner for his siblings, desperately working in the coal mines so his brothers and sisters wouldn't have to. Most of them had left town when they got old enough (and he didn't blame them a damned bit for that), but Barret stayed, working in the mines like his daddy and carefully tending the flowers on his parents' rocky graves whenever he had the chance. Myrna had brought some colour into his dour, dirty world, and he would always be thankful for that, but the image of his father gasping out the lining of his lungs onto a white pillowcase while Mamma sat patiently by with a dishrag clutched in her tired hands haunted his dreams. He wouldn't have the same fate befall them/, no goddamned motherfuckin' way. If there was a path out of that damned warren he was gonna grab Myrna by the waist and run for it the way you ran for an opening during a cave-in, with all the energy he had. There /had to be something that could both revitalize his much-beloved hometown and keep them out of the colliery pits, he had thought and hoped so many times ...
And here it is, in sky-blue uniforms and a candy-apple red dress, in big confusing blueprints and wheedling words about the power and opportunity Mako can give. And Dyne wants him to just tell them to fuck off so they can all go back to scraping by lantern-light until they give out and /die/?
He stands from his place on the sofa, mindful of Myrna's hand saying mind your temper honey on his knee. Barret will mind his temper for her, sure, but is he gonna vote against the reactor and the only hope they have because his best friend just got a sentimental streak?
No goddamned way.