Mary Ruth had been alive for one hundred and two years, and she knew things she shouldn’t know. She knew where the fairy rings of mushrooms sprouted in the woods. She knew that twenty years ago, Mr. Wilkins the shopkeep had been operating a still on his land. She knew why Ms. Perry, the beautiful young war widow, had died at the bottom of a cliff, and why that handsome new Reverend Taylor had run off.
She also knew how to keep her mouth shut. She knew the value of silence, and the value of listening. And sometime in her sixtieth year when she stopped being Mary Ruth to most of the town and simply became Gramma Ruth, she didn't forget quiet. She would sit in her rocking chair with her strong tea and her watered whiskey, and listen as everyone in the town came to pour their heart to her. Some wanted advice, some words, a blessing, or even sometimes a curse.
Most of them got silence, which was all they truly wanted in the end. They'd thank her, bring her a new shawl or a hock of salted pork, and go home lighter and freer. Gramma Ruth grew heavy with the secrets and the sorrows of the town, but that was her wont and her place.
She became the sin-eater for everyone around her, and that was fine. She knew things, things better kept secret. Things that would stop the fine wheels of this ton, and force everything to come crashing down. But that wouldn't do. She knew the secrets of many different herbs, and had often give them to young girls come to ask for help. Mothers and daughters and granddaughters in a single family, all without a word, but with a knowing look. She knew the secrets of long life.
But that was ending, she was done. She could go on, but did not want to. So when the serious and quiet young girl came to her with no problem at all, Gramma Ruth stood and said "you."