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Authors: Lee Smith

Tags: #Historical, #Adult

Fair and Tender Ladies (10 page)

BOOK: Fair and Tender Ladies
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We was all going berry picking up on Blue Star Mountain wich is what you do come August, it was me and Silvaney and Ethel and Oakley Fox and a whole bunch of Conaways that had clumb up here from Home Creek, they is a famous berry patch away up ther by the rocky-clifts that everbody has heerd tell of. We took off carrying buckets, and the Conaways had them some sacks althogh Momma said,
A sack is no good for berrys.
Well we took off walking up the path past Pilgrim Knob wher we seed a snake, it wernt nothing but a blacksnake, mind you, come sliding acrost the path, and Silvaney starts up hollering and then ligts out for home.
Drop yor pail, leave yor pail honey,
the Conaways hollerd, and we heerd it falling, and they scrambled down and got it and took it on. She is scarred to death of a snake. Well Silvaney is scarred of everthing, you know how Silvaney is.
So then it is just me and Ethel and Oakley and Ray Fox and the Conaway boys, and we clumb up ther, and it was hot as hell going up that path until we got up a ways and then it started cooling off and getting better. The Conaway boys was funning us, they wuld holler Snake, snake, watch out honey its a snake, and such as that. They are big old fat boys now and one of thems face is all broke out terible. Oakley clumb ahead with a snake stick. They was butterflys flying around us, and little flowers everwhere, Indian paintbrush and jack in the pulpit and I dont know what all. I was glad I had wore a bonnet, the sun was so hot on my head. Well we got up ther direckly, and insted of going strate on up by the chestnut trees, Oakley taken us off on this other path that goes to the side where they is a long ridge and a rocky-clift going around it over towards Hell Mountain. Berrys will grow good by a rocky-clift, in sunshine.
Pretty soon we are there and Lord it is true, you have never seed so many blackberrys, just glissening in the sun. Hoo ha! the Conaway boys hollered, and they must of eat for ten minutes sollid afore they even started picking. So we got ahead of them, me and Ethel, and we had our buckets full while they was still going at it.
I belive I will just lay down rigt here and rest a minit, Ethel says, and she lays down in the shade of a junipper, but I say, Well I will walk up this ridge a minit, dont nobody leave without me, and I done so.
The air felt so good up ther Molly, a little breeze come along and cooled me off. It is the highest up I have ever been on Blue Star Mountain so far, I aint never gone plum to the top. I took off my bonnet and looked around. All the leaves was that deep dark shiny green they get rigt at the end of summer, like they are putting on the last act of a show wich in a way they are, I reckon. I had brung a handfull of berrys along and I was eating them one by one, ever time I ate one it was like a reglar explosion in my mouth.
Then I seed a shadder over ther behind the bushes, and when I got up close to it, it was a cave sure enogh, and I went over ther and poked my head in. It was black as nigt in ther, you culdnt see nothing atall, but it felt like it migt be a good sized cave.
I said and my voice come back to me,
Hello hello hello.
So I stepped in ther.
I said agin, and this time, somebody rigt behind me said,
Hello Ivy.
Well I spun around like a top belive you me but I culdnt see nothing for a minit, the sun out ther was glarring so it blinded me, but it was the black form of somebody all rigt, and he come up and took me by the sholders, and it was Oakley Fox.
You better come out of here now Ivy, we are fixing to go, its not safe nether, said Oakley Fox. My hart was just racing. He had liked to of scarred me to death, but I wasnt going to let on of coarse, so I said, Well then, what are we waiting for?
But Oakley just stood ther holding onto my sholders, and then he stepped up even closer and before I had any inkling what he was up to, he was kissing me. It may be that Oakley did not know what he was up to nether.
Well Molly I just stood ther with my mouth open while he was kissing me and did not close my eyes, and Oakley Fox did not close his eyes nether. Do you rember how we wonderd where you wuld put your tonge, I do not know the anser to this questin yet. We did not get to the tonge part. This kiss was not a bit bad nor was it good ether as I said, and it was not a thing like anything else that has ever happend to me before, I will say that. It culd not of lasted hardly a minit, but it seems to me like it went on for about a year! When he was done kissing me, Oakley kind of stumbled back out in the sun like he was drunk and I came too, and he turned and walked ahead of me back to wher the others were waiting. We walked that ridge with nary a word, but I seed that somehow I had got berry juice all over my skirt and on Oakleys shirt too, I gess I had squashed them in my hand when we was kissing. I knowed that Momma wuld have a fit about the berrystains, wich she has done. You cant get a berrystain out to save your neck.
We went on down the mountain, and it was hard work carrying all them berrys and we was plum tuckered out when we got to the house, but Oakley and them just took a drink of water and went on. I looked at Oakley good wile he was drinking. He is a serios boy and he is not a bad looking boy nether, but he is not Lochinvar. Do you rember,
so daring in love, and so dauntless in war, have ye err heerd of gallant like young Lochinvar?
I think that Lochinvars hair wuld stand out around his face like the rays of the sun. Oakley has got brown hair.
After we came down the mountain I culd not look strate at him, for the life of me. I had to look at him while he was drinking.
Oh Molly, do you rember that time we put out the pans of cornmeal with the slugs in them and left them overnigt like Granny toled us, to spell out the firstest letters of who all we wuld mary? And yourn was SL and mine was SS and Ethel said, May be a slug dont know no letters but S? I am going to mary somebody that makes me feel like a poem thats for sartin, not Oakley Fox. Oakley finished drinking and grinned like he allus grinned, then I knowed he never wuld mention that kiss agin in this world, nor wuld I, it was like a streak of lightning or like nothing, like something that did not happen.
Now Molly, do you think I am evil?
Has anybody kissed you yet?
I am sorry to hear that yor momma is still laying up in the hospital, I am sorry you do not like the German lady, she sounds terible. When will you go to yor new school, are you exited? I will ask Mrs. Brown, What is a nun?
Please write to me soon for I remane forever yor best friend,
My dear Molly,
Yor trip to New York City sounds like a dream. Also it seems to me that yor Father cannot be so mean if he takes you on such a big trip and bys you everthing, I wuld try to love him some if I was you. I am sorry to here that your Momma is worser. I am sorry that you do not like your new school with the nuns, it sounds grate to me with books and gray dresses, I wuld love so to have a gray dress with a white coller as you tell. I do not belive that they are maried to Jesus thogh, it does not seem like a good idea atall, they must be as crazy as my auntie Tenessee. Oh and Molly I love yor new pink stationary, did you by it in New York City? And I am so happy to have a real frend to write to, let us be best frends and pen frends always whatever befalls.
Yes yor aunties school has started up agin I am toled, I can not go to it now, nor never I sometimes think althogh I can not stand to think this. It is like a big hot black cloud has come down on my sole. It seems to me now like all our long blue springtime was a dream. Do you rember when Mister Brown took us down to the Levisa swimming and you wore yor Bathing Costume? Do you rember our play about the Queen and the errant night? It seems to me like years and years ago.
It is dog days here. This is when its hot as hell day after day and everthing is dying in the garden and iffen you get sick, or get you a sore place, it wont heal up unlessen the dog days is over. I have to say, we are not doing so good here now, none of usuns is what you wuld call gayly in these days. Danny is doing the worstest. He wont eat hardly a thing and he is growing so puny.
Momma and me and Ethel taken him over to old Doc Trout he says Danny has got a weakness of the blood it seems to him, he dont think ther is anything to be done for it.
Wate and see,
Doc Trout says. He smelt like likker the day we was in ther, they say he drinks to much but he is smart. He give us all a peppermint stick and a tonick for Danny, he says, This is free of charge, now you all let me know how he is doing, and little Danny just smiled, he is the cutest thing. I do not think I will have any children ever as they will brake yor hart. Wile Momma and me and Ethel was down ther in Majestic, we sent word to Victor to come on home and holp us. Now this was the start of all our trubles as I will relate.
But wile we was in the store down ther, Mister Branham who runs the store he says, Now Maude, you know my old woman is poorly so we culd use a girl around the house I reckon, to sweep up and watch the baby and such as that, I will pay her a little I reckon, now what do you say? And Momma said,
Ethel will come.
I was thinking of the otherun, Mister Branham said, meaning me, and Molly my hart leaped up I have to say, for I wanted so to come. But Momma says, Cant nobody but Ivy do a thing with Silvaney, I have to keep Ivy at home, and so it was desided and Ethel stayed down ther with Mister and Mrs. Branham they have the gray house on the corner next to the Methodist Church. The last I seen of Ethel, she was sweeping ther front walk and grinning like crazy.
So Momma and me taken little Danny back up on the mountain, and he is taken his tonick, it dont seem to do no good. I miss Ethel moren I thoght, and ever day the sun comes up so hot like a ball of fire, and dust devils dance in the yard. When I look down the holler its like it is shimmying, its so hot. But that aint all.
The worst is that Babe is back.
Now this is my eldest brother Clarence Wayne Rowe, he come up here and toled us that the message come for Victor but Victor cant come, he is gone off with the lumber company out West, so Babe reckons
will come home and stay a spell! Beulah says she heerd that Babe got fired, this is how come him to leave over ther at Poorbottom, but dont nobody know for sure, nor know what Babe is up to nether. It is all that Beulah and Momma and me can do to look after the littluns and hoe the corn and such as that, and Babe is in and out all the time now, he dont do no real work nor lift his hand in the garden. He says he has got business everwhere but he dont say what this business is, we know it is something bad.
I hate it when Babe is here. It is like a dark wind blowing down from the mountain and filling up the house when he is here, he is so mean, he slapped the fire out of Garnie for getting in his way and talks mean to Momma.
One nigt it was so hot I culdnt sleep good and so I got up and went out on the porch and Babe was sitting out ther drinking by hisself and he said, Well looky here it is Ivy, come over here honey and sit down, and I shuld of knowed better but it was hot and dark out ther and sometimes when you get up in the nigt your lonesome, and think that things is diffrent from what they are. Come out here and set with me Ivy, Babe said and in the dark his voice sounded just like Daddys. Then Babe lit a cigaret and when the match flarred up his face looked like Revels face. Babes face looks like Revels a lot in general but twisted, everthing is sligtly out of whack. But in the ligt of the match he looked like Revel for an instant, and my hart went soft.
What are you up to anyway, Babe? I asked him.
And he said Well Ivy, Ive got some prospects, and he laghed, and so I laghed to and then he said, Your sure growing up pretty honey and tuched me on the titty. I jumped up and spit in his face and ran in the house but I culd heer him laghing, laghing after me.
Shoot fire, I didnt mean nothing by that Ivy, Babe said to me the next day, I was just fooling with you, your as bad as Silvaney, scarred of shadders and clouds, I aint never seed the beat of you all.
Momma says we need Babe rigt now to hall the water and get in the corn, that it is life and death wether we can hold onto this land or not, but he dont holp much it seems to me. He is gone for days, I am glad when he leves, and since Ethel is gone now, Silvaney is acting so funny I do not mean funny ha ha nether. Beulah is tired so much, she is nursing that baby and working her hands to the bone, mooning over Curtis Bostick. She migt have a baby but she still has a broken hart.
Molly Molly I miss you so. I think of you in school with your gray dress and the white coller and the bells that ring evry hour, please think of me. Sometimes lately it thunders and lightnings way off in the sky but this dont mean much, it is not a thing but heat lightning, it will be dog days forever it seems with Babe filling up this house with his cigaret smoke and the smell of swet for he dont ware a shirt half the time. Oh Molly this heat pushes down on my head and the heat lightning dont mean a thing. But think of me some for I remane yor devoted frend,
BOOK: Fair and Tender Ladies
12.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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