By F.J. Wilson
The Fairly place was a five-room cypress cabin built before God created light. It was a Cajun cabin with a large front porch and an outside staircase going up into the attic, or garconniere, the boy’s rooms; of which there were five of varying age. The front door opened directly into the large living room which led past the huge fireplace to the big country kitchen. To some it’d be called an open floor plan, but to the small community in south Mississippi was just an old log cabin that needed updating. There were two bedrooms off the living room; one for Ma and Pa Fairly and one for elderly Granny, Pa Fairly’s mother. The girls, five to be exact, slept on a variety of mats and quilts in the living room close to the fireplace in winter and closer to the front door in summer. The last repair to the house and yard was a split rail fence added in 1870. The yard was dirt; swept so clean by Fairly women and children over the years it was as hard and shiny as brown marble. Children looking for a blade of grass to cool their hot summer feet had to find it elsewhere, but after an afternoon rain it turned to a cool chocolate glaze oozing between toes and fingers - a muddy delight to small hands and feet, and slippery as ice.
There was a universe of difference between Myrtle’s place and the Fairly’s. Essy Jane kept her house painted pristine white with little black shutters framing each window. Her yard was landscaped within an inch of its tidy life, and her window curtains blew softly all day after their weekly washing and ironing. Her whole venue was a monument to Betty Crocker and June Cleaver created to hide the ugliness of the lives within.
The Fairlys were part of the neighborhood, but not to Essy Jane. To her they were an ignorant bunch of trashy people who couldn’t even afford paint for their old run down house. They’d been a thorn in her mean side for years. She sat on this very porch most of her married life judging the lives across the road. Even though Old lady Fairly had no money and no wish to paint that ancient cypress home with the beautiful grays of weather and years, she did have a green thumb and a love for beauty. The Fairly yard was the most colorful show place in the county; though most people couldn’t see the beauty for the poverty of the people living it.
“Lord help us, Marion, is that a banana tree she’s got planted in that washing machine in the front yard?”
“Why I believe it is. I love banana trees. Have you ever heard gentle rain falling on banana leaves on a hot summer afternoon, Essy?”
“Hmph! For Pete’s sake, Marion she’s got a banana tree planted in that rusted out thing. Doesn’t that look horrible to you? Right there across the road from my prize winning climbing roses and my newly whitewashed fence?”
Essy Jane never got over Claude Fairly, the oldest boy buying his Mama that automatic washing machine after he joined the army in 1955. He bought it with his own money, even before he bought his first car.
He gave it to his mama hoping to replace the hand carved cypress log she used for washing clothes. The log used by the women in his family for a hundred years or more to scrub the clothes clean. So many clothes were scrubbed by so many hands through the years in that old log, the wood felt like satin and smelled of clean things and lye soap. But Claude was a man of the future and felt like his Ma deserved better. No one else in the neighborhood used the old hollow logs anymore. They had ringer washers and even considered those old fashioned. His Ma was going to have the latest model, no ringer, just plug it in and turn it on. He stood fascinated in the Sears & Roebuck store when the man gave the demonstration. He could’ve watched it all day, but people began to gather and he knew his ignorance was about to draw laughs.
Marion took another gulp of her co’cola and settled back to listen indulgently to Essy Jane’s daily gossip and complaints on the neighbors.
“Claude knew his mama didn’t have electricity in that house, but he bought that brand new appliance anyway; came all the way from Gulfport. What could he a’ been thinkin? Well, she sure didn’t have to let that washer set out in that muddy yard in the rain and sun until the damned thing rusted clean through. Turned it into a planter for heaven’s sake. Can you beat that, Marion?”
“That shouldn’t surprise you, Essy Jane. The whole yard is already full of enameled buckets and slop jars spillin’ over with beautiful plants and flowers. She can’t help it, Sweetie, she just has that green thumb and can’t afford no store bought pots. Look at that lavender against the gray cypress of the chimney wall, my Heavenly days Essy, it don’t get no prettier’n that.”
The Fairly’s flowering roses and geraniums, were an orgy of beauty. Old rubber tires bordered the path to the outhouse, holding anything that’d flower. The front porch of the old house was covered with sweet peas climbing up to the roof on a trellis of cotton string. The place was alive with Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds, celebrating the beautiful life inside the old fence and the love inside the old house.
Essy Jane chose to ignore this compliment to her nemesis.
“I ain’t had a new washer since Julie was a baby and my dryer sound’n like it has a old tenny shoe caught up in it. Do you know what I went through settin’ here on this porch all those months watchin’ that beautiful piece of machinery rustin’ its way into landfill?”
“You’re right, Sweetie, if old lady Fairly wanted to keep washin’ her clothes in that old log, fine, but she should’ve sold that new washer to you, Essy.”
“Hell no, Marion, that old lady was proud as punch of that thing, as if Jesus hisself was settin’ in there takin’ a bath. You know how those people are, they love to have nice things, they just don’t know how to take care of ‘em. Ignorant, just plumb ignorant! “
Marion, as usual, is drawn into Essy Jane’s gossip, more to please her old friend than anything else. She sees nothing wrong with Old lady Fairly and her brood, other than living poor with bad luck and that hundred year old family curse.
“How could anyone stay in that run down shack after raising ten kids, each one of ‘em born in that ole four-poster bed, except for Imogine. R’member, Essy, Earl decided to take ole Lady Fairly to the hospital? Well, She went alright, but then changed her mind. Heck, the only reason Imogene was born in the hospital at all, was because her head was crowning as the poor woman was trying to crawl down the hall on her way back home to the four poster.”
“I hear they got so much junk under it, the four posts don’t touch the floor anymore, just teeter on top of all the boxes of junk underneath.”
Marion has a moment of guilt. She never can be mean for long, it gives her indigestion.
“Those people sure have had their share of sorrow though, Essy Jane. Hap and Cletus, the twins robbed and murdered in that bar outside Wiggins and Verna Mae, the youngest girl, killed by her own husband down in Mobile.”
“Oh my God, Marion, remember that winter? It rained for six days straight, without even droppin’ to a drizzle; just poured down from the sky like tears for a dead baby? I reckon I’d a killed somebody if I’d a had to live through that in a little trailer like Verna Mae’s.”
The women sit and move the swing slowly back and forth sipping their co’colas and thinking; both remembering the horrible time of the girl’s death and how it terrified them with their own abusive husbands. Each knew it could happen to them, but both thought their own abuse a well kept secret from the other.
“Earl Fairly went all the way up to Parchman Prison with a broken heart to forgive that boy for shootin’ Verna Mae? I just about never got over that. Herbert said if his son-in- law shot Julie, he’d be found hangin’ from a tree by his pecker.”
“Hell, Essy, they shouldn’t never have let that girl marry Dwayne in the first place. He was never no good, everybody knowed that. Even his own Mama didn’t like him. Earl is a good man though. Why do you think he can’t keep a job? God knows he’s always trying.”
“It’s that curse. Everybody knows it’s the curse. Ole Lady Fairly could’ve gone to work down at the chicken factory, but she never did, too lazy.”
“Oh, Essy, only thing she knows how to do is raise babies, if she hadn’t had them young’uns she wouldn’t have nothing to show for her life. Poor ole thing. She sure can grow beautiful things.” Marion looked over at the flowering Fairly place. “Either way though, Earl sure can’t keep a job. Hand me that fly flap, Essy Jane, these things is goin to carry us off this summer.”
Marion stretched. “I’m gonna go get the mail, in a minute. Shall I check yours on the way back? Lord, I hope B.J. left enough gas for me to get to town and back.”
“Okay, bring me a root beer. I’ll have it after supper.”
Marion felt so good since B.J. moved into the spare room. She wasn’t going to complain about anything or anyone anymore. God answered her prayer about that man and his animal needs, and she felt she owed it to God to be patient with Essy.
“Ya know, Marion, sometimes I think we’re the only two people in the world got any sense. I sure wish whoever chooses the Queen over there in England would just come on over here and make us Queens of the earth.”
“Everybody’d be a hell of lot better off, a whole lot better off, I can tell ya that right now.” Marion liked a laugh better than anything and Essy could sure give her one.
So there they were, two old friends passing the time, drinking co’colas and planning world retribution. They sat for a long time in silence, rocking and sipping; nothing to say, no need to say it, enjoying the quiet that comes with old friends. It’s all been said, just needs repeating sometimes. Oh, there was a time though, when silence would’ve made both women so nervous, they’d chatter on top of each other’s words to keep from living in the quiet moment. Those years and all their season’s had passed. Now there was a time for speaking, and a time for quiet, neither one threatening to the ear or the friendship.
Earl stood in the back yard relieving himself onto the base of a Crepe Myrtle. He was worried about Ma; she was keeping something from him. All the years they’d been married, they’d shared everything, everything, no secrets, not even the times when it hurt to tell, hurt like hell, but they told each other.
“Earl, wash your hands at the pump and bring in the towels if they’re dry. I’ve got fresh coffee ready.” Ma stepped back into the house from the back porch. At least she was talkin’ to him; that was a good sign.
Hadn’t he told her about that woman down in Biloxi years ago? He sure didn’t want to, nearly broke his heart to see the look on her face, then she nearly broke his head with that skillet. By damn a man might lose his way once and go after the devil in a tight skirt, but to lie to his wife was a mortal sin. Besides, that woman couldn’t carry a candle to Ma in any way, not looks, not cookin’, and the Lord Jesus knew not in love makin’. Earl leaned into the handle of the water pump and dreamed of his wife lying on that old four poster bed on clean white sheets fresh from the line, smelling like hay and sun, waiting for him; the moon full, and falling in the side window right into her beautiful eyes, looking up at him; partly closed and dreamy; wanting him so bad. No man could ask for anything better than that, no sir, no man living. After ten kids and three deaths, she still looked like the first time he set eyes on her. Oh sure, maybe a little leathery and a wrinkle here or there; her tits were gone, all dried up; he missed those, but he understood. When a woman has ten young’uns pulling on her tits for so many years, no man can expect young firm breasts, but she was still there, his baby, his love, same as the day she came to him fresh from her Mama’s arms. He’d always been gentle, even when her eyes wanted more and took on that hungry look that nearly drove him wild, he forced himself to be slow, steady and gentle. He just didn’t see how a man could love a woman more than he loved her. He wondered if she’d be in the mood tonight, he’d worked himself into a pretty sad state thinkin’ about Ma and that bed.
“Towells aint quite dry yet, Sweetie. I’d say another thirty minutes in this heat and they’ll be fine.” Earl walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. He flicked an ant off the oil cloth as it worked its way toward the sugar bowl.
Earl was a proud man, his people lived here forever, so the house was old when he brought her home, but he had fresh paint on the walls and a new roof. He worked hard to make the place livable for his new bride. She was grateful too; you could tell it in her shy ways even though she never came out and said it. She knew what the house meant to him and his family and how proud he was of its past. The only thing his Daddy left him was the house and 300 acres of land. It was sold off now except ten acres that included the little patch for a front yard and that big kitchen garden in back. That’s okay; the land allowed him and his family to eat when times got hard, some rich farmer was always ready to buy a few acres here and there. Hell, the neighbors all lived on land bought from his people at some time or another. Someday when his ship came in and he could manage to get steady work, he’d buy some of his land back. He’d fix the place up for Ma, but till then, he wasn’t gonna cry over spilled milk. Besides, the 100 years of the bad luck curse was due to run out this year. He never really believed in it, but shoot, one couldn’t be too sure about these things. Some people believed the curse had taken his Ma and Pa and maybe his twins Hap and Cletus and his daughter too.
Ma set a steaming cup of coffee in front of him. Earl kept this construction job a whole week now; maybe things were looking up. He could do a hard day’s labor as well as any man living; he just couldn’t seem to keep focused while he worked. Ma was proud of him for keeping the job; he could tell, but she’d never mention it. She’d never mention it because she’d die before pointing out her husband’s history in keeping jobs.
“Tomorrow being Saturday, you want to drive over to Lucedale and carry me to the Library?” Ma never learned to drive even though she insisted on each of her brood learning before they left high school. Earl liked her dependence on him; it was part of being a married couple.
“Sorry, sweetie, but I promised Mr. Buford I’d give him a hand tomorrow. He wants to finish this job and start another one next week.”
“Oh, that’s good, that’s fine. I can go next week. I’m in no hurry. The Library’s not going anywhere, I can go another time.”
Maybe his bad luck was ending. Maybe this time it’d all work out. He knew she kept feeling like he’d be home any day with that sad, embarrassed look he’d worn so many times before. He’d just come in the back door, put his lunch box on the top shelf of the pantry and go to the woods with his gun and bird dog.
Earl got up before dawn on Saturday to get to Mr. Buford’s. He was so proud of this job and the chance Mr. Buford was giving him, he sure wasn’t gonna do anything to mess it up. But, how could a man be out on this beautiful day and keep his mind on digging up bits of stubborn roots and large tree stumps? Earl looked over at the back hoe. It sure seemed working closer than usual to the men with the shovels. God it was a beautiful day.
The man on the back hoe was new, some guy hired from up around Petal. Everyone on the job was talking about how drunk the man was. They said he was the boss’ brother in law, and needed a second chance. Well, everybody needed a second chance. Earl sure had, and was grateful for each one he was lucky enough to get.
“Earl, look alive, now”. Mr. Buford’s voice gave him such a start. Earl was day dreaming again with his head resting on the top of the shovel. He came up so fast a splinter from the shovel handle caught him on the left cheek. He stood for the fourth time that afternoon listening to the boss yell at him for day dreaming. Trouble was; he knew the man was right.
“No wonder you can’t keep a job with your lolly gaggin. Look alive, man or I’ll have to let ya go, and I mean it, Earl”. All the while Mr. Buford was giving him hell, Earl was trying to fish the splinter out of his cheek with his dirty thumb and forefinger. Right about the time Mr. Buford told him he’d have to let him go, Earl looked at the splinter he pulled out of his cheek and didn’t see the drunk man swing the side of the back hoe sharp to the right and directly into Earl’s chest. The most God awful pain swam through his chest and he watched in slow motion as the muddy ground came up to meet his face. Earl couldn’t breathe, and he was choking on something tasting of iron, a familiar taste, blood, yes that was it; why was his mouth filling up with blood? He tried to think what was happening, but the world began to darken, and there in a pool of light was his sweet, dead daughter, Verna Mae, smiling close to his face and breathing sweet life into him. “Daddy, hold on, Ma’s waitin’ for ya at home. Hold on, Daddy, Ma’s waitin’ for ya…. Earl was trying to hold on, but sleep was coming in to relieve the pain and soothe the God awful fear.
Old Lady Fairly
She stood just inside the front gate holding the envelope; she almost didn’t recognize the name, Mrs. Avalon Jean Fairly. Was that still her? If you didn’t use a name in more than forty years was it still good, or did it disappear like the person inside? She’d been called Sister , Ma and Old Lady Fairly so long, she could hardly remember the little girl named Avalon Jean. Mama called her Sister because she was the oldest girl in the family and that’s what the rest of the kids called her, her own kids and her husband called her Ma and she knew the community called her Old Lady Fairly, even though, she was younger than most of them. She never knew why they thought she was so old, maybe it was because she didn’t need to wear make-up on her face, or dye her hair. Her coloring had always been good, black hair with only a little gray at the temples. Her black eyebrows shaped like little crescent moons, dark lips and light skin, was a perfect mixture of her Cherokee and English blood. Her cheeks were hollow and it made her front teeth a little more prominent, and her waist was about to move up to where her tits used to be. But she could still wear the wedding dress Mama and Grandma made for her what seemed like a hundred years ago. Maybe it was because she wore her skirts long, always had, even before the fashion came in and then went out again She didn’t like her legs. When she was a girl, when she was still Avalon Jean, and Grandma was still alive and loved her and saw the girl behind the name. The boys in the one room, Holy Jesus Church, used to call her turkey legs and chase her home through the woods in the fall. They’d yell at her that “Thanksgiving” was on its way and she better run fast or jump in the cook pot; mean little boys, tormenting a sensitive little girl into hating her legs forever after. That was a memory she kept buried deep inside.
When Imogene brought home that beautiful suit for her from J.C. Penny a few years ago, she almost died from the beauty of it, but the skirt wouldn’t cover her “turkey legs”. She knew the cotton band she added around the bottom of that suit embarrassed Imogene, but it matched the color perfectly, and nobody noticed it hadn’t come that way, except Imogene. She still loved that suit, but Imogene never bought her another one, even though Avalon Jean hoped for one on Christmas mornings. Now she just waited for her annual box of Whitman’s Sampler that’d give her the toothache if she ate it, but she didn’t dare pass it around for everyone to have a piece, for fear of hurting Imogene’s feelings.
“Now, ya’ll, that’s Ma’s candy, just for her, now stay out of it.” Imogene would blurt out each year. Oh lord, she sure had raised some damned sensitive kids.
Like that washer Claude always promised her and finally bought. He knew his Daddy couldn’t afford the electricity run into the house from the pole down the road. It wasn’t only the cost of running it from the pole, but who was gone’ pay for it every month. Claude knows his Daddy’s job history. He should know that his Daddy’d just die if Ma had something nice like electricity and lost it because he couldn’t make the payments each month. It’d been best for all concerned to let the washer sit in the yard, until finally Billy couldn’t stand it anymore, and planted one of the banana trees in the thing to give it a reason for being.
Avalon Jean’ a writer. She started putting her life on paper before the kids were born; around the time Earl had that life altering experience with that whore in Biloxi. The only thing that stopped her pain for a few minutes was to write it all out. Try to make since out of it by writing it over and over again. Just the way he said it happened. After she’d written it probably a thousand times, all she could come up with was how stupid he’d been. The thought of his face looking down into another woman’s was so painful that she wrote it into a short story and called it “The Day He Died”. She kills the husband in the last paragraph when the wife comes in and discovers him looking into the eyes of the whore beneath him.
A miracle happened with the release of those angry words onto paper and she was able to forgive him. The miracle is there, under the four poster bed; with all of the other boxes of papers, full of the words of her life. Every experience, every event, the full length novel about the family curse and her short stories filling old boxes and hidden from the family. Some just bits of life recorded as happened, but all there.
“Ma” loves her children and her husband more than any woman has a right to – “Old Lady Fairly” doesn’t exist except in the minds of the neighbors - but Avalon Jean loves her words the best. They keep her going, they keep the love flowing from her, they keep her sheltered and they keep her very strong. She protects them like small sweet children. On those long summer days when everyone is out of the little house, she pulls the boxes out from under the old four poster, and changes the tissue paper. She keeps them in fresh boxes, so the mice won’t get at them. She still doesn’t know that Avalon Jean is the owner of them, the protector, the mother, of these words. When her children were babies it was hard to find time to write, but she did write. She wrote when the kids were in the creek, while she sat on the bank with the mosquitoes. She wrote while they slept; she wrote when Earl took them to gather firewood in the piney savannahs, and she wrote when he took them to pick up pecans at Old Joe David’s for a nickel a pound; and she wrote all day while they were in school.
When Imogene was about to be born and Earl had that nice job in Lucedale; he wanted her to go to the hospital to have the baby. It was Avalon Jean, not ma who knew her babies were stronger and healthier for being born on top of their history, not just the old four poster, but the words under it. She felt if she could’ve made it home, Imogene wouldn’t have all the bad luck in her life. In a way, she always blamed herself for letting Earl talk her into that damned hospital. He never believed the spirits of his house used the spirits of her words to keep the family strong.
Now she stood just inside the front yard holding a letter written to Mrs. Avalon Jean Fairly from “ University of Mississippi Press”. Her breath caught in her throat, she knew that publisher, and she’d read about them before. They’d published some of her favorite reading books. One of the kids has been under the bed; someone had gotten into the words, her soul, her beloved stories and sent them off to be read by strangers. At this very moment strangers were looking into her heart, her pains, her joys, hers… hers. It was all there under the bed, each birth, each death, the twins murder, losing Verna Mae to Dewayne’s deranged mind; Earl’s going to see Dewayne. Imogene’s cancer, all of it was there, even that damned washer, sprouting that stupid banana tree. Now it was corrupted, the power was gone, weakened by the violation. What would she do now? How could she ever write again? How could she ever heel herself again when the pain got so hard she couldn’t breathe? She looked at the envelope again and began to open it. As she pulled out the letter, a check fluttered to the ground, made out to Mrs. Avalon Jean Fairly, for $5,000.00. It was for her novel. They wanted to publish her novel.
She stopped reading and began to stare at the fence. She stared at the mailbox and she stared at the stupid banana tree growing out of its stupid planter. She stared straight ahead, because she couldn’t make sense out of what had just occurred. She’d never know peace again, not as long as she worried about the safety of her “word children”. How could she’ve been so selfish? How could she have stolen so much from her family? All the time her words could’ve been buying them the things they needed, but she squirreled them away in some vain attempt at having a world of her own.
She knew what she had to do, she’d have to bring them out and see if they could live in the light. She’d have to let them be read or destroy them and the latter was out of the question.
Was this the premonition she had lately of something awful happening? Not since before Verna Mae’s death had she felt such foreboding? Earl felt it too; he mentioned it that morning.
“Something in this house aint right, but if you aint ready for me to know, I guess I can wait till ya are.” He’d said.
“It’s not me Earl; I feel it too, like a giant thunder cloud rolling in from a really bad place. Oh, God, Earl, we’ve already lost three of ours, you don’t think…”
Earl walked over to his love and gently pulled her to his chest.
“No baby, Earl aint gone let nothin’ happen to any more of our babies, you just trust me, sugar, I’ll take the trouble myself before any more of our babies gets hurt again.”
She saw it clearly in her mind remembering the morning. As usual, Ma wiped her eyes, shushed her fear and handed him his lunch box. She watched with pride as he walked down the road, starting one more job; God she loved that man. She’d write about this moment, about her love, about his refusal to give up over the years. Maybe the light should shine upon her writing, other people should know about this man, and how strong and brave he was. Maybe bringing out some of the words wouldn’t be too bad, as long as she was the one to choose which ones from now on. There certainly seemed to be more strength and power in the showing than in the hiding. She’d never seen $5,000.00 before. It’d be a gift for Earl. Her gift to him to show him the curse never existed, that problems came every day, curse or no. It’d thank him for all the years he kept them all going. Oh, dear Jesus, how many hours to sundown so she could see the look on his face when he sees his troubles are over forever?
Claude awakened alone again. Charlene hadn’t come home after her shift. He heard his daughter fixing her own breakfast in the little kitchen off the den. He dragged himself out of bed and went in to help Claudine get breakfast. The one thing he knew was that a kid shouldn’t have to fix their own breakfast before school. His ma was there every morning, sun-up if need be, to make the gravy for the biscuits and send the family out with a full stomach. He and his brothers and sisters may’ve been poor, but they always had enough to eat. Charlene was missing the best days of her daughter’s life and she didn’t even seem to care. He knew she was seeing someone after work. He also knew she wasn’t happy in their marriage anymore. For a long time he thought her disappointment in him would pass, but it hadn’t. If anything it’d gotten worse. He saw it in her eyes. The same eyes that mystified him in the beginning were now turned on some other man. How could anyone as beautiful as his wife come out of that dumpy trailer park? He knew better than to marry for a woman’s beauty, but the person who said that had never seen Charlene. Well he could try to save a bad marriage, or he could save himself. He decided to save himself and in the process make life easier for his daughter. He was going to move back in with his Ma and Pa. They didn’t have room, but he could build on to the old place. He’d build on a nice size room and add electricity to the whole house. His Ma and Pa deserved to have a bathroom and he could fit one on the end of the back porch. He’d already been pricing bathroom appliances. He could get credit at Mr. Durbin’s store and buy a toilet and a sink and a friend of his had some old bathtubs he was trying to get rid of. Claudine could come with him and Ma’d take care of her while he was working and while Charlene was doing whatever she wanted to do from now on. After all, he’s a carpenter and Henry does carpentry work with the Sea Bees, they should be able to make a mighty fine room, maybe even with a fireplace. Maybe he’d give the new room to his folks and he could take the old room. Claudine could have his grandmother’s old room. Yessir; save himself and Claudine; that was what he needed to do. Money’d be tight, but he knew how to live on “tight”. To be back home with his Ma and Pa after living these last few years in various and sundry bars and juke joints trying to keep up with Charlene, was the most refreshing future he could imagine. Maybe he and Pa could even do cabinetry work out of the old barn. Pa was always good with his hands and it’d give him something to do and he could be his own boss. He’d heard Mr. Wilson was planning to sell some land, Claude decided he’d approach the man about doing farm work to pay for a couple of acres. Maybe he could get some of his Pa’s land back. Yep life was looking up.
“Come on, baby girl, Daddy’s gonna drive you to school. Here, let me pack you a lunch. You want ‘baloney’ or cheese? I know, I know, no mayonnaise.”
ESSY JANE AND MARION
Essy Jane was coming out of the front screen door with two iced teas, when she looked over and saw Old lady Fairly sitting on the front porch holding a letter, and just staring into space. Marion was walking up onto the porch, dabbing at the sweat around her hairline with a wilted handkerchief.
“Marion would you look over there? What a strange bunch those Fairly’s. Look at her just settin there starin into space and you know she must have a ton of work to do in that house.”
Essy Jane handed Marion one of the iced teas.
“Leave her be, Essy, she’s about to have some real bad news. Earl’s been hit by the back hoe down at the new construction site. B.J. was on ambulance duty, says it messed up his spinal cord, be in a wheelchair the rest of his life if he don’t die first.”
“Sweet Jesus, bless her heart. You think we should go over and be there so she’ll have somebody when they come to tell her?”
“No, Essy, let’s stay out of it, one thing I don’t like is stickin’ my nose in those folk’s troubles. I don’t mean to be mean about it, I just think she’d feel funny with us over there. She bein such a loner and all. Besides, this could turn out to be mighty lucky for them.”
“Well, Marion, I’m ashamed of you, how the hell can you get luck out of that poor old man losing his legs? Sometimes, Marion I swear I wonder about your immortal soul.”
“Now get off me, Essy Jane, I just mean that… well… B.J. said Earl was standing there listenin to a lecture from the boss when that drunk brother-in-law of Buford’s run over him with the backhoe. Now if that ain’t reason for a big fancy law suit, you tell me what is. B.J. says… he could be in a wheelchair… but then they’ll be rich for the rest of their lives?”
“Well, my heavenly days imagine that. The Fairlys rich. Course, you know those people will spend it overnight on cars and stuff. And it aint like me or you losing a husband, those kinds of people don’t have the same feelins’ for each other as our kind do, they don’t feel hurt like we do.”
Essy Jane started in to the kitchen; having rich neighbors would be a plus for the old community.
“I’ll bake a casserole and we can take it over later, once she’s been officially told. You want more sugar in that tea, mine’s not sweet enough, how bout a sprig of mint. Poor ole soul, I do feel kind ‘a sorry for her.”
Marion thought what if her B.J. lost his legs, it’d be a trial for a while, waiting on him and all, but she’d never have to hear him cross that hall to her room again.
Essy Jane felt sorry for Old Lady Fairly, but she couldn’t dwell on it, if her supper wasn’t on the table by 5:30 she’d be in for another slap; and that’d just ruin her whole night. She wondered if Julie would come by this Sunday - she hadn’t been home in so long – Oh well, she’ll come when she comes. Essy Jane decided to use a leftover casserole from the freezer for the Fairlys instead of making a new one. “They won’t know the difference.” She sighed to herself.