We could hear laughter as we opened the screen door. Miss Laura Mae and Miss Oly were dawdling over coffee when we walked in, tears running down their cheeks.
I stared, having no idea people could laugh and cry at the same time. “You ladies are having a great time. No don’t get up. I’ll get my own coffee. What in the world is so funny?” Mother wanted to know. They both took hankies out of apron pockets, wiping their eyes before cleaning glasses.
“It’s just so good to be together again after twenty-five years apart. Ory was just tellin’ me about her ol’ man comin’ in drunk an’ blackin’ her eye one night. Once he went to sleep acrost the bed, she took a bed slat to ‘im an beat’im black an’ blue.”
She gave me my biscuit as Mother shooed me out to my roost on the back step.
Miss Ory broke in, “Yeah, Harvey was a Holiness preacher but it didn’t keep ‘im from gittin’ loaded an’ chasin’ anything in a skirt of a Saturday night. After I beat ‘im, he was so sore he could’n’ hardly move the next mornin’when it was time for preachin’. He got up in the pulpit an’ said he’d been a’cuttin firewood an’ a tree fell on him. It was only the Lord’s mercy that saved him. I wasn’t gonna let him got away with that. I got up an’ testified askin’ to Lord to forgive me for tyin’ ‘im up in a sheet an’ beatin’ ‘im up so bad for tomcattin’ around.
I was gonna leave ‘im after that. I wasn’t gonna take no whoopin’ from no man, but his brothers come by after church. They was deacons an’ their daddy had been the preacher there till he passed. They said if I’d stay, they’d see Harvey did’n’ never lay a hand on me agin’ but I was still set on leavin’. Then all three of ’em’said they’d church me if I left, an’ I’d go to Hell. The little fellers was listening an’ set up a howl. ‘Don’t make my mama go to Hell!’
They was a carryin’ on so, I didn’t have the heart to git up an’ leave, with them a’scared I was ‘goin’ to Hell. No youngun ought to have to worry ’bout somethin’ like that.
They was good as their word. If Harvey got out ‘o line, they’d straighten ‘im out. Harvey was still a Heller,but he ain’t whooped on me ner the younguns no more an’ that’s all I keered about.
One time after we had a row, all of a sudden he calmed down an’ took me fish in’. We left the little fellers with his mama an’ walked down to the crick. He wanted to go out in his ol’ boat, even though he knowed I’d ruther fish off the bank. I could’n’ swin an’ I was a’scared o’water. He said he’d been gittin’ them fine white perch just off the point. I do love white perch. Anyways, when we got a ways out, he stood up an’ was a’rockin’the boat back an’forth till he tipped us over. I knewed he meant me to drown.
I heard later he was a’slippin aroun’ with that Garrett woman. I let his brothers know an’ they told him nothin’ better happen to me. Not long after that he had a stroke an’ needed me to take keer o’ him. Couldn’t of planned it better myself. He never was no more trouble to me, so it all worked out fine. I didn’ git churched an’ worry the kids, I still had my home, an’ Harvey could’n’ worry me no more. Things was peaceful after that, but I shore don’t miss puttin’on up with him ner makin’ them durn biscuits ever’ mornin’. I don’t aim to ever make another biscuit!”
To be continued