Once again, I was sitting on the back step of Miss Laura Mae’s house with a biscuit. Miss Laura Mae was all flustered. I heard the phrase, “female trouble” and my ears perked up. Anything about “female trouble” got kids shooed outdoors. “Complications” rated even greater secrecy.
I’d just heard both. I hummed a tuneless something just so they’d be fooled into thinking I wasn’t listening. Occasionally, I said something to Miss Laura Mae’s old hound.
“Bessie, Floyd’s oldest sister was wild as they come when she was comin’ up. She slipped off an’ married when she was fifteen, and just stayed long enough to have them two young’uns. She like to drove her mama crazy. You couldn’t believe a word she said. She’d climb up on top of the house to tell a lie when it would’a been easier to stand on the ground and tell the truth. It seemed like she settled down an’ was gonna do good when she married Ben. He was a good feller an’ treated her kids good. He had that nice house his mama left him, worked steady and put his pay in the bank. I never heard him fuss with her. She was even Sunday School Superintendent down at the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church fer a while.
One year right before Christmas, she went to work in her sister’s café, waiting tables to git a little Christmas money. Ben didn’t want her to, said he could git whatever they needed, but she was bound an’ determined to do it. Wasn’t long before she was runnin’ around. She dumped them kids on her mama and run off with a feller named Jett. ‘Course, that didn’ last till the water got hot.
Next thing we knew, Bessie was in the hospital, her kidneys ‘bout shut down an’ she like to had a stroke. She pulled through but wasn’t able to do anything for a long time. Her sister Marthy took her in an’ took care of her an’ them kids for a good while. When she finally got back on her feet, she went back to Ben. The crazy thing was, she told ever’ body she’d been the one takin’ care of Marthy, ‘cause Marthy had been runnin’ around an’ got thataway while her husband Joe was off in the service. She claimed Marthy had took a bunch of quinine an’ got rid of the baby but it like to kilt ‘er. The whole thing was crazy. Ever’body knew what Bessie had been up to and knew about her being so sick in the hospital. I don’t know why she tol’ that crazy story layin’ it off on Marthy after she’d been so good to her. They just wasn’t no need. That was just how she is.
From my perch on the back step, I listened in, making no sense of the story, but knew it was good. I made up my mind to remember when I got a little older and smarter, I could figure out what it was all about.