Indulged since birth, Ellen was completely unprepared to deal with disappointment. She felt angry and cheated that Charley was so unlike the daughter she’d envisioned. Rather than examine herself, she avoided the situation as much as possible. In her mind, she was wronged, denied the child she was entitled to.
A few months before her fourth birthday, Charley and the four-year-old Barnes twins from next door were making mud pies in the back yard while Cora put the final touches on petit fours for a tea Ellen was hosting at Geneva’s house. Ellen parked her car and walked in the back yard to find the three children muddy and naked as the day they were born. Donnie, the little boy, inspected the two little girls and announced to no one in particular, “Charley’s peach ain’t like Sissy’s. It’s got a little peanut on it.”
“What’s a peanut?” Charley asked.
“Boys got peanuts, girls got peaches.” shared Donnie. “See.” With that, Charley educated the girls about peanuts.
At Donnie’s horrifying announcement, Ellen grabbed a broom hanging near the back steps and flogged all three children, shrieking “You filthy little beasts….”
The children had no idea what hit them as they cowered. Cora came flying out the back door, restrained the mad woman, and told the children to run. The twins fled screaming next door as Charley clung to Cora’s skirts, trying to escape her overwrought mother.
“Miss Ellen, you got to hit a holt of yourself. They just babies. They don’t know what they doing. Git on in the house and let me take keer of this.”
With that, Ellen flew in the house, just as Mrs. Barnes showed up with two crying children. “What’s going on. The kids said Ellen whipped them with a broom! Surely she didn’!”
“Oh, no ma’am. They was makin’ mud pies and Miss Ellen come in the back gate an’ saw a snake slippin’ up on ’em. She took a broom to it an run it off. One of ‘me might a caught a lick. She’s all to pieces it skeet her so. I need to git in an’ see ’bout her now. I shore am sorry she skeet the younguns a whalin’ on that snake, but at least none of ’em got bit.”
Mrs. Barnes was mollified and left with her children. Cora took Charley in for a bath and went to check on Ellen, who’d shut herself in her room.
“Bring me my tonic. My headache is killing me!” Ellen demanded as Cora helped her out of her muddy dress. What am I going to say to Sarah Barnes? I can’t go back to that tea like this. You’ll have to call Mama and tell her to handle things.” She fell on the bed crying.
“Now, don’t fret, Miss Ellen. Miss Barnes done come over to see what happened. I told her you seen a snake ’bout to git the kids an’ beat it off of ’em with the broom. She was proud you saved ’em.” Cora explained. “Do you want me to call over an’ let Miss Geneva know to go on without you?”
Hearing this, Ellen rallied, feeling quiet heroic. “No, just call and let her know I’ll be delayed changing clothes. I’ll tell them all about it when I get there. Help me into my new yellow organza. I was saving it for Delores Parker’s wedding, but I’ll just have wear it today”