Bessie was waiting in the bright kitchen with a pitcher of iced tea. “Y’all come on in and set a spell. I’ll have some cookies out of the oven in just a minute. Shoo cat! Git off that chair.” She tipped a ladder-back chair and a fat orange cat landed on all fours, even though she’d been asleep seconds ago. Bessie hurried to pour two Mason jars full of iced tea. “I made that tea real sweet, just the way you always liked it, Dr. Charles.”
”It hits the spot after that dusty drive.” Charles finished his glass and poured another. “How have you been, Bessie? Before I forget, Cora was hoping you’d fattened up a rooster for her church’s dinner on the grounds, Sunday. She also told me to hit you up for some butter, cream, eggs, and greens, if you had some to spare.”
“I got plenty. She called me last week to be savin’ up. Now you come out, I won’t have to git Robert to run it in to her. Charley, I know you been sick, but you looking good, ‘ceptin’ you too skinny. I’ll git you plumped right up and you’ll forgit you that ol’ pneumonia tried to git you. Maybe you and Freddy can pick Cora a couple of gallons of dewberries if you up to it. He’ll be back in just a minute. He run down to the feed store. I b’lieve he’s sweet on that little gal whose Daddy runs it.
“Is that Soupy, Grandma’s old cat?” Charley asked, rubbing the cat’s ears. The cat hopped nimbly on Charley’s lap, sensing a welcome.
“Naw, this here ‘s Bubbles. Soupy was probably this cat’s granny. I always keep me an orange housecat to keep mice on the run. I don’t hardly have to feed this one, just put out a little cream everyday. She’s a good hunter and keeps the mice and snakes away. A couple of times, I even seen her with a rabbit she kilt. Many’s the time I’ve heard her calling her kittens when she catches sumpin’ and they come just a skittering. She even taught them kittens to catch minnows in the cow pound. I kept two kittens out of her last litter. I never gentled them much so they stays in the barn. They follers the fellers out to milk and dance when you squirt milk in their mouth just like Soupy done.”
Bessie rambled on, reminding Charley of simple childhood days making no mention of his late difficulties. The warm conversation between Bessie and Charles from the judgment and cruelty of late. The waxed linoleum and deep rugs before the sink and stove were indistinguishable from those of his childhood. A jar of jam, one of pickles, and salt and pepper shakers rested on a lazy Susan centered on the bright, oil-cloth covered kitchen table. Bessie’s housedress and crisp apron completed the familiar picture. The return to familiar comfort was a balm to Charley’s bruised soul.
“These cookies ought to hold you over,” she said as she put a plate of cookies on the table before them. “Y’all want some milk to go with these? I got to git started frying up that chicken. The menfolks will be in at straight-up twelve. I can’t keep ‘em waiting. When y’all git done with them cookies, you can put Charley’s stuff up in the old room, if that’s where you want to sleep, Charley. I got it aired out and fixed up with white curtains, a nice crazy quilt of Miss Geneva’s, and a new rag rug I made you. All your old stuff is in a box in the attic if you want any of it.”
”That sounds fine, Bessie.” Charley said. “It’s so good to be back. It almost feels like Grandma’s gonna come through that door any minute.”
”I sure miss her.” Bessie said as she turned from the chicken she was flouring. “We gonna take care of you just like she would’a.”