Drowsing as Bessie fried chicken and caught Dr. Charles up on farm news, Charley was jarred from sleep as Freddy stumbled up the back steps with a heavily-laden cardboard box in bringing supplies. Though he danced nimbly trying to regain his balance, he lost control. As it banged to the kitchen floor, the ominous sound of breaking glass competed with the clattering of the screen door. Bessie jumped and dropped a piece of chicken into the sizzling skillet, the back-splash raising a blister on her arm.
“Lord have mercy, Boy! Now, you done made me burn myself with this hot grease! Lawdy! Lawdy! Sometimes I b’lieve the Devil owed me a debt and paid me off in wild boys!” She turned to Freddy furiously, holding a towel to her burned arm. Ain’t I done told about banging that confounded door?”
“Aw, Mama! I am so sorry! You know I didn’t go to. I just lost my step and was tryin’ to save your jars. Lemme git you some butter for that burn and I’ll clean them jars up!” He was stricken as only a boy who’s hurt his mother could be. “You know I wouldn’a never done that a’purpose.” He was near to wailing as he dug in the icebox for the butter.”
“Here, let me help. Charley, can you watch the chicken while I take care of Bessie? Freddy, can you see to the groceries?” Freddy was long gone when he looked around. “Sit down here at the table, Bessie, while I get some ice water. You don’t want to use butter on that burn. That holds in the heat and makes it burn worse.” Charles immersed a clean dish towel in ice water and wrapped it loosely around the burned arm. “Doesn’t that feel better? Let’s cool it a little, then see how bad it is.” He carefully unwrapped the arm, revealing a reddened area with a quarter-sized water-filled blister. “Well, that’s going to hurt some, but it sure could have been worse. Let’s just keep it clean and cool till you’re ready to go to bed. We’ll wrap it up then and you can keep it up on a pillow. I’ll give you something to help with the pain so you can sleep.”
“I sure dread for you to open that blister. I know it’s gonna hurt.” Bessie moaned.
“I’m not gonna open it. That blister will keep infection out.” The doctor explained. By now, things had settled down enough for him to check on Charley and the frying chicken. “Charley, go ahead and clean those groceries up.” He was careful not to mention the missing Freddy as he turned the chicken and Charley swept up broken glass.
“It’s not so bad.” Charley remarked. “Only two jars broke. At least nobody got cut.”
“That’s a blessing.” Charles told them. “One of the saddest things I ever saw was a little boy that fell running home from his grandma’s with a jar of honey. The broken jar went straight in his heart and he was dead before I got there. It just about killed his grandma.”
The sad story reminded Bessie of Freddy falling up her kitchen steps with her box of jars. “Aw, Lawd have mercy! Where’s Freddy? He might’a run off all cut up and be a’layin’ somewhere a’bleedin’ right now. Lawd have mercy! Is my pore boy cut up an’ me just a’hollerin’ at him?”
“No, Bessie. I didn’t see any blood. He probably just ran off to get Robert. You just sit here and let me and Charley finish cooking. Robert and the boys will be here any minute. Here’s you a glass of tea. Now, don’t that feel fine, watching somebody else cook?” Charles asked.
“It shore does, but I don’t reckon I better get used to it. Nobody but me has cooked in this kitchen since Miss Geneva died. Bless her heart.”
Southern Fried Chicken
Chicken pieces of your choice
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder(I use about 1 tsp on each)
oil (canola, corn, peanut vegetable)
Combine all dry ingredients in l gallon zip lock freezer bag. Add washed and dried chicken and shake. I usually shake about six or eight pieces at a time. Drop in hot oil 350 degrees. (if you have the nerve to try it, drop safety match in hot oil. will ignite at exactly 350 degrees. My husband always swears I’m going to burn the house down, but I never have, and he loves my fried chicken.) Fry 6 to 7 minutes on each side till golden brown. Test with meat thermometer. Internal temp should be 165-170 degrees. Drain on rack.