Crazy Charlsie Part 28

Charlie fell into bed that night aching with fatigue.  It seemed he’d just shut his eyes when Bessie opened his door, “Wake up!  Them cows is calling you!”  He learned to hate that phrase long before the week was out.  Sore and stumbling with sleep, he filed out to the milking.  Though his hands protested, he got the hang of it and stripped one cow by the time the time Robert and Freddy were done with the other six.  He made up his mind to do two tomorrow.  The barn cats danced behind his cow as he squirted milk in their mouths, unconcerned at his substandard milking. While Freddy turned the cows in the lot with their calves, Robert and Charlie slopped the hogs, fed the horses and chickens, and gathered eggs.

Egg-gathering seemed easy enough until Charlie reached into a nest and pulled out a long back snake.” He pitched it down, screaming, and ran. Freddy laughed hysterically while Robert scurried after the snake. Picking it up, he popped it like a whip, snapping its head off.  “I guess that’s the last of the eggs you’ll git, you ol’ devil.  That’s just a chicken snake, Charlie.  He hangs around the barn stealing eggs.  He wouldn’t hurt you if he did bite you. But, it wouldn’t hurt to look before poking your hand in dark places.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”  Charlie laughed.  “I took off so fast it like to took me a half a day to walk back.”

“I think somethin’s or somebody’s been dipping’ in my corncrib. The last three mornin’s I noticed the shelled corn in the bib was hollered out a little. I ain’t accusing nobody, but I think we’ll git out there a little early in the morning an’ see cain’t we catch em. Let’s git this milk an’ eggs in an’ git us some breakfast. I’m so hungry my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.” Robert led the way with heavy, cloth-covered milk buckets.

That day was the beginning of a farmer’s life for Charlie.  Over the course of the summer, he learned the business of breeding and birthing stock, cultivating and gathering crops, building fences, haymaking, mechanicking on the old truck and tractor, repairing outbuildings, and many other farm tasks at hand.  As he worked alongside the others, his muscles grew long and bulked up.  As his estrogen levels dropped after surgery, his breasts lost mass and he sprouted the beginnings of a beard.  He was beginning to look more the person he’d always known he was.

Crazy Charlsie Part 27


Mr. Grady had thoughtfully put his cow in with Ol’Bully before coming in for breakfast, an expedient decision, since Ol’ Bully would have kicked the fence to get to her in her enticing state. By the time the men got back, the deed was done and Ol’ Bully was bumping the gate, anxious to get back to the tall, sweet grass and his bevy of beauties. A fickle creature, he had no further interest in the fair lady he’d just won.

Though Robert was anxious to get to work, Mr. Grady pulled a can of Prince Albert Tobacco from the bib of his overalls. Stalling, he offered the tobacco and pack of cigarette papers. “Help yourself, Robert, lessen you got some ready roll you’d care to share.”

“No sir, Mr. Grady. I ain’t never got the habit. You go ahead. Me an’ the boys got to git to work. I hate I ain’t got visitin’ time today, but we got a long day ahead of us.” Robert had lived on the farm next to Grady for years and never been invited to call him by his first name, though Mr. Grady and his boys had always addressed him as Robert. It still stung a little, though it was the way he’d grown up.

”They is one more thing I need to ast you.  My old mule died and  I got to git my garden broke up. Kin I use your tractor, today?” Mr. Grady patted the fender of the red International parked by the barn.

”Mr. Grady, my tractor’s broke down.  This one here belongs to Miss Geneva’s farm an’ ain’t mine to loan, but I can loan you my mule.  I’ll catch him for you.  He kind of feisty since he don’t got worked a lot, but I know them big ol’ boys of yours can handle him.” Robert offered.

”Naw, that won’t help me none.   I done throwed my back out an can’t plow.  I can’t count on them boys.  Three ‘em is off workin’ somewhere’s, three’s a courtin’, and one’s down with toothache.   I can’t never keep up with them fellers.  I ain’t had time to teach young Tommy yet.  You real fortunate, a colored man with a fine place like this to work and fine equipment you ain’t got to buy.  Now, I ain’t saying you don’t deserve it, but you sure got a bird’s nest on the ground.” He didn’t look like he thought Robert deserved all that luck.

Robert knew where this was going.  He’d endured Mr. Grady’s whining before.  He had work to get to and knew it was best to stay on Mr. Grady’s good side.  “Tell you what, Mr. Grady.  I can be over about six in the morning to break up your garden, but if the boys show up sooner, just send them over for the mule.”

Things had worked out just as Mr. Grady  hoped.  “That’ll sure help me out.  Tommy, fetch that cow and we’ll get out of the way.  These folks has work to do.  My ole lady will have coffee when you git there.  Just tap at the back door and I’ll bring it out.”  He shuffled off with Tommy and the cow a few paces behind.

Charley held his question till they were out of hearing.  “Robert, why are you going to plow his garden?  Didn’t seem like he treated you just right.”

“Charley, it’s best to git along with folks if you can.  I end up plowing his garden ever’ year.  Neither Mr. Grady ner his boys is bad about workin’ and I hate to see his womenfolk do without.   You’ll see when we git there tomorrow.  Let’s git to it, fellers.  We burning daylight!”  Their day had started.


Crazy Charlsie Part 23

Charles staggered into the kitchen under a mountain of farm goods expecting exclamations of joy. Instead, the normally voluable Cora met him with pursed lips.  Clearly disapproving, She announced.  “The Reverend Mason is waiting for you in the parlor.  He says he’s here on business that can’t wait. I’ll bring in coffee and coconut cake in a minute.”  Cora had never made a secret of her feelings about Dr. Mason since he’d dodged her congregation’s request to purchase the old Presbyterian sanctuary when the Presbyterians built a new new one, especially after it stood empty for three years till being turned into apartments and a thrift store.

Though Charles still golfed and served on the school board with Reverend Mason,though  he’d not invited him into his home since the pastor refused to sell to Cora’s congregation, responding.  “I don”t think the neighbors are ready for a black congregation.”  Charles didn’t want Cora to have to serve a man with his prejudice.

“This is a surprise, Joe.  Have a seat.  The coffee should be ready in a minute.  Cora put it on before she left.   I’ll just duck out to the kitchen and get it.” Charles greeted him, knowing Cora would be listening at the kitchen door, anxious to learn the pastor’s business.

” I can’t stay, Charles.  I just came by to to let you know about the schoolboard’s decision.” Reverend Mason replied, avoiding Charles’s eye.

”What decision?  The schoolboard’s meeting is not until next week, is it?” Charles said.  Something wasn’t right.

”A special meeting was called.” Reverend Mason replied.

”A special meeting and I wasn’t notified.”  Charles spoke flatly.  “What’s your business?”

Dr Mason answered miserably.  “You know that last year the board voted extend from eleven to twelve years for graduation starting next fall.   Since Charlotte only lacks two credits to graduate, the board voted to award her diploma now, instead of making her attend another year.  I have her diploma with me, all signed by the board.  Would you like me to present it to her?”

Charles was stunned but fortunately, not speechless.  “I would NOT!  So you don’t want Charley in your school!  Charley is the same person,now, he was a few weeks ago.  He has never caused any problems and suddenly the board thinks he is unfit to attend!  How can they justify this?”

”This is miserable for us all, Charles, but we have to consider what’s best for everyone.  Many parents have expressed their concerns over sports teams use of locker rooms.  Students do not feel comfortable with Charley as things are.  Charley might not be comfortable either.  We have to think of what’s best for ALL students, Charley included.”  Dr. Mason felt righteous in his thinking.

”You pompous, Jackass!  Did it not occur to you that we are well-aware of the problem?  We live close enough to school that Charley could have come home when necessary.    Please tell the school board they won’t be bothered by me or Charley in the future.  You and your board must feel you have a divine guarantee of a perfect life to come to me with this.  Please show yourself out!”



Crazy Charlsie Part 22

Robert and Bessie piled Charles’s car high for his trip back to town.  Charles was the enviable object of a friendly competition between Cora and Bessie, so lots of eggs, milk, cream and butter filled an ice chest.  Two gallons of dewberries, turnip greens, squash and green tomatoes, and a dozen jars of Bessie’s bread and butter pickles were safely tucked in the trunk.  Bessie raised the ante by four quarts of pickled eggs, smugly aware Cora didn’t have fresh eggs.  The biggest prize of all, the freshly dressed hen rode in the front seat with Charles.  “I am sure proud of all these farm goods,” Charles told them.  “I’d have been scared to go home without Cora’s hen and dewberries.  Boys, I really appreciate the fish.  I’m hoping Cora will cook’em for my supper.  I do love white perch.”

”You’re sure welcome,” Robert answered.  “They ain’t nothing like good country food.  I’d hate to have to eat from a can like some folks do.  The beans, corn, and tomaters is puttin’ on real good and should be ready in a couple of weeks.  I’ll have ‘em ready for you next time.”

“If you don’t get back when they’re comin’ on, you know I’ll can ‘em up for you.”  Bessie assured him.

” I’ll be back.  I’ll want to see how Charley’s doing.  Charley, make sure you learn all you can from Robert,”  Charles answered.  “But don’t lift anything too heavy.  Go easy on your sore belly!”

”I will. It don’t hurt no more.”  Charley answered.

”You say that now.” Robert laughed.  “You just wait till it’s time to milk at four-thirty in the morning.  That’s gonna hurt.  You ain’t used to gittin’ up that early.”

”Why does milking have to come so early?”  Charley challenged.  “It’s not even light then.”

”Because we got six cows to milk and hogs to slop before breakfast.  Bessie puts biscuits on the table at five-thirty so we can be working by daylight.  We got to hoe them beans before it gits too hot, then work on that section of fence in the afternoon.  It’s gonna be a long day.” Robert answered.

”Charley, you do everything Robert says and learn all you can.  Robert is the best farmer around.  He feeds two houses and puts money in the bank, too.”   Charles told Charley.

“I will, Dad.  I don’t know nothing now, and I aim to be a farmer.”  Charley assured his dad and Robert.

Charles mused as he drove through the country. “Charley is in a good place.  Robert and Bessie have known him since he was born.”  Once again, he wished he’d left well-enough alone and left Charley the way God made him.  His meddling had likely driven his wife crazy and left Charley’s life a mess.”

Crazy Charlsie Part 20

The heavy meal in the heat of the day soon had them all nodding. Bessie stacked the dishes and put them in steaming water to soak.  Covering the leftovers with a cotton tablecloth she left them for a cold supper.  No woman heated the house up in the late afternoon by building another fire in the stove. Enough is enough! “You menfolk  can find you a cool spot and catch a little snooze. I’m gonna lay on my bed awhile. Freddy, you got to git Miss Cora’s hen took care of before Dr. Charles is ready to go. I don’t mean for you to keep ‘im waiting.  Be sure you take her a good piece outback of the chicken yard.  I don’t want my layers upset.” Hanging her apron on the icebox door handle, she went to the bedroom just off the kitchen, lowerdnthe shades a bit, and hung her cotton house dress before an open window to air. After dusting herself with scented talcum and folding the quilt back, she slipped under the sheet. A lazy breeze ruffled her dress against the window shade, giving the illusion of cool.  Knowing they couldn’t be seen from the road, Robert and Charles stripped down to their undershirts to take their ease in wooden rocking chairs in the deep shade of the front porch, chatting till first one, then the other nodded off. Bobby went home to rest till they were ready to go back to work.

“Come on Charley. I ain’t layin’ around takin’ no nap with the old folks. I better git that chicken took care of.” Freddy said, leading Charley to a coop In the chickenyard.  Charley had seen chickens “took care of” many times, but still found it macabrely fascinating. The suspicious hen puffed her plumage, pecked Freddy’s hand and threatened him with a scratchy “brock, brock, brock!” Unperturbed by the promised violence, Freddy grabbed her legs and pulled her out to meet her maker.

Ignoring his mother’s instructions to “git her away from the chickenyard before you kill her,” Freddy did the job on the spot, grasping the luckless hen firmly by the neck and giving her body a whirl, snapping her neck, instantly.  When he dropped her, the poor hen’s brain hadn’t gotten the message yet.  She made a few wild circles around the chicken yard in a bizarre dance with death, terrifying the sisterhood.  A necrophiliac rooster jumped her, enticed by her sensual moves.  The squawking hens fled, a couple escaping over the fence, into the trees.  “Mama ain’t gonna be happy about them hens running loose.  I’ll be pluckin’ ‘em out of the trees once the sun goes down.  This ain’t good.”

Eventually, they got back to work on the hen.  Freddy chopped off her head and plunged her in the black washpot full of boiling water.  They plucked her clean before delivering her to Bessie.

”I seen my hens up in them trees.  You kilt that hen right slap-dab in the middle of ‘em, didn’t you?  I bet half of ‘em ain’t gonna lay tomorrow.  If I run short a’eggs, you gonna be the one doin’ without.  I swear, when you git grown, I’m gonna come to your house an’ scare your hens out of layin’.  Just git  on out’a here.  I knows you wantin’ To slip off fishin.”  Bessie grumbled on as the boys grabbed the gear.


Crazy Charlsie Part 19

It wasn’t long before Robert and Bobby came in to find Bessie, apparently at her leisure, with Charles and Charley getting dinner on the table.  “Bessie, what in the world’s goin’ on?  Why is they cookin’ and you’ a settin?” Robert queried.  “Where’s Freddy?  I see the truck’s back an’ left the door standin’ open.”  Robert wasn’t the type to like seeing his truck door hanging open.

“I got popped with grease frying chicken and Dr. Charles made me set an’ keep a cool rag on it?  It’s some better bit it’s still painin’ me pretty good.”  She answered.  “I thought Freddy went after y’all.”

“No, we ain’t seen him.  Howdy, Dr. Charles.  I sure hate Bessie had to put you fellers to work.  Let me wash up an’ help you finish gittin’ dinner on the table.”  Robert was uncomfortable seeing Dr. Charles doing women’s work.

“No, just sit on down.  Charley can pour the tea while I check Bessie’s arm and then we can eat.”  As he unwrapped the arm, Freddy came up the back steps with an elderly neighbor.  Mr. Roscoe was well-known as a natural healer, frequently called in by neighbors to tend burns, stop bleeding, and cure headaches and snakebites.

“Mama, I fetched Mr. Roscoe.  Remember how he healed my foot when I stepped in them hot ashes?”

Robert and Bessie looked awkwardly between Dr. Charles and Mr. Roscoe, not wanting to offend either.  Seeing the doctor’s open medical bag, the ancient gentleman set them all at their ease.  “Looks like there ain’t no need, now.  I’ll just get on back to my plowing.”

“Oh no.  Don’t leave.  There’s more than one kind of healing.  The Good Lord gave us all different gifts.  It would be a sin not to use them.”  He unwrapped the blistered arm for Mr. Roscoe’s inspection.

Bessie sucked in a quick breath as the warm kitchen air hit it. “Ooh!  It still hurts purty bad.”

Mr. Roscoe gently cupped his wrinkled old hand over the burn and muttered a few words.  When he removed his hand, the redness was gone, though the blister remained.  “Now, you need to be sure to keep that wrapped in a clean cloth till that blister goes down.”

“It don’t hurt no more!  How did you do that?  What did you say?” Bessie asked.

“Just a little prayer.  The healing come from God.  My daddy had the gift, too.”  Mr. Roscoe answered.  “I guess I better git back to my plowing, now that’s done.”

“No, no! You gonna stay for dinner.  We got to eat up this here fried chicken that tried to cook Bessie.”  Robert said.  “Freddy, git him a plate and some ice tea while I git another chair.”

As soon as Robert said grace and were through passing the food around, Dr. Charles turned to Mr. Roscoe.  “I’ve always heard of faith healing, but never seen it.  That burn just faded out and now she has no pain.  How does that work?  Did you feel something or touch it?”

“I don’t know how it works.  I just know it does.  I don’t touch it.  I just pray over it and see it gittin’ better in my mind.  God worked through my daddy, too.  I got four brothers and two sisters and ain’t none of them been blessed with the gift.  Daddy got it from his grandma.  She got it from her mama.  There ain’t no way to tell how it goes down.  My mama had a headache one day when I was about thirteen.  Daddy had tried but couldn’t help her, so he told me to try.  Her headache was gone in a minute and never came back, though she’d suffered for years.” Mr. Roscoe explained.  “Sometimes the healing don’t happen.  It ain’t enough to just want to help.  I’ve learned not to try to heal ever’thing I am asked to.  If I don’t feel “the nudge,” it ain’t gonna do no good.  A few times I have felt “the nudge” and gone when I wasn’t asked. The first time, I woke up about four-thirty one morning and felt pushed to go to Homer Smith’s.  He’d just settled in with his family.  I hadn’t met him but once after a camp meeting.  I felt like a pure fool and didn’t want to go bustin’ in on nobody that time of morning, but I just couldn’t get no peace till I got up and headed over.  I figured I could just wait around outside a little bit an’ maybe tell if they was a problem.  Sure enough, when I got close, ever’ light was on.  I went up to speak to Homer when he come out to smoke just as Miz Presser, the midwife come out.  I heared her telling him his Janie was bleeding real bad after the baby an’ they was nothin’ she could do.  She said Pore Janie wasn’t gonna last long and that puny little baby probably ain’t gonna make it without no mama to nurse it.  They was gonna need the preacher fast.  Homer was crying like a baby, hisself.  He went back to Janie and I asked Miz Presser if it would be alright to see if I could stop Janie’s bleeding.  She asked Homer and he agreed, since they was nothin’ to lose.  I prayed over her an’ the bleedin’ stopped right off.  That boy is grown now with big ol’ young’uns of his own now.  I learned then don’t never say no to “the nudge.”

He paused before going on with his story.  “The hard thing is, I cain’t always help folks when things is bad.  I always go pray for ‘em, but sometimes I know to just pray for peace and relief of pain.  It sure is hard knowing ever’body cain’t be healed.  Folks can be awful hurt over that.”

“I feel that, too, Mr. Roscoe.  It sure hurts knowing you can’t do anything for a person’s body.  All that’s left is to hope you’ve been some comfort to them and the family.


Crazy Charlsie Part 18

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.


Crazy Charlsie Part 17

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.”








Crazy Charlsie Part 16

Charles and Charley rode along in companionable silence till they were out of town.  Charley was obviously deep in thought but finally spoke.  “Dad, I need a new name.  How do I do that?”

“I’ve been thinking about that, already.  I talked to your Uncle Louis about it.  He thinks the easiest way would be to request a correction on your original birth certificate for your sex and name as though the original was wrong.  He is a well-known lawyer with friends in the courthouse and won’t be questioned like the average citizen when he files the request.  Think about what name you’d like and I’ll get back to Lou. We should be able to get this taken care of before you go off to college in the fall.”   Charles was glad Charley had brought this up, now.  It had been on his own mind for weeks.

”How about Charles Louis so I can go by Charley?”

”That ought to work.  I’ll let Louis know.”

Charley hummed distractedly as he often did when thinking.  “Son, what’s on your mind?”  Charley was a bit startled at being addressed as “Son” for the first time.  “I’ve been wondering what kind of life I’ll ever have.  I can’t be a normal man.  I never wanted to be a girl, but I’ll never be a real man.  I can’t get married or go in the military.  I probably can’t even get in college.  Everybody is going to know I am a freak.  What the point?  I can’t have any kind of normal life.”

“Charley, I don’t have any answers, but I believe you’ll make a place for yourself.  You’re not obligated to tell anyone your business.  Folks don’t generally go around asking personal questions.  I recommend you get familiar with the changes in yourself before worrying about getting too involved with the community.   There’s no reason they would connect you with the little girl who used to visit the farm, even if they remembered a couple of little girls used to spend time there with their grandma.  She and Cousin Frances both pretty much kept to themselves, never even going to church.  I truly believe one day you will find someone who will care you, just for yourself.  That’s soon enough to worry about explaining.   You aren’t the only person who’s had to deal with such a thing.  I have a patient in a similar situation.  You’d be shocked if I told you who it was.  She was married with children.  She moved here a few years after you were born.  I delivered her babies or I’d never have known.”

“I’ll bet it’s Jody Fischer, ain’t it?”  He mentioned a very masculine-looking woman who drove the school bus in from the country.  “She looks and acts just like a man.” he snorted.

“No, it’s not.  I don’t know anything about Jody.  I suspect she’s a homosexual, but that’s none of my business.”  Charles answered.

“You mean it’s not the same thing?”  Charley was surprised.

“Not at all.  A homosexual is interested in persons of the same sex.  A heterosexual is interested in persons of the opposite sex.  It’s as simple as that.”  Charles knew he was the only person Charley could ask, so he was anxious not to confuse him.  “You have mixed genitalia.  At birth,  you looked more like a girl.  As you grew up, you looked and acted more  like a boy the older you got.  You know as much of the story as I do from the time of your surgery.  I never expected that to happen.”

Charley pounded his breasts  “I hate these!  I wish I could just cut them off!  He wept with despair.

Charles tried to console him.  “I know it’s hard, but some things we can’t change.  You’re are already flatter since you got so thin while you were sick.  I’m hoping, you’ll develop more like your brothers since you don’t have female hormones anymore.  You’ll get more muscular working on the farm with Robert and the boys.  That ought to help.”

Charley didn’t speak for a while.  “Could you pull over?  I need practice driving.”  He composed himself before getting in the driver’s seat.

As he settled, Charles changed the subject to spare him.  “You’re not going to have anything that drives like car this on the farm.  Cousin Frances’s old Model A and the tractor are going to work you over.  I know Robert is going to be careful about trusting you with the farm truck till he knows what you can do.”

“No problem.  I like that old Model A.”

Charley’s mood brightened. “Hey, Dad!  Did you hear the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer’s daughter?”

“Okay, I’m glad you’re feeling better, but I’m not quite ready to swap Traveling Salesman and Farmer’s Daughter Jokes with you.  You got to give me a little time, too.”

“You big sissy!” Charley laughed.  “I’m not the only one with something to get used to!”