Just Folks Getting By Finale

 

Ben brought Uncle Amos home to supper that night, just like he always did on Thursdays.  Lucille did herself proud with fried chicken.  Jenny made mashed potatoes, English Pea Salad, and sliced fresh garden tomatoes.

“Ladies, I haven’t had a meal this good since I don’t know when.  Lucille, I been thinking about asking you to marry me, and your fried chicken just made up my mind.”  He said.

“Well, I hope it don’t break yore heart, but I already been married plenty.  I like to do things my way.  I don’t want to have to take care of nobody no more.  I don’t mind cooking you up some fried chicken once in a while, though.”  She laughed. 

“Well, that’s a relief.  I really ain’t partial to gittin’ married again either, but I sure admire your fried chicken.”  Everybody got a laugh out of that.

Jenny brought out coffee and pie, then told Ben.  “Mama and I want to talk to you about something.  Mama wants to buy Miss Dolly’s shop.  Miss Dolly needs three thousand dollars.  Mama has fifteen hundred.  I am thinking I’d like to go in with her.  You know I’ve got a little saved from before we got married.  Lucy could go to work with me.  There’s a little bed/sitting room opening right onto the shop where she could nap and play.  That way, I could work and not have to leave her.  What do you think?”

Lucille spoke before Ben had time to respond.  “Now before you worry over this too much, Ben, I want you to know.  I ain’t expecting to live with you.  I can move into the back of the shop. I want my own place.  I don’t want to be dependin’ on nobody for a place to live.  It was good of Shirley and Martin to let me fix up their garage apartment, but I don’t want to feel like I am in their way.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Martin’s mama didn’t want to move in there.  The house was hers to start with.  I sure don’t want to cause no family trouble.  I don’t mean for Jenny to go in with me if you’d rather not. Dolly has already suggested I could pay it out by the month if I haf’ to.  She ain’t had no other offers.”

“Let’s just do the figures and see how it works out.  Jenny has her own money to use as she pleases. You know I’m not the kind of fellow to take from my wife. I like the idea of her having Lucy with her.  Jerry wants more hours, anyway.  Uncle Amos is there in the mornings.  All that kind of fits in with something I was thinking about, anyway.  Jenny’s idea of coffee and treats has really caught on.  You know the hardware store and Dolly’s Shop have an adjoining wall.  How would you feel about opening up between and I could give my customers a coupon and they could come over there for a free coffee?  They could buy their own snack.  That would help us both.”  Ben looked thoughtful.  “It might just work.  What do you think, Uncle Amos?  You are a good businessman.  Do you think it’s a good idea?”

“It sure sounds good to me.  I believe folks would always go for free coffee.  I expect they’d turn a good profit.  I believe me and you could open up the space between the two stores and not have to hire nobody to do that work.  I did all the work around my store.  I never wanted to pay for no work I could do myself.”  Amos looked enthusiastic at the thought of getting his hands dirty.

“I can’t see any reason not to do this.  I believe we’d all come out well.”  Ben admitted. “Let’s get cracking.”

“If you don’t mind me makin’ a long distance call, I guess I’d better call Shirley an’ let her know she’s gonna need a baby sitter.  I have an idea it will be a relief to her,” Lucille said.  “I’ll get the operator to call back and let me know what the charge is so I can pay you back.  I don’t usually call long distance, but I want to talk to Dolly before somebody else gits the place.”

“You go right ahead, but you are not paying us back for that call.” Ben told her.

Lucille was gone about ten minutes.  “Well, Shirley took it real good.  She told me she’s about four months along and she ain’t goin’ back to teachin’ this fall.  She’s really looking forward to finally gittin’ to stay home with a baby.  She had to go back when school started in the fall with the other three.  She did ask if I could come stay a couple of weeks when the baby comes, though.  I told her I figured you could handle things.  Turns out, it’s good I come up with somethin’ else anyway.  Old Lady Benson has been houndin’ Marty about wantin’ my apartment.  She thinks she’s still got a claim to it since they bought the house from her.  He told her I’d done put three thousand dollars in it an’ it wasn’t up to him.  She told him she’d give me four thousand if I’d give it up.  I told Marty to tell her, it’d sure hurt me but I guess I’d do it.  If she wants to keep that new stove, icebox, and curtains I put in I told him she could have them for two hundred fifty dollars more.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to git them out of a hard spot.  I don’t envy Shirley none, havin’ that old lady in her back yard, but she says she can handle it.

Six months later:

Lucille walked in Jenny’s Sweet Shop and surprised Jenny at the register.  “Mama, why in the world didn’t you tell us you were coming on the bus today?  Seems like you were gone a year instead of just three weeks.  Uncle Amos was planning to drive over and pick you Sunday!  I can’t fuss, though.  I am so glad to see you. I’d dance a jig if I could, but Lucy and this big old baby under my apron are ‘bout to wear me out. I can’t believe I’ve still got five months to go! Uncle Amos has been having to help me half a day every day.  Come on in and I’ll get us a cup of coffee.  Lucy, come see!  Grandma’s back.  Tell me all about that new baby.”

“Oh, she’s a pretty little red-headed blue-eyed thing with the curliest eyelashes you ever saw, just like you and Jimmy!  I got some real cute pictures of all the kids.  Old Lady Benson was claiming credit for them eyelashes the whole time.  You know, I always talked about the eyelashes on my babies.  Whooee!  I’m glad I don’t have to put up with that woman no more!  She tried to talk me down to a hundred and fifty dollars for that new stove and icebox I put in.  I held out for two-hundred fifty and she gave up and paid it, once she found out I had another seller lined up.  Lord, that woman is hard to please.

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/just-folks-getting-by-part-1/

Link to first post in this serial

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How to Live All Your Life

Pencil sketch of Roscoe Holdaway by Kathleen Holdaway Swain done in 1941 when she was twelve.Kathleen's Pencil Sketch of Roscoe 1941On her last visit with her father, she tried to spend a lot of time with him, knowing it was unlikely she’d see him again.  Overwhelmed with the demands of a large family, she often felt her life was not her own.  Most afternoons, she struggled to get both little ones to nap at the same time and used that precious time to catch up on her laundry and whatever she couldn’t get done with them underfoot.  She’d come to visit with the intention of staying two weeks, but extended her visit to a third week, trying to get a lifetime of visits in before she lost him.
Up since five-thirty with a teething baby, she finally got both little ones down for a nap after lunch.  Though she yearned for a nap herself, she joined her father on the porch.  Watching from the open door, she memorized him before going out, think how frail he looked in his wool coat and old felt hat humped over in his straight chair in the brutal, August of the afternoon.  He’d laid his paperback Western open-faced on the porch-floor.  Inferring he must be heartbroken, knowing he couldn’t live much longer, she took a seat beside him thinking he might have something to say.
“Kat,” he started.  “I’ve been watching those ants on the ground down there.  Look how they are so busy on their little trail.  Some are rushing forward to pick up a load, and some are headed back to the nest all loaded down.  Every once in a while, a few of them stop to talk then turn round and round in the trail before getting back in line. Isn’t that something?”
Surprised to hear of his pleasure in the ants, she realized he wasn’t sad at all, just absorbed in their activity. She sat with him till her little ones awoke and called her back to the ant trail of her life.
That was the last time she spent alone with him.

Lesson from a Blackbird

I grew up on a farm.  My brother and I were out in a field with his shotgun one day when a flock of blackbirds flew over.  I fired into the flock, hitting one unfortunate bird.  I was thrilled at my marksmanship, never having expected to hit anything.  Feeling victorious, I picked the little bird up, only to find he wasn’t dead yet.  He wrapped his little claws around my finger reflexively, like a newborn baby does.  It broke my heart that I had taken his life for no reason other than my own pleasure.  That was when I learned every creature’s life is as precious to it as mine is to me.  I’ve never wanted to harm another since then.