Love At First Sight

 

earle-may

© 2016 by Bill Murphy

Uncle Earle’s really a sentimental ole coot. But he doesn’t want that common knowledge. So I was surprised when he told me about falling in love with Aunt May.

They were not much more than 11 or 12 at the time, sixth grade, Conger County Elementary. They were in the same grade, but not in the same class rooms. He had Mrs. Rattliff (Mrs. Rattle-Trap they called her) and May was in Miss Love’s room. (We won’t mention what they called her!) Also in the sixth grade were twins, the Ewegly sisters, daughters of the Reverend and Mrs. J. Paul Ewegly (pronounced Ewe-Glee), of the Holy Ghost Home Fundamentalist Church. He was pastor. She was organist.

School kids called the twins ‘The Ugly Sisters.’ If ever a name fit, their name did. Ewe-glee those girls were! I dare say never two uglier (ewe-gleer) specimens of human-kind ever walked the earth! Because the school board felt it unwise to have brothers and sisters in the same room, Grace Ewegly was in May’s class, and Hope Ewegly in Earle’s.

It was the time of the Ewegly sister’s birthday. Their little house was far too small to host two classrooms of over-active twelve-year-olds, and – their refrigerator/freezer was on the blink. (No ice cream.) So Aunt May’s kind hearted mother – having that big rambling farm house – invited the Reverend and Sister Ewegly to have the party there. It was quite neighborly of her.

In the fall evening comes early. It was almost dark when the party started. Although Uncle Earle had seen Aunt May around school, this was his first time to be ‘up close and personal’ with her. And he liked what he saw. Little did he realize just how close and how personal that would soon become.

There were about half of each class in attendance, a pretty good turn out for the Ewegly girls. Perhaps the good attendance was due to Aunt May’s mother’s famous cat-head sugar cookies. The house was full of sugared-up, hyper active 12 year olds. After the cake had been eaten, the presents opened, and yet another bowl of ice cream spilled, Aunt May’s mom ushered the rowdy bunch outside to play. There was lots of outside lighting around the place. Aunt May’s mom believed in light.

It wasn’t long until they had a game of hide and seek going. May volunteered to be the first ‘it.’ Uncle Earle found a good place to hide around back of the house, behind the butane tank. All the other kids found places off to the right near the barn, or to the left in the corn field, and some in the bushes lining the long front porch. May came a-looking.

One of the Ewegly girls was hiding not too far from Earle, behind a tractor parked in the back yard. May spotted her right away. The Ewegly girl made a mad dash to ‘base,’ with May in hot pursuit.

In retrospect, Earle supposed that May must have forgotten why the tractor was parked in the back yard. It was to pull the concrete lid off the septic tank. The septic men were there that day to clean out the wretched pit, but had to knock off early because of the party. So when May cut across the yard to head off the Ewegly girl, she simply forgot about things septic. One second May was there, and the next she was gone – waist deep in poo-poop-pee-do.

May yelled. And Earle froze. He had never seen anything quite like it! It was oh so funny. But he dared not laugh – this was MAY in trouble – waist deep in you-know-what.

He was just about to get up and rush to the aid of this fair damsel in distress when – May’s mother came crashing out the back door screaming and cursing a blue streak! “May, you stupid oaf,” she screamed – among other un-printable things. Now Earle was frozen with embarrassment for May. If he came out of hiding, May would see that he saw her miserable state. He simply couldn’t do that to May! He stayed hidden.

No sooner than you could say “Jack Robinson,” than the Reverend and Mrs. J. Paul Ewegly gathered up their daughters, the presents, the few remaining crumbs of birthday cake – and shooed the other kids down the road toward their respective homes. Aunt May’s mom was left to take care of May and things septic.

Now Earle was trapped! Alone. Alone that is, except for a very mad woman, and a very, very, stinky young girl. Peering from behind the butane tank, Earle now saw May’s mother stomp from around the corner of the house dragging a garden hose. “Crawl outta there and strip girl!” she barked. “Strip and throw them nasty clothes back in the pit!”

Now Earle was completely frozen – frozen with fear. Frozen with dread. Frozen in anticipation! His eyes as big as saucers, took in the sight of nasty garments being shed – one by one. And then came the bright splash of crystal water washing away all that filth – all in the brilliant light of the back yard. Washed clean, now stood a trembling, totally naked, May. May in the flesh. All of the flesh. In nothing but the flesh. “So help me, she looked like a goddess,” he said. It was the most wondrous sight his young eyes had beheld!

Long after May’s mother had ushered her naked daughter into the house, Earle still crouched transfixed – frozen to the spot. Truly, a thing of incalculable magnitude had happen here this night. It had happened to him. It had happened FOR him. And deep in his young heart, he knew it was all for a reason!

You see, Uncle Earle, for all his seemingly wild tendencies, is thoroughly tame and tender at heart. His thinking is ‘old school.’ To Uncle Earl, May’s very honor had been compromised. Howbeit accidentally, it had happened. And he, Earle, was the one who had inadvertently compromised her honor. And now it was his duty to make things right – to ‘avenge’ her honor as it were.

His thinking took this direction: Because her honor, her glory, her every image had been revealed to him in such a magnificent way, he and he alone, was destined to share in that revelation ever again. His mind was set. Made up. Firm. Someday he would, he must – marry that girl. And he did!

Uncle Earle told me he didn’t relate the story of that night to May until 10 years after they’d been married – and even then – she slapped him.

 

 

 

 

Another Place In Time, Part Three

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THE COST

“Miss Sylvie,” said the old woman, pointing toward the room off to the left, “Would you mind stepping into my bedroom there, and fetch my Bible. It’s on the nightstand beside the bed.”

Amilee looked at the old woman quizzically. “What, child,” responded the Dark Mama, “Are you surprised I read the Good Book? I told you I ain’t a witch.”

Sylvie returned with a large, very old and very used large print Bible. “Thanks child.” She began thumbing through the pages. “Now this is talking about the Kingdom ‘a Heaven, but the principle’s the same.” And she read: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”

The old woman stared into Amilee’s eyes. “What you want is a treasure dear to your heart. But nothing’s free in life, child. Any fool knows that. The Good Book says you got to be willing to sell all in order to have the treasure. Are you willing to do that for your treasure, child?”

Amilee looked at the old woman quizzically. “Are you talking about how much I must pay you to help me?”

“Lawd no child! Haven’t you heard anything I’ve been telling you? Yes it’ll cost you! But you don’t pay me child – you pay yourself!”

INSTRUCTIONS

For the next half hour the old woman outlined certain specific, and detailed procedures that Amilee was to follow – to the letter – if she wanted to claim her treasure. “I know this might all sound silly to you child,” the old woman said, “But I can’t stress strongly enough – that you MUST follow these procedures EXACTLY as I’ve told you. Nothing more. But nothing less. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said Amilee, rather weakly. “But I don’t understand. What will following this – this – this ritual do for me? It all sounds so spooky, so magical almost!”

“Just you do it!” And you do it EXACTLY,” the old woman added. “Do you want the truth Missy? Then I’ll tell you the truth. Right now, right this minute, you don’t stand a ghost of a chance of claiming your treasure. You stand a better chance in becoming the Pope’s wife! But – if you follow my instructions, if you follow them seriously, follow them earnestly, follow them reverently, and follow them faithfully and to the letter – then this silly ritual as you call it will prepare you heart, your mind, your body, and your spirit. Then perhaps, just perhaps, this little so called ritual will have made it all worth while. I hope so child. I hope so for your sake!”

RITUAL SUPPLIES

First, there was all this stuff to purchase. New this. New that. Crystal, not glass. Linen, not some man-made blend. Everything had to be brand new – and there must have been dozens of items. And – the old woman refused to let her write anything down. That was a part of the ‘ritual.’ It had to be done from memory.

It was already late when Sylvie and Amilee left The Dark Mama’s place. Fortunately, that put them even closer to Oak Branch, and the large shopping mall. The Dark Mama had stressed, “Don’t waste you time trying to find these things at Wal-Mart, child. Treasured desires require treasured offerings. Top quality my dear. Nothing but top quality.” Oak Branch Mall would have them all – if only they could get there in time.

PREPARATION

As per instructions, Amilee locked the doors on returning home, unplugged the land line, and turned off her cell phone. Next she closed all the drapes and blinds. She was not to be disturbed for anything. Then she began of arranging the assorted ritual items, each in its specified place. Two candles in the bedroom. Two in the hallway. And eight in the bath. A candle at each corner of the bathtub, and the others equally spaced around the room. She stripped the bed and replaced the sheets with the crisp, new linen ones. One pillow… with a crisp, new linen pillow case. She folded the plain, white, full length nightgown, and laid it neatly at the foot of the bed. She almost forgot to cover the full length mirror in bathroom. Then she began filling the tub with water, as hot as she could stand it. As the tub filled, she emptied the small bottle of Lilac bath oil into the water. Amilee walked to the bedroom and closed the closet doors. Next she lit the candles there, and turned off the light. In the hallway, she lit those candles and turned off that light. She entered the utility room. There she stripped off all her clothes, placing them in the hamper on the washing machine, and switched off the light. She walked back into the bathroom naked, closing the utility room door behind her, and the door from the hallway to the kitchen. Now only the bedroom, hallway, and bathroom remained opened to one another. The rest of the house was blocked off, eerily darkened and quiet. Finally she carefully lit the candles in the bathroom, and switched off the overhead light. This area of her home was now a special sanctuary, illuminated by the soft glow of candlelight. The scent of Lilac filled the room. It was time to begin.

THE RITUAL

By now the tub was filled with hot, steaming water. Amilee stepped in. She arranged the new tub pillow behind her neck, and slid deep into the water until only her chin was above water. She’d been told to relax. Even amid the recent calamities, surprisingly, it was not too difficult to relax. The sweet lilac water, soft and hot on her skin, enveloped and cradled her as if she were back in her mother’s womb. If felt secure. It felt good. She closed here eyes – and for a while – she thought of nothing. How long she remained in that blessed state of security and serenity she did not know. For once in many horrible hours, she was at rest and at peace. Just as her body lay buoyant in the steaming water, her spirit floated above the chaos that had become her life. Her very mind was being bathed and cleansed. Slowly, her thought processes began to return. A deep and urgent dream for normalcy and peace flooded her being.

A phrase the old woman had used kept reappearing over and over with her head – “Treasured desires require treasured offerings.” Amilee now treasured the concept of peace in her life more than anything. She’d been such a fool to take that peace for granted while she yet possessed it. Never again. Never again would she be lax in holding tight to peace – never again. She was digging deeper into her resolve. She was digging deeper into a true understanding of self and self worth. She was digging deeper toward that buried treasure. The heat of the water melted away her fears. The wetness washed away her doubts. The sweet aroma of Lilac filled her heart with hope, like the hope which naturally comes with Springtime. Amille was willing to make what ever offering was necessary.

MORNING

Buzzzpt. Buzzzpt. Buzzzpt. A sleepy arm groped across the nightstand, desperately trying to silence the horrid alarm clock. Get up, she willed herself. Amilee shuffled to the small bathroom and folded her nightgown. She stepped into the shower, even before the warm had kicked in. She stepped from the shower and toweled dry, catching a glance of her image in the over-sized mirror. Not bad she thought. She toweled her hair dry and ran a brush through it in half a dozen rapid strokes, then reached around the doorway for her skirt and blouse. They were not there! Drat. She’d have to iron.

When dressed – she headed for the door. Amilee was holding an important press conference for 10:30 this morning. As per usual, she was running a bit late. She usually ran late for everything. But being late this morning was not an option. Now behind schedule, she rushed out the door. With a thousand thoughts running through her hyperactive mind, Amilee pulled into the street. “Ok Amilee,” she said to herself, “Relax. The cameras are only machinery.” Amilee was more worried about her appearance than her answers to the media.

30 – 35 – 40 – 45. Amilee’s eyes were on the road ahead although she hardly saw what lay ahead. Even if she’d seen the climbing numbers on the speedometer, chances are it wouldn’t have registered… or mattered. She was late. And she was focused. Today was a big day. Today was a big day indeed.

A sudden flash of Red ahead! A bike! It all happened in a split second.

The image of the Red bike looming before her had hardly registered on her brain when natural reflex kicked in. Amilee jerked the wheel to the left – right into the path of an approaching truck. The Red bike skidded to a harmless stop right in the spot that Amilee’s Buick had just occupied. But Amilee’s speeding Buick and the huge, heavy trash collection truck couldn’t possible occupy the same spot. There was a tremendous crash.

AFTERMATH

The next day the newspaper proclaimed: Candidate Killed In Crash – Wilson was likely winner of race for governor. Clouster County News by Harvey Phillips: Amilee Allen Wilson, candidate for governor was tragically killed early this morning in a head on crash with a county trash collection truck. There were no witnesses other than the driver of the truck and 12 year old Billy Frye. “She swerved into me to avoid hitting the boy,” the truck driver said. The tearful lad told reporters that he was temporarily distracted when a strap broke on his school bag. “I didn’t see her coming,” he said. According to the truck’s driver, he didn’t believe that speed was an issue. Ms Wilson is being hailed as a hero for avoiding the lad. “It was a great sacrifice,” said Sylvia Turner, her longtime friend and assistant. Pollsters say that that Ms Wilson was favored to win next year’s race for governor. “She was a shoo-in if you ask me,” remarked Joshua Stone, “She was the right person for the job. We will truly miss her!” Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.

 

~~

Hell-Fire and Ice Cream

icecream

FORBIDDEN FRUIT AND THE MISSISSIPPI STATE FAIR

 Bill Murphy © April 1997

There’s one food that I would ‘slap my grandma’ for – delicious Pineapple Whip Ice Cream that can only be found at the state fair. Believe me, if it were to be found anywhere else, I would know! One fair night during jr. hi days, my friend Buddy Gorday and I each bought a Foot-Long Hot Dog and TWO cones of Pineapple Whip Ice Cream just as we were leaving the fair – and rode the bus home! (True story!)

Wouldn’t you know it? The state fair was ‘off limits’ to the good folks of our local pentecostal assembly. But not to the folks of every assembly in our state. But it was strictly verboten to our church – which unfortunately included me.

The reason: The loud worldly music, crowds of people smoking, drinking using profanity, people in immodest attire – and everything was overpriced.

Friends visiting from out of town who were free to go to the fair could enjoy that good Pineapple Whip Ice Cream – and still be in favor with God and man. On the other hand – if I (shudder) went to the state fair, I would be guilty of disobeying ‘those who had the rule over me’ (Hebrews 13:17). Even if I stopped only at the Pineapple Whip Ice Cream stand and promptly left – I would still be ‘in rebellion,’ and therefore in conflict with God. The net result of state fair attendance was that I would be placing my soul in jeopardy over something as trivial as a cone of ice cream!

It all seemed like a tempest in a teapot to me. Ice cream? Really?

But from ministry’s viewpoint, my desire to attend the fair bordered on spiritual suicide! The choice was clear: the wonderfully delicious temporary taste of cooling Pineapple Whip Ice Cream – or eternal agony in the fires of hell. So… we didn’t go to the fair. We went to church.

Then after church on Sunday night, everyone piled into their cars and went to Bennigans – Where there was loud worldly music, crowds of people smoking, drinking and using profanity, people in immodest attire – and everything was overpriced. They had everything but my Pineapple Whip Ice Cream! Go figure.

~~

Another Place In Time, Part Two

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A STRANGE SUGGESTION

Amilee, though tried and groggy, tried to focus on what Sylvie was saying – as unbelievable as it was. “Remember our senior year a Bradley High, late on moonless nights we’d drive out past town, out to that place I called The Dark Mama’s? We’d dare one another to run up to the door and knock? Remember that?”

“Yeah, I remember,” said Amilee through her tears. “She was supposed to be a witch or something.”

“She’s no witch Amilee,” replied Sylvie. “From what I know about her, she’s a good person. She helped my Uncle Clyde when he broke his back. They said he’d never walk again, but Uncle Clyde’s still walking on his own good feet today. Witches hurt folks Amilee, they don’t help. And folks, especially the older folks who live out that way, they say she has special powers. They might be afraid of her, but they still say she can work miracles. And I believe it!”

“But what can she do for me? What can she do for Billy Frye? Can she bring him back from the dead?” Amilee buried her face in her hands again.

“I’m calling Uncle Clyde. If I have to drag you, Ms Amilee Wilson Allen – as soon as Uncle Clyde sees to it if it’s OK for us to go out there – I’m taking you to see the Dark Mama. And this time, we’re gonna knock on that door – and we’re going IN!

OLD ENON ROAD

“Y’all come at night,” she’d said on the phone. “I don’t want anybody seeing that I’m having company.” And so they did. They drove out old Enon Road for endless miles, over an unbelievably rough and potholed gravel road, into decrepit farm country. The area was a sad sight in the light of day – at night, positively forlorn.

The road grew more narrow, then took a sharp turn to the left. They bumped over a slight rise, and were there, the home of The Dark Mama. The headlights revealed nothing but a shanty – a smallish rectangle of warped and peeling wood. Old tires on either side of the drive, once painted white, held a few flowers. The house looked deserted. “It looks like no one’s home,” remarked Amilee, breathing nervously. “Let’s get out of here.”

“No, wait.” Sylvie noticed a small sliver of light coming from beneath the front door. “I think I can see a light,” she said, turning off the engine. With the car lights off, they could barely make out a faint glow behind heavy dark drapes covering every windows. “Come on.”

“Are you sure we want to do this?”

“Yes I’m sure! And you should be too.” Gravel crunched under foot as the two women walked to the house. A dog barked far off in the distance. Ancient wood creaked in protest as they climbed the steps onto the porch. “Go ahead Amilee, knock.” They waited a full minute or two after knocking. Nothing stirred.

“Come on, let’s go.” Amilee had second thoughts about this. The door squeaked open noisily. Brilliant light flooded the small porch, instantly destroying their night vision. A frail, dark figure stood in the doorway, outlined by the glare beyond. The brilliance behind this dark specter rendered it impossible to make out details.

“Come in chillin,” the specter said. The voice – strong, hearty, and aristocratic, didn’t match the scrawny frame standing in the doorway. “Come in, chillin’ Do come on in.”

THE DARK MAMMA

Neither Sylvie nor Amilee were prepared for what lay before them. The contrast between the outside and the inside was overwhelming. Outside, the old house was a tumbled down shanty. Inside – it was as bright, beautiful and as well-maintained as Amilee’s own home. The floors were hardwood, polished to a deep luster. A thick oriental rug was centered before a heavy, deep cushioned sofa that was to die for. Expensive accessories were in abundance. Brass lamps graced marble end tables, exquisite china filled a massive china cabinet, and two Queen Ann chairs stood off the side. It was nothing short of breathtaking. Beyond the living room, they could see into a well equipped kitchen, something out of ‘Better Homes and Gardens.’ The two ladies stood speechless.

The old woman spoke, “I can’t live like this with the windows opened – especially around this part of the county. Come in – and close the door. What folks don’t know about me won’t hurt ‘em, I say.”

What many folks in the area didn’t know about the old woman, including Sylvie and Amilee, was that the Dark Mama was white.

“You two look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said, as she ambled over to one of the chairs. “But I guess it is kinda spooky seeing and old white woman living alone way out here.” The old woman was old, that was obvious. But just how old was anyone’s guess. Her fair skin bore precious few wrinkles. It appeared as soft as a baby’s. “Actually, I am a quarter black, as if that really matters now. But that’s a different story. “Have a seat,” she said, motioning to the sofa. “If you ladies want coffee, there’s a fresh pot in the kitchen. You can fix it yourself. These old bones aren’t what they used to be.” She flopped down into the chair, resting her right foot on a small hassock. The old woman was ready to hold court.

“T-Thanks for seeing us,” stammered Amilee. “It’s very kind of you. Sylvie tells me that you don’t cotton to visitors these days.”

“Lawd no!” remarked the old woman. “Most folks are plum scared of me, and the rest of ‘em just wants to rob me blind. Yes sir, me and my cats get along just fine out here, keepin’ to ourselves.” The old woman’s face took on a look of solemn seriousness. She leaned forward a bit. She raised her right hand haltingly to her tiny chin, the thumb and forefinger gently squeezing it, making a dimple where none was before. She looked deep into Amilee’s eyes, as if trying to see into her very soul. “Tell me what ya want child. Tell me what you need from an old lady like me.”

The old woman had a commanding presence. He spirit, her essence, hung heavily in the room. Amillee was awed. And yet she felt no fear. Respect yes. But not fear. Surely this was no witch. “Do you know who I am?Asked Amilee. Have you heard of me in the papers or on TV?”

The old woman sat back on the sofa, a broad grin across her face. “Lawd no child! I have no TV and no use for newspapers, exceptin’ maybe to line the birdcage. No child, I don’t know who you are. Tell me… what brings you way out here!”

“Well…” Amilee hardly knew where to start. “I’m an attorney in town. A few years back I was the Assistant District Attorney for the county. The law practice has done well.” A bite relaxed now, she continued. “There’s a lot of us who feel the state needs a woman at the capitol, one who looks out for all the people, not just the same good ole boy bunch as usual.” She paused to take a deep breath. “I’m running for governor, and I’m told that I have a good chance this year.”

“Do tell,” the old woman added.

“Sylvie and I met in high school. We were classmates. Maybe you heard that she was raped. It created quite a stir – a racial stir I might add.”

“Continue.”

“The boys, white, came from wealth families – the old rich if you know what I mean – money AND power. It was swept under the carpet.” The old woman nodded. “A few years ago, when I was assistant district attorney, I forced the case to be reopened. We brought the 2 boys to trial – and won. They’re in the state pen now, where they belong.”

“And -” the old woman leaned forward again, focusing on every word.

“Obviously, the boy’s daddies would like nothing more than to see me fail.”

“Ah-ha!” the old woman exclaimed, rocking back on the sofa. In a scoffing tone she remarked, “So you want me to help you with ya political ambitions!”

“No. No!” pleaded Amilee. “No. Not that at all. That’s something I’ve got to do on my own.”

“Then what child? What is it what you want from this old woman?”

“Yesterday,” began Amilee, “I was on my way to a press conference – a very important press conference. I had a thousand and one things on my mind. I really shouldn’t have been driving, I know that now. My mind was so filled with stuff that I might as well been drunk. I guess I was going too fast. I – yes – I was. I was running late. But that’s no excuse.” Leaning forward, a tear rolled down Amilee’s cheek as she continued – “I hit a young boy on his bicycle – on his way to school. He was only 12. And I killed him!” Amilee burst into retching sobs.

“Here dearie, take these.” The old woman reached to hand Amilee a box of tissues. Deep compassion filled her face.

“I don’t care about the governor’s mansion now. They can have it! All I want is for that young boy to still be alive!” Amilee twisted and tore at the tissues, unaware that pieces were falling like snowflakes onto the carpet. Amilee fell back into her chair, drained. She’s bared her soul, and now she was spent. Her mouth made no sounds, but her eyes said it all with an intensity which literally screamed, “HELP ME!”

The old woman sank back in her chair, which seemed to swallow her. “I’m not a miracle worker, child,” she said. “I’m no witch either, although folks round here swear I am. And – I’m no magician! Fact is child, there’s no such thing as magic.” Even before she completed the words, the old woman’s hand was slowly rising. “The truth is, child, I can’t help ya. I can’t do nothing for you.” She reached forward, and thrust a boney finger straight at Amilee. “Folks don’t understand this – but most times we make our own miracles.”

She leaned back into the sofa. “How much do you want this thing? How much do you want this miracle. And this would be a miracle! How much do you want this boy to still be a-living?”

Amilee practically leaped from the chair. “More than anything,” she cried. “More than anything in the world!”

“Let me tell ya a story,” the old woman began. “It’ll explain to you how I come to be helping folks like you to help themselves.” The old woman seemed to be gathering herself. Anticipation of great news and great truths filled the room as if it were static electricity.

“I was born and raised way up in Wisconsin. That’s because my great-grandmomma got her hide as far from the South as she could. Great-Grammie was a slave, somewhere in Alabama. She and her brother were owned by a fellow from Boston. He owned the Alabama place, but was hardly ever there. He left the place under the care of the devil’s own brother – maybe the devil’s daddy. Not just mean – that ole coot was plain evil!” She paused for a moment to place a peppermint in her mouth.

“White folks now-days want to think that was all was sunshine and roses on the plantations; happy workers slavin’ merrily away in the fields while little pickaninnies ran around eatin’ ice cream all day. Baloney! No child. It was hell on earth – especially in Alabama where my Great-Grandmother was.” She paused to take a couple of deep breaths.

“Just for the sport of it, that slave-master raped my Great-Grandmother Laud knows how many times, right there in the fields for all to see – right in front of her own brother – who couldn’t do a blessed thing about it.” As if trying to remove the bitter taste of those words, she popped another peppermint into her mouth.

“At the far end of the field was an old Oak tree. Big ole thing. Reached half way to the sky. When she could, my Great-Grammie would slip off and lay under that ole tree. It was like her tree. She felt safe there. She told my momma that she’d lay there, wrap her arms around that ole tree as far as they would reach, and think, and dream, and plan – and wish. Of course, her grandest wish of all was for that evil tyrant to go away. She thought about that long and hard. That was her big wish.”

Amilee and Sylvie hung onto every word.

“One day she slipped off to her tree. She lay there hugging that wooden source of strength, praying’ and hoping’ and wishing’ that devil out of her life. She must-a been wishing mighty hard. My Great-Grandmother was so focused on her wish that she didn’t see him he walk up! He just stood there, looking down at her with those evil, lust-filled eyes. It was a spring morning. The sun was high. Not a cloud in the sky. Just as the ole devil began unbuckling his belt, a blinding flash a light – and a deafening crash a thunder shook the old tree. Outta no-where, a bolt a lightning split that old tree right smack down the middle! The ole devil looked up just in time to see it come crashing down right square on top of him! It smashed that devil flat! Momma said that Great-Grammie WILLED that devil dead.”

“And you child,” she said, pointing a boney finger at Amilee, “If you want it bad enough, you can have your wish too!”

“But I do want it!” said Amilee, tears streaming down her pleading face, “I really do! I want it more than anything!”

 

Another Place In Time, Part One

cover-time

I divided this short story of just under sixty-seven hundred words into 3 parts. I plan to post the following 2 parts on following days. It was originally written over 6 years ago. If you’re ever wished for a ‘do over,’ perhaps you’ll relate to this story with a twist.

 

BILLY FRYE

The Buick’s front bumper impacted Billy Frye’s bike at the tire. Momentum carried Billy forward. Contact with the Buick thrust his body violently to the right. Although his body changed in direction – his head continued forward. Billy’s top vertebra pulled away from his skull, ripping his medulla from the brain. It that micro-second, young Billy Frye ceased to exist as a viable being. He was dead before he hit the ground. Surprisingly, he appeared not to have a scratch on him.

SYLVIE TURNER

“Gracious! Where is that woman?” muttered Sylvie Turner quite aloud but to herself. Sylvie was the only person in the office, although it was nearly 10 AM. “But why should I worry? They don’t pay me enough around here to worry about everything.” The fact was – they did pay Sylvie rather handsomely. And she knew it.

‘They’ were her personal friends and employers, Paul and Amilee Wilson, Attorneys at Law. ‘Serving the good people of Vernon Crossing since 1999.’ But the red and gold sign out front would soon be changing. Paul Wilson and Amilee Allen Wilson were in the midst of an amicable divorce. Paul Wilson would relocate. There’d never been enough room in this small office for the two. With a little luck, Amilee herself might soon no longer need this office herself. Next year she could very well be The Honorable Amilee Allen -Governor!

“Come onnnn Amilee,”whined Silvie to the walls. “The press conference is at 10:30 and we still gotta get a few more ducks in a row.” Silvie had a habit of talking to herself. Billy Frye wasn’t the only one who was habitually late. But Amilee was not up all night building model airplanes. She was up trying to juggle a successful law firm, a quiet and friendly divorce, and her difficult candidacy for governor.

Sylvie was one of the main reasons Amilee was in the running for the governor’s mansion. Amilee and Sylvia went way back, to high school days. Both had been cheerleaders. Sylvie was the first black cheerleader for South/West Central High. Had Sylvie been white as Amilee, the two would probably never have become friends. They were polar opposites, sharing few common interest – not music, men, food or after-work fun – what little of that there was! But they’d become friends early on, and had remained friends, beginning that horrible night their senior year – when Sylvie was brutally raped.

Amilee had found her. The football game was long over, with only a smattering of kids remained around the field. Amilee was waiting for her dad to pick her up. Sylvie was waiting for a ride home also. Amilee hung around the concession booth until it closed. Then she heard faint sobs off in the distance. Under the bleachers, Sylvie lay bruised and bloodied. “Chad Brister and Joey Hudson did it,” said Sylvie.

Chad’s father, along with Joey’s step father, and with the assistance of the coach and the local Sheriff – soon swept it under the carpet as just so much adolescent fun – boys will be boys stuff. “Girls ‘like that’ live for screwing,” snarled the red-neck sheriff, “You could no more drown a fish than rape one of ‘em!” It made Amilee sick. It made Amilee mad. Amilee determine that night to do something about it – even if it took her (and Sylvie) 20 years to do it. They HAD done something about it – together. It took them 12 years – but they did it. ‘Adolescent fun’ had finally reaped the reward of lengthy prison sentences. Now Sylvie herself was but two semesters from becoming an attorney – and Amilee was running for governor. She was running with a head-strong determination to lead her beloved but backward state farther out of the dark ages. But running late for a press conference wouldn’t set too well with a room full of news-hungry reporters and video cameras.

AMILEE ALAN WILSON

Buzzzpt. Buzzzpt. Buzzzpt. Her sleepy arm groped across the nightstand, desperately trying to silence the most horrid sound devise by man. The third slap finally brought blessed peace. Every morning she vowed that this day she’d replace that demon-machine. Somewhere in this world, she mused, there’s an electronics engineer still chuckling over his evil handiwork. Get up, she willed herself.

Amilee shuffled to the small bathroom. By the time she reached the linen cabinet her nightgown was off and neatly folded. She placed the nightgown on the middle shelf, to the left. 3 nights for a nightgown was her standard practice. Last night was the second, it being Tuesday. Living alone, there was none to please or impress but herself, and none to interfere with her silly little habits. She turned on the shower, 75% hot, 25% cold… and stepped into the frigid spray long before the warm had kicked in. Such was her daily ritual, shocked awake by the cold morning spray.

An extravagantly thick towel hung in easy reach by the shower, her one small concession toward luxury. It was insane what she’d paid for the set, a month’s income for most in the world. While toweling dry she caught a glance of her image in the mirror. Not bad she thought, not bad at all for a woman of 36. Some day, she mused, someday when her harried life has slowed a bit. Perhaps then she will finally allow herself to respond to the admiring looks from men… but not now. She towel-dried her hair and ran a brush through it in half a dozen rapid strokes. Her hair was done, just like that. Not that it was short. No. It was simply the way she wore it. Amilee was blessed with easy to manage hair. Few MEN were so blessed.

Reaching around the doorway for her skirt and blouse, she cursed herself, then cursed herself again for cursing. She was vainly trying to stop what was for many a very “un-lady-like” habit. The skirt and blouse were not behind the door this morning – they were still in the dryer. Now thoroughly dry, they were also thoroughly wrinkled. She forgot to take them out last night. This latest miss-adventure was not in Amilee’s busy schedule. Now she was paying for her accidental omission. She’d have to take time she didn’t have to look for something else to wear. Or iron. She ironed. And she cursed.

Amilee Allen Wilson was this Southern states’ first woman to stand a real chance of winning the governorship. She was fortunate in that as both a trial attorney and as assistant district attorney, she’d participated in several high profile cases. Not the least of which was the conviction of Chad Brister and Joey Hudson. In every instance she’d not only won, but had come across as a brilliant, fair, and compassionate attorney… indeed a rare opinion of attorneys. She’d become the golden-girl savior of both rich and poor… all things to all people, of all races, and all social standing. It was nothing short of miraculous.

In a press conference scheduled for 10:30 this morning she would lay before the media the undeniable proof that the muck and mud her two male opponents were throwing was nothing short of outright lies. One small sheet a paper, in the public record, and carefully hidden up until now, would expose her tormentors as nothing less than bald-faced liars and fools. She had it planned as if grand opera. Someone, probably Sylvie, would call the conference to order. Then Amilee would calmly walk to the podium. While waving a recent newspaper clipping in the air, she’d briefly refer to the remarks made by her two opponents. Then she’d produce a small stack of papers, explaining that they were photo-copies of a certified court document. She had copies for each one present. Then she’d announce that the press conference was concluded. Here are your copies… turn and walk away. It would be classic Amilee.

She usually ran late for everything. But being late this morning was not an option. A good 5 minutes behind schedule, she rushed out the door.

BILLY FRYE

“Bye Mom… I’m gone…” Billy threw the words over his shoulder as he bounded out the door and toward his bike.

“Did ya remember ya homework?” she hollered back. She’d not heard his last words. Little did she realize that she’d missed his last words… his very last words.

Billy had started that last day of his short life much like all of his twelve years – sleeping as late as possible. Not that he was lazy. No. Billy was a night-owl – and night owls sleep late. “That boy,” muttered his mother as she surveyed the night’s fresh pile of model airplane debris. She fussed and complained, yet deep inside was eternally thankful. At least he was home at night – working on a harmless hobby. Two boys from his school already had police records. But Billy was a good kid – a really good kid.

By the time Molly Frye had Billy’s bed made and his morning’s towel in the hamper, he was two blocks away and peddling hard. A few more minutes and he’d be late for school. It seemed he was always almost late. He lived but 4 blocks from the school and yet he habitually flew in just in the nick of time – even when taking the off-limits shortcut through old Mrs. Simms’s side alley. His book bag, dangling from the handlebars by frayed straps, swung to and fro with the fast and steady rhythm of his peddling. Billy detested wearing the bag over his shoulder. His body seemed to radiate heat. It was a family trait. Strapped to his back, the bag would have trapped heat. The exertion of the short trip to school would have soaked his shirt. Billy flew down old Mrs. Simm’s side alley and into Elm street. Suddenly a strap broke. He grabbed for the falling bag just as he was entering Elm Street, his final street to cross on the way to school. He never saw the blue Buick.

THE BIG DAY

Amilee hated being late. She really did. But – she usually was. There were simply not enough hours in a day or days in a week. It had always been this way and probably always would be. Day in, day out, Amilee simply had far too much on her plate. This was perhaps the main reason she was becoming the ex-Mrs. Paul Wilson. No man wants to play second fiddle – and especially not third, fourth and fifth. “Ok Amilee,” she said to herself as she climbed into her car, “Relax. The cameras are only machinery.” Amilee was more worried about her appearance than her answers to the media. With a thousand thoughts running through her hyperactive brain, she pulled into the street. Another Amilee quirk: coming home she always backed into her drive, knowing full well that she’d no doubt be late again the next morning.

30… 35… 40… 45. Her eyes were on the road ahead although she hardly saw what lay ahead. Even if she’d seen the climbing numbers on the speedometer, chances are it wouldn’t have registered… or mattered. She was late. And she was focused. Today was a big day. Today was a big day indeed. Just as Billy never saw the blue Buick, Amilee never saw the bright red bike.

AFTERMATH

There was a horrible horrible crash. Amilee screeched to a stop. Running back to the small crumpled form in the street she knew at once it was too late. Although not a drop of blood could be seen, his young body, twisted at impossible angles, told the tragic story – this young boy was dead. That was Amilee’s last thought before blackness overtook her. She collapsed in the street beside him.

She was only vaguely aware of the gathering crowd. Time ground to a halt. The next few minutes seemed as hours – as days. It was all a dream, a very bad, ugly dream. It had to be. But – it was not. As the EMTs lifted her to her feet she saw the small form covered with a sheet. “Strange,” she thought, “That’s the whitest sheet I’ve ever seen.”

The questions that followed (and there were many) ran together in a confusing haze. “Were you speeding?” asked the officer. She knew him, this officer. She knew him well. His mother had been her third grade teacher. But for the life of her, she couldn’t remember his name. But his name is on his lapel badge, she thought. But she couldn’t read it through her tears. “Amilee?” He asked again. “How fast were you going?”

“I don’t know,” She heard herself reply. “I don’t know.”

SYLVIE AND AMILEE

“Amilee, we need to talk.” What a loaded question. It had been perhaps six hours since the accident. Amilee sank farther and farther into despair. Like a caged animal, she’d paced the office in pained desperation. Then she collapsed onto the office sofa in a wilted heap, sobbing her eyes out, sobbing, “Oh Billy – I’m sorry Billy. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She was a basket case.

Soon it would be on the 6 o’clock news, thought Sylvie, and tomorrow in all the morning papers. By Noon those twin vultures, Dale Brister and Dr. Robert Hudson, would have Amilee tarred, feathered, and run out of town – her hopes and dreams of the governor’s mansion as shattered as the body of poor Billy Frye. That would be the immediate repercussions. Just give those two vengeful good-ole-boy fathers a few days, and the law practice would be history, and Amilee would be receiving mail at the state penitentiary for women.

But Amilee was not thinking about politics, or ugly news accounts, or the vengeful parents of past defendants. Amilee was not thinking about herself. Amilee could not get her mind off that small crumpled child in the street – and the grieving mother who’d never again know the joy of seeing him off to school.

“Amilee. Amilee,” said Sylvie, kneeling beside her. Amilee slowly lifted herself. Her face was a mess. Her hair disheveled, her eyes blood-shot, her cheeks stained with tears. Sylvie had never seen this virtual tower of strength in such a pitiful mess. Sylvie hardly knew where to begin. “I know someone who can help.”

With that, Amilee flopped back down on the sofa, “No one can help! It’s too late for help! I killed that boy today Sylvie. I killed him! I killed him! I didn’t mean to – believe me. You do believe me, don’t you Sylvie?”

“Of course I do!” “But I killed him – just as sure as if I’d put a gun to his head.” She burst into uncontrollable sobs again.

“Amilee. Amilee. Listen to me. I – I -” she stammered, “I know someone – someone who I KNOW can help – someone who can work – well – almost MIRACLES. I’ve seen it happen before – for others. I know it sounds crazy, but I have seen it happen!”

But Amilee would hear none of it. “Poor Billy – I’m sorry. I’m sorry Billy,” was all she’d say, over and over.

A sudden strength overcame Sylvie, a sudden act of tough love. Sylvie grabbed Amilee’s head with both hands, forcing her face inches from her own. “AMILEE!” she shouted, The Dark Mamma can help!”

Continued in Part Two –

The Jewish Mary

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Merry Christmas Eve – always a very special day of celebration in the Murphy family. This year, 95% of our Christmas preparations are complete – so today there’s none of the harried rush. Oh happy day!

Today, Christmas Eve, was my mother and father’s wedding anniversary! They were wed December 24, 1935 in Carthage, MS. Just why they chose Christmas Eve, I never heard. But ‘their day‘ never interfered with ‘our day‘ for my sister Mary Lily and me. Mom and Dad celebrated their abiding love 365 days of the year. And that was the best Christmas gift they ever gave us.

But you’re probably wondering about The Jewish Mary.

During the 80s my sister Mary and her husband Wayne lived just off base near Fort Campbell, where Wayne was stationed. Always the entrepreneurs, they also operated a stained glass studio in their garage. Vandals threw a rock through a stained glass window of a local Catholic Church, shattering the head of Mary. Wayne and my sister got the job of restoration.

They picked up the shattered pieces, and painstakingly taped them back together to use as a pattern. Then they called me to come help with the project. Now Mary is an accomplished artists herself, yet she called me to do the painting of Mary.

Working in painted stained glass is not like working with paint on paper. It’s a involved process. The ‘paint‘ was more like mud than paint. Then it took over a day to fire (bake) and fuse the paint with the glass. It had to cool down slowly. This was NOT an overnight process!

But finally, Mother Mary was finished! She was delivered to the church elders for approval and payment. NOT. My tedious work was rejected! It was rejected on the grounds that Mary looked TOO JEWISH!

My extended family was/is protestant. I remember hearing as a child that there was such a thing as a ‘Catholic Bible,’ which was, supposedly, somewhat different from ours. I never learned the truth of this tale from childhood. But maybe…

Scrooge

scrooge   I suppose I better get these thoughts on paper now. Within a few days they’ll be, ‘dated.’

Carol has always referred to me as ‘Scrooge’ around Christmas time. She gave me this Scrooge tree ornament a number of years ago. Now believe me, I don’t go so far as to proclaim ‘baa humbug,’ but for many years I’ve had decided issues with our modern version of Christmas celebrations and customs.

Let’s face it – the honest truth of the whole matter of Christmas is that was intended to be a Christian celebration of the birth of a Christian historic figure by the name of Jesus (The Christ) of Nazareth. Much the same way, Easter was a celebration of His death, burial, and resurrection. Look around you. Don’t see much celebration of His birth do you!

There’s an old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I whole heartedly believe that. So somewhere along the line, folks with ‘good intentions‘ added to the celebration. They added fir trees, holly, mistletoe, candles, candy, cookies, and gifts for the kiddies and everyone. And then someone ‘birthed‘ Jolly Ole Saint Nick, the fat man in the red suit who really sole Christmas. The Grinch only helps. As does Elf. Etc. Do I need to bring up what we lovingly refer to as ‘Easter’ bunnies and eggs?

Personally, I’m sick of it. But I have a way out – a suggestion if you will.

Because Washington is dead set on abolishing any mention of CHRIST as in ‘Merry Christmas,’ then let’s still have the good old American Happy December Holiday. And we’ll call it X-Mass, which is already being used. That shouldn’t offend anyone. Then, we’ll take ALL things CHRISTIAN out of Christmas! Santa can have it! We’ll simply start over at another date!

There are Christian Holidays that the world at large is happy to ignore. We’ll simply combine our celebration of our Lord and Savior’s birth with one of those – and I suggest Pentecost Sunday. I have yet to see an Amazon Pentecost Sale, or Wal-Mart Pre-Pentecost mark-downs. We can celebrate these Christian events at one time – or even a day apart. But the new rules must be understood – Santa belongs to X-Mass, as do Reindeer, Elves, Holly, Egg Nog, exchanging gifts, mega-dinners at grandma’s, midnight sales at the mall, etc. X-Mass will be for wild spending, unbridled eating, unruly crowds and heavy traffic, frustration, all the stuff we’ve come to associate with X-Mass.

The ‘new’ Christmas/Pentecost will be reserved for being unhurried and un-harried – for pausing and stopping to enjoy the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – and to focus on Him and only Him – as we wish Him an un-obstructed Happy Birthday. This sounds like true Peace On Earth, Good-Will To Men! I really think Jesus would be pleased with this.

 

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