Authors: Ann B Ross
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding
Book / published by arrangement with the author
All rights reserved.
Ann B. Ross
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Electronic edition: June, 2006
ALSO BY ANN B. ROSS
Miss Julia Takes Over
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind
This book is for
Chuck Colhoun, Michael Martin,
and Jennifer Ross—
miracles by marriage
I’ve a good mind to sell this house.
The thought came to me, full-blown, as I looked out my front window at the absolute mess across the street. A haze of red construction dust hovered in the air, while a layer of it had already drifted over the sidewalk and covered my porch and front yard. A huge flatbed truck loaded with pallets of bricks had just come to a brake-grinding stop, blocking the street and my driveway, while men high up on scaffolding waved trowels and yelled instructions. You could’ve heard them all the way to Main Street.
Fifty years, or close to it, in one place is long enough for anybody. Especially when a three-story brick monstrosity, courtesy of the high-flying aspirations of Pastor Larry Ledbetter, was being built right in front of my eyes. Then there was Hazel Marie on the road to rack and ruin, taking Little Lloyd with her, and Coleman so besotted with Binkie that he hardly ever stayed in the rented rooms upstairs, and I was right before being left high and dry in this house with nothing but reminders of Wesley Lloyd Springer to keep me company. Any of which I could do without and never miss.
“Lillian,” I said as I heard her push through the door to the dining room, the strains of gospel music from the kitchen radio going up a notch. She needed to turn that thing down.
“Lillian?” I said again.
“I’m listenin’ hard as I can,” she answered, standing there
with her arms full of folded towels on her way to the downstairs linen closet.
“I’ve a good mind to sell this house.”
She put the towels on the sofa and walked over to the window. Looking out with me, just as a worker threw a clanging shovel into a wheelbarrow, she said, “You not gonna do no such a thing, Miss Julia. That Presbyterium church buildin’ get built one of these days, then things quieten down, an’ you be over yo’ upset.”
“Not likely,” I said. “Things won’t ever be the same as long as that thing is standing over there right in front of my eyes, with people coming and going all the time, doing first one thing and then another just to get in shape. A Family Life Center, of all things. All it’ll be is a glorified gymnasium. And I’ll tell you what’s a fact, the church ought not to be in the physical fitness business. Its number one concern, to my mind, ought to be
I turned away from the window, just sick at the sight of that brick wall going up not two feet from the far sidewalk. Turning away didn’t help, though, for what I had to face inside the house was an even worse mess.
“Lillian,” I said again, holding my head in my hand, “I don’t know what to do about anything anymore. I declare, I’m so tired of fighting losing battles I could just sit down and cry. And I may do just that.”
“You think that gonna he’p anything?”
I looked up toward the back of the house as the sound of Hazel Marie’s humming and singing the few words she knew of some country-western song came from her bedroom. Happy as a lark, packing suitcases and getting ready to move out of my house and into Mr. J. D. Pickens’s. Without benefit, again, of marriage, I might add. You’d think after her decade-long experience as my husband’s paramour, a situation that left her with a child and not a red cent to her name when he up and
died right out there in my driveway, that she’d know better than to take up with another man of similar ilk. Not that Mr. Pickens was already married, as Wesley Lloyd Springer had been to me, but he’d told her he was not the marrying kind, at least, not at the present time. But if not now, when? She was playing with fire, I’d told her. But did that stop her? No, it did not, as the click of suitcase latches testified.
“I’ve got to talk to her again,” I said. “I can’t let her keep on ruining her life like this.”
“You might ought to keep out of it,” Lillian cautioned, ready as usual to offer advice, whether it was wanted or not. “She a grown woman, an’ she ain’t never been so happy in her life.”
“But she could be happier! She doesn’t know what she’s missing.” I stopped then, recalling my own less-than-satisfactory marriage. I wouldn’t wish the same on my own worst enemy, and Hazel Marie was far from that.
“Here come Little Lloyd,” Lillian said, as she moved the curtain aside to look out the window again. “That heavy ole book satchel gonna break that chile’s back one a these days. He gonna want a snack with nothing but one a them school lunches on his stomach, which he don’t hardly eat anyhow.”
As she padded toward the kitchen, the run-down heels of her slippers flapping with every step, I went back to the window. My heart wrenched as I watched Little Lloyd walk toward the house, his head turned to watch the workmen across the street. In spite of my and Lillian’s every effort, the child stayed skinny as a rail. His little thin legs looked like sticks poking out of his long shorts. A striped tee shirt just emphasized his puny chest, while a soft spring breeze lifted his fine hair, blowing it first one way then another. I could see him squint through the thick glasses, entranced as every child is with the activities of workingmen. As he reached my driveway, he turned to walk backward to watch the bricklayers on the scaffold, the Game Boy in his hand temporarily forgotten.
Mr. Pickens had given him that electronic thing, now banned in the classroom, and he fiddled with it walking to and from school, and every other chance he had.
“Oh, Lord,” I moaned under my breath. “How am I going to get along without them?” All I could think of were the long, lonely days stretching out in front of me, while I rattled around by myself in this empty house until I got too feeble to be of use to anybody. I could picture everybody going on about their lives, doing whatever popped into their heads to do—Coleman still carrying on with Binkie without the least hint of impending nuptials, and Hazel Marie living in sin with Mr. Pickens, and that child learning who-knew-what from their association, and Sam, well, who knew what he’d be up to. And here I’d be, old and forgotten, laid up in bed with my mind gone and my hip broken and needing a bedpan and nobody around to care if I got one or not.