Authors: Margaret A. Graham
Â© 2003 by Margaret A. Graham
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meansâfor example, electronic, photocopy, recordingâwithout the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
For Bunny Dagley
who loves all God's creatures, great and small,
especially Paso Fino horses
And God, who studies each commonplace soul,
Out of commonplace things makes His beautiful whole.
Sarah Chauncet Woolsey
(Susan Coolidge, pen name)
You have not wrote in a long time. Are you all right? Let me know if you are sick.
As for me, my aches and pains come from having too many birthdays. Only good thing about birthdays is getting old enough to get that Social Security check. But before I leave the planet, I got a few things to let you in on.
For one thing, I'm here to tell you that there is not one word of truth in that old saying “There's no fool like an old fool.” Make no mistake, there's lots of competition out there, fools young and old with no more smarts than that state house crowd. I got a long way to go to be the fool them baby boomers is, right? To keep the playing field fair (Ha! Ha!) I am not taking any of them
mind-enhancing herbs them women in the Willing Workers Sunday school class swear by.
Beatrice, you might know the Willing Workers is at it again. This time they're in a swivet to run off the new music director. As for me, I'm sitting tight. Mercy me, the fellow is not dry behind the ears.
I got the garden plowed. Elijah'll come grub it up so I can start planting come Good Friday.
It took me a while to get that letter mailed. You'd think that since Bud died I would've had plenty of time, but first one thing and another came up, and before I knew it, my day was gone. Went to the hardware store and bless Patty if the boy Elmer hired part-time didn't try to sell me last year's seed corn. I marched right back in the office and told Elmer to get that sack of corn off the floor before some unsuspecting customer bought it and it don't half come up.
Well, to get back to Beatrice, I worried about her up there in Mason County with nobody to look after her. Like me, she had no family to speak of, one cousin out West, maybe in Idaho. She is old as me by a few months, but she still had not got the sense God promised a billy goat. When the mill closed here in Live Oaks, the only place she could find a job was at a convenience store up on the interstate at Piney Woods Crossroads. I didn't
worry about the locals holding up the storeâthe moonshine business is still going strong in Mason Countyâbut people coming off the interstate are from all over and be not above pulling a gun on somebody. I knew that if ever that place was robbed, nervous as she was, she'd like as not drop dead before they could get off a shot.
Well, I finally got the letter mailed, and as soon as Beatrice got it, she called me up. She started in right away, telling me she was not sick.
“My dreaded disease has not come back on me yet. I've got no more lumps, but that don't mean I'll live long enough to pay all these here medical bills.”
“The Lord will provide,” I told her, but she wasn't listening. She was talking fast and cramming her words together to get as much said as she could without running up a big phone bill. That's the way she always starts out, rapid as machine-gun fire, but usually she winds down and yackety-yacks to her heart's content.
She was telling me, “The reason I haven't wrote much lately is because I can't think of nothing to write about. All I do is work all day, walk home of an evening, eat a TV supper, wash my underwear, and read my devotional. Then I make sure all the doors and winders is locked and check to make sure my will is safe under the mattress. Then I go to bed.”
By then she had used up all she had to say, but her lonesome self wouldn't allow her to say good-bye.
“Esmeralda,” she said, “you're right about them baby boomers. Yesterday one of them dropped a penny on the floor, and he made not a move to pick it up. That's the
way they areâgive 'em pennies in change and they leave 'em on the counter. Ain't it in the Bible about a penny saved is a penny earned? Well, like as not, they don't read the Bible. I don't call nobody a fool, but one of them comes in here and feeds quarters to the video machine till he has not got a quarter left.”
I laughed a little to let her know I was still listening, but I didn't say anythingâdidn't want to encourage her to stay on the line. She hung on anyway, trying to think of something more to say. Her pauses are like when the washing machine stops between cycles then starts up again.
“I sure miss Tom,” she whined. “I'd like to have me another companion, but I am sure not looking for one. Nobody can take Tom's place.”
I was about to say something, but she changed the subject. “What's that music director's name?” she asked. “I sure miss Apostolic Bible Church and the Willing Workers. I guess Clara is still head of the W.W.s because she has not died yet.”
I finally decided that if Beatrice was going to talk all night, I might as well butt in and say a few things myself. “Before you pass judgment on that fool who feeds the video machine, there's Willing Workers that buys all kinds of magazines they don't read, hoping they'll win the sweepstakes. They say it's not gambling because they get something for their money. Besides, they say, if they win the sweepstakes, they'll give some of the money to Apostolic Bible Church and a lot of it to missions. I'll not say what I think, but Splurgeon says, âHe who gambles
picks his own pocket.' That's the truth if ever I heard it.”
I didn't give her a chance to ramble off again, because I needed to jerk a knot in her about eating TV dinners.
“And what do you mean eating TV dinners?” I said. “You're a good cook even if you are a rich cook. All that butter and cream is good tasting and a lot better for you than food froze for years that tastes like wallpaper paste.”
“They ain't so bad, Esmeralda. Why should I cook up a lot of stuff when there's only me to eat it? I use to cook chicken for Tom.”
“Well, Beatrice, that brings me to something else. I've been telling you for some time that you need to get out more and meet people. Tom was as good a friend as a four-legged critter can be, even though he took off now and then to go courting. But what you need is a two-legged, talking friend. Better yet, a man friend.”
I thought she would go ballistic, but to her, the idea of having a man friend was so out of the question that it didn't bother her. “Oh, I'm too old for that,” she said. “Marriage ain't for me.”
“You don't have to marry him! It's just you need a friend to go out to eat with once in a while. As for marriage, you would've been married long ago if it wasn't for that hang-up you've got. When you were young and ripe, you dumped every boy that showed you favor because they didn't come up to your standards. Whatever you meant by that, I'll never know. With men so scarce in Live Oaks, a girl had to take what she could get. Of course, I got the cream of the crop, but every fellow that asked you for a date you compared him to your
sweet patootie, Percy Poteat. After the way he made fun of you all through school, I don't see how you could have ever given him the time of day. Mercy me, he used to tell you you were ugly and that your mama dressed you funny! Of course, like me, you weren't so favored in the looks department, and it was true your mama had only one patternâone week a blue jumper and the next week a brown one. And them hair bows were way too big. But when your mama curled your hair, you looked like a store-bought doll.”
“That was a long time ago, Esmeralda. And if beauty is a curse, I was mighty blessed.”
She had said that so many times it wasn't funny anymore. “Beatrice, there was one time when you were a real good looker. Do you remember? It was after we quit school to go to work in the variety store. The manager assigned you to the candy counter, and you really filled out then. That's when all the boys tried to get you to go steady. That's when those flat-chested, green-with-envy Neely girls started razzing you about your red hair. Jealous, that's all. They were just plain jealous and stayed green with envy until you turned against Hershey kisses and slimmed down again. And as long as you eat them TV dinners, you will keep on being skinny as a rail.”
I could hear her loud sigh over the phone. “I guess I am right bony in parts.”
“You are not bony! You could just use a little more meat on you is all. Why, Clara Wolf would give her upper plate to have your figure. There ought to be some nice wifeless man at church or one that comes in the station
you could go out with. I bet you don't even cast an eye to see.”