Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Fiction: A Contentious Woman is an Old Blue Hen

My Friday Fiction story is based on my great-grandmother. She was austere and not very nice. My dad, as a child, had to contend with her moods and orneriness often when his mother died from TB and his father went away from home to find work. But his grandfather, whom I remember even though he died when I was young, was a gentle and loving man. Enjoy the fiction and be sure to read the other Friday Fiction stories at Pattering's Blog!

A Contentious Woman is an Old Blue Hen

“Roger, get in here right now!”

I set my jaw as I watch Grandma go back inside. I sometimes hate that old woman. She’s got a beak on her that looks exactly like the one on Ruby Orwieler’s mangy pet owl, and I hate it, too. Ruby showed me how to feed it chicken once, and it nearly took my thumb off.

I shuffle reluctantly up to the door, press my nose against the dusty screen, and do a quick surveillance inside. I spy my grandpa sitting on the ragged couch shoved against the wall. He sees me peeking in, and throws a thumb out toward the kitchen. His mouth has a hint of laughter in it, but he keeps his chuckles to himself. Grandpa John knows better than to pick a fight with the Old Blue Hen.

I open the screen door slowly, trying to keep the rusty hinges from squealing on me, but Grandma’s hearing is too keen. I hear her coming before I see her with her black Red Cross shoes shuffling over the gritty wood floor. My ears close tight against the quarrelsome and cantankerous whining I know is coming.

“I never saw such a boy as you! You load your stomach with food every day, but can you so much as hoe one row of potatoes? No! And those brothers of yours don’t do a thing to help either. Take right after your Daddy, and you do, too! Your old man is the laziest son was ever born to a woman. Why I ever had one like him I’ll never understand…”

Her background noise is tiresome, and inside, it eats me up. She knows I can’t help it if my Daddy took off to Michigan after Mom died. My brothers and me are just as flummoxed over his leaving us as she is. What he did’s not right, most folks know, but they don’t blame us or rag on us about it. He’s gone, so why does she have to keep beating a dead horse?

When she turns her ranting self toward the kitchen again, I glare a hole into the back of her head. Grandpa rises stiffly and steps silently over to me.

“Roger, I found a nice place to sit and think. Want to come along?”

”What about her?” I jerk my head in the direction of the kitchen.

Grandpa puts his finger to his lips and smiles. He reaches over and switches on the Crosby radio sitting by the window. The sounds of the Grand Old Opry fills the musty room as he eases us out the door and onto the porch. The scrawny chickens scatter as we scurry across the sparse grass together.

“Where’re we going, Grandpa?”

“Up there.” he points ahead of us.

The dirt road winds away to the edge of the horizon under trees heavy with summer foliage. Our shoes kick up mini dust tornadoes around our ankles, and the heat presses down on our bare heads like a hot iron. After awhile, we leave the road and climb the steep hill that rises before us. I’m surprised to find a shack hanging precariously to the side of the mountain, its front porch sagging downward like an old man’s mouth. We scramble up and sit with our feet swinging in the air.

“Grandpa, why’s she like that? Why’s that Old Blue He-“ I stop.

He grins at me and wipes his forehead with his red bandanna but he doesn’t say a word.

“Anyway, she hates me so bad, and I haven’t done anything to her!”

“It isn’t you, boy. It’s your Daddy. She’s all mixed up. She loves him, but she knows he isn’t doing right by you kids. It makes her feel mean and ornery, and you get the short end of the stick because of it.”

“I wish she’d just let up. I wish…” I shut my eyes against sudden tears.

Grandpa pats my shoulder and we sit in silence a while.

“A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.”* Grandpa says. He turns and grins at me again. “That’s from the Bible, and I reckon I got to pray about both of those things. You can help me pray, if you want to.”

“I guess I can.”

My mind is filled up with all my worries, but as I sit with Grandpa, I start to feel better.

*Proverbs 19:13 King James Version


Joanne Sher said...

You sure know how to bring a character to life, Dee. Wonderfully done. Love grandpa especially. Great read, my friend!

Sara Harricharan said...

Oh, I remember this one, Dee. Very nice-so glad I got to read it again. You do so well with these characters and feelings.

LauraLee Shaw said...

Touching, tender, incredible characterization and emotion expressed.

Anonymous said...

You always have such great characterizations. I love the "old blue hen" and the "iron pressing down" and "the old man's mouth" analogies.

Patty Wysong said...

Dee, this is such a rich one! The characters are so well done! They just glow!!