Sunday Wild Child

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Southern Fiction

Bonnie Blithe gives an opening to the condition of her family. She is hoping for a boy child since the one girl that she has is strong willed and rebellious.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Bonnie Blithe Wilcox

Submitted: June 21, 2016

Reads: 367

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Submitted: June 21, 2016

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Sunday Wild Child

Bonnie Blithe Wilcox

Mother

Stingy moss curls drape the old oak outside the shack’s window. It looks kind of sad and weepy. It rained hard earlier in the day, not normal, since it’s only mid-March. But, so far, the whole year has been not normal. Everything is confused, flowers in bloom—too soon, and snakes slither through the over tall grass. I haven’t had the energy to get out there and hack it back. When I think about it, I can’t. Mr. Johns, a farm or two over from here, came and took back his sling blade last week. Been here since the end of summer. The boys borrowed it back then. It just slipped my mind to return it. Something was bound to get overlooked. My head is about to burst from all I have to think about.

I’ve lost so much, but I’ve gained a lot, too. I got five children. The oldest is ten and the youngest is still in my belly, a belly that hasn’t had enough to eat since I moved away from home. “I hope you’re a boy. Girls, well, girls—” I can’t say it out loud, doesn’t seem Christian to feel this way, and it sure won’t be right to say out loud what I feel. But I can’t get it out of my mind. Girls are so much more trouble. So much more.

Daddy thought that, and Mama, too, because she didn’t even speak up for me when Daddy looked at Elijah, my husband, spat on the ground, cussed and walked away. I never saw Daddy’s face again, until he was dead in his coffin. I hardly made it back in time for that. My sister Merlie got in touch. The telegram came a day before we were set to move, again. She wired enough money for me to get home.

“Hello, little boy. Do you like for me to rub you with my hand? Do you like the songs I sing?” I sing to baby boy while I watch my other young ones. They are making a racket running under the house, back and forth from one side to the other. It’s an old farm house. Sits high off the ground. Now one of them is sticking a dirty little finger up through a crack in the floor. “Jimmy, Jesse, Dixie Josephine, whoever’s doing that, come out to where I can see you.”

I know it’s Dixie Josephine without having to think twice. It’s always her, the girl. She’s like a head nanny goat, the first to get into something. Somehow, she always manages to get out. The others end up scarred and hurt. But not her. She’s like pig iron.

“Please, please, be a little boy, little boy.”

Dixie Josephine and Jimmy ought to be in school today, but I kept them at home. Jimmy cried. He wanted to go, but he and Freddy Lee use the same shoes. Well, everything, even drawers. Jimmy kept them on. I told Freddy Lee to be real careful. Keep his belt tight so his pants don’t fall. We’re poor, but we got pride, I told him. I don’t know why, I said that to him. He’s more pride-filled than me. The belt cinched so tight around his little waist, it nearly wrapped around twice. Anyway, Jimmy can go tomorrow while Freddy Lee stays home. He can help me to fix up this yard some. He’s little but real scrappy. We can pull some long weeds. Maybe I’ll send him and Dixie Josephine back over to Mr. Johns to borrow his sling blade again. My girl’s only eight and already she can talk the sugar out of a cake. I’ll let her go with Freddy Lee.

Dixie Josephine, if left up to her, she’d never go to the schoolhouse. She was born thinking she knows everything. Keeping her home is a reward, and to make her go to the schoolhouse is like trying to coax a pig to the slaughterhouse. She balks and squeals until I give in. I let her go enough to keep the truant officer from my door. I don’t want him here. He might leave her and take my other children. Yes, that’s the way my luck runs.

“Hey, baby boy.” I suppose he’s waiting till the moon gets full before he comes. Who knows, maybe it’ll be wasting. Whichever, it will be in his`  1 own good time.

“Dixie Josephine.” I call her because they’re all mighty quiet. I need to hear some noise, some movement. “Dixie Josephine.” I call the girl again as loud as my fine voice will let me. She needs to get the soap off the back porch shelf and the rag from the nail. These warm showers got the tin tub full. They can get some of the dirt and grime off while it’s still pleasant outside. I have half of an old chenille bedspread, most of the chenille gone, they can dry off with it.

I hear them running. That girl, who knows everything, is on the job. She and Jimmy lift the tub onto the porch and like leap frogs, they are in an out. I watch close from the window. The first shiny twinkle high in the sky, I shriek like a peafowl and they come inside. I don’t play with God and his neon signs in the sky.

“Get in here.” I hand the homemade towel to Dixie Josephine. She wipes herself over first. “Here. Get decent.” She takes the elastic wrap I made and pull it to her armpits. Like everything else, she’s quick as a flash. “Dry up the boys. Give them these to slide on. Can’t have y’all walking around indecent.”

Jimmy is not big, but he is old enough to be shamefaced about his nakedness. Dixie Josephine knows that. She doesn’t care about hers. Like everything else, she doesn’t mind being free and unbridled. She barely got the sheen off her before she handed the towel to her brother.

I hear the front door open. Freddy Lee is home from school. Funny I didn’t hear the school bus. “Freddy Lee.” He answers with a polite “yes’um” and I ask how he got home. The old bus broke down about half way, so he walked the other five miles. I hate to ask him to go over and get the tools from Mr. Johns, but I don’t want to send Dixie Josephine by herself. She’d do it though. Besides being gutsy, she’s as strong as a little mule. The old Radio Flyer Elijah fixed up for them before he went back on the road. That’s what he calls being away. Dixie Josephine would fill it up with whatever Mr. Johns could spare and haul it back over here.

“Dixie Josephine.” She needs to check the biscuits I put in the oven. They smell like they’re ready. “Okay, get your brothers around the table. I’ll come in and pour the syrup.” I have to do that or they’ll drown the biscuits with so much, they’ll swim off the plate. “After you and Freddy Lee finish, get on over to Mr. Johns.” Yes, I looked at my boy. He didn’t look too wore out from his walk. That’s what being young is like. Plus, he’s a real good boy, just like Jimmy. He’ll do anything without complaining.

It won’t get dark until late. Started  something called daylight savings time. Good for weeding and working in the evening, but the young ones have to stand out there in the dark, waiting for the school bus. We’re in the country. So, all kind of wild varmints prowl about. Florida got more than its share. Elijah left his loaded shotgun and rifle in the front porch rafters. I get one of ‘em and stand guard till the children get on the bus. I haven’t shot anything big. Freddy Lee shot a coon one morning and a possum the next. We were all happy. Meat was on the table with the biscuits and syrup for a few days.

“Freddy Lee. Dixie Josephine. Make haste. Go on so you can get back. Wanna do a little weed pulling before dark.” 

Jimmy and Jesse play real quiet at my feet. I am sitting in the rocker to get myself rested up to go out when the boy and girl get back. I’m praying Mr. Johns will put tools, wagon, them and all in his pick up and bring them home. I’m keeping a look out the window.

How selfish of me to only talk about all I gained, making somebody think I’m all high and mighty. That’s not what I am in the least bit.

I lost a lot in my life. But I kept what’s most important: my faith. Without it, there is no way I could weather the storms that keep on brushing through my life. So in the big scheme of things, I have my greatest inheritance.

Bonnie Blithe Wilcox is my maiden name. No matter which direction you looked ,your eyes fell upon my family’s land inWilcox County, Georgia.  All my young life, people talked about the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto landing there, discovering the Ocmulgee River. They also talked about Confederate President Jeff Davis staying at one of our plantations in 1865, sadly a day or two before he surrendered to the Yankees. As a matter of fact, our house is oldest one in the county. Of course, the city has grown up around it, kind of. If you can call Abbeville a city.  A lot of the land has been sold off to hog farmers and cotton growers. Some of my brothers and sisters are real well off. They got a good inheritance, monetary stuff, that is. That was one of my losses. I knew in my heart I probably wouldn’t get anything, but I learned for sure when I went back to Papa’s funeral. I had planned to stay a few days but Merlie, the only sibling I’ll mention because I am “dead” to the others, said for me to come on back to my children because Papa had left me out of the will. He was mad with me all the way to the grave. I understand. Anyway, Papa was a real wealthy man, and because of that, we were afforded many more things than most folks in that part of Georgia during that time.

It seems like, though, everything my folks poured into me to make me the privileged girl I was, I was busy emptying it out. Piano lessons. I hated to practice. But I would. Just put on airs and act like being on that bench was as good as eating one of Grandma’s fried peach pies. I was a good pretender. Voice lessons. Those I liked, but Papa didn’t take a liking to my choice of music, opera. To him it was a bunch of hollering in an unknown tongue. So again, I put on a façade and switched over to the hymns and anthems they screeched and warbled in the fundamental Baptist church. I pretended so much until I eventually became less and less of myself, and more of what other folks thought I should be.

Stuff I liked, Papa and Mama scoffed at and said it was beneath the dignity of the family. Lizzie Pearl, the family cook who came from beyond the tracks, was my idol. If I was going to sing church music, I wanted it to be like she had at her church. I’d hang out in the kitchen with her, learning how to cook, until I got shooed away or called to something more refined in the parlor. She’d give a line and model how to sing it, and I’d follow behind her bellowing as deep and as rich as I could. I was reminded when I got to the parlor that I had a fine voice, one of a genteel southern flower, and I ought not to ruin it trying to make gut-bucket sounds. It was church music, for God’s sake. Lizzie Pearl didn’t sing any juke joint songs. But that’s the way Papa thought. If it wasn’t his way, it was the wrong way. Now that I have children of my own, I understand Papa better. He wanted what was best for me. Of course, I believed I knew better than him. After all, I had more education than him and Mama put together. Yes, he saw to that, too.

It’s still a lot of daylight left. Looks like Mr. Johns took pity on the children. His pickup is pulling along the side of the road in front of the house. Jimmy and Jesse are already running out to meet them. They always get excited to see Mr. Johns, well anybody. Usually the visitor just happens to have a little something in their pockets to give to them. “Don’t y’all be out there begging” I yell out as they jump up and down. They mind me. They never ask for anything. Such good little boys. But their eyes plead. Should I make them close their eyes?


© Copyright 2019 --Ethel Cook-Wilson. All rights reserved.

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