Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mumbletypeg: A Magpie Tale


Sadie walked down the town’s dusty main street wiping sweat from her forehead. It was hot. Hotter than the hinges of hell, Johnny Jacobs used to say before he got religion and didn’t swear anymore. Not even her light cotton sundress hanging loosely on her spare frame gave relief from the heat.


She passed the old clapboard church; now more gray than white. The organ was wailing away and the high-pitched off-key singing signaled that Mrs. Whittaker was at her post practicing for her usual Sunday assault on the good people of Morgansville just as she had done every Sunday for the past 40 years.


Two little girls were swinging on a tire swing in old Mr. Phillips yard next door. Sadie guessed maybe they were his granddaughters. They were both beyond dirty in their coveralls and bare feet. Sadie smiled at them.


She continued walking toward the old general store and wondering why on earth she had come back here even though she knew. Her hand, deep within her pocket, held the reason. She fingered the smooth-worn wooden handle as she walked, careful to keep the blade inside it.


What would Raymond say when she took it from her pocket and handed it to him? She remembered how she had coveted the thing because it had belonged to Raymond. And she remembered how she got it.


She had been watching the action one afternoon when Raymond and Johnny Jacobs and two or three other town boys were behind the feed store playing mumbletypeg and betting on the outcome – a serious sin in Morgansville. Raymond had proceeded to bankrupt each one in turn and had just wiped Johnny out of his entire fortune of three dollars and thirty-two cents when Preacher turned the corner and saw them.


Boys scattered in every direction imaginable. Johnny disappeared inside the feed store where his daddy worked and Raymond, without so much as a howdy-do, walked over to Sadie, put his arm around her waist, handed her the knife and told her to keep it for him as he ferried her – and himself – confidently away from the scene and out of Preacher's reach.


Sadie was smitten.


Then life happened. And now she was back, the knife in her hand and her hand deep in her pocket, walking determinedly toward the general store that had become Raymond’s after his aunt Nilla died.


She stopped at the screen door. My god. The place hadn’t changed a bit. She put her hand to her forehead and peered in. A couple of flies buzzed on the inside of the screen and made their escape as she opened the door and stepped in. A ceiling fan whirred and clicked overhead as though making a fuss would convince of its value in alleviating the heat.


“May I help you?” A woman of about thirty had come from the back room to assist her customer.


“I – I used to live here. I was a friend of Raymond’s.” Sadie clutched the knife nervously. “Does he still own the store? I mean…Is he here?”


The woman quietly returned to the back room for a moment and Sadie could hear her speaking to someone. “A friend of yours,” Sadie heard her say.


The woman emerged again, gently pushing a wheelchair in which sat Raymond; Sadie’s wonderful Raymond who could run faster than anyone in the county and who could melt your heart with his smile.


Only this Raymond didn’t smile. He just stared at nothing. Nothing at all.


Sadie was frozen in place. She wanted to run, but could not. She wanted to stay but should not. Would not. Oh, why had she come? Life happens! You can’t go home again. Ever.


She knelt in front of the wheelchair and took Raymond’s hand. “Ray? It’s Sadie.” She looked him in the eyes. He looked past her to somewhere only he knew. She opened his hand and laid the knife on his palm and then closed his fingers around it.


“I brought you something. Remember this?” She looked from the motionless Raymond to the woman who only shook her head.


Sadie stood and then walked to the door. She turned one last time and for just one split second she was sure she had seen Ray look back at her. She would believe he looked at her. She would believe he smiled.



-0-



(This is my first humble offering for the Magpie Tales. Go see others. You'll be glad you did.)


22 comments:

brenda w said...

Oh yes, am I happy you found Magpie Tales! This is wonderful. An imagined happy ending of sorts, I suppose. But life isn't all happy endings, then, is it?

Excellent first Magpie. I look forward to future stories. You got a gift, girl.

Rinkly Rimes said...

What a sad but beautiful story. So much in a few words. I'm sure Raymond knew!

Brian Miller said...

angelmay...that is one terrific story...welcome to magpie...

Berowne said...

Beautifully written...

Helen said...

OH MY! Your Magpie, every word of it, was wonderfully written. You made the characters and the story come to life for me.

Lena said...

Excellent first Magpie! I loved the line...'Sunday assault on the good people of Morgansville.

Welcome to the group!

Carrie Burtt said...

Awesome Magpie! :-)

AngelMay said...

Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments. I really appreciate them.

nana_ang_poppaphil said...

That is just so beautiful and sad. Well done.. I look forward to reading more of your Magpies.

Thanks for visiting me and leaving a comment.

soundoffreedom said...

"Hotter than the hinges of hell" now that's a line this southern girl can relate to it's been that way here for about 10 days...wonderful story..Awesome line!

Baino said...

Yes but it's not your first piece of fiction and you capture it so well. I've never been there but felt I had today. Thank you for a little warmth on a very chilly Sydney night. Beautiful.

RA said...

So sad and so beautiful. A wonderful magpie.

steveroni said...

You have convinced me to look into this Magpie thing, at least I might learn, from reading the others!

Thank you for doing a great "first" and taking the plunge. I'm gonna follow, ALSO!

Stafford Ray said...

Not such a humble beginning! Lovely poignant story and descriptive writing. Could feel the heat and the decay, but I didn't stop there. Wanted more, so read down your blog to see trip photos and comments. Interesting to see the farm house. Just like most here too.

willow said...

This was delightful! I imagine Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird running up the road. WT has Whittakers in his family line, by the way.

Lyn said...

In the giving back, poor Sadie received a very big lesson..as you said ..you can't go home again....But we can believe what we wish! Very well done!

Tumblewords: said...

A sweet and searching tale. Well done!

kathew said...

Great first Magpie! Wow! I could feel that hot summer day. More please!

Aoife.Troxel said...

I was expecting a heart-warming story, but I enjoyed this all the same. I could visualise each and every word as though I was there. Great job. I am looking forward to reading more of your Magpies in the future.

Selma said...

A really outstanding story. I liked the southern feel to it and the theme of facing the past. You are a really great writer. Utterly FAB!

cosmoscami said...

OH wow.
You need to take this and run with it!
This was my first Magpie too. I'm looking forward to more.

VERY impressed.

00dozo said...

Nicely done! I really enjoyed it!