From the Crow's Eye
DescriptionCh 1: Welcome to the South, pt 2
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(note and reminders: A college kid is interviewing Betty Wilcox, wife to Giles Wilcox and mother of Melissa. They are about to pick up new-comers Wilma Burbank, her husband Grady, and son Jamie for a welcome dinner. Just saying because it's been a while since the first half of the chapter was posted.) So, a little before six that day, I climbed into the family wagon with Melissa squirming in my lap. My dear Giles had just finished hitchin' up the horses and got up front. "So, how is this new family, anyhow?" he asked me, whipping the reins to get us started. I shrugged, though he couldn't see it, and was about to tell him when Melissa interrupted me. "Theys from the North!" Giles chuckled and glanced back at his daughter. "I know that, hon, but are they nice?" "Well," I said, "the wife, Wilma, is very discriminant against us Southern folks, but her husband Grady is kinda polite." Giles half turned t' look at me while the horses clopped along on their own. "How is it the woman's goin' against us, but not her husband?" I looked out the wagon, watching the small wooden houses pass by. "I dunno, Giles," I said. "I think she may be one o' them rebel-like women." Giles looked back ahead and clicked his teeth. "I don' like these women runnin' around like this, trying' t' force their way inta society. If they want their place, they outta earn it." "I agree," I said, not really agreeing. A woman should never talk back to the man that feeds her. And, besides, what kinda example would that set for Melissa? God knows she was willful enough...bless her heart... Melissa jumped and wriggled in ma lap, trying to break free. "Daddy, I'ma be the first woman president!" Giles laughed along with me, though Melissa just beamed proudly. "That'll get the world in a tizzy, won't it?" he said. Melissa struggled to break away again, this time harder. "Will you stop it?" I snapped at her. She looked up at me. "Momma, look it's Jeremy! He wants ta play!" I glanced out the side of the carriage and, sure 'nough, there he was. He was a little older than Melissa, but no more than two years. He was wavin' at us and beckonin' for my little one t' join him. "Not tonight, Jeremy. Melissa has a dinner to be at." The boy caught my words and stopped runnin' alongside the wagon. "Momma!" complained Melissa. "I don' wanna go to this stupid dinner! The people are stupid! The north is stupid!" I slapped her cheek enough to get it red and hoped to God it would fade before we got t' the Burbank's. It did, but it remained until Giles was at the doorstep. I took the time to...examine the outside of their house. It was mighty fine, white and new, but much too large for such a small family of three...I suppose the builders were expectin' a southern family to move in. The commoners liked to have six n' seven childrens. If you don't mind me being a little lewd, I was actually hopin' for one or two more maself in the nex' few years. I looked at Melissa. "Now listen. You don't be talkin' bad about this family while they around, y'hear? They are out guests and will be treated as such. Got it?" Melissa put on a fitful show, "But mom!" She stopped when I slapped her arm. Luckily it was covered by the yellow dress she so despised. Giles returned to the wagon and held open the back. I turned to watch Grady lift his wife in, then his child, and finally climb in hisself. "Thank you." Giles smiled, nodded, and took his place back at the front. "Hello again." I said to them and received a smile and a nod from Grady. "How are you this evening?" I genuinely smiled. "Oh, I'm doin' just fine, thank you." "Oh," cooed Wilma, "this carriage is so nice. So third-worldly. I like that the south is keeping out all that horrible technology of the north. Gives it a natural feel." I kept my face forward and, from the corner of ma eyes, saw Gilles' blue eyes narrow and his mouth grow stern. I heard Grady sigh, but he offered no apology and none of us pushed him...except in our minds. Wilma's words broke the conversation until we drew to a stop at our house. It was smaller than Grady's, and the white paint was starting to chip, but it was still in very good condition. I put Melissa down and patted her back, whispering for her to wash up. One of our slaves approached the wagon while Giles helped me down. "Oh, good," he said to the Negro, "Louis, I need you to put away the wagon and feed the horses." he patted one. "When you're done you can join the others in the back and eat your supper." "Yessir," Louis said and took to the order. Giles stepped over to our guests. "Come this way, if you would. The dining room is just inside." I followed them, through the living room and into the joined dining room and kitchen. It was a nice kitchen, with everything a cook could want...but since I'm not a very good cook, we had a servant, not a slave, mind you, cook for us. I was greatly worried over how we would fare when she took her leave to take care of the child she was holding. Her gut was near to bursting back then and she still managed to look prettier than me. If I didn't put my whole trust in Giles I woulda had her fired years before then. She was getting slower, though, with all that extra weight, so while Giles pulled out the chairs for our guests, I carried the foods to the table for her. "Oh, why thank you." she said. I smiled at her, trying to discover how she could still be so pretty. "It's no problem, Sharron." I should have known; if you're a young'n and already pretty, bein' pregnet (pregnant) makes you look more defenseless and weak...just what a man woul' want. Her husband, James, musta had to keep away other men all tha time. I sat down in my own seat, next to the head of the table, where Giles claimed. Me and my family bowed our heads, but I had a feeling that it took a moment for the others to realize what was going on. "Lord, we thank you for this food we are about to receive. We thank you for the guests you have sent to us and the child that grows in Sharron's belly. We thank you for the world in which we live. Amen." "Amen." echoed me and Melissa, and Grady a moment later. Wilma and their son Jamie didn't say anything. Sharron had outdone herself that night. Since the dinner had already been prepared, there was no waiting. A large bowl of salad was quickly demolished by me and Wilma and Melissa, and a crisp golden duck was taken by the boys, though my daughter managed to get more than she could eat off it. We all, at one point, helped ourselves to a beautiful loaf of bread, complete with butter. When the supper was finished, Wilma was the first to speak. "My my," she said, patting a napkin to her pink lips, "you do make a delightful dinner." I'm sure that we all heard the word she did not say; you southerners. Grady cleared his throat, not impolitely, "Oh, excuse me. This was quite the dinner. The duck was fantastic and the butter is much more fresh than up north. And your tomatoes...do you grow them yourselves?" Giles smiled and wiped his own mouth. "Oh, no. We get them from my cousin Clara and her husband Abraham at their farm just out of town. I could take you there one day and let you meet them. I know they'd be very happy to have an admirer." I could not believe what Wilma said next. "What do we say, Jamie?" I could not believe that she was trying to be polite and would not believe she actually thought good of us southerners. "It was good!" Jamie said, almost shouting. Back then he was so excitable and his table manners leaved a lot to be desired. Still, the adults, including me, laughed. Finally, after a bit of idle table talk, Grady and Giles stood, their chairs scraping against the floorboard. "I think it's time we headed home." Grady said, helping his wife from her seat. Giles smiled. "Well let me get the wagon ready and I'll take you home." He disappeared around the corner and I heard the door open and close. A moment later he returned. I stood and looked at Melissa. "Honey, why don't you go wash up and change for bed?" "Yes ma'am." Melissa ran out of the kitchen happily, forgetting to say her goodbyes. "It's been great having you over." I said, taking first Wilma's hand, then Grady's. "It was a nice dinner," said Grady, "thank you for inviting us." "It weren't nothing." Giles was rubbing his ginger beard thoughtfully. "Y'know, Grady, I'm actually going to be making an announcement tomorrow at the Town Hall. Why don't you stop on by and listen? Or if you want I could arrange for someone to pick you up." Grady nodded. "I might just do that. But I think I can find my own mode of transportation, thank you. I can't have you carrying me around for the rest of my life, right?" We all laughed, except Jamie, who was still in his seat and nodding off. It couldn't have been later than seven. Louis appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Giles, sir, the wagon's ready." "Ah, thank you, Louis. Well, come on, then. Let's get you home." he looked at me and kissed me lightly on the cheek. "See you when I get home, dear." I took our guest's hands once more and wished them well and sent them off, then retired to a night's clothing and my Bible.