” I swear that chile shore is flighty.”


            Ella reluctantly took her eyes off Jenny Sue Taylor, whose 7-year-old person she had watched nearly non-stop for 6 of those seven years, and looked back down into the white-enameled pan of black-eyed peas in her lap. Satisfied for the minute that Jenny Sue was not in harm’s way but was just flitting from place to place in the yard, she took up one of the unshelled pods and as she shelled she rocked back and forth – tick-clunk, tick-clunk, tick-clunk – in the old porch rocker.  The left rocker’s back-end had been broken off for as long as she could remember.  Her son, Teak, kept saying he was going to fix it but, somehow, he just never seemed to get around to it.  He had, however, painted the porch floor six years ago which made the place look odd since the rest of the house hadn’t seen a lick of paint in at least 20 years.


            “She always has been.” 


            Essie, Ella’s sister, stood on the porch beside her, ironing.  The electrical cord slithered inside the house through a crack in the screen door and water from her Co-Cola bottle sprinkler periodically sprayed Ella as well as the clothes on the ironing board.


            Essie stood holding the iron mid-air for a minute and observed Miss Jennifer Sue Taylor.  “She’s just like her mama.”


            Ella nodded and hummed an “Uh-hum” and kept on rocking and shelling peas.


            Jenny Sue’s mama, Mrs. Phaedra Lee Taylor, had married Jenny Sue’s daddy back when old Mr. Taylor had owned the better part of the county.  After old Mr. Taylor died, Jenny Sue’s daddy inherited, and the elevation in status went to Phaedra Lee’s head such that she began putting on airs and spending like there was no tomorrow.  Miss Jenny Sue had been a late “surprise” in that marriage and did not make her entrance into this world until her daddy had left it.  It was a shame, too, because he doted on children while Phaedra Lee had other interests.


            Essie put her head to one side as though to see Miss Jenny Sue all the better.  “Her mama never could sit still.  Still can’t.”  She looked back down at the ironing board and resumed her chore.  “Where is she now, I wonder?”


            Ella dropped an empty pea shell into the waste can beside the rocker and wiped the moisture from her forehead with the red-poppy handkerchief Essie had given her for her birthday two years ago.  She waved it at a pesky fly.  “Switzerland.  Or maybe Italy.  One a them foreign places she’s always flyin’ off to.”


            Essie considered this as she sloshed the Co-Cola bottle sprinkler over the apron on the ironing board.  “One a these days I’m gonna fly away, too.  I’m gonna fly away to Africa or maybe even to India.  I got me some money saved.”


            Ella laughed.  “Law’, Essie!  You talk crazy.  Baby, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”


            “Yes, I am!  I’m gonna get me a ticket and get on one a them big ol’ silver planes and just fly away.”  Essie made tight-lips and looked sideways at Ella through narrowed eyes to see her reaction.


            Ella just rocked and hummed and shelled black-eyed peas and watched Miss Jenny Sue Taylor, noting that she had tired of her dolls and tea-set and had abandoned them for the tire-swing hanging from the hundred-year oak that generously shaded the yard.  She thought about her life here with Essie.  Essie had lived in this house with her and her son, Teak, for the better part of 23 years now – ever since her husband got the tetanus not long after they were married, while mending a rusty barbed-wire fence for old Mister Taylor, and up and died.  None of them had ever been out of Monroe County except once to attend a cousin’s funeral just outside Montgomery, and here was Essie talkin’ about flyin’ away as though she was Miss Jenny Sue’s mama herself.


            Ella chuckled to herself and shelled peas and rocked – tick-clunk, tick-clunk, tick-clunk.  Essie sloshed sprinkler water and whomped the iron down on the ironing board harder than she needed to.  Cicadas began making a huge ruckus and the clock in the front room chimed 5 times.


            “Time to start supper,” Ella said as she rose heavily from the rocker, careful not to spill the shelled peas.  “Jenny Sue!  You come on in now.”


            Essie looked up from her ironing and gazed wistfully at a jet contrail just emerging from behind a cloud.  She folded the ironed apron and said, softly, to no one in particular, “Yes…  I guess it is.”

RLM Cooper

R.L.M. Cooper is the recipient of several academic and achievement awards, and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She has written many short stories and, more recently, Legacy 627, a novel in the thriller genre for which she is currently seeking representation. At present, she is writing a sequel to this novel. Some time ago she discovered and adopted a quote by Toni Morrison: If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. And so she has.

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