Hillbilly Women on the Moon ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This is a story I posted in June 2014.)
“I heard you was gettin’ married to a Mr. Chin,” Mrs. Vogel said. “Had a diamond engagement ring and everything.”
“Nope,” Mrs. Chuffey said, blowing a perfect cloud of smoke into the air. “Ain’t marryin’ nobody.”
“Why don’t you go ahead and marry him, then, if’n that’s what he wants?”
“He got scales all over his body.” Mrs. Chuffey shuddered and closed her eyes, after which she took a pull on her jug and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
“You could all ways get used to a few scales,” Mrs. Vogel said. “Many a woman has had to put up with more.”
“I’d like to see you married to a reptile!”
“He ain’t asked me!”
“No, and he won’t, neither!”
“There’s no use gettin’ all uppity about it!”
“Even if I wanted to marry him, I couldn’t. I’ve got my retarded granddaughter, Ollie French, to take care of now, ever since her mama upped and drownded herself.”
“Oh, yeah, I forget about Ollie French,” Mrs. Vogel said. “I guess Mr. Chin wouldn’t want to be a-livin’ in the same house with her.”
“No, it ain’t that. He’d like living in the same house with Ollie French. He’d like it too much! He’d be in a position where he might easily take advantage of her, especially since she’s gone so batty in the head.”
“And her only a child!”
“She’s twenty-two. That ain’t exactly a baby. She’s got her womanly wiles, dumb as she is.”
“Somebody said they seen her down at the river and she was trying to swim acrost in her clothes and she sank like a stone. Some fellow that was there called out to her, ‘Hey, Ollie French! Why don’t you take off all them clothes? It’ll help you to swim better’. And you know what she done, don’t you? She took off every stitch but she still couldn’t swim acrost. The current was too much for her. But there she was naked in front of all them people and they was all a-laughin and a-hootin at her.”
“Being naked in front of people don’t bother her none,” Mrs. Chuffey said. “She ain’t got no more modesty than a toad.”
“Some people is like that.”
“Speaking of the devil hisself,” Mrs. Chuffey said. “I see her coming from up the road a piece.”
Mrs. Vogel swiveled her head and shaded her eyes with her hand. Sure enough, there was Ollie French coming toward them. She had on a clean-looking dress and was carrying a little book that turned out to be a Bible.
“She’s growed up into a right fine girl,” Mrs. Vogel said.
“It don’t do her much good, though, Mrs. Chuffey said. “She ain’t got the sense the good Lord gave a goose.”
Mrs. Vogel clicked her tongue and, by this time, Ollie French was crossing the door yard, just a few feet away from them.
“How you?” Mrs. Vogel asked, smiling sweetly as she spread her skirt over her knees.
Ollie French sat down on the step to the left of Mrs. Vogel. “I’m happy,” she said. “Do you know what happened to me this afternoon?”
“No, child. What?”
“My future was laid out for me.”
“What you talking, you crazy thing?” Mrs. Chuffey asked.
“No, it’s true, granny. I know now what I want to do with my life. I won’t have to sit around this old place forever waiting to die. I won’t ever have to try to swim acrost no rivers naked, ever again! I won’t have to hope for a decent man to come along and want me to marry him. He don’t exist, anyway!”
“Are you gonna become a nun?” Mrs. Vogel asked.
“No, better than that. I have been accepted to become a missionary in Darkest Africa!”
Mrs. Chuffey scoffed. “What do you know about being a missionary?”
“I don’t know nothin’ yet, but I can learn.”
“Well, they eat people over there. You know that, don’t you?”
“I ain’t worried.”
“When you leavin’?”
“I’m not sure yet, but it’s gonna be soon. They gonna be a-sendin’ me a letter a-tellin’ me when to come to ‘em. Ain’t it excitin’? I’m so excited I can barely breathe.”
“Who’s gonna do your work around here after you gone to Darkest Africa?” Mrs. Chuffey asked.
Ollie French shrugged and looked down. She was afraid her granny was going to try to stop her going.
“Who’s gonna fix my dinner and my breakfast? Who’s gonna tote wood and wash my clothes and sweep the floor and pull the weeds and make the beds and keep things tidy?”
“You could always git you a hired gal,” Mrs. Vogel said. “I know of three or four gals right now that’d jump at the chance to do some work that they get paid for doin’.”
“I ain’t got no money to pay no hired gal. I don’t need me no hired gal, anyway, when I got my own little Ollie French to do them things.”
“I’ll do them things as long as I’m here,” Ollie French said, “but after I’m gone you’ve got to make other arrangements.”
“Who do you think you are, telling me what to do?” Mrs. Chuffey said. “We’ll just see about ‘other arrangements’, won’t we, little missy?”
Ollie French stood up and went quietly into the house.
“She sure has changed since she got religion,” Mrs. Vogel said.
“She ain’t the same gal,” Mrs. Chuffey said. “I don’t hardly a-recognize her.”
“I’m thinkin’ now that maybe she ain’t as retarded as people always thought she was.”
“Retarded is good enough for her. She don’t need to be anything but retarded. It’d serve her well for the rest of her life if’n she would only kin to it.”
“Maybe the good Lord wants her to be more than just an ol’ retarded gal doin’ chores for her granny.”
“What about me? Is the good Lord a-thinkin’ about me in all this? Who’s gonna help me out with the work around the house with my little Ollie French gone off to Darkest Africa?”
“The Lord will provide for you, too. Don’t he all ways?”
“It just ain’t a good idea for her to be thinkin’ about goin’ off to Darkest Africa or anyplace else. Any way you look at it, it ain’t a smart thing. She needs to stay right here with her own people the way she was intended.”
“Well, things ain’t always up to us,” Mrs. Vogel said. “Sometimes things is out of our hands.”
“Well, I don’t like it.”
“Church sometimes does funny things to people. It changes ‘em and makes ‘em want to do things you don’t even begin to understand.”
“I’m gonna go have a talk with them church people and tell them to leave my little Ollie French alone. I’m afraid they preying on her feeble mind. She needs her granny to stand up for her and say ‘enough is enough’.”
“When you goin’?”
“Tomorrow, I guess. Why?”
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“You can if’n you want.”
“Remember what you said earlier about Mr. Chin?” Mrs. Vogel asked. “About how you declined his marriage invitation and all?”
“I remember. What about it?”
“Well, I’ve been thinkin’.”
“They’s a full moon tonight. Awful sweet for romancin’.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I was thinkin’ how you might put in a word for me with Mr. Chin, if’n you was willin’. I don’t mind a few scales on a man.”
“Not so fast!” Mrs. Chuffey said. “With Ollie French goin’ to Darkest Africa, I might marry Mr. Chin after all. He could help with all the work around here that needs to be done.”
“Do you think he’d be willin’ to do that?”
“It don’t hurt to ask. I’d be willin’ to put up with his scales if he was willin’ to work for me.”
“With marriage as part of the bargain?”
Mrs. Vogel stood up and stretched her arms above her head. “I’d best be gettin’ on home,” she said. “After I eat my supper and clean up the dishes, I’m gonna get into bed and look at the full moon through my window glass and dream about all the things that might have been.”
“It’ll keep you awake,” Mrs. Chuffey said.
“Don’t nothin’ keep me awake.”
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp