Good Woman Knows
that lazy heifer outa bed yet? Sootie slaps her purse
onto the table, pinch-lipped and fumin mad. I know
she was out honky-tonkin all night. That big mouth Crystal
down at the Pak-a-Sak is tellin ever last soul that
walks through that door that Carla Sue was three sheets to the
wind and shakin her fat fanny to the whole congregation.
And here I am up for church president! Flirtin and philanderin
things a good woman wouldnt ever think of doin.
I tell you, if I see one word of this in the paper Im gonna
Sooties a good Christian woman when it comes to helpin
other people see their faults ever since she got the spirit
at that Praise and Glory revival show that blew through
town last summer. Got down on the ground and rolled around with
the rest of them fools right there in front of everybody!
And now spends half her time tryin to save souls. Of course,
first she has to find out what theyve done and this
she does very well. Now, I aint one to talk about
people, she always starts her sentences, but I heard
such and such. Nearly broke her spirit, though, when her
own preacher man was caught with that sister-deacon over in Bossier
last fall talk about layin on hands. Lordie!
Nonetheless, shes hell bent and determined to pray the old
soul to redemption, along with the rest of us. Uncle Lee keeps
sayin, Shes wastin her damn talents runnin
that front desk down at the laundry when they could use her nose
over at the FBI. Everybody knows she aint gonna
be fit to live with till shes church president and head
of the sister deacons down there.
Pretty soon, we hear Carla Sue come tumblin outa bed
and down the hallway. But quick as she hears Sooties shrill
voice she makes a sharp turn into the bathroom and bolts the door.
It aint no use, though. Sootie jerks herself up and trots
over to the door demandin her daughter, Come outa
there this very minute! Nothin but stone cold silence
follows. Ill take this damn door off the hinges, Missy
you got one minute!
Lordie, what follows is just too ugly and loud to capture in words,
but I dont mind sayin the neighbors start callin
to see if theres been a killin. Of course, I learned
long ago to just let the two of em have it out. The one
time I tried to butt in, I got snatched nearly bald headed. But
this times different. Carla Sues just about to lose
that position her mama got her down at the courthouse the
first and only person in the Ransom family to land a government
job and now her on the verge of losin it.
soon, the fight moves out into the livin room, where the
two of em square off in an all-out yellin match
which, of course, sets the phone off again. And then just
like that Carla stops dead in mid sentence and goes
flyin off to the back of the house again. Next thing we
know, the front door flies open and in charges that low-life Trot
Akers with his fists clenched and smellin like he crawled
out of a whiskey bottle where he spent the night.
the hell are you! he starts yellin. You wrecked
my damn pickup, and youre gonna pay to have it fixed!
The screamin grows louder and louder as he tears through
the house, room to room not even takin notice of
Sootie and me. It aint long, though, before he has Carla
Sue cornered, and the two of em hang up like a couple of
alley cats, cussin and kickin and slappin. They
bounce this way and that way down the hall, finally landin
up on the floor right in front of us the both of em
scratched and bleedin. Poor Sootie sits there plumb bug-eyed,
dumbstruck for the very first time in her life. And then the phone
starts up again. But before either one of us snaps to and gets
up to answer it, Trot and Carla are back on their feet again
then BAM!, the two of em go sailin right through
the screen door and out onto the front porch, and I say to myself
there aint no need answerin that phone now
the whole neighborhood can see for theirselves.
At this point, Trots pickup door springs open and out pops
this painted up straw-haired woman, lookin like just another
alley cat, and before long, the three of em are all screamin
and threatenin to kill one another. Old lady Mercy across
the street had done called the police, and we can hear the siren
in the distance.
aint payin a damn dime on that piece of crap!
Carla keeps yellin, over and over again, right in front
of the neighbors. And here you are layin out all night
this trampy HO!
the last remark stops every last soul within earshot. Neighbors
flinch and grimace and shoo their kids back indoors. And as if
this aint bad enough, guess who should come glidin
up the sidewalk out for his mornin stroll but Miss Sooties
preacher man Reverend Barritt. Poor old Sootie goes scramblin
back through the doorway before he can see. But its too
late. When he hears all the commotion, the Reverend comes boundin
onto the scene, pleadin with the three of em to put
an end to the fuss, and all the poor old fool gets for his efforts
is a black eye. The straw-haired hussy is more than a trifle uncoordinated,
and the metal corner of her purse misses its mark and catches
the Reverend right in his one good eye.
It aint till the two officers finally arrive that the squabble
is brought under temporary control. But Carla and Straw-Hair both
take exception to the one officer grabbin their arms, and
he draws back a hand with a plug bit out of it. Next thing we
know, the whole bunch of em officers and all
are throwin punches and yellin. Even the preacher
What happens next is a total blur. Here comes Sootie bustin
through the front door again right through the screen
with her pistol raised and screamin bloody murder. At the
sight of the gun, the nosey neighbors begin to scatter. Old Mrs.
Bunn drops her grocery bags right out in the middle of the street,
settin off horns and sendin cars zig-zaggin
through the crowd. And by now, yet another police car arrives
and pulls right up into the front yard. Out jumps two more officers
threatenin to shoot Sootie if she dont put her pistol
down. The pitiful thing stands there like a common felon, and
a good long minute passes before she can react. Then, lowerin
the gun real, real slowly, she takes in a long, deep breath and
lets out a gusher of profanity that shocks the whole mob into
momentary truce. Once purged, she drops the gun and falls back
into a porch rocker and clasps her hands. The nosiest neighbors
draw in closer again for another look. And then just like
a bell went off a rush comes over the crowd and they all
set sail. The four cops try to get witnesses for their report,
but the mob scatters in every direction. The preacher man goes
staggerin off down the sidewalk, with what sight he has
left in his good eye. Trot and Straw-Hair pile into his pickup
and light out down the road. In all the commotion, its just
too hard to tell the spectators from the participants. And, by
the time one of the officers finally decides to blow his whistle,
the only ones left are Sootie and me. So Miss Sootie proceeds
to tell em she dont know who the hell any of
em are she just wants em out of her flowerbeds
and off her property. Totally discombobulated, the officers just
stand there scratchin their heads and shruggin at
one another for a bit, until the matter is quickly cut short.
With the racket now silenced, we can hear a patrol car radio blarin:
Car 23-12. 23-12. Proceed to
In a flash, the four of em pile
into their squad cars and fly off in opposite directions, leavin
the three of us right back where we started Carla locked
in the bathroom and Sootie threatenin to take the door off
Not twenty minutes later, here comes Mr. Trot again, beggin
and pleadin with Carla Sue to take him back. She says, HELL
NO! And Sootie threatens to shoot em both for all the shame
and embarrassment. You hold it right there, little lady!
she says. Were goin down to the church-house
tonight and get you saved. A good woman knows better than to act
any such way. That sorry soul, she says pointin
right at Trot he dont give a damn about you!
Just look what hes done with that tramp he left here with.
Where is she now? Youre gonna get the spirit, little
lady, if I have drag you kickin and screamin to the
pulpit! Hell, Ill be lucky if reverend lets me in the church
house to pray, let alone be church president.
was no use though. Sooties words were completely wasted.
Without so much as good-bye, kiss my foot, or Im gone
Carla Sue piles in the pickup with Mr. Trot, and the two of them
speed off in a cloud of dust. It seems Straw-Hair had been dumped
out at the Playtime Club downtown, the pitiful thing. I keep wonderin
out loud how she would manage just bein put out like
that till Sootie snaps back at me, That sorry heifers
got ways and means you just couldnt understand.
this remark, she snatches up her satchel purse and whats
left of her dignity and marches off down the street toward
Bethel Baptist, where she says she plans to spend the entire afternoon,
prayin for the whole damn bunch of us! I dont
mind sayin its good to have every last one of em
all off my property. Sister dear had lied to them cops, tellin
em this was her house. But one things for sure, Carla
Sue will find her bags packed and settin on the front porch
when she comes back even if she is my own kin. Im
through with em all. Except for Sootie, maybe. A little
extra prayer never hurts. But she aint got enough time left
on her clock to pray them other fools outa Hell. Shell
be lucky if the preacher lets her hand out hymnbooks. As for me,
I say let em fry the humiliatin lot of em!
Aint a licka sense in the whole damn bunch. And how
did I get myself into this mess anyway? Takin in cheap relations,
thats how! Maybe Sooties right any good woman
would know better.
Louisiana native, Dixon Hearne now lives in southern California,
where he teaches English and writes. His work includes stories
in recent issues of Cream City Review, Oxford Magazine,
and Conco River Review. He recently won an Editors Choice
Award for one of his stories.