Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Miss Emily Ann

Leslie Wilson


Why, aren’t you sweet to remember – so sweet – as sweet as lemon icebox pie – now come on in – make yourself at home – what a good granddaughter you are – good like homemade peach ice cream on the Fourth of July – I Sewanee –

Eighty? Please child – don’t remind me – look at these blue veins poppin’ out all over – come on in – come in – come in – I’ll get you some sweet tea – you didn’t have to get me anythin’. What is it? I hate to tear through all this nice wrappin’ paper – the ribbon so pretty – always did like pink – ‘though it was really more my mother’s color – I prefer green – your daddy brought me an emerald green dragon kimono from China once – I loved that – just loved it – but thank you just the same –

Have I shown you my turtle? See her right there on the patio? She comes to see me every mornin’ – used to put a little piece of bread crust down and she’d crawl to it – now she’ll come up and take it right out of my hand – there used to be two – but my neighbor started complainin’ about poop on his driveway – I think he did somethin’ to the other one – I truly do – now there’s just the one – I remember a couple weeks back I came out and they were kinda attached – one was darn near perpendicular to the other – like an L – you know – I think I have an idea what they were doin’ – don’t you? Never have found out what happened to that other turtle.

Have a seat right here – no, not there – that chair’s an antique – can’t anybody sit there – might crush that yella’ velvet – you sit right over here – that’s right – now let’s see what this is – oh, how nice – a crystal decanter – I’ll put it in the china cabinet with my two other crystal decanters – just what I needed – another crystal decanter – I’ve been lookin’ for somethin’ just like this – I pour my brandy in ‘em when the girls come over to play bunco – thank you – mmhmm – I mean it – I surely do – no, no, no – I mean it – thank you – no, I don’t want you to take it back – it’s just what I wanted – I been lookin’ for somethin’ just like this – now let me get you that tea –

You know – when Bob Gibson left – when he took up with that bartender from the Gulfport Country Club – he moved her in that house right there just two streets over – I can still see the edge of the garage door right through those azalea bushes – everybody tried to tell me he was a playboy, but I wouldn’t listen – the one and only time I ever left Biloxi I went on a trip home with him to Montana – everybody there told me – “Don’t mess with Bob Gibson – he’s a playboy” – but I just wouldn’t listen – I don’t know what’s wrong with me – I really don’t – I just wouldn’t listen – here’s your tea, hon –

I don’t believe he ever was faithful – no, I don’t – I think back now and I can remember all sorts of things – he had this South American working for him for a little while – a secretary, or somethin’ – we were walkin’ through Woolworth’s, and he says to me, “I have to buy Carmen some Blue Waltz” – you know, that perfume – I didn’t have any Blue Waltz and I didn’t see why she needed any – I Sewanee – anyhow, he said she expected it and he had to buy it and here we were barely making ends meet and he wants to buy her some Blue Waltz – I couldn’t believe it – but he always did do whatever he wanted – I found out years later he used to sneak around to Merman’s – the most expensive men’s shop in town – and buy himself fancy suits and there I was rotating the same old three dresses. Blue cotton. Green muslin. Brown wool.

When Bob Gibson left – people started telling me things – you know – secrets they had kept from me for years – our friends, our closest friends – they all knew – now stop me if I’ve told you this story before – I mean it – I surely do – one of my lady friends told me her husband was golfin’ with Bob one day and he was just goin’ on and on about London this and London that – that’s another fault of his – he was a bragger – one day someone at First Baptist complimented a suit he was wearin’ and he made this big deal openin’ his jacket and showin’ the label – “I had it custom made in London,” he said – ‘bout embarrassed me half to death – anyhow her husband asked him why he never took me to London – he went on business, you know, credit unions – and do you know what he said? He said, “Why would I take a sandwich to a banquet?” A sandwich! I Sewanee –

He thought he was such a bigshot – but speakin’ of banquets – he did take me to a banquet once – he was bein’ honored for some big this-and-such – I don’t know why he took me – I really don’t – I never saw him after we walked in the door – I finally went over to a table with an extra seat and said, “Can I sit here?” Then Bob got up on stage and gave a speech and he thanked me for all I had done to help him along the way – but he just said that because people expected him to thank his wife – he never even looked at me the whole night – I finally took a cab home – that’s probably around the time he took up with the South American – I was out with my own husband and I took a cab home or maybe I got a ride home with some friends – I really don’t remember –

I should’ve married Tim Anderson – he was so in love with me – he was – he surely was – I used to tap dance on stage and sing a little – you know – jazz standards – I was popular – you know – mmhmmm – I surely was – you should have seen me. One day, Timmy drove me into the parkin’ lot of the hospital and said, “This is where you’re gonna have my six babies.” But I didn’t want six babies – that didn’t sound good to me at all – later, he told me I was gonna sew all my own clothes just like his sister-in-law did – I Sewanee – that did it. Six babies and sew my own clothes? I married Bob.

I don’t know why I stayed as long as I did – I guess it was for Mitchell – I just didn’t want your daddy to grow up without a daddy – mmhmm – I wish I never married that Bob Gibson – he was B-A-D – but I guess I wouldn’t have Mitchell – and then I wouldn’t have you – you sweet thing – sweet as a white butterfly in the summertime –

When Bob Gibson left – now you stop me if I’ve told you this before – he never sent me a single dime – he paid off the house – but that was it – I had to get a job at the VA – I did okay though – I was employee of the year in 1973 – Danny Jackson down at the grocery, he knew what happened – he gave me my groceries on credit for quite awhile – never asked me for any money. “Don’t you worry about a thing, Miss Emily Ann,” he said. “We’ll settle your account next week.” Yes, he did – I never will forget that – never will – never will – every week – “We’ll settle your account next week.”

Date? Me? You don’t mean it – I guess I’ve had a few chances – but I’m just not interested – when I play bunco with the girls, they tell me I’m bitter – but I don’t think so – not me – I’m not bitter at all – I don’t care one thing about that Bob Gibson – no ma’am – I surely don’t – not one thing –

You know what I’ve taken to lately? I been pourin’ myself a glass of beer and watchin’ that game show every evenin’ at six o’clock – I enjoy that – mmhmm – I do – I surely do – I have that glass of beer and I watch that show – you know – the one with the letters – I won’t miss it – love it – I like guessin’ the words and phrases and such – but no – I’m not bitter – that’s not me –

Here, hand me that glass – I’ll get you some more sweet tea – mmhmm – I will – I surely will – you sweet thing – sweet as daisies in the sunlight – so tell me – what do you think – I mean – what could have happened – when Bob Gibson left – I mean – what do you suppose happened – I mean – what do suppose happened to that, that, that, that – that other turtle? Never did come back – never did – never did – mmhmm – I Sewanee.

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Leslie Wilson teaches creative writing at Pepperdine University where she just completed a term as director of the creative writing program and faculty advisor to the literary magazine. She is Editor-in-Chief for Americana, an Institute dedicated to the publication of American creative writing and American Studies scholarship. Her most recent publications have appeared in the Oregon Literary Review, Barnwood Magazine, Expressionists, and The Adirondack Review.

© Leslie Wilson

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012