A Northern Author Writes a Southern Story

“A double-wide what?”
—Marginal remark by a New York editor in a manuscript of Lee Smith’s

Billy-Bob and Bubba had been out on the veranda of our double-wide ingesting a forty of mint juleps and searching over the golden fields of tall, waving cotton. As I walked up the grime observe from the streetcar cease I may see Ma by way of the French home windows boiling up barbecue for supper. Pa was laborious at work at his moonshine-still turning cotton into cotton gin. Grandpa was studying the paper. The paper was additionally Southern.

“You-all! Emma-Sue is again from the financial institution!” Everybody gathered across the bottle-tree, which was in full bloom. I informed the dangerous information, that the financial institution was going to take the farm if we couldn’t pay in non-Accomplice cash. “We’ll simply have to hope for a superb cotton ball harvest.”

Pa rubbed his neck, which was pink. “If the frost is something like as dangerous as final 12 months, we’ll lose each ball.”

“That’ll be the least of our troubles with the entire world switching over to Rayon.”

“Oh! The Jonquils! The Jonquils!” cried Mom, who was at all times worrying about maintaining with our neighbors, the Jonquils.

Grandpa pulled at his beard. Grandpa had a beard like Spanish moss—it was stringy, inexperienced, and stuffed with chiggers. After they stung he would slap at his face just like the sound of snapping a crisp, fresh-baked biscuit. “The papers stated that escaped lunatic, The Mysterious Stranger, simply shot up a meth lab two cities over. Should’ve been making some huge cash with an operation like that.”

“I don’t approve of the meth enterprise,” Ma stated. “It sounds an excessive amount of like Meth-odist, and I ain’t elevating no heathens on this family.”

“Or we may attempt profitable some cash enjoying playing cards,” stated Billy-Bob.

“Haven’t you and Bubba misplaced sufficient already to these riverboat gamblers? Why, they took the very shirts off your backs.”

“That was solely Bubba. Mine acquired et by a gator out on the arroyo.”

“What if Emma-Sue acquired a job of her personal?” Grandpa pulled at his mustache. Grandpa had a mustache like a catfish—slimy and coated in breadcrumbs.

I had at all times dreamed of creating a reputation for myself in music. The very last thing I wished was to finish up an outdated spinster sleeping with a carpetbagger Yankee corpse, which might barely be higher than one which was alive. However Ma wouldn’t enable a lot as a banjo bow in the home, and everybody had their very own plans for me.

“Why don’t you go dwell down on the P.O.?” stated Pa. “There’s a gap because the postmaster acquired shot by The Mysterious Stranger.”

“That’s no good. She’d be paid by the letter, and who bothers with letters anymore?”

“Besides French letters, and Preacher Jeb down on the cathedral says these are a sin, like whistling or shaking palms with a Yankee.”

“It’s singing that’s a sin, not whistling,” Ma stated, knowingly, “Whistling’s all proper, so long as it’s Dixie.” In order that was my destiny settled.

Immediately there was a knock on the door. I opened it extensive to disclose a mysterious stranger in a shiny black seersucker go well with. With the Smokey Mountains on one aspect and the Okeefenokee Swamp on the opposite, there wasn’t anyplace he may have snuck up from. He was carrying a carpet bag.

“Who’s that?” requested Bubba.

“What if it’s that escaped lunatic from the papers?” stated Billy-Bob.

“You’re not a Rayon salesman, are you?” growled Pa, taking his shotgun from his breast pocket and loading six magazines into the cylinder.

“Come now!” stated Ma. “Be civil, just like the Warfare. Would you want a glass of my well-known candy tea?” Ma reached for the kettle. “Can I peel you a watermelon? How about some grits?”

“Simply the one grit, thanks. I’m a touring document producer, from Memphis.”

“The one in Egypt?”

“No, the opposite one.”

“Please excuse our Billy-Bob and Bubba. Bubba’s shirt acquired et by a gator, and Billy-Bob’s et cetera. And we simply don’t have the cotton to spare to knit them new ones.”

I’d gone right down to the basement of the double-wide to fetch some canned corn to make into cornbread and now got here again upstairs, whistling Dixie. As quickly as he heard the whistling, the producer’s eyebrows shot up like that meth lab two cities over.

“You haven’t by any probability bought your soul to the satan in trade for supernatural musical expertise, have you ever?”

“No, sir,” I stated.

“Glorious, so it’s nonetheless out there.” He rummaged round in his carpet bag and pulled out a document contract. “How would you prefer to make hundreds of thousands singing with Ramona Ray and Her Rayon Women?”

“However singing is a sin!” Ma swooned. “Consider Preacher Jeb on the temple!”

“Rayon?!” boomed Pa. “I’ll be the laughingstock of the entire province!”

“And what is going to the Jonquils assume?”

“Frankly, my dears,” stated Previous Joe Jonquil as he floated previous the window on the Swanee River, “I don’t give a fuck.”



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