External Photo Clues:
They say write ‘bout what you know. I don’t know much of nothin’. I do know I have had this picture in my wallet, right next to my lucky two dollar bill for 60 years now. Neighbor lady she was, Ms. …? Dangit, it’ll come to me.
I remember the day she moved in to the little white clapboard house next to our flip flopped version of the same, garages was ‘bout ten feet apart, on a street of houses so much alike you had to look at the number to know which one was yours. Ma took her a basket of apples, all she got to share on the fly, really was as much ‘bout being nosy as it was ‘bout “greetin” a new neighbor. Can’t get behind on the doin’s of folks you know. She come back mighty pleased with what she coaxed outta Ms….?, Dangit! War widow, like so many, had worked the war effort and now was kindly asked to gracefully give up her job so’s a return’t soldier boy could have it. Had a little stowed away from before the war when her husband was a dentist in southern Oklahoma and done pretty good till he up and joined the war with the nazi’s, died on some now forgotten beach I reckon. Ma carried on and was excited in the tellin’, like she had peered into the woman’s soul and got her most deep secrets. I could’a told her most of it without the givin’ up of all them apples.
Ms….?, goll dangit, anyway she wasn’t much for yard keepin’ ma offered I’d push our Monkey Ward’s push mower round her yard, I reckon so’s I might could spy and tell ma ‘bout any new doin’s, and I did such ‘bout once a week for the whole of two summers. For my trouble she would give me a couple of nickels and a hand full of these hard, sour candy things that she never seemed to run out of. Them nickels bought a lot of soda pop, and at first them hard candies was a bit to take, but after a few you was wantin’ more, they had a pucker power that was somethin’ to resist. I never laughed so hard as when I would see Ms….?,lands nagoshin, I will remember it here in a bit, when she would start in on one of them sour candies she made the most gosh awful funny faces, then she would just light up like she just drank from a river of milk and honey. She was pretty, but I wasn’t seein’ so much of that yet, bein’ 11 years old. I just thought she looked like she needed to eat some fried chicken and roast potatoes, get some meat on her bones.
Well, that’s ‘bout all there is to that, mowed her little yard, helped her plant some flowers. Fall come and raked her leaves, winter shoveled snow. Sometimes I would just sit with her on her little screened front porch, not talkin’ much just eatin’ them hard candies til we couldn’t pucker another, nice that was, we just didn’t need to talk much.
The neighbor men, even my pa, seemed to fall all over themselves when she would stroll down our little street to a market a few blocks away. Seemed always she would come back with some man tryin’ to balance 3 or 4 bags of groceries, makin’ like he was carryin’ gold from that place in Washington, I forget the name of. Once I told Ms…..?, Ms……?, dangit, anyways I told her we could just take my wagon and roll it all back. She told me that would spoil all the fun of watchin’ men make fools of themselves. I never understood, she was pretty, but she needed to eat a bunch more.
For goin’ on two years, mowin, rakin, shovelin, sittin on that porch, lookin’ back at it now, I guess she was just ‘bout my best friend. Really my only friend. I didn’t get on with other kids to well. I didn’t know what it was but I was just different and it got me a school yard whoopin’ more than once. I know why now, but I didn’t understand then. She saw past all that, or maybe it is what she saw period and felt sorry for me, what did I know ‘bout such stuff, bein’ just a boy. I just wasn’t interested in the things them kids was. I just wasn’t interested in much of anything.
She didn’t seem to have no friends neither, just this one lady friend that would come by ever so often and stay a day or two. Didn’t much care for the woman, though I didn’t know her much, just that when she come around I wasn’t allowed over.
There come a time when Ms…..?, holy moly I wish I could remember, started tellin’ me stories ‘bout folks, different folks. Not famous people, not war heroes, just folks that wasn’t like everybody else. When she told me these stories it seemed so important to her that I listen hard. So I did. I listened so hard that I would dream ‘bout her and her stories near every night. Stories ‘bout folks who didn’t bide no rules, folks who rode the railroads, or folks who followed the crops, or sang songs for a supper. Imagine that, just travelin’ and doin’. I loved them stories and started to realize that I loved her too. Not like a boy kissin’ a girl love, not like I loved my ma, different. Like someone might love someone who showed them how to live and was owed so much for the doin’.
She had me listen hard. Specially when she started tellin’ me how ain’t all folks love alike. I had never thought ‘bout that much before. Ain’t all folks love alike. In me I knew what she was gettin’ at, but my head didn’t catch on til much later. I knew she was talkin’ in to me, I knew she was tellin’ me I was gonna be one of them folks. This pretty woman who had no reason to give two hoots was tellin’ me a truth that I didn’t know yet, and she was tellin’ me it was ok. She was tellin’ me I was ok. Don’t reckon I got much more to say ‘bout that.
I ain’t all that good at rememberin’, I don’t remember her words so much as just that she was tellin’ me it is a big world and there is room for all kinds.
She didn’t tell me she was leavin’. Just one morning I get up and she’s packed her things on a big truck. She come over and told me she didn’t have the heart to let me know she was goin’, she was movin’ to her lady friends house where between them they could get by on what little they had. She pulled a two dollar bill out of her pocket and handed it too me. She told me that it was lucky and to only spend it if times was so hard I had too. I put it in my little wallet and just stared at her, fightin’ back tears. She leaned over and kissed me full on the lips and told me to remember her stories and to always listen because there are those out were who are gonna call to me, different like me, and they were gonna love me as much as she did. I couldn’t think much, just “why now?”, and about that kiss and how it felt. The one and only time I kissed a woman full on the lips, ceptin’ ma. She started for the truck but turnt’ back to me and pulled a bag from her purse and handed it to me, a bag full of them little sour candies, then she was in the truck and gone.
As the truck sputtered down our little street I saw something come flutterin’ out of the back. I ran after it and found it in the dirt. A picture of Ms….Robal, ain’t that a funny name and how would you forget that? A picture of this pretty skinny woman lookin’ like she just ate one of her sour candies and she was gonna pucker til’ they kicked dirt on her. I stuck it in my wallet next to my lucky two dollar bill.
I rambled through life and did some of that ridin rails and pickin’ crops, never could sing for a supper, weren’t for me though, I wanted a little screened in porch somewhere. I learn’t a trade, bein’ a dummy clummy, climb poles and hangin’ electric wires all over Oklahoma. Wound up in Norman and got me a little house near the school there. Never followed love much. Never married or even courted a woman. What desires I had from time to time didn’t seem worth the work, though I did meet a few fella’s long the way who become good friends, who had a understandin’. In them times I suppose it was lucky I didn’t desire much, bein’ what they were. That’s ‘bout all I got to say ‘bout that.
I read the paper ever evenin’ with my little glass of Jack to take the edge off a day. One evenin’ I found a little story in the obituary section, always read the obits, don’t ever’body? . Eugenia Lucille Robal, born August 16, 1922, died May 7 1998. Was ‘bout a little widow women who had just passed. The story told ‘bout how this women was somethin’ of a mystery to folks in her neighborhood, said she was one of two spinsters who shared a house there for some 40 odd years. Her housemate had passed not long ago. Story said they didn’t get out much and they weren’t too social with the neighborhood, not unfriendly, just didn’t come out much. Seems though that they had a special place in the eyes of the kids in the neighborhood. Story said that if you was a yungin’ brave enough to go up and ring their doorbell, that after what would seem forever you would see a little ol’ woman come shufflin’ up to the door , the other one tryin’ to keep up, usin’ one of them walker things to support herself. The woman would ask if you got your shiny penny, had to be shiny too, and if you had that shiny penny, she would reach in a jar next to another jar full of shiny pennies and pull out a hand full of sour candies then do ya’ a trade for the shiny penny. As the yungin’s would high tail with their treasure the two old spinsters would laugh and call for them to come again soon!
I didn’t go to her services, just never cared much for that sort of thing. I reckon folks ain’t in no box or in the ground, they done shuffled off to a better place. On them nights when me and my glass of Jack get right snug, I do look ta’ heaven and give her a wink and take a drink. Then I have me a few of them sour candies.
What’s the word, irony? Never did learn big words too good. When turns out you long for somethin’ you thought was lost long ago and it is right there next to you. I lived in my little house with a screened in front porch for over twenty years never knowing that woman, the one who made the world a place I could live in, the one who told me so much when sayin’ so little, my oldest and dearest friend lived only a few blocks away. That’s ‘bout all I got to say ‘bout that.
About The Author:
Lex is a long time musician in the Oklahoma City area. He has dabbled in poetry, songwriting and other word forms since he can remember. Never published as it is not the reason he writes, he writes just to free the words dancing in his head.
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The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles. This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir. Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects. At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.
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