“TV Guide says Mayberry is calling to us,” Olvie says. “I don’t much care for Aunt Bee. She’s a prude. But I like it when she lectures Andy. Still, Andy and Barney are country bumpkins. But that Opie Taylor? He asks questions that make sense. And he teaches Andy more than he teaches his son. Chicken Coop, You could learn a lot from Opie Taylor.”
I could learn as much from Opie as I could from bumbling Barney Fife. Right now, I need real advice. I need my parents.
“When is Mom calling back?”
“Why? You can’t talk to me?” Olvie says. “You know me better than most now that you’ve seen my boobs. And I know you better, too. On the rag, you get bitchy.”
I picture telling Olvie about Tanner’s troubles, about the police showing up at her door any minute to ask for him. In my head, I hear her tell me to grab the bat under her bed and hit the deputy in the head if he tries to take away her employee.
Which reminds me. “Did you pay Tanner his wages?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, Snoopy of Dog Pile. But no, I forgot. Wonder why he didn’t ask. He asked for the job, didn’t he? Any person who asks for a job expects to get paid. If they don’t, they hold out their palm. And here I thought he was better than Elias Ford who fords not across the river when he could stand up right and stop acting like a slave.”
I hear Mom’s words. Now, more than ever, I know. Olvie might be a lot of things, but a racist isn’t one of them. Still, as Daddy once said, “When it comes to another human being, how can you truly judge them if you haven’t walked in their shoes? And not just for a mile, either. You’d have to walk in their shoes a whole lifetime. Otherwise, you’d never know where they’d been, what they’d seen, what’s important to them …”
When Daddy kept talking, I finally put up and hand and walked to my room. I don’t really know anything about Mr. Ford. Or Olvie for that matter. I suppose I’m only trying to know myself. At least that’s a start.
“Olvie,” I say a bit hesitantly. “Can I ask you a question?”
“A long or a short one?”
“Does it matter?” I say, sounding like her.
She glares at me.
“The question is short. It’s up to you how long your answer will be. That is, if you want to answer at all.”
“Gotta love having Control of a situation,” she smiles. “Well, go on then.”
“Have you ever been discriminated against?”
“Me? Discriminated against? More times than I can count.” Without saying more, she leaves for the bathroom saying, “Can’t watch a show on a full bladder. They gave me so much of that IV crap that I can’t stop peeing.”
Excerpt from “Olvie and Chicken Coop” (working title), set in 1963