Miss Essie stoops over her cane and is a least a hundred years old if she’s a day. “C’mon ov’r here, kids, I wanna tell ye what I jes’t tol’ yer mother,” she says, using her cane like a big hand to wave us over. We sit on her step and look up at the old lady sitting in her wobbly porch chair.
“Well, my nephew took me into Sweetwater t’day, ya know, ta do a little shoppin’?” Oh sweet Jesus, I have to hear a shopping story.
“Well, I was at the Five and Dime and I got in line to pay for the odds and ends I’d picked up, ye know like a new hair bonnet, a few necessary toiletries. What else did I get now?” She looks up at the sky like she’s waiting for Jesus to remind her. Delma and me look up too but we don’t hear any loud voice coming from heaven. That doesn’t surprise me none.
“Oh, some of that sweet smelling toilet water they sell up by the front counter. What’s it called again, Elnora?” This time she doesn’t look up. Mother shakes her head back and forth to say she doesn’t know, while I take my mind to anywhere but shopping in Sweetwater with Miss Essie.
She grunts as she stands up from her chair. So I think she’s forgotten and is going inside and I can get on with my day, but she keeps going.
“I wadn’t Meddlein’ or nothing, but I see this gal in front’a me with a stack’a clothes piled up on the counter, ‘nuff fer three families, mind ye, three families. Well, the clerk starts ringin’ up them clothes, but the gal says, now listen to this children, the gal says, ‘I ain’t payin’. Jes’t put ‘em in a bag. I’m Bonnie Parker.’ Kin ye imagine, I was standing right next to Bonnie Parker herself. I could’a been kilt right then and there, right then and there.” Then she fans the heat and fear off herself and sits down in her rickety porch chair like she’s about to faint.
“Bonnie Parker?” I say. “Like Bonnie and Clyde Parker?”
“One’n the same.”
“Who’s Bonnie and Clyde Parker?” Delma asks.
“Barrow,” Mother says. “Clyde Barrow.”
“Who’s Bonnie and Clyde Barrow?” she asks again.
“Never ye mind Delma,” says Mother.
“I’ll tell ye later,” I whisper to Sis.
But Miss Essie says, “Killers, that’s what they are. Natural born killers.” She keeps fanning like she’s trying to air herself away from being dead.
I sat there thinking on what it would be like to meet Bonnie and Clyde. All the kids talk about them and sometimes, when our parents don’t know, we pretend we’re holding up banks just like they do.
Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper
Daily word prompt: Meddle