There’d been a bull on top of Aunt Nolie last night and now he was sitting on a bar stool kissing the woman next to him smack-dab on her red lips.
“Cono, this here’s Sunshine.”
I know that song, “You are my Sunshine, My Only Sunshine.” I figured that song was named after her. She has short blond hair and looks like she hadn’t missed a meal in a while. Not that she’s fat, but she has more meat on her bones than most gals I see.
“Well, hello there, Cono,” she says giving me a little wink.
“Hello,” I say, turning back to look at No-Account and giving him my best “you’re a no-account” stare.
“Cono,” he says, “Ye go on over there and sit at an empty table, and I’ll get ye a sody pop. Sunshine and me are gonna talk some business fer a minute.”
No-Account gives Sunshine a pinch on her round butt and she lets out a stupid sounding noise that’s something between a squeal and a giggle.
Sitting there by myself doesn’t stop me from staring, disgusted-like at their carryings-on. She whispers in his ear, he gives her a little smooch, he whispers in her ear, she lets out another harebrained giggle. I get so fed up my belly starts to twist around and I think I might just puke. Standing up I say, “I’m gonna wait in the truck.” And that’s what I do ’cause neither of those fools leave a good Impression on me. They leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I look around the truck, but I don’t see any rope. That sorry son of a bitch never intended to buy me a donkey.
I watch people go in and come out and think about the loser I’m with, the jackass full of bullcorn. My hard-earned-honest-days-work-seed-selling money had gone straight toward something to do with that blonde-hair giggly-eye winker named “Sunshine.”
No-Account finally gets back into the truck and starts jawing again about more things that don’t make no sense. The difference is, this time he’s swerving around the road like a drunk man, which he is.
“Damn” he says when we almost go off the road, “What was that in the street?”
I don’t answer. Even Dad could drive better than this. I just keep sitting and feeling like a stool pigeon, a stool pigeon that has to hold on to the door handle just in case it needs to jump out.
At some point during the evening, Sadie had removed every stitch of her nightclothes. I turned away while she threw on a blue peignoir.
As we Descended the stairs together, I secretly wondered what it would be like to sway my hips down a staircase, to have men ogle at me with carnal designs. To have a body like Sadie’s. Only curiosity, of course. I often pictured myself in alternative scenarios—a famous writer, a composer, a student of nature and all living things. And, of recent, I pondered working as an advocate for women’s rights.
The kitchen abuzz with chatter, I took a seat next to Sadie.
“So you worked up an appetite did you, Sassy Sarah?” Miss Fannie grinned.
“Yep, sure did.”
Miss Reba refilled Sassy Sarah’s coffee cup. “Sounds like Lawrence P. came last night.”
Sassy flipped her red hair to the side. “He came alright. And came and came.”
While everyone laughed, I felt the heat of my cheeks and turned my head.
Sadie threw her hands over her ears and rocked back and forth. “Just no jail, no jail, no jail …”
When tears tumbled down Sadie’s cheeks, I caught Louis’s look of compassion—the same as Meta’s, the same as Reba’s. The same as mine.
“I won’t let you go to jail, Sadie. That’s what this is all about,” John said, his voice softer. “But you need to do what we suggest. I have a plan. But we have to find you a hide-away, some place safe other than here.”
Silence slithered around the frank, yet well-meaning posse while the irony struck me as funny. Over the years, the surrounding walls had safely protected politicians, successful businessmen, and Notorious train robbers. Now, they weren’t strong enough to protect my hard working and best girl who felt more like kin.
Reba thumped the settee’s armrest gathering our attention. “Fannie, what we ain’t gonna do is snap a fine branch off this family tree and throw it to the fire. If she gotta leave, it better be a damn good place so’s she can come home when time’s right.”
A moment passed and I felt the soft squeeze of Meta’s hand.