I leaned on the rickety horse fence an’ stared at the only standing wall of my home. My gaze settled on the sheer fabric flappin’ in the wind. Mama helped me sew them curtains when I got married an’ moved here with Roy fourteen years ago.
“I been sayin’ that one of these gosh darn days you’d burn the place down. Well, ya’ finally gone and done it,” Gertie said with arms folded across her ample chest. Her already thin lips pressed into an even thinner line.
I knowed Gertie ever since we was knee high to a grasshopper. She meant well, but bein’ two years older, she tried to be the boss of me. She shoulda asked Roy- I don’t need nobody to be my boss.
“So what was it this time?” Gertie asked. “Lamp tipped over? Quilt caught fire after burnin’ loose thread? Log rolled outta the fireplace and caught yer rug on fire?”
Me an’ fire went back a long way. I useta steal papa’s flint and would spark grass after school. No amounta Gertie’s scolding could make me stop. Like men at a saloon on Saturday night, my relationship with fire tended to get outta hand an’ somethin’ always got burned. “No. Not any those things,” I mumbled.
“You gonna make me pull it outta ya? What happened?”
“Stove burnt up.”
She furrowed her brow. “Stove burnt up? How in the-” She paused and took a deep breath. “Even fer you, that’s a stretch. How in tarnation could ya’ burn up somethin’ that’s supposed to hold fire?”
“My potholder caught fire gettin’ biscuits.”
“And Roy couldn’t snuff it out?” Gertie threw me a skeptical look.
I focused on the billowing white cloth, rather than Gertie’s scrutiny. “It burnt too fast. No way he coulda stopped it.” On account of I’d already knocked him upside the head with my cast iron skillet an’ threw lard on the flames. I didn’t say that part, though.
“How come you got out an’ he didn’t”
I sighed. “I dunno”. I din’t wanna say no more, but my tongue kept goin’. “Maybe ‘cause I wasn’t hung over after boozin’ all night and rompin’ with Angie Flowers.”
Gertie gasped. “Roy wouldn’t do that. Mighta been a dim-witted fool, but no man could be that daft.”
Gertie’s eyes narrowed. “I oughta slap yer smart mouth!”
“Just statin’ fact. Yer husband was a daft fool, indeed.” I nudged her elbow. “Why else would Ernie dally with her an’ leave you waitin’ alone?”
Gertie let out a sigh and a wistful smile played on her lips. “S’pose so. Prob’ly got what he deserved with that plow, ya’ know.”
I smiled. ‘S’pose he did.” I’d never tell it wasn’t no accident.
Inspiration: The photo at the beginning of this story wasn’t actually what inspired this story - this one was. Writing a story for Emilio’s photo was kind of a side challenge, and I’m all for anything that distracts me from what I should be working on. Squirrel!!
Seriously, though, this was a nice break from some other projects, but it’s back to work now. Oh- if you are feeling the stress of the holidays, I’m going to share the secret to surviving in my next post. I discovered this “secret” last Christmas from an elderly woman who lives in town. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out :)