“Well, shall we set up the food?” grandma asked. Women began unpacking and rearranging. Colors flashed everywhere, white, pink, blue, skirts, shirts, and slacks, green, yellow, red, shirts and shorts, sneakers and towels.
“What do you mean, I set my beans here!” said Aunt Dulcie.
“And where is my salad?” asked Aunt Uni
“I put them on the other end,” said Aunt Agnes.
“What? I don’t understand, I had my beans right here by this lovely ham where they would be convenient.”
“Well, we have tried to set everything out in an orderly fashion,” said Aunt Agnes. “We didn’t want all the peas and beans together, so I just moved some over.”
“Why did you move my salad all the way down there? Everybody likes my salad,” said Aunt Unice.
“And we know that they do,” said grandmother. “But Agnes was just trying to be helpful.”
“Well, maybe nobody really likes my beans or your salad either for that matter,” said Dulcie.
I rolled my eyes and watched as the elderly women continued to argue. My grandmother was the undisputed mediator, and she always remained so.
“Okay, we’ll move them all back,” said grandmother. “And that will just be the end of it.”
Finally we settled down to eat. The concrete bench and the concrete table felt cool on bare legs. I liked that and the way it was all so solid, as if it had been there forever and would remain so. Trudy and I smiled at each other. Not only were we cousins, but we were best friends. The beans and the salads crossed paths many times, up and down the table, but great care was taken to put them back at their starting points. The old folks talked about news.
“Absolutely nothing they print in THE LEADER is news,” sniffed Aunt Dulcie.
“Why that Edward McCloud has been there forever and he’s nothing but a senile, old fool,” said Aunt Unice.
“Oh, I think he serves a purpose,” said Aunt Agnes, “I think his opinion is very valued.”
“I thought I saw him,” Trudy whispered to me.
“No, I don’t think so. Let’s go look at the babies until time watch is over,” I said. Grandma was a stickler about waiting two hours to go swimming after one had eaten.
“Have you seen these fat little twins?” I asked Trudy.
“Gee, they’re cute, but they sure do drool a lot,” she said.
“Aw c’mon they’re babies, that’s just what babies do,” I answered.
“Speaking of babies….” came a voice behind us. We turned and to my dismay it was Hank. I couldn’t stand her. She was a relative from Arizona and she talked funny. Her real name was Hannah but she was called by her nickname. Last time her family came and stayed with us I didn’t think they would ever go home.
“Speaking of two drooling babies!” she repeated.
“Oh Hank, it’s just you,” I turned my head. I wanted her to evaporate.
“So let’s see, guess you’re still sulking around?”
“No, not at all, but it isn’t every day I get pushed out of my own treehouse.”
“And I suppose you were really hurt, you little tattle tell,” she said.
“I was, you knocked my smallpox shot off,” I said.
“It would probably have already been off anyway, if you took a bath once in awhile,” she said.
“Let’s go,” Trudy said. “She is so mean and we don’t have to see her anymore.”
“Like I would want to see you two little brats again,” she smiled. She flipped her long red hair and smirked at us. Her eyes were a cold, ice blue. “Run along now little girls.”
“Well, did you tell on her?” asked Trudy.
“No, I didn’t tell a grownup about it. I told Belinda.”
“Belinda Jackson from down the road?” she asked.
“Yes. After she pushed me out, I went walking and I guess I was cryin’ some. There was Belinda in her shorts and she had just finished cleaning out her car. She asked me what was wrong so I told her. She told me to stop crying and to get in the car. We drove out to the beer joint with the windows down and I had so much fun. After that, Hank didn’t matter anymore..” TBC