“Well go on, girl,” Maime said to Jadie, her oldest. “Take th’ others an’ go on up and pay your respects to your lovin’ Granpappy. I cain’t go up there again. I jus’ cain’t.” Her voice had gone up from a shaky whine to a squeak.
Jadie looked up at her mama, saw her quivering lips, like the speed wobbles, getting fast out of control, and she knew her mama was fixing to take that inevitable spill. “I just cain’t do it no more, girl,” she heard her mama whisper low and raspy, spooky-like.
Jadie wondered if that meant just going back up to the casket or carrying on, period. She didn’t know what it was like to lose a papa like her mama had just done, didn’t even know who her papa was, so she could only imagine a little bit of what that might be like.
Maime bent down to Jadie, put her hands on her girl’s bony shoulders, and looked into her eyes. She said to Jadie in that same, spooky rasp, “The very heart of me is torn up ta shreds, girl, and like ta leave my body and go with Granpappy.”
Jadie guessed that meant her mama had meant carrying on, period, and all of Jadie’s insides just dropped out under the heaviness of her mama’s agony, felt like they were getting crushed like junk cars. She had thought prior to give her mama a look that would lift her up a little, but now she felt too small to do even that, and her eyes dropped like the rest of her innards, and she whispered an empty, “Yes, Ma’am.”
Then Maime let it all go. She bust out crying like a sorrowful howl changing to an angry screech and everyone froze and looked and finally the preacher ran over to her just as her eyes rolled back in her head. He broke her fall to the floor and lay her down easy and hollered for someone to call 911 and get a glass of water. And Jadie wondered if maybe now was the time her mama was going to follow Granpappy. But her little brothers were running around all willy-nilly and her baby sisters were crawling toward the flowers and someone had to do something about that.
Jadie dove out from the rumpus after her siblings with a vengeance, she hurt so bad. She grabbed Jackie by the scruff of his neck with one hand and caught little Jimmie’s trousers with the other. She pulled them together like wishing to glue them together permanently. She bent down to them and through gritted teeth hissed, “Move or talk and you’re dead. Dead, like Granpappy, dead like Mama!” The impact of those last words turned the two little boys to pillars of salt, the desired effect.
Jadie glared anger and pain at them and rushed over to where her two baby sisters were fixing to pull down the monstrous flower arrangement on the table by the casket. The one-year-old was pulling on the two-year-old who was grabbing the tablecloth trying to pull herself up by it and the whole thing was sliding. Just in time, Jadie grabbed them both. She looked over at the two boys and began zinging eye-darts at them when she heard the preacher holler, “She’ll be alright, folks! Praise God! It’ll all be OK now!”
Jadie’s knees about gave out right then, she’d been through so much so quick, and now it’ll be all OK. But it wasn’t. There Granpappy lay dead, and her mama might as well have died for all the fear and the icy, hollow insecurity and dread she felt gripping her head and all of her guts. And even though her mama was still alive, in a wave Jadie felt a knowing wash over her that her whole life was hinging on those words, “I just cain’t do it no more.”
She felt faint, like she was going to drop both babies and die herself, when she felt something shift hard inside her, like when you take one thing off the rack at the store, the next thing in line behind it chunks into place, and those racks are never out, Mr. Pickard made sure of it. And she had a feeling that her racks would never be depleted, either. Trust in her mama got taken out and trust in herself had chunked into place. Now she was running the store.
She looked over at Maime being checked out by the paramedics and mumbling all manner of nonsense interspersed with the occasional screech, and Jadie quickly walked over to the two boys still glued together in the same spot, bawling. Pretty soon the grown-ups would be deciding about what to do with them all while their mama was indisposed, and she must pay her respects to Granpappy.
Jadie worked fast with the boys, hugged and kissed them until she saw hope in their eyes and she wiped at their wet faces with her hands and dried her hands off on her skirt. She gathered up the babies, headed for the casket, and motioned with her head for the boys to follow. They hopped and skipped to the casket calling, “Granpy! Granpappeeee!” Jadie shushed them and said, “Boys! You know Granpappy’s not in his body, right?”
“Where’d he go?” Jackie asked.
“Yeah, whea?” Jimmie followed up.
“Same place Pinkycat went,” Jadie said.
“Ta Heaven?” Jackie asked.
“Some say,” Jadie answered. “All I knows is you don’ have ta holler ta talk ta Granpappy no more. You can jus’ think things ta him and he can hear ya.” The boys squealed with delight. Jadie tousled their hair and continued, “An’ you can feel him hanging around, like now, I can feel his smile on me like sunshine! Can’t you?”
Both boys jumped up and down and shouted, “Yeah! ” and high-fived each other.
Jadie just leaned over the casket, kissed her granpappy goodbye and whispered in his ear, “But don’ trust me nor nobody, boys. Jus’ trust yourselves.” She stood back upright and said aloud, “Ain’t that right Granpappy?”
“Oh, you knows it, girl,” she answered for him.
Old Mississippi River Bridge from http://image64.webshots.com/164/9/54/4/2445954040050986932UuYywA_fs.jpg
Joan Baez “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
Missalister’s “Ol’ Dixie down,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#151 – Trust.” Click here for more on prompt #151 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.
Wow! This is vivid and riveting! And I love Joan Baez and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” I heard her sing it at the University of California’s Greek theater back when neither her hair nor mine was gray yet.
Amen, Mama Alister: this is a beauty. I’m there, there with all the howling and diving and glared pain, and wet boy faces, and daredevil toddlers. What a lovely metaphor chunking into place with Mr. Pickard’s racks. I suspect Jadie’s been running the store for a while, only now she knows and feels (and trusts) it. Gotta love the Abbott and Costello of Jackie and Jimmie, too.
Oh, man, you really nailed that moment when a person sees the world for what it is. And, in that moment of realization, where many grow hard and self-protective, Jadie instead gains an inner resillience; she discovers love instead of losing it. Beautifully done!
And that was when Jadie began to be a woman. She grew at least 5 centimeters in that single moment ;)
Your words painted a life style complete with ups and downs sprinkled with fear and confusion. Wonderful work, as always.
sorry to be tardy – real fragmented w/e — the south becomes y’all miss a — ‘spect y’all to be doin’ n’orlans pretty damnfinelike any day now, chile — special with carnavale right round yon corner — GREAT dialogue and poignant story – my innards dropped and flopped right along with jadie’s – caution:replay in progress!!!
More music to the ears from you, both the V&R and the Baez flashback! Thank you : )
A beauty, eh? More music. I love it. Love that you liked it. And I suspect you’re right about our girl Jadie : )
Your review’s right on. That moment is a tough one. I’m afraid it caused me to tilt more toward the side of cynicism. But not so far that I cain’t see the sunshine ; )
And that is the upside of that moment anno mentioned. No matter which way she tipped, she took control of her destiny.
Painted. Good. That’s what I aim for. Thanks, T : )
You ain’t tardy, girl. If you show up here at all, you’re right on time as far as I’m concerned. I always appreciate hearing from you. And I think you’re onto something about me and the south. Maybe a past life… ; )
Really interesting how the trust and strength has to come from within. Jadie *could* keep hoping her mom would be okay, she *could* keep trying to convince her mother to keep on, but … nope. This girl internalizes it all and draws her strength and her future into herself. Interesting. Really interesting.
But… is grandadddy actually Jadie’s dad? I sort of caught that vibe, in the mom’s devotion to him.
another fine piece.
coming from new orleans and mississippi, the mere use of the name ‘mamie’ brought a nice country accent to the read…
This piece had me running full tilt the whole way! You express Jadie’s uncertainty and fear so well with “all the fear and the icy, hollow insecurity and dread she felt gripping her head and all of her guts.” Then that hard shift of self-trust “chunked into place”… yeah!
No, grandpa’s really grandpa, and you know, dang it, I blew off a knowing that I needed to hand out just one tidbit to show the reader Maime’d had too hard a life for her to take, on top of dealing single-handedly with all the kids, and losing her father was the last straw. The thought you got would have been a sticky little complication to build in there, though.
And Jadie, the wonder girl, we have to assume she’s seen plenty that pushed her hard toward maturity, and this was her final straw, the one that slid her fast over to the driver’s seat.
Good points, SHG, very good! Thanks : )
Thank you, Quin : ) Glad to see my getting all cute with the spelling of Mamie didn’t ruin it for you (that was another thought, in addition to the ones I mentioned to Susan, that I blew off)! I tell you, I know I should trust my intuition a heck of a lot more than I’m able : )
That, I did like about this, the full tilt, and how it felt reading it full tilt…like the way the side effects caveats to drug commercials are read! And the chunk. I liked getting that, too. But mostly I liked reeling in the “crushed like junk cars” line. Poor girl just found out her mama didn’t consider her worth living for. Crushed like a junk car. Oooh, now that’s a bitch in all ways!
i was there, with that girl and her lil siblings, right through. having seen quite a few deaths when i was a little younger, i know exactly what it is like, the howling and all, the utter hopelessness. and you have brought out jadie’s fear reall well – i imagine she would have felt helpless when she felt her ma was going too – to think that may be she wasn’t worthy enough for her ma to pull on.
you are crafty, missA – you just seem to blow life into words.
Crafty he says, as he wraps up with the allegory of CPR ;-)
I always like your take, Bum. I haven’t seen many deaths, all in all. The last handful of years is making up for it, though. And it’s good because dying is something I just can’t picture myself doing. So I’m working on dealing with the whole concept of death and I figure that’s got to improve my life, you know?
Good to see you again, my friend : )
tell me about dealing with it. what with a lot of my parents’ classmates and contemporaries beginning to get their tickets, my mother has always been downright afriad of dying. i sometimes have to get into these really heave conversations with her, and comfort her – or attempt it. it is strange, because she is a doctor – would you imagine! but yes, i couldn’t agree more – it certainly would show us the light to work around accepting the great leveller.
good to be here, my friend :)
On the contrary, I would think being a doctor would make the prospect of dying seem infinitely more terrible! I would think seeing the traumas, the people dying of all manner of things in all manner of ways day in and out, would increasingly freak me out to the point of no return! Being dead doesn’t bother me, the last moments prior to death do. So la-la-la things that come from old hats at death like Stephen Levine have miniscule positive effect on me. I guess with me, maybe like with your mother, there’s something amidst the elaborate labyrinth of psychological issues around dying that just hasn’t yet been exposed to be worked through. But like everything else, I trust if it’s for me to know, I will. For now I will go over to your place and see what all this fantastic business is about : )
King of Blogging is saying hello! Fresh doubloons to you he is sending! Happy Endless Mardi Gras from the 51st State of Nate!
I don’t mind if the doubloons are ancient as long as the King Cake is fresh and the baby ain’t real ;-)
And thanks for the happy endless, KOB of the BON! My beer mug runneth over with your cheer : )