Thursday, November 4, 2010

Family Business

Gracie sat behind the leg of the old birch table and fumbled with her shoe laces. Grandma showed her how to tie them – said something about bunnies and trees. Gracie didn’t like the lace-up shoes. She wanted slip-ons, like Judy’s, pink and sparkly with flowers on the sides. Mama would have let her have the pink shoes. But mama was gone now and grandma said no, said it was time to learn how to tie shoes. Gracie made loops and knots but they didn’t look like bunnies. She wanted to get it right before grandma came home from the market. Grandma would be happy if she could tie her shoes.

Gracie liked living in the old house. She felt close to mama when she slept in the old pink bed with the hand-sewn quilt. She also liked tracing her finger over mama’s initials carved in the kitchen table leg that no one knew about but her. Gracie loved that spot under the table. She spent most of her time there, reading books and whispering secrets to imaginary friends. Mostly, she loved the way the kitchen smelled – especially when Uncle Frank brought in new crops. That’s when the kitchen smelled the strongest, like wet shaggy dog and earth after a heavy rain.

Sometimes Uncle Frank let her help with the harvest. He showed her how to evenly spread out the buds and the shake to stretch the crops a little bit further. He even drew a red line on the scale with a marker so she could help fill the bags. On the line is good. A little under the line is better. Never, ever go over the line. “We ain’t a damn charity, “Uncle Frank said. “Can’t give this shit away for free.” She never went over the line.

He taught her how to tell the difference between good crops and bad crops. Gracie knew the buds sitting on the table above her were really good – green and fat. Not like what Mickey Jones gave to Uncle Frank last week because he owed him money. No, this was a good harvest. Mostly, she could tell by the smell.

Grandma hated the smell. “The table stinks like dirty weeds, Frank,” grandma said. “I gotta drink my coffee and eat my supper on that table.” Uncle Frank reminded her that his dirty weeds paid for the food she ate on that table. Grandma couldn’t work anymore and the bank threatened to take the house. Uncle Frank was making the payments so they wouldn’t have to move.

Grandma never complained about the smell after that. She started drinking her morning coffee on the back porch. She said she liked the fresh air. But Gracie knew it was because grandma didn’t like Uncle Frank’s business, even though she needed the money to buy groceries and lace-up shoes.

5 comments:

Lynn Alexander said...

I'm glad that you are still working on this, I think you should stay with it. It is a promising piece, with some sweetness and innocence but also some irony and reality.

The reader suspects they know what this crop is, of course. The thing is, in very subtle ways you are able to show a contrast between the crop for what it is- plants- and all of the moral questions that have come to be attached.

I think your interest in children and the ways their little minds work, something we see in your posts and anecdotes, comes through in Gracie.

Steve Green said...

Nice and gentle tale, very easy on the eye.

I'm pretty sure I know what the crop is, but if there is a market, and it pays the bills....

A. S. Boudreau said...

powerful stuff. I have to admit it took me a couple minutes thinking to figure out the crop but I tend not to be a bit naive that way...

Trisha Castillo said...

I live in rural Oregon, where marjuana use is rampant, and sometimes I forget that the rest of the world is not comprised of pot-smoking hippies.

Harry said...

I think you posted this as "slice of life" and what meaty slice it is! Someone above mentioned that this is something you are still working on, it's very good and I look forward to seeing more.

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