Jolene quietly and adeptly progressed through the brush and trees, but was becoming increasingly annoyed. Every few minutes she had to wait on her friend, who was purposely stalling.
"Mary Sue Blackerby, if you don't hurry up, the snakes is gonna mistake you for a tree and climb up yer dress." She looked back at Mary, who quickened her steps only slightly at the mention of the snakes.
Mary finally caught up, grabbed Jolenes arm and whispered, "I don't wanna do it, Jo. Lets go back rat now. Please, Jo.
"Well," said Jolene, "We are a gonna do it. We done came all this way, and it took me an awful lotta doin' to get Paw to turn me loose in his boat. Sides, you are skeered of everythang. Now come on!"
When they neared the clearing of Mr. Adams farm, Jolene pulled Mary beside her, and whispered, "K Mary Sue, here's the plan: Duck low and walk fast as ye can. Put a melon in yer dress hem to tote it, and meet back up wimme' right here. You gotta be quick lak about it."
Mary was visibly shaking, and with a trembling voice replied, "I jes can't do it. What if I can't tote them big ole' melons?"
"Jest grab a lil' one. said Jolene as she ducked low and began a fast walk, practically dragging Mary by the hand.
"We 'bout there Mary Sue. Now, soons I tell ye, run behind me to the patch, pick ye prize, then run like the dickens and git outta here. K... Go!" Jolene took off at full sprint, grabbed a big green watermelon, wrapped it in the stained bottom of her floral print dress, and ran toward the woods at full speed, just as she heard the first dog bark. She stopped at the meeting point and
turned around, looking about for her friend. I sure do hope that mean ole Mr. Adams didnt catch her, she thought. It seemed that too much time had passed when she finally noticed her friend's approach.
She had never seen Mary run that fast. Her green eyes were wide open, in a wild _expression. Her long, heavy, medium blonde hair trailed her pounding steps like a swirling, golden blur. The only problem was the dogs were getting louder, and Mary became so nervous that she tripped herself up a few times. Her baby blue, cotton dress was now dirtier than the melon, which had been retrieved several times. When she reached Jolene, they plunged into the woods for the safety of the boat.
"Oh Lawd, Jo! He's a firing a gun back there! Mary yelled over their heavy breathing and noisy footsteps, just as the next crackle of gunfire sounded. "Oh God, please don't let him kill us!" she whispered repeatedly until they reached the boat.
Jolene told Mary to get in, untied the boat, and pushed it free from the bank as she boarded.
"K Mary Sue, shove them melons way unda the back seat, and hold on for ye life!" she shouted as she grabbed the boat's old wooden oars and rowed with all her might. After a few minutes, her rowing slowed considerably. Jolene Culpepper was seldom tired, but she felt her muscles reaching their limits. "Mary Sue, we a gonna stop round that bend ova' yonder. I gotta catch my breath and rest up a bit.
"Uh-uh Jo, I wanna git back to yer farm while the gittin' is good!"
Jo sighed, "I can't row no more right now, and you a shakin' too bad to do it, so we gonna stop. Okey, dokey? Now, hand me that there anchor, Mary Sue, and stop yer belly-achin'. Can't nobody hardly see us back here no how.
Once the anchor was secured, Mary asked, "Now how come you wanna go stealin' melons, Miss Jo? You got a whole passel of em' a growin' at home.
Between deep, heavy breaths, Jolene answered, "Cuz' it's real excitin', and cause evra'thang tastes better when it's been stealed.
Mary slowly shook her head, and said, "Yo' kinda 'citement's gonna land yer bad tail in the pokey house, alone with whoeva' is dim-witted 'nough to foller. Don't you go gittin' me 'volved in no more of ya' scheemins. I mean it!
Jolenes only response was a mischievious grin.
As Jolene's breathing began to slow, and Mary's temper had cooled, the sun was beginning it's descent behind the tall, scraggly pine trees. Jolene took several large gulps of sweet tea from the thermos and passed it to Mary.
Mary drank thirstily, then asked, "Jo, do ya' thank he saw us? If he did, I'll get the hell far' beat outta' me!
Jo thought a minute, "Naw, I don't thank he did. I don't reckon he'd a been a shootin' if he'd seen we's girls.
"I sho' hope not! said Mary, "I aint neva been that skeered 'fore!
"Mary Sue, said Jolene, "Whatta ya thank bout Hank Flowers? I say he's plum eat up with ugly, but word is, he's got his cankered up eyeballs set on you.
"I thank he's sweet on me, said Mary with a shy smile, and her cheeks colored a bright, pastel pink glow, as she looked down to speak, "He asked me to meet him at that 'ole bandoned house. I told him that aint no proper meetin' place for ladies.
Jo contemplated her response as she leaned back and lazily swirled her fingers in the murky, slow flowing water. "I hate to be the one to tell you, Mary Lou, but word is also out, that he says, you let em' feel up your dress at that ole' house.
Mary sat upright in anger and declared, "I most certainly did not do no such of a thang, I didn't even go! The most I ever gave that sorry dawg face was one fast peck 'hind the big oak tree at the schoo'. Jo, you know I didn't do nothin' like that. I aint never did nothin so vulga as that! He's a lyin' on me! I'm a gonna tell my Paw! Him and my brothers'll knock his stankin head
plum off and pee down his neck hole!
"Calm down, suga I 'fended for ya', said Jolene, brushing back her wind-rearranged, strawberry-blonde curls. "To ward off rumas', Mary Sue, the best thang to do is just say you will thank about when they ask ya'. That way theya feathas' won't go gettin' all ruffed up. Then do ya' lashes like this (Jolene demonstrated her lash batting technique), so he thanks you might meet up with him one day. Trust, me they won't go a spreading nasty lies if they thank they got a real
chance to git atcha', 'cause they won't want cha' to go getting all mad".
Mary did her lashes as instructed and said, "That really works?
"Oh yeah," said Jolene, "I know lotsa' tricks for using on boys to git em' wrapped around yo' lil' fanga. Jolene made this comment while circling her little finger in the water with a flourish.
She sat up straight, and with sparkling bright blue eyes, continued the lesson, "Now, throw ya' hair back like this, then turn your head and look at him like this while you do your lashes like I showed ja'. Hold ya' bosoms out like this, and-,
"You shore that coniption fit you a havin' makes 'em fall in love? asked Mary.
"Coase it does. said Jolene, "There is two thangs to know bout boys, Mary Sue. Neva' hurt they pride, and don't let 'em get bored. Once you do my tricks on 'em, ignore 'em awhile so's they have ta' chase after ya' some more, and they will. I aint all smart like you, Mary. I aint got them big creer' plans like you with your nurse lady dreams. But I am smart 'bout a woman's ways. I
'tend to use it. Most I can hope for is to hitch up with some boy with a big nice farm spot. When I do, I'm a gonna rule the roost. Don't cha come 'round at night lest you wanna hear him screaming for mercy, for thare won't be none a 'comin. In the daytime hell be asking me what I want him to do next, calling me honey, darlin purty thang and sweetie pie. So I plan to have my pick of which boy I bed. I got my eye on Tommy Jones right now. But I'm gonna use my tricks on the otha' boys first, least 'till he starts chasin'. I won't ever let him be shore he's caught me neitha' till there's a rang on my fanger.
"Jo, you are the prettiest gal at schoo' and you could trap ole' Tommy by just bein' nice. There aint no need to go castin spells when ya' got the looks. But I aint gonna be afta no man round here too much, or I won't neva' git away to nursin school.
Jolene smiled sweetly and said, "Soona or lata you will be a lookin', so you's best start practicin'. Now, raise yo' eyebrows like this, throw ya' hair some more, keep ya' bosoms out, way out, and show some skin, like ya' didn't mean to, as ya' cross yer legs like-
"Jo! You aint wearin' no unda drawas! You plum nekkid as a Jaybird unda' that dress! How in the blazes did ja foegit ya' bloomers?
Jolene threw her head back, laughing at the shocked look on Mary's face. "I aint fergot em', Mary, I'm a savin' 'em.
Mary looked bewildered as she asked, "Git outta' town! whateva for, Jo?"
"Here's the thang, Jo answered, "Paw says iffen' we can get all caught up, we might git to go see his friend in Floorda'. They wanna go off 'n do some sawt a fishen'. The rest of us'll stay in his lil' house on the ocean bank. I was tellin Mama bout how folks runs around on them sandy banks, in cola'ful unda'waya. She said she were'nt buyin me no purty drawas, but if other folks was a doin' it when we got there, then I could too. So I wanna save both payer's from gettin' all
stretched out 'n stuff. She tol' me she might just run 'round in her girdle. Stop laughin', Mary, I will be shamed somethin' awful cause you know she don't even got no bra. Stop yer cacklin'!
Mary managed to get control of herself, and said, "I'm sorry, Jo. Shorely she's just funnin' with ya. Mary burst into giggles again, then said, "I jes can't hep' it! I'm a seeing yo' Ma in my brains, prancin' around in her drawas with her big ole' teets a floppin' 'bout!
Jolene waited on Mary's laughter to subside, found herself smiling at her friends hilarity, and said, "I hope like heck she's a jokin', else I may bury my head in the sand. She didn't let on like it was no joke. Anyways, I got me a notion to- Mary? What ya lookin at?".
Mary's eyes had opened to the size of half-dollars.
Jolene looked in the direction of Mary's gaze and saw a boat coming around the bend. After it's driver became recognizable, Jolene harshly whispered, "Oh my word! Oh goodness, it's ole' farmer Adams. Oh me! Lissen' up, Mary Sue. Act all innocent like we aint neva did nothin' bad. Quit staring like that, and start doin'
them tricks I showed ja!
As Mr. James Adams neared the girls and noted their strange thrashing about, he asked, "Whassa matta' wid' jew gals?
"Oh, nothin' tall, we just a sittin' here, 'joyin' the sites, Mista Adams. said Jolene, with her sweetest smile and another flourish of her lashes. She reminded herself not to do the leg crossing part.
"You gals best be a gettin' on home 'fore nightfall. I'll foller ye' and make shore you make it safe lak and all. While Im at it, yall seen 'ny whipper snappers runnin bout, totin round ny wata'melons? Both girls shook their heads.
"Awrighty then, said Mr. Adams, "But jes in case folks says they saw you gals, and tries to say yall done it, lemme' jes take a little peek in ye' boat 'fore yall hightail it on home.