Monday, June 30, 2008

Laura Jean Vs. Miss Augusta Pucker

Now little one,
let me tell you a story about my mama’s mama.
She was a little girl named Laura Jean.

Her Nanny used to say to her,
“Laura Jean
don’t let them call you Laura.
Don’t let them call you Jean.
Your name is Laura Jean
because you’re a lady.”

Pastor Morrison
loved fried chicken on Sunday afternoons
and quoting the commandments.
More times than Laura Jean could remember
Pastor Morrison sat at Nanny’s kitchen table and said,
“The Lord says love thy neighbor.
And neighbor, this chicken is Mmmmm good.”

Laura Jean was sure that if there was anyone,
and little one, I do mean anyone,
that the Lord Himself thought might be an exception to the love thy neighbor commandment
it was Miss Augusta Pucker of 2135 Sunset Ave.

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets something in her head
it is stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

You see
Miss Augusta Pucker
lived by herself in a house just down the street from Laura Jean.
You could not go to Mr. Pemberton’s store,
you could not go to the school house,
you could not go anywhere,
anywhere at all, without passing
Miss Augusta Pucker’s house.
That is unless you wanted to go by way of South America.

And little one,
did Miss Augusta Pucker want you to cross her lawn?
She did not.
Did Miss Augusta Pucker want you to set foot on her sidewalk?
She did not.
Did Miss Augusta Pucker want you to smell one smell of her prize-winning roses?
She did not.
In point of fact little one,
Miss Augusta Pucker didn’t want one of your little toes
to touch one blade of grass on her lawn.
Laura Jean even believed that if you so much as looked
at that house, Miss Augusta Pucker would know
and chase you away.

So Laura Jean never went by her neighbor’s house.
She never, not once, even
looked at Miss Augusta Pucker’s house.
Except for that day in June.
It was the hottest day of the year.
No, it was the hottest day of the century.
And Laura Jean had decided to go down to Mr. Pemberton’s store
with a nickel to buy the eensiest vanilla ice cream you ever did see.
As little as your mama’s thumb.

But on a day as hot as that day,
when you could fry and egg on the side walk,
and you are barefoot,
do you know what that girl did?
Can you guess?
Laura Jean decided to
take the shortest route to Mr. Pemberton’s store
Miss Augusta Pucker’s front lawn.

And child, not as soon as Laura Jean’s big toe
touched the first blade of grass on Miss Augusta Pucker’s lawn
did the front porch screen door slam open
and there stood a most menacing, fierce Southern woman:
Miss Augusta Pucker.
Standing there a tower of strength.
Standing there a power to be reckoned with.
Her sleeves rolled up and apron wrapped around her middle.
She leveled a very crooked finger at Laura Jean and hollered out…

Now you are wondering, little one, what Miss Augusta Pucker hollered.
Laura Jean did not hear her.
No she did not.
You see Laura Jean took off runnin’ faster than fast.
Laura Jean ran and ran
even takin’ the long way to Mr. Pemberton’s store,
and wouldn’t you know it
Laura Jean got there in record time
bare foot, heat, and all.

Now little one
let me tell you.
That day
in June
sittin’ in Mr. Pemberton’s store
with the counter fan blowing her mess of pigtails,
savoring every bit of that vanilla ice cream,
Laura Jean designed in her heart
how she would get that most unneighborly
neighbor, Miss Augusta Pucker.

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets something in her head
it was stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

When Miss August Pucker left that Thursday morning
to have tea and play cards with the ladies,
Laura Jean went to Miss Augusta Pucker’s home.
I know you don’t believe me,
but she did.
She snuck up around the prize-winning roses.
She snuck up barefoot walkin’ on the lawn
lettin’ her big toe touch every blade of grass.
She snuck up
of all-purpose pink dye, purchased from Mr. Pemberton’s store.

Laura Jean crept quietly around the corner of the house,
as quiet as any little girl can,
opened the screen door to the back porch
and stood there, fists on her hips,
pail in her hand
spying Miss Augusta Pucker’s two cats.
Two perfectly white,
perfectly fluffy,
perfectly Persian,
and perfectly manicured cats,
loungin’ on the rose printed cushions of the
Sears and Roebuck National porch glider.
Their names were Mr. Warren G. Harding and Sir Bootie-Poo.

Now just as gentle as a momma and her newborn baby
Laura Jean scooped up Mr. Warren G. first,
saying, “That’s a good kitty kitty.”
And dipped him in the pail of pink dye.
She sat him on the floor and wrung him out good,
good and dry.
Mr. Warren G. Harding being a normal cat didn’t much like
goin’ in for a bath but put up with it as well as a cat could.
He sat there in the sun licking his fur and drying himself off
a perfectly manicured,
perfectly Persian,
perfectly fluffy,
perfectly pink Mr. Warren G. Harding.

“Here Bootie-Poo,” crooned Laura Jean,
“That’s a good kitty.”
And Laura Jean scooped up Sir Bootie-Poo
and dipped him into the pail of pink.
Sir Bootie-Poo emerged
madder than Mr. Warren G.
flicking his back paws as he walked.
around the porch
in circles
happy only to be out of the wet.

Laura Jean stood there and admired her work.
She stood there satisfied in her heart
with two perfectly manicured,
perfectly Persian,
perfectly fluffy,
perfectly pink cats.
Mr. Warren Pink Harding and Sir Pinkie-Poo.
Laura Jean giggled to herself at the thought.

And as she stood there rollin’ over those names
and the visions in pink before her very eyes
do you think she heard the footsteps coming up the path?
She did not.
Do you think she heard the white-gloved hand open the screen door?
She did not.
Do you think she heard Miss Augusta Pucker, that very
menacing fierce Southern woman?
Standing there a tower of strength.
Standing there a power to be reckoned with.
Standing there right behind her.
She did not.

Then Laura Jean turned
ever so slowly around
and her eyes rose
and took in Miss Augusta Pucker’s puckered mouth.
And they looked one another in the eye.
Laura Jean looked up.
Miss Augusta Pucker looked down.
And it seemed as though the world stopped spinning
and time, the universe, and everything stopped.

Then it happened.
Children today still talk about it.
Miss Augusta Pucker’s pucker turned into a smile
and then into a laugh.
Then Laura Jean laughed.
And they both looked at those two pink cats
sittin’ there perfectly pink
and laughed some more.
In fact they laughed so hard that Laura Jean fell to the floor
and Miss Augusta Pucker had to sit down on the glider.

Finally, when it hurt to laugh any more,
Miss Augusta Pucker said to Laura Jean
“Miss Laura Jean may I offer you a glass of PINK lemonade?”
And they laughed some more.

Little one, you see it turns out that
Miss Augusta Pucker was after all a
right neighborly neighbor,
with a sense of humor,
who didn’t really mind you crossing her lawn,
stepping on her sidewalk,
or even smelling her prize-winning roses.
In point of fact little one,
your big toe was always welcome
at Miss Augusta Pucker’s home
especially for lemonade on the back porch
or tea in the parlor.
You see that’s what Miss Augusta Pucker was
hollerin’ at Laura Jean
an invitation to come inside and sit for a spell.

Sometimes little one,
when you get somethin’ in your head
it can get stuck there good.
And it can take an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

What about those cats?
Well little one,
Mr. Warren G. Harding and Sir Bootie-Poo
lived a long time as perfectly pink Persian pussy cats.

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