God Has One, Too
by Edna C. Horning
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3,
4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Weeks into Cricket’s sojourn, the two women were relaxing in front of the television, Vera in her top-of-the-line recliner, Cricket semi-recumbent on the sofa. Cricket was asleep, and Vera did not hold it against her.
The girl was entitled to some extra rest. Both had spent a goodly portion of that day and ones preceding preparing garden plots for cultivation. By wheelbarrow — one electric, one manual — they had transported load upon load of sacks, stakes, poles, netting, rope, tools, and chemicals from the barn. A truckload of topsoil delivered days earlier had to be redistributed and spread thinner, and there remained the weeding and tilling and laying of carpet strips
Admitting to herself that she relished the unaccustomed audience, Vera had played her role to the hilt, declaring aloud what would be planted and where. “Now, the tomatoes’ll go here, the okra over there, and I want a lot more flowers this year. My mother thought dahlias ugly, but I liked them and still do. Great big purple ones. And speaking of flowers, did I tell you what happened to my jonquils and irises and lilies?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Somebody stole them. Dug up every last bulb on the place when I was gone one weekend. Huh!” Vera looked as though she wanted to spit.
“Did you ever figure who?”
“Oh, I certainly have my suspicions, but I don’t believe in making accusations without tall proof. Still, that’s not as bad as what happened to the Doroughs a few years back. They came home from visiting relatives, and two old, large black walnut trees in their yard had been cut down. Cut down and hauled off! Can you beat that?! I can plant more bulbs. They can’t regrow hundred-year-old trees.”
Throughout all Cricket displayed what seemed genuine curiosity and not politely feigned interest. She listened carefully, her questions and comments being intelligent and to the point, and she executed Vera’s instructions to the letter.
During their hours of joint labor, the two covered, if only tangentially, a broad range of topics in additional to the agricultural: cloning, crazy neighbors, procrastination, the unemployed, the chances of intelligent life on other planets, do dogs think and if so what about, Alabama’s odds of beating Auburn this year, what they would do if they won the lottery, their most embarrassing moments, whether or not people are inherently good, whether better to earn, give, spend or save; their earliest childhood memory, what they were most afraid of, and what would they do if they had twenty-four hours to live.
* * *
“What about Smidge?” Vera queried one afternoon after a thunder shower forced them indoors. “What’s his story? You’ve never said.”
Cricket began, “When I first arrived at Aunt Lucy and Uncle Sulo’s, he was already there, and so naturally I assumed he was their dog. But it turned out that he actually belonged to neighbors who had moved to another state and who had asked them to keep Smidge temporarily while they were living in an apartment and still looking for a house. But they never sent for him. They were separating and didn’t want him anymore.”
“And neither, it appears, did your aunt and uncle. Another child of divorce.”
For all their growing trust of each other, there was one area, Vera was aware, that Cricket had so far sedulously avoided: actual — as distinct from imaginary — longer-term goals. Both were vigorously chopping at the earth when Vera began, “Cricket, you heard me say to your folks that day on the phone that slackers don’t last long on these premises. You don’t have too much to worry about on that score. All things considered, I guess you’ll do.”
Cricket had learned that “you’ll do” was high praise from Vera DeShazo. She smiled and wiped a stained rag across her sweating face.
“But there’s something else I won’t tolerate, and that, Sunbeam, is truancy. And when August arrives, you’ll be truant.” Vera paused and pursed her lips. “In a manner of speaking.”
Cricket blinked. “But I was telling the truth when I said I have enough credits to graduate. They have to give me my diploma when I ask them for it and—”
“Oh, I believe you,” Vera continued, unfazed by the interruption. “But I also happen to know that after acceptance by LaGrange College, you won a partial scholarship in the mix.”
The hint of a frown settled on Cricket’s brow. “You’ve been talking with my aunt and uncle again,” Cricket averred, faintly accusatory, an unspoken “behind my back” hanging in the air.
“Of course I’ve been communicating with your aunt and uncle, and your parents as well. I’m no fool, Cricket. And you owe me, young lady, for having sense enough to keep in touch with them. By doing that, I’ve, uh, what’s the term? — deflected? — yes, I’ve deflected some justifiable anger away from your teenaged head.
“What I want to know is why you haven’t brought any of this college business up yourself since you arrived. Your parents say that, in spite of everything, they’re still willing to pay your expenses and are expecting you to go. Surely you weren’t thinking of not going.” Vera figured she knew the answer to this but wanted to hear Cricket’s version.
“I’ve never mentioned it because of Smidge. I mean, what’ll happen to him? I can’t take him with me to college.”
“You couldn’t have before.”
“Yes, but Mom and Dad were originally supposed to return this October, not next summer,” she explained. “I assumed that Aunt and Uncle would be willing to care for Smidge for a few more weeks and then give him to me and, after that, Mom and Dad would take over. I never anticipated any of this was going to happen.
“If you ask me, Aunt and Uncle were mighty stupid. If they really wanted to be rid of Smidge, they sure didn’t use any gumption. Had they waited until I was gone, I couldn’t have done anything about it. Wouldn’t have known till he was gone.”
After swallowing hard, her tone and expression changed from bitter to bright. “I should be glad they were stupid. And I am.”
Vera knew she probably should deliver at least a mild reproof for this expression of disrespect but decided to let it go. Instead, she said, “So. It’s all settled. August, you’ll be enrolling at LaGrange. Good school. Ank had a nephew who went there. Great-nephew, actually.”
“But there’s still Smidge!” Cricket challenged, alarmed. “Where will he go?”
“Oh,” Vera said nonchalantly, pushing back a strand of loose hair and returning to task, “we’ll think of something.”
And therefore, as Vera had declared earlier, all was settled. It was now dark, and the day’s labor was over. Vera switched off the television neither was watching any longer and pondered the fact that, although it could not have been Cricket’s intent at the time, she had, in picking LaGrange, selected a school not overly far from Dunavant. It would be easy pickings for her and Smidge to tool over to LaGrange — it was interstate part of the way — and surprise the college girl now and again with a picnic lunch.
* * *
Prior to Cricket’s arrival, Vera had anticipated having to replace her truck in another year or two but, ever thrifty, had been deferring as long as the current one still functioned. Now she had a feeling she’d be buying one soon. Very soon. And likely brand new, not used. Maybe one of those big bruisers the ads show scaling mountains and fording rivers; maybe even red.
Cricket wasn’t the sole sleeper. Smidge was stretched out on the rug, his face towards Cricket, his back to Vera. She studied the sleeping brown-and-white double of Sonny who, save for the slow, rhythmic rising and falling of his chest, hadn’t twitched a muscle for more than an hour.
“All right, so you look just like him,” she silently conceded. “Betcha can’t read minds.”
Immediately, in one smooth, seamless motion, Smidge rolled over and lifted his head to stare at her.
Copyright © 2017 by Edna C. Horning