For clear background to read text throughout ACR, run cursor over graphics display.
(from Jazz Notes in the Misty Blue: A Mountain Empire Anthology)
by Jeannette Harris
Christopher set the vase down on the braided rug by Aunt Jill's upholstered rocking chair. Where Puddles, their new dalmation, quickly skidded and skated on freshly-waxed wood of the cabin's flooring into it.
Oh, beautiful,"Roger cooed. "Odd purple rainbow pieces are so art deco. Much better, Puddy. Thanks, buddy."
"Sorry," Chris mumbled, scooping the pieces into a brown paper bag.
"I don't care. It was a boring old family pottery thing. I'll reglue it tomorrow morning into something new and startling."
Chris hummed the tune to "Purple Rain."
"Yeah. With the pieces cascading down like rain.”
"With splashes of silver glitter paint for drops."
"And a splotch of it at the base. We'll call it 'Puddles'."
"Way cool." Chris began a jig in front of the puppy before scooping him up against his chest.
"You're brilliant, Puddy. See?"
Hey! Hey! Hey!" Linda shook her head and permed salt-and-pepper hair loose, looking up through overhead slats at green-tinged liquid dribbling through.
"Ai! Yi-yi." Davey crooned.
"You forgot the friggin plate again! What the bleepin bleep is wrong with you?"
"I miss your sweet voice."
"I'll make a tape."
"All swear words? Promise?"
"Wrapped in old underwear."
"God, I miss that. The shreds."
"Ah. The good old months. Please come back."
"No. The plants miss you. Especially the Boston fern."
"Did you take its plate away too?"
"No, it misses the soft touch you are. I mean, your soft touch.
"I didn't forget the twenty. I was getting around to it when you watered me."
Lydia scratched her jagged nails through bulky secret recesses of her woven handbag and threw it against the enameled breakfront while wads of paper tissues, vials of lipstick and perfume, one small kidskin change purse, several silver dollars and wrinkled notepads exploded in profusion onto the oriental carpet around Katey's sandal-shod feet.
"I can't find my daggum reading glasses," Lydie explained to her bemused neice. "Would you read the inscription out loud to me that's beside that over-sized cornstalk native doll in the case? Please," she added out of restrained respect for one of her favorites amongst that generation of kinfolk.
Clearly and distinctly, Katey complied:
"In laudatory remembrance of the notably and extraordinarily oustanding women of the State of Franklin who, during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars particularly, while their men left to fight for The Union -- the United States of America, worked alone and in concert to manage homes, businesses, schools, entertainments, communities and to raise children in establishing here a tradition of felicitous strength in faith and good individual and communal purpose."
As Lydia smiled in contented satisfaction, Katey knelt to scoop up the hard purple case with her reading spectacles.
"Our Cherokee neighbors also are respectfully reverent ecologically, socially, spiritually, historically and now toward The Female Aspect. That has been significant for us in beneficent impact and influence over centuries too," retired Professor Lee Marianne Ravensong instructed, fitting the Tennessee oyster-pearl glasses methodically over the ridge of her sun-wizened nose for a clearer view of the doll's multi-colored linen skirt, deerskin smock and boots, and brightly beaded head-dress.
IdaMae woke and broke free from her dream of tumbling down a familiar flowered hill with startled reluctance to disentangle stubborn toes knotted into her mother’s loosely-crocheted summer afghan for sloughing barefoot toward the sound of persistent knocking at the back window.
“Sorry, Idy, I locked my keys in the car again.” Babs knelt down, golden madras dress flared over her knees and feet, to talk through the opened window.
“Okay, let me remember where I put the chain….”
“I think it’s in your walnut jewelry box. The one with the big brass latch.”
IdaMae giggled. “Hope I didn’t lock it.” Idy groaned in Babs direction as she reached that corner of the room and hefted the small closed box into honeysuckle-scented air.
“Undo the screws on the latch,” Babs advised.
“Come on in and get me a case knife,” IdaMae directed on opening the back screen door. The loose-bottomed drawer full of jumbled server pieces clattered as Babs fingered and peered for a stand-in hardware tool.
“Will this do?” She held up a worn goldtone filigreed butter knife for IdaMae’s inspection and approval.
Idy grabbed it. “It better.” She sank into the davenport’s warm cordoroy and turned the box on its side, hoisting Lowell’s oversized tee up around her waist, stationing the box firmly between her thighs and working the latch loose.
“Here you go,” she called, holding out a looped metal chain rigid with assorted keys, into the open kitchen doorspace.
“Where’s Low?” Babs wondered aloud.
“Dunno. He was gone when I woke up.”
“His chariot’s in the lot.”
“It is?” Idy blurted in surprise.
“A friend musta stopped by. Maybe Percy Johns. Did you know he’s back in town?”
“By himself?” Babs asked carefully.
“No. Meathook’s with him.”
“Still blonde, bubbly, and bad?”
“I reckon. Just got a whiff of the poison pot in passing.”
“What does Low do?”
“Ignores it all. Turns off his mind and padlocks his pants.”
Babs crinkled her nose, closed her eyes and nodded her head slowly. “Thank God. You too, right?”
“Yeah. Wide berth on a large earth.”
Babs sniffed. “Where are they staying? So I know which way not to drive.”
“In the van, I think. Wherever they can park and leave it.”
“The Dad’s dough gone?”
“Probably. I don’t ask. They don’t tell.”
“Okay. I gotta get home and changed for work. Thanks for the key.” Babs left by the front door, turned right onto the railed porch and into her adjacent apartment.
“Watch for the gray van!” Idy warned.
“You bet.” Babs called in return.
“I know this sounds corny…. Do you have any brown sugar?” Linda burst out in stepping alongside a fellow tenant she recognized.
Roger laughed. “Is that a trick question to answer?”
“No. I just got a sudden hankering for a cream-stuffed grilled sweet potato.”
“Yes, we do have brown sugar today. Come on in,” Roger invited, holding the door open generously with an unsleeved golden arm into the great room with its handwoven earthtone Native American wall hangings, colorfully abstract ceramic art pieces, and assorted African drums. Multi-colored dream catchers and medicine wheels swayed by a nearby ceiling fan hung before the large bay window with its distant mountain view.
“Wow,”Liddy exclaimed. ”I love this room.”
“Thanks,” Roger answered on his way into the kitchen. “Slip into something comfortable. Like the ottoman. Do you have time for coffee? We have fresh-brewed espresso. And almond-cherry cream.”
“Mmm-m. I’d love it,”Linda agreed, settling into the soft back of her seating to examine the room. ”Where did all the ultra-realism paintings come from?”
“You like them?”
“Roomie’s family is nearly all artists, including musicians that make their own handcrafted instruments.”
“Beautiful flutes,”Liddy commented.
“They use native woods in innovatively traditional ways. They’re a little famous for it, amongst afficiandos. Dollywood carries them,” Roger added proudly. “And a few fine Gatlinburg galleries. And the museum gift shop up in Qualla Boundary. Each one’s numbered and named in Tsalagi.”
Swinging a small paper-wrapped package of brown sugar in his left hand, Roger balanced a brightly opaque demitasse saucer-and-cup with his right.
“Here you go,” he intoned, placing all on the matted glass table beside Linda.
“Can you play the flute?”
“No. Roomie’s the magician. The snake charmer. I just bang the drums, to keep it fam.”
“Cool. I’d love to hear and see it.”
“We’ll be in the Center Plaza during June Jubilee. And by the garden fountain at Craft Carousel.”
“Okay. I love both of those. Catch ya there.”
Linda relaxed into a comfortable stillness with her newly-discovered comrade to sip on thick coffee and study distantly all the gaily-designed magazines strewn around her.
“Is the café’ right?” Roger inquired.
“Perfection,”Liddy assured him. “Well, I need to be getting along. Thank you so much for the R&R.“ Linda stood with the parcel of sugar and turned to face her charmingly impromptu host.
“And the brown sugar.”
“Anytime. Glad for the company.” Roger walked her to the door.
Dave tinkered impatiently with the strings, waiting really for the long summer day to darken and cool in allowance of his purpose since dawn awakening to a fawn-shaded dream of mountain hiking trails so high that strands of dewey-wet clouds whisped through lushly green stands of bush and brush.
Alicia disturbed his intent reverie around suppertime, insisting that he sample her thick squirrel stew with mashed potatoes and squash. And malty home brew suds. Dave cut with his pocket/boot knife into the crusty-brown round of her freshly-baked bread and pulled off a still-steaming guy-sized chunk to dip into gravy. Then returned to his padded floor mat to lean back against the feather-down pillows she’d given for Christmas to chord, strum and pick through their latest tune. Humming, Alicia added a few harmonizing riffs quietly on the piano, stood and gathered together mealtime leftovers to slide alone into the cascading violets of twilight.
Solitude begged Dave to climb into its steep incline.
He walked to the pine slab door, hoisted the 30-30 over his left shoulder, reached for the small green box of bullets to stuff into his pants pocket, secured the snap. Closing the doorlock behind him, Dave headed into a moonlit field of fallen bits of stars pulsing against uneven ground. Stopped to the murmur of his breathing, Dave heard branch-and-twig rustling within the forested grove to his right, stood breathless in place. Not even his eyes moved.
Softly, in a serpentine turn, he lifted the rifle and aimed it toward that telling rent of sleeptime quietude. The small buck froze in the light, fell quickly after the shot hit its mark, perfectly Dave discovered on starry examination. Centered right between its eyes.
Ahead lay all the work of dragging, bleeding, gutting, hanging, butchering and cleaning, cooking or wrapping for storage.
And savoring each exquisitely tender and tasty, gourmet morsel.
Dave had acknowledged himself as a teen to be a usually pacific omnivore streaked with restrained primal urgings that required attentive respect.
Now he knelt again by the deer, thanking God for mysterious blessings in the sacred silence of the kill.