Deatsville wasn’t any bigger than a whistle on a walk in 1954, and about as far due south of my Michigan birthplace as any eight year old could imagine. The roads running east and west past Popeye’s two pump, glass globe gasoline stop and shop had the soft, dust-rusty look of a boiled bare five-and-dime enamelware pan.
I’d traveled to Deatsville to spend the summer with my cohort, Molly, and her parents who owned that screen door gathering spot frequented mostly by natives of Elmore County and daytrippers from Lomax and Verbena who’d gotten sidetracked on their way to Montgomery.
Molly and I were counterfeit cousins, joined at the heart and mind’s-eye instead of the kinsman hip. Our mommas had been best friends before us. They’d met in New York City where each had fled during the 1930’s, intent on finding a more sophisticated lifestyle than that of a small town girl grown into a small town wife. Marriage and children returned them to convention, but our births had awarded each a vicarious second chance at adventure.
In time we’d give them their dreams, but for that last unadulterated summer of our youth we were as any other children growing up in the kind of rural community that red line roads on paper pocket maps connected.
“Do as you’re told and make me proud,” was always my mother’s marching order. I did and would.
I arrived by bus, the driver making a stop at Popeye’s even though it wasn’t on his scheduled route. Had he chosen to obey orders to pass Deatsville by, visitors and residents of the area would have had to find additional transportation back to there. Stopping was the common southern courtesy that northern dispatchers were forced to either ignore or accept.
Molly and her dog, Buford, greeted me by dancing barefoot in the dirt, a piece of her momma’s pecan pie held high in her right hand while she wigwagged the left.
“Hi you all, “ she enunciated with an exaggerated drawl.
I kissed her. Then I bent down and kissed Buford before attacking the pie.
“I ate mine already but you can share yours with me if you want,” she hinted.
We slept in a tall-walled room at the end of a tongue and groove hallway in a 19th century carpetbaggers house set five hundred feet back from the store. It was a proud, old, chipped-paint clapboard structure with faded green plantation shutters hiding nine foot, nine-over-nine pane windows, most of them swollen shut. Those that worked opened like doors onto wraparound porches connecting pencil post pillars to a sloping tin roof that provided both shade and shelter from the relentless heat and sudden white rains of an Alabama afternoon.
“I’ve got a secret to show you,” Molly whispered to me one afternoon while we were pretending to nap. Together we crawled under her grandma’s iron bed and removed the floorboards to an inwardly opening trap door exposing a ladder that took us ten feet down into a somber cellar of red clay and hollowed out slots where candles once burned as lighting.
———– TO CONTINUE READING ————
THE ABOVE ESSAY REPRESENTS AN EXCERPT FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t Know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright © 2019
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