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Archive for November, 2013

Fat and Sassy: Thanksgiving

Its TUESDAY TALES time! This week it’s a Best of Tuesday Tales. I haven’t participated in the group long enough to have a post that I feel is one of my ‘best’, and since I’m still working on FAT AND SASSY as my Nano project, I’ve added a Thanksgiving post from here.

In Fat and Sassy, we’ve been following Bea and Casey through the early 40’s as they’re moving around in search of work and raising a family. For this post, we’re jumping ahead about forty years. Bea is now a widow, has moved back to California (again), and is staying with her oldest daughter Mae, who is now a grandmother herself.

Thanks for stopping by. Return to TUESDAY TALES  here for more great stories … the best of Tuesday Tales.

November 1984

grandma jones1Being such an early riser, now that she hardly slept at night, Bea was surprised to hear noises coming from the kitchen already. She squinted to look at the clock on the nightstand. Three am! What in the world was Mae doing up that early?

She sat up and slid her feet into the slippers sitting by the side of the bed. Wandering into the kitchen she saw Mae standing in front of open cupboards with dishes scattered across every open surface. “A tornado go through here? And what are you doing up so early, Sister?”

“I’m just trying to get things in order for the day. I got the turkey in an hour ago, so I’m getting the cookware and plates out that we’ll need, before I start on some of the other dishes.”

Bea headed for the coffee pot tucked in the corner, now obscured by the stacks of plates and empty casserole dishes. “Anything I can do to help?”

“Not right now, Mother. Just relax. Later you can peel some potatoes and chop up some celery.”

“I still don’t know why you’re going to so much trouble for Thanksgiving. You’re gonna’ have enough here to feed an army,” Bea said.

“Once everyone gets here, we will have an army,” Mae replied.

Bea settled into an empty chair. She scooted a pile of dessert plates back to make room for her coffee cup.

Mae began pulling cans out of another cupboard and started putting them on the counter. “Olives, cranberry sauce, yams, green beans ….” she said aloud as she stacked them together. “What am I forgetting?”

“Carrots. Are the canned carrots there? I was going to make my Copper Pennies.”

She stuck her head deeper in the cupboard and pulled out two more cans. “Carrots. Here we go.”

A sleepy eyed young boy with tousled hair walked into the kitchen. “When will everyone get here, Mama?” Chuck asked.

“Not until later. Go sit and visit with Grandma Jones while she drinks her coffee.”

The rest of the morning consumed Mae’s time, busy in preparation for the big feast. Big Chuck passed through the kitchen now and then. “Lookin’ good, Mama,” he said to his wife, patting her on the bottom as he’d snitch a bite of whatever dish she was working on at the time.

Thanksgiving tableThe roasted turkey was filling the house with its hot, tantalizing aroma as everyone started arriving. Alvin and Phyllis, and their three children pulled in the driveway with a pop-up travel trailer right behind. Sue and her two munchkins, Dwight and Dale, were right behind. Patsy and Greg arrived before the turkey was done. Barely. Patsy lifted Christopher out of his car seat, they grabbed the diaper bag and the paraphernalia that accompanies babies.

“This is a great Thanksgiving.” Bea sat in the living room, surrounded by family. “Two of my children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. This is wonderful. I just wish that the rest of the family could be here too. I miss the days when the whole family was together.”

Mae passed through the room, headed to go check the turkey one last time. She gave a slight frown hearing those words, but she didn’t say anything. Years ago the whole family was together, but she didn’t recall any special Thanksgiving traditions. Yes, we had food, but we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving until I was married and started doing it myself. She hurried to the kitchen and kept quiet. She was too busy to fret over memories from so long ago.

“Everyone come grab a plate,” Mae called out. Everyone filed into the kitchen and bunched all together. Chuck brought up the rear and filled the doorway. “Mama,” he said in his Texan drawl, “you wanna say the blessing?”

Bea leaned up against the counter, the self-proclaimed matriarch, surrounded by her family. “Lord, we thank you for your bounty. We thank you for your grace. Thank you for bringing us together for the day. Be with those that we’re missing. Amen.”

“Amen,” the family echoed. Mothers filled plates for the children, giving them samples of everything, knowing that they wouldn’t eat half of what was there. Everyone passed by the table, filling their plate with the typical Thanksgiving fare. Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams topped with melted marshmallows, green beans in their special sauce and topped with fried onions crisps, cranberry sauce, green and black olives, fresh vegetables and hot rolls with butter and jam.

As plates were emptied and people sat around in a stupor, Mae announced, “For dessert we have pumpkin pie, pecan pie, mincemeat pie, coconut cake, pineapple upside down cake and chocolate upside down cake.”

Every one groaned and rubbed their full stomachs.

“You have so many desserts,” Phyllis said.

“You know me and a party,” Mae replied. “And why just have one dessert when you can have six?” She scanned the kitchen with all the food to put away later and the dishes to clean up. She was tired. She’d deal with the mess later, along with the childhood memories that were stirred up.

Bea had her own memories surfacing. They’d drift through as she lay in bed later, facing a night that brought its own demons with it. All these years later, to now be without a home, without a husband, without two of the children you gave birth to. Too old to work now. Unable to take care of herself. Advancing age, diminishing health and poverty is a trio to be reckoned with. It is not a kind combination. The day was a day of thanksgiving. The night was a night of fears and achy joints. But it wasn’t night yet. It was daytime, so for today she’d count the blessings in her life.

Pumpkin Butter Baby #2

Welcome to Tuesday Tales! This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘loose’.

This snippet continues from last week’s tale in my WIP, Fat and Sassy. Bea’s in the middle of making pumpkin butter when her baby decides to make her appearance.

Return to TUESDAY TALES for more great stories.

Pumpkin Butter Baby #2

pumpkin butter1“What’s the matter Mama?”

“Never you no mind. Just go git ‘ur Daddy. Your baby brother or sister is a ‘commin.”

Mae ran out the back door, Bill and Helen right on her heels.

“Daddy …. Daddy!” they called, running past the barn in search of the men.

Bill climbed up on a fence. “There they are,” he hollered. “I see the mules back there.” He pointed to the far side of the field. A plume of dust gave evidence where Uncle Scott led his team of mules plowing under the remains of the last harvest so the field would lay fallow over the winter. Casey followed behind, breaking up the larger clods of dirt.

“Daddy!” all three children screamed in unison. “Mama needs you!”

Casey dropped the pick ax and trotted across the field, heading towards the fence where the children gathered.

“What’s wrong? Your Mama cut herself?” he asked, as he went over the fence.

“I don’t know,” Mae answered. “She just said to come get you. She’s grabbing her tummy like she has a tummy ache.”

Knowledge flashed across his face. They’d have another young ‘un in house before the day was over. He hurried towards the house, children in tow.

Casey entered the kitchen and saw Bea clutching the counter, a grimace pasted across her face.

“Is it time?”

“Near enough.” Another contraction caused her to double over.

“What do you need me to do?”

“First, call the midwife. Then, help me up to the bed. You’ll have to finish the pumpkin butter.”

“I don’t know how to cook up butter’s.”

“You’ll learn today,” Bea informed him. “If I’m a birthin’ all the babies in this house, you can learn to finish up a batch of pumpkin butter.”

pumpkin butterShe waddled over to a chair and sat down. “It’s not that hard. I just got the last piece peeled. So all you have to do is stir it now and then. Don’t let it burn. Keep the lid on, but keep it on loose, not tight. As it starts getting tender, start mashing it with the tater masher there.”

Casey stood in the middle of the kitchen with a befuddled look on his face.

Bea continued her instructions. “Keep a little water in the pot while it’s cooking down. You might have to add a dab here and there. When it’s all tender and cooked and mashed, then take the lid off and let the water cook out till it’s thick. Then take the pot off the stove and let it cool down.”

“Ona Mae,” she called to her oldest, not that five years old was all that old. “You’re gonna have to keep an eye on the babies. You’re gonna be in charge of them.”

Bea turned to Casey. “Ring up Uncle Shorty and see if he can bring his mom out. She said she’d help the midwife.”

Looking back at Mae, she continued, “Keep your brothers and sisters out of trouble until the baby gets here. Looks like you’re a gonna have another brother or sister soon, born in the same house that you were born in.”

“I was born here too?” Mae asked.

“Yes you were. Same house, same room,” Bea answered. “Aunt Annie was here that day . She gave you your first bath.”

Her midsection twisted in pain and she clutched her belly. Casey raced to her side and took her elbow. “Come on, Mother. Let’s get you up to that bed. Mae, keep the others down here. I’ll be right back.”

Pumpkin Butter Baby #1

It’s Tuesday Tales! This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Three hundred words, no more.

My snippet is from my WIP, Fat and Sassy. It’s 1942. Bea and Casey Jones, along with their four (and a half) children, moved from Arkansas back to their Uncles Scott’s farm in Missouri in search of work.

Return to TUESDAY TALES for more stories from other talented writers.


Pumpkin Butter Baby #1

TT_November prompt“Daddy, bring me in a few of those pumpkins before you head to the pasture,” Bea called to Casey’s back.

“What are you plannin’ for the pumpkins?”

“I’m a gonna cook up a mess o’ pumpkin butter. Just set the pumpkins on the counter and I’ll cut ‘em down there.”

“All-righty. How many do you want?”

“Three …. no, only two. They’re large,” Bea answered.

Casey safely delivered the pumpkins to the linoleum covered counter in the farmhouse. A quick trip to the pump ensured that the water bucket was full and ready for Bea and the children to use. Bea refilled his coffee mug and he headed out to the fields, where Uncle Scott had already been hard at work since the sun had peeked over the east horizon. The golden and orange hues from the tree lines at the edges of the farm reminded him of how much he enjoyed seeing the fall colors spread across the country.

Bea rummaged in the storage under the counter in search of a pot large enough to hold her bounty. Finding one she liked, not that the old bachelor farmer had a huge selection to choose from, she poured a dipper of water into it and sat it on the wood stove to start heating up.

Children ran under feet as she cut into the pumpkins. She dug her hands into the innards and scooped the seeds into a bowl, one stringy handful at a time. Chopping the huge orange giants into smaller chunks, she began peeling them. The rind went in the bowl that the chickens would enjoy later. She dropped pieces into the simmering pot.

A spasm enveloped her midsection as a gush of water ran down her legs.

“Mae, run out to the fields and git ‘ur Daddy!”


Movin’ On

Tuesday TalesIt’s Tuesday Tales! This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘abrupt’.

Here’s a scene from my WIP, Fat and Sassy. Bea and Casey arrived back in Arkansas with a carload of kids in the spring of 1942. They stay with Papa, in the shanty in the ‘holler’ that Bea grew up in. Not finding work, Casey arrives home with an announcement.

Return to Tuesday Tales for more great stories!



Fall 1942

1930 chevyBea heard the old Chevy chugging along the dirt road towards the house. She shifted Tom to her other hip and reached for the percolator, holding it out of his grasping hands. She placed it on the wood stove to warm up.

“Hush,” she murmured to the baby. “Daddy’s home, now be a good boy. He’s had a long day out looking for work.”

“Mae,” she hollered out the open doorway where the children chased chickens in the dirt yard. “Bring Bill and Helen in and git ‘em washed up. Daddy’s almost home.”

Before the little ones gathered, the car pulled up, gave one last rattley cough and silenced.

“Daddy … Daddy ,” the three children gathered around the car. Little Bill jumped up and down as if springs were under his bare feet.

The children were excited to see Daddy. And young. They didn’t notice the weariness etched in his face, nor the defeat that settled around his shoulders as a cloak.

Casey stooped to embrace the children in his arms. A smile crossed his face and a glimmer of delight shined in his eyes. The world hadn’t defeated him yet. He had his wife and his children.

He picked up Helen, the smallest, and grabbed Mae’s hand. Bill bounced alongside of them into the wooden shanty they called home at the moment. Bea handed him a hot mug when he entered the doorway. He settled down into a rickety chair, careful not to upset the steaming coffee. He bounced Helen on his knee. “We’re moving to Misery.”

“We’re moving to Missouri, just like that?” Bea asked, a frown making it clear what she thought of the idea. “Isn’t that kind of abrupt?”

“I got word from Uncle Scott. He said there’s work up there. He said we can stay with him until we get on our feet. There’s plenty of room on the farm and I’ll help out with harvesting until I find work.”

“When do you intend on moving? I’m about ready to drop this baby. I don’t want to be birthin’ it on the road.”

“Then, we’d better get a giddyup in our step and get there sooner rather than later. We’ll go next week.”

“Humph”, Bea muttered under her breath. “That’s one good thing about not having a pot to piss in. It doesn’t take nuttin’ to pile it all in the jalopy and move on down the road.”

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