Maggie Hess: Hoodwinked Vignettes (fiction)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: Maggie Hess is a Southerner from Bristol, TN.
Once there lived three middle aged men, side by side on a street called Rose Street. Every day since retirement, their job was to mow grass that was so fertile it grew back the next day, and to take one break at lunch, sitting on the front porch of George, the brother on the end closest to Mrs. White’s house. So every day the three Oak brothers sat in a row in the same order, Fred Oak, then Ricki Oak, then George Oak, and on that porch they told about what they had done to bring order to the neighborhood, or to for a moment in time, to drown out the birds that woke them up so early that Mrs White seemed to harbor like fugitives.
One house over, it was a different world entirely. They could see what happened on Mary White and Mrs. White’s porch and hear most of their scuffling from inside. In fact if Mrs. White or Mary sneezed in their bedroom, they were bound to get wind of it. This morning Mary had gone to walk her dogs, Peewee and Bone. But when she returned to let the dogs in the house, Fred and George heard an awful screech.
“Leave my tree alone. You have no right to cut down a person’s tree without them asking.”
“Actually ma’am, we have every right to cut down any tree within 50 feet of a power line.”
“You call in Mary’s tree to get it chopped down, brother? That’s low if you did.” Muttered George to
his brother one porch over.
Mary didn’t hear their words at all. She was busy standing under a tree while the chainsaw revved. She probably would have been hit hard on the head if Mrs. White hadn’t come out to coax her inside. Finally Mary gave in.
That gave the Oak’s something to talk about, or mutter, rather, which is what they seemed to do, since at least half of the White’s ears were pretty sharp.
Hilda across the street was blind but she knew all about what was going on in the hood more than most of the people doing it. She had ears and a mind that ran a mile a minute. Hilda got her cane and her bag and began her walk down to the food pantry where she volunteered full time. Still, she liked to keep a tough exterior, so when Mary called over to her as she passed the White house, she called “it was going to fall on your roof one of these days.”
“I don’t see why she gets so tied up in trees.” Muttered George to Ricki as they took a draw from a pipe they sometimes passed.
For every upstanding member of Rose Street, it seemed, there was another con artist somewhere trying to figure out what their neighbor might want.
One time Dray asked his father, “Are we drug dealers, Daddy?”
Dray’s dad, whose name was also Dray, sat his son down and explained to him that they just got people what they needed.
On the hot summer days when he decided to put on his pants, Tim considered he was going to work like everybody else. He sat out on his front porch looking up and down and preparing himself to work some deal when something came his way.
Mary seemed to wear her heart on her sleeve about everything, and it was a big hippie heart, so an easy answer was he could just ask her for some fruit or some bread and she would rob Mrs. White’s pantry to have done the right thing.
The Red Light District
Twilight in Little Appalachia’s Rose Street. Front porches dimly lit with fireflies.
Across the street from Mary’s computer record a red light shines on Tim’s front porch.
“Why does Tim have a red light?” asked Mary one morning to Debbie, whose house was directly across from Mary’s and next to Tim’s.
“What?” responds Debbie, who babysits her little grand daughter Kate, and uses the front porch as a place for air. The coffee has not hit Debbie’s brain. Usually it takes until Jed leaves for work before the brew reaches her.
“I looked up red lights. It is supposed to indicate prostitution!”
“We got this for a reason,” Debbie replies, tapping the blind that separates her from her down street neighbor. Debbie looks back at her coffee, but gets up in a couple more minutes to go inside.
Now like their houses are burning down, or turtles diving off a sinking log, the Oak families all begin leaving their homes, getting in their cars.
“Must be Wednesday night,” says Mary with a cracking laugh, remembering that some people go to church.
Finally some elementary kids have moved in to that house that once had all the problems. Paul, Preston, and Pete, in descending birth order, roll down the street on bikes and Pete with his go cart. He seems very aware of cars, but still makes the decision to use the middle of the road.
Pete moves the brush in front of Mary White’s house for a straighter shot down the road with his go cart.
To her surprise, Mary is greeted by the boys. She had a suspicion one of them had thrown an apple core in Mrs. White’s brush pile, so she was considering ignoring them a bit longer. But Mary has a heart for children, and the patience for them.
Paul comes up on the porch with Pete and eventually Preston trails on in too. Paul notices there is a chess board on the stand Mary has glued some artwork on. He wonders if there are chess pieces.
A half an hour later, Mary has offered them water melon and has lost a game against Paul, who’s got some game, but isn’t much of a closer, so far at least.
The boys eventually go on up to their mother, Bridget’s, while Mrs. White eats a lot of bread, reading a great cliff hanger.
The next morning all hell breaks. Mrs. White is on the front porch bemoaning Mary’s insolence. How could she let those boys drag her branches from their proper place in the road to the sidewalk last night. They were under Mary’s supervision. If someone sued Mrs. White for tripping over those branches, who would pay that bill? Would Mary?
Up-street, the Oak brothers, look uncomfortably at their shoes, before going inside.