Miss Beatha Crow lives with her married sister and HER husband. Miss Beatha is not at all what the old folks used to refer to as “a little bit slow,” for she went all the way through high school, but her ways of looking at things and her painful timidness causes folks to Look At Her Funny, and sometimes to remark amongst themselves about her “ways.”
AND she rides a tricycle---one of those big three-wheeler bike things with sturdy baskets fore and aft that her Brother-in-Law took in trade for working on ole Mrs. Prather’s car. It had been Mrs. P’s own vehicle for getting around town when Mr. P. went on his conventions and his fishing trips to the coast. They had but the one big old Packard from marriage on, and she still drove it to this day, thanks to the gifted touch of Truman to keep it, as Mr. P. had often remarked, “in good trim.”
Mrs. P. had never got the hang of riding a bike even if she’d had one. Some kinda ear fever when she was little just played hob with her balance where bikes were concerned, and so she did all her grocery shopping and dry cleaning and drugstore errands on that big blue trike. And so did Miss Beatha, as long as I lived down there.
And so it happened that Miss Beatha parked Big Blue out in the front shade on the grassy edge of the big shallow “rain ditch” which ran in front of all the houses on Mammaw’s side of the street. She took a metal bowl and a paper sack out of the basket, walked down the culvert path. and headed up the porch steps, her shadow leading a bit with that impressive straw hat.
"Come on in, Miss Beatha!” called Mammaw, sighting her first from her place at the noon dinner table. Miss Beatha scratched the old screendoor open, squinted toward the voice, and stepped in.
“How yew, Miss Beatha?” asked both my Grands in unison.
Miss Beatha tugged loose the chin-tie blue grosgrain and removed her wide hat, fanning her red face and stirring the air for a yard around with the faint scents of line laundry and the smear of Mum visible in her sleeveless dress.
“Ah’m TARD, Y’all! Ah been arnin’ all mornin’.”
They talked for a bit about the heat, agreeing this Summer was hotter’n most, and that brought Miss Beatha to her mission:
“I come to borry some ice, if you can spare it. We both plumb forgot to boil up the tea til a minute ago, and our two trays won’t near cool it 'fore Sledge comes home for his dinner.”
“Can I fix you a glass now?” asked Mammaw. “He was just saying what good red tea it is today. We just finished our dinner---can we offer you a bite? The okry turned out right good this time”
“Much obliged,” Miss Beatha exhaled in one breath as she sat. “That okry looks mighty good and we-uz just gonna have some Vy-eenie sarsages and a termater sandwidge, we been so busy turnin’ out the house for Glow-rya’s visit.”
I looked up from pouring her a glass of tea in the kitchen, and I know my eight-year-old eyes grew big and round under my Heidi braids, but I knew good and well that somebody in that house woulda snatched me bald-headed if I’d’a made mention of anything anybody did that wasn’t “nice”---not to her face, anyway.
And what Miss Beatha was doing was so far outa my ken that’s a pure-D wonder I didn’t pour that whole Bless-ed pitcher in her glass. She’d sat right down in the blank spot at the kitchen table, reached over, and drug Grandpa’s plate in front of her, dirty knife and fork and all. She helped herself to a big spoon of the Crowders, scraped up a good-size rattle of okra and crispins from the platter, and speared several slices of dripping red tomato onto the plate. She picked up his used fork easy as Amen and started to eat, as Mammaw came to herself and said, “Bring Miss Beatha a fresh set a’ silverware!”
, Miz Evert,” she
mumbled as she chewed. “This’ll be jes’
And Mammaw, equally amazed and touched by her easy acceptance of what was offered and her quick-to-the-point hunger at the humble fare---well, those two ladies started talking a mile a minute and me still justa cranin’ from over at the sink, wondering at the ways of grown folks, and if Mrs. Little just sat there waiting for her own tea til Miss Beatha came home.