Ms. Fern was the most flamboyant lady in our community. Everyday she prissed down the road to the only grocery store in town, Latham’s Grocery, with an umbrella hel d high above her head to keep the sun off her face, Her hair sparkled in the sunlight. If you have seen Edward in “Twilight” you know what I am talking about. Her hair, though, was a bit coppery and in tight little curls all over her head. When it was freshly dyed she looked as if she had brand new copper pennies bouncing all over her head. Of course, when it wasn’t freshly dyed, you could see half and half curls…half copper and half silver. She always wore rouge on her cheeks and rosy red lipstick. During the summer, Ms. F gave me piano lessons (that is when I had $.50 to per her for a lesson). She loved mumbling to herself and taking care of her kittens and those banny hens. She did not just walk down the road, she bounced down the road. And, her girls (yes you know…boobies) all powdered up, bounced right along with her.
Ms. F played the piano at our church. Of course, my very best friend and I loved to watch her play and we always thought that the girls might bounce right on out of the top of her dress, but they never did. She sang like an opera singer. My friend and I would sit in the back and giggle. We imitated her voice. My Aunt would look back and give us the finger (no not the middle finger but the shut your mouth finger). We would settle down for a bit and then we were right back giggling and watching Ms. F’s girls.
One hot summer day, Ms. F ran out of her house, screaming at the man next door. “Your rooster is fighting my hen, get him off of her. He is going to kill my hen.” Well, of course, the man next door got a chuckle out of that. Ms. F was very protective of her banny hens. Of course, after the rooster incident, there were a lot of little bannies running around her yard.
And, as sure as Tuesday came, a long, shiny black car would pull up in front of Ms. F’s house and out popped Cousin S. Yes, Cousin S came on Tuesdays. Ms. F would go flitting out of the house babbling like a chicken with its head wrung off, and off they would go. That was her day to go to town. Cousin S was so good about taking Ms. F to town. (For those of you who don’t know, going to town was going to the big city of Scottsboro.)
Some days, Ms. F just played the piano for me. She would play “Down Yonder” and I would dance for her. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I cannot play the piano today. Her house was always a mystery to me. I was only allowed in the piano room. There were rooms off from this hall where the piano was, but the doors were all closed. She never opened them. One room in particular I asked to see what was in the room. She said I could never go in there. I speculated that maybe she kept her dead father in there or something. Maybe she never buried him?? I think it was more like she had a hundred cats in there, but I couldn’t hear them. But then, I am not sure, but there could have been a smell.
Later years, my Mom and I were talking Ms. F and the fact that she had gone on and was playing “Down Yonder” in heaven and I mentioned Cousin S and how good he was to her. Mamma started laughing. “What is so funny,” I asked.
It seems, he wasn’t her cousin after all. Hmmm.