September 19, 1966, Rabun-Gap Nacoochie School, 8:58 a.m.
Harnee DuBose's already settin' fire t' Mr. Coomick's lecturn again. I had t' laugh, wantin' no part in it, of course, but Coomick is green as, well, green as green, comin' from his fancy college in New Hampshire with his Dartmouth degrees, talkin' bout the new education. Well, we's educatin' him. I assure you. Tom Wiggins already threatened 'm with his Barlow knife then laughed it off, flickin' th' darn thing into the floor where it got stuck.
Like a dimwit Coomick broke th' tip off. "Merely trying to retrieve it from the boards," The greenie says, where now th' metal's lodged forever.
Gives Wiggins a constant reminder why he hates the school teacher t' begin with, "He got no sense!"
But that ain't it. He don't show no courage, whatsoever. He tried hittin' Harnee, but y' could tell real quick, corporeal punishment ain't got no part in the new education. And it's only third week o' September. I don't make no big deal bout it, of course, easy enough t' tell really, but I like learnin'. S'gonna be a long year, if Coomick's gonna live so long. I's already bored out o' my mind. What'm I gonna do? Can't play at bein' truant. My Pa'd kill me, but ain't nothin' worse than hours wastin' time on Harnee n' Wiggins tormentin' the teacher till he can't teach a word.
I take my seat in th' back. Laughin' or not, my Pa'd kill me twice if I kept gettin' hauled off like Harnee n' Wiggins do, every few days or so t' get beat proper by Principal Waldroop. She puts th' fear o' God in me, not like I need it t' behave. She beats ya first then calls y' Pa t' be sure he beats y' again. And that ain't th' worst thing bout her.
I heard green old Mr. Coomick tellin' Mrs. Vylson that "Principal Waldroop was barbaric, the way she treats children." He's gotta funny way o' sayin' things. S'all yankee-ified. It's common fact Rabun County is one of only five counties in Georgia that did not succeed at seceding from the Union, and mind you, I got m' head on straight bout civil rights, but they ain't never been yankee lovers here. Rabun sent two field regiments to the cause. So y' can just imagine how th' old greenie goes over.
Still Coomick's all right. I think he don't realize, Harnee n' Wiggins ain't much like children no more. Just one look at em, y' can see it. They been left back too many times, I s'ppose. Don't really know how old they are for fact. They got hairy chins and chests y' could beat with a stick n' they won't feel it. Anyway, both of em's pig people from the mountain n'
people say they all mostly backwards or stupid up there, lots'a mix blood Cherokees n' been marrying they cousins for decades. That's what people say. All the pots callin' the kettle black, if y' git what I'm aimin' at there.
Other people say, th' pig people come t' Georgia before it was a Georgia, before John Dillard came. He first settled Rabun, 1794. Some say, th' pig people escaped from Virginie, old convicts or indentures n' th' like from the first people's. Some say maybe Mayflowers. Others say it's more like some mishap ship no one felt th' need t' put in a history book. Speculatin', really. Truth is, they's differ'nt.
I say, I still like Coomick, but I got to sit in th' back cause he's always turnin' to me, sayin', "Mr. Mosey, I know you did the reading. Please, if you would, young man, tell me about the four plant divisions and as well, the function of the xylem versus the phloem." N' he's got his book in his hand, but he don't look up from it like his whole mind got lost in somethin' all too interestin' n' his hair's brushed with too much pomade all t' one side so there's a bunch stickin' straight up like a mixed up broom upside down on his head where his part should be. Th' end of his nose s'like a pink oily button under th' heft of his glasses slipped down n' they spend most o' th' day hanging near off his face. Still, I say, I like him. Why, I don't know, but I can't like him, not outright, at least. Worse, I can't bring home a B, it ain't allowed. For some reason, my mammy won't let no Mosey son o' her's get nothing short o' A's if he wants to eat some supper. And I do get A's, cause it's easy n' I don't just want t' eat, I love t' eat.
"Mosey, if you please," Crows one o' Harnee's followers, of course, mocking Coomick perfect-like. See, he's got one o' those voices, just a little too marmy. Sounds like his nose is pinched, even when his glasses are up on his face right, n' like he's never got through th' cracking n' squeaking of adolescence. I ain't even sure he's too much older'n me, save he's got so many degrees. He must be at least old enough t' drink. No other way he's made it this far into th' school year, I figure.
Problem too is, I already been upped a grade a couple o' times. I's real tall n' big for fourteen and I ain't no sissy but, add back two plus years maybe another one or two t' Harnee n' Wiggins n' you can see why it's hard to stand up to em. They's more like men then th' old greenie himself, and of course, bigger than 'im, seeing he's such a short n' willow sapling of a man.
Anyway, I'm graduatin' come Spring. Already, Coomick's pulled me aside told me he can help me with university. I tell him, "I don't know," cause I don't. I ain't never left Georgia not even for South Carolina n' Rabun's on it's border like a tick's on a dog's neck sipping at some warm blood. I ain't barely even left th' county, 'cept for Wiley.
Old Yankee-green tells me, "It's 1966. It's high time a Mosey got a college degree." I don't know how he knows so much bout it, but I still don't know. And I ain't learning much so far, so, what's th' point? He ain't got courage enough t' wrastle one class o' 17 Rabun Gap- Nacoochee School seniors. What is some yankee college in New Hampshire gonna teach me?
Sure I don't say it t' nobody, I like him, but I just don't respect him. He's gonna have t' get him some back-bone soon, boy, or I don't think he'll make it t' Christmas puddin'.
12:00 p.m. Th' sound box above old greenie crackles t' life, anyone payin' any attention slams closed theys books n's runnin' for th' door as Principal Waldroop taps out th' lunchtime bells.
I always liked that sound. Sounds like food. Sounds like sunshine. Sounds like th' end o' sittin' through another half-heard lecture. Anyway, like green old Mr. Yankee-boy says, I done th' readin' already n' I guess I got one o' those heads that nothin' much can fall out o' once it's been put in there, so I been readin' a book I got hid inside m' textbook from Miss. Lily, called "Hero Myths and Legends of the British Race" by one M.I. Ebbutt. Sorry name for a man, that one. For certain, he must got picked on sorely in school for it, but th' writin's smooth n' 'bout as good as it gets for old timey history and the like.
Miss Lily's gotta whole shelf full of em, bound in leather n' on th' cover's scrolls o' lace- works in fine gold, th' whole series o' Myths and Legends! They smell like another lifetime ago. Makes it feel more real, I guess, them smellin' ancient on top o' everything else bout em. Just finished up Lewis Spence's "Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt." You know old Spence kept his hat on far better than old Ebbutt. Good book, too. Fascinatin' as hell, really, excuse my french, though I keep my interests to m'self mostly.
Miss Lily has a thing for me, of course. That's why she lends me any book I want. That too n' that Mammy's people, Arrowoods been working for Carvers, Miss Lily's people, for as long as Carvers been in Rabun, which I reckon is as long as Arrowoods've been round, too. We's practically related. Some say we are, I don't put much truck in it.
I know she's got a thing for me, cause she did since I's small, settin' me on her knee t' read t' me, though by then I could already read better'n most. And, of course, everyone sayed it, "Miss Lily has a thing for lil' Will Mosey." I ain't so lil' no more, if you know what I mean n' she's bout the prettiest bitty bit of a girl I ever did see. She don't even seem like a woman, yet, though I know for a fact she's 20. Still, she's got more books in her old house than the Nicholson Library on Old Route 2. That ain't sayin' much since the Nicholson Library ain't got much else 'sides books on cannin' n' Bessie Larson's 13th cookbook, also called, "Another Collection of Mother's Best Dishes."
Yeah, sure, I made up that last title but anyone'd guess what I'm aiming at there. Yep, Bessie Larson's mammy was a real good cook! Point is, place's good for th' magazines, old Nicholson's: "National Geographic" n' "Life", of course. Plus stacks n' stacks o' magazines from the earlier times, "Saturday Evening Post" n' "People" and one o' m'favorites, "Scientific American". Even some older ones 'bout travelin' in Appalachia written mostly for yankees or europeans back in the wild south days, but interestin' enough t' read n' look at, cause, of course,
t'was real differ'nt back then. Nothin' racy certainly, but still I like pictures as much as words, same as everybody else. I'm not a book worm, traditionally speakin'. It's just easy for me n' I like it since most o' the time, there's not a lot else excitin' happenin' in Rabun. They's not much more t' my excessive book reading, as pa calls it, than that.
Fair amount o' pictures in these myth books from Miss Lily's, though. Mostly, old paintin's. They's one from "Myths Of The Norsemen" painted by some old codger, Hermann Hendrich called "The Ride of The Valkyrs". I stared at it n' stared at it n' kept it too long, till Mammy made me give it back, cause I swear it's exactly th' picture of Minnehaha Falls. Steps o' stones where th' water's headin' down all riotous n' white, th' bendin' hemlock trees, eagles flying dark-like from th' cliffs, n' mists everywhere makin' shapes, makin' y' feel y' walkin' into some other time. Maybe y' walkin' into some book.
And maybe they ain't no Valkyrs at Minnehaha, but they's somethin'. Somethin' in th' air not all together wishin' you well nor necessarily ill, nor not entirely human, be it ghost or some other form o' mystery. Whatever it is, it's hangin' back and almost waitin' t' see if y' can see it. And I thought while I stared at old Hendrich's paintin', ain't that strange, the Norse got a place like we do here, someplace once been somethin' else, too. And I got t' wonderin' how old's th' world, really? What does anyone really know? And maybe we ain't th' first people here, and I ain't meaning no Australopithecus neither, mind you. I'm talking bout another kind altogether.
"There in the glen, Fensalir stands, the house
Of Frea, honour'd mother of the gods,
And shows its lighted windows and the open doors."
Them's words from "Balder Dead" by Matthew Arnold. See, what goes in don't fall out again. I can read it once n' it's never gone. I'm stuck with it, old Fensalir n' Frea forever.
12:37 p.m. Out in th' school yard. It's Pig Girl. That's what they call her. She's gettin' picked on again. Here comes old Harnee t' whoop some ass, excuse my french, but that's what he's doin'. Literally, holdin' th' boy in 8th by th' collar up off th' ground n' whoopin' his behind with his belt. He's quick as lightenin' too, that Harnee is. Got to her in two strides with his belt wagging at th' air ready to catch a nice bite out o' some cheek. Y' can't pick on Pig Girl out in th' school yard. Bit of a dummy, that kid, Charley Tyler. Pig Girl is Harnee's lil' sister and he ain't gonna stand for no kind o' slight 'gainst her out in th' open.
Mind you, Charlie Tyler ain't no pal o' mine. He's a snotter. Starts to cry when he's earned a beatin' then once he's left alone, he get's into it 'gain, pickin' on some poor lonely girl nobody'll talk to or some scrabbly boy with shoes got holes in em or some such, who ain't too much smarter nor better off then himself. I know he must get it bad at home, cause he's like one o' them old dogs who gets beat so many times he just can't help but do something t' get beat again cause it's all he knows bout. Being beat's th' same as bein' talked to nice to 'em. Y' can't help the Charley Tyler types cause when y' do, they turn on ya n' make fun o' you next. Y' save
'em from th' Harnees or Wigginses of this world n' th' next minute they's feeding you to the lions just t' point n' laugh at y' th' loudest while y' gettin whooped as if y' hadn't just saved 'em from they's own beatin' just a minute before.
I tell y' what. If I didn't know for sure Charley Tyler was gettin' beat all th' time, I'd hate his little snot nose guts, but y' can't hate 'im. I certainly can't, cause I know for a fact, cause my mammy's friends with Mrs. Tyler n' she comes round now n' then, all black eyed, crying snotty tears too and so I know. All you can do for Charley Tyler is pity th' lil' snotter n' hope he figures it out some day but he won't n' so y' feel sorrier for him all that much more.
Writin' peoples off is th' hardest thing t' do, but y' got to. Y' can't help people after they get too far gone. And y' can't waste y'self trying. That's life. The best thing y' can do is try not t' let em get so far gone. I guess, that's why I always been sorta-like friends with Pig Girl. Sure, not in th' school yard, but after school, I walk her till she's outta th' way o' th' Charley's n' everybody else who wants a piece o' her cause she's Harnee's lil' sister and one of th' pig people from th' mountain, too. Y' see, Harnee ain't 'round to save her after school. And he don't really seem t' care much bout Pig Girl 'cept where it might wear off on his fine reputation.
I don't know how it happened exactly, but long before I got bumped up a few years, I got in th' habit. It must'a been when I was too young yet t' care how things happen or record full details in my mind as I do now, cause I just don't remember when or how n' I remember most things. Me n' Pig Girl were in th' same grade back then. I know that for sure. Feels like forever ago, so much so, maybe I always done it, but I know that can't be th' case. No logic t' that notion, really. One day I just waited for her at th' back door o' school where I knew she'd come out. I been doin' it ever since. Sometimes, there's two, three, maybe four other kids who follow us tryin' to make it a ways from school without a fight. Sometimes, even Charley Tyler's escapin' some terror that's gonna git him after Principal Waldroop plays th' last bell.
Of course, they used to tease me. "Pig Girl and Mosey, sittin' in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g..." y' know the rest. But m' pa taught me how t' fight real early, seein' as I's bigger'n most boys m'age, seein' as I got that smart thing n' they been bumpin' me up, too, t'was a real necessity.
Facts been, for some reason, I was born lucky. I know this ain't one o' those things you admit t' cause once y' do it's gone. But I tested it. And tested it some more. More times than I can count, I tried to see if I could make my luck turn. There really ain't nothing I can do that don't turn out right. And they ain't nobody who really gives me too much more hard a time than I deserve. (I said I been born lucky, but I ain't no saint!) And maybe t'was a long time ago, Harnee figured out I was taking Pig Girl to th' road up the mountain after school. We never talk bout it. I don't do it for Harnee, anyway, but it worked out in m'favor, if you see what I's aimin' at there. And so that's what I mean bout bein' lucky.
See, everyone always had it out for Pig Girl. I don't know no girl more like she's got a bullseye painted on her back since we were too little t' know bout pickin' on one kid over another
than Pig Girl. And 'cept for teachers, who don't much call on her at all, no one 'cept Harnee calls her by her real name, Isolt. Isolt DuBose. Not a normal name anyway, I guess. Lotta Ednas or Lizzies or Maggies or Mays in Rabun...but nobody I know down in the Gap's called Isolt 'cept Pig Girl. Don't exactly fall out your mouth like a bouquet of roses, then again, Pig Girl don't neither.
2:53 p.m. Back door Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. Kickin' a stone. Dust puffin' up. It's been a while since it rained. Waitin' for Pig Girl. She comes on out. She's always got a bow in her hair. Today it's a purple type color with tiny pink n' green n' white flowers all over it. We set off t' walkin'. Nobody's in tow. I like it best when it's just me n' her. Fact is, Pig Girl ain't stupid and she ain't ugly. That's th' thing of it. But she is likely th' most unnaturally quiet person I ever did meet. I won't deny it, she is differ'nt.
We been walkin' like this for years now, n' she never did ask me come up t' th' house for a glass o' tea or maybe a bite. She never brought me no biscuit nor nothin for my walkin' her every day now for what feels forever. Never even after I beat up Caz Fullman n' Tim Wilco when we was in third grade and they's in fifth, to keep 'em from callin' her more names than just Pig Girl. I's fairly busted up after that cause they's two of em. I's winnin' anyways cause I's bigger'n em n' Pa's a real good teacher cause he ain't no hack when it comes to a fist fight. Then Caz's pa just happened to drive the back way behind th' old grist mill at Sylvan Lake Falls where we's fightin'. He caught his boy by the ear and so Tim took off runnin'. Mr. Fullman all but made Caz get on his knees t' apologize for mistreatin' me. The boy was cryin' n' blubberin' too, so's I still count myself lucky. Course, I didn't hear even so much as a thank you from her then! We just kept on walkin'. Know what? I don't mind.
Bet you wonderin' if Pig Girl never says much, how I know she's so smart? Cause when she do speak, you got to think on it for a long time. It sets in y' head stronger than most things. One such instance, she just say, clear as a bell n' all out o' th' blue, as is her way, "I think God trapped us here cause he c'ain't give us so much power lest we ruin everything. And we gotta stay here till we know what He knows."
So I say, "What's that?" Meanin' what God knows that we don't know, implyin' 'sides everything, of course. And I guess maybe I did sound a bit like a know it all m'self.
So she says t' me real plain n' simple, "Just cause you can do something, don't mean you should." And I thought bout that, cause they ain't that much we's all not goin' t' figure out one day, one way or 'nother, what with physics n' medicine and the like. I dunno exactly how she came to it, but in the end that's th' only thing left we gotta learn, I imagine, n' so, I agreed with her.
And I also know she ain't stupid, cause she don't never try t' make me feel stupid. For instance, regular girls, they come up t' me practically singin',"Hey, Mosey, whatcha doin'?" Waggin' they hips back n' forth, swishin' they pretty pink or green or purple skirts right up on me,
holdin' they hands together in front of em in such n' such a way and I know exactly what they want. And you know they know what it is I am doin' cause I am doin' it right before they very eyes n' they's just interruptin' with nothin else to say.
That just boils me. Cause they know I like the skirts swishin' cause I always have liked girls a bit more than is necessary, I sometimes think, but what young man with his sap runnin' is goin' t' have somethin' intelligent t' say when they just been interrupted n' for no good reason. I can't think bout nothing 'cept maybe those hips waggin' n' what I'd do if I could grab hold they hands. They know I can't just grab em n' kiss em right there, but I know that's what they's aiming to get outta me. So's instead I got t' stand waitin' sharp as a marble n' stare dumber than a doornail till th' gigglin' starts. If they's a whole bunch of em, I gotta wait till they all start titterin' away like I's a big dote n' run off satisfied. What on God's green earth could be more stupid'n that?
Nope. Pig Girl, since th' very beginning, she just took hold m' hand. Same exact feeling every time. I always want t' kiss her. When we's five, first time I saw her, she'd got this shiny blue bow tied in her hair looked bigger than her whole head. All the rest o' her clothes's real old n' plain as plain can be, 'cept that bow. I know'd at five I want t' kiss her. Now, I'm nearly a man, I swear th' things I want t' do to her ain't lawful. But I never do em, of course, cause I's protectin' her. And so like always, today, even me being a senior n' all, we's still technically th' same age anyway, though I don't think she's grown too much since 7th, while I'm bout as tall as Harnee already, she just takes hold m' hand n' walks with me.
Okay, now, I tell y' I am lucky n' here's th' truth of it, I am lucky cause o' Pig Girl. Maybe I was before her a lil' bit t' begin with, but I know it. I know somethin' in her hand, it makes me differ'nt too n' I can walk all th' way to th' road up the mountain and I ain't seein' the oak trees bendin' down over th' old path. I ain't listening to th' sound o' th' streams runnin' off the Tugaloo River though it's rushin'. I don't see no dragonflies movin' in th' air zippin' n' zig-zaggin' right in front o' m' face. Sun's nowhere but it sure ain't dark. Not convinced I'm breathin' sometimes. Sometimes, all I can hear is breathin' though too, but it's like it's scrapin' inside my ears from my chest and ain't never come out o' my mind t' touch the air, like I'm in th' bath with half m' head under water n' I plugged m' ears. Nothin's round me, when I's with her, I don't feel m' feet sometimes but I know I's walkin', I just have her hand in m' hand n' I ain't nothin' else but that.
So, we's nearin' the road up the mountain. It's a funny place too, as quiet n' differ'nt as Pig Girl. She still ain't had one word pass her lips but that ain't unusual. I see the sign markin' th' way up. Gotta a picture of a pig painted on it. Her people, they's got some special deal with the government. Whole mountain belongs to em. Some say no one's ever been up there t' survey it. No one knows, what they features is. Rabun Gap's full o' fallin' water. I guess they all figure it's just like the rest o' th' county. Some say they land's kind o' like reservation land, though, they's no reservations in Rabun nor in all o' Georgia, for that matter. Cherokee all got moved out with th' Trail O' Tears. I mean certainly, still some Cherokee blood on th' land n' in some people, but they ain't got a reservation for em. But th' Duboses n' th' Blalocks n' th' Wigginses n' th'
Myricks, mix blood, some of em, sure. More of em 'ats not. Those're old european types, at least by looks. What I'm sayin' is, they's all real white lookin', if y' get what I's aimin' at there.
S'common knowledge, up on the mountain people don't got t' live by th' regular laws. Y' can murder n' hunt n' steal n' all manner o' business up there, n' y' can't be goin' t' the law for help cause police got no jurisdiction whatsoever on th' mountain. They was big bootleggers in th' day, Pa says. And some big gamblin' been there long as anyone can remember. Of course, it's goin' on still, up in old Ninny's Gin House but y' don't take th' road Pig Girl takes t' get to it. And y' don't go wanderin' round the mountain bout Ninny's, if y' the sort t' go at all.
Nobody asks why they got special rights t' the land, but people say, they don't pay no tax n' nobody can take they lumber. We all accept, that's just the way it's always been n' possibly will be. But so th' sign says it, "No trespassin. Privit Propety." And it's faded n' old, maybe once t'was a fine sign, but th' pig's near see-through where th' grain o' th' wood shows through.
We's at the way up, so Pig Girl let's go m' hand, turns to th' road, silent as she can be n' walks away. Me too. I ain't never got used to it, but it's th' same thing every time.
4:52 p.m. Got work over at Carver's three afternoons a week paintin'. They like everything over there to be clean and white. Pays good n' every young man worth his salt needs a lil' money t' jingle round his pocket.
Carver's ain't th' oldest house in Rabun Gap. They say that one belonged to th' old indian fighter General Andrew Miller built in the 1820s. Got it's historical status cause t'was th' first home in Rabun County with milled lumber n' glass windows. Of course, we all know they been people livin' in th' old hand hewn log cabins up in th' mountains n' tucked away down here in the Gap long before then. Just seems like everything that begun in th' history books starts after the Cherokee agreed to move out th' land in 1817. Grammy Arrowood still lives up old Screamer Mountain. No electric makin' y' tv play or y' records turn, no water runnin' in any old pipes, cookin' out th' fireplace in th' house her great great Granpa Ulysses built for her great great Grammy Cora when they's first married.
Now, I know Grammy Arrowood ain't countin' how long she's been livin' n' she weren't born in no hospital n' she ain't got no paper certifyin' her birth and she don't add back the time's o' great-greats but I reckon if old General Miller milled his wood in 1817 n' we's in 1966 well, that makes some 149 years. Maybe, Grammy Arrowood's not so old as she looks cause it ain't pretty-livin' up in th' mountains, or maybe she is as old as she looks which makes her well old n' she's been livin' in th' same house as Arrowoods been livin' in since old Ulysses. My mind seems to add up to a bit more 'an 149 no matter which way you slice it, 'cept no one's gonna put a sign on her house sayin' it's some national treasure cause she didn't kill no indians t' git it.
Anyway, old white washed Carver's ain't named th' oldest house in Rabun, but it may well be th' biggest. I been paintin' for 'em every Spring n' Fall, since I's nine. Paint don't set
right if it's too hot nor if it's too cold, so I take th' work when I can git it. Mammy, of course, got me th' job n' Pa say'd it'd be okay. A boy needs to know how to work, Pa says. But as you may guess, my mammy's been bringin' me with her t' th' big house since I's too little t' wipe my own-- face, if you get my meanin'. She works every day 'cept Sunday not 'til late afternoon when she takes Grammy down t' church at Tallulah Falls.
As I say, we's all practically family. Arrowoods n' Carvers. Mammy stayed at the Carvers' startin' since she was eight, since th' walk up Screamer Mountain took too much time. Mammy's last o' five sisters n' two brothers. Three o' th' sisters died before they'd grown up n' th' two brothers died in th' war, so Mammy n' her sister Ida's last o' th' Arrowoods, 'cept old Grammy, n' no one's left goin' t' carry on th' name, which seems a pity t' me. Arrowoods're good people.
Mammy's sister Ida works for Carvers, too. Miss Lily calls em Auntie Ida n' Auntie Lizzie n' of course, my pa's old Buck Mosey. He's bout 10 years older than Mammy, n' she'd got with child four times before me. They'd all died few days after bein' born, Jimmy, Janice, Frankie, Marie, then me. Mammy says, after I lived past a week, she told Pa go sleep someplace else, but not in her bed never again cause she can't take no more dead babies n' they's lucky enough t' have one 'at might live past a year. Maybe Pa don't sleep in her bed no more but I spy em both smoochin' on th' porch swing or listenin t' th' radio in Mammy's livin' room till Mammy pushes Pa away n' tells him go take a bath.
Of course, Mammy says she got more'n she bargained for when she got me cause I got old Pa Buck's temperament n' his good looks. See, m' Pa stands straight up 6 foot 4, bout as broad n' big as they come. I can't say what much more he looks like nor myself cause it's th' same face I always seen n' I ain't interested in myself nor him that way, but I suppose it must look right to th' girls. He come back from th' war with some medals swingin' on his chest. Every lady in th' county was fixin' on him. Mosey's, of course, own th' lumber mill n' th' general store. Granpa Mosey had no school learning past 7th, but he been smart with numbers n' tight with th' books n' kept a real good business. So Buck Mosey was pretty well set up in Rabun Gap. When Granpa Mosey died, Pa got th' mill n' his brother, old Uncle Roy, took th' store. Pa says Mammy weren't more pretty 'n any other o' th' girls back in th' day, cause Pa says they all were each they's own kind o' pretty, and I do know what he means by that, but Mammy couldn't give one fig bout 'im, so he followed her round 'til she got worn down n' took his proposal.
Truth of it is, Mammy don't need to work over at Carver's since she married Pa, n' Pa don't like it neither, says he can keep a house and a woman by himself and a woman's place is at home. Ain't nobody gonna tell Mammy what she can n' can't do. She loves workin' at th' old house, n' Auntie Ida don't never want t' marry, so, mammy keeps it up n' she says, "I won't quit it. They gonna find me standin' up dead working in the Carver kitchen and y'all knows for certain then, I be happy in th' after-life."
Mammy n' Auntie Ida n' Grammy Arrowood's all got th' healer in em. Lots o' th' mountain folk round these parts do. Some's healer for burns, 'nother for snake bites, some can cure th' fever. Some memorize th' scriptures n' they just call upon th' right words o' The Lord and y' get healed. Not everyone nowadays believes in it, but th' old folks still livin' up on th' mountains in th' old ways, when th' doc can't fix you up down in town, peoples go on t' see th' right one for what is ailin' 'em n' see if th' old skills can heal 'em up right. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it don't.
Mammy got a different kind o' healing though then Auntie Ida or any of em up on th' mountains. No one's called it a name t' me, cause it ain't no physical affliction she can cure. Still you might see a girl or a man, they's all different ages, come to th' kitchen door n' ask t' see Ms. Lizzie, n' Mammy'll sit down n' listen to they folks problem all private-like. Then she stands up n' says, every time th' same, "I'll see what I can do." And then maybe a day, sometimes two or three later, back comes th' afflicted person with a basket o' some bakin' or maybe a fresh chicken just got it's neck broke, or jams or whatever they's got by way o' sayin' thankee. Mammy don't say a word what she done, nor what it was botherin' th' person t' begin with, but they's always grateful.
At Carver's now, since th' heat lit up, I been paintin' my way cross th' second floor porch rail. Must be as many thin turned spokes in that fence up there as they's stars in th' sky. Not really, cause they estimate they's at least one hundred billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone, but y' git my meaning there. S'whole heck of a lot of em and I ain't countin' em, which sometimes I do like t' count things, cause I ain't gonna torture m'self with th' amount seein' as I's the one gotta paint em all. Bout th' slowest most time consuming work on God's green earth, but as I say any young man with his sap flowin' through 'im needs a bit a change janglin' in his pocket or he don't feel like a man.
Summers, I always split my time between the mill n' Uncle Roy's store. Uncle Roy ain't got no children count o' some illness his wife, my Aunt "Chilly", as they call her, contracted after they got married. Pa says, it's enough pay I'm gonna inherit both Mosey businesses one day n' so I don't get no pay now. I don't mind it. I got th' both places licked n' I ain't worried bout managin' em one day. See, told you I's lucky.
Lucky too, cause out comes Miss Lily. I know she's come out t' see me, even from all th' ways away I's from her down th' long porch, cause I can smell her rose water perfume. I can smell it over th' smell o' terps n' oil paint cause she smells o' rose water t' high heaven, and it ain't a bad heaven t' be in at all. Th' whole porch is laid with 53 perfectly painted white rockers, small tables, settin' couches n' other old caned chairs. I know they's perfectly painted cause I painted em all up m'self just last spring. I know she's carrying a tray o' sweet tea n' biscuits Mammy made just fresh out o' th' oven with butter n' her marmalade, which, of course, everyone in Rabun knows, Mammy's has t' be th' best marmalade anyone could ever hope t' eat. I know it cause I can smell it n' it ain't the first time Miss Lily's brought a tray t' share with me.
I know I's lucky too, cause she calls me with that singin' voice all the girls got when they have a thing for ya. You know how it is when y' like em back, so pretty n' sweet, "Hey, Will Mosey, come on down here and get yourself some refreshment." So I put my brush in th' jar with th' stinking terps n' close up th' paint n' I swipe myself off cause they trees is already leafing off a bit n' I walk real slow like I don't care one bit bout mammy's biscuits n' sweet tea or Miss Lily, but she's watchin' me from beneath th' prettiest coal colored eyelashes y' ever seen, n' I can't help but start to smilin'. Lord help us, Miss Lily!
If Pig Girl is quiet n' don't say but th' smallest number o' words for any human bein' possible, Miss Lily comes from th' other side o' th' moon where all girls talk n' talk bout things that at least have a meanin' most o' th' time. Miss Lily's been educated in th' fancy girl's school over county line in Wiley. She had her comin' out when she's 18 then spent two years gettin' her associates at North Georgia State Technical School n' so she ain't shy bout what opinions she's got. Well, at least, not with me. She ain't so keen on what she calls, backwoods thinking. Sometimes, I think she'd do well t' spend time with old greenie, Mr. Yankee-boy Coomick himself, cause, not only just now n' then, I hear from her lips similar tomes bout th' barbarity of this world.
And she's got a brain for politics, up there under those shiny sable colored curls. Miss Lily's th' one who turned my head round bout what's goin' on with Dr. King n' th' black folk getting what any of us rightly deserve. She even knows bout old dead Mr. Ghandi n' bout what's really happenin' in Vietnam, n' all sorts o' places, what's goin' on there and of course, she always has somethin' t' say bout th' poor Cherokee not to mention all the original peoples of these United States. She don't think we's right t' call em indians, since we ain't livin' in India and they ain't Hindus. She says, maybe aborigine's th' right word. Beat all if I know, so's I just say Cherokee so as not t' offend her.
When I's 12 years old she got me readin' this book called, "Silent Spring" by one Ms. Rachel Carson. How Miss Lily talked n' talked bout it, she just couldn't keep quiet for days bout what we been doin' to the birds n' the fishes n' killin' nature as if t'was herself n' me that sprayed that DDT on all th' wildlife n' such. She took it all real personal-like. I stayed up late nights thinkin' on what it all means, could we kill a whole planet? Could we make somethin' so powerfully bad outta somethin' so good as science n' chemistry? Ain't they just tryin' t' fix things n' make em better? Of course, the bomb, I s'ppose. But ain't that war? Ain't it bout freedom? I spent a lot o' time thinkin' on Miss Lily, specially at night cause she had m' head so full o' thoughts, I couldn't find no peace.
If I could put a name on what I think she is, I'd say she's a genteel feminist. That's how I'd say it. Cause she thinks we all's meant t' be equal n' that means woman folk, too. Which, of course, seems fair enough t' me. And she thinks we all's got th' same rights, poor or rich, no matter what color y'are, or what god y' believe'n in. And even when she's boilin' n' sayin' at me, "If you knew what they were doin' to those poor so 'n so's in the so n' so, Will Mosey..." but by then she's bout t' cry n' she cuts herself off right there n' sits up more straight but don't let no tears
fall down her face. Finally, she's as quiet as Pig Girl n' she won't look at me. She don't got no words, only holdin' back tears n' I can't think bout what she was sayin' at all cause she just looks too pretty that way. So we usually just sit there waitin' till whatever t'was got her so mad or sad or both, passes. And she don't bring it back up. No, she talks bout the season usually then. Or maybe a bit o' gossip she knows that Mammy or Auntie Ida already told me. She gotta let it all fall away, n' since I been up nights thinkin' bout it too, I think she's right. We gotta let those things all fall away sometime, or they won't never be peace for any of us.
Miss Lily ain't talkin' politics today, though. She's just sippin' tea from th' tall glass n' eatin' mammy's good biscuits n' telling me tidbits o' what she heard in old Uncle Roy's store or from her pa, Mr. Carver whose th' only family she's got left in Rabun, since her mammy passed when she's 4 n' she ain't got no other kin save, she tells me, someplace elsewhere that she don't never name. I'm listening best I can n' saying the mmm-hmmms n' the yes ma'ams, while stealing a good look at her now n' then. Can't be anything better than eatin' somethin' tastes so good while watching someone looks so pretty talk bout stuff that don't get you feelin' too heavy-like.
And you got t' watch your words when y' with Miss Lily cause she won't suffer no low speech, as she calls it. They ain't no ain'ts n' she won't take no slidin' round with the grammars. She says t' me, "Will Mosey, I know you are much too smart to be talking like the rest of the low speaking folk from town. Now say it right, or just don't say it at all."
Of course, I know how to say it right, but nobody but the Carvers n' a few other th' families in th' county speak that way. Certainly, even Mammy can throw in a few good ain'ts now n' then, specially when she's boilin' bout somethin'. And it ain't no recommendation t' me when Miss Lily's only reason to speak like I got schoolin' is so's I can get somewhere. I ain't been no where, I ain't goin' no where, and I ain't sure I want to go even if I had someplace I'd be taken after goin' to. All high speakin's gonna do round Rabun is get me a black eye. Still, I do it for Miss Lily when I'm talkin' to her cause it makes her smile n' they ain't no friction between us, if y' know what I'm aimin' at there.
We's almost finished up all that's on th' tray. Of course, Miss Lily's had not one whole biscuit to herself n' me three, but I'm still growin' n' I got th' appetite of a horse t' begin with. Sun's gettin' bit low, m' Timex confirms it, n' mammy'll be ready t' walk on home soon. So I think we's both done for th' evenin' when outta th' blue Miss Lily drops her plate from her lap. Now, I ain't never seen her do nothin' by accident and she ain't clumsy. She's eyein' me lookin' like she means t' be surprised, "Oh my goodness," she says, but she don't move t' remedy th' situation.
I don't know what she's playin' at but I figure she wants me t' get th' plate that's neither broke nor disturbed much at all but somehow slipped kind'a graceful-like from her fine skirt onto th' floor with a thud. Even the biscuit managed t' not get mussed up nor roll off. So, I do as I guess as much she wants me to n' get off m'chair.
"I'll get that for y' Miss Lily." I say. And just as surprisin' as th' dish slippin' off her lap, as soon as I'm gettin' down on m' two knees t' pick up th' plate by her feet, wouldn't ya know, Miss Lily's slidin' off her chair n' kneelin' down right next t' me. We's bout as close together as we ever dared be for a long time now. I got my hand on th' plate, but won'tcha know it, all of a sudden, she's got her hand on top my own, pressin' it down, sorta urgent-like, like she don't want me t' get up from th' porch floor.
"Will," she says all outta breath n' what not. And I feel like my heart's bout t' pound out m' chest cause some smell's coming from her mouth, all warm n' sweet n' pullin' on some part o' me. I don't know exactly what I's gonna do or say, but I can't seem t' move at all, just feels like I's tumblin' down into a place I don't belong.
"Will," she say again. "I..." And she's got that look on her face like she's gonna cry n' not speak 'nother word for a long time, but instead, she lets th' waterworks go n' talks in a voice sounds like she's bein' part strangled, "I'm leaving Rabun. I've got to leave. I'm a modern woman, Will."
Just bout then, I feel like my hearts made o' paper just been torn apart into whole lotta lil' pieces n' got blown by a wind in so many directions, I don't know where t' run after first t' collect m'self.
'Does your pa know?' s the first thing come out my mouth. She lets go m' hand n' put both palms over her sweet face n' really starts t' bawlin'. Her little shoulders is shakin' n' her slight fingers is tremblin' n' I don't think I ever felt so bad bout anything I ever said before in m' life.
"No." She says out her hands. Then she say somethin' strange n' I know I hear her right, she says, "I know you're just 14 Will, I know you're just a boy, but I think you, of all people, would understand who I am."
And for some reason that stung me somethin' fierce. I don't know what I's thinkin' after that but I grabbed her rough suddenly n' pulled her to me so's her arms were pinned close between her chest n' mine n' I kissed her. I ain't never kissed no girl before, but somethin' just broke open n' I had to kiss her, cause if she's leavin' well, you know, I ain't no boy!
She pushed at me a little, but I tell ya, I just had no way t' let her go. I had th' back o' her head in my hand touching that hair o' hers that felt like some kind o' soft shiny goodness n' I loosed up a little on m' grip round her cause sometimes I don't know m' own strength n' I ain't meanin' to hurt her, but she didn't fight me no more. She just grabbed hold m' face n' kissed me back. I know that's what that was cause I seen plenty o' movies at Clayton's Cinema. Miss Lily was kissin' me, too and I don't reckon neither one of us would'a stopped, 'cept we hear Mammy callin' from inside n' down the bottom o' th' steps. "Will Mosey!" She's not soundin' too pleased neither. "Come on! It's supper time up home."
We both still locked together, arms round each other but starin' like dumb deers at the door waitin' t' get caught n' shot dead by my mammy. "Auntie Lizzie." She whisper, almost stupid soundin' for the first time in her life. Then we's both clamorin' to pull ourselves back to th' present day n' what on God's green earth were we just doin'? But we don't say a word. We just act like fools, bumpin' into each other n' reachin' for things but touchin' each other unnecessary- like, tryin' to step round each other but not makin' it past as if we got a magnet keep snappin' us back together in the middle.
"Go," Miss Lily say finally, stompin' her foot just a little like now she's my elder again. "Go, I'm just fine. You go now with Auntie Lizzie. I'm getting the tray."
But I can't seem t' git myself t' walk away from her. "Please don't go, Miss Lily." I say, soundin' most like the boy she say I was all along. "Please don't-- cause--where you gonna take off to, anyhow?" And she smiled at me, that pretty smile o' hers.
"Go Will Mosey, I'll be here on Wednesday, next time you come." And she sounded so sweet, better'n lemon drops or even mammy's marmalade n' she looked so soft n' nice at me, if she'd told me t' jump off the porch rail I probably would'a hopped to it right then. So, I just took m' leave of her n' walked through th' porch door back into th' big old Carver house n' down th' stairs t' my mammy, where she's waitin' on me too long n' had a bit of a huff to her.
And that's how it started, of course, me n' Miss Lily. I didn't know it then. Was just any old day at first.
But I's walkin' back with Mammy carrying th' basket with our supper. Couldn't think. Couldn't talk. Mammy loves t' talk bout th' day, but she weren't talkin' neither. She just sort'a whistled n' hummed, mmm-hmmm. And I think t' m'self, but I ain't gonna say nothin', cause I know she knows what just happened, cause she's an Arrowood girl n' the Arrowood girls just knows things n' y'ain't gotta tell em so much, or that's at least what everybody'd always said about em.
6:45 p.m. sharp. Suns all but set. Pa's like clock-work pullin' into th' driveway in his navy blue Ford. Me n' Mammy's comin' down through th' wood path what is th' fastest way from Carver's place t' th' house Pa got built for her, a Sears-Roebuck kit, more'n 10,000 pieces n' outside th' whole thing's painted powder blue, what's Mammy's favorite color.
Just bout every time we come from th' wood path n' she sees her house from a distance, she say, "Now, isn't my house bout the prettiest darn thing you ever did seen?"
And I just bout always say, "Sure is, Ma."
But she don't say it this time. She stops in th' dark o' th' woods before th' lights Pa just turned on from inside can reach us, n' she takes hold my arms with her two hands grippin' me real tight n' hard. I don't need t' see her face in th' black o' the shadows, her fingers's like little iron nails sayin' all I need t' know bout her mood cause she's just as serious as can be.
"Will," she say. "T'was always gonna happen, y'see? We all know it would. So you just hold on a bit and don't get ahead o' yourself. Y'hear me?"
And she turns on me without another word n' walks into th' yard where Pa cuts th' grass nice n' neat every Saturday before work n' makes it extra pretty for Mammy. She leaves me in th' dark figurin' on what she done just told me but I tell ya, for all the thoughts I got runnin' in m' head, these words don't make 'nough sense n' I convince myself, maybe she don't know what just happened between me n' Miss Lily. I tell myself what she's sayin' is, everyone always know'd one day that girl was goin' t'leave us, cause of course, Miss Lily is a modern woman and she ain't got no place in Rabun nor in lovin' you.
It ain't never my normal course t' feel sorry for m'self. And I can't say I's feelin' sorry or not then. It just ain't m' way. I ain't raised t' feel any kind o' pity for what-so-ever could be ailin' me. So many other's got it so much worse, n' I know it, even if Mammy don't remind me so much, what good grace I been born under. Add to that, I know I'm bout as lucky as ever, since I just got away with kissin' one o' th' prettiest darn girls in th' world n' she'd gone n' kissed me right back. Not t' mention she bein' twenty n' all n' me bein' fourteen. It's too cool!
So even though I figured then, Miss Lily was lyin' when she said she'd be there come Wednesday n' my heart was sore in m' chest in a way I ain't never felt it before, I just got m' first kiss n' I can't feel sorry bout nothin' on God's green earth, not really. Life's too rich. And I got t' crack th' books at least a lil' bit. And I's hungry for supper. And Pa's yellin' t' me t' get my white tail inside th' house and wash m'hands before I get some. So who can blame me if I didn't see th' signs o' trouble in my thinkin' then?
11:38 p.m. I still can't sleep. Feel like I gotta a bunch o' different voices whisperin' t' me in m' head n' they's all fightin' bout somethin' I can't find th' center of.
Often times, I pick one of em. Pig Girl or Miss Lily. Sure enough they's as different as any two girls can be, but I just been kissin' Miss Lily so you'd think it'd be natural, all I could think bout's more o' her. And of course, I ain't gonna say what I been doin' when I'm thinkin' bout em normally, if you know what I'm aimin' at there. It don't matter. Pa caught me n' say it ain't natural not to when you a man. I believe it since Pa don't sleep with Mammy in her bed since I been born.
Still I can't. And I can't sleep if I don't. Just the way it is, I guess. I keep thinkin' bout Pig Girl. I can't never kiss her. And now Miss Lily's leavin'. How'm I gonna ever kiss a girl again? They both just too good n' too differ'nt then every other girl. They's ruined me on all other girls
forever. I decide I's gonna think bout Miss Anjanette Comer. Just saw her last week in "The Appaloosa" with Marlon Brando. That film was racy enough. Good thing neither Mammy nor Pa go t' Clayton's Cinema. I's seen every picture they had there since I's eleven. They got they TV, but not much to see up here in the Gap anyway. Mostly, those two, old Pa n' Mammy still hooked on radio shows. Fine by me. I love me the cinema.
And sure, Miss Anjanette ain't so pretty as Miss Lily nor Pig Girl but I know she don't care what I do when I think bout her, or she wouldn'a picked being a motion picture star for a livin'. You got t' know all th' boys are thinkin' bout ya that way. Now, sure, it's obvious I must like girls who's differ'nt in some way, cause Miss Anjanette certainly ain't playin' no normal girl in "The Appaloosa", but I ain't so crazy as Marlon Brando. Don't get me wrong, he's cool n' all, but thinkin' bout him, well, that just bout ruins her for me. Man kinda gives me th' creeps. But I close my eyes n' just force myself t' think bout her, cause I got t' get some sleep somehow.