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The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Book vs. Cover

By Danny W. Cartner

We arrived at the gathering place to glean tomatoes Tuesday morning at the same time. I parked my truck facing the tomato patch. She pulled in beside me, so we were face to face when we stepped out of our doors.

The first thing to catch my eye was her hair. Perfectly coiffed, perfectly grey with some dark strands that said its color was natural and she embraced it. She may have been in her fifties, or she may have been in her seventies. Then, her clip-on earrings grabbed my attention. I’m not a jeweler, but I’d swear the pearls were real. Her lipstick was that red that borders on maroon and declares, “DAR, Garden Club, Junior League, and tournament Bridge.” The rouge was just right to accent high cheekbones. She had no stray eyebrow hairs.

Society of Saint Andrew gleaners tend to be friendly and chatty. We had a few minutes of waiting before things were called to order. Her upbringing dictated polite small talk without any awkward silence.

My father and grandfather always had a friend to talk to, even in the presence of complete strangers. I suspect Grandpa sometimes held forth even when he had only a fence post as a conversation partner. Some of my siblings inherited this gene. I did not.

So we chatted. Mostly she chatted and I listened politely and thought I learned all about her. She lives on one of those streets that turns right off Union Street in Concord into the deep shade of old trees. Her house has a veranda and a pergola, and a wrap-around porch.

Her shirt was cotton with three buttons in a flowered print. She did have on jeans. You could perform surgery with the creases in the front and the back. She didn’t have a belt, but a scarf ran through the belt loops and tied in a knot just above the left front pocket. She slipped off espadrilles and slipped on LL Bean duck shoes (closed toes are required of gleaners).

I could tell she had a high six-figure income exclusively from interest and dividends. Her Papa had made some good investments. Her husband made his money from Liggett Tobacco, back, as they say, before tobacco was such a sin. She wished he’d left the politics to politicians and the medicine to the doctors last year. He’d still be with her.

In all the time I’ve been gleaning, nobody has ever been as completely out of place as Martha (not really her name, but it fits her if you replace the “r” with another “h”). When the prayer was said and the instructions were given, first-timers were identified and applauded. Martha wasn’t among the first-timers.

When we got to the tomato patch, my eyes rolled completely back into my head. Martha produced a shower cap and put it on, then long, WHITE, fabric gloves that extended under her three-quarters length sleeves. I acquiesced completely to that somehow reversed holier-than-thou snobbery of someone who grew up in tobacco patches and hay fields, and who knows how to work. I knew a hot house flower when I saw one.

Martha took her two-handled lavender rubber basket and waded into the grass between two rows of tomatoes. She put her basket down, bent at the waist, elbows in the air and churning. She didn’t come up for air for several minutes, when red tomatoes filled the lavender basket. I picked my jaw up, out of the sandy soil of Frank Patterson’s farm.

Over the next hour and a half, I sweated like a mule. Martha glistened. I picked just short of 400 pounds of tomatoes. Martha may have picked 300, and she may have picked 500, but she never faded or faltered. When work time came, she echoed my father, “A little less talk; a little more work.”

My judgement was severe, hypocritical, and undeserved. If our gleaning paths cross frequently enough, I may reach a level of comfort with Martha to confess my first impression sins. I hope so.

If Only

By Julie Terry Cartner

With a sigh, Gemma pulled into the driveway and turned off the car. After fourteen hours of driving, she was home, finally home.  Looking fondly at her children, now soundly asleep in car seats, she shook her head.  Of course, now they’re asleep.  Now that we’re here, they’ve conked out.  She was tempted, oh, so tempted, to just sleep in the car.  Exhausted as she was, the idea seemed, for a moment, to be a good one.

Leaning her head back, Gemma gave herself a minute to re-group before starting the struggle of getting three small children out of the car and into bed without waking them up. She knew her parents would be so excited to see her and her children the next day, but as the clock’s hands were stretching towards two in the morning, Gemma was determined not to wake them, or her children, up.

Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, if I could not only show my kids my childhood home, but if I could show them my childhood… Closing her eyes, Gemma pictured how much fun it would be to share with them how simple life once was…

“Be home in time before dark,” Mom called as I hopped on my pride and joy, my three-speed bicycle.  It was summertime, and I was meeting my friends down by the dock.  We had a mega game of hide and seek planned, one with such convoluted rules it had taken us years to create.  The game would last for hours and would include any children who wanted to play.

Excitedly, I started to pedal down the driveway when three voices called, “Wait for us.” Turning around in confusion, I saw three younger children climbing on their bicycles.  Funny, I thought, who are they? Then in the realization that only happen in dreams, I saw, and accepted, oh – they’re my children.  Cool.  Let’s play.

“Come on,” I called, and we headed for the village.  Within minutes we were dismounting at the monument by the dock.  Pulling our bicycles onto the grass beside many others, we popped down the kickstands and ran off to play.

“Aren’t you going to lock them up?” one of my kids asked. I just shook my head. There’s no need. A few minutes later and the game was organized.  One of the older children was “it,” and the rest of us ran down the street, across back yards, and over hedges, determined to find the best hiding places.  My kids followed me, and when I raised the front of someone’s dinghy for us to crawl under and hide, they followed me in, so full of questions.

Immediately, I was bombarded. “Whose boat is this? Don’t they think you’re going to damage it or steal it?  Why didn’t anyone yell at us when we ran across those yards? We ran in the street. Aren’t there any cars? Are we going to be arrested for trespassing?” The questions continued, but at a whisper, as we didn’t want to get caught and have to be “it” the next round.

I explained. “The people who live here expect us to play in their yards.  They played here, as now do their children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  Everyone watches out for us. We also know they’ll tell our parents if we do anything wrong or dangerous, so we don’t.  If we do, we know our parents will know before we get home, and we’d better confess when we walk through the door.”

Later, when one of the parents gave us ice cream to cool off, the questions started again.  “Is it safe to take ice cream from strangers?”

I laughed as I answered, “They aren’t strangers.  Everyone is either a relative or an honorary relative. We’re family. We’re safe.” The kids just shook their heads in amazement. “Now eat up,” I told them. “We have to be home before dark.”

What seemed like hours later, but was actually only minutes, I opened my eyes, got the kids out of the car and into bed.  My oldest opened her eyes for just a moment and said, “Mom, I had the nicest dream…”

Hair

By Marie Craig

Marion and Nellie had married very late in life.  They lived within walking distance of a drug store and a grocery store which was handy since neither of them could drive a car.  Our church members served by giving them a short ride to church and to appointments.  One day, they spent the day with me at the Family History Center in our church.  They both needed haircuts, but especially Nellie.  She seemed to sense that she was not at her best and walked stooped and morose.  Even my son noticed it.  Late in the afternoon, I took them across the street from my house to Phyllis who had a one-person beauty parlor.  She later brought them to a church supper.

But what a transformation.  Phyllis had cut Marion’s hair and had worked miracles on Nellie.  Her hair was a beautiful length and curled.  She was a totally different person, standing erect and sure of herself.  She looked 30 years younger.  My son said, “Wow!  I didn’t know that hair made such a difference.”

I’ve found this statement to be true many times before and since then.  When my cousin was terminally ill in the hospital, I went to visit her.  She had “bed hair” and was so very conscious of it.  While I was there, a woman from Mocksville came to see her, bringing portable shampoo and styling equipment.  She worked her magic on my cousin, and I couldn’t believe the difference in appearance and attitude.  It was such a blessing to help her feel better about herself.  When I moved to Mocksville, I determined that I was going to learn who the special person was.  A little investigation helped me locate the kind beautician — Priscilla.  I had an opportunity to thank her for her service from years before.

     We all try to be self-reliant, but there are some things we can’t do, and we use the skills of others.  This is a salute to those who enrich our lives and our appearances.

“Loose Ends”

By Gaye Hoots

I finally closed on the house on Underpass Rd., it took four months from the original offer to do so. My home appraised for less than the offer; there were questions about the structural design of the house built around 1888. The driveway was on the property of Advance Methodist Church, and I had a contract stating the church granted an easement. The owners I bought from had financed the house with the same agreement. Now finance companies insist on seeing proof of the easement. The driveway was a road seventy years ago when I first saw it when the Hartman’s owned the property.

The church must have granted her permission to use it or never questioned her use of it. When I moved in, I asked for and was permitted to use the drive, but the church has never granted a formal easement for the driveway. They recently voted for a lease agreement that has never been formalized, but the finance company accepted this and closed when I put a circular driveway in. I am happy as I had moved when I was first given a closing date. The new owners are pleased as well. I got a picture this week of the refinished floors in three of the rooms.

I have settled in the condo in Oriental and am making small changes there. The largest project is to remodel the full bath. This has turned out to be difficult as the contractors in this area are behind schedule and having difficulty getting some supplies. The building, which contains eight condos, needs repairs as well. The HOA started in January to address this, finally got a contractor to look at the work in June and is scheduled to begin in late August. He is supposed to stain my deck, which is not included in the HOA maintenance. He is unable to do the bathroom as I want tile on the floors and shower basin.

Our country is still in a flux created by the Coronavirus. As the vaccines were distributed, we got a reprieve, but our economy is being threatened again with the new Delta variant. Our family has been fortunate as only two members had COVID, and they did not require hospitalization, but many others were not as fortunate. 2021 has been a year of waiting and has required patience and will require more, but I will eventually get the work done. We are blessed, and if I must stay close to home another year, I will spend the time reading, enjoying my water view, and will keep in touch via phone and Facebook.

Please stay safe and appreciate each day we are given.

RWG Literary Corner

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