Sweet Home Alabama
Copyright© 2013 by Robert McKay
The next morning I was sitting in the porch swing reading when Cecelia came out and sat beside me. "Mama has just imparted some news to me which I anticipate you'll find enjoyable."
"What news, elf?" I asked with a grin.
"While I am plain," she said, "I am no governess." And she tapped the page of the book with her index finger, for I was indeed reading – rereading for the umpteenth time - Jane Eyre.
"You're no more plain than you are a governess," I said. "You're the most beautiful woman on earth."
"Darvin, I possess a mirror, and am competent in its use; I know my appearance far too well to swallow your flattery."
"And I laid it on with a trowel, too."
"We are not amused," she said, though her effort to keep a straight face wasn't all that successful.
"I doubt that you would have had a chance to meet Queen Victoria, had you been alive during her reign; certainly you would not have received an invitation to address her as 'Vicky.' And I know your manners – however unconventional and informal you may be, courtesy is part of your nature."
"And my training – if I'd been rude to anyone in Anna's hearing she'd have slapped me white." Anna was my aunt, who raised me along with her husband Tony after my parents died in a car wreck.
"You are white, or half white, since your father was an Indian, and that's my line in any event, since I'm the black party in this marriage. But you have distracted me – I have not yet communicated the news."
"Go for it, then," I said.
"Mama says that she and Daddy have determined to reciprocate – to throw a party for us, as we did for them in January."
I dogeared the page I was on and closed the book. "They certainly got the room for it. This house is bigger than ours by a good margin, an' there's all this land layin' about."
"Indeed, and that is a factor in the guest list. In addition to friends, they plan to invite family from all over."
I grunted. "That raises a question, which I'd never bring up with them – how they gonna pay for it? We both know that without your money they'd still be livin' in a shack and breakin' their backs to survive."
"You are aware of how diligently I prevent my left hand from knowing what my right hand does with money."
"Yep." I do know how careful she is about that – she makes it a point not to give money away for show, though she hands it out by the bushel. "But I'm lost – I don't see how that relates."
"It relates in this way, beloved: I, along with Bella and Albert, have over the years erected, and caused to increase, a fund of money upon which Mama and Daddy can draw. The original intent was to have a reserve against emergencies, but in consultation we came to the unanimous decision that while there should always be sufficient cash in the fund to defray sudden catastrophic outlays, money piling up for the sake of forming ever larger totals is a waste. We therefore concluded, some time back, that if Mama and Daddy wish to draw upon the fund for less drastic uses, it would be perfectly appropriate."
"An' now I see the point of your allusion – if I'm your left hand, I sure didn't know what you was doin'."
"I'm sure that does not surprise you."
"Nor does it – by now I know that you've got several things goin' that you don't tell me about, just like I got things I don't tell you any more about than you need to keep the books."
"Precisely. In any event, the fund exists, and Mama and Daddy shall withdraw from it such sums as are necessary to furnish the party with comestibles."
I grinned. "Completely a propósito de nada, it sure is interesting how you talk that way while all around us they's nothin' but country folks."
"You do sound much more like them – even though they mostly have a larger allowance of melanin than you posses – than I do. Nevertheless, I shall continue to speak as I do, even here in Leanna."
"Yeah, you do love your fancy words. I've heard some people who want to impress everybody, and hunt and dig and hem and haw for five minutes to dredge out the fanciest word they can, just to show off. You don't do that – them big words is part of your workin' vocabulary, an' come out of your mouth just as easy as little words come out of mine."
"Moreover, I use them grammatically and pronounce them correctly. You, on the other hand, are a walking advertisement for strict and long instruction in the proper uses of the English language."
I laughed. "I know that's right!"
She shook her head, smiling. "Darvin, I despair of ever molding you into my image. And indeed, however much we may enjoy our playful feuding over your highly colloquial manner of speaking, I do not wish to cram you into any mold other than your own. I love you, not some idealized image of what you could be if only I applied the lash. And I believe that if I did employ a whip in order to corral your English, you would either rise up in furious rebellion, or simply depart."
"Shoot, C, I know you – you could no more be cruel to me than you could voluntarily dig your brain out of your skull. You're nicer to me than I deserve, an' meanness just ain't in your nature."