Arlissa Hinton picked up the mirror and looked at her reflection. Her grandma had given her the comb and mirror set many years ago. It had belonged to her Ma, Eleanor Mae Hinton. Her Ma had died in childbirth, leaving Granny and Grandpa to raise little Arlissa June alone. Grandpa had died when Arlissa was just about seven. It had been just Granny and Arlissa all these years since, and now...but never mind about that, she had work to do.
pigs had to be fed, along with a few other farm animals they still had.
Laying down the mirror, and putting down the comb she had been raking
through her red curls, she picked up her old straw hat, jamming it onto
her head to keep the sun from making more freckles on the already
sprinkled face. Her hair and her freckles were the bane of her
Granny was always reminding her that looks weren't important, it was what was on the inside that counted.
guess that's true enough," she said aloud, "but I wonder if I'll ever
meet anybody who'll want to get to know the real me on the inside."
was twenty-four and still single, with no prospects even in sight..,
sighing, she picked up the bucket of food scraps and walked down the
lane to the pig lot. The pigs were rooting around in the mud, making
snuffling sounds, as though they would find food in the mud.
Leaning over the fence, she poured the scraps into the pig trough and called to the pigs.
"Sooey...sooey...here you go. Come and get it!"
picked up a corn cob from the ground outside the pen and rubbed the
back of the old sow. She knew the pigs enjoyed having that done and she
loved to scratch their backs and hear the response.
was a Saturday and she didn't have to work in town today. She had spent
her entire life on this farm, and wondered if she would ever leave it.
Leaning on the fence, she began day-dreaming again.
she ever find true-love? None of the fellas in town even measured up to
her ideal man. He would be tall and handsome, with brown hair and eyes,
and he would speak words of romantic love to her. She sighed, and
twirled around, only to see Granny standing behind her, glaring.
Casting her Granny a sheepish grin, she replied.
"Sorry, Granny, I reckon as how I just got carried away on a sea of thoughts. It won't happen again."
If I believed that, you could sell me anything. Now, girl, you get on
out to the chicken house and feed them pore chickens. I know they must
be starvin' by now, waitin' fer you to get to 'em. If I warn't so
crippled up with rheumatiz, I'd not be callin' on you to do everthang
fer me. Wishin' don't make it so."
So saying, she turned and headed for the house, leaving Arlissa to regret worrying her.
to feed the chickens, she grabbed up the pan of chicken feed and began
throwing it on the ground so they could feed. She had to kick at the old
rooster to keep him from trying to spur her legs. He was a mean one,
all right, but he did keep the hens in line, she reckoned.
had soon finished with her chores outside and then went inside to find
her Granny sitting in a cane-bottomed chair, stringing green beans for
supper. She grabbed up the family photo album, and went to sit beside
"Is there a picture of my daddy in here, Granny?"
there you go again with all your endless questions! Why must you pester
me continually with them? I already told you that I don't know who your
Daddy was. Your Mama didn't tell me anything."
looked down at the beans she was stringing and breaking, unable to look
at Arlissa in the eyes. She couldn't tell her granddaughter that she
had made a deathbed promise not to relate the truth to Arlissa. She was
bound by that promise.
Arlissa held the photo album clasped to her breast and sat there daydreaming and wondering if her father were a wealthy man who was going to drive up some day in a big fine automobile and claim her as his daughter....
"Arlissy, you cleaned out the cow stall yet?" Her granny's voice interrupted her reverie once again. "Child, you know hits got ta be done. Lord knows I druther do it myself and be done with hit. I hate to go on at you, girl, but you gotta wake up and get on with reality." Granny tsked, tsked and shook her head disparagingly.
"Granny, did my Pa come a courtin' my Ma? What did he look like? Was he tall and handsome? Did he have hair the color of mine? What about his eyes? Were they the same blue as mine? Did he bring flowers to her? Please just tell me something, anything about him...please, Granny." By this time Arlissa was seated in the floor at her granny's feet, gazing up into Granny's face.
Her request ended with a sob.
Granny Hinton had to wipe away a tear as she placed a gentle hand on the top of the girl's head. It was becoming more difficult as each day flew by to resist the imploring of this girl she loved so dearly. Once again, Granny hardened her resolve and refused to answer the myriad of questions.
"I'm sorry, it's not my right to tell you any of those things."
"Then whose right IS it, Granny? Tell me that, please."
"Well, that would be his."
Arlissa gave up for the moment and, putting the album away, went outside, dejectedly, to finish her chores.
In the meantime, Granny went to her bedroom and removed the small cedar box where she kept her private papers. Opening the box, she removed a folded paper full of creases and reread it for perhaps the thousandth time.
the paper through, Granny refolded it and placed it once again in his
resting place. She told herself that she was doing the right thing by
keeping the truth from her granddaughter.
has to be the right thing, Lord! You know how much the truth would hurt
her. I jist cain't do that to my darlin' little Arlissy! I promised her
Ma it would go to the grave with her, and I cain't go back on my word.
She'll know the truth when I'm gone and she reads that paper. I won't
have to watch the pain on her face and know what she's goin' through. I
know I'm weak, Lord, please make me strong enough to do what I must."
old woman was bent low over the box in her lap, weeping over her lost
daughter and the child her Ellie had born. Her hands rested on top of
the box, until finally, about an hour later, she arose and limping over
to the dresser, replaced the box where it was kept.
Hinton went into the kitchen to find Arlissa putting the green beans on
the stove and adding wood to the fire to cook them.
"Don't fergit ta add some fat back to them beans fer flavorin'."
Granny. You know I've only done this hundreds a times." She smiled
fondly at the old woman, with no sting in her reply. Everything was on
an even keel once again.
smiled in return. This girl was the light of her life; she didn't know
how she could ever leave this earth and the delight of her smile. One
day, though, she would have to, and she knew it.
"Do you think I'll ever have a feller come courtin' me?"
"Now, Arlissy... where'd that question come from, anyhow?"
do you? I meet some fellers come to the drug store, but they ain't
anything I'd want comin' to the farm to set out front on the porch with
"Well, I guess you are gettin' kinda long in the tooth, now that I look at you," was Granny's wry reply.
Granny! Now you gone and makin' fun of me. I'm bein' serious! I wanta
get married and have babies of my own. I wanta meet some body to love me
Granny put a hand over her chest as if by doing so, she could stop the brief pains that were invading more often than ever.
been to see the Doc about them pains, Granny?" Her sharp eyes never
missed a thing when it came to the well-being of her mentor and rock.
come on, now, Arlissy! You know he ain't nothin' but a quack on two
feet. I'm doin' fine, girl; now don't you be worryin' yore head about
me. Prob'ly jist some gas from eatin' my breakfast too fast. I'll take
some sody after while and it'll clear up in no time."
you go and die on me, Granny! I don't have nobody but you! You cain't
go and leave me!" By this time Arlissa had flung herself into Granny's
arms, hugging her tightly.
sakes, girl! Don't carry on so! I ain't goin' today! Now, go wash that
purty face a' yours and quit that bellerin', fore I turn you over my
checkedy apern. You hear me?"
"Yes, Granny." Arlissa left to wash her face and Granny just sat back down into her chair and sighed.
help! That girl should a' gone into stage actin', she's that dramatic
and all. Everything is a crisis to her. Wonder where she gets it from?
Not my side of the fam'ly, that's fer sure. Prob'ly that no-good pa a'
hers. He sure put on a good act!"
hung up the drying towel on the little hook over the kitchen sink, and
looked out the window. She watched as the hummingbirds built a nest in
the trees near the fence that bordered their garden. What beautiful
creatures they were, with their banded white and blue wings, flying
around each other.
listened through the open window, trying to catch a bit of their song,
but right now they were busy building. Spring was in bloom and this was
the happiest time of the year for her.
about springtime always reminded her of her friend, Rosie O'Halloran.
What had happened to her? Why hadn't she heard from Rosie, at least a
letter would be nice. We were so close for three years, after her Granny
passed on. I thought we had so much in common, especially the color of
our hair and eyes.
true she was a year older than I, but she was my best friend. How could
she just go off and not let me know. Her Ma, she don't know neither.
I'm jist stumped on knowin' the answers to those questions. Seems like I
ain't destined to know no answers to any a' my questions.
her red curls in disgust, Arlissa turned and checked on the progress of
the green beans cooking on the stove. At least she knew how to cook and
clean and iron and all that stuff. IF she ever got a man, she'd know
how to keep house for him, Arlissa reckoned.
Hearing a bumping noise from the living room, she ran in to find Granny in the floor.
"Granny, Granny! What happened? Are you okay?"
"Arlissy...Honey...get my...pills outta my...pocketbook. Put one in under...my tongue." The old lady was gasping for breath.
to the end table, she grabbed up the purse and rummaged around in it
looking for the pill bottle. When she finally found it, her nervous
fingers had trouble opening the bottle and she spilled about half the
contents into the purse.
"Settle down now, you dummy," she mumbled to herself. "You'll never save Granny this way!"
Granny, open your mouth." She gently placed the small pill under her
Granny's tongue, then began timing on the mantle clock.
up a pillow from the sofa, she put it carefully under the old woman's
head, and grabbing the quilt from the sofa as well, covered her with it.
she watched her granny's face slowly easing from the pain etched on it,
she picked up the phone and asked for the doctor's office.
don't care if he is busy," she told the doctor's wife, who was also his
office nurse. "She's havin' a spell with her heart and she needs
medical help right away!"
listened for a few minutes and then said, "Okay...okay...yes, I gave
her one and the pain seems to be easin' off some. What? You will? Okay."
Hanging up the phone, Arlissa turned to her Granny.
"The doctor is sending Hanson's Funeral Home ambu-lance out to us to carry you into the hospital over Amblin way."
"But..honey girl, we cain't afford no hospital right now," protested the old woman, who then tried to sit up.
Now don't be frettin', Granny! I know what I'm a doin'. We'll manage.
We gotta get you back on your feet and bein' under constant care for
awhile is the only way to do it. I'll ride over with you and won't let
them do nothin' bad."
Hinton lay back, knowing it was useless to argue with her
granddaughter, who was just as determined to get her way as the old lady
was. They were two of a kind, all right.
"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
was only a few minutes, although it seemed like forever to the girl,
until she heard the wail of the vehicle speeding toward the farm. She
ran to the door to give them access to the house.
"She's in here in the floor. I was afraid to move her. She's havin' heart pains in her chest."
men came in quietly pushing the gurney and very gently picked up the
old lady, placing her carefully on the pallet covering the gurney and
fastened the straps around her to keep her safe.
"I'm goin' to ride in the ambu-lance with you," Arlissa informed them.
Arlissa, beg pardon, but won't you need some transportation to get
around in whilst you're over in Amblin? Why don't you just foller us in
made sense to her, but she also knew her car needed some work done on
it; she just hadn't had the money or time to take care of it. Maybe it
would be okay.
"All right. If Granny wakes up, tell her I'm follerin' y'all and I'll be there soon."
the old lady out the front door to the vehicle, they were very careful
with her and gently placed the gurney inside the back of the van.
watched them leave with not a little trepidation; she felt she wasn't
doing the right thing by letting them take her Granny without her. What
if Granny woke up and called for her. Granny would be all alone with
girl's hands shook as she reached for the keys hanging next to the door
and locked the front door. She ran out to the shed where the car was
parked, praying as she ran.
into the car, she turned the ignition and stepped on the starter.
Nothing. Jiggling the key in the ignition, she tried again. Nothing. Now
what? She sat there crying and praying. She waited a few minutes and
she heard the welcome sound of the engine turning over and sent up a
prayer of thanks. Pretty soon, she was pulling out of the yard and onto
the foot pedal, she soon was flying down the road on her way to Amblin.
The ambulance had left twenty minutes ago. It would be there long
before she made it. The window was down and she tried rolling it up, but
it wouldn't budge.
realized she was slightly weaving across the middle line in the highway
and stopped trying to roll up the window. Just as she was trying to get
more speed out of the car, she heard the sound of a siren, and looked
up into the rear view mirror. There was a blue light flashing and
heading toward her.
did Arlissa know that it was the state trooper's first day on the job.
He was also new to the area. One would never know from the swagger he
displayed that any of this was the case.
had pulled over and as she waited for the trooper to approach her; she
noted his confident manner. 'Big bully!' she thought to herself. 'They
always like to bully us poor women!'.
Her attitude when he came to her car window was one of belligerence and she had a scowl on her face, to boot.
could I please see your license and registration, please?" he asked
very politely. "You do realize you were doing 60 on a road that is
posted at 30 miles per hour, don't you?"
looked down at the empty seat beside her, realizing that in her haste
she had forgotten to pick up her purse. She didn't even have any money
with her! Where in tarnation was her head, anyway?
sorry, officer. I seem to have been in such a hurry that I forgot my
pocketbook and left it at home." She had been crying and hiccoughed.
the officer thought when he heard the hiccough, 'this cute little gal
has been drinking.'. "Ma'am, would you please step from the car?" He
said, opening the car door. "Keep your hands where I can see them. You
got any alcohol in the vehicle?" he asked, looking around, visually
searching the car.
"Listen, officer!" she hiccoughed again. "I'm on my way..."
He cut her explanation short and said, "Ma'am. Could you please step this way?"
"What do you think I've done, anyway?" She asked him, "robbed a bank or something? I'm on my way... My Granny..."
he said, taking note of her blue eyes and unique shade of red hair,
"I'm giving you a field sobriety test. It seems you're hiccoughing a lot
for somebody who is driving a car."
close in to her to smell her breath, only to catch the aroma of the
lotion she had applied to her face that morning. It smelled like apple
had seen the wild red curls blowing in the wind, through the open
window as she flew past him earlier. They reminded him of someone; then
when he got close to her, he saw the unique blue of her eyes.
Arlissa pulled her head back in and jumped out of the car. Looking
down, she saw the shoes she was wearing. They were the clod-hoppers that
she wore working around the farm. They were muddy from feeding the pigs
near the pig lot and then she noticed her dress. It was torn near the
hem; all that just made her more angry; realizing she would be among
people who were much better dressed when she got to the hospital...if
she ever made it with this horrible man leaning over her!!
"Look," she began anew, "My Granny..."
the poor Granny again...aren't you kinda getting tired of bringing her
into the mix? She wasn't driving the car, so don't be blaming her for
your troubles. She wasn't speeding along a public road with her red hair
flying out the window." He smiled superciliously at her.
your name, please. We'll just forget the sobriety test, since I don't
smell any alcohol on you." Leaning over, he took another sniff, then
He had his brand new, unused as yet, book of tickets and pen, poised and ready to write his first one.
didn't have the red hair for no reason. She also had the temper to go
with it, when riled up enough. She had had it with this contemptible
arrogant young man.
up her right foot, she aimed it for his shin, only to slip in the
gravels where she was standing, and landed seat first in them.
the officer looked down at the beauty, fuming at his feet. Her face was
about as red as her curls, and she was so angry, she was near tears
insufferable wretch!" She shouted at him, not giving him a chance to
say anything. "MY GRANNY IS IN THE HOSPITAL!! I'm..I'm..tryyying to get
to her." She finished, sobbing as though her heart were breaking.
The young patrolman felt terrible, but didn't know what to do. So his only defense was an offense.
"Well, why didn't you just say so?"
He helped her to her feet, as he asked the question.
stood nose to nose with him, well, almost; after all, he was a head
taller than she. Defiantly, she spoke in a tone that showed her ire.
you stupid jerk, you didn't give me a chance. You kept interruptin' me,
every time I tried to tell you! You have some nerve, trying to blame me
for your not listening!"
I'm going to let you go with a warning this time; but, just you watch
out, because I'm going to be keeping my eyes on you in the future. You
are a dangerous person, in my estimation!"
She looked down at the badge on his uniform. It had the word, "Odom" engraved on it.
"Okay, Officer Odom, you can just bet I'll not forget this treatment of a good citizen. You big oaf!"
over to the car and flinging the door open, she hurtled into the seat,
put the car into gear, and tried to start it up. Much to her chagrin, it
refused to start.
Officer Bobby Joe Odom simply stood to one side and grinned that smarmy smile.
She flashed an antagonistic look in his direction and tried the ignition again; she was daring him to say anything.
couldn't resist the temptation, however, so he simply lifted his
eyebrows and asked, "Are you sure you even know how to start a vehicle?
You seem a little wet behind the ears."
Her face flamed red again, but she kept trying until finally they both heard the chug of the engine.
"Be careful, now, Ma'am. I'd hate to find your pretty little self all strung out across the road somewhere."
As she drove off, flinging gravel from the tires, she heard his annoying laughter echoing in her ears.
State Trooper, Robert J. Odom, Jr., fresh from Tennessee, stood
watching as the lovely, angry, red-headed girl took flight and mused
Maybe, I'll just follow her on into the place where she said she is
going, and make sure she gets there okay. She could have more trouble
with that old clunker she is driving. After all, I am responsible for
keeping people safe and all."
that is exactly what he would do, he swaggered back to his motorcycle,
donned his helmet and climbed on to the huge cycle, revved it up and
took off after the girl he was sure was somehow related to his friend,
Zeb O'Hanlon. He wasn't going to let her get away without finding out.
Making a mental note of the license plate on her car, he would find out
her name and where she lived later. She knew his name and he was
determined not to let it remain one-sided.
in the car, Arlissa was still fuming, and even more worried about her
granny. She was so involved in worrying about her granny's health, she
took no note of the car that by now was behind her, but not too close to
her. He was just keeping far enough back not to lose her.
Arlissa was praying very hard for her dear Granny.
Lord, keep her safe. Don't let my trouble this morning interfere. Thank
you for not letting that awful fella give me a ticket. I'm sorry I lost
my temper with him, but he is awfully bossy! And so mean!"
felt her temper again begin to simmer and realizing how silly it all
was, she began laughing almost hysterically, until tears came to her
eyes and she was weeping once again.
got to stop this! I'm a wreck! I can't let that feller get to me like
he did. I'll probably never see him again, and it cain't be too soon!"
had been driving carefully for fear of being stopped again, and finally
pulled into one of the emergency parking places at the Amblin General
Hospital. Grabbing the keys from the ignition, she jumped out of the car
and ran into the emergency room.
Joe turned his cycle around and resumed his duties as a state trooper.
He didn't want to get into trouble on his very first day. Heading back
to the road he just left, he reflected on how he had gotten this job.
uncle, not wanting any further responsibility for him, felt he should
be out on his own and not dependent on his uncle for keeping him out of
trouble. His uncle had spoken to a friend high up in the Kentucky State
Troopers and put in a very good word for Bobby Joe.
Bobby, I've gone out on a limb for you for the very last time. It's
going to be up to you to do the best you can with it. We've gotten you
through the academy here in Tennessee, and now you're going to have to
make it on your own when you get to Kentucky. Learn the rules and then
stick to them. You hear me, boy?"
"Yes, sir. Loud and clear!"
"You're representing our whole family where ever you go. Don't bring shame on us."
"Uh, yes, sir." He had given him a mocking salute and his uncle had just shook his head in dismay.
Bobby was determined to do a good job. People just didn't give him
credit, he felt. He really did try to be a good example. Somehow...well,
somehow, things just kinda went wrong sometimes.
Arlissa ran into the E.R. as fast as she could, and up to the reception desk.
"Please, could you tell me where the lady is that Hanson's brought in here a little while ago?"
"Are you related to her, Miss?"
"Yes, yes! She's my Granny. Where is she? I need to see how she is doing!"
By now Arlissa was feeling frantic and panicky. She was squeezing her keys as though she thought she could break them into.
"The doctor will be out to talk to you in a few minutes, Miss. Just have a seat over there in one of those chairs."
didn't sound good at all. Why wouldn't they let her go back and see her
Granny? Well, she had had enough of being pushed around for one day.
She would just wait till the woman was busy and not looking, then she'd
go find her Granny. After all, how hard could it be to find one little
enough, soon the receptionist was talking on the phone and not looking
at her; she crept quietly as she could around the end of the desk and
made her way through the curtains covering the doorway.
Bobby Joe was back on the job patrolling the roads. His two way radio
didn't work too well here in these hills, so he couldn't report in as
often as he was supposed to. Still, he stayed busy, and made notes in
his little notebook he carried with him so that he could justify all the
time he spent.
heard some crackling sounds coming from his two-way and caught the
words "crash and Hinkle Road". He pulled his cycle over to the side of
the road and pulled out his area map, searching for Hinkle Road. There
it was! Just three miles away. Folding away the map, he started up the
cycle and took off.
just a few minutes he had found the site of the crash. It looked like a
bad one; a car had missed the curve and plowed into a tree. He ran over
to see a young driver slumped at the wheel; another car was stopped at
the site, along with other people who had apparently come from nearby.
"Officer, this boy needs help, but we were afeered to move him." An old man was talking to Bobby Joe.
"Have you called an ambulance?"
grandson ran down to the general store and called Hanson's Funeral
Home. They got the onliest ambulance around these parts. They said that
they's out on a run right now, takin' Ms. Hinton in to Amblin Hospital,
but they'll come as soon as they kin."
The boy standing nearby nodded his head in agreement.
Bobby Joe hurried over to the injured driver and felt for a pulse. When
he did, he caught the odor of alcohol. He was very familiar with that
odor, and it didn't take him long to get the whole picture.
Arlissa was peeking into the little cubicles where the emergency
patients lay and whispering, "Granny!" searching frantically for her
at the very end curtained cubicle, she found her Granny with an oxygen
mask on her face. All at once, the girl felt weak in her knees and
pulling up a chair, sat down next to the old lady's bed.
"Oh, Granny, please - please don't die. You gotta get better. You can do it. I know you can."
"Hush, child! I ain't dead yet. Don't be a buryin' me afore it's time. Stop that caterwaulin'! Ya hear me?"
"Yes, Granny. Have you seen the doc yet?"
I seen one. He's a young whippersnapper. Ain't never met him afore.
He's mighty cute, Arlissy! Might be a feller fer ya." The old lady eyed
air you a wearin' that old rag fer? And them clodhopper shoes with the
dried mud all over them? Girl - ain't no wonder no body wants ta come a
courtin' you. Look at you! Couldn't you at least a changed into
somethin' decent afore you come a gallavantin' over here? And that wild
hair! You been a drivin' with them winders open agin? I cain't afford to
die and leave you not able ta take better care of yoreself than this."
this time the old lady was half-sitting up in bed, and just as she did,
the before mentioned doctor stepped behind the curtain. He frowned at
the scene taking place.
"Young woman, who gave you authority to be back here? You're going to have to leave right now!"
"This is my Granny! I ain't goin' nowhere." Arlissa crossed her arms in front of her and stood her ground.
doctor just politely picked her up and turning to her Granny, he said,
"Mrs. Hinton, lie back and rest. I'll be right back in a couple of
was so mortified, she said nothing. She sniffed. Hmm, that was nice
cologne the doctor was wearing, she thought. She looked up into his
stony face, admiring the clean way he was shaven. He took her past the
reception desk and sat her in a chair.
"Don't you move until I come back to talk to you. Understand?"
speaking to the woman behind the desk, "Keep your eyes on her. Don't
let her sneak past you again!" So saying, he marched out of the room,
heading back to Granny.
In the meantime, Officer Odom was questioning the neighbors who stood around the wrecked vehicle.
"Does anyone know this young man?"
that's the Peterson boy. He runs wild and ain't got nobody but a
drunken pa who don't care no more since the boy's ma died a few years
ago. Can't nobody control him. Don't nobody else care much either.
Always gettin' inta trouble of all kinds. Stealin' stuff, smokin' pot,
runnin' with a rough crowd. Sister tries to keep him outta trouble, but
he don't listen ta her neither. Always expected he'd turn out like
As Bobby Joe listened to the litany, it sounded all too familiar to him. He had to help this boy, somehow.
"Listen, what about Mrs. Hinton; does she have a red-headed granddaughter?"
(To be continued)