Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 25 by Dellani Oakes


When they get back to the house, they find out that their Aunt Virginia has also gotten engaged.

"We'll have us one soon too," Will countered, putting his arm around Patty.
The three couples exchanged congratulations quietly. Lucius and Dollie gazed at one another. The question in his eyes as to whether they should announce their engagement, met with a small shake of her head. There was time to wait. Let the others have their attention.
Will led them into the front room with his arm around Patty. Clearing his throat, he got their attention."I know we're all here because of a tragedy. I hope what I have to say won't be thought of as disrespectful. Despite the problems my daddy and me had, I hope he'll smile on the news. As y'all know, I promised Miss Patricia Belloit two things—a ring on her finger and a roof over her head. The house is finished and Patty has accepted my proposal. We're getting' married first weekend in August."
The room filled with startled gasps. Lucius started clapping and cheering. Patrick joined in. Soon the cabin filled with applause and cat calls. Folks crowded in from outside to hear the news. Once they settled down, Virginia dragged Patrick forward.
"We got some news too," he said shyly. "As y'all know, I been after Ginny to marry me for neigh on three year since her Clyde passed—rest him. I been lonely since Mariah died an' I was always right fond of Ginny. Took me a long time to convince her, but not ten minutes ago, she agreed to be my wife. So y'all are invited to our wedding too—early September, I reckon."
The cheering and clapping erupted once more. It died down when Rachel stood up. She hugged and kissed her sister first, then her son, followed by Patrick and Patty.
"I been after her and after her to take you on, Pat. She's a stubborn girl, always was. I'm real happy for you. And son, all I can say is I want a passel of grand babies."
Patty blushed, giggling like a little girl. Dollie hugged her. Lucius hugged his brother and aunt. He shook Patrick's hand.
"You got a fine woman there, Pat."
"I do indeed, Luke."
"You take good care of my favorite aunt." The subtle threat was implicit.
Patrick's smile wavered. "They ain't no other way to care, Lucius. I love her with all my heart."
"Good answer, Uncle Pat." He hugged the man, laughing.
Rachel hugged and kissed them all. "Mama used to say, From great sorrow comes great joy. Reckon today proves she was right. She also used to say that mourning the dead was a gall darn waste of time. She was right about that too. Earl wouldn't want me to sit her bawlin' like a baby. What say we take this here outside and have us a party to remember him?"
The idea met with surprise, but soon everyone got in the spirit of it. They took chairs outside and made tables with sawhorses and boards from the barn. A few of the men had harmonicas in their pockets. Samuel got the wooden bucket and banged on it with a couple spoons. The improvised band was very good. All of them sang the familiar songs, their voices joined in harmony. The singing led to dancing and they enjoyed their party until around 9:00 when one of the babies let out a plaintive wail.
"Guess that's time for us to go," his father said.
"Before we go," Lucius said, stepping forward. "I'd like to remember Daddy with a ballad he always loved. Y'all join in when you know it."
Closing his eyes, he lifted his chin, singing to the stars. His baritone echoed from the hills. The others joined in, finding harmony by long habit if singing without accompaniment. As Lucius sang, memories of his childhood, with a very different Earl, filled his mind—flashing before him. He sang with greater love and enthusiasm as the anger and hurt washed away.
"The water is wide, I can not get o'er and neither have I wings to fly. Get me a boat that will carry two and both shall cross, my love and I."
Dollie's lilting soprano soared above the rest in a sweet descant. She, Will and Patty carried four part harmony, the other voices supporting them. When the song was over, they stood in silence a few moments, thinking of Earl. All of them had their good memories of him. Those who knew him as a young man, untouched by the War, wept most for his passing.
The infant's cry split the silence once more. Everyone sprang to action, putting food away and clearing the yard. When everything was cleaned up, they said their farewells. They kept it brief, knowing they would see one another for the funeral in a few days.
"If you need anything, you send for us," Patty said. "We're family now."
Rachel clung to her. "I always hoped he'd find a woman like you. I wished good women for all my boys."
They finally parted, leaving Jane to care for their mother. Will was staying over the next few nights, but he and Lucius saw the girls back to the girls' dorm. They didn't talk of Big Earl, funerals or death. Instead, Dollie and Patty talked more about wedding plans.
"Why didn't you say something?" Patty asked.
"Figgered Ma ain't ready for another engagement. Me and Dollie hardly courted. She'd be shocked."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes


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