Portraits of Preacher's Creek

Character:  Old Man Parsons
     Saturday night rolled around after a normal week of wreaking havoc on select neighborhoods, and either getting caught or escaping notice.  We had a quick supper and then were cleaned up for our walk down to the business street of Preacher’s Creek.  This was a tradition that dated back for a million years, when farmers and their families brought their stock and produce to town to sell or trade for other’s stock and produce.  

We walked along, holding onto our parents’ hands, skirting over the ruts in the road, and the buckling sidewalk’s evil traps.  With three month old Bill in Dad’s arms, Mom and Dad talked quietly in hushed tones, which meant that they were saying something private.  I don’t know why adults do that, talk quiet-like so we wouldn’t hear them.  If that was the case, they just should have shouted or talked loudly like they did when they did want us to listen.
Anyway, their whispered words were about Old Man Parsons.  Heck, we all knew that man.  He was old, so old that his skin had already turning to dust and a mass of wrinkles were sinking down to his ankles.  His head already had the skull peaking through at us in places, and his lips had tightened around his gums making his tongue protrude like a gray toe from his mouth.  That man was old, really old.

And we kept our distance from him.  We figured out pretty quickly that there were no fresh baked cookies in his kitchen, no Mrs. Old Man Parsons to wave at as we raced by in a blur.  He was alone, in a graying wooden house behind Janet’s Beauty Parlor, sitting on his porch from daybreak to dusk.  No, instead Old Man Parsons just shook his bamboo cane at us and yelled something like, “You kids there, stay off my grass!”  

 We never went near him, and over time he stopped shouting, then he stopped shaking his cane.  Finally, he would sit there with his shiny bald head drooped down on his sunken chest.  He was an unknown to us, and we looked at his part of Preacher’s Creek as in a mist, all by itself.

New post: August 13, 2011

This post is from a June 22 blogfest, introducing the main character of In Preacher's Creek, Ellen Jo Carter.

Main Character Blogfest:  Interview with Ellen Jo Carter, age 4 ½ years, from In Preacher’s Creek

Interviewer:  Susan Kane, author of In Preacher’s Creek

Questions:  1. What is your greatest fear?  2. What is your biggest accomplishment?  3. What is your biggest regret?

Kane:  Hello, Ellen.  I am glad you could join me today.  You sure look very pretty in your lovely dress!

Ellen Jo:  My momma made me wear this dress, it’s my Sunday dress.  Momma fixed my hair and she scrubbed me hard to make sure I was clean.  Momma is ‘ticular like that.  And, she wouldn’t let Kent come with me!  He’s my brother and he is six years old. I am 4 ½ years old, and we do everything together.   I mean, everything, and we go everywhere together.   

(Ellen looks around uncertainly, and wiggles in her chair.  She pats down the poufy skirt, and then scratches the scabs on her knee.  Her patent leather shoes hang over the edge of the chair, and her feet swing back and forth.)  Do you like my shoes? I like them a lot. They’re called ‘Mary Jane’ shoes, ‘cause someone named Mary Jane owned them ‘fore me, maybe. 

Kane:  Are you nervous about being here by yourself?  

Ellen Jo:  I don’t know what that means—nervous?.  My dress is itchy, and Momma said I had to sit like a lady.  Do I have to sit like a lady?  (Kane shakes her head, with a smile.)  Ohhh, thank you!  You won’t tell Momma, will you, ‘cause she is picky like that.  (Ellen pulls the dress up from behind her.  Her relief is palpable.) 

Kane:  So, Ellen.  I want to ask you some questions.  (Ellen nods, while scratching her head where a fluffy bow is tied, clearly too tightly.) The first question is:  What is your greatest fear?

Ellen Jo:  (Her eyes grow wide.)  Greatest fear?  You mean, I can have only one?  I got bunches of fears. (Kane indicates that Ellen can name more.)  I guess I am afraid that Kent will ditch me,and leave me behind.  When he does that, it usually means I get caught ‘cause I’m a slow runner.  Or it means Kent has gone off with Bobby or somebody else.  Then I'd get left behind, without him. 

We been together since I was born, about a hundred years. 

Other than that, I guess I fear that I'll break Momma's heart, like this! (Ellen demonstrates how she could break a stick or pencil.)  That'd make her cry, and I don't wanta do that.

Kane:  Very good, Ellen!  (Ellen Jo beams at the praise.)  Now, the next question is:  What is your biggest accomplishment? (Ellen appears puzzled. Kane explains definition.)  ‘Accomplishment’ means something that you learned to do that was hard for you, but you did it anyway.  Can you think of something?

Ellen Jo:  Oh, yeah, I know of somethin’!  You see, I was really scared that the devil was gonna take me because I was doin’ all this sinning when Kent and me did stuff we got in trouble for doin’. 

You know, like stealing the bases on the playground and hiding them in Bobby’s shed?  Or when we painted Ol’ Man Henderson’s shed with left-over paint? 

Anyway, I couldn’t sleep or eat, ‘cause I was afraid the devil’d come and steal my soul.  Finally, Momma asked Pastor Beechum to come to my house and he prayed with me.  I gived my heart and soul to Jesus, and I’m not afraid anymore.  (Then she lowered her voice to a whisper.)   

Kent is still a big-time sinner; he lies all the time, and he knows he’s goin’ straight to hell, if he don’t stop sinning. (Ellen Jo leaned back, folded her hands on her lap, and gave Kane a sweet satisfied smile.)

Kane:  Well, then.  Just one more question:  What is your biggest regret?  ‘Regret’ means how you feel when you have done or said something that you wish you hadn’t done. 

Ellen Jo:  (Her face changed from sweetness to great sadness, and her hazel eyes glistened with tears.)  Oh.  I know what you mean.  I called Bobby a “dummy head” and told him that I was smarter than him.  I told him that he was stupid.  

His face looked all twisted up when I said that, and then he wouldn’t look at me for the longest time, and he wouldn’t play with me.  I wish I hadn’t said that, and he won’t let me say I’m sorry.  I can’t make it right, ever.

Kane:  (She looked at her watch.)  Well, that’s all I wanted to ask you for now.  I just want to say that I love working with you and Kent.  You two sure have interesting adventures. You can go now.

Ellen Jo Carter hopped down off the chair and skipped through the open door. “Momma!  Momma!  I did real good!  I didn’t pick my nose or anything!  Can we go get ice cream?  Me and Kent?  Can we get ice cream?”  The noises receded, with a boy’s voice joining in with Ellen’s words.  Kane peered out the door, and saw Kent take Ellen’s hand as they left the building.