By: Tori Bailey
A dust trail followed behind the land yacht as it sped down the dirt road. Parts of the peeling vinyl roof flapped in the breeze. The sound of a gospel quartet blared through the open windows. Its driver maneuvered the road like a Saturday night at the track. Occasionally, the back end car would fish-tail throwing sand and gravel. Zolena, use to Elvina’s erratic driving, downed the last of the warm beer before tossing the empty can in the backseat.
The car’s engine gave a sigh of reprieve as it came to a stop. The Harper plantation hinted of a bygone era. Massive oak and elm trees provided shade to the front lawn. Elvina’s envy was not the stately manor. Elvina knew coveting another’s property was a sin. But, the good Lord knew how much she had wanted some of Tootsie Harper’s daylilies and irises. The old cow always shared them with everyone in the community except for her. “I bet that old biddy is turning in her grave about now.” Elvina opened the trunk and retrieved a shovel and several plastic bags.
“First you stole Harold from her in the eleventh grade. Now, you’re digging up her flowers.” Zolena knew how much Tootsie’s lack of generosity with her flowers stuck in Elvina’s craw. “You aren’t gonna dig from the bed they found her.”
“Damn right I am. Gonna put these irises right outside my sunroom.” Elvina continued working the shovel in the soil around the clump of flowers.
Zolena stopped digging and stared at the deputy car pulling up. “Wonder why he’s stopping here.”
“Not sure.” Elvina continued to dig.
The young deputy gazed into the interior of the car. Heat radiating from the hood told him the car had been recently parked. He directed his attention toward the two women. “Ladies.”
“Officer.” Zolena answered while Elvina stood from placing her treasures in a plastic bag.
“Can I see some identification please?”
“Young man, obviously you don’t know who we are.” Elvina took the tone she’d used for years as a teacher.
“Ma’am, I need to see some identification.” The deputy did not feel like receiving any flack from a blue hair.
Zolena knew Elvina was beginning to square off with this whiff of a boy. She didn’t recognize the name on his tag. “I’m sorry for my friend’s tone. Obviously, your family isn’t from here.”
He hated the ‘ain’t from around here’ small town mentality of the locals. “My not being from here don’t got nothing to do with this.”
Elvina could not believe the assault on the English language. “Young man, you must not have paid much attention to grammar in school.”
“I apologize for her. We’re retired English teachers.” Zolena tried to play peacemaker. “Our purses are in the car.”
“He’s acting like we are criminals. All we are doing is getting some flowers.” Elvina didn’t appreciate the intrusion.
“Actually, ma’am, the two of you are trespassing and stealing.” The deputy looked straight at Elvina.
“Son, we certainly are not stealing or trespassing.” Elvina was not backing down from the ludicrous accusations. “I knew Tootsie Harper long before she could wear a bra.” Elvina hated the hindrance of the deputy’s intrusion. She and Zolena had a few more old home places to scout for flowers. “Now, why don’t you get in your car and go catch some real criminals. Instead of bothering two old widow ladies out flower shopping.”
The young deputy stepped toward Elvina. “Ma’am, I’m gonna have to ask you to turn around please.”
“Turn around for what?” Elvina’s posture erected her four foot seven frame.
“Because I’m placing you under arrest.”
“For what?” Elvina was in disbelief.
“Surely, you don’t need to do that.” Zolena concerned by the seriousness of the situation. “Are you gonna arrest me too?”
“No ma’am. But I am her.” The deputy took a step toward Elvina. “I’m not gonna ask you again. Turn around.”
Zolena could not believe the scene that occurred in front of her. Elvina with all her might reared back and slapped the young deputy across the cheek. In a flash he’d put Elvina in some fancy hold and had her face down on the ground with her arms behind her back. The clicking sound of handcuffs locking around the bony wrists of her best friend mortified her.
“Don’t be so rough with her.” Zolena for a fleeting moment thought about jumping on the deputy’s back in an attempt to help her friend.
The deputy stood up and aided Elvina to her feet. He looked at Zolena, “Ma’am no one is supposed to be on this property.” The young deputy began to escort the frazzled Elvina to his car, leaving Zolena staring at his retreating back.
A smile crept across Zolena’s face at the spunk her friend displayed. It was obvious Elvina was giving that deputy his due. She was not surprised by the small display of refusal in getting into the backseat of the squad car.
Zolena gathered the shovels and grabbed the bags of flowers. It may be stealing, but it would be a shame to let the flowers die. Everything loaded into the car Zolena slid under the wheel of the land yacht and adjusted the seat to give herself more leg room. In an act of defiance, she tossed the empty beer can into the driveway.
“What do you mean you’re in jail?” Mimi could not believe the words coming out her seventy year old mother’s mouth. “Momma, you’re not making any sense.” Surely, her mother was having one of her moments. “I thought you and Zolena were going flower shopping today.”
“We did and now I need you to get me out of jail.” Elvina cut her daughter’s comments short with the replacing of the phone on its cradle. She turned to the young man dressed in a deputy uniform. “You Hattie Mae’s boy.” Elvina didn’t give the young man time to reply. “Taught her tenth grade English.”
Drew knew he had a legend in his midst. Many family gatherings of his aunts, uncles, and parents often found the topic of Ms. Elvina Ward’s English class being discussed. The young man silently chuckled at the arresting officer’s recounting of being struck by this local icon . “Ms. Ward, you can sit right here.”
“You not putting me in a cell?”
“’Least your momma raised you with some manners.”
“Yes ma’am. She did.” Drew pulled a chair from the table and waited for Elvina to sit. “Ms. Francis is in the lobby. I’ll get her so you two can wait together.”
“Did you get Mimi?” Zolena entered the room relieved to see her friend did not look worse for wear.
“Yeah. She’s on her way.”
Zolena sat down next to Elvina. “Did they take your mug shot and finger print you?”
“Yeah. Told ‘em I wanted copies to use on my Christmas cards this year.”
“I’m sure Mimi will appreciate that.”
“What’d you do with the flowers?”
A sly grin slowly crawled across Zolena’s face. “They’re in the trunk of the car.”
“You old fox.” Elvina chuckled.
You know Mimi is gonna have you put in Milledgeville for this.”
“Might as well stake me in the yard like a chicken.” Elvina had already had a few skirmishes with her daughter about living alone and driving. Mimi almost took her driver’s license and keys after she disappeared to Charleston for a week with Zolena.
“After this, don’t give your daughter any ideas.”
“You’d help me break out.”
“Without a doubt.”
“Mother.” Mimi could not form all the words she wanted to say. She just stood in the doorway with her head shaking like she had palsy.
“Am I free to go now?”
“Is that all you have to say?” Mimi stared at her mother in disbelief. “When you said you were going flower shopping, I thought that involved going down to Whidby’s nursery. Not stealing a dead woman’s flowers, assaulting a deputy, and getting arrested.”
Elvina stood. “I don’t need a lecture from you young lady. Am I free to go?”
“Yes.” Mimi huffed. “Thankfully, they aren’t going to make you post bail.”
“Good. There’s still enough daylight to get my flowers in the ground.” Elvina turned to Zolena. “Come on. There’s a six pack in the car and flowers waiting to get planted.”
About the Author:
Tori Bailey enjoys sharing stories based from her childhood of growing up in Georgia. She is the author of the Coming Home and Ethel’s Song. She is currently working on the final installment of the Coming Home trilogy, Unexpected Places. Visit www.readtoribailey.com for retail locations and upcoming events.