One night I sleep at the O’Hara’s. Waked up when the front door scraped open. Find Jolene on the porch in britches, not overalls, and a white shirt, putting on shoes, a basket beside her.
“What’cha all dressed up fer?”
“Go back to bed.”
“Sun gonna break in a minute. Want me make coffee?”
“Fix some for yourself. I got business to tend to.” She picked up the basket. “I gotta figure out how to sell more shine. Goin someplace not right for a boy your size.”
“Not like I sittin at my ma’s knee.” Not that I ever did cause Ma walked on a youngun what sat too close.
“If you must know, I goin to see my oldest and dearest friend.”
“Like to meet a body that a good pal a yourn.”
“Hmm.” Jolene looked at me like she gonna sew me a shirt. “Topa your head only come up to my hat brim. But maybe I let you come. See if this visit make you grow some.”
The house bigger than most churches I seen. The place got itself planted close to the river. Jolene pulled some tiny stones from her pocket, tossed them at a window on the top. Three pebbles in a row hit the mark spot on. A hand come out from under the curtain on that window, waved then disappeared.
Jolene go round back, sit on some steps with her back to a screen door, I plopped down next to her and that basket. We watched goats cross the yard. When the door creaked I jumped. Jolene stayed put.
Gal what open the screen wear a robe color a the inside a watermelon.
But her shape nothing like a watermelon. She got curves on the top and the bottom with a small waist. She eyed me. “You bring me a new customer, Jole? We not open for business this early.”
Didn’t knowed what business she talking bout but feel what she mean. Wanna hide under the house.
“No, I bring you a sweet potato pie.” Jolene didn’t turn, she keep looking at me like she think I needed a new pair of overalls. That look make me not run.
The gal carried the basket inside. After the door flapped shut Jolene get up, go on in, me in tow. Jolene whipped off her straw hat, grinned wide as the pie the gal take outta the basket. “How you been, Ana Marie?”
“What else you got in here gonna make me feel pretty good.”
“Sorry to say that likker’s for sellin, not givin. Think your boss lady might be in the buyin way?”
“Nope.” Ana Marie shake her head. “Miz Winter don’t want nona that stuff in the house. That store in Pine Gap where your ma use to sell shut down long go. What bout the one in Cedar Springs?”
“Man’s son take over and he don’t touch moonshine cause the pa a drunk.” Jolene take one of the jars from the basket, polished the glass with her shirt sleeve. “Fella that run the Mill Creek store a crook. We got two stills runnin and I gotta unload me some.”
“Miz Winter in the parlor drinkin her tea.” Ana Marie grabbed Jolene by the shoulders, turned her round, pointed her to the door. “If’n anybody talk her into servin whiskey here, that body be you, with that O’Hara charm of yorn.” She give Jolene a tiny push. “I keep your little beau here company, fix him some pie.”
“Boy’s not my beau.”
Ana Marie twisted and pinned up her long dark curls. “You think me pretty?”
“Sorry ma’am, don’t mean to stare. You got you some right nice jewels there.” Nodded at her wrist. “And you kinda look like somebody I seen sometime, don’t remember them though.”
“What bout that gal you got in there?” She jabbed a thumb to the parlor.
Studied on Ana Marie’s face. “Law. Reckon you do favor Jolene a bit.”
“You ain’t the first.” Ana Marie busied herself getting plates. “Me and Jolene ain’t kin in no way but she don’t got no sisters and I ain’t got none no more neither so we the closest we got.”
“You hate Harveys?”
“Don’t gotta. Nona them got enough money to come round here.
They do, I gonna shoo them way.” She played with a locket round her neck. “My ma always say them Confederates a mean lot.”
“Harveys fight on the Confederate side? Reckon plenty of folks round these parts did.” Never knowed what side my people fight on cause nona them that go off to war ever come back.
“You ain’t from round here,“ Ana Marie said. “Story go like this.
Before the war tweenx the states the Harveys and the O’Haras good friends. Then Loucius Harvey get some medal in the rebel army and some say Will O’Hara, Jolene’s great-grand pappy, hide union soldiers on O’Hara land.” Ana Marie take a pitcher a cream from the icebox. “Same day Loucius get home after the war Will’s prize-winnin layin hen go missin. Will hear it Loucius what do the snatchin. Will say he gonna get even. Zeek Harvey, Loucius’ brother, go to talk sense to Will. Next mornin some farmer seen Zeek shot dead on the road next to O’Hara land.”
Ana Marie’s words tumbled round in my head. Tried to make them come together, mean something. Nothing right come to my mind to say.
How come Will O’Hara shoot Zeek Harvey like that?
“Gotta watch out for them O’Haras and Harveys both.” Ana Marie sliced the pie.
Followed Ana Marie to the parlor. She bring pie slices on a tray.
Jolene and Miz Winter sat in padded chairs with wood rims carved like flowers.
“Take a taste, see what you think.” Jolene poured a splash from a jar in a teacup.
Miz Winter sipped.
“The quality of the liquor is not the question. I do not want my patrons to get rowdy and out of control.”
“Us girls can see to it the fellas don’t drink too much,” Ana Marie said.
“She right,” Jolene said. “Water down the likker, ask a big price, the gents don’t get too outta hand.”
“Ana Marie, dear.” Miz Winter grabbed hold Ana Marie’s hand. “You know you are my favorite. But surely you know how hard it is to keep those men in line.”
“Like I say,” Jolene said, “a handsome price not many wanna pay make all the difference. This Prohibition bring you them fellas what got the means to dole out for whiskey and the girls.”
“Well.” Miz Winter take one more pull on her teacup. “The money part does sound good. But the risk is still too high.”
Wanted to help. Gathered what fly in and outta my good sense. “Take some O’Hara shine, don’t pay. If’n things work out with Ana Marie and tuther gals keepin fellas on good behavior, you buy more, pay Jolene’s price.”
“Oh!” Miz Winter looked like something good happened inside her.
“I am happy to accept free libations to sell to my clients to see how the spirits will effect them.”
Jolene glared at me like she gonna do to me what she did to them chicks what start to crow.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish