Chaffin Journal Fiction Excerpts
"Aunt Aggie and the Make-up Lady "
by Nancy Christie
When Billy said he repaired the gutters, I should never have believed him. That was my first mistake.
If I had checked them myself, I would have realized the job had to be done all over again—but the right way this time. Then, the three-day rain wouldn’t have loosened them from the roof. And I would have been inside the house instead of dangling from an aluminum piece ten feet off the ground, and Aunt Aggie and the make-up lady would never have had their fateful meeting.
Aunt Aggie wasn’t even my aunt but somehow, during the division of marital property, I ended up with her. She was married to Billy’s father’s brother, and therefore, didn’t even have a blood claim to the family, but she always liked Billy and kind of adopted us as her own children, since she didn’t have any of her own.
Everybody liked Billy. That was the problem. Billy was a real likable devil, and women were always falling for his charm and curly hair and big blue eyes. Even when he left them crying over the results of their pregnancy tests, they still wanted him to come back.
I can’t fault the women. Hell, I knew what he was like and I still married him. But after the last time, I just had to draw the line. It was all getting too ridiculous.
Billy was a truck driver, and was due to take a load of beef on a two-week haul across the country. That was his story. But when his girlfriend in Tucson called to ask if he’d left yet, I knew I’d had enough, especially when the 14-day trip turned into sixteen months.
So, we split up, and Billy got the tractor-trailer rig, and I got the house and two kids and the mortgage. And Aunt Aggie.
I don’t mind about Aunt Aggie—not really. It took me some time to get used to her appearance—the frizzy dyed red hair, the three-inch coat of mascara on her stubby lashes, the jangly assortment of pins, necklaces and bracelets she wore from early in the morning to late at night. I often suspected she wore the jewelry to bed, but never wanted to know badly enough to voluntarily enter her bedroom. I needed at least an eight-hour break each day from Aggie and her peculiarities.
"The Wild Strawberries"
by John R. Guthrie
The candle burns to be consumed,
The moth’s seared wings were long fore-doomed,
Weep not for roses that have bloomed—
Nor reason why.
The blackboard on the gritty plaster wall behind him had, “Original Sin” half-printed and half written in white chalk letters and underlined twice. An arrow pointed down to “All Mankind!” Original sin was the Deacon Rainey’s favorite topic. He was a big man with a hooked nose supporting black-framed glasses. He made his living in the Piedmont and Dixie railroad shop where they repair and paint freight cars. He had just a few strands of dark hair that he combed straight back on top of his head. He taught the WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Sunday school class for teens at Flint Mills Baptist Church.
Deacon Rainey held the Bible in one hand above his head as he spoke. “And young people, Eve was smiling.” He nodded knowingly. “You know what kind of smile I mean. That smile was not the sunshine of a Christian greeting.” The teens in the room chuckled. He smiled, then puckered in an imitation of Eve’s come-on for Adam. “And she moved up close to Adam.” He crabbed sideways, all 250 pounds of him, leaning a bobbing shoulder forward to mimic Eve’s seductiveness.
Jelly, a petite teen with honey blond hair and eyes like topaz, leaned over and, and hand over her mouth, whispered, “Jack, if I did that would it…turn you on?”
“I’d be major worried if you did that,” Jack whispered. He was a gangly teen whose weight hadn’t yet caught up with this height.
Deacon gave the two a warning look. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and his mouth with the front of his hand.
“’Adam, honey,’” he continued, mimicking Eve in a falsetto voice hoarse from too many cigars. “I got something for you. Then she poked out her hand and handed Adam that forbidden fruit. Young people, Eve probably said something like, ‘Come on, Adam, don’t be a nerd. It’s real good,’” Deacon/Eve nodded, “’the serpent told me so. And that serpent is s-o-o-o smart.’” Deacon Rainey slammed his Bible shut and looked down at the floor, shaking his head sorrowfully. “Young people, Adam fell for it and took a bi-i-i-g bite of that apple. Adam was just like many a poor fool today that’s got a sheepskin in his hand,” he paused, shaking his head, “and a sheep’s brain in his head!”
Outside the window, the hedge bush was in bloom, its tiny flowers white against dark green leaves. Jessamine snaked up the branches of the hedge, and honeybees buzzed and worried at the yellow trumpets. Jelly nudged Jack with her elbow. She slid a scrap of paper she had torn from a page of her Sunday School Quarterly toward him. Jack studied the note. The handwriting was small and neat and had just the right curves in all the right places. Like Jelly.
Jack - If I were a flower, what kind would I be?
Jack scribbled his reply while looking toward Mr. Rainey, glancing down only occasionally to make sure he was doing it right, and handed it back to her.
Jelly—Definitely wild strawberry. Sweet, wild, and free.
She scribbled again and returned the note.
That’s nice and fits both of us! But I
was sure you’d say Queen Anne’s lace for me.
But at least you didn’t say Sow Thistle.
Jack laughed out loud. Deacon Rainey stopped talking and looked at the two as if he was on the verge of hurling a lightning bolt their way. “Jack and Jelly, the Holy Scriptures ain’t a cause for laughter! Maybe you’d better step outside and get control of yourselves so the sincere young people in this class can finish the lesson.”
Jack looked at Jelly sheepishly, trying not to smile. The two got up and left. Jelly said sotto voce once they emerged from the church, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.” They wandered into the churchyard, Deacon Rainey still thundering in the background. “…God said to the woman, I will multiply your pain and sorrow! And he told Adam the very ground was cursed because he had listened to Eve…” They drifted out of earshot into the church play yard where swings hung from a metal A-frame beside a sliding board, and took a seat on one of the benches there. It was the last time either of them would ever sit in Deacon Rainey’s class