Friendships have no age barriers.
The screen door screeched open and banged closed as Jacky came into the store.
“Effie, can I have a pop?”
“Jacky Hurt, does this look like the Salvation Army to you?”
“No ma’am”, the boy replied with a I-got-one-better-than-that-look, “but if it was, I would shorely be asking for some cheese.”
Effie Wicker, sitting comfortably behind the counter in a worn ladder-back chair, shook her head in mock resignation. Dropping her head to hide a tiny grin, she carefully laid her crochet needles and yarn on a table by her chair, placed her left hand on the counter, braced herself, and slowly stood.
“Law, law, I swear I don’t know what’s ever gonna become of this young generation wanting everthing for free.”
“Aw, com’on Effie, I been out there cutting grass for you all morning. The least you could do is spot me a pop.”, Jacky said as he straddled one of the counter stools.
“Well honey, do you want a Pepsi, a Coca-Cola or a Grape Nehi?”, Effie asked as she slid open the top left side of the cooler. Jacky thirstily watched her every move. He absently wiped the sweat and green grass clippings from his forearms and muttered,
“You know I want a Nehi cause it’s the only kind of pop I ever drank.”
“And do you want me to open it for you?”
Pssshhhhhh. Effie popped the top cap off the cold bottle of Nehi grape soda without waiting for Jacky to answer. The bottle rumbled when she slid it across the counter to her thirsty young laborer along with a small cellophane bag of peanuts. Jacky took a long drink and set the bottle down on the counter. He bit the top of the bag and tore it open. Cupping his left hand around the mouth of the now sweating pop bottle he carefully poured the peanuts in.
Effie slowly walked back to her cushioned chair by the open window, supporting herself all the while with her hand on the counter. She sat down and took back up her crocheting. A sweet honeysuckle breeze stirred the grey hair that hung loose from the bun on the back of her head.
The creeks around Garrett were running low. The old folks called it dog-days. Effie’s little store was about as hot inside as it was outside. She didn’t believe in air-conditioning, but she did have a little Sears and Roebuck aluminum fan running most all the time. Flies occasionally found their way around the window and door screens only to encounter the have-no-mercy fly-swatter Effie ably wielded. Those she missed usually buzzed themselves around until they discovered the brown strips of fly-paper hanging over in the corners, and never buzzed again.
“Must be a hunerd degrees out there, Effie.” Jacky said between mouthfuls of pop and peanuts. “How can your conscience allow me to work like a dog for you when you know I could just drop dead at any minute of a heat stroke? Wouldn’t you feel better if you gave me a raise?”
“The bible”, Effie started in her best preaching tone, “says to earn your money by the sweat of your brow, boy. It don’t say nothing about giving you any raise, and besides, you ain't learned how to take care of big money yet anyway.”
“You know what, Effie? I think I’m going to.”
“Going to what?”
“Gonna grow up and learn how to take care of big money.” Jacky looked around thoughtfully, surveying the shelves and products of Effie’s little store. “Maybe I’ll have me a store like yourn, only bigger.”
Without missing a stitch, Effie looked over the top of her glasses and studied the back of Jacky’s head for a minute, hid a smile and cleared her throat.
“Well, Jacky I believe anything is possible if you work at it hard enough. But,” she cleared her throat again, “that’s a mighty long time 'til you get grown up, you know. Didn’t you just have your twelfth birthday two months ago?”
Jacky took a pull at his Nehi. “Aw, Effie, don’t pick on me when I’m having big dreams. Ever time I turn around you’re telling me how little I am, or how young I am like…..,” Effie looked up. “Well, I’m getting bigger ever day anyway.” He finished a little louder, a bright flush spreading up his cheeks.
Effie went back to crocheting and didn’t say anything for a minute. Then without looking up, she said, “Are they picking on you again over at the school?”
“Ahh, not much.”
“How old were you when you had your first boyfriend?”
“Depends on what?”
Still crocheting, she said, “Depends on if you are talking about my first wanted-to-be-boyfriend, or the first that actually got to hold hands with me.”
“The second one”, Jacky said quickly.
“Well”, Effie cleared her throat. “I found my first wanted-to-be-boyfriend when I was in the third grade, about eight years old, I guess.”
Moaning loudly to dramatize his frustration, Jacky said, “Come on, Effie, I said the second one. Not the make-believe-one.”
“Just relax, be patient, I’m a-getting there.” Effie hid another grin. “Anyway, the second one was the same boy, it just took him two years to get up the nerve to ask to hold my hand.”
“Good Lord Effie, you were only ten years old!” he exclaimed.
“Yes sir, I believe I was, but why does something that happened over sixty years ago upset you so?”
“Uh.” Jacky stammered, turning red again, and quickly said, “Hey, it don’t bother me that you were a loose woman when you were ten years old. B'sides my pop break's over, I gotta go finish the back yard and get on home.” He thumped the empty Nehi pop bottle down on the counter and jumped off the stool heading for the door.
“Yeah?” he said looking over his shoulder.
“You be careful back there, and get your hind-end back in here in a little bit for another pop break……or I’m coming to get you myself.”
Jacky shot back at the top of his lungs. “Effie, you should have had you some young’ns cause you would have been a good mommy.”
The screen door screeched open and banged shut. A minute later the sound of the lawn-mower cranking up startled the old woman who had been sitting perfectly still staring at the closed screen door. Her wrinkled hands shook slightly as she wiped her face dry and thought how the honeysuckles outside the window had never smelled sweeter.