by Judith Allen
Our Millie tries to figure out what savory moments mean and how she can have some.
Our Millie used to say that sometimes you get so busy fightin' ugly feelin's that make your face scrunch up and your eyes squint into wrinkly lines that you can't see the good things all around you.
In which Our Millie is grumpy enough to scare snakes away. She accidentally discovers savory moments and her sunny face begins to return.
When Our Millie came stompin' home from school that gloom filled Friday afternoon her face was scrunched up in a monumental frown. Her lips were set in a hard straight line and her eyes shot out a glare that made Billy Bug forget any ideas of teasin'. Even the little snakes that lived under the old oak tree by the lane rolled themselves into tiny tight balls close to its roots to avoid Our Millie's wrath.
She scared Old Tipod under the porch steps when the middle one cracked from her heavy foot. She threw her books in Grandpa's old rockin' chair so hard, settin' it into a frenzied motion. With a sigh that made the birds in the trees stop singin' and chipmunks hide in the woodpile she dropped down on the top step, held her head in her hands and pushed her lower lip out as far as it would go. Absolutely nothin' had gone right today and all hopes for tomorrow and the rest of her life were dismal. Why should it be any different than today?
She could smell the supper soup beans simmerin' and the bread bakin' but she didn't want to eat. She could hear Pa whistlin' out in the barn as he got the fishin' stuff together for them to head out early Saturday and try to catch the big catfish that lived under the rocks in the shallow end of the creek. Even though it was her favorite thing to do and meant so much to Pa, she didn't want to go. She could feel the gentle mountain breeze waftin' across her face and blowin' her hair. She usually closed her eyes and enjoyed the feelin' of fresh spring in the air, but today it just got her hair all messed up and tangled and made her think of wasps and bees buzzin' around her head.
She could see Aunt Tildy comin' down the road and headin' up the steps to have her visit with Grandma. And even though Aunt Tildy was her all time favorite aunt and was smilin' and wavin' at her, Our Millie could hardly lift a hand in return.
Grandpa was workin' on his old tractor and chattin' with Uncle Fuzzy about the state of the world and the holler, in particular.
Tripod was snorin' again, havin' decided Our Millie wasn't goin' to break through the steps. Mama Cat was givin' her kittens a good bath, raspy tongue particularly at work on Tom Bill who was squirmin' to get away. And Our Millie was mad and itchy and miserable from head to her toes.
They just ignored her. Our Millie couldn't believe it. She had curled up on the top step and waited. No body asked her what was wrong or what could they do to make her feel better. They didn't try to hug her, so she couldn't pull away. They didn't tell her she was silly to feel this way, so she couldn't argue with them and cry. Billy Bug did laugh, but he went around the house to go in the kitchen door and didn't get near her on the steps. Pearlie Gates and idy Clare rode their bikes by and called out that they were goin' to the store for an orange drink. She pouted at them and they rode on. Grandpa and Pa just stepped over her and Grandma kept rockin' and talkin' with Aunt Tildy. Big Mil called everybody to supper, but Our Millie didn't move and Billy Bug got his own piece of cherry pie and Our Millie's too. He sat just inside the screen door and ate it sayin' "yum, yum, yum!" Her mouth watered and her eyes filled with tears but she didn't move. She just got madder.
Our Millie decided she would just go to sleep where she was and they would be sorry that she stayed out there all night and the wild things that lived in the woods would come out and carry her away and the family would be so sad. Big Mil and grandma would cry and miss her so much. Pa wouldn't have his fishin' partner and grandpa would never get to teach her to drive the tractor. Billy Bug would want her room, but Big Mil would keep it as a shrine and not let anybody go in there except to share memories of her and regrets for not treatin' her better.
The step wasn't very comfortable but she used her book bag as a pillow and curled up under the jacket she had worn that morning. It was very short and her legs stuck out and she felt like little bugs were crawlin' up her ankles and gettin' close to her knees. She couldn't go to sleep, so she called her imaginary sheep to jump over the fence and she could count them and drift off. But, they didn't want to come and some of them went under the fence and some around and she got them all mixed up, and pretty soon they just ran away and hid behind some haystacks in her imaginary field.
Her mind began to be in a fog. It is very tirin' to keep grumpiness up for a long period of time, and miss supper and pie, and not be in a comfortable bed and be hugged by somebody. Your mouth feels like it should be smilin' and the lines around your eyes start to hurt as they get deeper all the time. Somewhere in this half sleep, without the sheep, she could hear Aunt Tildy talkin'. She was tellin' grandma about a new book she was readin'. She was always tryin' to find ways to be happy, and grandma always listened though she thought Aunt Tildy tried too hard with all that and you just have to savor the moment. Our Millie heard savory moment and woke up with a start.
Savory moment? What could that mean? To be happy you have to have a savory moment. Our Millie dug deep into her book bag. Since she was tryin' to write country songs and had the first chapter of a mountain mystery story almost finished she always carried her little Webster dictionary with her. She figured out how to spell savory and looked it up. She studied the definition and could understand how you could like something pleasant and agreeable to smell and taste. Our Millie thought about that and decided that was about right. Then she found another definition that said something about being good and to be cherished, like a savory victory. That could be a moment.
She thought about asking Pa what his savory moment was but decided that it had to be when he went fishin' with her because they were together. And if they caught the fish and fried it and had it for supper that was another savory moment they could share with the family. Grandpa probably had his moment on his tractor with the fresh smell of new mown hay, and the freedom of the tractor and his time to think. Grandma savored her knittin' and visitin'. And Big Mil's whole kitchen was savory. She couldn't think of anything savory for Billy Bug except he probably savored being annoying.
Our Millie was gettin' all confused and not sure she was understandin' it all when Big Mil opened the screen door and called her into the house. She was stiff from lyin' on the step, and itchy from bug bites but her face wasn't as scrunched and her eyes grew quite bright as she saw the big piece of cherry pie, topped with vanilla ice cream at her place at the table. Billy Bug started to come in the room for more pie, but Big Mil shooed him out and told him he had to do his homework or she would get the switch. Big Mil then pulled out a chair and sat at the table and asked Our Millie how her day had been. Our Millie smiled and felt sunshine in her heart. This was a savory moment no matter how it was defined.