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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Satire · #215592
Tommy Lee wasn't never gonna fit in his coffin if'n he kept growin'
“Well, well. ‘Lo there. You mus’ be terrible hot, settin there in the sun with all ‘em fancy city clothes on. Can I fetch you a spot of lemonade? I made it myself just’ a few hours ago. Gretchen! Fetch this here gen’leman some’a that lemonade, and be quick about it!

“Naw, there ain’t a Mr. DeLessups anymore. He passed on coupla years ago, left me with the four kids, Tommy Lee, Gretchen, Johnny Ray and Missy Joy. ‘Course I miss him—I’m workin’ like a hog now that he ain’t here. Ain’t got Daddy no more, neither. He passed away not too long after Mr. DeLessups. Its just me and the kids now. I got three of ‘em. Used to have four, but my oldest, Tommy Lee, bless his heart, passed on now. He jus’ wouldn’t stop growin’. We’s God-fearin’ country folk, but we got to do what we got to do. I hafta do for me and mines. You know how it is.

“Ahh, there she is, thank you Gretchen. Now don’t you dilly-dally front of our guest—you get back to work and pull up them turnips. We ain’t runnin’ a free show here! Now git!

“It’s good lemonade ain’t it? We grow them lemons here on the farm. When I was a girl I used to sell cups of lemonade for 10 cents a cup! My Daddy was so proud of me—a real bui’ness woman, that’s what he say. ‘Lolly, when you grow up, you gonna make this family proud!’ Daddy was a carpenter. Made the finest coffins in the South. Before he passed on, bless his soul, Daddy made coffins for all us— me and the kids. He said all good country folk gotta have a proper restin’ place for they kin. Ain’t no way we could afford any of them ‘spensive city coffins. The onliest people who buy them coffins jus’ puttin’ on airs. What does a dead body need with all that fancy wood and metal and shiny material? Foolish, I say. Daddy made good, sturdy coffins, not them fancy ones. He said we said we hafta have a good restin’ spot for our kin. We aint’ big people, not me or Mr. DeLessups, so there weren’t no reason Tommy Lee shoulda been growin’ so tall. That ain’t Daddy’s fault. He couldn’t know Tommy Lee was gonna grow so tall, and making big coffins is ‘spensive. So don’t you blame my Daddy. We’s God-fearin’ country folk, you know, and we gotta do right by each other.

“When Daddy passed on, Tommy Lee went to work in the city deliverin’ newspapers. I was real proud of him. Real proud. Jus’ like his momma—a real bui’ness man, that boy. He woulda done this family right, if the good Lord hadn’t called him home so young. Taller’n his daddy, taller’n any of us, he was. I could tell that he was jus’ goin’ to keep growin’, and then what was I suppose to do? I ain’t got money growin’ out my ears, no sir, and I knew we couldn’t afford to jus’ go out an buy some fancy coffin. No sir. I told him, too. ‘Tommy Lee’, I said, ‘You know we ain’t got the money to buy nay ‘nother coffin!’ He was a God-fearin’ boy too, and he understood. Righteous. It was something terrible, it was. I saw him look at those coffins settin’ the barn, jus’ as sturdy and purty as they could be, and he knew he was gonna be too tall for his if he kept growin’. He understood.

“So I had to do it. I had to do for me and my kids. We couldn’t afford to buy nay ‘nother coffin, so we had to put his’n to use while he’d still fit it. You understand. We’s God-fearing country folk, but we have to make ends meet. It just weren’t no other way. I did it myself with the shotgun Mr. DeLessups used to keep for huntin’. He didn’t even blink an eye when I come for him, bless his heart. He was a good boy. Good God-fearin’ country folk. He woulda made this family proud.

“Ain’t my kids lovely though? Gretchen is 10, Johnny Ray is 9 and Missy Joy is 5. Lovely kids—spitting image of me and Mr. DeLessups. But that Johnny Ray, he worries me. Yessir, look at him, how tall and skinny he is, just like Tommy Lee was at that age. If he don’t stop growin’ soon . . . But you understand. We’s God-fearin’ country folk, but we gotta do what we gotta do. You understand.”

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