Original Short Story: "Betty Sue’s Boutique"
Betty Sue's Dream
Betty Sue Martin and Martha Westland were friends all during high school, after they met as freshman enrolled in the Commercial Curriculum Track at Centerville High School. Betty resided on Main Street above the Medix Drug Store; her mother Sally worked as a waitress at the Big Boy drive-in restaurant about half-way between Centerville and Richmond.
Betty Sue's dad had vanished from Sally’s life when Betty Sue was only five. Sally's time was taken up mostly with her work, with bowling, and bars rounding out her days.
Martha was fascinated by Sally, who would lean back, laugh, and retort, "You girls better make sure you get yourselves a goddamned fine education, so you don't have to settle for waiting on sick dicks in cars. But still, Marti, don’t I bitch a lot, but I got me three B's to take care of, don’t I? My sweet Betty Sue, my kickass bowling, and those smoky, fun-ass bars. I've had a damn good whale of a time for a dumb bitch that let her man scurry off. Damn Sam, I'm still partying hearty, ain't I?" And she'd light up her long Salem, lean back, and exhale the smoke as if she were on top of her game.
Martha was enthralled by Betty Sue's life with such a colorful, off-the-charts mother. Martha grew up on a farm just outside the city limits; her mother Harriet always maintained a perfect house, created perfect pies for her equally perfect husband Christopher and their four hard-working sons, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Martha, when saying her brothers names always reported, "Matt and John, Luke and Mark"; she used that ploy since the time her third grade class bursted out on laughter after she announced the usual Biblical order.
Strangely enough, Martha’s folks did not attend church regularly, nor were they especially religious, even though their names appeared among membership is the First Christian Church of Abington. Also they had burial plots bought in the cemetery next to the church, with special instructions for the pastor of that church.
Chris and Harriet had no interest in having a "good time"; they focused on the belief that life is filled with work and duty. When the Centerville High School administration adopted a new curriculum plan for the school, including six new courses of study, Chris and Harriet made sure that their sons would be enrolled in the Agriculture Track while their daughter would study in the Commercial Track. Boys and girls must be educated for their future roles in life, after all.
Harriet had learned some typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping at her high school in Hazard, Kentucky, and she always felt blessed that she had been advised to take those courses. They had proved so useful in her quest to serve as a proper wife to their county's most crucial farmer. Big agribusiness was waxing while the small farm was waning, and the Westlands were there to guide and take advantage of this state of affairs.
After acquiring her driver’s license and luckily after her best aunt gave her a car for her seventeenth birthday, Martha remained at home on the farm as little as she could. Nonetheless, she suffered the disapproval of Dad and Mom and the four gospels, but every time they scolded her about her obligation to the farm, she would just continue to remain out later and later.
Martha passed most of those late nights with Betty Sue because Betty Sue talked so vehemently about realizing a dream, and Martha was curious about how that dream would be realized.
Martha also had a vague dream. She just was not quite sure what it was. So she figured she would watch Betty Sue to see what would transpire. Here is what transpired:
Minnie Hazelaker was the proprietor of a little clothing store called "Minnie's Boutique." The top clique at Centerville High shopped there, and Betty Sue craved to be a part of that in-crowd. But on her slim funds, Betty Sue could not buy anything at Minnie’s Boutique. Minnie had been noticing how Betty Sue was coming and browsing a lot but never buying anything.
Then the C-ville Spring Sock Hop was fast approaching, and Betty Sue had had the good fortune to be invited to the dance by John Bluefield, a member of the male in-crowd. She could not believe how lucky she was. She kept whining to Martha that she had nothing decent to wear on such a momentous occasion.
She insisted that she had to acquire that light sea foam chiffon that dressed the mannequin in Minnie's display window. She had begged her mom to cough up a few bucks against her allowance, but Sally could let loose only a measly four dollars, meaning Betty Sue's total equally an inadequate 15 dollars. The dress sold for a whopping forty-seven ninety-nine!
Looking around at the shop about two weeks prior to the dance, Betty Sue stumbled upon a different dress that cost sixty-seven dollars. She took it off the rack, with the thought that this one might work better, even though it did not please as much as the one on the mannequin. Still it would undeniably be easier!
Betty Sue observes Minnie who is working at the cash register, two or three customers are looking at handkerchiefs and belts; and of course, someone is asking Minnie about some item.
Minnie is so well occupied that she will not notice that Betty Sue has dashed with the dress into the dressing room, put on the dress, tucked it into her pants, and made her getaway. Or that is what Betty Sue had thought would be the case. However, as her feet hit the sidewalk, she senses a rushing up to her from behind:
"Excuse me, miss, excuse me, dear, would you please step back into my shop with me a moment. I have an item that I believe is yours," Minnie explained.
"Oh, no, I didn’t leave anything in your store. I know I didn’t . . . I know I didn’t! " Betty Sue’s nerves were showing. She felt like running. But she had no reason to believe Minnie suspected her of anything.
Then she thought: "Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I did leave something; better to cooperate and not look suspicious." She then follows Minnie back into the shop. Inside the store, Minnie had Betty Sue wait for her by the cash register, on a stool right behind the counter.
Minnie walks over to the remaining browsing customers and asks them to leave. After the last one had departed the store, Minnie locks the door and pulls down the shades, and before she could think, Betty Sue finds that little old Minnie Hazelaker is unbuttoning her blouse and her pants, leaving the purloined dress exposed. Minnie takes a step back and peers at Betty Sue and speaks:
"Now, now, my dear. What is this? What can we do to make this situation right?"
That was twenty-seven years ago. Betty Sue made the situation right by serving as Minnie’s employee. Betty Sue promised Minnie that she would work an entire year for free, if Minnie would not press charges against Betty Sue or reveal the theft to Sally.
Minnie had Betty Sue sign a contractual agreement stipulating that if Betty Sue skipped even a day’s work without a good cause, Minnie would both tell Sally and press charges. Betty Sue turned into such a fine employee that Minnie recorded it into her last will and testament that Betty Sue would become sole proprietor of the boutique after Minnie’s death.
After she had inherited the shop, Betty Sue revealed to her mother all the information about her shop-lifting attempt. Martha happened to be present as Betty Sue confessed her crime to her mother:
“Mom, you’ll never know how sorry I am for what I tried to do. I now know how wrong it was, but at that time it seemed like a good idea.” Sally reclined against the back of her blue easy chair, blew out smoke from her long Salem as if she was at the top of the world, and in her relaxed, rustic philosophy, expounded, “Well, who says crime doesn’t pay?”
So how did Martha pass those last twenty-seven years? Right after graduating from C-ville High, Martha became a cop. Since it was only after becoming the proud owner of Minnie’s Boutique that Betty Sue finally confessed her crime to her mom and to Martha, the statute of limitations had long expired on the petty theft. But all in all, Betty Sue had more than redeemed herself in the eyes of Martha, her cop friend, and Sally, her colorful mother.
© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes