Where the Redbird Flies
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Donald turned the key, his car started with a “Varoommm.” He crammed it into gear, speeding out of the dirt driveway into the green grass of Granny’s yard. Winding in and out of sheets flapping on the clothesline, his little freckled hands turned the steering wheel to the left and then to the right, hair whipping like a flame in the breeze. An agitated crow above let out a “CAW,” in protest. He was going almost the speed of light when Aunt Lilly stepped out in front of him. He struggled with the steering wheel, laid into the horn, and slammed on the brakes, cutting the wheel to the left sharply. Pleased he had made it past her, he then grazed her left leg, unable to maintain her balance, she toppled to the ground in her new white dress.
“Lilly…oh I’m sorry. Are ya ok?” Donald ran to her side to help her up.
“Donald William Whaley! Yur such a klutz, look at my dress, it’s a mess! Granny will tan your hide fer sure now!” Lilly glared at him and dusted herself off, her lips curling slowly to a tight-downward smirk as she looked toward the cabin.
“Don’t tell pleassssse! I tried to stop, I really didn’t mean too. I’ll let yuz drive my car if ya won’t tell.”
“What car, that’s just an old lid to one of Momma’s lard cans!” She said jerking the lid from his hand.
Then Lilly did the “unforgivable”, she dropped the lid to the ground, jumped up and down on top of it, crushing the shiny metal into a bent mess. Donald’s face burned like his Granny’s coal stove. Stepping forward, he shoved her with all the force his scrawny arms could muster, and then picked up the steering wheel. Superman would have been impressed with his sudden strength, he thought. She fell backwards and began to whimper like a puppy. She looked up at him; tears running down her dirt washed face, and kicked dirt toward him.
“Granny gave that there to me as a special presunt, and yuz ruined it, Lilly Smelly Larue!
“You’ve done it now buster, wait’ll I tell Granny, she’ll whoop ya with a hickory!”
“I don’t care if she whoops me with a hundred-million-thousand, ga-zillion hickories, yuz don’t go messing with my car or yuz a get a knuckle sandwich next time!” He glared at her with the fiercest stare he could muster, spitting; then ran toward the barn and hid…from Granny.
Donald could hear her hollering, but kept running. He was fast; no one could catch him, because he was the skinniest of the whole family. He scrambled up into the loft, hid behind a bale of hay, and waited…for Granny. He knew what was gonna happen, so he stayed put.
He looked down at the bent lid in his hand; “it was speshul.” Granny gave it to him on his sixth birthday, and it was his only toy. He was her “redbird.” His Momma said she Granny was old.
When he was five, she was rocking him on the front porch. “How old would I haft to be to get those gullies on my face?” Mama was passing by and heard him.
“Donald, don’t be dis-ra-spect-ful,” as she walloped his leg.
“Mama, I wasn’t being dis-ra-nothing! Granny’s luttle lines down her face are neat.” He said, tracing them with his fingertips.
“Georgia, let my redbird alone, he don’t know any better.” Granny said shoeing her away.
“I’m not raising a rude child!” Mama said.
Mama threw her hands in the air and went back inside the house. Donald lay there tracing the lines until he fell asleep. The others didn’t care for him much, he always seemed to be in their way; but he was Granny’s favorite and the others knew it, she’d call him her little redbird cause his hair was just as bright.
Mama says Granny was un-educated, but she had smarts, and not to think otherwise. Mama went to school for a while, but never finished. It wasn’t that important, “Ed-u-kay-shun didn’t put food on yuz table,” Granny would say.
“Redbird, Red---birrrd…come out come out wherever yuz are!” Granny called, and then began to whistle. Donald knew it wasn’t gonna be too bad if she was whistling. A whistling Granny was a good sign, so he wasn’t afraid of what was coming—until he heard Mama.
“Donald…Donald William Whaley, yuz get your red rawhide down here, don’t make me come look’n fer yuz!” Mama said.
He pondered whether to answer. Granny gave a good switching, but Mama’s switch seemed to find the most hurtful places. He decided it would be better to take the lickin now, than wait. He swallowed hard and climbed down from the loft, bent lid in hand. Mama, Granny and Lilly were waiting for him at the bottom, and so was the thickest hickory switch he’d ever seen.
“Donald, just look here at Lilly’s new dress. She said you pushed her down and spit on her, now I’ve taught yuz better than that.” Mama said.
“Mama, she broke my car on purpose!”
“It was an ax-a-dent,” Lilly said with an angelic expression. She was good, he thought.
“No it wasn’t, Mama, she’s lying!” Donald clinched his fists and his face turned redder.
“Donald, I ain’t raising no heathen man to hit ladies.” Mama said.
“Mama, she ain’t no lady, she’s just Lilly Smelly Larue.” He said, sticking his tongue out in Lilly’s direction and holding his hand over his nose.
Both Granny and Mama stifled a grin, he noticed. He was an expert at reading the both of them. He ‘prepared’ for a home run, and Lilly striking “OUT.”
“Let me handle this Georgie,” Granny said.
“Mama,” she said in protest, resting her hands on her fluffy hips.
“Now Redbird, tell Granny the truth,” she said as she leaned over and tickled the underneath of his chin.
“Ok, I was driving my car, Lilly got in the way, and I couldn’t stop. My brakes failed, so I ran into her, knocking her down. I said I’s surry and offered to let her drive, but she took my steering wheel and stomped it into the ground. Granny, ya know how special yuz gift wuz to me. I saw red and felt the fire and before I could stop, I had pushed her to the ground. Honest,” he said, with his best Lilly imitation.
“Ok, now…. Lilly what happened?” Granny said, “and be sure you tell the truth, cause I’ll know it if you don’t.”
Lilly kicked the dirt with her feet and looked at Donald, then at Granny and Mama. “He’s telling the truth…but look at my dress!”
Granny bent down and took their hands, her gentle face so reassuring. “Two wrongs don’t make a right kids. Haven’t I always taught ya to do unto others as yuz have them do unto yuz?”
“Yes Granny,” they said in unison.
“So, Lilly don’t ya think you owe Donald an apology for breaking his-n’s toy?”
“Yes, mamm.” She looked away, rolling her eyes.
“And Donald, don’t ya think you owe Lilly an apology also?”
It was hard but he managed to say, “Yes mamm.”
“Ok then, say your sorry.”
Both mumbled an apology. Then Donald looked up at Granny and said, “So, we’re not gett’n a whippin?”
“Well, not this time; but I think yuz both should be punished for bad dealings with each other. Lilly should go get the lye soap and Redbird, yuz go fill up the wash tub and yuz both can wash Lilly’s dress.”
“Can we both get a whippin instead?” Both pleaded.
“Git yuz two.” She popped both of them on the behind.
They went along with the Granny; one dress was better than all the laundry. Donald went to the well to get the water bucket; but as he passed Nellie, the horse, he had a better idea. He got the bucket and ran to Nellie’s trough. He filled it with her ‘drool’ water, then took, and dumped it in the wash tub. The wash water was a little murky, but it would do.
“Mama always said that water wuz a precious com-mod-ity,” he thought. He figured she’d be happy they wazn’t wasting the good water on Lilly’s dress. Three more trips and he wuz done!
“Euuewww, what’s this slimy stuff?” Lilly said.
Donald threw his hands in the air, “Hard water, I suppose. Granny sayz wez got hard water. Maybe yuz won’t have to scrub as hard.” With that, he turned and ran down the path, her screams echoing far behind.
The familiar path crooked and turned til the lazy reflection of the pond shone in his eyes. Donald went in headfirst, and then floated to the top, resting his hands behind his neck, and smiled, “Laundry wuz for the birds, but not for this redbird.”