"Sarah Jean, youse out early aint'cha? Is anything the matter, Sugar?" I asked the pretty college girl whose Basset puppy, Festus, was sniffin' round mah porch steps when I went to open the front door to a cooler Fall mornin'.
" I am, Aunty, an' I was hopin' you'd be up early too. I'se in trouble wif' The Law."
Sara Jean is the dream chile of her Daddy. The boys got their mama's stumpy laigs, but Sarah Jean is long-legged filly with a mane of dark molasses colored hair like her Daddy had afore he went to silver. She is one of our brighter young'uns, an' she went off to Sewanee. Now her was workin' on a Masters at Vandy in somethin' worthless like Social Theory.
I smiled an' said, "Yore Mama is the onliest lady in these parts whose straighter and stiffer than me. What in the world has ya' done, Puddin', to rile up Louella? "
Louella Mae Morgan had a reputation fer stickin' to the letter of the law. Behind her broad backside, folks call her The Sheriff. Even her kids calls her "Louella the Law" in the same sing-songy tone as "Cruella DeVille."
"All I done, Aunty, was to say the truth that ever'body knows-- but nobody will admit it out loud no more. I mean, I came home fer Randall's engagement party, to meet his in-laws-to-be, ya' know? When I could be knockin' out some work at school. An' all I have to show fer mah pains is Mama-Law gunnin' fer me ever move I make." The chile' hung her haid low.
"Well, Darlin', c'mon on in heah an' let's unravel yore vexation. Aunty cain't stand in the door in a nightgown frightenin' the squirrels. Cawfee is made, let's git'cha cup."
"Aunty," Sarah Jean as't, "ain't I a pretty good edition? Mama ain't got no cause to take a shame over mah name. Why does she nit pick ever' thought I have? "
I jes' held quiet an' patted her shoulder. She took a biscuit, slathered on the mayhaw jelly that Uncle loves an' sighed.
"It all got started when I mentioned I knowed how this economy got stuck in a ditch because I'se studyin' Charles Murray's book, Real Education. Murray say that plain good sense oughta tell us not everbody is equal in ability. All I said was thar' warn't no point in sendin' the bottom 50 % of the Stanford Binet off to college since all it did was drive up the cost of edoocation fer those that can learn college material. An' Aunty, I din't even SAY that Randall was in that lower 50%.
I. Did. Not. Say. It."
I jes' nodded mah haid, sipped mah cawfee and waited fer her to continue.
"I said to mama that some folks thought it were--but it ain't!-- their natural born right to go to college, have a mortgage that the gubmint will guarantee and a car in ever garage. I said the numbers ain't never gonna add up 'cause it jes' ain't enough filthy lucre in the world to put golf carts in ever three-car garage and buy three hunnert dollar sunglasses. Somebody is gonna have to do wif'out they 'calamari mojitos.' An, yeah, at that moment, I mebbe I did glance over at Randall."
"Calamari mojito?" I frowned.
"Randall means caramel macchiato," Sarah Jean explained.
Randall ain't a thorn in his fambly's side or nuthin', it's jes' that he ain't interested in workin' hard. His tenure at the state college were short, his fling at sellin' sport water was shorter, an' now he had settled in to dressin' in Hawaiian shirts ever'day an 'goin' out to hotels to sell folks airboat runs and helicopter rides. He say he's in the entertainment field.
Sarah Jean swallowed a gulp of her cawfee and continued, "I said I din't know how a body thought they could git no mortgage on a golf villa if they's only makin' ten dollar-fiddy cent an hour. Reckon youse heered how folks wif' no money down got loans they ain't got a prayer of payin' back. After Randall got his villa, he tole us'uns all he was waitin' on now was Chevy-Mae and Fordy-Mac so he an' Belinda could git new cars!"
Uncle came round the corner an' I seen him smirk at that.
"Mama-Law tole me to watch mah attitude. Now how did I rate that? Next thang I knowed, I'se feelin' heat creep up my neck. I said there was a conspiracy to pretend all folks worked equally hard when ever'body knows it's a lie. I realized I was latherin' up, but I couldn't hep myself an' I also said how these pig knuckles was draggin' down those who could and would do somethin' more.
Din't folks unnerstan' that if they made thangs impossible
fer the doers and knowers by taxin' and takin', that them doers is gonna STOP doin'! An' then whar'will the takers be? Whas' the point of mah studyin' and workin' at the hospital at night, iffin' Hawaiian Shirt works jes' four hours and gits a golf villa?
Who is payin' fer that??? "
Me and Uncle stared at poor Sarah Jean. We knowed Louella musta blown a socket when she heered that.
"Lawdy, chile," Uncle say.
She cast her eyes down and shook her haid.
"Mama said I was an embarrassment to her. ME?
She said I was puttin' on airs, an' ain't I ever learnt about noblese oblige? She say it were mah duty to make a space fer those who was dealt a sorry hand. She say mah pretty face and brains was not to mah own credit. It were jes' an accident. She said the one thang that I could git credit fer was if I chose to do good. Plenty beautiful smart folks doan make that choice, she said. "
Me an' Uncle exchanged looks over Sarah Jean's haid.
"Well honey..." Uncle began, but Sarah Jean went on.
"Aunty, I ain't proud to say it, but I could not let it go. I pushed back hard, 'Mama, iffin' the noblese has duties, so do the obliged.' An' I said how short boys din't demand to play fer the Lakers, or tone deaf girls sing at the Opera. We has no trouble sayin' plain that they's differences in athletic ability or artistic ability, why not say it plain: Not ever'body is equally smart either. Why cain't we be honest an' jes' say so?"
Uncle drew in a breath. "Sweet Pea, yore mama din't mean that ever'body is all the same. She likely meant since youse been so blessed to have beauty and brains, it's more important fer yore own sake not to fergit that the way ya' shows gratitude fer such gifts is by bein' gentle wif' others."
"Aw, Uncle Aloysius, thas' real nice of ya' to say. I know youse tryin' to make my mama sound milder than she is. No. What she meant was, "looky at all them smart college edoocated, good-lookin' rich folks, financiers an' CEOs an' Congressmen who chose to use they smarts to do evil, not good. To loot our country and sell the rest of us the empty bag. Thas' what she meant. The Randall's of this world? Mama say they cain't do that much damage since they's jes' happy pawns fer the elite crowd."
Festus was gettin' restless out on the porch, the sun wuz heatin' thangs up so.
Sarah Jean accepted a jar of the Mayhaw jelly fer her Daddy an' went off to make amends wif' her mama. I stood in the door watchin' the girl and the dawg amble along under the trees.
Uncle as't me what I thought of all that had been said.
After a moment I said, "I reckon Louella the Law makes a real good sheriff."