Issue 26, Summer-Fall 1961
The first day Miss Euayla came into the China Nook, my style just hit her right in the eye. I was dusting off some armadillo baskets when she came in the door and I thought, Lafond T. Cunningham, that’s your life mate. Yes, sir. I dropped those baskets and came skipping around the counter and right up to her.
“You sweet thang!” I hollered, and went right up on my toes and kissed her on the cheek. You wouldn’t believe it, but that’s the way I am, impulsive, just impulsive to a fault.
Well, Miss Euayla just stood there a wliile, looking down at me, neither of us moving an inch, but I could see the feathers in her hat trembling and I just waited her out until finally she just had to say something.
“Well,” she said. “You sure think you’re somebody, don’t you.
“That’s right,” I said, quick as a wink, right back at her.
“My name’s Lafond T. Cunningham and I’m no bigger than a shotgun.”
Well, we just both broke out to laughing until we couldn’t see where we were and finally Miss Euayla staggered over and sat down on a wire back chair, whooping and choking until I thought she’d never recover, and I sort of tottered out the door onto the sidewalk, bent over backwards and holding on to my head with both hands, and then I tottered back into the China Nook, my face as red as a dime bandanna. I was screaming like an Indian full of turpentine. We just hit it off right from the start, and all because of my style.
That’s just what Rabe Thompson doesn’t have, of course: my style. I don’t care what they say about how good looking he is, and what if he is six feet tall? He’s just a big lump of nothing if you ask me and he got mighty worried as soon as he found out I was seeing Miss Euayla. Thought he knew something. Went around telling people I was after Miss Euayla’s farm, can you imagine that? Me? Working in the China Nook with a perfectly assured future career ahead of me at that time and don’t know a plow from a prunehook. I tried to tell him that the night he hid in my car and tried to scare me silly.
Miss Euayla and me’d been out to the Hickory Rib, sitting in a booth drinking ammonia cokes and playing nickels in the music vendor and that’s absolutely all, and about ten o’clock I drove her up into the front yard and parked my ’33 Chevie under that big chinaberry tree. We got right out of the car and went in the house and she fixed me a big glass of Kool Aid, it was hotter than a blister that night, and I came right out of the house and down the steps and bumped into that Chevie before I even saw it. They have darker nights in McClellan county than anywhere in the world, I guess. Well, I got in the car and before I could even step on the starter I feel somebody’s breath on the back of my neck and a voice says, “Now I got you!” and without even thinking I let out a holler and started kicking my feet on the floorboards. I like to broke my ankle on the brake pedal, if you want to know the truth. I have very delicate bones.
Well, as soon as I started hollering I heard Miss Euayla start hollering in the house and here she came busting through the screen door and down the steps in the dark like a boxcar of loose roller skates being unloaded.
“Lafond!” she hollered, and ran right into the side of the car. “Damn!” she said, “are you all right?” and right then she sort of grunted and I heard a man’s voice say, “Ain’t this a fine way to behave? Ain’t it?“and it was the same voice that had been talking to me in the car. That scared me so bad I started kicking my feet on the floorboards again so I missed some of what they said, but it was Rabe Thompson hiding out there, waiting and trying to catch us. He and Miss Euayla scuffled around in the dark, both of them cussing and yelling, and Rabe Thompson making out what a skunk I was.
“All he wants is your farm!” he yelled, and Miss Euayla yelled back, “You’re a liar! You’re a liar!”
It was terrible, the way they kept it up. I rolled up all the windows and locked the doors and nearly suffocated. Every once in a while I’d lean down and holler through the little doors that open up by your feet on those ’33 Chevies, but they didn’t pay any attention. They’d known each other all their lives, you know. It’s a very unhealthy situation, the way people live out in the country, and when they get mad it seems like there isn’t anything they won’t say to each other, just for spite. Now, growing up in Fort Worth like I did, it’s an altogether different thing. You don’t have all kinds of people keeping track of you all the time in the city. In Fort Worth it’s just plain old “Live and let live.” Powder river, let ’er buck, that’s the word up there. But of course it’s not that way down in McClellan county.
That’s one reason why, although Miss Euayla was taken with me right from the minute she saw me in the China Nook, she couldn’t quite make me out. I just had a different air than anything she was used to, of course, and she couldn’t understand why 1 was working in the China Nook instead of up in Fort Worth in one of the big department stores.