(Fiction –A- Short-Short-Story)
Ira Mae Monk sold her Rockdale home that she had lived in for fifty-years, moving into a remodeled house with small apartments for senior citizens. Pine Grove was a short distance from the city, she wanted small town living, and she had already made a friend. A young woman that she met when she rented a moving truck and quickly became friends, she would soon become the friend that Ira Mae never had, Sipsey Andrews thought the old woman was looking for a caretaker. She clearly had the wrong idea about Ira Mae Monk; she was an eighty-five-year-old firecracker. Sipsey loved her, Ira Mae was unafraid, strong, yet gentle when needed, the two women formed a wonderful friendship; Sipsey was at a time in her life where she needed someone to be there for her, she had no family. Ira Mae Monk said and did what she wanted…be damn what others thought.
Ira Mae moved into Crawfish Manor, next to a creek of clear and quick moving water, called Crawfish Creek. Weeks had gone by and Ira Mae was still adjusting to her new home. The telephone rang, Sipsey knew it meant one thing, Ira Mae was unhappy about something, and no one else called her. Ira Mae said that she was certain that the old folk living at Crawfish Manor did not have enough to do, why, because they were always prying into other folks business.
Sipsey tried to calm her, “You might need to stop and think that most elderly people are not like you Ira Mae, most have hearing, seeing problems and gossip was their world”. Ira was in her late eighties, acted as if she was fifty and craggy. Sipsey laughed.
Ira Mae screamed into the phone. ”Hard of hearing, do not be fooled by that, they can hear a fly fart sitting on a pile of cow shit one-hundred yards away, they’re nosey”.
Ira Mae sounded as if she were on a deadly mission, target unknown.
“They stare at my short hair, hell, not everyone likes short blue ringlets; and I know there is whispering when I go by them, they talk about me being braless and barefoot”. Sipsey heard her labored breathing, “Are you OK Ira Mae”.
“Yes, and if I was meant to wear shoes I would have been born with a pair on my feet”. Another thing Ira Mae screamed, “I can’t help it if my girls don’t hit my knees”
“Most of them have jugs so big that they could eat dinner off them and making it impossible for them to go braless”. Ira Mae let whatever rolled off her tongue come out without a filter.
Then the genteel laugh begins and Sipsey knew Ira Mae had shouted her anger away.
Ira Mae no doubt irritated but amused continued with…
“Today, with the unpacking done, I decided to go for a bike ride. There I was, on the elevator with a man and woman; I had never seen them before. The man looked at me and said loudly, “Do you go to church”? Well, I smiled and said “No”; he got louder, “Don’t you believe in God”? I smiled and said “Yes”. He would not shut up; people who believe in God go to church”! His wife said in a screeching voice, “You’re going to hell”!
Ira Mae, I smiled and said, “Yes mam, I may go there, but, you and your husband don’t forget to say hi when you see me, yaw’ hear”!
Ira Mae heard something as they got off the elevator they said something about my southern accent. I still don’t know their names; I just call them the Church People! She then ask, “Sipsey you still there”.
Sipsey actually felt sorry for the other people at Crawfish Manor. Ira Mae was one of those true southern characters that you either loved or hated. A few days later Sipsey stop in to see Ira Mae all she could talk about was the do’s and don’ts of moving into senior housing, her accounting of the Manor; her moving to what she called Hell-Town, USA , and many of its few inhabitants. Ira Mae renamed Crawfish Manor to, “Gods Waiting Room”. The people from “hell”, Sipsey did not believe that all of the people in Crawfish Manor or Pine Grove were as Ira Mae described them.
Upon leaving, Ira Mae saw that the Community Room was jam-packed with blue haired old battle-axes. “She told Sipsey that if any one tells you that old people cannot see, or hear, their liars. They sat waiting for their supper to be delivered, like vultures waiting for a road kill, peering around with their tiny beady eyes”.
Ira Mae had moved to Wisconsin when she was just a girl. She told the tale of how the handsome Yankee made a visit to Alabama and swept her off her feet. She divorced him a month later but liked Wisconsin and stayed, she liked the four seasons, the snow, and she never married again and never had any children. Her sister Nadine Monk had come to visit one summer and she never returned to Alabama, married a Rockdale boy, but a stranger killed him while playing poker at a local bar. Like Ira Mae, Nadine never married again; she lived with Ira Mae and had only recently died. Ira Mae mourned the death of Nadine more than she did their parents. She was alone if not for Sipsey. Ira Mae at one time told Sipsey that she look like Nadine when she was young.
It was a weekend Sipsey had wish she did not come. Sipsey wondered at times if she was slightly demented. Several women got on the elevator with Sipsey. They immediately jumped her with their verbal banter.
“Ain’t you the woman who moved that old woman from Rockdale in here”, yelled the one Ira Mae called the Warden. Mouth her sidekick chimed in, “Most people think she is a crazy woman, moved in speaks to no one, we know she smokes and drinks; and she is gone all day”! I nodded respectively, without saying anything. I did smile as I walked away. The Warden shouted out, “No one is gonna like her”.
Ira Mae called Sipsey the following night with the latest…
“If you are ever looking for senior housing” Ira Mae said, Here are some do’s and don’ts, and this may be the most important information I could give the younger generation, you gonna be old someday “. Ira Mae started calling off her list.” Sipsey wondered how long the list was!
Ira Mae continued, “You move in with old people you will be the subject of conversation for many months, maybe forever…
“Hometown, USA, beware it is Hell-Town, USA), friendly, no, then you find that you are living in God’s Waiting Room…” Sipsey was out of breath just listening and silent.
Sipsey did not agree with her story of a fishless Creek on one side of Crawfish Manor and the Pearly Gates on the other! Seems Ira Mae does not let anything or anyone get her down, Sipsey’s message machine was filled most days, Ira Mae would soon end her day at Crawfish Manor and she would have said, a shot of “Jack” a day will keep the doctor away, and if you are a senior citizen just keep telling yourself…”breathe damn’it”. Ira Mae was never satisified.
Sipsey made a sigh of respite when the phone rang; it was of course Ira Mae…
“Have you seen your email yet”? Her voice was almost cheerful.
“No Mam, did you send me something?
“Well, I sure did a picture of me, I walked down town today, an old man came out of the bar and I ask would he take my picture with my phone. I sent it to you.”
“I’m opening it now,” Sipsey prayed as she clicked the keys.
There she sat in the doorway of what looked like an old building; dressed to the “nines” from a local thrift store, her favorite shopping place. Sipsey almost fainted, where did she get the cigar? Sipsey felt that Ira Mae Monk was letting Pine Grove know that the great-great-granddaughter of Hightower Monk of Winston County – Alabama.
However, Sipsey had grown to love Ira Mae. Ira Mae continued to call her new home Gods Waiting Room, somehow without talking to anyone she always knew the latest gossip, her trips around Pine Grove; everyone in Pine Grove knew her. She felt that everyone in the town was related, maybe incest was involved, no the people who run the town are too smart.
When she told Sipsey that there are no crawfish in the creek! Ira Mae no doubt put on her waders and checked this out. The town she says begins with the Manor, and the creek twist through town, with stores on either side of the town. On each end of Main Street are two wood bridges between the bridges between is a Theater, owned by Mayor Robert Wilson, and opened on Saturdays only. Next comes Andy Wilson barbershop, he was the Mayor’s son, Crawfish Café, was from Milwaukee County, the Mayors daughter-in-law Emma, Andy’s wife , she helps in the beauty shop if needed. Morrie’s wife runs Edna’s Beauty shop. Wilson’s Drugs and Hardware store is run by the Mayor’s son Morrie and Morrie’s Service Station is run by the Mayors Grandson Mitch. That’s it, you are leaving Crawfish and last but not least, there is a sign coming into town with one single word, “Welcome”. Next to the last bridge going out of town is a sign with bold letters stating… “YOU ARE NOW LEAVING PINE GROVE”.
By now you are wondering, the town should be called Wilson Creek. Well, no, because Ira Mae said that Mr. Wilson’s Great-great-great-granddaddy settled the town and he thought it was a fine name for a creek and named the town too. It is farm country there are no citizens accept the Wilson’s and their homes on the edge of town, right after the “Leaving” sign.
Ira Mae told Sipsey that Crawfish Manor is a large home with palatial four-column porches that would lead one to believe it had been picked up out of the Deep South and placed there beside the creek. Ira Mae always said that the house reminded her of her Alabama home. Within time, Ira Mae grew use to living in the Manor. It became home and the longer she lived, the people of the Manor became her friends.
It was the day before Christmas and Sipsey received a call from Crawfish Manor. Ira Mae had passed away in her sleep. Sipsey knew that before Ira Mae died she had found happiness, she grew closer to the other residents at Crawfish Manor, she stop walking the one street in Crawfish. She sat looking out her window, she was at peace and it was a long time coming. There was not a lot of material things, a walking cane, bottle of Jack Daniels and a few household things, Sipsey sent her entire apartment contents back to the thrift store. The walking cane and bottle of “Jack” were put into a guest room, waiting for the Spirit of Ira Mae to come by, Sipsey had made funeral arrangements years ago, and Ira Mae had no living relatives.
Sipsey, her husband and children stood quietly by the graveside, all of them had grown to love Ira May Monk. All of the stores closed, all of the Wilsons, the ones who had grown old with Ira Mae, they loved her too. She had outlived everyone she knew in Crawfish Manor, the ones she knew when she first moved to Pine Grove, but the town people help get to the cemetery.
When everyone had left the cemetery, Sipsey went back, to be alone with Ira Mae. She lovingly touched the marker and smiled as she read what Ira Mae wanted on the marker:
“Ida Mae Monk
Born and lived too long
Pine Groves Firecracker”