The Official Site of Abrendal Austin

Excerpt - 'A Fugitive's Wife'


     In Valdosta, Georgia, folks set outside day and night. It didn’t matter if it was ninety degrees and the humidity reached eighty percent. Inside their shabby duplexes, there were probably less flies to swat. Children ran around barefoot wearing what skimpy clothes they could get by with. Short pants showed off mosquito bites on their dusty legs, and flies buzzed around their sticky hands and brown faces. They still enjoyed playing hide and seek, climbing pecan trees, making mud pies and chasing squawking chickens around the yard.
     Grown folks sat on stoops, milk crates and old wooden porches. In between fanning annoying flies and slapping mosquitoes, they sipped ice-cold Coca Colas, puffed cigarettes and gave little children extra change to run back and forth to the corner store. They lived outside almost as much as they did inside. Women forced their girls to sit still while they put tight braids into their hair to last until next week’s shampoo. When Miss Dixie Mae hollered down the lane and asked Miss Susie if she was going to Bible Study, she didn’t care that the whole neighborhood heard her. It was just too hot to walk six houses down the lane. So everybody knew if they were going to church.
     The most exciting thing that happened lately was Old Buster caught thirty-five catfish at Nash’s fishing hole. He sat on an old milk crate cleaning his catch in a banged-up washtub. The portable fan set up in the yard did little to cool the sweat dripping down his fat, naked belly.
     His wife, Dixie Mae, fried the cats up quick on that hot night. Folks came and brought huge, sweet watermelons, icecold beer, soda pop and banana pudding. After all the eating was over, the kids played hide and seek, fought over marbles and threw water balloons. The mamas and daddies sipped beer, played dominoes and pity-pat and sang along with Aretha Franklin and B.B. King on the stereo.
     The old folks sat around in rocking chairs, chewing tobacco, eating boiled peanuts and seeing who could tell the biggest tales. The teenagers discussed ways to get to college, the latest and greatest pop and soul singers and who would be the first on the lane to get rich.
     Life was like that in Valdosta, Georgia, in the 1970s. It’s probably pretty much the same today.

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