Welcome, everyone. Thank you for all the encouragement you’ve given me about this story — and about just doing whatever I can, even if I find myself unable to finish telling the tale. It’s better to consider this a series of character studies, than a serial.
I wrote this a week in advance because the surgery for my little BFF was Thursday, June 22nd, and I don’t know what or how much I will have on my hands when this episode is posted.
This episode picks up a few years after the first one ended. It’s from the point of view (POV) of Clarence again, until the last bit. Then we dip into Mattie’s thoughts. At least for the first few decades, I plan to let the POV be from a less central character (which is what Clarence becomes). I’m not sure how I’ll be able to manage to continue that as the story progresses. It complicates the process. Meaning that I might switch the POV to a main character. I’m just thinking out loud.
While the tale doesn’t seem “dark” right now, that will gradually change. I try to give you just enough insights into the personalities to foreshadow that a bit. Hopefully I succeed. Okay, here is the second episode.
Eddie and the Cruisers - On The Dark Side
Truths Unseen, the 1930s Part 2
I hope she’ll get herself a husband quick, Clarence thought as he looked at his little sister. Before she gets herself “in trouble,” or any other kind of trouble.
At sixteen years old, Mattie had grown into a striking young woman. Her face was not remarkable, but she had slender yet shapely legs and a huge bosom. Clarence didn’t like to admit it, but that bosom was downright impressive. The girl was a head-turner for sure.
His sister had always been manipulative, and it took her no time to learn to use her looks to her advantage. She was smart too. Clarence always knew Mattie was brighter than him or their younger brother, Ben. She wasn’t as smart as a school teacher, but she had a good head on her shoulders. Clarence hoped that would be her saving grace and keep her out of mischief.
Especially where boys are concerned… Clarence thought as he slowly shook his head. He seemed to do that a lot lately — shake his head. It was an old man’s mannerism, not something you’d expect from a man barely in his twenties.
He felt relieved at the kind of good news he had to share with his siblings. He was reassured because there weren’t many chances for young people to meet new folks or otherwise get together. Clarence hadn’t even thought of his own social life. His hopes were on getting his sister a husband. Keeping that girl in line was a big job, but Clarence mostly wanted her to have the chance at a better life. He knew that life better hurry up and show up before Mattie messed up herself in one way or another.
“Pop Norris told me they’re having a reunion next weekend,” Clarence told his siblings to their hoots and hollers of glee.
In the rural southeast, family reunions were for family and just about everybody else too. Even so, the Norris patriarch had assured shy Clarence all the Hardy family was welcome. There was even going to be music, a couple of guitars and a banjo, and maybe even a mandolin!
Mattie fretted over what to cook. At reunions, everyone always brought food, which was laid out on long tables, placed end to end. Mattie told him she wanted to make fried chicken. It hurt Clarence to say they didn’t have enough money for more than a little chicken. He recommended cornbread with cracklins. Mattie could make a mighty fine pone of cornbread, all crunchy and golden on the outside but moist and yellow inside. With that praise as encouragement, she went along with his suggestion.
The music expected at the Norris family reunion was something to which Clarence looked forward to with happy anticipation until the day finally arrived. Clarence couldn’t play an instrument or even carry a tune in the proverbial bucket, but he sure enjoyed listening. Pop Norris had real musicians coming in, not just family members who could play a little.
Tables and people were spread out all across the green lawn of the Norris property. It never ceased to amaze Clarence how one place could be rolling green, and the next (for instance his home) so barren that even weeds didn’t like to grow there. He wanted to take off his shoes and wriggle his toes in the carpet of verdant grass, but he told himself to mind his manners. When he saw that his little brother Ben had done precisely that, Clarence couldn’t bring himself to scold the boy.
One by one, the musicians started to arrive. Cliff, the banjo player, had his wife and baby in tow. She brought a banana pudding, made with egg custard, vanilla wafers, and topped with browned meringue. Clarence’s mouth watered. He hoped he wouldn’t miss out on a serving of that pudding. The other musicians were single men so they weren’t expected to bring anything. It was really just a matter of pride for Cliff’s wife to bring a dish. Besides their music was all anyone expected them to bring.
Everyone turned at the rumble of an Indian motorcycle as Frank Cutter roared upon the scene, guitar slung across his back. The motorcycle was the only thing loud about Frank though. Clarence had not met another man who was as quiet as himself, but Frank Cutter could make a fence post seem talkative.
It raised a few eyebrows for Frank Cutter to be at the Norris reunion. Frank was half Cherokee and some folks didn’t especially like that, but they were few. Most people in Runner County knew full well that they had at least some Cherokee blood in their veins.
The main thing that drew attention to Frank was that Indian motor cycle, the irony of which wasn’t lost on anyone, and his stature. He made for an imposing figure of a man. Being nearly six feet tall, Clarence rarely saw anyone taller than himself. Frank, however, was lean and leggy, and stood a little over six feet. Both men were tall and taciturn, and had become friendly the first time they met.
As concerned as Clarence had been about marrying off Mattie, he never had tried to set up an introduction for her and Frank. That kind of thing made Clarence nervous. However, a little smile played upon his lips as he realized they were likely to get acquainted that day.
The Cutters weren’t wealthy at all, but it didn’t take much to be better off than the Hardy family. Frank made a decent living driving a delivery truck. He might look like a wild sort with that motorcycle, but the fact of the matter was that it didn’t cost as much as a car or a truck.
From the corner of his eye, Clarence saw that Frank had already caught Mattie’s attention.
Mattie Hardy discretely watched the tall half Cherokee guitar player. She had never met him, but she knew he was friends with her brother. Her sights had always been set higher than any of the Cutter boys. She resented it bitterly, but boys from better families — and especially their mothers, didn’t want to have anything to do with her. Leastwise, not anything anywhere the lights were turned on.
She had begun to think maybe she needed to be practical. Mattie was sick and tired of living in that shack on the dirt covered ridge. Frank Cutter had a good, steady job. He seemed to be as quiet as her brother, Clarence. She had a strong suspicion that she could wrap him around her finger just as easily as she did her brother too.
Sure he was big and his face was fit for a theater villain. It was not a pretty face at all, but other than that, he was a fine figure of a man. Mattie didn’t think Frank would hurt a fly, despite his looks.
Mattie made sure Frank got a generously buttered piece of her cornbread, but she barely gave him time to say thank you before she flitted away. She bided her time until dinner had been mostly eaten and the musicians stopped to rest their sore fingers.
She had tucked away a dish of the strawberry shortcake that preacher’s wife had made. Mattie despised the fact that the woman got praise for her cooking on top of everything else for which people looked up to her. However, Mattie knew that shortcake was the best dessert on the table, so she saved a serving for Frank.
“Play a Dixie Dewdrop song!” somebody hollered to the musicians.
By Dixie Dewdrop they meant Uncle Dave Macon, a well-known bluegrass artist. Frank grinned at Cliff, the banjo player.
“My fingers could use a rest,” Frank said, holding up fingertips dented from guitar strings. “Take your pick of songs.”
Cliff knew Frank could play any song he’d ever heard. So all he did was give the banjo a warning strum to let the other musicians know the key in which he’d play. Then to the crowd’s delight, Cliff launched into Cumberland Mountain Deer Race. The guitar and mandolin egged the banjo player to keep going.
Mattie was annoyed to have to wait until they finished that and two more songs. However, before Frank Cutter knew what was happening, Mattie was feeding him strawberry shortcake.
A gleam came to her eyes as she saw her figure reflected in a window and thought about the curved shape of a guitar. She decided to ask him to teach her to play the guitar, at least long enough for him to see how her body fit snugly into the curve of the instrument.
Frank Cutter didn’t stand a chance, once Mattie made up her mind.
End Episode 2
What will we learn about Frank in the years to come? Will Mattie continue on the scheming personality path she has chosen? What effect will she have on Frank — or on her brothers for that matter? Sometimes a subtle influence lays an unexpected, inescapable groundwork for the future of other people who are yet to come.
Mega hugs from the dark side,
Copyright © 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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