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Miss Helen towers over the short mayor but she looks small with worry.
His hands are glue-stuck to his hips. “… promised! … You can’t … like wolves … and what about…” His cheeks jiggle and get redder.
Miss Helen says something and the Mayor smiles. His cheeks still look jelly-filled, but now they’ve returned to pink.
“Fine then,” he says, and shakes her hand before rolling his roundness down the street.
Finally, Miss Helen unties the apron, mops her brow, then buries her head inside its faded flowers and ruffles. She tilts her head down until her shoulders shake.
“Miss Helen?” I poke an index finger on her arm to make her talk instead of cry.
“Oh, Emma June. I’m stuck in a hurricane of worry.” Her voice hitches.
I can’t help it but I say, “You’re in the Sad Thicket?”
Right on Main Street, she laughs and cries herself straight down to the sidewalk and leans against the hardware store under the sign that says, “Free Hammers Yesterday.”
I sit next to Miss Helen, cross-legged like hers. I look around to see who’s watching her dramatics. She doesn’t seem to care one iota.
“Emma June. I’m at the end of my wits. How in the world can I put socks on a rooster?”
The image makes me laugh, so I turn away.
“Now, Leonard is crippled. This batch was going to bring us heavy sugar. Enough to get a tutor for Scooter. And maybe a new purse and clothes for me.” She sniffles.
Now I understand. Scooter thought he found his new tutor at the swimming hole.
I’m sorry for Miss Helen’s woes. Daddy used to say problems are born just so we can solve them. That was before Mama left.
From my upcoming novel, The Moonshine Thicket.