Anything for a Treat
Right across from my house on the other side of my corner street is Mrs.Tharp's house. No one can see it from the street because of all the different size trees, the many types of bushes and the vines that are like snakes,slithering their way around the tree trunks and along the ground until they reach the chain link fence. There they crawl up the fence, winding their way in and out through the links to completely cover it. Not a stitch (blade) of grass grows in that yard. The sun barely can peek through the thick green canopy of the trees. A person cannot even see the dirt on the ground because of all the layers of leaves that have fallen, decayed and fallen again over the years. Mrs. Tharp lives there alone. Her daughter from out of town comes to visit her sometimes. I think that my neighborhood friends and I are about the only other people who visit her. My momma talks to her sometines when she sees her over the fence walking around in her back yard. If it were not for that straw hat, with the brightly colored plastic flowers on it, that she wears outside, people would not know she was out there. It is a shame to say, but the only reason my neighborhood friends and I go over there is for her yummy treats. The place and the woman scare me to death. She kind of shakes all over. She cannot be still. When she talks, the shaking gets worse. None of us will go over there alone! Not even my brother Tommy, who would do just about anything, would even THINK about going it alone in that place. It was a hot July afternoon. My neighboorhood friends, Byron and Monica, Tommy, my brother and I were taking turns swinging double on my front porch swing watching in awe as the afternoon rain came running down the street like a moving wall. It was the strangest thing that I have ever seen. It kind of scared me, because I thought that when it rained it came down from the sky everywhere. Anyway, the rain made it to my house and was over almost as quickly as we saw it coming. "Is it time yet", Monica excitedly asked as she rocked back and forth on one of our two white porch rockers. "Yep, almost", I replied as I looked down at my "Morgan & Lindsey" dime store watch. "Ten minuets to four", I tell everyone, "we have ten more minuets." "Let's go over there now", Tommy impatiently wines. We all jump up, walk across the wooden porch floor,bounce down the side grey steps, stroll across the front lawn, then begin running across the side street to Mrs. Tharp's fence. There are a group of flowers that grow along Mrs. Tharp's fence that open up (bloom) at around 4:00 p.m. every single day during the month of July. How those flowers know that it is around 4:00 in the afternoon will always amaze me for the rest of my life. It is as if they had brains! I know the good Lord only gave human beings brains. God is surely a mystery. My momma always says that God does things in mysterious ways and this is one of them, including that wall of rain. Sure enough, a few minuets passed 4:00 the flowers begin to open up into the prettiest little red and yellow trumpet shaped flowers that have a yummy and highly fragrant aroma. Actually, we like to pick the flowers and suck on the end of the funnel shaped blossoms to taste their heavenly nectar. Tommy and Byron quickly begin picking and sucking on the four o'clocks (that is what the flowers are called). Then Tommy starts to blow into one of the picked flowers with a tooting sound like he is blowing a horn. We all begin doing the same thing and marching as if we are in a band. What a great day I say to myself. After we finish our band parade, we begin picking the flowers and stringing them onto their stems to make necklaces, bracelets, and crowns. This is our favorite thing to do with the four o'clocks. It does no take us long to look like we have just come from Hawaii. As I am laying my circle of four o'clocks on my head like a crown, Monica suddenly looks down the street then back at us and hurriedly says "here comes Velma,RUN!" Velma lives around the corner. She comes from a very poor family. They are poorer than my family and thats poor! I really feel sorry for her because nobody likes her. I remember one time Monica and I put a lot of cocker burls in her hair. She went home crying. Monica laughed and laughed, but I felt so sorry and guilty. Later Velma and her momma came to the house to show my momma what we had done. Momma was so mad! She made me apologize to Velma and sent me over to church (which is a block away from my house) to go to confession. I sure hate when she makes me do that. I hate going to confession. I am always so scared, that I never tell all my sins, and half the time I make some up because I am embarrassed to tell the real ones. I am afraid the priest will come blazing out of his tiny little middle compartment to see just who I really am and give me a horrible lecture. Well, I went to confession that day and as always, with a racing and pounding heart, recited my favorite made up sins. "Bless me father for I have sinned. My last confession was one month ago. I fought with my brothers and sisters, lied and said bad words." Anyway, we all started to run and hide from Velma, but it was too late. She began yelling, "Hey ya'll stop, wait for me." She was too close for us to pretend that we couldn't hear her, so we stopped and waited for her. "What ya'll doing, and I play too?" Monica looks at Tommy as if she need his permission and says, "sure come on." Tommy with a something up his sleeve attitude says, "lets go see if Old Lady Tharp is on her back porch. Maybe she will invite us in for a treat!" In unison we all yell, "YEA!" We begin walking in front of Mrs. Tharp's house. From the sidewalk, we barely can see the house behind all the trees and bushes. A person cannot even open her front gate because the vines are so entwined around the latch. We proceed around the side of her house into the alley. Sure enough here she is,sitting on her side screened in porch sipping on a glass of ice water and fanning herself with one of those fans that open up to display a beautiful Japanese scene. I proudly own one of those fans myself. I purchased it at "Morgan & Lindsey" with part of my coke bottle deposit money. My neighborhood friends and I collect empty coke bottles (coke cola, 7up, Nehi Orange Crush,RC Crown Cola, Delaware Punch, Dr. Pepper and Barq's Root Beer). We get a 2 cent deposit for every bottle that we bring into the A&P Grocery store a few blocks away from my house. Sometimes we can fill up a grocer cart or a couple of wagons full of those bottles. We can make near fifty-cents each if City Park is the best place to look and find most of them. Monica waves and yells "hello" to Mrs. Tharp. The rest of us follow suit. She stops fanning herself and places her glass of ice water onto the wicker table next to her rocker. She looks up smilling and in her shaking voice yells, "Good afternoon my little friends. We have had a hot one today. Would you all like to come in for some ice cream?" "Oh yes mamme, we sure would, if it is not too much trouble for you", Tommy hurriedly replies as his hand unlatches her gate. The purple wisteria hanging from the tree next to her garage is so beautiful and smells so sweet. But there are so many bumble bees that we have to run for our lives so we won't get stung. I try not to appear or let on that I am afraid of the bees or they will surely come after me. Bees can sense fear in a human. They fly straight for that fear. It is like radar for them. How they can sense it, I haven't a clue. This is probably another one of God's mysterious ways of doing things. We all make it safely to Mrs. Tharp's porch. "You all come right on in", Mrs. Tharp says as she struggles to get out of her chair. Poor lady. I wonder what makes her shake so much. I grab Velma's hand and hold on tight. Velma just looks at me with a big smile of relief. She has no idea that I have grabbed her hand for my own security. Suddenly, like a chain reaction, Byron grabs my other hand, Monica grabs Byrons and Tommy grabs Monica's hand. We all know that we are about to enter into an abyss of possible endless darkness. Our human chain, headed by my brother Tommy, follows Mrs. Tharp into her house. It is as though night as arrived without the dusk of the evening. The darkness envelops everyting around us. I can only see vague outlings of furniture and I can hear the hum of a window ari-conditioner in the background. Mrs. Tharp always keeps her thick curtains drawn and lights off during the day light hours. We all hug the wall for security and do not dare let go of each others hand in fear of being lost in the darkness, never to come our of that house again. My heart is pounding ninety-to nothing and I begin laughing with fear. Monica whispers for me to be quiet but I just can't. It seems like an eternity before we reach the kitchen. The kitchen is not as dark as the other rooms because of the thin curtains hanging over the windows. Enough day light shines through the curtains so that we feel safe enough to let go of each other's hands. Mrs. Tharp tells us to gather around her yellow metal kitchen table, which has a design on the top around the edges, and in the middle. Our's at home is only a small white metal table with a black stripe along the side edges. Mrs. Tharp even has yellow chairs that match her kitchen table. They have real comfortable yellow plastic covered seats. Each one of us takes a seat in one of the yellow chairs around the table, while Mrs. Tharp gets the ice cream out of the freezer part of her refrigerator. She has one of those expensive refirgerators with the freezer at the bottom. I guess that is why she has ice cream all the time. She places the carton of ice cream onto the table and goes to her cupboard for our favorite clear glass ice cream dishes. It is so much fun eating out of those beautiful glass dishes shaped like little toy boats. She slowly walks around the table giving each one of us a dish and spoon. On the table, in the middle, is a bowl of apples and bananas. We each grab a banana, peel it and place it in the bottom of our ice cream dish. I am the first to open the carton of ice cream. I am so exceited to see that it is the three flavored kind of ice cream. I carefully yet nervously scoop out each flavor of ice cream and place the scoops beside one another on top of my banana. Everybody does the same except Velma. She scoops out three scoops of strawberry. Then Mrs. Tharp goes back to her refrigerator and gets our favorite ingredients of all for the final touch on our spectacular works of food art. We anxiously wait as she slowly carries the can of whipped cream and jar of cherries over to the table. Her poor hands are shaking so much that I do not believe that the can of cream will have to be shaken up like the directions say on the side of the can. Each one of us sprays a white foamy cream creation over the three scoops of ice cream and places a few cherries on top. My friends and I eat slowly to savor each delicious bite of the marvelous treat. We also know that when we finish eating, we will have to leave the lighted security of Mrs. Tharp's kitchen to enter the darkness once again to exit her house. After we take our empty and licked clean dishes to the sink, we take each other's hand and follow Mrs. Tharp out of the kitchen. We once again hug the walls and hold on tight to each other's hands as we make our way to the safety of the screened porch and the glorious outside. We each thank Mrs. Tharp for her hospitality and run back to my house. It was getting late in the day and Tommy and I had to be home before the streetlights came on or momma would go into one of her panic attacks. As Tommy and I enter the house, we could smell the aroma of oven baked roast beef. Momma was in the kitchen just beginning to set the table for supper. Tommy, in a matter of fact tone of voice says, "Oh momma, you don't have to cook for Gennie and I. We just had a huge banana split at Mrs. Tharp's house."