Friday, September 21, 2012

Keeping On

Alma slid the timecard into the slot with a gentleness that belied the strength in her gnarled brown fingers. For years, her hands wrung the last stubborn drip from a thousand soggy bath towels, but Alma had the misery now. Oh, if she had to do it, she still could. Thank merciful heaven she didn't do washin' no more.

These days the only washin' she did was when the old folks didn't make it to the potty chair in time. She'd clean their bottoms, pat `em dry, and then powder `em so they didn't get a rash.

The patients loved her stories about the old days. Alma boasted how her deft hands sent yard birds to heaven before they could squawk in protest. She spoke of shucking corn and snapping beans, putting up dozens of jars of apple butter she'd cooked all day long in an old copper kettle. 

Alma figured she'd shucked a silo of corn and snapped a trainload of beans in her time. She'd changed enough diapers to cover every rear end in Potts County – man, woman, and child. She reckoned she'd burped four generations of babies -- black, white, and every shade between.

Her hands had lifted her man Leroy right over the edge of ecstasy and set him smack-dab in the middle, breathless and grateful. She'd plaited his hair, her nimble fingers a chocolate blur as she worked. When he'd had his heart attack, Alma kept things running smooth, selling her canned vegetables, fruits and jams to the tourists who came to town that spring. She'd even pocketed a little pin money nobody knew about but her and God. 

Leroy'd been dead three years now, she reckoned. He was a good man. He worked hard and turned his money over to her every Saturday morning when he got paid. He didn't have much to say but he loved her with a fierce passion and didn't trot around on her none. A woman couldn't ask for much more.

Her co-worker Nancy's soft voice transported Alma's thoughts back to the time clock nook. Alma blinked and looked at the timecard. "What you gonna do this weekend, Miz Alma?"

She flashed a broad smile at the younger woman. "Oh, lawd, child, I reckon I'm a-gonna keep on doin' what I always done." Alma patted Nancy's shoulder. "See you first thing Monday morning."

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