Every morning…Slab of home-cured country ham, left from the night before hardtack biscuits (with sorghum molasses of course) and a couple a scrambled eggs; his daughter would call um’ organic, he thought, shaking his head, he just called um borrowed from Miss Henny Penny. Big ole brown ones, double yoke most of the time. Strong coffee for making red-eye gravy and enough in the pot for a cup or four or more…. black with cane sugar, nuff to stand the spoon straight up in the cup. … Every morning, yep, every damn morning, for more years than he could remember or even attempted to try.
Ole’ woman had fixed it for him for forty years or more. When she passed…he made do his-self, with his over concerned daughter flitting in and out of his kitchen, always nosing around where she had no business being. “Are you eating breakfast, statistics say it’s the most important meal of the day ” (....like he’d miss having his scrambled eggs), You need to start watching your cholesterol (….cholesterol-schma-esterol…), You shouldn’t have so much caffeine, it makes you jittery ( nothing that a little corn liquor wouldn’t calm, he’d chortled silently, as that response floated thru his mind), You need to start taking better care of yourself (..like he any intention of starting now)”. On and on his daughter could prattle, so much so that( in his mind) he started calling her “Miss Henny Penny”….. cackle, cackle, cackle, till it became a background hum.
After his morning repast, he’d gather up his cane, strap up his bib overalls and with a small flask of home brew as well as some unauthorized smokes hidden deep in the pockets, he’d head out to the fields, hollering to his daughter he was going to visit the family and he’d be back, when he felt like it. This morning constitutional was something he never missed, rain or shine, cold or hot. While he was long past the time of actually working the fields, he ( for damn sure ) could peruse them in passing as he headed to what he thought of as his sanctuary. A place where time spent with the ones he loved most, kept him going.
He always took his time. Speed was not necessary for him, in fact, the slower the better. Shuffle a little, sip a little and light um if ya got um, that was his motto. Out there, away from the house, the memories of better times as well as the not so good ones, seemed to swirl in the air around him. Remembrance of the years of drought brought out a sigh or two, while a mind’s eye view of rows of tobacco, like a siren waving green, would bring a hint of smile to his grizzled face. His walk wasn’t a long one, but at his age, his ultimate destination, if it had been any further would not be feasible.
He’d make it out to the lone oak tree in the middle of the once fertile fields and there in the shade, recouping and regrouping, he’d have his daily chat with the family. The old woman lay in the ground surrounded by her brothers and sisters and other long forgotten relatives. He would respectfully say hello to all of them, with a special and loving nod in her direction. He would remind her she was missed and then he would begin his harp on their busy-body-bossy daughter and their good-for-nothing son. He’d talk to them all a little about the politics of the day and how the prices of things kept going up, up, up. He’d bitch and moan enjoying the fact that none of them ever interrupted. When the flask was empty and the smokes were gone, he’d begin the trek back to the house, first telling them to have a nice night and that he’d see them again in the morning.
Back at the house in the twilight of dusk, the daughter watched him stand as if to salute, then turn slowly with his cane over his shoulder. She knew the corn liquor had given him an imaginary spring to his step and having successfully completed his daily sojourn, the evening would be a peaceful one, for the both of them. At supper, he began to talk about his visit in depth to her, commenting on the health and well being of the family he had spoken to that day. She smiled and nodded , just as the old woman had done when she was alive. Before she left him for the night she hovered over him, just like he did over his precious Henny Penny. After finally tucking him in, like a child rather than the old man that he was, she finally left at dark, worrying and feeling, after hearing about his conversations, that his brain was as scrambled as the eggs he would once again have in the morning.