Ain’t it funny how one little thing’ll set a whole lot of other things in motion? Why, today’s party wouldn’t be happenin’ at all if Sister Pauline hadn’t finally decided to get baptized.
She should’ve did it years ago—Sister Pauline knowed Jesus since she was a young’un. But just before her first baptism, wouldn’t you know, a little old snapper swum up and nipped her toe. Pauline set to screamin’, and run out of the river, and made up her mind that Jesus’d have to let her into heaven without the sloshing.
Well, bless my soul, that was seventy years ago. I still remember sittin’ on the riverbank in my blue dress, watchin’ some ants, when Pauline run right past me, screamin’ to wake the dead.
So I just about dropped my teeth when she stood up in services last July and said, “Brother Henry, I seen the light. I’ll be walkin’ with Jesus soon, and I need to be washed in the river first.”
The next week, we had a picnic, at the same spot where the turtle bit Pauline. She waded into the river to meet Brother Henry, wearin’ a choir robe and pearl earrings. I mean Pauline, don’t you know, not the reverend. We sung a verse of “Amazing Grace,” and Sister took a deep breath and pinched her nose. Brother Henry lowered her gentle-like into the river, and when she come up we commenced to sing again.
But we didn’t get past “amazing”—we was laughin’ too hard. You see, Sister Pauline come up out of the water without her wig. I looked downriver, and there it went, swirlin’ along on the current all white and fluffy, before it disappeared.
Sister Pauline just said, “Praise Jesus, I’m gettin’ a new wig,” and we tucked into the fried chicken.
You think my story’s over, but it ain’t. It don’t take long for folk ‘round here to learn each other’s business. The rest of the story, I heard here and there. ‘Tain’t gossip, neither, every word’s God’s honest truth.
The morning after Sister lost her wig, George Benson was fishin’ downstream. He was just about to quit when he felt a powerful tug on the line. He landed that fish and stared in disbelief—floppin’ on the riverbank was a catfish covered with white hair. It’d got all tangled up in Sister Pauline’s wig, and my lands, it gave George a fright.
First thing he done, once he recovered, was call up his buddy to come take his picture with the hairy catfish. And George brung that picture straight to the Gazette, where MaryLou took one look and said she done found her lead story.
A few days later, the newspaper come out, and there was George on the front page, holdin’ up that catfish wearin’ Sister Pauline’s wig. You never seen nothing like it.
That same day, Marietta Tompkins set down to breakfast with some leftover chicken. She opened the Gazette just as she was chompin’ on a chicken wing, and my stars, if that picture didn’t make her laugh! Her old maid daughter Lynette heard the commotion and come into the kitchen sayin’, “Why, momma, what’s got into you?”
Marietta couldn’t stop laughin’, when all of a sudden she took to chokin’. You know it, there was a bone stuck in her craw, and Lynette knew it, too. She grabbed her momma and run her to the hospital, with them both in their housecoats.
Marietta was breathin’ fine, but coughin’ around that bone, and her throat hurt plenty. That nice Doctor Watkins at the hospital done what he does, and in just a minute she was right as rain, but plenty embarrassed, let me tell you.
Doctor Watkins sent Marietta home with orders to drink tea and honey and a warning not to eat and read at the same time. But all the while he was lecturin’ Marietta, he was lookin’ at Lynette in her old housecoat and thinkin’, “That’s one fine-looking woman.” And all the while Lynette was studyin’ the linoleum and thinkin’, “I wish I’d put on some mascara.”
You know what happened next. A few days later, Doctor Watkins called on Marietta to see how her throat was, and Lynette asked him to stay for lemonade. And today, they’re gettin’ married.
Brother Henry’s doin’ the ceremony, down by the river. George Benson’s standin’ up for the doctor, and Sister Pauline’s got a new wig. Would you believe it--she’s a redhead now!
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