"That 'ol Polly's done it now," Hessie stormed, barging into Maude's house unannounced. Tossing her sweater on the coat tree, she scanned the living room for her neighbor. The aroma of fresh baked bread and the banging of pots alerted Hessie to Maude's whereabouts. Hessie stomped to the kitchen, thumping down on a bar stool. "Oh, that Polly," Hessie griped again.
"Hessie, what's got y' so stirred up?" Maude asked, wiping flour on a floral apron.
"Oh, that 'ol..."
"Hessie, be nice," Maude interrupted with a warning glare.
Hessie rummaged through her handbag, seeking a handkerchief. Finding none, she grabbed a handful of napkins and dabbed perspiration from her furrowed brow.
"What’s goin’ on, Hessie?" Maude questioned, pouring two glasses of lemonade. "If y’ don't calm down, y'r gonna have a spell."
"Oh, Maude," Hessie moaned, "th’ tribulations of this world..."
Maude imagined Hessie fainting dead away on her freshly waxed linoleum. Flashes of Hessie's past tribulations rapidly fired through Maude's memory banks. The neighbor’s new garage door opener activating Hessie's Life Alert bracelet being the most recent. Several times a day, concerned operator voices squawked through the transmitter asking Hessie if she’d ‘fallen and couldn't get up’. "It's my neighbor's fault," she grumped time and again.
"What's Polly done t’ upset y’ so?" Maude questioned, straddling a stool next to her friend.
"She spouted curses!"
Maude shook her head, tongue clucking softly. "That must’ve been quite a shock."
"A shock? I almost called Life Alert m'self."
"Where did she pick up such vile language?" Maude wanted to know.
"Well," Hessie began, indignant. "I made a few calls and learned something about our little friend’s past."
"And?" Maude questioned, leaning in.
"She used t’ spend most of her time down at Barney's."
"Barney's? You mean th’ bar?" Maude asked, eyes wide.
"I ain't talkin' about th’ purple dinosaur’s house, deary. Can you imagine th’ kind of language she picked up there?"
"What did she say?" Maude asked, curious.
Hessie leaned and whispered in Maude's ear. Maude turned several shades of red and crossed herself.
Hessie groaned to a standing position and shuffled to the sink, looking out the window. "Oh Maude, what am I gonna do?"
"Hessie, sometimes the old ways bubble up and spill out, surprisin’ even th’ most devout. Had she cursed before?"
"What set her off?" Maude inquired, sipping her lemonade.
"Well, I was cleanin’ around the house...usin’ the vacuum...and her leg got sucked into th’ nozzle attachment. Before I could get my Vaculux 3000 turned off, the only thing visible was her head. She started cussin' t’ beat the band."
"I can't say that I blame her," Maude mumbled.
"What did you say?"
"Oh, nothin'...I didn't even know she was talkin'," Maude stated, surprised.
"I taught her t’ say 'Polly wants a cracker' about two weeks ago," Hessie informed, looking proud. "I didn't realize her vocabulary was so much larger…and so…colorful. What am I gonna do with that heathen bird?"
"Now Hessie, we shouldn't judge...the poor thing had less than savory role models."
“That may be true, but what if the Pastor comes callin’ and she decides to let loose with profanity? What if the Women’s Missionary Guild is over for tea and Polly doesn’t like Beatrice McDougal’s dress…?"
“Who does?” Maude interrupted.
“But, what if Polly really doesn’t like th’ dress and calls her a King James donkey? What am I gonna do? They're gonna think I’m that bird’s influence,” Hessie wailed, looking horrified.
“I’m sure y’ will come up with somethin’,” Maude encouraged.
Hessie drummed her fingertips on the windowsill, observing finches darting to the bird feeder for a snack.
“Wait a minute," Hessie exclaimed, eyes hopeful. "I've got it!"
Hessie shot down the hall, snatched her sweater and flung the door open wide, a brisk fall breeze blowing in.
"What's your hurry, Hessie?" Maude asked, following quickly behind.
"I've got t’ get home t’ my attic. I've got the Bible on tape stored in my mama's steamer trunk. If I pipe that int’ her cage all day long, I should have a new bird in no time! Ta-ta," she waved over her shoulder.
"Ta-ta," Maude called, chuckling. "I'll be prayin'."
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