August 22, 2007

The Banana

Have you ever stolen anything? I have. Well, at least that's what they called it...stealing. It was when I was just a little girl, maybe three or four, and we lived in that house on Canal Street.

Around the corner from the house, which would probably have been Main Street, there was a little grocery store. Hedgepeth's Grocery, or something like that. The people who owned it seemed old to me then--a lot older than Mama, anyway.

I loved that store. Besides shelves of canned goods, and such, they also had display cases filled with lots of pretty things, like little appliqued handkerchiefs, and trays of home-made candy. I went in there, everyday, either because Mama or Big Mama sent me to get something, or just to visit.

One day, while passing by, they had set stuff out in the front of the store, like fresh vegetables, and fruit. I spotted big bunches of bananas, which I just loved, and stood there, picking out the one I wanted. When I had done that, I took off running with my banana. Not running away, but running toward home, all excited at the thought that they were giving away free bananas.

On the way, I met Eugene. Eugene was the love of my life. He lived next door to us. We were going to get married. My mama, and his mama said we could. In fact, Big Mama had a long under-slip that I was going to use for my bridal train. When I tied the straps around my head, in front, the rest of the slip trailed over the back of my head, and down in back, reaching the floor. I was already learning how to make my princess tiara by tying the stems of clovers together, making a circle big enough to fit around my head. They said that we should get married in front of Big Mama's fireplace, but since it was summertime, we would have to wait until it got cold, so we could have a fire in the fireplace, and it would be much prettier that way.

I was so happy to see Eugene, until he said, "Ohhhh, you stole a banana." "No, I didn't," I said. He said, "Yes, you did, and I'm gonna tell your mama, " and ran off in the direction of his house, where my mama was visiting his mama.

Now, I was really scared! I didn't think that I had done anything wrong, but Eugene sure did, and now he was gone to tell Mama. I knew I had to do something, and fast. I went looking for a place to hide, and found it, under Big Mama's bed.

"Janice!" Mama called. I could hear her walking through the house. "Janice Louise, where are you?" I swallowed the last of the banana, and squeezed the empty peel as close to my chest as I could get it.

"Here she is!" The edge of the bedspread lifted. And there was the face of The Traitor, formerly my Future Bridegroom, looking right at me! "Come out from under there...right now!" That was the voice of my mama. I didn't move, or say a word. "Get out from under there, you little heifer!" That was a term of endearment, but not in that tone of voice. I started crying, and then sobbing, as I slid from under the bed.

"Did you steal that banana?" I shook my head. Then what are you doing with that banana peeling?" I couldn't speak, I couldn't stop crying. "Well, then, c'mon, you're going with me!"

She grasped my hand firmly in hers, and said, "You're going to go tell Miz Hedgepeth what you did, and you're going to pay her for that banana!" We stopped on the way out, to grab the little hankie, in which was tied my entire life's savings...about five or six pennies.

We went marching up the street, and around the corner to the little store. I was crying so hard, and my face was hot with humiliation. When we got inside, Mama said, "Janice, tell Miz Hedgepeth what you've done." I couldn't speak. Since I couldn't, Mama was glad to. Placing the empty banana peel on the counter, she said, "She stole this banana."

"Why, is that what this is all about? She didn't steal that banana, Sarah. We saw her when she stood there and picked it out. We wanted her to have it." Oh, the love that emanated from my little heart to hers! She knew that I didn't steal it!

Mama still tried to pay for it, but Miz Hedgepeth wouldn't allow it. With that, I took Mama's hand, and we went marching out of the store, right past Eugene the Traitor.

The next time that I went by the store, Miz Hedgepeth called me inside. "Come in here, Janice...I have something for you." And with that, she opened the glass display case, and took out the tray of her home-made potato candy. She took a piece, and placed it my hand. My cup of happiness was running over! Now, I knew for sure that I had been exonerated! That candy must have sold, at least, for two or three pennies! I thanked her, and ran out, popping that whole piece into my mouth, at once, and savoring every moment it took to melt away.

I was just going to say, "Who says crime doesn't pay?" but if I said that. you might think I really did steal that banana!

Oh, and Eugene The Traitor, formerly known as my Future Bridegroom? I don't know whatever happened to him.

8 comments:

rockync said...

What a lovely story and, in keeping with the angels theme, seems perhaps you had an angel running that store.

Jan said...

Thank you so much...and I think I've probably had a lot of angels in my life...human, and otherwise.

sue said...

What a good story... and I, too, remember putting my mother's slip on my head, but in my case it was because I'd always and forever wanted long hair! :)

Jan said...

LOL..another good use for an old slip!

DNR said...

An amazing story Jan. And beautifully told. I’d bet we’ve all been in similar places when we thought nothing was wrong and the traitor among us caused us to panic.

You should look ol’ Eugene up, bet he’s done time for stealing.

Jan said...

Thanks, dnr...

About ol' Eugene, maybe so, but on the positive side, maybe he's out solving other crimes somewhere! LOL

k said...

Oh NO!!! I really, really, REALLY wanted to know what happened to Eugene!

I had exactly the same thought DNR had.

Jan said...

LOL...no telling what happened to Eugene...but I hope it's been all good!