“Eggs don’t gather themselves,” were the familiar words my momma called out at five a.m. this morning, as she swung open our bedroom door. I shared a room with my three sisters. Always had. We lived in a house with only five rooms, two of those being for beds.
Yawning I wondered if I’d ever get to sleep late. Just one day in my life have a chance to sleep past seven. Oh, what a treat that would be.
“Stop daydreaming and go get the eggs. Sammy Jo, did you hear me? Momma will go to hollering in a few minutes if they’re not in the kitchen. Do I got to do everythin’ around here?” Milly was the oldest of the four of us. She just turned nineteen this past September. We thought she might get married to that Garner boy but he ran off to join the Marines. No one expected that. Especially Milly, didn’t see it coming. However, I think momma was more let down than Milly. She was hoping for one less mouth to feed.
“Are you listening?” she yelled at me this time.
Sighing, I covered yet another yawn and glared at Milly above me. She acted bossy, but truth of it is, I’m only eleven months younger than her. I would turn nineteen this August. “I hear you. Jesus, stop with the yapping,” I grumbled and lightly coughed.
Hazel giggled behind me. I turned my head to wink at my sister. At only ten years old Hazel was the youngest and I thought she’d be the baby forever, daddy having passed on from skin cancer, which seemed to freeze her in time. Make Hazel forever the baby. Then three years ago momma hooked up with a man traveling through town and all he left her was a swollen tummy. Now, none of us wish it any different. Henry is adored by the lot of us.
“I’m not milking the damn cow again,” Bessy said, stomping her feet, putting both her hands on her hips with all of Bessy’s dramatic flair. “I did it last week. It’s someone else’s turn.” Bessy was fifteen and exhausting. I really hoped she ended up on a stage. She would be a superstar with all that drama that comes so natural to her.
“You’re scared of the chickens,” Milly reminded her. “Milk the cow or go feed the hogs. You said they stunk last week. Make up your mind and stop cussing like a man.”
I finished gathering the eggs and headed for the house. Those two would bicker over cows for several more minutes at least. When momma yelled I didn’t want trouble. I had plans tonight and I needed her in a mood, the best one currently possible.
“Come back and help little Diva with the milking,” Milly called out after me.
I ignored her. She wasn’t my boss.
Opening the screen door I stepped into the kitchen. Momma’s back was to me as she cut the shortening and butter into the flour for biscuits. “Want me to put the pot roast in the slow cooker?” I asked trying to be helpful. Overly helpful mind you.
“I reckon we need to do that. Vilma didn’t say how old it was so I don’t want a roast going bad. Was nice of her to bring it over like that. Something to say for good neighbors.”
Maybe so, good neighbors, but this here town was not my idea of a life. I wanted out of Moulton. Out of Alabama. Anywhere but here. There was a big ol’ world waiting to meet me and my dream was to see it all. Or as much as I could in a life.
I pulled my pale blonde hair into the rubber band I kept on my wrist as a habit. The morning breeze had tangled my hair. I didn’t care, I was low maintenance, I’d brush the wads out later. I had some sucking up to my momma to do to convince her to let me go with Jamie and Ben to a concert. Tonight in Cullman, Alabama was Rock the South and they had an extra ticket. I’d never been to a concert before.
“Momma, what time do you have to go to work?” I asked, pulling out the slow cooker, looking for things to be done, though I’m a worker and she expects this.
“Need to be at the bakery by eight. Sara got there at five this morning to start the morning pastries. I’m on cupcakes and cookies today. Thought I’d try a new banana bread too. Those always sell good, no matter.”
Momma had been working for Sweethouse Bakery for over twelve years this month. Some weeks she did the morning shift and we were left with Milly to wake us. Those days were not my favorite.
“You’re working the front counter from nine to four. Be early Sammy Jo. I left a list of things for Bessy and Hazel to do around the house. Bessy needs to keep an eye on the roast. The list is there on the table.”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied, walking over to the table, jotting down Bessy’s chore.
While I worked with momma at the bakery, Milly went to cosmetology school. She passed her exams and had a new job at the only hair salon in town, the one and only to ever exist. She didn’t have to go to work until ten every morning but she often worked till seven. Sometimes worked right past it. I had no idea there were so many heads to cut and groom and style. There were barely over three thousand residents in Moulton, Alabama proper. How a hair salon could stay that busy was beyond my imagination. Where were these folks going? The bakery sat close enough to the main road headed from Cullman to Florence. That gave it commuter traffic. But a hair salon in Moulton, Alabama seemed plain silly to me. All folks do is stare at each other, in the street, at church or home. If they were bald, they’d do the same thing.
“Momma! Momma! I lost my fwog!” Henry called to her as he burst through the door with dirt smeared on his face already, his bottom lip pooched and trembling.
“Go wash up and get ready for breakfast. More frogs where he came from. You can catch one later.” Her response was unconcerned. I made a mental note to help Henry find a frog after breakfast, if not sooner.