Coming Home Again Excerpt
A scraggly group of children come scurrying up to me, as I continue to sit by the inlet and watch the water slowly begin its way back home. They pull me out of my reminiscing with their sudden visit. This little motley crew is barefooted and dripping wet from playing in the inlet. A blond headed girl, who I’m guessing is around the age of eight, speaks first. “Where’s that lady with them hush puppies?”“Where’s Miss May?” an older boy of maybe twelve, who I’m assuming to be her brother asks.I continue to rock in my chair and answer, “Sorry. She’s not here today.”The whole group erupts in groans.Another young girl with chocolate skin and eyes pouts. “Her promised us hush puppies for today.”“Yeah! She promised,” another little girl piped in. I’m pretty sure they are twins.My head darts between all of them whining. “Sorry,” I repeat. “No hush puppies today.”One of them nosy young’uns pulls the framed acceptance letter off my lap and I grab it back quickly. This little guy’s hair is dark brown and is falling in his eyes. He asks, “What’s that you holding?”“My college acceptance…”Before I can continue, one of them scoffs, “You too old for college.” Them buggers laugh at that. I’m only twenty-eight for Pete’s sake!“Am not!” I snap back. “Besides, I’ve already gone and graduated.”They all once again ramble at the same time. Questions are circling my head and I don’t know nor do I think I care to answer any of them.“What are you then?”“Um…” I pinch my brows together in aggravation.“What’s your name?”“What you doing out here anyways?”“I was really wanting me some of them hush puppies,” the youngest one pipes in.“She promised and my Pappy said you ain’t ‘pose to brake a promise,” Hair-too-long whines.“Yeah! Mine says that too,” agree the twins in unison.They continue to worry me to no end until I decide I am going to have to hush them up. I stand up and head to the kitchen door. “Y’all stay here and try not to fall into the inlet and I’ll go see what I can do,” I grumble and they cheer.I check the fryer first and set the temperature, before heading to the pantry to gather the ingredients. I grab up the container of self-rising flour and another one containing cornmeal. I place the sugar container on top and carry the load to the work table. I ease over to the refrigerator and pull out milk, eggs, and butter. Once everything is spread before me, I pause to set a pot of tea to brewing. With that underway, I dump nearly equal parts of flour and cornmeal into a mixing bowl. I combine them and add a good heap of sugar and a dash of salt. I have watched Miss May perform this same recipe so many times, I need no measuring. Even with the five year absence, this task feels like second nature.After all of my dry ingredients are combined, I add a dollop of honey, two eggs, and just enough milk to bind it all together in a thick batter. I move my mixing bowl along with two tablespoons over to the fryer. I scoop up the batter with one spoon and use the other to swipe it into the hot oil. It sizzles and bubbles and the frying aromas engulf my senses into a contentment state. I feel that the oil is right so I continue to plop batter into the boiling liquid.While the dough browns, I pour the brewed tea into a gallon pitcher and dump in roughly two and a half cups of sugar. I fill the remaining pitcher with ice and set it near a tray I have pulled out. I sit a stack of glass on it and return to the hushpuppies. I rotate the fried dough to a basket covered with brown paper towels so the excess grease can drain off. I then set another batch to frying while I whip up some honey butter. By the time I have transferred the succulent treats to a fresh basket; my stomach lets out a growl in excitement. I gather the tray and pitcher of tea and set out to have an impromptu picnic with a bunch of local young’uns.They all gather around me and sit on the bank patiently. I place the goodies down before them and sit crossed leg as they are doing. “Okay. Let’s eat,” I declare as I pop one in my mouth. This is when I notice they have all bowed their heads and the oldest one eyes me disapprovingly. I reluctantly spit the hush puppy in my hand and bow my own head. The boy blesses the food then they tear into those hush puppies like a ravenous bunch of animals. Before I can down three hush puppies, the basket is empty and their teas glasses drained.“Good grief. Did you even taste the dang things?” I ask as I sip my tea grudgingly. I really wanted more than just three hush puppies. I fried at least three dozen!They ignore me, so I declare our visit over and begin gathering their glasses.“Wait,” says one of the blondies. “Tell Miss May we ready for our lesson.”“What?” I asked confused. “I already told you she ain’t here.”One of the twins props her lime green polished hand on her little hips. “Then who don’en cooked this up?”“I did, I have you know,” I sassed back.She continues to study me, a bit unsure with my answer. “Then I guess you get to give us a lesson too.”“Look, I already gave you scrubs enough.” I head to the kitchen, but they all moan and groan like I have just ruined their lives.“You gotta teach us something,” the younger blond whines.“I got nothing,” I say with a quick nod to my head and more grumbling breaks out.“You old enough, you gotta know something,” pipes in Hair-too-long.Okay, so there they go with that old crap again. They want old fart advice then I was going to give them some.“Listen up you brats.” I call them this because they call me old and that makes it right, so don’t judge me. They laugh at this. Brats.They all gather around me closely and I lean towards them as though I’m about to share the mysteries of the world with them. I look around as though I’m making sure no one else can hear and this automatically causes them to lean closer.“Never take a laxative and a sleeping pill on the same night,” I stage-whisper in all seriousness. They stare at me dumbfounded for a few beats before the understanding eases across their nasty little faces. Then they are literally rolling around on the ground in laughter.One of them looks up at me and says, “That ain’t no lesson!”“It sounds like pretty sound advice to me. I mean, who wants to mess themselves while sleeping?” I wrinkle my nose for emphasis. “I read that somewhere and let me tell you – I ain’t ever forgot it.” I conclude my lesson with a wave and head once again for the door.“What’s your name?” one of them hollers.“Pudding Tang,” I smart back. Ain’t no way I’m telling these kids my name so they can go tell their parents that Savannah told them such mess.