Years ago, in one of my writing classes, we had an assignment to write in the style of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and I discovered I had a precocious little girl in me who really wanted to speak! Here is the first piece that emerged. A novel is in the works!
Miss Priss. That’s what she called me, and it wasn’t fair. She didn’t even know me. She could’a called me honey, or darlin’, or sweetie pie, or any of the usual sugary names that people use when they don’t know you and feel a need to talk down to you a little bit, but not so much as to hurt your feelings. Or she could’a actually found out my name – Sable Martin Jenkins. I would’a liked to have heard my name spoken out loud by her with her Yankee accent. Sable. It might have had a nice ring to it. I said hers – Jabeen Duncan. She might’a liked the way I said it, too, if she’d have just given me a chance.
But no. What I got was Miss Priss. She said it with a little snarl in her voice, a little teeny snarl, like she thought I wouldn’t be smart enough to catch it. But I caught it.
I wondered if she’d ever had to pump water from a well or tote it to the house when the ground was frozen slush, trying not to slip down and break your neck. I wondered if she’d ever lay under so many quilts that you couldn’t lift your legs up off the bed, but still have your teeth chatter all night. I wondered if she’d ever had a pony die in your arms, his big, sick nostrils drooling into your shirtfront, his big, sad eyes beseeching you for a miracle, or if she ever had to wear boots two sizes too big cuz they was what you was given and “you’d better damn well be grateful.”
I wasn’t a Miss Priss. Just because I could read a newspaper didn’t mean I knew what it said. I could form the words. I could say the words out loud in a way that made the grownups nod their heads and wink at my mother. I don’t know how I came to be able to do this. I just could.
There wasn’t nothing else Miss Priss about me. My face was covered in freckles. My legs was covered in bug bites and scratches. My fingernails was chewed down to the nubs. And as of yesterday my hair was a true bowl cut, my grandmother having put the bowl on my head and cut round the brim, leaving my tangled curls to fall on the floor. She made me sweep them up and throw them in the fire, saying nothing good could come from long, red hair.
I imagined Jabeen to be the Miss Priss with her long, black hair. I bet she was taking a bath right now in a big old tub with hot water and bubbles, her hair tied up with a little ribbon on top of her head. I bet her pajamas were store-bought with snap closures and eyelet lace trim, with little houseshoes and a housecoat to match. And I bet, for sure, she was thinking about herself and her very fine life, not spending another single minute pondering the hows and wherefores of the little Miss Priss who had accidentally stolen a moment of her thunder on our very first day of school.
© 2010 Angela Hite. All Rights Reserved.