Lemme tell y'all somethin'. Back in the 1800s when Davy Crockett lost some election he was runnin' for in Tennessee, he said somethin' like "Y'all can go to hell, but I'm going to Texas". Now I don't know much about histories and such, though I was schooled more'n anybody in my family. Up to the tenth grade and all. But I know that Davy Crockett was some kinda hero who stayed round here for a spell and that's why our town's called Crockett, Texas. My name is Dilly Ann Duggan, and I ain't braggin' but I have got to be the prettiest, nicest and most smartest girl in town. I take care to look real good everyday, I go to church on Sundays and I never gossip. Why I still live here, I don't know.
I work here too, but only on Wednesdays, over at Ginger's Curl Up and Dye. It's a hair salon for the finer ladies on the right side of the tracks in Crockett. I have the same four clients ask for me every Wednesday, and I'd like to think that's because of my certification from the hairdresser's school. I'm beginnin' to think though that it's really because I don't give them no back talk when they tell me to color their hair pink or perm their hair into ringlets tighter'n Shirley Temple's. I just do what I'm told and keep my mouth shut. Even when they tip me only two quarters for their weekly hair appointment and gossip session.
The four ladies have known each other pretty much since birth and have never left Crockett, even to go pretend-shoppin' at the Neiman Marcus for a day in Dallas. Birdie, Ida, Ruby and Lou Belle do everything together. They are all members in the Daughters of the Confederacy and love to talk about how that makes them better than the rest of us. Out of the 300 churches in our county, the four ladies even go to the same church - the only one that actually has a dress code and makes you have a special invitation to get in. And they all volunteer together at the food pantry for at least an hour every year. They're a tightly knit group of friends, I guess. That's why they're always gossipin' about each other, 'specially when one of the group has to miss her hair appointment for a doctor's visit or somethin'. I ain't no gossip, like I said, but I got a good memory and a spiral notebook that I like to write in. Here are their stories...at least, when they're not around:
For an old lady, Birdie had more vanity runnin' through her blood than you could shake a stick at. And she was always goin' on about it. How she was so trim and pretty. How her figure was the envy of every woman and how she could put a pistol in the pocket of every man in Crockett. "I'm thinking she don't have no face mirror to look in because she got a face like a frog," Ida said, blowin' on a fresh paint of nail polish she had put on herself. Ida liked to save money by doin' her own manicure and usin' our paints to do it. "Bless her heart," Ruby said real quick. See, that was their way. When one of them said somethin' mean about the other, then another would say 'bless her heart' to make it seem like they really ain't bein' mean. Lou Belle said, "Birdie might have some young buck in her bedroom, but we all know she's just trying to make Homer jealous." Lord a mercy, I prayed. Every time I hear about Birdie and her brother Homer together, I feel a kind of shame so hot that I think I'm gonna puke. But worse, to think Ida's carryin' on with the young but red-faced town gravedigger. Shameful. I remember once Birdie defendin' herself. She said, "Just because I'm beddin' a gravedigger don't mean my chris'mas is dead." Anyway, fat Ruby, who is the laziest lady in Crockett, repeats herself with "Bless her heart," and adds in, "Well, it's like I always said. If Birdie would get off that skinny butt of hers and put on some weight, she could get her a man and not be pining after that Homer." Like a few extra pounds is gonna make any man in a hundred miles look at her! Every single solitary soul in Crockett knows about Birdie and Homer. We just don't say nothin' because Homer owns the glove makin' factory in town and has the most jobs even though he only pays half the wages under the table. And from what older folks say, the two have been carryin' on since they was kids. Now I don't know when them two first fell into sin. What I do know is that when Birdie came home with a baby 37 years ago, she was carrying Sidney Jay in her arms. He was her son...and her nephew. To this day, poor Sidney Jay just ain't quite right and that's just plain wrong.
Once when I touched up Ida's gray roots and styled her thinnin' red hair, she acted all pleased and whirled around in her salon chair to face me. "Dilly Ann," she started up, "I'm going to give you the best tip you could ever get." And oh how my heart nearly jumped out of my chest! This was hotdoggin' good news to me because I knew Ida could make her friends act all monkey see, monkey do. Ida is like the town trend-setter. One time, the ladies saw cheap Ida gift a broken lawnmower to some poor kids, only to take it back when they fixed it. Birdie, Ruby and Lou Belle all started back-takin' too. Same with food donations. When Ida's old freezer finally conked out, she donated all the freezer-burned meat she had stored in there for 10 years. The ladies just followed along, cleaning out their freezers and cupboards of old, unwanted stuff and giving it away to poor folks. They gave me an old freezer-burned turkey instead of a tip for Thanksgiving one year. They said they don't like to spoil the help, but they felt right generous that year. I tossed it out for the buzzards, but they wouldn't even get anywhere near it. Anyway, so when Ida said she was gonna tip me good, I figured this would start a trend with the ladies and I could finally save up enough money to get out of Crockett. "You remember when Ida gave you that wonderful tip, don't you, Dilly Ann?" crazy Birdie asked me one day when Ida was gettin' her beauty rest. We all knew she was really sleepin' off a cheap whiskey hangover. "Ida is always lookin' out for the poor and helpless," Lou Belle chimed in before I could answer. Fat Ruby agreed and said, "I just really wish she would look after her helpless self a lot more. Ida is a big-hearted lady living in her cups like some damn drunk off the streets." It was crazy Birdie's turn this time. "Bless her heart," she said. It was just as well that the ladies forgot crazy Birdie's question to me about cheap Ida's tip to me. I just as soon like to forget about it myself. It was that bad. How would you like it if you got a tip on a business card that said "Thank you for your service. Turn over for a tip", then when you turn it over, it said, "Jesus Saves"? I already knew that, you know. I mean, I'm churched, but I'd still rather have the usual two quarters for a tip.
"Ruby is so fat because she's so dad-gummed lazy," Ida announced one Wednesday when Ruby had to miss her appointment at Ginger's Curl Up And Dye. She was supervisin' the maid while she dusted off Ruby's prized souvenir plate collection. "Bless her heart," Lou Belle piped in. Then, crazy Birdie filled us in, "She's got that new maid over there to dust, but what she really wants her to do is cook up that whole box of Omaha steaks that came in the mail." See, fat Ruby would rather mail-order all her food than bother gettin' in her car and drivin' two blocks to the Piggly Wiggly to buy it. It ain't like she's shamed by her fat. Ruby's one of them big, beautiful and proud ladies. It's just that she can't stand the extra moving around, specially if someone else can do it for her. Like when she asked me to hand her the root beer she brought into the salon one day. It was right in front of her on the manicure table! It's just that she'd of had to lean forward a few inches to get it. When she ordered me to take the straw out of its wrapper for her root beer, I almost told her to do it her own lazy self. It ain't like she's weak or sore with the arthritis or nothin'. I guess more'n anythin', Ruby is feelin' entitled to havin' folks wait on her hand and foot. After all, she met her lover boy when she was 13, married him when she was 14, fattened him up like a balloon, then buried him 40 years later after they had to cut a big ol' openin' in her house to get his huge dead body out. Ruby's still sayin' that it was love that made them both so fat. And here I was thinkin' that it was the chili dogs, cheese grits and chocolate pies that did it.
When Lou Belle was in high school, the boys would call her Cow Belle because of her bosoms. At least, that's what I heard the day that Lou Belle was supposed to be helpin' Pastor Earl set up the church's book-keepin' records. We all knew that Pastor Earl was up in his office bouncin' around ol' Lou Belle's tee-taws. "Oh, Lordy. I like to die thinking about the time them boys saw Lou Belle's boobies and just turned and high-tailed it out of there!" crazy Birdie declared. She gave us all the details. Lou Belle was in the 11th grade when she figgered out how to put her bosoms to good use. She started flashin' 'em. First time she did it though was to them boys who teased her and, man alive, if that didn't shut them up. Lou Belle had snuck up to the art class and stolen a bunch of pink and white paint. She was pretty good at paintin' pictures, so no one thought to question why she was up there over lunch period. Anyways, Lou Belle went and painted her own boobies up like two cow udders. "Looked like the real thing, too. Had four teats and all," Birdie remembered to us. "Afterwards, she went to the cafeteria where them boys were, marched right up to them and bawled real loud like a lost calf. Then she yanked up her shirt for all the world and God to see, and them boys just up and ran!" Birdie said, smilin' and shakin' her head. Ida said, "Bless her heart. If she would a stopped that flashin' in high school, Lou Belle wouldn't be carryin' on the way she does now." Everybody in Crockett knows that Lou Belle has a heap of pride in her bosoms. She even went to the hospital to "touch 'em up" which meant some kind of uplift job because they stick out even more. After her operation, Lou Belle told us about she got to be head of the Crockett Church Ladies Society which is somethin' every lady wants to be. Pastor Earl was so smitten with her new and expandin' bust line and said so, after politely askin', "Ma'am, may I take liberties with your bosom?" And that's how she got the spot to be head Church Lady. It's also how she pays her mechanic, plumber, butcher, roofer and any other man who does the work she needs.
Here's my own story...
Dilly Ann Duggan
A few months ago, I had a fallin' out with the ladies. I also got fired from Ginger's Curl Up And Dye. For gossipin', of all things. I said it once and I'll say it again. I. Ain't. No. Gossip. Just because I showed my spiral notebook to some movie people who were makin' a show about Bigfoot in the Davy Crockett National Forest, everybody in town is mad at me. You'd think they'd thank me. The movie people are gonna do a reality show right here in Crockett! They's thinkin' about callin' it 'Gossiping with the Gals' or somethin' like that. Well, that's all good and fine with me, but for some reason the ladies are boilin' mad at me. I don't care. The movie people paid me good money for my spiral notebook. I bought a bus ticket to Los Angeles. I'm thinkin' with my looks and brains, I'll be a star in no time. I took a step up on the bus, turned around to the angry crowd watchin' me go and yelled as loud as I could, "Y'all can go to hell. I'm goin' to California!"