“What you want for lunch today? We got a roast beef or some a this chicken pie left over . . .” I lean in the refrigerator. I’ve got to make a decision about Leroy, tell him how it is. Either you quit beating on me, or I’m gone. And I’m not taking the kids either. Which ain’t true, about the kids, but that ought to scare him more than anything.
“I don’t want anything.” Miss Celia stands up, slips off one red high heel, then the other. She stretches her back, still staring out the window at that tree. She cracks her knuckles. And then she walks out the back door.
I see her on the other side of the glass and then I see the axe. I get a little spooked because nobody likes to see a crazy lady with an axe in her hand. She swings it hard through the air, like a bat. A practice chop.
“Lady, you done lost it this time.” The rain is pouring down all over Miss Celia, but she doesn’t care. She starts chopping at that tree. Leaves are sprinkling down all over her, sticking in her hair.
I set the platter of roast beef down on the kitchen table and watch, hoping this doesn’t turn into something. She bunches her mouth up, wipes the rain from her eyes. Instead of getting tired, every chop comes a little harder.
“Miss Celia, come on out the rain,” I holler.
But she’s nothing doing. She’s made it halfway through that trunk and the tree’s starting to sway a little, drunk as my daddy. Finally I just plop down in the chair where Miss Celia was reading, wait for her to finish the job. I shake my head and look down at the newspaper. That’s when I see Miss Hilly’s note tucked underneath it and Miss Celia’s check for two hundred dollars. I look a little closer. Along the bottom of the check, in the little space for the notes, Miss Celia’s written the words in pretty cursive handwriting: For Two-Slice Hilly.
I hear a groan and see the tree crash to the ground. Leaves and dead fronds fly through the air, sticking all over her Butterbatch.