Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns Read Free Book Online

Book: Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns Read Free Book Online
Authors: Olive Ann Burns
    "Pa won't let anybody in the sickroom," she whispered. "Not even me and Loma." Tears welled up in her eyes. "But he'll want to see you, Will."
    "Is she still hiccuppin'?" I whispered back.
    "No, it fine'ly stopped, thank the Lord."
    Granny was propped up on pillows in the big high-back walnut bed. Her eyes were closed. Her face looked gray. I thought she was
dead, but when I stared hard at her chest, I saw a faint rise and fall. Not knowing what to say or do, I tiptoed in and just stood at the foot of the bed, one bare foot on top of the other, and looked at her and Grandpa.

    He hadn't seen me come in. Sitting in a cane-back rocker pulled up by the bed, he was resting his left elbow near Granny's head. The empty knotted sleeve lay crumpled against her gray hair, and he held her small right hand in his big bony one. He was staring at Granny like she could hold on to life if only he didn't blink. But all of a sudden Grandpa's chest started jerking in the strangest way, and his eyes squeezed shut. Between the heavy mustache and the bushy, white-streaked beard, his mouth stretched across his teeth in a fierce smile. Then his lips squeezed shut. Though he made no sound, his chest kept jerking. I didn't know what to think. It scared me.
    But then he gasped, and tears ran down his cheeks as he buried his face in his hand.
    I had never in my life seen a grown man cry that way. Preachers and sinners cried at revivals, and old Chickenfoot Creesie, a colored man, would cry when he came to our back door begging vittles for his children on a cold winter day. But not silent like this.
    Grandpa would of hated being seen. I sneaked out of the room, went out on the back porch, and stood watching Granny's White Leghorn rooster chase the dominecker hens and the Rhode Island Reds. Then I went in the kitchen, where several ladies were talking. The table was just full of good things folks had brought in, and I ate some fried chicken and a piece of lemon meringue pie.
    When I peeped into the sickroom again, Grandpa was bent forward in the rocker, his arms and head resting on the bed by Granny's side. Her eyes were still closed, but her right hand brushed across his mane of dark hair.
    "You need ... y' hair ... cut ... Mr. Bla'slee...." Her words came weak and slurred. The left side of her mouth drooped like a rosebud gone too long without water. "Soon's I git ... better ... I'm go'n ... cut it ... trim y' beard."
    At which Grandpa got up quickly and stood a spell before the window, getting aholt of himself. After he sat back down in the rocker, he gently pushed the hair off Granny's damp forehead,
then blew his nose loudly—like a foghorn, tell the truth—and said, "I seem to of caught a li'l cold, Miss Mattie Lou."

    That's when he saw me standing in the doorway.
    "Grandpa," I said, "why don't you go get you some lemon meringue pie? I'll sit with Granny."
    He started to argue, but Granny smiled a tiny one-sided smile and said, "Let Willy ... I ain't hardly ... seen ... m' Willy...."
    Soon as he tiptoed out, she closed her eyes. I think she slept. In a few minutes Grandpa was back with a dark red rose in his hand, biting off the thorns and spitting them out as he walked toward the bed. When Granny roused a little he held the rose close to her face. His hand was trembling. He said gruffly, "Here."
    She tried to take the blossom but it fell to the sheet. Picking it up, he sat staring at it, then spoke real low to her. "I remember you had a red rose like this'n in yore hair the day I decided to marry you. Recollect thet Sunday, Miss Mattie Lou?"
    She kind of nodded and just barely smiled, her mouth listing to the left.
    "I hadn't laid eyes on you since you was a li'l girl, till thet day. You was sech a sweet thang," he said softly, his face close to hers, his hand caressing her cheek. "Yore eyes was all feisty and yore feet patted out the organ music whilst we talked. Was thet really the first time you ever set outside with the young

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