Monday, October 3, 2011

Cracker Jack

Cracker Jack

Her brain was different. She couldn’t remember the sweltering hot summer evenings they giggled in the bleachers watching the boys play baseball. After school they’d skip home, gulp down milk on the back shed stoop. The smell of lumpy bags of potatoes and carrots leaning up in the woody, dark corner filled the hot air. After the last bite of the fresh baked cookie they’d race up the back staircase into her bedroom. Fussing and flopping onto the bed; deciding what to wear to the game. Pinching their cheeks with cream rouge and tinting their youthful pouts with red lipstick. 

Evelyn’s brain was different and her best friend Delores would never be able to thank her. It was forty-three years later. Evelyn just sat in her chair, lap quilt covering her legs, starring out the window. Delores came every day to visit. There were only three things that lit up Evelyn’s eyes. The taste of Cracker Jack, the feel of her sheepskin mittens of winters long ago and the sight of her tattered photograph of her and Delores. These are the three things that connected them to their past and after an hour of them, Delores would give hugs and walk out the door.

Evelyn and Delores met in fourth grade. There were exactly fifteen row houses between them and two fire hydrants. 

Evelyn’s parents ran the furrier uptown and many winter afternoons when the storage section of the business was slow, the girls would be hired to clean the large cooler room. Between the racks and empty hangers they would sing and dance; pretending they were on stage; performing to standing ovations and picking up dozens of roses off the creaky wooden floor. Evelyn had an imagination to carry them both through many boring moments. Her eyes would sparkle and then in a snap second she’d come up with a new and exciting idea for fun. After their housekeeping was finished they would head outside to play in the snow banks; sticking their tongues out to catch fluffy snowflakes. 

Eve and Delly laughed a lot. Eve possessed the kind of funny bone that made her whole body go weak when she found something humorous. More often than not they landed in the snow bank beside one another, tossing handfuls of snow at each other. One afternoon a reporter from the local newspaper stopped and asked them if he could photograph them. The girls loved this; insisting to their classmates that they had become famous and sure enough, the image landed on the front page along with a story about the severe weather the area was experiencing that year. Eve and Delly were each given a copy of the photo as a keepsake. 

Eve and Delly cried a lot too. Mostly about boys and mostly at the baseball field while they ate Cracker Jack as they watched the practices. As they moved through womanhood, mysterious adolescent moods and awkward boyfriend experiences, they supported each other. Giving hugs and making crafty greeting cards. They were always grateful and said so in their many scribbled notes to one another, ‘Thank goodness only one of us gets sad at one time. xo.’ 

Delly met Jack the year of the girls’ high school graduation. He was new to town and swept her off her feet. Eve was never left behind. It was the unwritten law of the ‘Cracker Jack Girls’, as they were known by everybody who knew them. Delly and Jack and Eve were inseparable. And then Jack proposed. Eve was the most beautiful Maid of Honor anyone had ever seen. Some whispered, ‘Prettier than the Bride’. 

After the ‘I Do’s’ it all changed. Delly’s husband became more and more adamant that his new wife be home to see to his needs; pressures of the weak economy brought more stress on the newlyweds. He became irritated at Delly for talking about Eve. He slowly silenced her and quickly built a wall and a wedge between the best friends. 

People in town saw Eve’s sad eyes. Jack became known as ‘Cracker Jack’. A negative judgment of a husband who erased a childhood friendship. Eve and Delly were resilient and resourceful. They could speak without speaking, they could communicate by sense and both were determined to change the way things had gone. The baseball diamond was the only place they could visit. Eve started dating a player on Jack’s team. She didn’t even really like him much; she just knew it was her chance at ‘bat’. To be with Delly. To keep her friendship alive. 

One evening after dinner, Eve gathered up the courage to walk the three blocks over to Delly’s apartment. She thought it would be nice to sit out on the porch until sunset. Perhaps lemonade. Maybe a few cigarettes. Hopefully acceptance and hugs. What she came upon would change their lives forever. 

As Eve approached the building she could hear muffled screams of Jack. He was hollering at Delly. Eve’s heart started pounding as she ran up the narrow stairs to the second floor. She banged on the door calling out for Del. ‘Go away Eve’, he shouted. ‘You have no business being here. Leave!’ Panicking to open the door she yelled to the neighbours below to come and help. Within seconds they ran up to kick in the thick wood door. It slammed to the floor. There inside, huddled in the corner was a tearful, distraught Delly. Covering her head, begging for kindness within a rage of violence. Jack was wielding his baseball bat.‘ Stay away from her Jack’ screamed Eve. ‘Don’t touch her.’ 

The neighbours tried to calm Jack down while Eve made jerking attempts to get past him. It was a frightful segment of confusion and shouting and fear and pleading. Jack warned them. He threatened to hit Delly if they did not leave his home. And then Eve moved in. She ducked around Jack to cover Delly. Standing tall she announced to him to back away. 

And then he swung. The heavy, heaving bat hit Evelyn’s temple with a watery, horrific smack. Her brain was different.

- This photofiction was written by Patti Friday

Photo: Shorpy

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