by Wayne Scheer
Emma Lou Weems took a tray of hot biscuits out of the oven. She buttered one for herself and added strawberry jam to the other, leaving the rest of the biscuits on the top of the oven to cool. She poured two cups of freshly brewed coffee, adding enough milk to turn each one paper bag brown. Two cubes of sugar went into one cup and three into hers. She stirred, using one spoon for the two cups, and carefully placed the biscuits and coffee onto a slightly tarnished silver tray.
Emma carried the tray to the front porch, along with paper napkins, and placed it on a small table between two wooden rockers.
“Daddy,” she called. “Coffee’s ready.”
Alton Weems’s slow shuffle in the house could be heard on the porch. It took a few minutes for him to push open the front door. He wore his customary jeans and long sleeved shirt with red suspenders. Patting his daughter’s hand, he carefully lowered himself onto his chair.
“Ahh,” he sighed, settling into his morning rock as intently as an athlete warming up before a game.
His hand shook a bit as he lifted his coffee cup. He used his other hand to steady it and sipped his coffee noisily.
“Looks to be a hot day,” Emma said.
“Uh-huh,” he replied. “Like yesterday and the day before.”
“Might rain this afternoon,” Emma added. “Cool things off.”
He broke off a small bit of his biscuit and chewed slowly. He put it down and picked up his coffee cup.
“There’s sweet potato pie left from last night. You want me to cut you a slice?”
“No, thank you. Coffee will do me right fine. I’ll save this here biscuit for later.”
“I know it’s not like Mama’s biscuits.”
Alton said nothing.
Emma checked her watch.
The Bingham sisters passed in front of their home on their morning walk at precisely seven o’clock.
“Mornin’ Miss Laura. Mornin’ Miss Elizabeth.” Alton spoke. Emma smiled.
“A good mornin’ to y’all,” one of the sisters said.
A minute or two passed in silence. Emma knew what her father would say next.
“Too bad neither of ’em ever married and had children. No one to take care when they get old.”
Emma felt the blood rush to her face as she stared at her bare ring finger. She was supposed to be married by now and raising a family of her own, but when Mama passed, she had to stay with her father.
A few minutes later, she stood up, holding her empty coffee cup. “I made you a sandwich with last night’s chicken, Daddy. And there’s fruit in the refrigerator. I’ll be home after work to fix dinner.”
“You drive safe now, y’hear?” Alton whispered, already drifting into his first nap of the day. She took his empty cup.
“You’re a good girl, Emma Lou.”
She smiled and kissed her father’s forehead.
◊ ◊ ◊
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He’s published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments https://issuu.com/pearnoir/ a collection of flash stories. His short story, “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film. https://vimeo.com/18491827 Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife.
6 thoughts on “Southern Charm”
A bittersweet, or better, sweetly bitter tale, told with artful economy. AGB
Yes, even acts of love can rebound and hurt. Well written.
Very nicely written. I want some of those biscuits.
The tautness of the writing matches the jolt of her emotion at the end. Very powerful.
Wonderful use of words to create the perfect ambiance. The sadness is catching.
A very touching story.