Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love is Blue ... At Times

Love is Blue ... At Times

By Cappy Hall Rearick

“True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights.

If you hear bells, get your ears checked.” ~Erich Segal

Snooks’s boyfriend heard that a Mississippi riverboat had come to town.

“They’ve got a fellow on that boat plays the Delta Blues on a harmonica and people say he’s real good, even though when he sings he sounds like a screen door that needs oiling.”

In time Snooks would discover the fact that not only was Harold not musically inclined, he was totally tone deaf.

“They got a piano player too,” she asked.

He nodded. “Sounds like Jellyroll Morton they say.”

Snooks loved music, especially the blues; Harold loved booze. Snooks felt she had the right to love the blues because she knew what it was like to pick cotton until the tips of her fingers bled. Even at the tender age of twenty, she went to bed at night with her back aching from stooping.

The Prohibition Act had put a damper on the consumption of alcohol, so folks quickly learned to BYOB. Those who could afford to boarded riverboats, bringing along their own spirits. A riverboat during prohibition was the place to dance, gamble and hear live music. Young people in search of good times crowded the decks.

At first glance, the riverboat looked like other paddle wheelers Snooks often saw clanging their bells down the Yazoo River and the Mighty Mississip. Once on board, however, she discovered a different view and she liked it. A lot.

“How about a swig of my hooch,” Harold asked. Snooks sipped on the bottle he had concealed inside his jacket, and then she headed for the dance floor. He followed.

Her smile just wouldn’t go away. Her dancing feet wouldn’t stop moving to the heartfelt songs sung by a man who called himself “Blind Man Sonny.” The piano player banged out an occasional Scott Joplin tune trying as though trying to rouse those passengers feeling the effects of bootleg whiskey.

Throughout the evening and with each sip of hooch, the comfort level in Snooks’s new surroundings grew, as did her laughter. Never in her young life could she remember having so much fun.

While they were dancing close together and listening to a woman who sounded a lot like Bessie Smith sing Backwater Blues, Harold whispered in her ear, “Will you marry me tomorrow?”

She didn’t hesitate. “Nope. I’m gonna have a hangover tomorrow.”

And she did.

Snooks was staying with her older sister in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, taking a break from the farm out in the country where she lived with her family. Big sister was a teetotaler whose membership in a hardshell Baptist Church preached zero tolerance for alcohol and dancing. She was not one bit happy when the morning after the riverboat excursion, Snooks was too hung over to eat breakfast. She was even more put out when the doorbell rang before nine o’clock and a gentleman asked to speak to her sister.

“Wake up, Snooks. Wake up,” big sister hissed, pulling covers from off her groggy and much hung over sibling. “Somebody’s here to talk to you and he won’t say what it’s about. What did you do last night?”

The last thing big sister needed to hear was that little sister got pie-eyed.

“Get up out of that bed right now and go in there and find out what that man wants with you. You hear me?”

Snooks dragged herself into the living room and there stood Harold, decked out in a suit, tie and polished shoes, looking better than he had a right to. Nervous, he held a hat in his hands and twirled it around and around. Next to him stood a stout man with a fringe of grey hair circling his pate. He was holding a Bible.

“What are you doing here,” Snooks asked Harold.

“I’m here to marry you.”

She blanched. “I told you I was gonna be hung over today and couldn’t marry you.”

The heavy-set man cleared his throat. “Miss, you might as well go on in there and get dressed. This man is determined to marry you today. I’m a Justice of the Peace and he won’t let me go back home until I tie the knot.”

On Valentine’s Day, a few years after Snooks agreed to marry Harold in her sister’s living room, she gave birth to a daughter and they named her Cappy.

Happy Birthday to me!