Getting Sorted -4-

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Two things that are both better hot...
catfish restaurant
Getting Sorted


by Erin Halfelven


4. Sex and Catfish

Sue McGehee, the gravel-voiced eponymous owner of McGehee's Catfish Restaurant and Airstrip stood waiting by the live oaks that framed the rear entrance of her place of business. She held an enormous green umbrella but did not venture out to meet Ned and Hank Sweet. On the eastern horizon, false dawn tried to break through the cloud cover but it remained dark, cold, windy and wet.

The cousins threaded their way between puddles and rivulets from where they had tied the little blue Cessna between two tall pecan trees. Warm, mellow light from the catfish restaurant windows and the sodium vapor runway lamps behind them contrasted with the weather.

Rain still fissed and blooed about the Sweets, sometimes directly in their faces, occasionally seeming to come upward under their yellow slickers. It wasn't a hard rain, more of a playful one, but it sent shivers down their backs -- cold as ice cubes, sly as a street child, sharp as a new axe. The scent of the river gusted on the wind, alternating with the aroma of hot Southern fat in a deep fryer.

Sue held the umbrella out for Ned to take which he accepted and promptly passed on to Hank. His hands free, he grabbed tall, bony Sue in an Alabama bear hug and kissed her on the cheek. Her hair smelled of lavender and corn fritters and his stomach rumbled, anticipating.

"What you boys doin' out this way in such weather?" she asked after trading pleasantries. "I ain't had no more trouble with the state about run-off into the river since you'uns fixed me up."

"We just come for the catfish," said Hank, grinning.

"Sure 'nuff," agreed Ned. "Nah, if'n we came just for cat, crawdads and hushpuppies we'd've come when you're open, don't you know?" He grinned at her, making her sweet as they say in Alabama. And the Sweet men knew how to do that.

She grinned, knowing his brand of Southern malarkey for what it was but enjoying the process. "I woke Albert up, he's fixing something special. But let's go aroun' t'front, he's got a cleaver he keeps special for them what tracks mud into his kitchen."

"Yes'm," both Sweets said. An artist like Albert January deserved consideration. They followed Sue thinking about the many blessings of southern cookery they were about to enjoy.

Hank had to swallow several times on the way around the deliberately rustic clapboard building -- his mouth was already watering. A gust of wind from the storm tried to snatch the big green umbrella from him but he managed to hold onto it by taking a running step, unfortunately right onto the heel of one of Ned's Italian loafers.

Ned's foot popped out of the trapped shoe and landed in a mud puddle before he could react. "G-goldangit!" he yelped, remembering just in time that he was in the presence of a flower of southern womanhood.

Said flower paused to observe the misadventure and commented, "You put your muddy foot back in that 'spensive shoe, you gonna fuck it up pretty bad."

"Sorry, Neddie," said Hank. "The wind caught this here bumbershoot and pulled me off balance." A bucketful of hailstones the size of pea gravel rattled against the roof and the big umbrella.

Sue smiled. Ned frowned but said nothing, hobbling on around the side of the restaurant, carrying one shoe. Despite the umbrella and the slickers, they were all soaked and Ned could feel ice water trickling into his underpants because of his peculiar, hunched-over gait.

Just before they reached the door, Sue said, "I almost forgot. The quarest thing happened while you was a-landing. You got a message on the telephone."

"My boys from Okay City delayed?" asked Ned, almost shouting over the roar of the storm.

"No, this was from some fellow in Arkansas," said Sue. "I wrote it down by the phone."

Ned and Hank exchanged glances while Hank held the door for Sue. "Maybe the crew coming through Memphis by car caught up with her?" suggested Hank.

"Sumbitch," agreed Ned.


Meddina looked at Fay. "Who did you call?"

Fay put the old-style phone back on the hook and reached to replace it on the office counter behind him. Since he'd taken over desk duty, officially, as soon as he'd gotten up, he had the nearest chair to the office; half in the office add-on and half in the cabin itself.

"Left a message for someone," he said.

Meddina frowned. "Yes, I heard you. Who did you leave a message for, and who with?"

"Catfish Sue," said Jerry.

"Catfish?" said Meddina.

"This rain, they'll be biting at anything," said Fay.

Meddina rattled her paper at him. "Don't keep trying to pull frog wool over my eyes. You two have been up to something. Messing with the weather, I shouldn't wonder."

Fay hid a smile behind a spoonful of shredded wheat and banana but Jerry grinned right at their older sister.

"Imps," said Meddina. "The both of you. You'll get the others riled up, that old Indian that sleeps under the mountain, the shopkeeper, the smith. And Hermot. Hermot's bench isn't fifty miles from Catfish Sue's place and you know it. Want him after you for playing tricks on people?"

Jerry kept grinning and Fay chewed, solemn as a judge.

"Putting those poor people into cabin five." She glanced at a window. Cabin one being the only one without an attached garage, it had considerable more wall space for windows.

Jerry hid behind his paper. Fay munched cereal and did not look at his sister.

Meddina held her hands up, palms out. First toward the east facing window, then, swiveling like radar dish, toward cabin five. "The sun is up," she announced, "and they're going at it like weasels with their first licorice stick."

Jerry's paper shook. Fay choked on a bit of wheat and banana.


"C'mere," he said, sitting down beside her. The bed sagged still more and emitted that mild stink of old, well-used mattresses rented by the night -- one part mildew, one part dust, one part the detritus of human occupation.

"How can this be real?" she asked. Looking up at him, realizing that even sitting down, he was much taller than she. She could feel switches being flipped inside her, fluids being sent thither and yon, systems getting ready for -- what? She thought she knew and more switches flipped, tripped and knobs turned and sliders slid and all the lights and circuits in her body and mind hummed.

His strength, or rather, her knowledge of his strength did things to her. He looked and smelled so very, very male and when he made a male noise, a chuckle that might have been a growl, she realized that he could easily dominate her. And that one part of her wanted him to do so.

Astonished, she opened her mouth and left it that way, looking up at him.

So he kissed her. His tongue went into her mouth and they did the tonsil dance. She put her arms around his neck and kissed back.

"We can't," she said when they had to stop to breathe. What, she wondered, what was it they couldn't do? Sex seemed not only possible but inevitable.

"Why not?" he asked. "We did it last night?"

"Uh..." she tried to frame a protest but couldn't seem to get her thoughts in order. They kissed again and this time she let the covers she had wrapped around herself fall away. Her breasts got squished against his hard, male chest and it felt wonderful.

She tried again to protest but he kissed her on the ear lobe, the shoulder, the breast, her eyelids and her mouth again. He could so easily have used his strength to dominate her--but he didn't. Instead, he used gentleness to fire the passion inside her, cloaking his power with sweet attentions, inviting her to be the aggressor.

So she bit him. First gently on the lip, then more strongly on his shoulder as he moved her effortlessly higher on the bed. She co-operated feverishly, squirming against him, searching with her hands and her mouth for those places that would make him answer passion with passion. Doing it was much easier than believing in what she was doing.

She felt weightless, filled with light, burning up with purpose she understood in a way she had never comprehended anything before.

"Who knew," he whispered as he arranged her to his convenience and their mutual pleasure.

"Who knew what," she gasped as she spread her legs and hooked her heels over his shoulders.

"Who knew what dreams may come?" he asked just before he plunged his new manhood deep inside her.

She gasped, a long inhalation that would have to be released with a scream.


"Emmaline, you moughtn't want to follow on the boys so close, they could spot us," suggested Molly Jo Sweet to her sister-in-law for about the ninth time since they crossed the bridge at Memphis.

"I gotta be close enough to spot them if they take one of these here exits," Emmaline protested -- again. "It's night and it's rainin', you know, hard to see too far ahead." As if to demonstrate, she leaned against the steering wheel to peer even more intently into the gloom.

"I'm just sayin'," said Molly.

The three women in the back seat of big sedan sniggered. Emmaline ground her teeth together. Molly Jo crossed her arms under her substantial bosom and smiled.

"I don't know why the menfolk all took out after her, anyway," said Sueretta from the middle of the backseat. "If she wants to run away from her own wedding, let her."

"Ned told them to," explained Dottie Mack from behind the driver. "He thinks he's in lurve with the little blonde trollop."

"Well, she don't love him," said Naomi from the right rear corner seat. She fumbled in her purse to pull out a package of homemade candied popcorn and pecans. "Anyone else want some snicker-snack? I'm hungry."

No one answered. Snicker-snack got in your teeth and was pure aitch to remove in a delicate and ladylike manner, especially in a moving car but Naomi was addicted to the rich, buttery concoction made for her by Bella, her New York born, Jamaican cook. As a consequence, perhaps, Naomi was the only Sweet present who wore larger than a size eight.

For a while, Emmaline and Molly Jo left off their bickering and the only sound in the car was Naomi's contented munching, alternating with a sucking sound when she had to prise her jaws open to insert more snicker-snack.

Suretta swallowed saliva a second time, the smell of popcorn, pecan and butter brickle caramel made her mouth water. "Blonde?" she said, looking at Dottie Mack. Every woman in the car unconsciously touched her own blond hair.

"Thass right," Naomi slurred around a mouthful. "I mean, that's wrong, that gold-digger Ceecee is a redhead."

"Blonde," said Emmaline, shaking her head.

"Redhead," said Suretta.

"I'm gone snatch her bald we catch up to the slut," said Molly Jo. "Run off from my brother's wedding. She's trash and I told him so."


Ned read the slip of paper written in Sue McGehee's impromptu scrawl again. "What's this word?" he asked pointing.

Sue frowned. "I think it's Dallas. I think he said Dallas."

The Sweet employees from the Okay City office had arrived and helped hank push two tables together in the middle of the wide part of the front dining room. Everyone had sat down and Sue had poured coffee into heavy white mugs. Fresh cream in little white pitchers sat in the middle of the table alongside ceramic boats of sugar and sweetener packets and little shakers of vanilla powder and Sue's own special blend of chicory, cocoa and cinnamon.

The men helped themselves from dishtowel-covered withy baskets to crisp, corn-and-potato-and-pepper hush puppies which they dipped in the saucers full of sorghum molasses beside every plate. Tall pitchers of apple cider sat at each end of the combined table assembly with stacks of heavy glass tumblers at the ready.

A platter of thin slices of fried country ham arrived, edges crispy with fat. Baskets of fresh buttermilk biscuits replaced the empty hushpuppy ones. A crock of pale, sweet, home-churned butter appeared. A deep bowl of scrambled eggs with parsley and minced onions and another bowl full of country potatoes moved around the table and every man took a helping to his plate.

"Where's the catfish?" asked Hank around a mouthful of ham biscuit.

"January is cutting some special filets, the morning catch just arrived from the river," said Sue, pouring more coffee. Her announcement was greeted with murmurs and moans of anticipation all around.

Sitting at the head of the table, Ned fidgeted against the comfort. He worried about his plane outside in the wind and rain. This was tornado country, though the radio hadn't mentioned any twisters in the area.

He worried even more about his bride who had apparently run off with some fella from Illinois who she must have had waiting for her on that little country lane behind the church. Why would she marry him if she planned to run away? He couldn't figure it out except as some sort of plot to extort money from his family.

He still had the note in his hand, having folded and refolded and unfolded it several times.

"Lemme see," said Hank. Ned handed him the paper.

Hank frowned, his lips barely moving as he puzzled out Sue's chicken scratches. "What's this say?" he asked, pointing.

"Galleria," said Ned. "I'm supposed to meet her at the Dallas Galleria, tonight."

"Sumbitch," said Ned, handing the paper back just as the platters of hot, savory catfish and baskets of more hushpuppies arrived.

Sue had fed the boys ham and biscuits and hushpuppies first, otherwise a hungry man might have drowned in his own saliva, just from the smell.

Ned took the note back, refolding it and putting it into his shirt pocket, putting away his worries, too, for a bit, to enjoy the wonderful meal in the magical setting. Time enough to make decisions later.

"There's early peach cobbler and fresh whipped cream, too," warned Sue, "so save some room."

Outside the storm still spat and complained against the windows, like a passel of contrary cats. Inside it was warm and comfortable with legendary hospitality and food fit for angels and gods.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Fay and Jerry are doing a lot more than I first thought. Okay putting them in one Room Five was one thing. But now, along with clues they'd been messing with the weather to get the Sweets just where they want them, they're also leaving messages. I'm not sure how sending the amorous groom to Dallas will play into their plans but I'm sure we're enjoy seeing the results! Weasels? Licorice? LOL!!!!!!



Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

I made that one up

But it's sure in the style of some country expressions I've heard, like, "so far back in the woods that the hoot owls trod the chickens." :)

A few more clues as to what is going on next episode. :)