And This Little Indian Ate Fried Chicken

July 7, 2013
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I had been traveling all night long, and I desperately needed a rest. I soon found myself in a quiet neighborhood somewhere in Georgia. I had decided to take a trip across the country so that when school returned, I would actually have something to talk about with my white friends; they always had exciting summers. I once heard that a kid at school went to Costa Rica! Damn, I would never make it out of the country... So back to my present situation, I wanted to impress my white friends by backpacking across the country. My friends on the reservation said they'd give me ten days, and today makes the tenth day. I am tired, hungry, and disgusted with my own stench; this just might be the day that I throw in the towel.

But then I came upon this house. It was a small house with a relatively large yard that was home to a couple of fat cows; visions of steak blinded me. When I came back to earth, a thin woman stood in front of the house picking flowers. She stopped and looked up at me, then ran inside.

Is my body odor that bad?...

Suddenly, a large black woman in faded overalls stepped out onto the front porch; the young woman stood behind her.

“Hi, there!” I called. I awkwardly raised my hand and waved.

“Hello, how may we help you?” the fat woman in overalls asked with a strong southern accent.

“Umm, well you see I've been traveling all night and was wondering if I could rest at your house for a while,” I said. Silence filled the air and I wondered if that was my cue to leave. But as I turned to leave, the fat woman said, “Sure child, come rest your feet and let's get some food in your tiny belly.”

After coming inside and setting my bag down, we all gathered in the small over-furnished living room. There were rockers, a sofa, and a small radio. The room seemed so much more warm and welcoming compared to my family room back on the reservation. I sat down on a rocker and started our conversation by introducing myself, “Thanks for letting me come inside, I'm Arnold Spirit.”

“It's a pleasure to meet you Arnold. I'm Mama Johnson, and this is my daughter Maggie.” Mama Johnson was fat and old. Her eyes were wrinkled and it looked like she was missing a few teeth. Maggie was very thin and frail; she wore a blue dress that covered her entire body. She also made zero eye contact.

I wonder what her problem is.

“It's nice to meet you guys, too,” I said. “This is a very nice home you have.”

“Well thank you, boy. Now tell me, where are you from?” She said as she eased herself onto the worn down leather sofa.

“I'm from a small Indian reservation in Washington,” I said as I pushed my glasses further up my nose.

“That's a mighty long ways from here! Why are you in Georgia?” Mama Johnson asked me. I explained why I was so far from home and how I had happened to stumble upon their house. Mama Johnson laughed and shook her head, “That's quite a story young man. Come, let's fix you something to eat from the breakfast left-overs.”

That day, I had the best brunch of my entire life. There were biscuits, gravy, sausage, and bacon that was so crispy and tasty that I could have sworn a gourmet chef had made it. This food was so much different from the food I regularly ate.

If my mom were ever to make me breakfast, it would probably consist of a slice of toast and a glass of milk. Definitely nothing as extravagant as this!

When I had finished devouring my bacon, Mama Johnson explained that she had to go outside to milk the cows. Before she left she gave me a set of towels and showed me where the shower was. I thanked her and then took a long shower; the shampoo smelled like flowers. Afterwards, I changed into new clothes and sat back down in the living room. Maggie quietly walked in and sat opposite of me on the sofa.

Something is definitely wrong with this girl. Does she know how to talk?

“Would you like something to drink?” Maggie asked me so quietly that I thought it was just my imagination.

“Umm, no thanks...” I replied. The silence hung in the air for maybe a few minutes when it was interrupted by the heavy footsteps of Mama Johnson coming in through the back door.

Eww, she reeks of cow manure.

“Okay children, how 'bout you help me prepare supper?” Mama Johnson called.

Wait – Is she going to clean up first? Hmm, I might not eat tonight...

“But first, let me get cleaned up,” Mama Johnson said as she walked towards the bathroom.

Phew! Thank God.

While Mama Johnson cleaned up, Maggie and I started on the dinner. I cut up some chicken, and I saw Maggie prepare some sort of batter for the chicken, I guess. Next, we peeled the potatoes, chopped them, and started making mashed potatoes. Boy, were they putting me to work! Back on the rez, my family would eat fried chicken too, but it was always from some cheap fast food place, never home-made. This was so much more different than what I'm used to back on the rez. Mama Johnson came in to help us and started by frying the chicken. Boy, oh boy, did that smell tasty! She then finished making the mashed potatoes and got some left-over green beans out of the fridge. I set the table with plates, cutlery, and glasses of sweet tea. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a framed picture; in it were Maggie and some other cute chick.

I wonder who that is. A friend, maybe?

Dinner was served and I had zero complaints about my meal. There was flavor, texture, and hell of a lot of conversation going on at the table. Well, really just between me and Mama Johnson, Maggie just ate her food and nodded. If I had been home, not only would my family be eating lousy sandwiches, but we'd also be sitting in different rooms. The family life down here in Georgia is so different from the rez! Following dinner, Mama Johnson and I went to sit outside while Maggie cleaned the table and washed the dishes. The hot southern air hung above our heads while we sipped our sweet tea; for a long time we just sat there not even caring about the pesky mosquitos or the stench of cow manure. The bugs were really attracted to me, it must've been because my hair still smelled like flowers. It was I that broke the silence of the warm summer night.

“Mama Johnson,” I asked, “how will I ever be able to repay you?”

“Child, no need to repay me. I'm just glad I was able to help you,” she replied with a kind smile on her round face. She really was such a nice old lady. If it were my parents, they would have charged someone to stay at our house; but this old woman and her daughter just welcomed a complete stranger into their house, free of charge! I mean, what if I had been some psycho?!

“Well, thanks! You're seriously the nicest lady I've ever met. But I wanna know, why?”

“Why what?”

“I mean, why are you so nice?”

“Well you see, that's how I was raised. I was taught to be kind and gentle to my children and to others that needed help. Ain't you ever done something nice for someone that you didn't know?”

“Probably, I just don't remember.”

Maggie now joined us on the porch just as the fireflies came out to illuminate the now dark yard. We chatted briefly before deciding to head inside and go to bed. Maggie showed me to a room that was much more refined than the rest of the house. The bed was neatly made and there was no clutter to be seen.

Wow! This looks like it came out of a magazine!

A picture on the nightstand had the same chick in the one from the living room; this must've been her room. I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and re-taped my already broken glasses. I looked in the mirror that hung above the dresser; my K-mart shirt had grease stains and holes in it. I looked like a nerdy hobo. A knock came at my door and Mama Johnson entered. She wore an ugly nightgown and some dirty slippers.

“Is there anything else you need to make you sleep better? I have a night light if you want one,” Mama Johnson softly asked.

“Okay, sure. Why not? But I wanna let you know that I'll be leaving tomorrow morning after breakfast,” I told her as she plugged the night light in.

“Okay, then sleep well boy. You'll need to get plenty of rest if you're to continue on that long journey of yours.”

“Yup. Well, good night Mama Johnson.”

“Good night Arnold. Sleep tight.”

Mama Johnson closed the door behind her as she left. I crawled into the bed and just stared at the ceiling thinking about my day. Thinking about how lucky I was that I found this place. I'm sure Mama Johnson and Maggie thought I was weird when they saw me, but they still let me come into their home. And if they hadn't taken me in, I surely would have starved. Then I would have forced myself to eat garbage. Yuck. But I got lucky, and I was for sure gonna share this story with my family and brag to my best friend Rowdy that I got to eat gourmet fried chicken. And man, Mama Johnson and Maggie are so close! Sure my family loves each other, but not like these southern people do. I guess thats just what they're accustomed to. I breathed out a deep sigh and reached over and turned the nightstand lamp off. The house got real quiet, and soon I found myself deep in slumber. Dreaming of fried chicken, gravy, and the cute chick from the photos.

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