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Old Hat, by Sue Walker
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Old Hat, by Sue Walker.

The woman's straw hat hides the sun as she lisps and holds out her hand to catch scribbles of rain. She has not been out in the rain too long; she has not been waiting for the bus, waiting for the man who didn't get off the bus when it stopped at the corner of University and Azalea, and even if this is story, invention, imagination, and loosely true as an untied sneaker, she is not a siletto, not an azalea, not a rose, not a tulip or honeysuckle growing along the back fence, nor is she what her neighbor says about her: "shhhh, don't repeat this, but I think she's not married to that redneck swaggering dude who comes to her house," who enters through the back door, who stays long past sunset, even if he arrives at 2:00 p.m. when he ought to be at work instead of lolling around in the glider with his arm around her shoulder, his arm bold as the hovering oak they're gliding under. She ought to know he'll bruise her ivory petals, those would-be pretty petals falling on the ground, but before it starts to rain again, before it starts to storm, and the electric lights flicker and go out-and it's not possible-even when standing by the fence that doesn't make good neighbors, to overhear her telling her beau, "don't you just love those long rainy Southern afternoons before the sun has set, but here, let me fix you a julep," then maybe on her way to the kitchen, she sings "On Mobile Bay-when I gave my heart away," and even in the thrust of song, the full throttle of it, her drawl liquid beyond measure, she hands him the silver cup-but not before, not before she sweetens the water mixed with white confectioners sugar, with an ounce of Jim Beam, and a fresh mint leaf on top, and she is stirring, stirring the mixture, mix of memory, with her index finger, until the drink starts to swirl like her heart, and it doesn't matter if the sun's gone down, the evening sun, no, it doesn't matter if it's still sprinkling rain, a candle is newly lit, its scent magnolia, her bed sheets silk, a far cry from straw and a misremembered hat, for on an evening like this, this evening, she's young again, wanting and wanted and wet like rain.































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