July 04, 2010

A very different Fourth of July picnic

Custer and His Naked Ladies, Janelle Meraz Hooper

Chapter 15- SOAP ON A BOX
Excerpt: (formatting problems, sorry!)
...Vera and Maxine set up the picnic for the first meal. They’d all be there until the fireworks were over later that night, so food would be shuffled in and out of the ice chests all day. Grace had invited Kiowa and Marshall to eat with them;naturally, Maxine was glad they were going to stay near their table to protect Soap. No one around them seemed to notice the company that Grace and her table had were wearing uniforms. The men had been around town for so many years that everyone just accepted them as a natural part of the crowd at any community event.
They did notice the mobsters. Glory wasn’t surprised that everyone gave them a wide berth, even with Kiowa and Marshall there. The mobsters just sneered when they saw Soap, as if the fact that they’d failed to kill him was unsurprising and inconsequential. Glory’s hope of seeing them squirm was not to be fulfilled. At least, they weren’t two-faced enough to smile at Soap and the women as they set up their picnic table. Glory gave them credit for that. They would look at the women and Soap and shift their gun holsters under their suits with their arms. Their demeanor said that they had everything under control, and that Soap’s presence made no difference to them. Had they planned for Soap to be rescued before he drowned? No one would ever know, but Glory didn’t think so.Right next to them, sat Frieda in a lawn chair. By her purse was a disposable ice chest and a grocery sack that looked like it was full of hastily purchased snacks.
“Oh, dear, it looks like she’s brought enough food for the mobsters too,” Grace said, “how did she ever meet them?”
“I don’t know, but her being close to them is no accident,” Vera observed,“One of the mob’s cowboy hats is under her chair.”
“Mom, I’ve told you for years that woman is nuts. She’s going to fool around and get herself hurt,” Glory said. “I can’t believe she was greedy enough to hook up with the mob. If something bad happens, she has it coming.”
The speeches wouldn’t start until nightfall when it cooled off, but groups for and against the casino were already forming around tubs of iced beer. Although it was hot, the adult men wore shirts; only the young boys were shirtless. Glory smiled at the sight of the men in their pressed, short sleeved cotton shirts. There was something respectful about their not sitting shirtless at the tables, as if they’d been raised by a Southern nanny.
By contrast, the mafia formed an uncomfortable,over-dressed third group in striped suits and western shirts, and stood cockily around the soapbox. They’d mumble at each other, then sneer.
Mumble, sneer.
Mumble, sneer.
Vera casually observed the tribe from New York, “They look awfully smug,
don’t they? I wonder what they’re up to?”
“I think they’re trying to intimidate us. And, you know, this is the first time they’ve seen us up close. Maybe they’re sizing us up,” Maxine said.
The women all put their purses on top of the table and raised their eyebrows at the men. The men looked at the flowered purses, then at each other. Puzzled,they shrugged their shoulders. Lordy, Glory thought, this could get ugly. These women had no idea what they would be getting into if a fight started. Glory did. She’d seen the fights between the students and policemen during the peace rallies when she was in college. Many times, she feared the police force might lose it and start firing at the students. It had happened before, at other colleges. If she could have thrown all the women into the car and headed back to Pete’s, she would have. As if they’d go and leave Soap. Well, then, she thought, if she could get Soap to leave, the women would follow.
“Soap, this doesn’t look good. Help me get the girls back to the resort, okay?”
“I can’t leave now, Glory. I could get Kiowa to run you girls home, but I think that we’re safer here, out in the open.”
“Fine. Let’s have a good old-fashioned gunfight and kill everybody.” Glory ignored Soap’s hurt look and turned to join the women.
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