She doesn't make sense, "A thousand years? Grandma," she grabs my ears then tugs, "So your ears are hearing! How did you know I said 'one-thousand' Taha?" She does this to me all the time, she makes me think, "I heard you and I'm not waiting a thousand years to marry the boy!" She smiles, lifts my chin again, "Be still, only one more corncob. Did you hear me in English?" I open my mouth, her finger is right under my chin again to close my mouth.
Grandma works out a swath of my raven black hair, dips her fingers in a bowl of corn starch she mixed up in her kitchen then wets my hair. I feel tugging at my scalp while she rolls my hair around a corncob, "I heard you in English." She doesn't say a word, fetches her string and ties her corncob in place, "Hold still, girl, so I can cut this." Loose end of her string snakes across my face and tickles. Grandma reaches behind me to top of our toilet, then I hear her scissors click and this tickling snake falls away. I can tell she is rummaging on her shelf above, "Tilt your head back, I'll smear some smell good on you." I will smell like sweet flowers, this is the only bottle of perfume we have, well, except for a tiny bottle grandma keeps in her memory box. During the first great war, grandpa sends her this French perfume from Europe to let her know he is still alive and still in love with her. Wouldn't do any good to send her letters, grandma can't read nor write. She runs a finger up one side of my neck, then my other side, "I smell good, Billyray will get a whiff then swoon like a lovebird!" Grandma laughs and adds, "afammi achuffa". Tell her I can't wait a year to marry him and make babies. She squeezes my shoulder, "We've talked about this a thousand times, you have to wait a year to turn thirteen." Tell her with a grin, "awah tuchina, thirteen!" She laughs, grandma laughs a lot and I add, "But he will marry me before I am thirteen, I'll see to this."
Tugging at my arm, Grandma makes me stand, "Get on in there to our clothes closet and pick out a pretty dress and shoes, you have to wear shoes and socks, you listening." Tell her, "Yes, ma'am." I love our hand-me-down clothes, we have lots, I have a dress in mind an aunt wears decades back. She nudges me, "Don't just stand there all dreamy eyed over that cowboy of yours, get your pretty butt in there, you're going to be late." Grandma gives my bare butt a slap for emphasis.
I decide to cut through our kitchen to get to our bedroom with a closet full of old clothes. Walking in, there sits the love of life, my boy, my husband. He looks over at me, gives naked me a once over, keeps a poker face on then returns to whatever he is eating. Billyray doesn't look again, simply grunts, "You look funny with corncobs in your hair." I sternly warn him to shut up and walk over.
He is eating cold fried chicken and cold mashed potatoes. I grab his cracked plate before he can object then head for grandma's sink counter. Billyray hollers, "Hey, I'm not done." Setting his plate on our counter there, I turn around catching him looking at my butt, "You ain't supposed to eat cold mashed potatoes. You will choke to death on cold mashed potatoes. You need a wife to take care of you before you up and kill yourself." He side-to-side shakes his head in exasperation, "I ain't marrying no crazy injun girl. Now give me back my plate." Placing my clinched fists on my hips like grandma when she is bossy, tell my boy, "No, sir, you sit there and be quiet while your wife fixes you eats worth eating." I head over to our refrigerator to fetch a jar of chicken gravy, biscuits and more mashed potatoes. Glancing at Billyray to see if I'm getting away with my act, he is simply sitting there sipping his cow's milk.
We always keep our fire flickering in grandma's wood burning stove, takes hours to heat up her stove if the fire goes out. I fix up his plate like grandma does, his half eaten chicken, mashed potatoes with a pond of gravy in middle and couple of biscuits off on a side. Heat rushes out with opening her oven door, I am quick about setting his plate in there on the bottom rack just above the firebox. Couple minutes his gravy will be steaming and his mashed potatoes safe to eat.
Back at our refrigerator I fetch our gallon jar of cow's milk, give the door a shove with my butt then go over to this cowboy I love so much. I lean down close to him, "Hold your glass up so I can pour you some milk." He does, holds his glass just right so I don't splash spill. I stop pouring about an inch from rim, he up and says, "You smell nice, girl." I feel a flush rushing across my face, "You like my perfume?" Billy turns his face to me, we are so close together another inch we could kiss. Gives me tummy butterflies, I so want to kiss him! He whispers at me, "I like your perfume, you smell so good I want to get on my knees and ask you to marry me!"
Damn him, makes me mad. I straighten up and head for our refrigerator, tell him over a shoulder, "That ain't right!" He fakes a sheepish voice, "What ain't right?" Talk at him over our open refrigerator door, "You've been sitting there the whole time listening to everything I tell grandma, that ain't right!" I'm not about to admit I'm glad he heard, I have to act like a mad housewife. He gives me an innocent look, "No, ma'am, I was too busy choking to death on cold mashed potatoes to hear what you were saying." He grins just to annoy me more.
He watches my every footstep while heading to our sink, watching to see if I will holler at him. I don't. Using a folded dish rag, I fetch his hot food then walk over behind him. To keep a hold on him, I lay my left hand on his left shoulder close to his neck, lean down close on his right side then set his plate down and take to whispering in his right ear, "A good wife takes care of her husband. You're going to marry me." Before he can say a word I get a grip on him then chomp down on his ear with my teeth and take to tugging. Boy howdy, he yelps, takes to hitting at me while hollering, "Ow! Ow! Let go! That hurts! You're tearing off my ear!" I give his ear a good jerk with my teeth then let go.
Billy sits there feeling his ear, looks at his hand, "Darn, girl, there's blood all over!" I thump his back, "Ain't no blood. I didn't bite that hard." He feels his ear again, "And half my ear is gone, you done ate my ear!" Hit him again, "You hush and eat your food, and keep your ears to yourself from now on." He tears a biscuit in half, dips into his warm gravy, says, "Yes, ma'am."
From our bathroom, grandma hollers, "Taha, you leave that poor boy alone! Go fetch a dress and get in here, your hair is dry by now."
Go over by my boy, he is busy shoveling food into his face. I put on fancy airs, say in an uppity voice, "If you will excuse me, kind sir, I must retire to my boudoir to select an eloquent summer dress for an afternoon garden tea party." Billy clinks his fork down, looks at me with sincere surprise, "Dang, girl, where did you learn those fancy words?" I give him a smile, "From romance novels our schoolmarm gives me!" He shakes his head like before, "I reckon that explains a lot." I ask, "What do you mean?" I hear grandma holler again, "Taha!" I holler back, "Yes, ma'am" and head for our closet. About to step out of grandma's kitchen, Billyray says, "Thanks for fixing me something to eat, this is almost as good as you smell." I turn to thank him but he doesn't give me chance to open my mouth, he adds, "You'll make a good wife but I ain't marrying no crazy ear biting injun girl!" I stick out my tongue at him but when I turn to leave a big grin bursts out on my face. He is intending to marry me!