Local Observation / DEEP SOUTH

By Christina Oxenberg

There was this one day in Georgia when the highway was clogged with terrified evacuees and I took an exit into another era.
From the anxiety of traffic and brake lights and blank frightened faces now there was a one lane country road, slinking up and down hillocks. Bordered with tall trees and surrounded with fields of peanuts, orchards of pecan trees and peaches for sale.
Maybe once an hour a red pickup truck passed with one old man driving.The inevitable faded baseball cap and both hands on the wheel.
Zero cell service. No bars at all. No nothing but nature, and men with guns who you can’t see. For sure they see you. Eerily glorious scenery, not the sort of place you would want to breakdown. You might be offered help, if it was needed, as easily as you might be killed and dragged to a ditch for no one to find.
I kept driving west. In Mississippi I parked at the center of a town called Laurel. I sat in my car and watched four ladies walking with purposeful strides in longish lacy dresses, and hats and gloves and proper heeled shoes, and resting handbags from their wrists. An army of time travelers frozen in the fifties.
At the Piggly Wiggly I went wild for a teeshirt. Only pig-pink was available in size small, blue was XXXXXXXXXXXXXL. I bought the pink and as I paid I barely noticed the ladies slouchy and relaxed and chatting casually near the cash registers.
Before pulling out of the parking lot a flock of farmers in overalls and lumberjack shirts gathered at a boiled peanut stand. I wanted to buy the peanuts and I reached for my bag.
Panic flooded as I searched for the misplaced wallet. When I returned to the Piggly Wiggly the ladies furtively eyed each other, not me. They knew why I was back. The cashier said nothing, observing me as I begged. Hesitantly she handed me the purse.