Aramink

Engaged with the World

Tag: Arkansas

Same Sex Marriage: Arkansas Just Became Gay-Friendly!

(Source)

It’s a hard climb to the point where Equality is a Thing. (Source)

Arkansas is now added to the list of states that permits same sex marriage. Judge Chris Piazza’s decision did not come with an automatic stay, and the Pulaski County Clerk (the county where Little Rock is located) says that starting Monday morning, his office will be able to issue gender-neutral marriage licenses.

The decision strikes down more than Amendment 83 to the Arkansas Constitution, which was passed by the state’s voters in 2004. It also declared several laws aimed at preventing same sex marriage that were passed by the Arkansas legislature in 1997.

Arkansas Attorney General had said privately that he wouldn’t oppose a ruling striking the same sex marriage laws in Arkansas, but last week said he believed he had to continue to defend the laws on appeal as part of his duties as the state’s chief lawyer.  Among practicing attorneys, there has been hot debate about whether McDaniel would be more ethical to defend the laws or not.

Unless the attorneys on the case get cracking, though, it’s unlikely that there will be a decision before next year, when the make-up of the Arkansas Supreme Court may be more conservative after the mid-term elections.

But come Monday, if any same sex couples want to get married, they should hurry to the courthouse, get their licenses, and let me know. I’d be proud to do the officiating.

Read the court’s decision here.

Nathan Warren: Free Man, Confectioner, Minister, Civil Rights Advocate

Student portraying Annie, Nathan Warren’s first wife, at 2013’s Tales of the Crypt at the historic Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock

The lot of a slave in the American South was not easy, no matter how well he or she was treated by well-intentioned owners. It is hard for many of us to imagine being born into bondage, not free to make our own decisions about where to live, whether to be educated, whom to marry, and whether we can even live with our own families. In the early 1800’s, though, for most black people living in the newly-formed United States of America, such a situation was their reality, and a well-intentioned slave owner was not the norm – certainly not when it came to the liberty of his slaves.

Some slaves overcame their stifling beginnings, though, and became laudable examples of the kind of men and women their entire race should always have been allowed to be. Nathan Warren was one of these great men. Born into slavery, Nathan “Nase” Warren was a successful businessman, a minister, a devoted husband and father, a community organizer, and a civil rights activist. He is buried in a lost grave at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.

When Robert Crittenden came to Arkansas as the first Secretary of the newly-created Arkansas Territory in 1819, he brought with him a six year old slave called Nase. Some of Crittenden’s white descendants and some of Nathan’s black ones believe Crittenden, who was about 15 or 16 years older than his young slave, was the child’s father.

In 1834, when Nathan was about 21 or 22 years old, Robert Crittenden died nearly bankrupt. Crittenden was only 37 years old when he died, and his widow had difficulty even keeping a roof over her head. This meant turmoil for young Nase, whose ownership was transferred to Daniel Greathouse, the pioneer in Faulkner County, Arkansas, who at the time was living in Little Rock. But Greathouse filed an interesting document with the Pulaski County Clerk – after three and a half years of service, Nase was to be freed. Greathouse died before those three and a half years had expired, and Nase was indeed given his freedom just before Arkansas became the 25th state to be admitted to the Union.

Possibly because of his visibility in the Crittenden household, Nathan had made important contacts among other members of Arkansas’ territorial elite. Chester Ashley, one of the men who donated the land where the Mount Holly Cemetery sits to the City of Little Rock, was one of those contacts. Ashley hired Nathan as a carriage driver. Nathan and Anne, the quadroon daughter of the Ashley’s cook, married. They would have either nine or ten children together, and Nase would help to rear Anne’s older son, W.A. Rector.

Nase was much more than an ordinary carriage driver. When he took over a confectionery two blocks from the Ashley’s home, on the land where part of the Capital Hotel now stands, the people of Little Rock quickly learned that he had a true gift for his craft. His shop was so successful that the ladies of Little Rock would not consider having a party without treats from his store. They begged “Uncle Nase” for his secrets, but he refused, telling them that if he shared his recipes with white ladies, he would give away his trade.

His confectionery eventually moved to a larger storefront west of Main Street. He suffered a setback when his shop burned. Arson was suspected. He reopened, though, and business continued briskly.

Nathan was not the only member of his family to live free in the early 1800’s. One of his brothers who had remained with the Crittenden family in D.C. had also been freed, and together they purchased the freedom of a third brother from the Crittenden family in 1844.

When Nathan’s first wife died, he married another Ashley slave, Mary Elizabeth. He had two daughters with her, and eventually purchased their freedom. The children from his first marriage remained slaves in the Ashley family, though.

In the 1850’s, sentiments against free black people ran high in southern states, and Arkansas was no exception. In 1859, Governor Elias N. Conway signed the Free Negro Expulsion Act. Free black people, which meant anyone who had at least one black grandparent, were required to leave the state by January 1, 1860, or face sale into slavery for a period of one year. The continued freedom of about 700 people was directly jeopardized by this Act. Nathan was not among them, though. He was a very intelligent man, and when a similar measure had narrowly failed in the legislature in 1857, Nathan had seen the writing on the wall. He packed up Mary Eliza and their two free daughters and left for Xenia, Ohio, where he lived for several years. While he was in Ohio, he took the name Warren as a surname. At the time of the 1860 census, he lived in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio, with Mary Eliza, their daughters Ellen (8) and Ida (4), and two sons, William (2) and Edwin (7 months). As he had in Little Rock, Nathan worked as a baker.

A story in a newspaper article about Nathan claimed that an old friend encountered him in New York during his exile, and that Nathan was miserably unhappy and down on his luck. The friend, a Mr. Tucker, brought Nathan back to Arkansas even though the Act expelling free black people was still in effect. Family legends and the census locating Nathan’s family in Ohio for this time period dispute this version of events. Nathan’s descendants believe that Nathan and his free family returned to Little Rock about 1863, possibly with the help or sponsorship of the Ashley family. Since Nathan had left nine or ten of his still-enslaved children in Little Rock, one can only assume that he missed them and worried about them as the Civil War raged in and around Little Rock. Perhaps local people had their hands full with politics and the war, or perhaps “Uncle Nase” was so well-liked that the society ladies were grateful for his return and persuaded their husbands to leave him alone. At any rate, upon his return to Little Rock, Nathan Warren reestablished his confectionery and his popularity.

While living in Ohio, Nathan and the Warren family had been introduced to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The AME church had broken away from the Methodist Church in Pennsylvania because black congregants wanted their own place of worship, independent from the white church. Almost as soon as he returned from Ohio, Nathan started the Bethel AME Church in Little Rock and was ordained as a minister. The Bethel AME Church is still a vital part of the downtown community, although it has moved into a different building that takes up the block bordered by 16th Street and Wright Avenue between Izard and State Streets. It is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year.

The year Nathan Warren started Bethel AME Church was a turning point not just in his life, but in the lives of all American slaves in rebellious states. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued January 1 of that year, and Civil War raged across the country. Most of the battles fought in Arkansas occurred after January 1863, including the battles of Bayou Meto (also known as Reed’s Bridge) and Bayou Fourche, both of which were fought on the Union army’s approach to Little Rock.

With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the rest of Nathan Warren’s family soon became free. Most of the children from his first marriage were adults now, and many of those ten children had inherited Nathan’s musical talent. Nathan was a popular fiddler, and his children played other instruments and performed publicly as a group.

The end of the war brought other changes, too. The government’s efforts at reconstruction in the southern states meant that black people would be granted rights. Exactly how those rights would be realized, and exactly how the former slaves would support themselves, was uncertain. Nathan Warren was a Pulaski County delegate to the Convention of Colored Citizens held in Little Rock November 30 – December 2, 1865.  It was the first convention ever held by the black residents of Arkansas.

The language contained in the minutes of that convention is stirring. The convention

met for the purpose of conferring with each other, as to our best interest and future prosperity; also, to memorialize the State Legislature and Congress of the United States, to grant us equality before the law, and the right of suffrage, … we have earned it and, therefore, we deserve it; we have bought it with our blood, and, therefore, it is of priceless value to us.

Rev. Nathan Warren delivered the prayer at the closing session the final day of the convention. The final resolutions of the convention underscored the great hope that the newly emancipated black Arkansans had, while recognizing that a struggle still lay before them.

The persecutions of two and a half centuries have not been enabled to destroy our confidence in the eventual justice of the American people. We believe the time has come when wisdom again asserts her sway in the councils of the nation.

It would be another hundred years before the federal government would pass a civil rights act to ensure racial equality.

Through the Reconstruction era, Nathan Warren maintained his confectionery and his musically-gifted children continued performing. Their musical gifts would bring them tragedy, though. In early 1866, the Warren family performers were hired to perform for a private party aboard the steamboat Miami on a journey between Little Rock and Memphis. In the early morning hours of January 28, 1866, the Miami was on its return to Little Rock. As the Miami navigated waters near the then-thriving town of Napoleon in Desha County, where the Arkansas empties into the Mississippi, its boilers exploded. Three of Nathan’s sons, George, Frank and John, were among the 225 passengers killed, as was his son-in-law, Wash Phillips. Nathan’s son Isaiah and stepson W.A. Rector were on the boat, but survived the explosion.

The Miami was one of three such tragedies in just a few days on America’s central waterways. Two days after the Miami’s explosion, the Missouri exploded, and two days after that, the W.R. Carter blew up. Around 365 lives were lost in the three explosions. The causes of the explosions on the Missouri and the W.R. Carter were never explained, but according to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer on February 6, 1866, inspectors investigating the incident blamed the Miami tragedy on its engineers, who apparently were aware that the boilers needed repairs, but failed to maintain them properly during the trip. The Atlantic and Mississippi Company, which owned all three of these steamboats as well as three others that had exploded in the preceding year, had no insurance coverage for its vessels. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the company’s managers had reasoned that it was cheaper to replace a boat now and then than it was to pay expensive insurance premiums on its entire fleet. A month to the day after the Miami tragedy, three more of the Atlantic & Mississippi’s steamboats were destroyed by fire near St. Louis. After losing nine steam boats – six within thirty days of each other – the company finally elected to insure its fleet. The Miami was lost during the most destructive four months in the history of America’s river navigation. It was one of twenty-nine steamboats destroyed by fire in the sixteen weeks between December 15, 1865 and April 12, 1866.

Despite this incredible personal tragedy, Nathan Warren continued to push for his own prosperity and for the prosperity of his race. Bethel AME Church grew exponentially, and Rev. Warren himself shepherded the flock there. On August 22, 1873, an article in the Arkansas Gazette described efforts to form an organization designed to test the limits of the newly-enacted Arkansas Civil Rights Law of 1873. Some believed the act was a sham and that the white people of Arkansas had no intention of granting rights to black people. Nevertheless, a coalition of black and white citizens met to devise ways in which the law’s purpose could be tested and fulfilled. Rev. Warren attended, and was elected to the group’s finance committee.

Rev. Warren’s name appears in minutes of other meetings during Reconstruction. He was a civic leader, a minister, a successful businessman, and a civil rights activist. Despite periods of great suffering, tragic setbacks, and loss, Nathan Warren persevered. His descendants have every reason to be very proud of their notable ancestor.

He died in 1888 at about the age of 76. He was a member of the Mosaic Templars, and was accorded Masonic rites at his funeral. He was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.

Nathan Warren’s tragedies did not end with his death, however. The civil rights he wanted so much for himself and his family were to be tested in the fires of Jim Crow, and at some point during those terrible years of racial inequity, tombstones of the graves of a number of black residents at Mount Holly were vandalized and removed. The minutes of the Mount Holly Cemetery Association are incomplete for dozens of years in the first half of the 20th century, and no one now alive has any memory of exactly what happened to the obelisk that had been erected on Nathan Warren’s grave. Even the location of his grave has been lost to history.

Mount Holly’s surviving records show that the Reverend Nathan Warren was buried in the Chester Ashley family plot, and that an obelisk marked his grave. On November 9, 2013, a new monument, donated by Dr. Sybil Jordan-Hampton of Little Rock, was unveiled in the Ashley plot over the spot believed to hold Rev. Warren’s grave. Dr. Jordan-Hampton is a member of Bethel AME Church and a member of the Mount Holly Cemetery Association, which maintains the cemetery. The monument is crowned with the Masonic symbol and reads:

NATHAN WARREN
UNCLE “NASE”
BORN INTO SLAVERY 1812
CAME TO AR WITH ROBERT CRITTENDEN IN 1819
OBTAINED FREEDOM IN FEBRUARY 1835, THEN WORKED
TO SECURE THE FREEDOM OF FAMILY MEMBERS
DIED JUNE 3, 1888 LITTLE ROCK, AR
LITTLE ROCK CONFECTIONER
FOUNDER BETHEL AME CHURCH LITTLE ROCK 1863
DEDICATED IN HONOR OF BETHEL AME CHURCH
SESQUICENTENNIAL 2013

Information for this article was gleaned from two articles by Margaret Smith Ross published in the Arkansas Gazette and in the Historic Arkansas Quarterly, from records compiled by Tom Dillard and stored at the Arkansas Studies Institute’s Butler Center, from Bethel AME Church, and from online resources through the magic of Google. The author wishes to give special thanks to Nathan Warren’s 4th great-granddaughter, Shareese Kondo, for her gracious gift of time and for her family legends about her illustrious ancestor.

Heavenly Pizza Pies Wants Mass Murder of Icky Homofags

Heavenly Pizza Wants to Massacre Gays

So sayeth the sign with a picture of a pepperoni on the pizza. (Leviticus 11:7)

When it comes to picking cherries, Heavenly Pizza fills a whole pie.

Heavenly Pizza posted a reference to Leviticus after the Supreme Court decisions last week. Looking it up was an exercise in excess caution. Leviticus 20:13 says exactly what we predicted it would say:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

In other words, those LGBTQ abominations just ought to be killed, that’s all. End of story. God has spoken.

One would think that the authorities would frown upon a business prominently displaying a sign that advocates murder, but this is Searcy, Arkansas. Searcy is dominated by the Churches of Christ. It is home to Harding University, but instead of the tolerance and openness that one tends to expect from a college town, Harding’s worldview mimics that of the town: Harding is a Christian institution, and by Christian, it means Churches of Christ, not those sinful not-really-Christian Presbyterians and Catholics and such. The congregants of the Churches of Christ believe that the bible is the inspired and completely inerrant word of God, which means

  1. They haven’t read the book to see all the contradictions this “inerrant” work contains;
  2. They accept what their preachers tell them is dogma when they need to clear up perceived inconsistencies;
  3. They have read the book, but they have seriously deficient reading comprehension;
  4. They know nothing about the history of the copying and translation of the bible;
  5. They cherry-pick their bible, even though they say they don’t; or
  6. All of the above.

Aside from encouraging hate crimes, Heavenly Pizza has a few problems. Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21 all prohibit cooking cheese and meat together. Therefore, clearly, nothing says “I hate Jesus” like a steaming slice of pepperoni (a sausage made from a blend of pork and beef) served up with extra cheese (beef and cheese together? Not kosher, guys!) and helping of bigotry. If we’re going to abide by Old Testament law, we need to abide by all of it, because after all, this is the inerrant word of God.

Let’s worry about Heavenly Pizza’s sinfulness. Please assure me that their employees aren’t required to wear uniforms made of a cotton-polyester blend, nor that the restaurant’s owners allow anyone wearing such a sinful fabric to enter the place. Can anyone confirm whether Heavenly Pizza pays its employees’ wages daily, not weekly or bi-weekly like sinful employers might? I wonder how many times the cashiers at Heavenly Pizza have accidently given incorrect change, only to find the person they shortchanged to give them the right amount plus an extra 1/5 to make up for the error – and how many times, when an honest customer has told them they received too much change, the Heavenly Pizza employee extracted another 1/5 from him? God requires that, you know.

I hope Heavenly Pies doesn’t have a pizza with shrimp on their menu, because that would be a sin. I hope that when they say the blessing over their pizza, they aren’t sporting zits or bruises or rashes or cuts, they don’t wear glasses,and they aren’t limping, because if so, the blessing just won’t work. And I am shocked – shocked, I tell you! – that they have what they call a “Hog Zone” in their restaurant. While some might think that is a special place for fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks, you and I recognize it as a place to keep unclean animals from polluting the rest of the restaurant.

It is an abomination that Heavenly Pizza is open on Saturday; it’s against God’s law to be open for business that day.  According to their Facebook page, they are open on Sunday for lunch, too. I fear for their immortal souls, what with all the work they do on the various and sundry sabbaths.

My guess is that the only verse in the whole chapter in all of Leviticus the good Christians at Heavenly Pizza bother to remember is the one about gay-bashing. I’m so glad that they are all about promoting (in the words of Harding University) “an all-encompassing love for God and a corresponding love for people.”

Except for those homos. Because homos aren’t really people. And treating them like real people entitled to equal rights is one of Satan’s many schemes to lead us down the path of sorrow.

Come have a slice of pizza…..the extra toppings of bigotry and hatred are free!

Gay rights in Leviticus pic

Surely the good Christians at Heavenly Pizza aren’t hypocrites. Let’s examine Leviticus for possible problems, just to be sure. Now, a lot of Leviticus focuses on the exact rites and beasts and plants that are used to purify offerings and sinners, but there is a lot of good stuff in those 27 chapters that tells us how to live and all. I’m going to assume that all the good Christians at Heavenly Pizza obey each and every stricture of that particular book of the Bible, just like they do all the rest of the chapters. Because inerrant word of God.

I’m sure no one around there has ever told one of their friends, family members or colleagues that they don’t want to testify in court, despite knowing what happened in the case being litigated. That happens a lot, especially in divorce cases – people just don’t want to get involved. They don’t realize that refusing to go to court is a sin, and that to purge themselves of that sin they need to sacrifice a female sheep or goat according to Leviticus 5:6.

They have to do the same if they break any kind of promise, according to Leviticus 5:4. I wonder if there is anyone there at Heavenly Pizza who has not broken a promise, and I wonder how many sheep and goats have died for their sins.

All of the people there surely have a priest check their acne and boils for leprosy as directed by Leviticus 13, too. Don’t they?

What will you bet that some of those folks at Heavenly Pizza are hunters, or know hunters, and have eaten a rabbit or two? Leviticus 11:6 says that’s a sin. I bet they’ve chowed down on tasty crawfish, yummy oysters, and succulent lobster, not to mention some good southern fried catfish. They’re in deep trouble, according to Leviticus 11:9-12.  And if those folks have ever tried alligator or rattlesnake meat – delicacies in the rural south – they’re likewise doomed.

Have the women at Heavenly Pizza who have borne children  purified themselves after giving birth by sacrificing a lamb in accordance with Leviticus 12:6, and sacrificed two pigeons or turtledoves after every irregular menstruation pursuant to Leviticus 15:29? I hope so. They don’t want to be seen as cherry-picking what parts of the inerrant word of God they want to follow, after all.

I’m sure none of those godly people have ever read their horoscopes, because if they have they are being shunned by the other godly folks thereabouts, and whoever wrote those horoscopes has to be put to death immediately. Likewise, I hope none of them have ever had sex with a menstruating female, because that results in shunning, too. I hope they check the community carefully to see who’s having sex and who isn’t, who’s on her period and who isn’t, and that they keep the sexes strictly separate during that terribly unclean time.

No one at Heavenly Pies has ever had an extramarital affair, because their colleagues already would have put them to death pursuant to Leviticus 20:10, just like the gay people they want to kill. That verse is right before the one they cite to promote the massacre of gays, so you know they totally abide by it. Likewise, if any of the boys around those parts have had sexual relations with an animal, they are murdered immediately, too. I’m not saying any have, naturally, because I’m not aware of the community rising up to stone any cow-, chicken- or pig-fuckers.

Death comes to us all, and when the good, holy people at Heavenly Pies lose someone, I’m sure they immediately stop shaving, and no matter how the death of their loved one distresses them, I’m sure they don’t pull out their hair or scratch or cut themselves in their grief. Because that would be wrong. Likewise, I’m sure they don’t call a coroner or undertaker, because Leviticus 21:1-4 tells them they have to deal with the dead bodies themselves. They don’t tattoo anything on themselves, because Leviticus 19:28 strictly and expressly forbids it, and they treat immigrants just like anyone born and raised in Searcy, because the bible tells them to – why, I would imagine they completely ignore laws against hiring illegal immigrants because they know biblical law supersedes anything Congress tries to say.

I’m sure all the wives of the religious leaders who lead the flock at Heavenly Pizza were virgins when they got married, and that none of them were divorced or widowed, and that all of them are related to their husbands. God doesn’t like second marriages, because cooties or something, and priests have to keep it in the family. And if any of the daughters of these pastors ever slept around, surely her father burned her to death stat, just like Leviticus 21:9 tells him to do. There’s just no killin’ like an honor killin’. These pastors never go near a dead body, either. Funeral rites for the blessed Heavenly Pizza crew are conducted by their close families, not by their church or by a funeral home.

Heavenly Pizza Pies has its ardent supporters in Searcy, of course. Looky what one of Jesus’s peaceful, loving followers said:

heavenly pizza commentSo…much…fail.

First, “sodomites are waging a war of death and misery”. Sure, they are. For years the news has been full of hetero-bashing hate crimes and lynchings like the one committed by that awful Matthew Shepherd, discrimination against heteros in the workplace, denial of adoptions and foster parent qualifications to heterosexual parents, denial of spousal benefits to heterosexual couples, … what? No? I got that backwards? Oh. Then on to the next…

“This Holy Christian Nation.” Exactly! The First Amendment clearly established Christianity as the official religion of all the United States and its territories, and that was confirmed by Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli (ratified by both houses of congress unanimously and signed by Founding Father and 2nd President John Adams) and Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists…. what? No again? Backwards again? Damn. Okay, on to the next point.

“Self-hating baby killers will not stop…” Damn right they won’t. Not until every baby is dead, by golly! We hate babies! They are almost as icky as lesboqueers! Except… no. Those without the guilt imposed by religion don’t hate themselves, and no one kills babies except criminals. Furthermore, “self-hating baby killers” is so off-topic as to be ludicrous in this situation. So, another fail.

“Will not stop until their Atheist religion has ruined everything for everyone.” I can’t even pretend on this one. If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color, an empty bowl makes a meal, and not collecting stamps is a hobby. By definition, atheism is the absence of religion. And it doesn’t ruin anything, because there is nothing to ruin. If the commenter wants to hang on to her delusional fairy tales, she can. She can believe in Santa all she wants to, and she can assume that when he doesn’t come down her chimney on Christmas morning it was because she was such an awful person. Because she is.

“They don’t want equality, they want everyone under their control.” Ouchies for the missed semicolon opportunity there. And if she wasn’t sure about the semi-colon, she should have used a period, because that misplaced comma hurts my feelings. And that’s not me wanting to control her; that’s just proper punctuation. The whole idea of “control” is making other people conform to what you want, not what they want. If you don’t want to get gay-married, honey, don’t get gay-married. But you shouldn’t have the right to control gay people’s happiness and basic human rights any more than they should have the right to control yours.

“It’s time we as a country impose God’s will on them…” See the paragraph above. She really doesn’t get it, does she?

“If the sodomites don’t like the punishment imposed in Leviticus 20:13, they certainly won’t like the heat from the flames of hell.” Sweetie, there is no hell. And even if there were, I’m betting you’d get to visit it, too, because of all the rules in Leviticus you’ve broken in your lifetime. Here – wipe your tears with this cotton-poly blend hanky. There’s a good girl. What? You weren’t a virgin when you got married? And you’ve been divorced? Burn, baby, burn!

I’m not even going to bother with the rest, except to say that I think law enforcement takes a rather dim view of making threats of death, mayhem, and torture to other people.

There’s just one thing that Heavenly Pizza Pies and its supporters are forgetting in their argument. The Supreme Court decision that Heavenly Pizza finds so objectionable was a decision about what the government should do in a country that prides itself on equality. Churches and their members are free to do something more strict, more stringent, as they please. They can be bigoted, discriminatory and hateful if they want to be. They are private organizations and they have a right to free speech, too. The government does not enjoy that privilege, however, because while a church can choose who to serve and who not to serve, a government has to be even-handed in its treatment of all of its citizens.

Today my friend Kevin, whose wit and wisdom I admire to the point of not even wanting to give him credit when I plagiarize him, summed it up beautifully. Kevin happens to be from Searcy. He also happens to be one of those loathsome homoqueers that Heavenly Pizza Pies wants to kill. He said:

There is church and there is state, two separate things.
The state is required to have equality. The church is not.
A church member’s opinion may reflect his church’s teachings.
As an American, you either stand for equality or you don’t.
Go ahead, say the words, “I do not believe all people are created equal.
I do not believe all have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Sounds pretty crappy, huh?

–Kevin 7/3/13

Heavenly Pizza Pies, you and your kind make the baby Jesus cry like you are burning him with your nasty cigarettes.

Stop it.

 

Fetus Frenzy and Abortion Angst – NSFL

The fact is that women have been trapped. Reproduction is used, consciously or not, as a means to control women, to limit their options and to make them subordinate to men. In many societies a serious approach to reproductive health has to have this perspective in mind. We must seek to liberate women.

Dr. Nafis Sadik
Executive Director, UN Population Fund

abortion Arkansas logoI am a woman in the Bible Belt. In my state, Arkansas, the most restrictive abortion law in the country just passed. The governor vetoed it yesterday, but I don’t expect that to stop it from becoming law. As I write this, the Senate has already overridden the veto, and the House is expected to do so. For some crazy reason, our state legislature can override a veto with a simply majority – the same as they passed it to begin with. Arkansas gives only lip service to separation of powers.

Last week our governor vetoed another extremely restrictive abortion bill, HB 1037, but the legislature overrode the veto in less than twenty-four hours. HB1037 is a more permissive bill than the one at issue today. It prohibited abortion for any reason after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies. However, the term “medical emergency” under this new act “does not include a condition based on a claim or diagnosis that a pregnant woman will engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” That’s right. If she were so psychologically distressed that she attempts suicide because she wants an abortion, allowing her to abort the fetus does not count as a life-saving measure. In making the decision to terminate the pregnancy, the law specifically prohibits considering psychological harm to the pregnant woman. Doctors who perform abortions anyway become felons under this law.

This law makes no exception for severe fetal anomalies, even if the fetus will never be born alive. It does make exceptions for rape and incest. It’s okay to kill “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth” – that’s how the act defines an unborn child – if it was conceived in reprehensible circumstances, because … why? Is that collection of cells “less human” than one conceived intentionally or negligently? This exception makes no sense, except if we accept that there is something morally wrong with forcing a woman to bear such a pregnancy to term.

And who makes the judgment call about when forcing a woman’s body into service is morally reprehensible? Not the woman herself. She is apparently incapable of that.

Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.

— 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo

HB1037 stops abortions at 20 weeks except for cases of rape or incest or to preserve the health of the mother. It ignores completely the fact that the first ultrasound is not done until about 20 weeks into the pregnancy. At 20 weeks, doctors often get their first clues that an “individual organism of the species homo sapiens” might not be viable, or might have horrific defects. At 20 weeks, testing of fetal anomalies may just be beginning, because that may be when they are discovered.

I have a pair of young friends. Six months ago they were faced with an awful diagnosis and a horrific choice. The husband wrote a letter that was posted on the Arkansas Blog. He sent it there at my suggestion. He and his wife wanted to get the word out, in as visceral a way as possible, that this 20-week abortion ban was wrong.

The day they told me they were pregnant, love and excitement shone in both their faces. They are in their late 20’s, comfortable in their careers – he’s a pilot in the Air Force and she’s a surgical nurse – and their relationship is strong and committed. They were over the moon with the knowledge that they would soon be parents for the first time.

A few days before hitting that 20-week mark, they went for the ultrasound appointment. This was when they would find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. Whether the nursery would be pink or blue. Whether they should prepare for a son or a daughter. The husband, K, described the appointment:

Within moments we were looking at our baby girl for the first time. Her name was Amelia.

Imagine how we felt when our ultrasound technician stopped smiling. … Even flying in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan, I had never fully understood the meaning of dread. Now I know, dread is what occupies the 15 minutes between an ultrasound and doctor’s return.

After a very long weekend, we were seen by a high risk specialist. Two new words were inked into our vocabulary: “encephalocele” and “holoprosencephaly.” Do not Google these terms; the results will break your heart. Of her numerous problems, these were the most serious. We had previously opted for every diagnostic test to ensure our baby’s health, and were one of the first couples in Arkansas to try a new screening of our baby’s chromosomes in blood taken from the mother. We had gotten a false negative. Amelia would not survive to term.

“Devastated” does not begin to describe their reaction to the news. Both K and his wife, A, have talked to me at length about that awful day, and the awful days that followed. Despite what K said in his open letter, I do think it is important to Google terms like “encephalocele” and “holoproencephaly.”

Encephalocele 2 encephalocele 1Encephalocele is a neural tube defect. After heart defects, neural tube defects are the most common congenital abnormalities. A common neural tube defect is spina bifida. Many children with spina bifida can survive, though. Those with large encephalocele cannot, because their brains protrude through a skull defect of the skull, usually in the back of the head. The protruding part of the brain is destroyed because of mechanical disruption of the tissue – it is not where it needs to be – and a restriction of blood flow to the protruding area of the tissue. Brain tissue around the defect is also malformed and disrupted. Large occipital encephaloceles are always fatal because of inevitable damage of the brainstem.

The embryonic forebrain fails to develop into two separate hemispheres in holoprosencephaly. Like with encephalocele, holoprosencephaly can be very mild, such as with a cleft lip and palate, or it can be so severe as to result in the facial features being seriously disorganized, the brain fails to develop, and brain function is severely compromised. Severe holoprosencephaly causes cyclopia – the fetus appears to have only one eye, usually where the nose would be in a normal fetus and instead of a nose, a tubular growth extends from the forehead. Even malformations that are not this severe result in miscarriage or stillbirth. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, most cases of holoprosencephaly cause malformations so severe that fetuses die before birth.

holoprosencephaly

Various Degrees of Holoprosencephaly

Amelia’s holoprocencephaly was not the most severe, but it was severe enough that the doctors did not expect her to be born alive. If she did make it out of the womb, she would likely live only hours, if that long. With a “reasonable degree of medical certainty,” as we say in the legal arenas, Amelia would never see the light of day. Her parents would never hold her, and if they did she would never know it.

My friend A, who was pregnant with Amelia, is a surgical nurse. She knew exactly how grim this prognosis was. From K’s letter:

Regardless, I cannot adequately describe our grief, fear, and anger, or the agony of days spent on hold with insurance companies and hospitals.

The genetic counselors in the high risk pregnancy center were patient and understanding, but the situation was bleak. We could allow the baby to die naturally, but my wife could feel the tiny baby kicking and that constant reminder would be emotionally unbearable.

“Emotionally unbearable.” What an understatement. Pregnant women are emotionally labile anyway, but knowing that instead of decorating a nursery she was waiting for a miscarriage that might not happen for months would emotionally cripple most women. Instead of decorating a nursery, K and A would be in a macabre waiting game with nature. But in the meantime, A felt the baby kick and turn. She described to me feeling the baby move inside her in the days after the ultrasound, as she and K waited to see the specialist. With every flutter inside her womb, she cried. K could not bear to bring himself to touch A’s swelling abdomen, even though they had spent hours feeling Amelia move in the weeks prior. His emotional response exacerbated hers. If this pregnancy continued for another five and a half months, K and A would suffer incredible emotional harm. It hurts me to contemplate the potential damage to their marriage – I really love this young couple.

The doctors did not tell them what decision to make, but they knew they had only one reasonable option: terminate the pregnancy. Or, to use the hot-button term in vogue, a second trimester abortion.

Again, K’s words:

We returned to the specialist center later and sat down in front of the ultrasound for the last time. The doctor placed a needle through my wife’s uterus to the baby’s heart, which stopped immediately. Two weeks later, our stillborn baby was delivered in a quiet delivery room. She weighed eight ounces, much smaller than I expected.

The two weeks between that last ultrasound and the stillbirth were two very long weeks, when A knew that Amelia was gone, but still with them. Her belly was still swollen, but the baby no longer  fluttered inside her. She didn’t stop crying as she waited for the miscarriage to begin. Neither did K. They still haven’t stopped crying, but not because of their decision to terminate the pregnancy – they know they did the most reasonable and humane thing for themselves and for Amelia. They grieve for the child that they had hoped would be their daughter. But, they haven’t stopped crying in part because of the pariahs they are made out to be for taking the best action available to them, considering the prognosis and the totality of their circumstances.

Many family friends and coworkers have since come forward with their own stories of abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths. We had never suspected. As one mentor put it to me, I had joined a secret fraternity of parents who had lost a baby.

The Arkansas legislature refreshed K and A’s pain beginning in January with its focus on abortion. The wounds from losing the child they had hoped for are still fresh. They do not regret their decision, but they are very angry. Had this pregnancy happened in 2013 instead of 2012, they and their doctors would be criminally penalized for doing what they believed best in a terrible situation.

As K has said, the 20-week cut-off is arbitrary and wrong.

Our first ultrasound happened at nineteen weeks, as is the case within most pregnancies. It is usually the first opportunity for doctors to diagnose serious problems. By the time we were seen by a specialist, we were past twenty weeks. Recently a coworker came to my wife in tears, sharing her story for the first time. Her own ultrasound had revealed her baby’s fatal kidney failure and she faced the same gut-wrenching decision.

The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.

The debate about abortion is personal for us. We wanted our child.

HB1037 ignores the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey which, because of technological innovations since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1972, moved the date of viability from 28 weeks of gestation to a less definite date. It defined viability as the point at which the fetus could be reasonably expected to survive out of the mother’s uterus. The Casey decision was very careful to point out that the decision of whether, when, and how many children to have was a very personal one, and the individual’s interest in such a decision outweighed that of the state before viability. This position in in line with

The Arkansas legislature apparently believes that if it redefines “viability” as something completely different than the stage of life anticipated in Casey and Roe, it gets around the holding in those cases.

At the capitol, the proponents of this bill were all about “saving children.” With complete disregard for the fact that some children can’t be saved and it is more merciful to end suffering, these people would have us believe that women are cavalierly having “recreational abortions.” Yes, that is an actual phrase that was used. Although there may be some out there, I cannot imagine any woman not thinking very hard about whether to terminate her pregnancy, no matter what stage of pregnancy and no matter what her reasons. Abortion is simply not undertaken lightly, no matter what the anti-choice advocates would have us believe.

They would have us believe that irresponsible women love getting knocked up just so they can have medical procedures done between their legs. Ask any woman: we so adore our trips to the gynecologist, because we get to put our feet in stirrups and have someone go digging around down there. For those people, the worth of a woman is measured solely by the reproductive capacity of her body. She does not have a brain to go along with her genitals, and therefore cannot be expected to use it to make ethical decisions.

There was much testimony pertaining to abortion from women who chose to continue their pregnancies despite fetal abnormalities. Those witnesses ignored the fact that they had a choice to begin with. About 70,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions, and many more suffer infections and other consequences.

Much of the violence against women occurs in the context of sexuality and reproduction. The health consequences of violence often occur in the context of reproductive health and seriously contribute to the burden of disease in women and young people.

Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima
Director General of the World Health Organization

I am very skeptical that if their wives were four and a half months pregnant with a fetus diagnosed with severe fatal holoprosencephaly or irreparable encephalocele, each of the legislators – mostly males – who voted for this bill would require her to continue the pregnancy to the point of natural miscarriage or stillbirth, knowing that instead of decorating a nursery they would spend the next five months planning a funeral. I cannot imagine that someone with such controlling demands would soothe and comfort their pregnant wives, wives who would feel every fetal kick as a false promise of a child that would never live. I can easily imagine that they would refuse to touch her belly so they wouldn’t get attached to a child that would never draw a breath – never mind that their pregnant wives have no escape from feeling those fetal movements. And I suspect that they have no appreciation for the psychological trauma suffered by pregnant women in these situations.

We can make the decision to terminate the life support systems for our aged and infirm family members who are already out of the womb, but we can’t make that same decision until they do make it into the world, under these laws. With the passage of these two laws, Arkansas creates an unconscionable double standard that disproportionately affects the young, the poor, and women.

K says,

It is unfair to demand that parents like us come forward with stories of personal loss, now in the state Capitol or later in courthouses. The decision we had to make was painful, personal, and ethical.

After overriding the veto of HB 1037, which would have made A’s doctors criminals for terminating her doomed pregnancy, Arkansas’s Tea Party-dominated legislature once again proved that a half-baked legislation makes good PR sound bites to a party that eschews freedom and wants to micromanage other people’s lives down to the most personal decisions.  These laws make mockery of a Republican party that once championed smaller government and greater personal freedom. And mock them we do, as we quiver in terror for the freedoms they take away from us. The Arkansas legislature ramped up its war on personal choice to legislate morality even more restrictively in SB 134.

This draconian bill, which the legislature passed and the governor vetoed yesterday, defines fetal viability as a “medical condition that begins with a detectible fetal heartbeat.” Never mind that the fetus is neither truly viable at that moment, nor that Roe. v. Wade defined viability as the point at which a fetus, when delivered, can survive naturally outside the womb. At 28 weeks, or seven months, the fetus has nearly a 90% survival rate, even thought it often needs artificial support to aid its continued development.  At 24 weeks, the fetus has about a 50% chance of survival outside the uterus, depending on its weight, development, its mother’s health, and the presence of congenital defects. Viability does not begin with a fetal heartbeat, which begins at around 21 days into the pregnancy.

4 week fetus

Human Embryo at 4 Weeks:
The heart is beating, so it’s viable in Arkansas

Reproductive rights … rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so,and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence…. In the exercise of this right, they should take into account the needs of their living and future children and their responsibilities towards the community. 

Paragraph 96, Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing.

The current version of SB134 was modified from its original form. It is now ever so much more permissive. At first, the bill  outlawed abortion as soon as the cells that will become a fetal heart started rhythmically contracting, at about five weeks into the pregnancy, if counted from the last menstruation. Many women don’t even know they are pregnant by this point, especially if they have irregular menstrual cycles to begin with.

This bill coerces women to bear children whether or not they want to, whether or not they believe themselves to be financially, physically, and emotionally capable of enduring a pregnancy or rearing a child. It disproportionately affects young and adolescent women, who tend to be in the least powerful position to do something about their situations.

It abuses women, it insults them, and it oppresses them.

The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

Paragraph 94, Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing

Roe v. Wade didn’t start abortion, it stopped women from dying from abortions. Women who don’t want to bring a child into the world will abort their pregnancies, one way or another.

As a woman in Arkansas, my stomach has been in a knot this entire legislative session. The Tea Party, with its proud anti-intellectualism, its hyper-Christianity, and its coercive tactics is in charge of the state capitol, and Arkansas women’s rights are getting flushed down the drain.

The fact that these bills make exceptions in cases of rape and incest tells me that their supporters are not truly focused on the purported rights of human tissue that cannot survive outside the womb. If that was they case, it would not matter how those cells came to start dividing and how that fetal heartbeat came to be. It tells me, instead, that they care more about controlling the behavior of women. Only when the woman is pregnant under circumstances they find to be morally reprehensible will they permit her to make a decision about the number, spacing and timing of her children, or give her the means to control it if her first line of birth control fails.

I’m too old to get pregnant, and definitely too old to be personally affected by this law. There is a bigger issue, though. What these two laws say about my worth as a woman, as a thinking human being, devastates me. Solely because of my gender, I cannot be trusted to make decisions about my health and the health of any unborn child I might carry. Nor can anyone else born without a Y chromosome.

I have never liked living here. So many of the people I encounter seem to be willfully ignorant, racist, homophobic, disdainful of education and suspicious of those who are educated, untraveled, and hyper-religious to the point of denying the reality right in front of their faces. But before this legislative session I never before have I seriously considered what it would take to move away from here, to go someplace like Vermont or Washington State, to live in a place where not only would I be respected as a thinking human being capable of making ethical decisions for myself, but surrounded by like-minded people for a change.

I’ve thought about leaving my extended family, who I know would not follow me. I have wondered how often I would see my son, who is my only child and still is the light of my life, even though he is a grown man. I have thought about leaving my comfortable home, making new friends in a strange place, and who would care, in this new place I would go to, if I lived or died.

I don’t want to live in a place where the law restricts me or people like me – my sisters in gender, if not in generation – from doing what we honestly think is best for ourselves. I don’t want to live in a place that has no respect for my brain’s ability to make decisions simply because of my chromosomal makeup.

I feel trapped. This is a dystopic nightmare.

handmaid's taleThe Handmaid’s Tale is not a fiction in every society of the world, even today. It will not be a fiction for long in America.

 

CV for a Cemetery

Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Arkansas
Photo by David Habben, www.findagrave.com

 

My mom wanted me on the board of an historical cemetery. I thought it would be awesome – it’s a great old place with lots of ghost stories and locally famous – and infamous – people buried there. Including a truckload of my ancestors.

“I need your resume,” she told me.

“Mom, I hardly think that my work history has anything to do with why I might be qualified to serve on that board.”

“So dress it up. Emphasize your genealogy research and your history research. Talk about your volunteer work.”

In other words, she wanted me to re-craft my resume entirely.  Therefore, I did exactly what I always do when given an irritating assignment: I procrastinated.

A week later: “I really need your resume.”

Two weeks later: “If you don’t get me that resume I can’t nominate you.”

Three weeks later:  “I need it today.”

Crap. And I was having so much fun putting it off.

“Just write something. I’ll rewrite it to suit our nomination style.”

Had she said this in the first place, I could have whipped off a few relevant paragraphs and been done with this a month ago. But she said she wanted a freaking resume. So after lunch, I sat down and wrote:

Anne has a keen interest in genealogy and history, and has done research on both in this particular cemetery, once regrettably denting the side of her car as she took a turn too sharply around a certain walled plot in the northeast corner of the place.  Her interest in these disciplines began in high school, when in 1976 she won the esteemed and coveted Annual Ninth Grade History Award at All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi, mostly to prove to a certain boy that she was smarter than he was. It must have worked, because that intimidated lad has refused to this day (over 30 years later!) to come to class reunions. Her interest was fed her freshman year at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, when given the task of charting the genealogy of Zeus’s progeny she instead charted the genealogy of the entire Greek pantheon. While mostly accurate, her work earned her a C for failing to follow directions. Her professor was not interested in reading that much. Anne didn’t really care, since being right was all that mattered. When she graduated from Colgate in 1984, her major was English, not Greek.

With no immediate better use to put an English major, Anne returned to her Arkansas roots the following year to go to law school.  Anne clerked for Justice David Newbern at the Arkansas Supreme Court, then worked for a state agency or two until her secretary, one Gennifer Flowers, decided to hit the front page of the papers and not return to work. Anne opened her own law practice in 1993 and has remained in private practice ever since. Today, after 16 years in the trenches of litigation, Anne is a managing member of the law firm Almand, Orsi & Campbell, PLLC, which handles civil litigation.  Both she and her cousin and law partner, Donald K. Campbell, III, have generations of ancestors buried at this cemetery, stories about whom they occasionally pull out, dust off, and tell to their children and other passers-by, whether or not such innocents are especially interested.

Anne has maintained a moderately noticeable profile among local bar and statewide bar associations. She joined a whole slew of them in 1988 immediately after getting her J.D. from UALR Law School and passing the bar.  In 1993 she was made Parliamentarian of the Arkansas Association of Woman Lawyers, then served as  Vice President in 1994-1995, and as President in 1995-1996. She remains a member of the group today.  She has been a member of the Pulaski County Bar Association since 1988, and served as co-chair of the Hospitality Committee in 1995-1996. Likewise she retains her membership in the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association, for which she chaired the Domestic Relations Division in 1997-1998. She was a member of the American Bar Association from 1988-1996, when membership became prohibitively expensive. Most of her bar activities have been through the Arkansas Bar Association, for which she has served on numerous committees, including the Real Estate Committee, Probate Law Committee, Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Committee, Women and Minorities in the Law Committee, Mock Trial Committee, Online Legal Research Committee, Civil Litigation Committee, and Access to Justice Committee.

Very conscious of the fact that not everyone has access to the legal system in a meaningful way, Anne donates her time and expertise through two of Arkansas’ legal services organizations. The Center for Arkansas Legal Services helps clients in the central Arkansas area, and Anne is one of the attorneys who accepts legal representation of clients in need who meet low income guidelines. Anne volunteers in rural areas of the state for Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly, another legal aid program that ensures that senior citizens with limited assets and income can access the legal system.

She has served on the boards of other historical societies, including Scott Connections in Scott, Arkansas (Director, 2007-2008), and the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Arkansas (Director, 2006-09; and Board of Managers 2009-present). This spring Anne was selected to be the state’s Regent of Gunston Hall, the Northern Virginia home of founding father George Mason, a position she will hold for the next four years.

Anne is active in several of her family’s businesses. She is on the board of directors of ARNO, Inc. and Pioneer Farms, and has served as Chairman of the Board of Three Rivers Title Services, Inc. since 1999.

For pleasure, Anne loves to grow herbs, read, and write short stories. She maintains two blogs: one is purely for pleasure and the other is purely for work. She is also working on three novels, none of which she ever expects to finish unless the Fountain of Youth is found and she drinks copiously from its non-Stygian depths.

 

“Very amusing, my dear. I will extract the pertinent information to send out to the rest of the Board, omitting the humor, sad though that makes me.”

She will extract the pertinent information? That means most of what I wrote will end up in the trash.

And I worked so hard to get it to her!

Sadly edited in 2012 to remove links to the defunct law firm of Almand, Orsi & Campbell, PLLC.

A Midget Comes to Chigger Hollow

Midget truck drivers didn’t show up in Chigger Hollow every day. In fact, there weren’t any midgets at all in Chigger Hollow, so when one did show up it was momentous.

The semi pulled into the parking lot of the Chat ‘n’ Chew convenience store about 4:30 in the afternoon. Norma Rae started a fresh pot of coffee. Usually truck drivers could be counted on to buy a couple of cups, even if it was late in the afternoon. Hearing the water begin to drip through the grounds of the Biff Brand coffee, she perched herself back on the duct-taped vinyl stool behind the counter and went back to her True Confessions magazine.

Out of the corner of her eye Norma Rae noticed a woman coming into the store. The woman was followed by a child. Norma Rae didn’t take much notice because the State Trooper from up at Possum Grape had told her in casual conversation that women and children don’t tend to be convenience store robbers. Men were the ones to watch out for, and if a man came in alone, followed by another man, and neither one parked where she could get a description of the car or the license in case of their quick getaway after a robbery, she should take special notice and ease the handle of the shotgun close to the edge of the shelf underneath the counter.

Popping the top on another Coke Zero Norma Rae turned the page in her True Confessions. “I Was a Teenage Pasta Wrestler” looked to be an interesting article. The picture of a pretty girl with a pouty mouth, who looked for all the world like Rhonda Sue Ellis, the valedictorian of Chigger Hollow’s Class of 1995, just with blonde hair, was inset on top of a black and white photo of two women completely covered in ragu and grappling with each other to the cheers of abnormally handsome young men who hung on the perimeter of the wrestling ring.

The woman came to the counter with a large cup of coffee and a package of chewing tobacco. Without looking up, Norma Rae scanned the two items. “Four eighty-seven,” she said, holding her hand out and sneaking another look at the black and white photo. Was the woman on the left wearing a top? Was that a mushroom in the spaghetti sauce or were her nipples hard from the excitement of the contest? She took the five dollar bill from the customer and handed her a dime and three pennies. Norma Rae was well into the first paragraph of the article when someone cleared his throat.

She looked up. She didn’t remember seeing anyone come in after the woman, and she had been alone in the store. She peered over the display of breath mints and beef jerky but didn’t see anyone. She went back to True Confessions.

This time a cough made her look up. No one was standing at the pay counter, which stood as high as her ample chest when she wasn’t sitting on her stool. Norma Rae remembered everything Danny Kitchens, the State Trooper from Possum Grape, had told her and she eased the butt of the shotgun toward the edge of the shelf below the counter.

“Hello?” she asked uncertainly.

“How much for two drumsticks and half a dozen biscuits?” a man’s voice asked. Norma Rae jumped.

“Drumsticks are eighty-five cents each and biscuits are five for two dollars,” she said. It must be a short guy, because he was apparently hidden behind the tall display of Slim Jims. She moved off her stool and peered around the display. She didn’t see anyone.

“I want six biscuits, not five,” the voice said.

“Six biscuits are, um…” Norma Rae cursed herself for forgetting where the calculator was kept. She was terrible at math.

“Are they the same price whether I buy five or if I buy, say, three?” The voice seemed to be getting impatient, but Norma Rae still couldn’t figure out where its owner was standing.

“Well, no,” she replied, her tone conveying her obvious opinion of such a dumb question. “Five biscuits are two dollars. Three biscuits are less than that.”

“So are three biscuits a dollar twenty?”

“How should I know?” she snapped. She stood on the foot rest rung of her stool and leaned out over the counter, hitting her head on the cigarette display above the cash register. “Damn!”

A cup of coffee appeared at the check out counter. Norma Rae leaned out again. This time she ducked. The voice belonged to the kid. No, to the midget. The kid was a midget.

“I’ll have to ring it up to get you a total,” she said, staring at the man. Despite his stature he was the most perfect specimen of virility Norma Rae had ever seen. Muscular arms reached up to slide a package of Mentos onto the counter next to the coffee. The arms were attached to a wide chest bulging with well-chiseled pectorals, which were clad in a tight navy blue t-shirt.

Norma Rae could not help but let out a breath of amazement. “Oh, wow,” she said eloquently, her eyes wide with awe.

“What, you’ve never seen a dwarf before?” the man asked. His eyes had narrowed and his lips curled into the manliest sneer Norma Rae had seen since Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” video on MTV.

“No! Oh! I mean, I’m just surprised is all,” she managed to babble.

“Are you going to let me buy chicken and biscuits?” the Perfect Specimen demanded.

“Oh! Yeah! Um, do you want spicy or traditional southern?”

“Southern. And I want six biscuits.”

“Do you want any mashed potatoes or turnip greens with it? Bessie Maydar makes the greens and they are to die for. She mixes in just a little mustard greens and some hot sauce while they’re cooking and they come out good enough to make you feel born again without ever going to church.” Norma Rae knew she was babbling but she couldn’t stop. Now why did she tell this Perfect Specimen of Virility Bessie’s secret ingredients? Bessie had sworn her to secrecy on the back porch while they were each into their fifth margarita one night. And “born again?” Where the hell did that come from? Norma Rae was Seventh Day Adventist, and except for the occasional cuss word she was true to her faith.

“How much?” Evidently this Perfect Specimen of Virility was on a budget.

“Ninety nine cents.”

“Not a dollar?”

Norma Rae shook her head. The power of speech was rapidly exiting her brain the longer she gazed on his biceps.

“My name’s Norma Rae,” she said. Then she realized that not only had the Perfect Specimen of Virility not asked, but that he seemed surprised that she would even share the information.

“I’m Willy,” he said.

“So do you want the greens?”

“Okay, fine. Two drumsticks, six biscuits, and a side order of greens,” said Willy the Perfect Specimen of Virility.

“That’s five forty five,” said Norma Rae after punching the order into the cash register.

Willy gave her a ten dollar bill. She gave him change.

“Are you going to get my food?” Willy finally asked, and Norma Rae realized that she was still leaning across the counter staring at him.

“Oh, god!” she exclaimed, hopping down from the stool. Now she was really embarrassed. She had taken the Lord’s name in vain in front of the Perfect Specimen of Virility and she was acting like a dummy. Shit! She hurried to put the chicken and greens in a Styrofoam container, and put six biscuits in a small paper bag. She climbed back up on her stool and leaned out to hand the container and the bag across the counter and down to those wonderful waiting arms, which she could imagine wrapped around her in a bear hug so tight it would make her groan.

“Can I get anything else for you?” She asked hopefully.

“Nope.” Willy reached for the coffee and Mentos, arranged his load, and headed for the door.

“Wait!” cried Norma Rae.

The Perfect Specimen turned around.

“Come back soon,” she murmured weakly.

Willy the Perfect Specimen nodded solemnly and went out the door. Norma Rae didn’t even realize she had failed to charge him for the coffee and Mentos.

to be continued….

© 2017 Aramink

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: