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| Her Story | Other Short Stories |

Those Ugly Beardens by Pegi H.

The Bearden bunch lived in a shack on the outskirts of town, just a fallin' down shack, without runnin' water, or toilet. To put it bluntly, their house looked like a little kid stuck it together, with gobs of glue, leftover boards and shingles. The windows were all broken out. One wall was patched so many times it looked like a quilt with holes right next to the patches. Their porch had rotten boards. It was rotted and splinterin', with an open spot big enough for a cow to fall through. My name is Elroy Hartly, and I been keepin' an eye on them Beardens for as long as I can remember.

Every time that Bearden girl, Peggy saw me sneakin' around her house, she screamed, "You're like a rash, Elroy Hartly. You keep poppin' up!"

Every chance I got, I'd peek throught the cracks of their old house or I'd sit high on the hill, hunkered down spyin' on 'em. At night I'd sneak out of bed long after my family was sleepin' I crept toward the Bearden's cabin.

My head spun with all kinds of thoughts, and my heart started to pound with excitement the closer I got to the old Bearden place.

The grass was dead and brown. Roses had shriveled and turned black. I knew one of these days I'd spy their folks, I knew I would.

My mama talked to me till she was blue in the face 'bout runnin' with that Bearden bunch. I knew she didn't care for them much, but I sure did. I didn't want nobody knowin' though. I sure wished that I could live without folks like 'em.

They took baths in a wash tub. Peggy soaped her lame-brained brothers from head to toe every night with Ivory soap. Her body was as skinny as a fence post.

Peggy dug through everybody's garbage. There are talkin' cows inside her head. Yep! There sure are. Actually, there's a lot of weird stuff in there. Stuff like spiders and flies fightin' with each other in combat. Yep, she's loony, she is.

Peggy was the ugly one, always had a big wad of pink bubble gum stuffed in her mouth. When the teacher was lookin' she had it resting' in her cheek. Two long plaits hung way down her back. Her eyes were big and black as coal. She was mean as spit fire. She must have been 'bout 'leven, just like me.

I never saw their folks. Every time I asked, "Where's you mama?" all three of 'em screamed back, "We told you a million times, she's in bed sick."

"Well, where's your daddy?"

"He ran off along time ago," Peggy blew a big round, pink, bubble. Lookin' through it I saw her whole stupid face. One time I heard my dad tell my mom that their dad was in jail. My mama said, "That doesn't surprise me mome, that daddy of theirs lays drunk in the shed with the hogs."

"How'd you know that Mildred?"

"Mrs. Miller, down the street told me. Every time I see that old man he never smiled and hardly ever spoke except to grow. I heard him scream at those kids somethin' awful."

"Get away from here and stay away!" My mama knew everthing. She told me, "Those kids daddy is just a good for nothin' so and so. "He's just an old crosspatch." Fear ran through me every time mama talked about him. I stayed away when they said their daddy was around. So that was how I knew for sure that one time they did have a daddy. But, I never saw their mama, and nobody else ever did either. And as a matter of fact, I never saw their daddy either.

I know that they had to have a mama once upon a time. For awhile there was just three of 'em, them three mean ones. Pegggy, Mickey and Brian. Early one mornin' I peeked into their cabin, and there was a boby in a gunny sack hangin' from a big hook on the wall. He had gobs of yellow-fuzzy hair. Far more than I'd ever seen on a baby. If they didn't have a mama around, wher'd they get this baby brother? Steal him or somethin'? I really wouldn't put that past them either. But why would they want to do that?

My mama said, "The kids' mother came back home long enough to drop off another young'um, then took off again."

Them silly Bearden kids pushed that little one all over town in an old rickety, blue Taylor-Tot complete with bumpers and shock absorbers. And I knew they stole that, cause where would they get money to buy a big expensive Taylor-Tot? When that kid was older them Beardens removed the handle and foot tray. Then Scott Frazer walked with the stroller. I never saw any other little kid do that. Those Bearden kids said the bumpers were s'posed to come off, yet I knew that was one of their lies. Of the lies Peggy told, that was the biggest.

The littlest one, Scott Frazer, with his yellow hair, didn't really look like the rest of 'em, and neither did Brian. I always wondered where they really came from.

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