Sunday, December 22, 2013

Juanita speaks her piece

When things started to circle around and be passed and the mothers began to fix two or three plates besides their own for the littlest ones who could not do the jobs themselves, Juanita started to tug on her mother's arm to try to get her attention. Mrs. Orbit, busy and happy, with a flushed face and bright eyes (Linnea's was the same, and Mr. Orbit's was the same, and so were all the girls') kept unconsciously flicking her off as one flicks off the winged company of sticky summer nights. She kept coming back, pawing and whispering. Finally, she let out a howl.
     "What's the matter with Juanita?" everybody said.
     "It's her piece," Gloriana elucidated.
     "Oh, my God," Mr. Orbit said mildly, chewing, with a look of glazed beatitude on his face and a loaded forkful poised beneath his nose, ready to go  into his mouth when he should be able to receive it.
     "Hush," Mrs. Orbit said. "That ain't no way to do at the table. Bawl." She looked bewildered at her child. "What's wrong with your head?"
     Juanita howled louder.
     "Don't you remember?" Gloriana said. "Her piece!"
     The two other angels joined in, nodding their heads vigorously. "Her piece! She gets to speak one, too. . . ."
     "Well--" said Mrs. Orbit doubtfully. "It don't fit in so good any more . . ."
     Juanita could hear by the leniency in her voice that all was well, so she scrambled to a standing position on the seat of her chair, taking a deep gasp, throwing out her stomach and reaching back to scratch the spot where a wing sprouted. She opened her mouth. No sound came. She opened it again.
     "Eat hearty and with good appetite," Gloriana prompted her.
     "All the things on our festive board," Guinevere added softly.
     . . . The piece in its entirety went as follows:

     Eat hearty and with good appetite
     All things on our festive board.
     Take the cup and quaff it up:
     Drink to the bottom of the gourd!
     Nobody on their way will ever lurk
     If they know when they arrive they are going to get a turk!
     Oh, what, oh, what is oh, so jolly,
     As the Christmas feast beneath the holly?

(There wasn't a square inch of holly, but it sounded very pretty anyway.) . . .
     Juanita had sat back down with a thud. Now she was busy shining while they spoke of her.

     --From The Peaceable Kingdom

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