The Hot Check Baby
Chapter One – Innocence
Picturesque and petite, Odleton, Oklahoma had a populace of 600 or so God-fearing residents in the early 1950s. Life was simple. It was as though God Himself, blew a crime-free-zone bubble and carefully placed it over the town. Trust abounded in the citizens. People rarely turned the locks on their doors. The local police chief was bored to tears. Really, the volunteer fire department was more active than Sheriff Bart.
The sirens reverberated through the quiet, sending curious residents onto the sidewalks from every establishment in town. Sheriff Bart always accompanied the brave men. The journeys were better than leaning back in his chair, feet propped on his desk, with one ear open while he dozed in the afternoons. Gray smoke and sirens always put a little zip in the monotony.
The little community flustered in a beehive of activities. Mom and pop businesses flung open their doors Monday through Saturday while folks buzzed in and out of the shops with a hometown, “Hey, how ya’ doing?”
Business owners posted “closed” signs on Sunday. They were God fearing people. No one had to remind these people to keep the Sabbath holy. The Sunday church bells sang as if they accompanied God’s Angelic Hosts into the open doors of every brimming sanctuary. God had truly blessed this little don’t blink kind of town.
Fertile farmland supported the secure, economic growth of the rich, river bottom land. Graceful Elms and Cottonwood trees provided much yearned for shade from the baking Oklahoma summer sun. The proud residents dubbed Odleton “The Redbud Village”. The redbuds were planted as far as one could see. God’s hand painted, beautiful, dainty buds dotted the landscape and the pink and red blooms simply dazzled the eyes. Outside of town, the Redbuds protected the cemetery as if to warn the Sunday drivers: “Shh! Quiet please, souls at rest.”
Ruellen Lum and Milton J. Marson grew up, met, and fell in love in this innocent bliss among these spectacular trees.
Chapter Two – Ruellen and Milt
Ruellen Lum, or Rue as her friends called her, was a freshman in high-school when she met Milt Marson as he was beginning his junior year. Milt transferred from a smaller burg tucked about eight miles south of Odleton. All the hometown girls were infatuated with boys who transferred in—Ruellen was no exception. She thought he was just about the cutest guy she’d looked upon. Excitement saturated the school halls as the new guys made their debuts.
Ruellen hand-picked this one with his six foot one athletic build. She daydreamed about running her fingers through his dark, almost black, fashionable duck tail, mussing it just a tad. When he glanced her way with his almond shaped green eyes, she melted into a little goo-goo eyed puddle. Those eyes sparkled as he smiled at her and flashed perfect, white teeth. He sauntered down the hall at school, athletic gait geared forward, oblivious of how good he looked in his low slung Levis and white cotton T-shirts.
He was just as delicious in his baseball uniform. Mercy, he’d slide into home plate, surrounded by a cloud of red, Oklahoma dust. He’d stand and clean his backside of dust while the stocky umpire bounced up and down, his arms and hands slicing through the air.
“Safe!” The umpire’s voice reverberated through the stands so strongly it was a miracle the patrons didn't fall backwards. Then the ump strutted around home plate like a little bandy rooster while the crowd went wild, none yelling louder than Rue.
These visions ran rampant during her last class of the day. She really should have paid more attention to her algebra teacher than her crush. But, c’mon, what fourteen year old cupid struck girl in her right mind would have? Algebra equaled boring. Milt equaled exciting. Rue watched the clock. Would 3:30 p.m. never come? She silently counted down the seconds: Five. Four. Three. Two. One. BRINNGG!
Rue grabbed her books and headed into the chaos of the hallway. In the sea of students, dodging bodies and elbows, she was able to locate her best friend, Anna Beth.
Ruellen flashed her toothy grin and said, “Hey, walk with me to the practice field.”
"Ugh, you want to go again, Rue?" asked dark haired blue eyed Anna Beth.
Rue's smile faded slightly.
"Sure, I'll go with you. I was only teasing,” Anna gave her a little nudge and smiled.
As Rue’s smile reappeared, Anna asked, "Hey, did you get to see him today?”
“Yeah, once in the hall. He saw me and smiled. I hope he's as interested in me as I am in him. Oh, my gosh, he is so cute,” said a dreamy eyed, breathy Ruellen.
“Yep, he's definitely one of the best looking guys in school, but then again you're one of the prettiest girls around. Look in the mirror, Rue. The two of you make one good- looking couple. I'm watching out for you, and I know when he's scoping out the hall, it's because he's really scoping you. As a matter of fact, he tries to find you just as often as you try to find him. I think you need to relax and quit worrying so much," replied Anna Beth with all of her 14 year old worldly wisdom spilling.
“Thanks, Anna. What would I do without you? I know you probably get tired of hearing me talk about him all the time, but I need to talk to someone. I’m so glad I have you.”
“Hey, the feeling is mutual. Even if you are too paranoid.”
Anna gave Rue a little shoulder prod, and the two teens continued down the streets of Odleton, growing ever closer to the practice field. As they neared the field, Anna Beth noted Rue’s usual springy step lagged a couple of feet behind.
She stopped, looked over her shoulder and asked, “What’s the hold up, Rue?” Rue rolled her eyes heavenward and muttered, “Oh, gosh, can’t you tell? Grandma came to visit last night.”
“Oh, no, girl, I’m sorry. I feel for you and I hate it. I noticed you were a little slower than usual, especially during practice. And, man, Coach just doesn’t let up, does he?”
“Nope, he doesn’t, and yep, she came last night, and now I’ve got cramps. This time of the month is always terrible. It was hard to run during basketball practice today. Why does it seem like Coach runs us to death when I feel like I'm going to pass out?" Rue shrugged her shoulders and added, "The first day is always the hardest. I’ll feel better tomorrow." They continued on their way, talking about the upcoming report in History that neither of them looked forward to writing.
They eventually made it to the baseball field despite Grandma’s late night visit. Ruellen leaned against the silver chain linked fence that maintained the boundary to the field. She allowed her hands to dangle over its top as she gazed at imaginary interests in the distance. She tucked a loose curl behind her ear. Sometimes the tiny wild flowers around her feet needed a closer inspection. On occasion, Milt glanced at her and grinned, while maintaining a tight grip on the baseball bat, and she flashed a dazzling smile that absolutely belied her attempts to appear passive. Each time he looked at her she realized she was flat crazy for him.
Chapter Three – Family Angst
In spite of her love-crossed-craziness, she wasn’t the only female who was smitten with him. Milt's momma, Eunice, was as crazy over Milt as Rue. She was fiercely protective of her four sons, with good reason. When Milt was two years old, his father suffered and died from a work related accident while building the Roosevelt Bridge that crosses Lake Texoma in southeastern Oklahoma. This tragedy left Eunice with four young sons to rear, and truly the heartbreak almost destroyed her emotionally. Charles Marson was the love of her life. Eunice’s family pleaded with her to move back home to Alabama in order to lend much needed support. However, she was a strong southern woman who was determined to raise her four boys alone.
She was quite successful in her quest by cooking in the schools and for individual families. She gained a strong reputation as a talented and frugal woman whose homemade bread, rolls, pies, and noodles brought immense pleasure to the palate. People hired her to cook for elderly family members and oftentimes when she delivered the delectable feast she sat a spell and read a favored Bible verse. This, coupled with her job at the Odleton school cafeteria, helped her make ends meet. The Good Lord always provided for Eunice and her four young sons, and she knew He always would.
Eunice trusted the Lord had provided her new job as a cook in the larger school system, so she eagerly moved her family into town in 1955. Life was splendid until she noticed all the attention “that little Lum girl” was paying “her Milt”. As far as Eunice was concerned, she believed Rue was chasing Milt and this deeply frustrated her. She espied Ruellen as the worldly town girl while Milt stood in his country innocence. To make matters worse Rue was a Methodist. And they were Southern Baptist. Why, Ruellen Lum was one denomination away from a heathen. She decided to watch the two more closely.
However, Eunice was unable to watch Milt constantly, missing several major occasions of her son in action. It was quite a scene because Rue was a beauty and Milt seemed to have twenty-twenty vision.
It didn’t take Milt long to track the girl whose blonde curls cascaded down her back and the shapely legs curved beneath the pencil skirts that hugged her curvaceous hiney. She looked fabulous in her poodle skirts with layers of starched petticoats; her bobby socks worn high and secured in place with rubber bands. My goodness, she was femininity at its finest with her hour glass figure, huge green eyes, high cheek bones, and full pouty lips adorned with red lipstick.
Rue was quite the dichotomy underneath the fine, fifties’ fluff. This little femme fatale was an ornery, courageous, tomboy, earning her the nickname, Tuffy, from the high school boys. The guys were actually proud she could slam them in an arm wrestling match and hold her own on the basketball court as well. Her coach once told a bystander during one of the girls’ basketball games that when you ran into Rue during a basketball play, it was akin to “running into a brick house”.
This little brick house frustrated her mother, Ellen, to no end. Ellen was a very old fashioned, proper music teacher, one of a few who had attended an all girl college to procure her degree. She was a staunch Methodist through and through. Christian rather than heathen, thank you. Her blonde hair and sky blue eyes atop a willowy figure belied her stubborn streak. Additionally, she remained active in the First Methodist Church in Odleton. She delighted the congregation while playing preludes on the grand piano every Sunday morning. Oh, how she’d make that piano sing. The beams bracing the ceiling in the old building fairly trembled during her melodious stirrings.
She doted on her only darling and predestined her to be a pianist. But to her chagrin Ruellen thwarted her every effort. Rue liked to sing in the mixed chorus at school, but preferred playing basketball and arm wrestling. She detested spending an entire Saturday at the music contest in the company of boring Bach and brutal Beethoven. Ellen ordered her to practice, set the metronome on the piano, and if Ruellen missed a note or rebelled in any way, spanked her with her father’s razor strap. Ruellen and Ellen had diverse interests and very diverse views. Their relationship remained as strained as the tautest wire on the piano in almost every facet of life.
Surprisingly, Ellen and Rue formed a truce regarding her latest beau. Ellen believed Milt was the one person to tighten the reins on her little tomboy. This was a rare moment since Ellen had tried for years to choose Ruellen’s friends. She disallowed her friendship with Lynn because Lynn’s mother owned a bar in town. Thus, the headstrong Ruellen, unsurprisingly, snuck beyond her mother’s sight to hang out with her.
Ellen chose whom Rue could and could not date. There was one male in particular who raised Ellen’s hackles.
“Ruellen, you absolutely will not date that boy. Don’t you even think about being with him behind my back.”
Rue never understood her mother’s dislike for this boy. She’d known him her entire life.
“Why, momma? I like him and we aren’t doing anything wrong.” Rue’s argument remained the same but she was unsuccessful at changing her mother’s mind. Her foot stomping arguments continually fell on deaf ears. She may as well have appealed her grievance to the suffocating walls that surrounded her.
“Rue,” Ellen impatiently explained, “He is not good enough for you. I will not discuss this further. Don’t ever ask again because this is not going to happen as long as I have anything to say about it. I am your mother, and I know what and whom are in the best interest of your reputation. What will people think, Rue? The matter is closed.”
Rue was too naïve and young to be concerned regarding others’ thoughts or opinions. However, there was one person in particular who was concerned about all manners of issues. The Widow Gabby knew everything about everyone. And if facts were lacking, she creatively filled in the blanks. Tall, lanky, dark haired Gabby had been blessed by God with imaginative genius. She had indeed perfected this blessing and administered it with gusto. She was aggravating, yet endearing because Widow Gabby was half deaf. When she reported her latest news bulletin, she screamed it; everyone within a three block range could hear her.
Widow Gabby was a reckoning force. There was the time that Pete Stone had an ingrown toenail. He limped around Odleton for a couple of weeks as he watched it turn redder, fatter and it felt real hot. He saw Old Doc Howard, who treated and dressed the painful digit then placed him on antibiotics. He was a bit higgledy piggledy because for the past two weeks he'd been receiving sympathy cards in the mail. Then a few of the women in town delivered home-cooked meals. He was utterly bamboozled the day every preacher in town came by his home to pray for him. Understanding finally dawned when he went to Mamie's Cafe for a bite to eat. It was there over a steaming cup of coffee that he established the reason for all the fuss. Apparently, he'd had his appendix removed and had contracted a septic infection at the wound site. My goodness, poor Pete had come close to meeting his Maker.
If a toenail caused such ruckus, Ellen trembled as she imagined that the Widow Gabby would hurt Rue’s reputation if she saw her with “not good enough for you”. When she discovered Rue snuck around with him, she turned livid. Hoodwinked, Ellen shared her rage with her husband, Rufus. Safely ensconced in her bedroom, Rue heard her mother’s every word as she related her latest fiasco and repeated her mantra: “He’s not good enough for her.”
Her father, Rufus, was a self employed genius of a mechanic. He quit school in the sixth grade, found work, and helped his parents raise his twelve baby brothers and sisters. He was quite easy going and basically supported Rue in all her interests. He thought it was okay if one interest was the “not good enough for you guy”. He was as colorful as his spouse was proper and as dark as she was fair. He had only nine and a half fingers due to a motor falling on the index finger of his right hand amputating it mid-knuckle. Like any time-wizened mechanic, he treated the severed stub with iodine, wrapped it in a sterile white bandage, and disposed of the lopped off segment in the garbage. He’d point that half digit in the air to wave at people he met on the streets.
While Ellen was the epitome of proper, fifties femininity, Rufus donned overalls with varying degrees of stains from motor oil and grease. He carried a soap stone in one of the upper pockets and his pliers in one of the lower side pockets. Every morning he made coffee and stood waiting for it to brew. And every morning steaming cup in hand, he sat in his kitchen chair. As he sat the pliers fell out of his pocket. Plunk.
“Ah, hell,” he’d mutter. He bent to pick them up, replace them in the same pocket and drink his coffee. Every morning, same routine.
Ruellen absolutely adored her daddy. He was perfect as far as she was concerned. Oh, he did like his drink, but Rue reasoned it was so he could withstand Ellen’s constant bickering and demands. There were times she wanted a drink herself. So when Ellen demanded he accompany her to “not good enough for you” parents’ home, he went along to keep the peace and Ellen got her way again. She straightforward told the fellow’s parents, “He’s not good enough for her.”
Ruellen was humiliated, furious, and resented her mother beyond words. Ellen ignored Rue’s fury and was relieved to witness Ruellen’s interest in Milt.
Chapter Four – The Courtship
The majority of courting consisted of meeting one another at school, meeting one another during class breaks, or during study hall. Sidewalks teemed with students walking to and from school because the Odleton principal would not allow his students to drive to class. Milt and Ruellen walked arm in arm to school. If the elms, cottonwoods, and redbuds could talk, they would whisper with a smile all manner of sweet nothings that went on under their protective canopies.
Ellen approved of Ruellen, Anna Beth and a select few other friends meeting at Mamie’s Café and ordering cheeseburgers when they didn’t have other responsibilities after school. Mamie’s was a quaint café with red, shiny booths and an old fashioned milkshake bar to die for. The tantalizing aroma of burgers and fries wafted in the breeze and tempted noses from several blocks away. Mamie always awarded the girls extra pickles to make clear this was Odleton and residents received perks. Even pickle perks.
Milt was unable to partake of the burgers, milkshakes and pickle perks. He worked at Main Street Grocers after school in order to pay for the 1953 green Dodge Eunice had financed. But on Saturday evenings, when the owner hung his closed sign in the window, he proudly positioned himself behind the wheel of that car, revved the engine, and drove two blocks to Main Street to join all his friends. He was the knight and the 1953 Dodge was his trusty steed. He was eager to join his friends in this teenage rite: Dragging Main.
Ruellen owned her position in the procession of cars every Saturday night as well. As a matter of fact, Rufus observed her roar down their street, make the right turn to head up town, and with a snort grumbled, “I’m going to have to beg, borrow, rob and steal to keep gas in that thing.”
Bumper to bumper and engines roaring the ’50’s model Chevys, Fords, and Dodges striped the asphalt from the wonderful Rialto Movie Theatre to the end of Main Street. Excitement fairly crackled in the air. Kids parked in the middle of Main to chat with their radios blaring as they listened to Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel”, Chuck Berry’s “Johnnie B Goode”, Danny and The Junior’s “At the Hop”, and “Young Love” by Sonny James.
The only thing that rivaled dragging main was the Rialto Movie Theatre. The teens purchased their movie ticket, a bag of popcorn, bottle of pop, plus a confection for a mere quarter. And, when Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean came to town, the old theatre was packed. Following the movie, the teens snuck behind the theatre to steal quick kisses.
They knew better than to steal covert kisses or whisper sweet nothings during the movie. Miss Willow Mae Meyer, the ticket taker and overseer, was extremely serious regarding orderly conduct. She slowly, silently, and purposefully walked up and down the aisles, hands clasped behind her back, mimicking a prison guard, ensuring the only drama occurring in her playhouse was on the big screen. If she even suspected anyone was talking, she leaned over into their face, index finger pressed to her lips, and “Shh!” them, spittle and bad breath be darned.
Surreptitiously, young Milt and Ruellen most definitely had a quest. But with such an enclave of witnesses, Eunice, Ellen, the Widow Gabby, Willow Mae Meyer, and the high school principal, it’s difficult to comprehend how the young lovers ever discovered a furtive moment. Apparently, the 1953 green Dodge provided more than transportation to and from the grocers and other antiseptic journeys.
Ellen, having observed the hormonal exchange between the teens, provided Ruellen with approximately ten chapters bound together with one spine to acquaint her with the age-old story of the birds and bees. This was the sum total of Ruellen’s sex education. Ruellen was intelligent, curious and like most teenagers, had many, many unanswered questions regarding sex. Then again, she would rather wear her sun suit to watch snow melt in Antarctica than ask her mother about sex. But where there are questions, there are always answers and her girlfriends were only too happy to supply them. Moreover, the eighteen year old walking hormone, Milt, was delighted to offer his assistance. Who was he going to ask about all the feelings he was experiencing regarding Rue? Eunice?
The two teens threw caution and the book out the window as they drove Milt’s steed, the 1953 green Dodge, to the lake. The winding lake roads carried them up hills, down hills, and around oak tree covered lanes. They discovered their own romantic hideaway where the moon’s reflection danced on the waters. Their spot provided them with ample privacy and pleasure as they embarked on their own question and answer time.
The questions, “Do you love me?” and the answers, “Yes!” lead them to first base. First base was nice, but they had been there hundreds of times. They decided to explore second base. Second was a little more fulfilling, however, going further may offer more. Third base, yes, that was even more exciting. Except third was exciting for approximately thirty seconds. Seemed as if the birds and the bees had minds of their own. The birds sang and the bees buzzed. The longer Rue and Milt remained on third, the louder their chorus. Do you know what happened next? Those little birds and bees carried them across the diamond and over the fence – Home Run.
Who knew that throwing caution and the book out the window would be so utterly amazing? Milt and Rue were glad they’d made this choice and were very much in awe of the birds and the bees. They’d been hanging out with them for several months. Then one day Rue came down with a stomach virus. She was nauseous every day for at least three weeks. That’s a long time for a virus. She snuck a look at Ellen’s calendar and began counting days. Mercy, Grandma hadn’t visited her for at least eight weeks. Oh my, Ruellen Lum was scared to death. She would have read the last chapter of the book, but she and Milt had thrown it out the window.
Her mood was as green as her face as she cornered Anna Beth at school the next day and confided, “Anna, I need to tell you something.”
Anna Beth had never seen her friend look so troubled, “What?” she asked, concerned.
“I can’t talk here…let’s meet in the gym after last period.”
“Please, tell me now. You’re killing me. What’s the matter?”
“I have something to tell you, but wait ‘til after last period. This is going take a while.”
The two separated, preoccupied for the remainder of their day, but with differing reasons. The hours drug interminably but at long last, Ruellen once again counted down the seconds to the tolling bell: Five. Four. Three. Two. One….BRINGG!
She gathered her books, avoided a myriad of friends in the busy hallway and walked to the gym. Her rock was waiting expectantly. She took a seat beside her on the bleachers and inhaled the comforting and familiar smell of wood, floor wax, basketballs, and sweat. After a long pause, she exhaled and announced, “Anna, Grandma didn’t come visit.”
Chapter Five – Uh oh
“WHAT?” Anna Beth squinted her eyes while looking straight into Rue’s face as if she were nearsighted and trying to focus on some strange sight in the distance. Her mind was flying around trying to find an opportune time to engage the landing gear. She certainly wanted to avoid the obvious conclusion.
“Rue, what did you say?”
Ruellen restated her words as if her friend had a hearing problem, Grandma’s…missed…two…visits.” She stared into her friend’s eyes and watched them transform from a slotted squint into a pair of huge O’s.
The light of realization slowly dawned. There was a brief pause before Anna changed her feeble questions to an announcement. It was as if she needed to explain the situation to Rue.
Rue answered with an affirmative stare.
Anna embraced Rue and said, “Oh, my gosh, Rue. I am so sorry. What are you going to do?”
Ruellen and Anna Beth negotiated her options for what seemed hours. Thankfully, they were able to spend this time without the usual interruptions from curious friends. Although her knowledge regarding maternal matters was limited she knew she wanted the baby. She swore Anna to secrecy, at least until she told Milt. She also reasoned her mother was going to be livid with her and embarrassed by her. Rue was more than a little concerned about Ellen’s reaction. As a matter of fact, the seventeen year old mother to be was shaking in her penny loafers.
“What am I going tell Momma?”
“Well, I guess you’re going tell her what you told me.”
“She’s going kill me!”
“You want me to tell her for you?”
“Yeah, I’ll tell her. This is going to be ugly, Rue.”
Ruellen and Anna walked arm in arm the three blocks to Ruellen’s house. Ruellen’s steps were heavier than ever for her short span of years. She was afraid, yet resigned to the battle. She knew from experience her mother was going to be difficult and disappointed in her again. Pregnancy was much larger and deeper than any differences they’d ever had regarding music versus basketball or sneaking around with the people who “aren’t good enough for you.” Moreover, Ellen had done everything humanly possible to keep her daughter intact.
She’d even given her the book.
As they entered the house, Anna Beth pulled Ellen into the kitchen while Ruellen listened a safe distance away in their living room. Her mother’s reaction was all Ruellen feared it would be. The scene was ugly, heart wrenching, provoking and albeit downright nasty
Ellen screeched her disappointment. “Boo, hoo! You’re in a family way? How can you do this to me?” Head in hands, tears streaming, and little shoulders slumped and shaking, she averred, “We will leave town until you give birth.”
“Yes,” she reasoned, “The best thing to conceal your disgrace is to leave town. When we return Rufus and I will raise the baby as our own.” Then the all too familiar words tumbled out of her mother’s mouth, “What will people think?”
It had obviously escaped Ellen that people may wonder why they disappeared only to reappear with an infant. Panic stricken, she’d certainly forgotten the illustrious Widow Gabby.
Although she stood armed for battle, even Ruellen in her wildest dreams never imagined her mother would go to these lengths to keep a secret. Did Ellen really think everyone in Odleton would believe Ellen and Rufus had decided after seventeen years to adopt a baby? Ruellen was taken aback although she remained stalwart in her conviction and told Ellen she didn’t care what anyone thought, said, or anything else. Ruellen was not going anywhere, and Ellen was not going to raise her baby. She told Ellen and Rufus she loved Milt and wanted to marry him. The battle raged for several weeks, complete with intermittent bouts of temper tantrums, tears, and cold shoulders.
However, Ruellen emerged victorious.
She divulged the news to Milt and he was mortified. “It’s a darn good thing I love you.” His mind traced a few terrorizing thoughts—he was going to have to tell his Southern Baptist Momma.
Oh, Lord, have mercy on me.
He was ashamed of himself because Eunice ensured all four of her boys were in church every time the doors were open. Good Baptist boys didn’t encounter these dilemmas. He even polished the church pews and floors to save money to buy a coveted baseball glove. He and Ruellen had dated for practically three years and now they were planning a wedding: The bride will wear blue.
They married quickly and began residing with Ellen and Rufus. The groom kissed his basketball scholarship to the University of New Mexico goodbye. He engaged in full time employment at the Main Street Grocery. The bride finished high school. Her condition prevented her from participating in sports her senior year. She was also banned from singing in the mixed chorus. Guess the school told her, huh? Of course Eunice believed Ruellen had taken advantage of poor Milt. She rebuked her by slapping mashed potatoes on her lunch tray with such force she almost knocked the tray out of her hands. If looks could kill “that little Lum girl”… Rue would have found herself six feet under without a shovel.
As time went by, the embarrassments, battles with Ellen and Eunice, and regrets for missing basketball as a senior were obliterated when a barely eighteen year old Mrs. Milton J. Marson delivered their seven pound, three ounce baby girl. She stared at the dark brown hair, pug nose, and almond shaped eyes, and felt maternal pride. Milt was as proud as any first time father could possibly be.
He was handing out cigars and bounding from cloud to cloud until reality delivered Milt a strong, swift kick. Yes, reality drop kicked him square in his wallet. He tumbled head over heals from his cottony, comfortable zenith and found himself writing a $200.00 check to the hospital. He handed the check over to the smiling woman in the business office, jumped in his car, and drove like a man running from a prison sentence the 40 miles back to Odleton. He cleared several granite steps leading to the ornate double doors of the bank, entered the bank president’s office without knocking and said, “Mr. Beecher, I just wrote a $200.00 hot check for the baby.”
Mr. Beecher, who had watched both Ruellen and Milt grow up and sang in the choir with Ellen, knew exactly to what baby Milt referred. He glanced up at him from his leather chair, saw the pure fear etched on his face, burst out laughing and said, “You did? Well, don’t worry about it, son. We’ll cover it, and you can pay us back as you’re able. We don’t send first time papas to prison nor do we repo babies. I prefer banking over burping.”
That’s how I came into this world. I am the hot check baby.
This is a true story although I’ve changed the name of the town and the characters.
Many of these colorful folks in this short story have gone on to be with the good Lord and we miss them. These folks were truly the salt of the earth and helped me become the woman I am today. Odleton isn’t as innocent or quaint as it used to be. Sadly, it looks a little worse for wear. Corporate America has taken over and Odleton, like many small rural towns, cannot financially overcome the strain. Rue and Milt divorced one another three different times, but in between those separations had three more children. All boys. My parents are in their seventies now. This seems hard to believe. I am 52 years old, married with two grown sons and one gorgeous granddaughter. I’ve had many ups and downs during my life. If almost bouncing like a check has had anything to do with my history, I certainly didn’t know it then.
I have, however, wondered from time to time.
See for yourself in my upcoming memoir, The Makeover.
It will explain a lot.
The Hot Check Baby