Fighting Couple: The Last Laugh

The antagonism between this fighting couple is so intense they resent each other's senses.


| July/August 1981



070 fighting couple

Three days in the hoosegow was all one fighting couple needed to settle their differences.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

"Fill what's empty, empty what's full, 'n' scratch where it itches."—Southern Saying   

Well sir, them hot, parched days of summer is here agin ... and, as you kin imagine, people's temp'ryment tends to git a little on the techy side with the weather bein' so all-fired disagreeable. So it come as no surprise thet—after 33 consecutive days of three-digit heat, with nary a cloud on the horizon—August and Olive Carmichael (fighting couple what cain't hardly keep the peace under the best of conditions) got tangled up in another one of their long-term altercations. Some folks say the feud busted out 'cause Olive got irritated at the faint crinklin' noise August's tobacco pouch makes when he stuffs his pipe. Others claim August were set off by the way Olive fergot to shet the screen door when she run out to shoo the hogs outa the garden. But howev'r the fracas started, Mister and Miz Carmichael hopped on each other faster'n debts on paychecks.

'Twern't long afore they was launchin' plates, tools, flour sacks, an' house pets at each other. It were hot, though, an' after a mere eight hours of wranglin', August an' Olive both had to set down an' admit thet—considerin' the weather—they'd best not waste what little energy they had.

So followin' a fair passel of negotiatin' (what threatened to bust out inta open warfare on enny number of occasions), they decided to keep livin' in the same house. They did, howev'r, also swear to quit talkin' to each other ... never to use a blessed thing t'other laid a hand on ... an' even to pick vegetables outa diff'rent sides of the garden. An' bearin' in mind the previous state of their affairs, most folks in the Crossin' figgered thet the silent co-separation they'd worked out were a downright passable livin' arrangement.

Truth is, the only trouble of the whole thing, from August's point of view at enny rate, were thet he didn't know snail spit about fixin' vittles ... whilst Olive were a renowned, lipsmackin', blue-ribbon-winnin', all-fired artist in the kitchen. An' realizin' her advantage, Miz Carmichael made a daily point of bellyin' up to such homemade delicacies as barbycued ribs glistenin' with honey glaze an' hot biscuits topped with pear jelly—not to mention steamin', cream-smothered, fresh peach cobbler—whilst Mister Carmichael, day in an' day out, would have to wolf down yet another dishful of reheated grits, burnt cornbread, an' overboiled greens.

Howev'r, August, who's been knowed to show a clever streak ev'r once't in a while, soon took to rustlin' up his meager fixin's afore Olive set to cookin'. Thet way, he could eat his dinners whilst inhalin' the aroma of her culinary masterpieces ... an' let his nose fool his stomach into almost enjoyin' its meal!

Well, thet form of olfact'ry freeloadin' eventually got to be too much for Olive. "August T. Carmichael," she hollered one night (thereby breakin' a month-long silence between 'em), 'you stop smellin' at my cookin' right this instant!

"In reply, August up an' took a deep whiff of the skillet-fried frog legs sizzlin' on the burner and the fresh cranberry muffins what was doin' their best to make the whole world smell like bakin' day. Then he smiled, stuffed another forkful of gummy grits down his gullet, and said, "Them fragrances, Olivia Branch Carmichael, is free."

"Not around here, they ain't! I'm a-chargin' you—right now—fer smellin' 30 days' worth of home cookin' ... at the price of ten silver dollars a month!

"August broke into laughter. "Well, hee-yuck, I ain't a-payin'. What're you gonna do ... take me to court?"

"I most certainly am," she huffed. "And I'll win, too!

"Sure 'nough, the next day Miz Carmichael put on her nicestlookin' dress (along with a dab of vanilla behind each ear) an' headed off to Lick Skillet to call on the county judge. Ol' August, meanwhile, strolled down to Plumtree Crossin' to tell the fellers at the Gen'ral Store all about his wife's proposed sniffin' fees. As you kin imagine, them boys was still laughin' at Olive's behavior when—midway through the afternoon—thet same Miz Carmichael drove up to the store an', with a barely contained gleam of vict'ry in her eye, handed August a long sheet of paper.

It were a summons ... on real live Barren County Courthouse stationery! An' at the bottom an extry hand-scrawled note said, "The accused is hereby required to bring ten silver dollars to his hearing on August 15." It was signed "Judge Leonius Higginbottom."

Well, you better believe the entire community of Plumtree Crossin' turned out for thet event. On the appointed date the Lick Skillet courthouse were thick as a may apple patch with curious onlookers ... all of 'em eager to see jist which Carmichael would git his—or possibly her —comeuppance.

'Twern't long afore Judge Higginbottom strode in, sheshed the gossipin' crowd, and solemnly intoned, "In the int'rest of gettin' ev'ryone outa this broilin' courtroom, I aim to deal with this here matter as quick as possible. Olive Carmichael, state yer case!"





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