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• Chapter Seven Dog Day Nights July 20–25 The rain that hit Interior was part of a broad front that reached all the way down to the wheat fields around Jackson. While the harvesters ­waited for the fields to dry out, they clogged the streets of the town, those with cars driving up and down the single main street along with the local farmers in town for repairs or groceries, the local high school kids cruising west the three blocks of Main Street, then left at the fire station, down another three blocks to the highway, east to the Standard Oil, and north back to Main Street—a big circle of vehicles whose exhaust hung heavy in the air. They jammed the town’s two cafés for lunch and dinner, tracking mud onto the floor that the waitresses slipped in as they ran sweaty and harassed from table to table taking orders, bringing food, refilling coffee cups and tea glasses, clearing dishes, taking money at the cash register , and sticking tickets on the spindle beside it. In the back, Martha and the dishwasher sweated pints in the heat from the grill and the oven. Whenever there was a break in the hustle, Speedy and Sissy took turns taking glasses of lemonade back to the kitchen workers who held the ice-cold glasses to their foreheads, rolling them back and forth in the sweat. When the last tables emptied out at closing, they locked the door, wearily swept the floor and did the side work before going home to­shower and tumble into bed. Except for Speedy, who was staying in town with Sissy and her parents during the harvest season so she wouldn’t have the long drive home every night. But every night she was out with her harvester boyfriend for an extra hour or two after Sissy got home. By Wednesday the fields had started to dry out. The town population thinned out to almost nothing during the day, with the lunch crowd down to local businessmen and a few farmers. The harvest foremen bought lunch fixings at the grocery stores and carried it to the men in the fields, but they still swarmed the cafés at night for suppers that seemed to go later and later. By Saturday the harvest was more than half over. A few 72 Chapter Seven of the crews who had annual contracts with farmers farther north moved their crews out. They convoyed out, crowding the roads and forcing anyone stuck in a vehicle behind them to travel at less than thirty-five miles per hour up hills and around corners until they could find a place to pass. Speedy cried to Sissy after work one night. “You knew he was going to move on,” Sissy told her. “I know,” Speedy sobbed. “But when he said good-bye, he called me Jane!” Sissy’s parents packed up the Ford Falcon and left for a month to visit Lily’s sister down in Kansas. Retired from the State Highway Department two years earlier, Lawrence never went far from home for very long, and Lily never went much of anywhere, even in Jackson. Sissy tried to get her parents to spend the worst months of the winter in Texas, but Lawrence said no. He was afraid if he died down there, his soul wouldn’t find its way back home. With the house empty without her parents and Speedy out somewhere with Sonny most nights, Sissy switched to evening shift at Martha’s even though that meant being busier at night. At least she wouldn’t be home alone in the evenings or tempted to spend those nights at the C & C watching Speedy make moon eyes at Sonny. Toward the end of the week only a few stragglers of the harvesters still camped at the fairgrounds, which now looked like a tornado had hit a garbage dump. In spite of the city’s efforts to keep trash bins stationed there and empty them regularly, wind and dogs knocked them over, people pitched things at the bins rather than in them, and the result was a morass of bottles, paper, and assorted flotsam, some half buried in mud from the rain. But the town was quieter. Floyd and Don, the city cop and his deputy, came out of hibernation to harass teenagers breaking the curfew . When the harvesters were in town, there was no way to enforce ­petty laws on anyone, seeing as the...


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MARC Record
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