Become a Fan
Come Hell Or Elixer
By Nancy L. Pawley
Friday, August 02, 2002
Cherrylaine MacBride looked out the window directly situated over her kitchen sink. All week long the weatherman had predicted rain aplenty to be falling. Not a single drop had materialized from the grey overcast clouds hovering right above her house, though. No blessed relief from the oppressive heat threatening to cook and bake the parched earth to the consistancy of the Sahara Desert.
She shook the crisp white linen hanky that had belonged to her Grandma Sophia. The handkerchief with the soda bottle green edging had been locked away in her grandmother's hope chest and smelled faintly of rosehips and mothballs. Cherrylaine wiped away the beads of sweat from her brow, but it only took a minute before the drops threatened to trickle into her eyes again.
To make matters worse, Cherrylaine had picked this particular week to finish her jelly and jam jarring and vegetable canning. She thought to herself, " There's only one place that could qualify as being hotter than my kitchen and it would be.. "
Her Philco radio cackled to life as the downhome preacher said the very word she had been thinking of,
" Hell! Brothers and Sisters..do you in this modern day and age have surefire cause to believe in the fiery pit of Hell? That very ring of fire which causes sinners to scream and hollar as they are fried to a crisp, like a fine Sunday dinner of fried chicken? There are many on this earth who would say it
just ain't so! " The voice died away as lightning struck close by.
Now Cherrylaine did not dismiss what the preacher had said and decided to give a go at those unbelievers who needed a prod and push in the right direction, just as if they could hear her words. " Be the first on your block to experience a small taste of hell here on earth. Buy yourself a ticket, keeping in mind that my kitchen is your only destination. For your added enjoyment I'll close all my windows, although I don't think it would make much difference, as there's no hint of a breeze to stir my curtains. Next I'll fire up the kindling, after laying the logs on thicker than blackstrap molasses. Then I'll gather up all my blankets to.. "
The Philco sputtered back to life. " Wrapped up in yourself is not the path to heaven, but the road straight to Hell, Brothers and Sisters. When you get that way, start taking off, and opening up. Give everyone of those hot oppressive outer layers of hate and mistrust back to the Devil, so that he may add them to his lake of fire..Open up your heart to the soothing liniment oil of hope and charity. Rub all those positives into the very breast of human kindness. I tell you no lies, Brothers and Sisters of faith. "
Cherrylaine laughed in spite of the 100 degree temperature and the relative humidity which hadn't managed to reach it's full potential as of yet. There are little white lies, and fibs, and then there are the bald-face lies of..she heard a knocking on the front screen door. A tall skinny man stood there in a fine Sunday go to meeting suit. Must be a traveling door-to-door salesman by the looks of him, she thought. And new to this neck of the woods, as well.
" Little Lady. " He doffed his hat towards Cherrylaine. " How are you on this blessed afternoon? "
" I'm doing quite nicely, thank you very much. "
" My name is Tom Watson and I've journeyed all the way from Johnson City, walking this lovely road and breathing in God's fresh country air. Do you mind if I sit a spell and tell you why I'm here? "
Cherrylaine's Grandma Sophia had been very much alive and quite proficient with her shotgun the last time a slick salesman from the big city had traveled this way. The poor man had run off faster than a speeding bullet, leaving behind a bag of what he had so desperately wanted to sell. " Now, Cherrylaine, honest salesmen are few and far between. Dishonest salesmen are a dime a dozen, trying their level best to take every last cent you own by selling dreams in the form of snake oil which never works. " Her grandma had told her that on many occassions, just so Cherrylaine wouldn't be forgetting that you can't judge a book by its cover.
" Have a seat right here in my rocking chair and I'll bring you a glass of lemonade to cool your parched dusty throat. " To those folks who didn't know Cherrylaine, she seemed like a simple countrygirl, and that's the way she liked to keep things. She got two glasses and a pitcher of icy cold yellow liquid, and set them on the wooden table between them. She had also brought her grandma's shotgun and leaned it beside the door within easy reach, just in case.
He took a long swallow, and sighed. " Now that was pure delight. " Tom Watson withdrew a brown bottle from the bag he had laid beside him and looked Cherrylaine straight in the eye. " Little Lady, I have here in my possession, nature's finest remedy for anything and everything that ails you or your family members..at $1 a quart, it's like stealing candy from a baby. " He leaned forward and divulged what he hoped would send Cherrylaine scooting for her pocketbook. " Why, it's even been known to cure loneliness. " He pointed south. " Each of your neighbors that I spoke to on this glorious day have gladly purchased $2 or more worth of Dr. Do-Gooder's Famous Elixir..and I hope you'll do the same, for your own health and peace of mind, of course. "
" Of course. " Cherrylaine agreed with all the sincerity she could muster. He handed her the bottle..she unscrewed the lid, took one deep whiff, then poured the tiniest amount in her empty glass. She brought it to her lips and let the amber liquid rest on her tongue for a minute..the repulsive flavor burned and scalded all the way down her gut to her toenails. " I'll return in just a short-short, " she told him.
Tom Watson thought she would be returning with dollar bills as he rubbed his hands together, picturing the big bonus he would get for selling all of his merchandise. " A sucker's born every minute in every hour of the day, and this is promising to be one lucky 12 hours for me, " he thought to himself.
Just as she figured, it was cheap, bottom of the barrel corn liquor. Cherrylaine came back out on the porch, not with money, but with the shotgun leveled right between his eyes. " You can't fool me city slicker..this here ain't no elixir unless you consider Old Man Talbot's godawful rotgut corn squeezins is sweet and soothing to your stomach and mind. Go ahead and pour yourself a big glassful and drink it up like a good feller! " Tom Watson's hand was shaky, but he drank it in one hasty gulp! His face turned bright red as he spluttered and choked, then dropped the glass and passed out cold. " Serves you right," she said to no one in particular as she placed the unloaded gun back in the closet, out of sight. Cherrylaine knew there would be hell to pay if she didn't come up with some money to grease certain palms. " Tom Watson, you'll have to pay your fair share for your sin of dishonesty. She reached into his coat pocket and came up with $104 total..she was not a greedy individual, knowing full-well that God always provided for her, so she put half of it back, then made a phone call.
She looked through the screen door just as the county sheriff drove up. He stuck a fresh toothpick in his mouth, then sauntered up the wooden steps. " What have we here, Cherrylaine? " He looked down at Tom Watson, whose snores were louder than a marching band passing by at the annual 4th Of July parade.
" Sheriff, this man came by trying to sell me some of Old Man Talbot's corn liquor. " She handed the sheriff an old whiskey bottle with the rest of Tom Watson's ' elixir ' in it. " When I said I don't drink, especially illegal whiskey of any kind, he took to drinking it himself..right in front of me, he did. A proper lady shouldn't have to deal with men like this! "
The sheriff motioned for his deputy to help him remove a drunk Tom Watson from Cherrylaine's dusty porch and haul him to the only squad car the county owned. " We'll take good care of him for you, Cherrylaine..don't worry your pretty head about him no more. " They stashed him in the backseat, and slammed the trunk lid on the rest of the illegal hooch.
" Thank you kindly, Sheriff. " She handed him a $10 bill as a small token of her appreciation..part of Tom Watson's retribution for his sins. If he had been upfront and honest with her, she would have sent him on his merry way with just a warning instead of having to call on the sheriff. Now all those revenuer agents would be swarming about, asking questions that country folk aren't inclined to answer. Cherrylaine felt the tiniest stirring of cool air on her face as the clouds grew darker, smelling of rain fast approaching from the south.
The Philco spewed forth static for a while, then came in crystal clear. " All of your prayers of faith have brought about a miracle, Brothers and Sisters. God Himself is cutting away at the outer trappings of this oppressive heat wave to bring forth the cooling, soothing Balm of Gilead in the form of rain..God always provides for us in our hour of need. "
The sermon gave way to the local radio announcer advertising a certain product, " Yessir, we have what everyone needs to keep in their medicine cabinet, guaranteed to work for all kinds of ailments. Go down to your corner store and purchase a quart of Grandma Sophia's Excellent Elixir. It only costs $1, folks, and you'll be well pleased with the results. "
Cherrylaine knew her Grandma's secret recipe by heart..it always left a warm, loving feeling for anyone who chose to use it properly. " I guess I need to disassemble that old still till the storms of heaven and government agents blow over..and believe in.. "
As she walked down the path to Grandma Sophia's still, Cherrylaine caught Lisa and the Southernaires singing their latest song, ' Somebody Bigger Than You And I. '
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