Harry said he would get something and bring it back. He got in an old DeSoto, brown with a cream-colored top. The lady manager was driving; she stuck her head out the window and yelled last call for stragglers! and Beth said please mom, can I? and her mom said go ahead. Beth jumped in and waved from the back seat. They went to the Atomic Café, and Harry and the lady talked a lot to the man who owned the place. His name was Dewey Durnford. Beth still didn't know what the lady's name was. Dewey Durnford complained about not getting reception for the TV. He talked about missing the Rocky Marciano fight. He talked about one of the guys who'd gotten uranium rich going up above the clouds in his private plane so he could get the fight's reception on his TV. Dewey Durnford said I've given that guy so many free meals in his sourdough days he could have invited me along to see it. Beth ate french fries. Dewey had dewy hair, that kind that chicks had, and his small teeth razored inward, the opposite of buck. Toward the end of her french fries (and she hoping someone would suggest more), Beth heard Dewey call the lady manager Miss Dazzle. Miss Dazzle said she didn't like fights, heavyweight championship or not, and she reached out and squeezed Dewey's hand and said but I'm sorry for you. She sipped on a coke and Dewey said you want that I should add something to that and she said why absolutely. Dewey took out a bottle with a missing label, as if that was going to fool someone, and let the last of its contents drip into Miss Dazzle's coke. He butted the bottle as if it were ketchup to get a final drop. Miss Dazzle's body sagged peacefully. Another plate of french fries appeared before Beth and she just couldn't hold back a smile and everyone laughed. She felt happy, recklessly happy; she wanted to throw her french fries in the air. Then Dewey Durnford reached down below the counter and brought up a record album and presented it to a stunned Miss Dazzle. The new one? Miss Dazzle stuttered. Does it have it on there? Miss Dazzle's voice was anxious as she scanned the cover photo -- a picture of Calamity Jane with a Civil War scout cap perked over her blonde curls. Beth's grandmother had the very same album with that song she listened to six times in a row. Oh you're a sweetheart! Miss Dazzle cried. Oh lord! you're a sweetheart! She stood up and grabbed the sides of his face and planted a big kiss on the bridge of his nose. Harry said he agreed about not liking fights. Dewey fixed up milk shakes and hamburgers and more french fries and they took them back to the motel. On the ride back to the motel Miss Dazzle talked about her boys being 17 and 18 -- she snapped her fingers again -- and how they were hitchhiking to California for the summer. They had a cousin who lived there and thought they had a used car coming to them simply because they were old enough to drive and cars just happened to appear out of nowhere when you were old enough to drive, right, Harry? Look at her car why don't you. She was sure she could afford another one for their summer outing, like heck. But why complain. She touched the record album. Right now she was about as happy as a person could be.
Harry and Miss Dazzle ate with them in their motel room. The skin on Charlie's face had that shiny blushed look so Beth knew her mother had pounded him and he had hacked out the visitor for another night, which is how they referred to Charlie's situation. Miss Dazzle thought Charlie had taken a nap because he looked "refreshed." They all went to bed late. From time to time Miss Dazzle would look around at all of them and a big grin would spread across her face. Harry finally stood up and said good-night. Miss Dazzle had no choice but to follow him out though it seemed to Beth she was just getting started. She was a people person, Miss Dazzle was, sort of the opposite of her mother. Harry went to his truck. Harry, just take a room for free, Miss Dazzle told him. Beth overheard them. She went to the window above the bed and watched as they stood together in the parking lot. I couldn't do that, Harry said. Besides I need to guard my wares. He disappeared into his truck and Beth saw the shadow of Miss Dazzle shaking its head.
From Lucky Strike by Nancy Zafris, pages 26-37 of the hardcover edition. Copyright Nancy Zafris 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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