From the short story, The Last of the Zinnias


He spotted the many bulky plastic grocery bags on the counter.  “What are these?” He asked picking up a melon.

“Those are Charentais Melon.  The tastiest melon in the world.”  She smiled.

“You got these at Kroger?  Why did you buy so many?” He asked.

She laughed.  “No. They came from Mr. DeHaven’s garden.”

“Why does he always give us so much?”  Pazel narrowed his eyes.

She shrugged. “He grows too much.  He wants to.”

“And why?” His hands flew to the ceiling. “Ai, Ya!  Can’t you see what is going on?” He could feel his anger rising.  “He…he… I’m going to put a stop to this right now!” He pulled a yellow post-it note from the refrigerator, started writing and talking to himself. “He doesn’t know who he is dealing with.  We are not… “  

Remira could not understand the rest as her husband became mumbling in his anger.  “Are you crazy? What are you talking about? What are you doing?” She demanded.

Pazel did not answer but shoved the note into a bag then took bags of melons and marched out the door with Remira following.  “He thinks he can …” He continued. He halted at the fence, dropped the bags over, turned to go to the house for more and stopped when Remira blocked his way with folded arms.

“What do you think you are doing?”  She demanded. The children gathered at a safe distance.

“He thinks we are some Mexican charity case.  He can go hand out groceries to the poor beaners!  I am a professional! I am not a charity, I give to charities!”  He declared.

“Would you listen to yourself?  No one thinks that.” She turned to the boys.  “Mateo, Casson would you please bring those bags your silly father dropped over the fence?”  The boys froze looking from parent to parent. She turned back to Pazel. “Look what you do to your children.”  

“Woman I am telling you, we will not take any more from that man.”  He said.

“No.”  She said folding her arms.

He brought his anger down and pulled a trump.  “We are Baptist, right? Remember the preacher we heard Sunday?  I am the head of the house, I know best, you must do what I say. The Apostle Paul himself says so.  And I say, no more from that man.” He pointed at the neighbors house and looked at her in expectation.

Slowly this time, her hands went to hips and her head to the skies and loudly proclaimed “Ha!” Her eyes blazed.  “Jesus our Lord says differently. What is Paul? A man. What is Jesus? Man but God. I do what Jesus says. ”

He was puzzled.  “How do you figure?  It’s all the Bible, the Word of God.”

“What Jesus says is the Word of God.  Jesus says love one another. Jesus did not say this race or that, man or woman. All commandments are this, Jesus said, love.  Love your neighbor. Neighbors share, that is love.” She turned to the children. “Please boys.”  

Casson and Mateo looked to their father who nodded.  Pazel looked at his wife, anger fading, and changed the subject.  “Did Phelan send over that paperwork today?”

Her arms still folded.  “Yes. It’s on my desk, I’ll show it to you tomorrow.  I think we should do it, I almost told him so but wanted you to see it first.”

He looked sheepish.  “You could have. I trust you to decide.”

“We are in business together. We decide together. We raise a family together. We love our neighbors together.”  She said as the boys handed her the melons. She looked in a bag, read the post-it note which said WE ARE NOT ON WELFARE!, grunted in exasperation and shook her head.

“What’s for dinner?”  He asked.

“Chicken and rice.”  She said and pulled a melon from the bag.  “And Welfare Melon!”

“Ai, Ya!”  He cried throwing his hands to God. “This wonderful woman you gave knows no bounds!”  Relieved, the boys laughed at what they did not understand.

“Ha!”  She was only able to put one hand on hip but her eyes searched the vast blue.

Pazel addressed his sons.  “Boys, I am telling you for your own sanity, if you marry a woman like this you will walk a straight path and she will never do as you say.”

Mateo added.  “But Mommy is the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“True.”  Pazel said “If not I would have locked her out of the house long ago.”

Ramira switched the bags to the other side in order for that hand to have the satisfaction of her hip.  She threw back her head. “Ha!”

Pazel said “Let’s eat.”  And moved the boys forward.  He reached a hand to her. “I’ll take those.”  He motioned to the bags.

“Why?  What are you going to do with them?”  She asked.

“Eat them.”  He laughed taking the melons.  He took her by the hand. “Come welfare momma.”


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