A Predicament

The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the bespectacled man was someone she

knew. His face was as familiar to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not

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recall who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come down the embankment,

placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn’t slip. He had on tan and white shoes and no socks,

and his ankles were red and thin. “Good afternoon,” he said. “I see you all had you a little spill.”

“We turned over twice!” said the grandmother.

“Oncet”, he corrected. “We seen it happen. Try their car and see will it run, Hiram,” he

said quietly to the boy with the gray hat.

“What you got that gun for?” John Wesley asked. “Whatcha gonna do with that gun?”

“Lady,” the man said to the children’s mother, “would you mind calling them children to

sit down by you? Children make me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there

where you’re at.”

“What are you telling US what to do for?” June Star asked.

Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth. “Come here,” said their

mother.

“Look here now,” Bailey began suddenly, “we’re in a predicament! We’re in . . .”

The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. “You’re The

Misfit!” she said. “I recognized you at once!”

“Yes’m,” the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be

known, “but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn’t of reckernized me.”

Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his mother that shocked even the

children. The old lady began to cry and The Misfit reddened.

“Lady,” he said, “don’t you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he don’t mean. I

don’t reckon he meant to talk to you thataway.”

“You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” the grandmother said and removed a clean

handkerchief from her cuff and began to slap at her eyes with it.

The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and made a little hole and then

covered it up again. “I would hate to have to,” he said.

“Listen,” the grandmother almost screamed, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look

a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”

“Yes mam,” he said, “finest people in the world.” When he smiled he showed a row of

strong white teeth. “God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was

pure gold,” he said. The boy with the red sweat shirt had come around behind them and was

standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted down on the ground. “Watch them children, Bobby Lee,” he said. “You know they make me nervous.” He looked at the six of them

huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed as if he couldn’t think of

anything to say. “Ain’t a cloud in the sky,” he remarked, looking up at it. “Don’t see no sun but

don’t see no cloud neither.”

“Yes, it’s a beautiful day,” said the grandmother. “Listen,” she said, “you shouldn’t call

yourself The Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell.”

“Hush!” Bailey yelled. “Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!” He was

squatting in the position of a runner about to sprint forward but he didn’t move.

“I pre-chate that, lady,” The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the

butt of his gun.

“It’ll take a half a hour to fix this here car,” Hiram called, looking over the raised hood of

it.

“Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to step over yonder with you,”

The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey and John Wesley. “The boys want to ast you something,” he

said to Bailey. “Would you mind stepping back in them woods there with them?”

“Listen,” Bailey began, “we’re in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is,”

and his voice cracked. His eyes were as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he

remained perfectly still.

The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods

with him but it came off in her hand. She stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on

the ground. Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old man. John Wesley

caught hold of his father’s hand and Bobby Lee followed. They went off toward the woods and

just as they reached the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a gray naked

pine trunk, he shouted, “I’ll be back in a minute, Mamma, wait on me!”

“Come back this instant!” his mother shrilled but they all disappeared into the woods.

“Bailey Boy!” the grandmother called in a tragic voice but she found she was looking at

The Misfit squatting on the ground in front of her. “I just know you’re a good man,” she said

desperately. “You’re not a bit common!”

“Nome, I ain’t a good man,” The Misfit said after a second ah if he had considered her

statement carefully, “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither. My daddy said I was a different

breed of dog from my brothers and sisters. ‘You know,’ Daddy said, ‘it’s some that can live their

whole life out without asking about it and it’s others has to know why it is, and this boy is one

of the latters. He’s going to be into everything!”‘ He put on his black hat and looked up

suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he were embarrassed again. “I’m sorry I

don’t have on a shirt before you ladies,” he said, hunching his shoulders slightly. “We buried

our clothes that we had on when we escaped and we’re just making do until we can get better.

We borrowed these from some folks we met,” he explained.

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