When I was six my girlfriend was a seventy year old widow who lived next door to my Grandparents on Cypress Street in North Little Rock, Arkansas
I was standing on the porch and yelling out, “Hey There, Boy” and waving my arm to everybody passing by. It was a move learned from a man known as, Black Johnny Pace. He did it as a joke on an impressionable kid. Daily, staring out into the world from the sagging screened in porch, I practiced it in earnest.
After about a month of “Hey There Boy’n” I was confronted by a frail, light-skinned woman with wavy, black hair in a ponytail, freckles and a quick wit. “Hey boy, Yourself”, she quipped back and yelled for me to, “Come-heah, boy!” Even at six years old that was a walk of faith and possibly, certain torture, since it would be walking across the grass of Mr. Elmer Cooney: a known and proud fool of a man, and incidentally, her son-in-law. With a look back into the house and a nod from my Grandma Dear, I went.
She told me that her husband had died and that she would be living here for a while. “So”, she added, “I need a boyfriend that can catch some grasshoppers and talk to me for a little while on Sat-ta-days“. I liked catching grasshoppers so I agreed to the deal. “But“, she said pointing her papery finger straight at me, “I ain’t no hey boy! I’m a Misses Tucker!”
She left the porch and returned from inside the Cooney house handing me two small mason jars with holed lids and instructions to split brown ones from green ones in different jars. It took no time to fill up the jars. I quickly returned them to Mrs. Tucker and was told with a wink to come back later.
I was playing in the yard with my brother and some other boys when I heard Mrs. Tucker’s strong, high-pitched yell, “Hey There, Boy” and remembered to come back to the yard. Breaking away from the boys I ran to that porch and was nearly waylayed by a bugged-eyed Mr. Elmer Cooney coming out of the screened door loaded down with fishing gear. He grinned an evil smirk and told me that I did a good job catching “dem hoppas“. Mrs. Tucker saved me by shooing him out before walking me into the kitchen where a big green pie sat on the table.
I asked, “What is that?” and she sat me down and started cutting a big slice as the first part of her answer. It really was a good pie and, at that moment, probably was the best pie I had ever eaten. My Grandma MaDear cooked fish and all kinds of cakes, but no pies, so this was a treat. “You like it, boyfriend?, she asked with a big grin. “Yes’ Ma’am” is what I tried to say but it came out mushed and green with pie. “That’s my famous Grasshoppa Pie“, she smiled, “I used to make that for my husband with leftover grasshoppas from fishing.” I wanted to stop eating but that pie was cool and sweet and, looking at the remains on the plate, I couldn’t see any wings or long, bent legs.
Mrs. Tucker talked to me while I ate and we were joined by her daughter, Mrs. Cooney who thanked me over and over as I ate. She even offered to cook me pork chops and I thought that they were the nicest ladies that a boy could ever know. All of a sudden there he was again, stumbling into the room. He talked loud, like he was going to fight you at any minute. He grabbed a white apple-hat off a peg just inside the room and leaned heavily against the door jamb as he stuck it on his head, grinning.
“Next time get some red ones so she can put a cherry on top!”, Mr. Cooney chuckled at me from the door before leaving again for good.
I hunted grasshoppers for an aging Mrs. Tucker well into my teens and each time received a sweet, green pie later in the day. It took years to figure out that my efforts always resulted in hours of peace and quiet as Mr. Cooney left and went fishing. It was later still before I realized that no matter where I looked grasshoppers just didn’t come in the color red!
Grasshopper Pie is reproduced in part for the 3daysinthecity blog from the short story collection, That Boy, There, by Jas. Mardis