Original Short Story: "Me & Iris"
Tracing Orphans in Your Ancestry
This story is fiction.
It does not depict any real person or actual event.
A Woods Colt
I can’t recall how old me and Iris was, I just remember that we was younguns living there with a bunch of other kids. We all seemed happy enough, I guess. We didn’t have much, but didn’t know any better for it. We just never thought in those terms of having stuff or not having it. We just took every day as it come at us. I recall that Iris loved talking about her momma and daddy and how they all lived in a big house together and they was always laughing and loving each other.
Iris would tell me about how she would help her momma cook and clean that big house, and how they would bake sugar cookies almost every afternoon. Her neighbor friends would come around to play and she would hand out them cookies saying the Lord loves a happy child or some such. I never took no stock in praying myself, it never did me any good. I prayed hardest when I knew Sister Jean Little Flower of Jesus was going to tan me for something. No matter how hard I prayed, she’d come around that evening and dust me good.
Anyway, my sweet Iris just loved to tell me about how her momma would tuck her in with a kiss and a hug every night and then a little later her daddy would stick his head in to check on her. She had a cat named Friday, she called it Friday because it was black, that never made much sense to me, but I never said nothing. That cat would curl up in a ball and not move all night as Iris slept, kind of like a watch dog, I guess.
Her eyes would just shine as she told me those stories. That big old grin she had with just one tooth hanging on for dear life as she laughed and giggled made me laugh and giggle right back at her. She was so good at telling me about it, my mouth would water just thinking about those sugar cookies and those Sunday dinners.
I never said nothing, I just kept my trap shut as she told me them stories. She knew, and I knew, none of it was true. She ain’t never lived nowhere except here at the orphanage. Sister Jean said once, just to be mean, called Iris a woods colt. I didn’t know exactly what it meant back then, but later on I learned the meaning, and I hate Sister Jean for it even to this day. Iris didn’t know neither, but I could tell it cut her deep.
That Story I Started
I started to write that story some twenty years ago. Don't know why I didn't finish it then. Maybe I just ran out things to say. Anyway, I think I had big dreams of becoming a writer back then, but then since I just became a waitress instead, I didn't write anymore until now.
I started taking some classes at the Big Rapids State Community College after I saved up some money. I also found out that if I had graduated from high school, I could take two years of community college free. The governor of the state had promised some such program to get elected and it worked and it kept his promise.
Not much ever come of my college education. After the two years, I got a thing called an associates degree which ain't worth much without the other years getting me a bachelors degree, but I never had enough money keep going to school. So I'm still in the waitress business.
Back to Iris
I don't know why I even bothered to write that stuff about me going to junior college. All I really wanted to do was finish the story about poor little old Iris. So here goes. After we turned 18, we were turned out the orphanage. Iris was invited to live with a cousin of hers that the orphanage had contacted. They couldn't find any of my relatives, so they arranged it so I could live temporarily with Iris and her cousin's family.
I could only live there until I found my own place. I was a lucky enough to find a place to work, The Glass House Diner, and it had an empty apartment in the back of it. So I got the job at the diner and a place to live.
Iris and me stayed friends, and she'd come stay with me at my apartment when she got tired of her cousin. I tried to get Iris a job at the diner but for some reason the manager kept putting off hiring her. She finally got a job at the Buy-Rite supermarket as a cashier.
We were both doing ok for two ignorant little orphan girls. We'd eat at the other diner in town, the Made-Rite. And we'd get to talking about the orphanage and then we'd talk about the future. Iris got it in her head that she'd like to get married and have kids that didn't have to live in an orphanage.
"LuAnn, a new guy started working at the store yesterday, and he's a real dreamboat. I think I'll marry him," Iris popped out with this bombshell one day.
"Have you even talked to him yet?" I asked Iris.
"Yeah, he's from somewhere up north, and he's taking some classes at Big Rapids. After that he's going to Alabama State U. He's going to major in business. He wants to own his own grocery store in a few years," explained Iris.
"So, y'all been on a date yet?" I asked, getting rather nosey.
"No, but I think he's going to ask me soon," said Iris.
To make a long story short, much to my shock, it happened Iris and that guy, Willie Martin, did start going out and they got engaged. So not to make the story too much shorter, I'll tell you a little about the engagement.
Willie gave Iris a ring, took her home to his parents, the whole nine yards. She was out of her mind happy. Willie's folks were what to Iris and me would be considered filthy rich, and turns out they were none to happy that Willie wanted to marry an ignorant little orphan girl.
Iris went on planning the wedding, even though Willie kept telling her they would have to elope. Willie told Iris his parents would disown him if he married Iris. But she kept up the charade as long as she could, acting like they were going to have big beautiful wedding.
Then all hell broke loose! Iris came into the diner as I was serving a family its Sunday dinner. She had been crying and she said she had to talk to me. She sat by the door waiting for me to get a break.
"Willie dumped me, LuAnn!" she stuck out her hand and said, "See, he took back the ring and everything. He took back all the gifts he gave me, the stereo, the charm bracelet, the electric coffee pot. He said he really loved me but he couldn't be poor and if his parents disowned him he'd be poor. LuAnn, I think I'm going to die. I love him so much. I can't live without him."
"Iris, of course, you can live without him. You lived without him until you met him, didn't you?" I said to Iris.
Iris just looked stunned, didn't say anything, and my break was over. So I told her to come to my apartment after work so we could talk some more about this. She said she would.
Ten Years Ago: The Philosophy of "Something Better"
Can you believe it? Iris' engagement was ten years ago. For some reason I didn't finish the story back then, and I just ran across this story, and thought hey, there's not that much to tell to finish this story. So I might as will finish it.
Anyway, I told Iris that day after I finished work that because Willie was dumping her just meant somebody better was coming along for her. I had a funny way of thinking that not most folks would cotton to. But I thought that way. It had always happened to me like that. I lost a kitten once, and then found two kittens. I lost a set of earrings once, and then saw a better pair in the jewelry store window, and the store owner gave them to me because she liked the way I kept her coffee warm at the diner.
I had a boyfriend once a little while after I started to diner waitressing job, and I didn't really like having a boyfriend and was stewing over how to break up with him. But I didn't have to break up with him; he moved to Florida to be with his kids. Funny thing is, he asked me to go with him, but I said I just couldn't leave my job and I didn't care much for Florida.
Even how I ended up being an orphan shows that this "something better" deal works. My parents were drug dealers and even though I don't remember it, Sister Mary Grace had told me about how I came to live at the orphanage. And it was because my parents had put me in danger, yeah, they were arrested, charged with child endangerment, and they went to prison and I went to St. Bartholomew's Home for Abandoned Children.
I keep thinking I should look them up, but then I'm a little afraid them being ex-cons and all they might not take too well if I showed up for a visit. Anyway, that's why I always think that when you lose something, it's because something better is coming along. It always worked for me, and I made Iris believe that it would work for her.
And it did. After Iris was dumped by Willie, she found out that she had an aunt and uncle living up north, and they were looking for her. OK, to shorten the story again. After Iris and her aunt and uncle united, they helped her get into the University of Alabama. She majored in Spanish and became teacher at big high school in Montgomery. She met another Spanish teacher and they got married and lived happily ever after.
Well, that sounds little too much like a fairy tale ending but it's close to the truth. Since I lived not far from where Iris lived and taught, we've stayed friends and we talk about every day. I went to her wedding which was the big beautiful one she had always dreamed of. She had three kids and they turned out to be great kids in every way.
My waitressing turned me into a business woman and even though I never finished any business degree, I did end up part owner of several diners in my little town and Montgomery. I have not married yet, and likely never will. I just like being alone, thinking about stuff, and now writing about stuff.
If I never end up being a writer that's ok. Because I know I have been a good worker in the hospitality industry and I have been a good friend to Iris. We were just two little ignorant orphan girls who made it good. Iris is living a fairy tale life, and I'm happy with mine, and will stay that way until something better comes along.
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© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes