This is Ellie/Essie…
If I swore, I’d say every curse word I know right now. If I threw fits, I would lay down on the floor and kick and scream. I don’t know how that woman could be so mean.
The old Methodist Church in Murdo, South Dakota. The parsonage is next to it.
You see the Methodist Church had a fundraiser. All of us kids had to work for someone who paid us by the hour. We had to work for eight hours and all the money goes to the youth program. I got hired by mean Mrs. Stone. She made me do things a two hundred pound man could barely do.
I was too fast at my work. That’s what it was. I washed all of her dirty windows inside and out. I pulled the weeds in her garden and worst of all, I had to clean out her refrigerator. Now I’ve got to go take Pearl the dog for a walk if my poor little wobbly stick legs will let me.
“Hi Pearl, I came to take Pearl the dog for a walk.”
Can we go see my frog friend?
“Well ,Essie…you look like you could go bear hunting with a stick. What or who has gotten you so worked up?”
“Working for Mrs. Stone has me all worked up. She never let me rest once except for the fifteen minutes it took me to choke down a minced ham sandwich. When I took the last bite, she smacked her hands and said, up, up, up…time to get back to work! Then she got really mean.”
“Tell me, Essie. I just love to hear gossip. When I had my beauty shop, I’d have a woman on each side of me shooting gossip into my ears. Oh how I miss that. I don’t get to talk to many people now except Grace and she tells me everything twice and comes up way short on the details. Gossiping is an art you know. One of these days I’ll teach you how to get people to spill everything they know, or think they know, and you won’t have to give up a thing. Now, what was the really mean thing she did?”
“When I got ready to leave, Mrs. Stone said I might have to come over again tomorrow. I said to her… no way, Mrs. Stone, that’s not how it works. Then she said she was going to have to deduct an hour’s pay on her check to the church. When I asked her why, she said it was because I didn’t get all the weeds out of her garden, and Mr. Stone would be upset because he would have to do it. It’s not fair Pearl,”
“You have got to get some dirt on that woman, Essie, that’s all there is to it. Now go take Pearl the dog for a walk. When you get back, I’ll give you a couple of quick lessons.”
Pearl’s Gossip Lesson
Listen closely, Essie, and you will have that mean Mrs. Stone right where you want her. If she has told you something secretive about herself, she won’t cross you ever again. It will be worth it for you to go over there tomorrow. When she says something mean to you, and she will, you say this:
“I sure don’t see why several of the ladies in town aren’t partial to you Mrs. Stone. I think you’re real nice.” Then smile your sweetest smile, just don’t laugh when you see the look on her face.
“Then what do I do, Pearl?”
You say, “Now, show me those weeds in your garden that I missed. I’ve heard from reliable sources that several of your friends think Mr. Stone is henpecked and I wouldn’t want to add fuel to the fire… if you know what I mean.”
“See Essie… it’s nothing you can’t do. You’ll be a natural.”
“Then what do I say Pearl?” I was really starting to get into this gossip lesson.
“Nothing. You won’t have to. She will be so upset she’ll spill the beans on every gossip friend she has. She’ll say things like, I bet I know who said that! It was Ethel, well let me tell you a thing or two about Ethel..bla,bla,bla,bla. Then you have to close the secret transaction.”
“What’s a secret transaction, Pearl?”
You say, “Well, I guess I should get started on those weeds now so poor Mr. Jones doesn’t have to do it. It’s not in my nature to cheat the church either.”
“Do you mean I’m still going to have to pull the weeds, Pearl?
“Not a chance. Mrs. Jones will probably say something like this. Oh no, dear. You sit right here and I will get you a nice cold glass of lemonade and one of the cookies I baked for Mr. Jones. You must call us Charles and Helen…I’ll pull the weeds.
One more thing, Essie. When she tries to get out of you who told you all that gossip, you say…I think we both know who told me those terrible things that you told them. It’s just awful how people spread gossip they hear on the grapevine.
” I can’t wait for you to tell me how it goes tomorrow, Essie. Wasn’t that a great lesson? I should have been a mother. I believe my mothering instincts have gone to waste all these years.
The Beauty Shop is a great place to hear good gossip
Part 2 – Ellie/Essie Executes the plan
Well, I decided I would try out Pearl’s gossip lesson and go back to Mrs. Stones’ house and get some dirt on her. I sure hoped Pearl was right because I sure did not want to pull more weeds.
There was one thing Pearl’s plan didn’t account for.
“Hi, Mrs. Stone…I came back to pull those weeds in your garden; the few little ones that I missed yesterday.
“Well just don’t stand there, Ellie, come in. I don’t have much time to direct you. My bridge club will be here in just a few minutes. Get one of those paper bags in the pantry and fill it with the weeds you pull. Now get to it Ellie. Why are you just standing there with that dumb look on your face?”
That’s the mean thing, I thought. The bridge club coming over could be a hot potato, but I decided to move forward with Pearl’s plan.
“Are the bridge club ladies the ones that don’t like you very much?”
“What on earth are you talking about, “Ellie? Who told you that?”
“Um…I think we both know who spreads gossip around this town.”
My mom played bridge
Mrs. Stone had a horrified look on her face just like Pearl the human said she would, but she didn’t tell me I didn’t have to pull the weeds, and I really didn’t think she would offer to pull them herself with all those women here. I was going to have to wing it!
The ladies started arriving then so I waited. Mrs. Stone saw me standing there and told me to go do what I came to do.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll go pull those weeds, so you won’t make poor Mr. Stone go out there and pull them. Do you have some cold lemonade so I can go out and sit on your bench and drink it? Those cookies sure look good, too.”
“You are one strange child, Ellie.”
Then a bridge lady spoke up. “Well, Helen Stone, did you get involved in the Methodist Church fundraiser? I heard most of the kids were on the lazy side. They had to be prodded to do anything. It was so good of you to give this girl a chance to do it right. Young lady, you need a few lessons in etiquette. You do not ask for refreshments and you definitely do not take a refreshment break before you have even started your work.”
She’s mean too, I thought. Pearl didn’t account for two ladies being mean to me.
“Mrs. Martin,” I said. “I heard your husband is henpecked.”
It worked again! Mrs. Martin looked horrified; just like Pearl said. All of a sudden, Mrs. Stone took me by the ear and marched me to the door. “You may leave now,” she said. “I would rather pull the weeds myself than deal with the likes of you, young lady.”
I couldn’t wait to tell Pearl the human all about my experience with her gossip lesson. I decided to walk Pearl the dog a little later.
I like now, now is good!
“Hi Pearl, I came right over here to tell you what happened with Mrs. Stone. I said exactly what you told me to say and guess what? I didn’t have to pull one weed. Mrs. Stone said she would do it. There is one thing though…She didn’t offer me a cold glass of lemonade and a cookie.”
I like cookies
“I knew it,” Pearl said. (I’ve never seen Pearl so excited.)
“I’ll have to think up some more life lessons to teach you, Essie. Living in this world takes know how and if it’s one thing old Pearl has, it’s know how!”
“Do you know anything about etiquette Pearl? One of the bridge club ladies who was at Mrs. Stones’ house said I could use a few lessons on etiquette.”
“Boy, Pearl the dog, Pearl the human sure was puffing away on that air cigarette when we left. She just doesn’t seem herself. Where should we go on our walk? How about Mrs. Stones’ house to see if anybody pulled those weeds.’
Okay Ellie, but it’s getting pretty dark. Do you think she’ll give us a cookie?