here once lived a woman who had made some poor choices in her life, one of which resulted in her now 17-year-old daughter. Another poor choice was the woman’s new live-in boyfriend. All you need to know about him at this point is that, whenever he was home, the 17-year-old girl had to keep her bedroom door locked and braced.
Unfortunately, the girl’s mother made one final poor choice just as our story opens. In an effort to peg the needle on the pleasure gauge, she accidentally mixed too much of too many things, with the result that she ripped her soul right out of her body.
Within a few minutes after the end of the funeral, the now ex-boyfriend assumed that the woman’s house was now his, along with the woman’s daughter. When he apprised the girl of his conclusion, the ink on the period at the end of his last sentence was not dry before she informed him, clearly and distinctly, that there was medication for the kind of delusions he was suffering and that she recommended he take the maximum dose.
At this rebuff, the ex-boyfriend launched a fusillade of expletives, insults, threats, demands, and animadversions, accompanied by a complete set of those words—in two languages, for he was bilingual—that are still rather frowned upon among churchgoers. Then he said, “I can’t afford to let you live here for free. You’ll have to go out and earn money any way you can. Unless—,” he added, in a tone that made clear what the “unless” was.
“Bless my mother,” said the girl, as she walked out the door, “but she had really bad taste.”
“And bring the money to me,” he shouted after her. “You already owe back rent.”
Now, the girl was not well educated, but she was no dummy, either. So she went from farm to farm looking for employment. She figured that if she could work for a chicken or a hog, she wouldn’t have to give money to the ex-boyfriend, who would, as was his usual practice, spend it on drink and entertainment at the Red Light Café, just across the county line.
The stable owner told her that he had girls by the dozen offering to care for and ride his horses, and the watermelon farmer, after sizing her up, said she couldn’t do the all-day lifting required. After these and a few other rejections, she at length found herself at the door of a peanut farmer and his wife (who immediately took to calling her “Sweetie”). When the farmer made the girl an offer of a certain amount each week, she said, “I don’t want cash. I’ll just work for peanuts.” The farmer couldn’t hide his expression of wonder, but he agreed to pay the girl in peanuts rather than currency.
When the girl got home, the ex-boyfriend demanded whatever money she had earned.
“I work for peanuts,” the girl said, demurely.
“I don’t care,” the ex said. Give it to me.” So the girl dumped a substantial sack of peanuts (still in the shell, of course) onto the kitchen table.
At this perceived outrageous affront to his dignity, the ex-boyfriend produced, just as he had before, and at an increasingly high volume, a highly repetitive string of all the insults, asperities, and excoriations he could think of, lavishly punctuated by an all-too-generous serving of four letter nouns and verbs. To be honest, my summarized paraphrase of his retort has shortened this story by two thirds over what it had been if I had quoted him exactly.
This ungentlemanly outburst didn’t faze the girl one bit, for she had heard all those words before. What did bother her, however, was noting that her mother’s ex had brought up the crowbar from the tool shed. She quickly connected the dots, and, early that evening, before the ex was even half drunk enough to locate the courage to try the crowbar on her bedroom door, the girl packed up her meager belongings and disappeared.
Happily, she reappeared at the peanut farmer’s house, where, to her request to stay in the farmer’s barn, the farmer said, “Well, I guess that can’t hurt nothin’.”
And his wife said, “Of course you can stay with us, Sweetie, in the house.” There is disagreement among the sources of this story concerning whether or not the farmer’s wife gave her husband a look, and if so, just what the look was.
Well, the girl moved in, and eager to earn her keep, she took her pay of peanuts, roasted them, and sold them at a makeshift stand on the edge of the property right by the road.
Next payment, she made peanut butter cookies. She fixed up her little food stand into a nice place with outdoor tables. Oh, and she made peanut pie, peanut butter and banana cake, and peanut butter fudge.
As the seasons passed, she began selling peanut oil. While demonstrating its use, she discovered that her customers loved peanut chicken, so in the next year she built a small restaurant with her earnings (thrifty saver that she was) together with a modest chicken coop.
Time continued to fly first class and the calendar pages continued to be ripped from their holder. Eventually, the girl’s income (still in peanuts) was such that she was buying her benefactor’s entire peanut crop, together with generous proportions of the crops of several nearby farmers.
After she had expanded her restaurant, she decided to build a baseball field, so she could sell peanuts to the spectators.
The girl was now well enough off to hire a lawyer, who, in two shakes of a rabbit’s tail, evicted the mother’s ex-boyfriend and sued him for back rent.
The girl next had the house torn down and built an amusement park on the property, appropriately called “Peanut Land,” because it featured peanut rides and peanut characters. The concept was so hip (as they used to say) that venture capitalists met with the girl and offered her 178 million dollars for a 49 percent stake. After some deliberation, she agreed, took the money, and moved to Switzerland.
Whenever she was asked how she got her start, she would always reply, “In my first job, I worked for peanuts.”
vvv(C) 2019 Robert Harris