Fried Green Tomatoes
Scene Out-take: Smokey Lonesome Meets Buddy Jr.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fried Green Tomatoes, or else I would be one rich woman.
It was a nice spring day when I first came back to Whistle Stop. I'd been a'journeyin' roundabouts those places nearby, but never wanderin' more'n twenty miles each way. I couldn' bear to be much far from Ruth and Idgie and Big George and Cipsey and all my friends at the little ol' town. I guess you might call it a weakness, but a man's gotta have someplace to call home. Wal now, I reckon I'd better tell you somethin' bout who I am and where I come from. M'name's Smokey, Smokey Lonesome. It isn't really, but my old name from Missouri is much too formal. Back then I was called Roger Marlbury. Too fancy for the likes of me, if'n you ask me. Wal, I left home round the Dust Bowl time, when Ma 'n Pa started to worry 'bout how we was gonna get food and how the little ones could keep goin' to school. Didn't say nothin' to 'em bout where I was goin', just packed up a suitcase with clothes and put some food in a rucksack. I left all my money, weren't nothin' but four dollars and fifty cents, but I left it for Ma to buy somethin' for the kids.
Now, that's a long long time ago, and when I first come to Whistle Stop, it was near bout a year later. I was wanderin', allus wanderin' like the rest of us hoboes are destined to do. Never stayed in one place for more'n a week… not till I met Idgie and Miss Ruth, that is. I was follerin' the railroad tracks and cravin' a good cigar, although I'd given 'em up back home cause they were too 'spensive. Anyways, I saw the prettiest sight I'd ever seen: a quaint little café with a green roof and red lettering, the Whistle Stop Café. In the morning light it looked like the Pearly Gates themselves. I could tell from the way it was lovingly situated that some good angels lived there. It didn't even have the hobo sign for "good people free meal here" on the fence, but it didn't need it. I could see clear as day that the people in this charmin' place wouldn't turn a body away empty. So I meekly went up to the door and knocked twice.
"Come on, in, no need to knock!" came a friendly call, laughing at something or other goin' on inside.
I opened the door and stepped inside. It looked even better'n I imagined it. You ever heard the story of Hansel and Gretel? Wal now, they found this house made outta gingerbread and candies, like licorice for gutters and gumdrops for facets and whatnot. Well I tell you now, I never believed that ol' fairytale till I stepped in the Whistle Stop Café. That there place was the coziest gingerbread house you could imagine. And the best thing is that, you see, in the story, it were a wicked witch that lived in the house, but in Whistle Stop it were four o' the kindest people I ever laid eyes on.
There was Cipsey, the black waitress and cook, who smiled at me with surprisingly white teeth and beckoned me come on in, and have some breakfast. There was Big George, the hired hand, who clapped me on the back and said, "Course we'd love to have you! Sit on down and rest yo'self, Mistuh." His voice carried the slang of the plantation Negro, but he was educated and strong, and I saw how gently he treated his little niece.
There was Idgie Threadgoode, the most boyish girl I'd ever seen, who could drink and play poker most better than I could, and scared the daylights out of the big black sharecroppers who made a fuss in the backyard. I could see she was daring, and fiercely protective of Miss Ruth and little Buddy Jr. But there was more, she could see things. She saw how I needed the drink, how my muscles needed to relax or I'd take a fit like I use'ta back home. The doctors, they called it a see-sure, but I dunno what that all means 'cept that I have to take a reg'lar drink. She saw what I needed, and she warn't ashamed to drink with me. She told some pretty tall whoppers, too, and we traded stories back 'n forth. I had some a the best durn times with that Idgie.
Then, there was Miss Ruth. She asked me to call her just Ruth, but I couldn't do that no more than I could call the preacher by his first name. She was that holy. I seen how Idgie called her Ruthie, and Dear, and Sweetheart, but I couldn't even bring myself to drop the Miss. She was some good angel, come from heaven to a poor soul. I could joke and laugh with Idgie, but around Miss Ruth I was on pins and needles, watching my every move, trying my best to impress her. I saw her baby, the most beautiful young'un I ever seen, and I knew right then and there that if I had to, I could die for that boy and his mother. I had a feeling Idgie felt the same way, there was just somethin' so loveable about Miss Ruth and Buddy Jr. She taught at the church school, and sometimes she let me keep Buddy while she were out for an hour or so.
One such time, Idgie came home first, and sat me down for a drink. She then told me the story of Frank Bennett, the "bastard" she called him after she first told me his name. "And then, no more than a few days after they're married, he goes and hits her, the bastard!" she spat over her shoulder, "And I drive by there a coupla weeks later, to see her with a black eye and her arms all bruised up from where he's draggin' her around. And I tell her to come home with me, that I'm gonna kill the bastard. But she tole me to leave, if I love her, and go away in peace. I tell you, Smokey, it were the hardest thing I ever done, to walk away from Ruthie when she was hurting and needed my help. But I could see that two women were no match for the bastard, and so I go home, and I ask my friend over at the club what I'm supposed to do. And she tells me," Idgie laughed a little, "tells me to bide my time, because Ruth's a grown woman, and can take care of herself. Well she didn't see the marks on her face and her arms! And Lord only knows what else the bastard was doing to her…" Idgie breathed in deep, "Well a week after that, a letter come. Mama read it to me, the obituary from where Ruth's mama had died. I knew her mama was the only thing keepin' her with that bastard, and besides there was a page torn outta Ruthie's Bible, that said "And Ruth said, 'Wherever you go, I'll go…" so I knew she'd come with me this time. So I brought Big George and my friend Fred with me, and we took the truck to get Ruth.
"When we pulled up, I told the boys to wait outside, I had to talk to Ruthie. She told me she was pregnant. I told her to come with me, and we'd take care of her baby back in Whistle Stop. She agreed, and we got ready to go. Well, just as we were carryin' a few more bags--I swear, that girl has more hats than anybody I've ever met-- the bastard come home from work. He pulled Ruth away and hit her, and I lost it. I lost control, and I attacked him. I jumped on his back and laid it on him six or seven times before he could throw me off. Then he grabbed Ruth and threw her over his shoulder, and headed upstairs. But Fred said loudly, "I wouldn't go that, if I were you." And Big George pulled out his huntin' knife, so Fred said, "You might upset Big George, and he's crazy. Ain't no tellin' what he might do." Well, he got the threat sure enough, and he put Ruth down on the stairs. And I held out my hand for her, and she started to walk, very slowly, to me. But that bastard wasn't done hurting her yet. He kicked her hard, down the stairs, and she landed at my feet. Big George had to hold Fred back, or he'd a killed him then and there. As for me, I screamed at the bastard as we left, "If you ever touch her again, I'll kill you," and we went home. Papa borrowed some money, and we started up the Café. And here we are!" She exclaimed brightly. "Buddy Jr. was born, and we all thanked God for that, and we haven't had any trouble from that bastard in all these months."
And that seemed to be the bad luck, to tempt bad fortune. Y'all know what happened after that, where Frank Bennett came back for his wife and child, and I couldn' let him take Ruth's baby. And wal, afterwards, we thought it'd be better if I left town. So I left for four years, and then came back. And here I was, looking down at the spittin' image of Ruth, and I told him so.
"Buddy Threadgoode Junior," he said, holding out his hand. I shook it, and found to my delight he was a sturdy little thing, no more'n five years old but already sprightly and energetic. He walked me back to the Café as we talked. Or, more like he asked me questions and I answered.
"What's your name?"
"Smokey. Smokey Lonesome."
"How'd you come to Whistle Stop?"
"I walked, and road the rails a piece."
"Where'd ya come from?"
"Why Whistle Stop?"
"I remembered a friend of mine that lives here."
"Do you know Aunt Idgie too?"
"I do, and Big George and Cipsey too."
"Cool! You're practically family, then."
And how it warmed my heart to hear him say that.
"I'd rather have you than Grand-daddy Preacher, he pinches my cheeks and calls me Little Jim. My name is not Jim," he said, to make sure I knew.
"Wal now, I reckon your name's Buddy Junior, ain't it?"
"Yep, but he says I'm a Jim cause nobody thought my Mama would be able to have me, so I'm extra precious."
"You sure are, but that ain't no reason to change your name."
"Zactly! Glad you agree, Mister." And he slipped his little hand into mine, and my heart melted for this little boy I had once defended.
We'd reached the Café by this point, and he opened the door for me, little as he was.
"Hey Aunt Idgie! I made a friend!"
"Smokey!" She exclaimed, her eyes wider'n tea cups.
"Hey now, Idgie Threadgoode, I reckon it's been too long since I been in Whistle Stop."
"Sure has, Smokey! So good to see you!"
And then she came out of the kitchen, Miss Ruth did, and saw me with her boy. She broke out a beautiful, angelic smile, and Buddy dropped my hand and ran to his mother.
"Mama! Look, I met Mr. Smokey, your old friend!"
"Yes, darling, I see you have. Well, Smokey, it's good to have you back home."
"Thankee kindly, ma'am."
"Now, are you hungry? We're not crowded since it's just now four o'clock."
"And even if we were packed full, you'd get a plate!" burst Idgie.
"True enough, Idgie."
"Wal now, ma'am, even iffen I were stuffed fit to burst, I'd have to squeeze room for a fried green tomato from the Whistle Stop Café."
"You like those?" Buddy rounded on me, "They're my favorite, too!"
"Sure enough, I reckon."
And there was a plate before me faster'n you could say "Amen." Which Miss Ruth did say in a blessing before I ate.
"Mmm, this's the best barbecue in three states, I'll say. Ain't nothin' like it in Missouri, Georgia, or Mississippi."
"You must agree with Mr. Sloop here," said Idgie sharply, gesturing in a joke to a girly-looking man in the far window booth. "He's been looking for the same man for five years; awful persistent he is, but he sure loves our barbecue." We all laughed at that for some reason, and soon enough I was back in my old shed behind the café.
Whistle Stop never felt so good as when I'd been fed by Cipsey, clothed by Miss Ruth, given drink by Idgie, and made up a cot by Big George. But more than the physical comforts, these dear souls gave me the feeling of being a man again, and not a tramp. Buddy Jr. shared that same good spirit, and he and I grew to be close friends in the months that followed. Yessir, Whistle Stop was my only home.
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