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Tales of the Jazz Age (Kid Haider's Adaptation)
Kid Haider
17/6/2024 14:35:10
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Kategori: Buku
Genre: Komedi/Romantik Komedi
Senarai Bab
Tale 1
Tale 1: The Jelly-Bean
Adapted by Khidir Mohamed Yazir (Kid Haider)

Jim Powell was a true Jelly-bean through and through. I can't sugarcoat it - he was lazy as they come, just lounging around in the land of the Jelly-beans below the Mason-Dixon line.

If you dare call a guy from Memphis a Jelly-bean, you might end up in a sticky situation. But a New Orleans fella? He'll just laugh it off and ask about your love life.

Now, the Jelly-bean patch where our main man comes from is a sleepy little city in southern Georgia. It's been dozing for ages, only waking up to mumble about some old war nobody remembers.

Jim was a Jelly-bean. I say that again because it just sounds so nice - like the start of a fairy tale. It makes me imagine Jim with a round, friendly face and all kinds of plants sprouting from his hat. But in reality, Jim was tall and skinny, hunched over pool tables, and what some might call a lazy bum up North. In the South, a Jelly-bean is someone who spends their days doing nothing but lounging around.

Jim was born in a white house on a green corner. It had four weather-beaten pillars in front and a lot of lattice-work in the back, which created a nice background for a sunny lawn full of flowers. The people who originally lived in the white house owned the land next door, and the land next to that, and the land next to that. But that was so long ago that even Jim's father barely remembered it. In fact, he didn't think it was important enough to tell little Jim when he was dying from a gunshot wound he got in a fight. Jim was only five years old and scared out of his mind. After his father passed, the white house became a boarding house run by a stern lady from Macon, who Jim called Aunt Mamie and absolutely hated.

When he turned fifteen, he started high school, rocked a messy black hairdo, and had a major fear of girls. Living with four women and an old man who never stopped talking about the Powell place and flowers drove him crazy. Sometimes, people mistook him for his mom and invited him to parties, but he was too shy and preferred hanging out in Tilly's Garage, playing dice or messing around with a straw. He made some cash doing odd jobs, which made him stop going to parties. At one party, a girl spilled the beans that he was just a grocery boy, so he ditched the dance floor for dice games and wild stories about local shootings.

He turned eighteen and then joined the military during the war. He spent a year polishing brass in the Charleston Navy Yard, then switched things up by heading North to polish brass in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for another year.

After the war ended, he returned home at twenty-one. His pants were too short and too tight, his shoes were long and narrow, and his tie was a wild mix of purple and pink. His eyes were a faded blue, like old cloth left out in the sun.

One April evening, as the gray twilight settled over the cotton fields and the town, he stood leaning against a fence, whistling and staring at the moon above Jackson Street. His mind was focused on a problem that had been bothering him for a while. The Jelly-bean had been invited to a party.

Back in the day when all the boys used to dislike all the girls, Clark Darrow and Jim sat next to each other in school. But while Jim's social ambitions faded away in the greasy air of the garage, Clark went through a series of ups and downs - falling in and out of love, going to college, struggling with alcohol, giving it up, and eventually becoming one of the most popular guys in town. Despite their different paths, Clark and Jim maintained a casual but definite friendship.

One afternoon, Clark's old Ford pulled up next to Jim on the sidewalk, and out of nowhere, Clark invited him to a party at the country club. The decision to extend the invitation was just as random as Jim's decision to accept. Perhaps it was a sense of boredom or a hint of excitement that led Jim to agree. Now, as he pondered over the invitation, Jim started to hum a tune and tapped his foot on a stone block on the sidewalk, causing it to wobble up and down in rhythm.

"One smile from Home in Jelly–bean town,
Lives Jeanne, the Jelly–bean Queen.
She loves her dice and treats 'em nice;
No dice would treat her mean."

He stomped down the sidewalk, causing it to bump and jolt beneath his feet.

"Damn!" he grumbled to himself. They would all be there - the old gang, the group that Jim should have been a part of, with their fancy white house and the portrait of the officer in gray hanging over the fireplace. But that group had formed slowly over the years, just like the girls' dresses getting longer and the boys' pants suddenly dropping to their ankles. Jim was always on the outside, just a buddy to the poor white kids. The men would nod at him with a hint of superiority, and he would awkwardly tip his hat to a few of the girls. That was the extent of his interaction with them.

As the sun set and the sky turned a deep shade of blue, he strolled through the warm, pleasantly fragrant town towards Jackson Street. The shops were closing up and the last few shoppers were heading home, moving as if they were on a slow merry-go-round. Further down the street, a street fair added a mix of music to the night - an exotic dance playing on a calliope, a somber bugle outside a sideshow, and a lively rendition of "Back Home in Tennessee" on a hand-organ.

The Jelly-bean popped into a store to buy a collar, then continued on towards Soda Sams. There, he found the usual crowd of cars parked out front and the young kids running around serving up sundaes and lemonades on a summer evening.

"Hey Jim,"

As Jim was walking, he heard a voice beside him. It was Joe Ewing, sitting in a car with Marylyn Wade. Nancy Lamar and a strange man were in the back seat.

The Jelly-bean quickly tipped his hat

"Hi Ben - then, after a slight pause - "How y'all?"

He continued towards the garage where he had a room upstairs. He hadn't spoken to Nancy Lamar in fifteen years, but he couldn't help but say hi to her. Nancy had a mouth like a memory, shadowy eyes, and blue-black hair from her mother who was born in Budapest. Jim often saw her walking with Sally Carrol Hopper, leaving a trail of broken hearts from Atlanta to New Orleans.

For a moment, Jim wished he could dance. Then he laughed and started singing softly to himself as he reached his door:

"Her Jelly Roll can twist your soul, Her eyes are big and brown, She's the Queen of the Queens of the Jelly-beans - My Jeanne of Jelly-bean Town."

II

At 9:30, Jim and Clark met in front of Soda Sam's and headed to the Country Club in Clark's Ford. As they drove through the night filled with the scent of jasmine, Jim casually asked Clark, "How do you make ends meet?"

Clark paused, thinking it over. "Well," he finally replied, "I have a room above Tilly's garage. I help him out with cars in the afternoons, and he lets me stay there for free. Sometimes I drive one of his taxis and make a little extra cash that way. But I get tired of doing that all the time."

"Is that all?"

"When there's a lot of work, I help him out by working with him on Saturdays. There's also another source of income that I don't usually talk about. You might not remember, but I'm actually the best dice shooter in town. They make me use a cup now because once I get the hang of a pair of dice, they just seem to roll in my favour."

Clark smiled,

"I could never figure out how to make them do what I wanted. You should play dice with Nancy Lamar sometime and take all her money. She plays with the guys and ends up losing more than her dad can afford to give her. I heard she even had to sell a nice ring last month to pay off a debt."

The Jelly-bean was indecisive.

"Do you still own the white house on Elm Street?"

Jim shook his head.

"It's been sold. I got a pretty good price for it, considering it wasn't in a good part of town anymore. My lawyer advised me to put the money into Liberty bonds. But Aunt Mamie lost her mind, so now all the interest goes towards keeping her at Great Farms Sanitarium."

"Hmm."

"I have an old uncle upstate and I could go live with him if I ever become really poor. It's a nice farm, but there aren't enough workers. He's asked me to come help, but I don't think I'd like it. It's too lonely— He stopped abruptly. Clark, I appreciate you inviting me out, but I'd honestly be happier if you just let me walk back into town right here."

"Come on!" Clark grunted. "It'll do you good to get some fresh air. You don't have to dance—just get out on the floor and move around."

"Wait a minute," Jim exclaimed nervously. "Don't you dare lead me up to any girls and leave me there to dance with them."

Clark chuckled.

"Because," Jim continued anxiously, "if you don't promise not to do that, I'm going to leave right now and my legs will carry me back to Jackson Street."

After some debate, they decided that Jim, free from female attention, would watch the event from a private settee in the corner, where Clark would join him when he wasn't dancing.

At ten o'clock, the Jelly-bean was sitting with his legs crossed and arms folded, trying to appear nonchalant and uninterested in the dancers. Deep down, he was torn between feeling extremely self-conscious and being intensely curious about everything happening around him. He watched as the girls emerged one by one from the dressing room, preening and smiling at the chaperones, scanning the room and gauging the reactions to their entrance. They then gracefully joined their waiting escorts, like birds settling into their nests.

Sally Carrol Hopper, with her blonde hair and lazy eye, stood out in her favourite pink outfit, looking like a blooming rose. Marjorie Haight, Marylyn Wade, Harriet Cary, and all the other girls he had seen earlier on Jackson Street now appeared transformed under the bright lights, like delicate Dresden figurines in shades of pink, blue, red, and gold.

Despite being at the event for half an hour, the Jelly-bean felt out of place and unenthusiastic, even with Clark's attempts to cheer him up with jovial visits. The other guys who approached him seemed surprised to see him there, and he even sensed a hint of resentment from a couple of them. But at half past ten, his embarrassment suddenly vanished, and he was captivated by Nancy Lamar's entrance from the dressing room.

She was wearing a stunning yellow organdie dress, with three tiers of ruffles and a big bow in the back. She looked like a ray of sunshine, glowing in the room. The Jelly-bean couldn't take his eyes off her, feeling a lump in his throat. She was standing by the door, waiting for her partner to arrive. Jim recognized him as the guy who was with her in Joe Ewing's car earlier that day. He saw her talking and laughing with the man, and felt a pang of jealousy. It seemed like they shared some kind of special connection that made Jim feel like he was invisible.

A little while later, Clark came over, looking excited and full of energy.

"Hey, buddy! How's it going?" he said, lacking originality. "How you making out?"

Jim replied that he was making out as well as could be expected.

"Come with me," Clark said, taking charge. "I've got something that will make this evening more interesting."

Jim followed Clark awkwardly to the locker room, where Clark pulled out a flask of yellow liquid.

"Good old corn," Clark said proudly.

Ginger ale was brought over on a tray to mix with the potent drink.

"Man, Nancy Lamar looks stunning tonight, doesn't she?" Clark said, out of breath.

Jim nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, she looks amazing," he said.

"She's all dressed up tonight," Clark continued. "And that guy she's with? Ogden Merritt from Savannah. His family makes those Merritt safety razors. He's been chasing after her all year."

"She's a wild one, that Nancy," continued Clark, "but I like her. So does everybody. She sure does pull off some crazy stunts. She usually comes out alive, but she's got scars all over her reputation from the things she's done.

"Oh, really?" Jim replied, passing over his glass. "That's some good corn."

"Not too shabby. Oh, she's a wild one, alright. Loves to shoot craps and drink her highballs. Promised her I'd make her one later."

"Is she in love with this Merritt guy?"

"Who knows? Seems like all the best girls around here end up marrying and leaving town."

He poured himself another drink and carefully corked the bottle.

"Listen, Jim, I gotta go dance. Would you mind holding onto this corn for me while I'm on the dance floor? If someone sees I've had a drink, they'll come up and ask me for some, and before I know it, it's all gone and someone else is having my fun."

So Nancy Lamar was going to get married. The town's darling was going to become someone's wife all because that someone's father made a better razor than the neighbour. As they went down the stairs, Jim found the idea strangely depressing. For the first time, he felt a vague sense of longing. A picture of Nancy began to form in his mind - Nancy strolling down the street with a boyish charm, taking an orange as a gift from a fruit vendor, running up a tab at Soda Sams, gathering a group of admirers, and driving off triumphantly for an afternoon of fun and laughter.

The Jelly-bean strolled out onto the porch, finding a secluded spot between the moonlit lawn and the glowing door of the ballroom. He settled into a chair, lit a cigarette, and let his mind wander as he often did. The night air was filled with the sweet scent of perfume and the distant sound of music, creating a dreamy atmosphere.

As he sat lost in thought, a dark figure suddenly blocked the light from the door. A girl emerged from the dressing room and stood just a few feet away. She let out a soft exclamation before noticing him. It was Nancy Lamar.

Jim stood up, greeting her with a casual "Howdy?"

"Hey there," she said, pausing for a moment before approaching. "Oh, it's Jim Powell."

Jim nodded slightly, trying to come up with something casual to say.

"Do you happen to know anything about getting gum off shoes?" she asked quickly. "Someone left their gum on the floor and, of course, I stepped in it."

Jim blushed, feeling a bit embarrassed.

"Do you know how to get it off?" she asked impatiently. "I've tried a knife, soap and water, even perfume. I've ruined my powder puff trying to get it off."

Jim thought for a moment, feeling a bit flustered.

"Well, I think maybe gasoline—"

Before he could finish his sentence, she grabbed his hand and pulled him off the veranda, through a flower bed, and towards a group of cars parked by the golf course.

"Turn on the gasoline," she said, out of breath.

"What?" Jim asked, confused.

"For the gum, of course. I need to get it off. I can't dance with gum on my shoe."

Jim obediently turned to the cars and began inspecting them in search of the desired solvent. If she had asked for a cylinder, he would have done his best to get one out for her.

"Here," he said after a quick search. "Here's an easy one. Do you have a handkerchief?"

"It's upstairs. wet. I used it for the soap and water," she replied.

Jim searched his pockets. "I don't think I have one either."

"Aw, darn it! Well, we can just turn it on and let it run on the ground."

He turned the spout, and a drip started.

"More!" She exclaimed.

He turned it on fuller, and the dripping turned into a flow, creating an oily pool that shimmered in the light.

"Ah," she sighed happily. "Just let it all out. The only way to do it is to wade in."

In a moment of desperation, he turned the tap on full blast, causing the pool to widen and send tiny rivers in all directions.

"That's great. That's more like it," she said.

Lifting her skirts, she gracefully stepped into the gasoline.

"I know this will take it off," she murmured.

Jim smiled. "There are plenty more cars."

She stepped out of the gasoline and began scraping her slippers on the running-board of the car. The jelly-bean couldn't contain himself any longer and burst into laughter, with her joining in a moment later.

"You're here with Clark Darrow, aren't you?" She asked as they strolled back toward the veranda.

"Yeah."

"Do you know where he is now?"

"Out dancing, I reckon."

"Oh no. He promised me a highball."

"Well," said Jim, "I guess that'll be alright. I've got his bottle right here in my pocket."

She smiled at him brightly.

"I guess maybe you'll need ginger ale though," he added.

"Not me. Just the bottle."

"Are you sure?"

She laughed scornfully.

"Try me. I can drink anything any man can. Let's sit down."

She perched herself on the edge of a table and he settled into one of the wicker chairs beside her. Taking out the cork, she held the flask to her lips and took a long drink. He watched her, fascinated.

"Do you like it?" he asked.

She shook her head breathlessly.

"No, but I like the way it makes me feel. I think most people are that way."

Jim agreed.

"My daddy liked it too much. It got him."

"American men," said Nancy seriously, "don't know how to drink."

"What?" Jim was surprised.

"In fact," she continued casually, "they don't know how to do anything very well. The one thing I regret in my life is that I wasn't born in England."

"In England?"

"Yes. It's the one regret of my life that I wasn't."

"Do you like it over there?"

"Yes. Immensely. I've never been there in person, but I've met a lot of Englishmen who were over here in the army, Oxford and Cambridge men—you know, that's like Sewanee and University of Georgia are here—and of course, I've read a lot of English novels."

Jim was intrigued, amazed.

"Have you ever heard of Lady Diana Manner?" she asked earnestly.

"No," Jim replied.

Jim was intrigued and amazed.

"Have you ever heard of Lady Diana Manners?" she asked eagerly.

"No, I haven't," Jim replied.

"Well, she's who I aspire to be. Dark, like me, and wild as sin. She's the girl who rode her horse up the steps of some cathedral or church, and all the novelists had their heroines do it after her."

Jim nodded politely, feeling a bit out of his element.

"Pass the bottle," Nancy suggested. "I'm going to have another little one. A drink wouldn't hurt."

"You see," she continued, catching her breath after a sip, "people over there have style. Nobody has style here. The boys aren't really worth dressing up for or doing sensational things for, you know?"

"I suppose so," Jim murmured.

"I'd like to show them all up. I'm really the only girl in town with style," she declared, stretching her arms and yawning.

"It's a beautiful evening," she remarked.

"Sure is," Jim agreed.

"I'd love to have a boat," she said dreamily. "Sail out on a silver lake, like the Thames. Have champagne and caviar sandwiches with about eight people. And one of the men would jump overboard to entertain us, like that man did with Lady Diana Manners."

"Did he do it to impress her?" Jim asked.

"No, he didn't mean to drown himself to impress her. He just wanted to make everyone laugh," she explained.

"I bet they laughed when he drowned," she said with a chuckle.

"Oh, I suppose they did laugh a little," she admitted. "I imagine she did, anyway. She's pretty tough, like me."

"You're tough?" Jim asked.

"Like nails," she replied, yawning again. "Give me a little more from that bottle."

Jim hesitated, but she held out her hand confidently. "Don't treat me like a girl," she warned. "I'm not like any girl you've ever met." She paused. "But maybe you're right. You have an old head on young shoulders."

She stood up and headed towards the door. The Jelly-bean stood up too.

"Goodbye," she said politely. "Thanks, Jelly-bean."

Then she walked inside, leaving him stunned on the porch.

III

At twelve o'clock, a line of people in cloaks emerged from the women's dressing room, each one pairing up with a man in a coat like dancers in a cotillion. They drifted through the door with sleepy, happy laughter, disappearing into the darkness where cars were parked and people chatted around the water cooler.

Jim, sitting in his corner, got up to look for Clark. They had met at eleven, but Clark had gone to dance. Jim went to the soft drink stand, which used to be a bar. The room was empty except for a tired bartender and two boys playing dice at a table. Just as Jim was about to leave, he saw Clark walking in. They made eye contact and Clark called out, "Hi, Jim! Come over and help us finish this bottle. There's not much left, but we can all have a drink."

Nancy, a man from Savannah, Marylyn Wade, and Joe Ewing were hanging out in the doorway, lounging and laughing. Nancy caught Jim's eye and winked playfully.

They all moved over to a table and sat down, waiting for the waiter to bring them some ginger ale. Jim, feeling a bit uneasy, glanced over at Nancy who was now playing a game with two boys at the neighbouring table.

"Bring them over here," Clark suggested.

Joe looked around nervously.

"We don't want to attract attention. It's against the club rules," he said.

"No one's around," Clark insisted, "except Mr. Taylor. He's pacing back and forth like a madman, trying to figure out who stole all the gas from his car."

Everyone chuckled.

"I bet Nancy stepped in something again. You can never have peace when she's around," someone joked.

"Oh Nancy, Mr. Taylor is looking for you!" another person called out.

Nancy's cheeks were flushed with excitement from the game. "I haven't seen his old car in two weeks," she said.

Suddenly, there was a hush in the room. Jim turned around and saw a man of indeterminate age standing in the doorway.

Clark broke the silence. "Won't you join us, Mr. Taylor?"

"Thanks," the man replied.

Mr. Taylor plopped down in a chair, looking all grumpy.

"I guess I have to wait until they bring me some gas. Someone messed with my car."

His eyes narrowed as he glanced back and forth between the two of them. Jim wondered what he had overheard from the doorway and tried to recall what had been said.

"I'm on fire tonight," Nancy declared, "and I've got my money on the line."

"Faded!" Taylor snapped out of nowhere.

"Why, Mr. Taylor, I didn't know you played dice!" Nancy was thrilled to see him join in and quickly matched his bet. They had openly disliked each other ever since she shut down his advances one night.

"Come on, babies, do it for your mama. Just one little seven," Nancy cooed to the dice. She gave them a good shake and rolled them out on the table.

"Oh no! I knew it. And now, let's double the bet," Taylor grumbled.

After five successful rolls, Taylor was getting pretty annoyed. Nancy was really rubbing it in, and Jim could see the satisfaction on her face after each win. She kept doubling her bet with each throw, but Jim thought her luck wouldn't last. "You might want to slow down a bit," he suggested nervously.

"Ah, but watch this one," Nancy whispered. The dice landed on an eight, and she called out her number.

"Looks like we're heading South this time, Ada."

Ada from Decatur confidently rolled the dice across the table. Nancy, on the other hand, was feeling the pressure and was on the verge of losing it, but somehow her luck was still on her side.

She kept raising the stakes, not willing to back down. Taylor, although nervous, was committed to the game. The tension in the room was palpable as he impatiently tapped his fingers on the table.

When Nancy lost the dice, Taylor eagerly snatched them up. The room fell silent as he made his move, the only sound being the dice hitting the table.

As the game went on, Nancy's luck took a turn for the worse. Hours passed with the game going back and forth. Taylor seemed to have an endless streak of luck, leaving them tied in the end with Nancy losing her last five dollars.

Desperate, Nancy offered Taylor a check for fifty dollars to continue playing. Her voice trembled slightly as she reached for the money.

Clark and Joe Ewing exchanged worried glances as Taylor accepted Nancy's check and continued to play.

Nancy, now frantic, asked for another round, willing to use any bank's money to keep the game going. Money was flying everywhere, and the tension in the room was at an all-time high.

Jim understood the significance of the corn he had given her, the corn she had been taking for a while now. He hesitated to intervene, as a girl of her age and social standing probably wouldn't have two bank accounts. But when the clock struck two, he couldn't hold back any longer.

"Hey, can I roll the dice for you?" Jim suggested, his voice sounding a bit strained.

Feeling suddenly tired and uninterested, Nancy tossed the dice in front of him.

"Sure thing, old boy! Let's shoot 'em, Jelly-bean. My luck has run out," she said, quoting Lady Diana Manners.

"Mr. Taylor," Jim said casually, "let's play for one of those checks instead of cash."

After half an hour, Nancy leaned forward and patted him on the back.

"You stole my luck," she said, nodding knowingly.

Jim gathered up the remaining checks, tore them into confetti, and scattered them on the floor. Someone started singing, and Nancy, pushing her chair back, stood up.

Ladies and gentlemen, she announced, "Ladies - that's you, Marylyn. I want to share with the world that Mr. Jim Powell, a well-known Jelly-bean in this city, is an exception to the rule - lucky in dice, unlucky in love. He's lucky in dice, and as a matter of fact, I love him. Ladies and gentlemen, Nancy Lamar, the famous dark-haired beauty often featured in the Herald as one of the most popular members of the younger set, wishes to announce - wishes to announce, anyway, gentlemen..." She stumbled a bit, but Clark caught her and helped her regain her balance.

"My mistake," she laughed. "She stoops to - stoops to - anyway, let's raise a toast to Jelly-bean... Mr. Jim Powell, the King of the Jelly-beans."

A few minutes later, as Jim waited with his hat in hand for Clark in the dark corner of the porch where she had come looking for gas, she suddenly appeared beside him.

"Jelly-bean, are you here, Jelly-bean? I think..." Her slight unsteadiness made it feel like an enchanted dream. "I think you deserve one of my sweetest kisses for that, Jelly-bean."

For a moment, her arms were around his neck, and her lips pressed against his.

"I'm a wild one, Jelly-bean, but you did me a good turn."

Then she disappeared, walking swiftly down the porch and across the loud, cricket-filled lawn. Jim watched as Merritt stormed out of the front door and said something angrily to her. He saw her laugh, then turn away with averted eyes and head to his car. Marylyn and Joe followed, singing a sleepy song about Jazz.

Clark came out and joined Jim on the steps. "Looks like things got pretty heated," he yawned. "Merritt's in a bad mood. He's definitely not happy with Nancy."

In the east, a faint gray light spread across the night, creeping over the golf course. The group in the car started chanting as the engine revved up.

"Goodnight, everyone," called Clark.

"Goodnight, Clark."

"Goodnight."

After a moment of silence, a soft, cheerful voice added, "Goodnight, Jelly-bean."

The car drove off, the sound of singing fading away. A rooster crowed mournfully in the distance, and a waiter turned off the porch light. Jim and Clark walked over to the Ford, their shoes crunching loudly on the gravel driveway.

"Man, you really know how to roll those dice!" Clark sighed softly.

It was still too dark for Clark to see the flush on Jim's cheeks, or to realize that it was a flush of shame.

IV

Above Tilly's garage, there was a dreary room that echoed all day with the sounds of cars rumbling and snorting downstairs, and the washers singing as they sprayed water on the cars outside. The room was plain and simple, with just a bed and a worn-out table that held a few books. There was "Joe Miller's Slow Train through Arkansas," an old edition of "Lucille" with lots of notes in a fancy handwriting, "The Eyes of the World" by Harold Bell Wright, and an ancient prayer book from the Church of England with the name Alice Powell and the date 1831 written on the first page.

As Jelly-bean entered the garage, the gray sky of the East transformed into a vibrant blue as he switched on his solitary electric light. He quickly turned it off again and walked over to the window, resting his elbows on the sill as he gazed out into the morning. As his emotions stirred, he couldn't shake the feeling of hopelessness, a dull ache at the monotonous grayness of his life. It was as if a wall had suddenly sprung up around him, trapping him in a world devoid of color and excitement.

The carefree Jelly-bean who used to stroll down Jackson Street, humming a tune, exchanging greetings with everyone he passed, and always ready with a joke, had disappeared. He realized that his previous way of life, filled with spontaneity and generosity, had lost its charm. He understood that Merritt probably looked down on him, and even Nancy, whom he had feelings for, would likely see him in a different light.

In a moment of clarity, Jelly-bean recognized that he had been deceiving himself and others. He had been hiding behind a facade, pretending to be someone he wasn't. He had been Nancy's "moral laundry," trying to wash away the stains of his own shortcomings. But now, he saw the truth - he was just as flawed and imperfect as everyone else.

As the gray of dawn turned into a beautiful blue, filling the room with light, he walked over to his bed and collapsed onto it, clutching the edges tightly.

"I love her," he exclaimed, "Oh God!"

As he spoke, something inside him seemed to break, like a lump dissolving in his throat. The air cleared, the room filled with the glow of morning, and he rolled over onto his face, tears silently soaking into the pillow.

In the bright sunshine of three o'clock, Clark Darrow was slowly driving down Jackson Street when he spotted the Jelly-bean standing on the sidewalk, hands in his pockets.

"Hey!" called Clark, bringing his Ford to a sudden stop next to him. "Just getting up?"

The Jelly-bean shook his head. "Never went to bed. Felt restless, so I went for a long walk in the country this morning. Just got back into town."

"I can relate to feeling restless. I've been feeling that way all day," Clark replied.

"I'm thinking of leaving town," the Jelly-bean said, lost in his own thoughts. "Considering heading up to the farm to help out Uncle Dun. I've been bumming around for too long."

Clark sat in silence as the Jelly-bean continued speaking.

"I reckon maybe after Aunt Mamie dies, I could invest my money in the farm and make something out of it. All my people originally came from that part up there. Had a big place," the Jelly-bean said.

Clark looked at him curiously.

"That's funny," he said. "This sort of affected me the same way."

The Jelly-bean hesitated.

"I don't know," he began slowly. "Something about that girl last night talking about a lady named Diana Manners—an English lady—sort of got me thinking!" He drew himself up and looked oddly at Clark. "I had a family once," he said defiantly.

Clark nodded.

"I know."

"And I'm the last of them," continued the Jelly-bean, his voice rising slightly. "And I ain't worth shucks. The name they call me by means jelly—weak and wobbly like. People who weren't nothing when my folks were a lot turn up their noses when they pass me on the street."

Again, Clark was silent.

"So I'm through. I'm going today. And when I come back to this town, it's going to be like a gentleman."

Clark took out his handkerchief and wiped his damp brow.

"I guess you're not the only one who was shaken up by all this," he said gloomily. "The way these girls are behaving, it's going to have to stop soon. It's a shame, but everyone will have to accept it."

"Do you mean to say that everyone knows about this?" Jim asked, surprised.

"Know about it? How could they keep it a secret? It will be in the newspapers tonight. Doctor Lamar has to protect his reputation somehow."

Jim gripped the sides of the car tightly, his fingers digging into the metal.

"Are you saying that Taylor looked into those checks?"

Clark was taken aback. "Haven't you heard what happened?"

Jim's eyes widened in shock.

"Well," Clark announced dramatically, "those four got another bottle of moonshine, got drunk, and decided to surprise the town—so Nancy and that guy Merritt got married in Rockville at seven o'clock this morning."

A small dent appeared in the metal under the Jelly-bean's fingers.

"Married?"

"Sure enough, Nancy sobered up and rushed back into town, crying and frightened, claiming it was all a mistake. At first, Doctor Lamar was furious and was going to harm Merritt, but they managed to resolve the situation somehow. Eventually, Nancy and Merritt caught the two-thirty train to Savannah.

Jim closed his eyes and fought off a sudden wave of nausea.

"It's a shame," Clark said thoughtfully. "Not about the wedding - I think that's fine. But it's sad to see a nice girl like Nancy hurting her family like this."

The Jelly-bean released the car and walked away, feeling a strange internal shift happening within him.

"Where are you off to?" Clark asked.

The Jelly-bean turned back, looking tired.

"I have to go," he mumbled. "I've been up too long and I'm feeling really sick."

"Oh."

* * * * * 

The street was scorching at three and even hotter at four, with the April dust swirling around like a never-ending joke played by the sun. But by half past four, a sense of calm settled in as the shadows grew longer under the awnings and leafy trees. In the midst of the heat, nothing else seemed to matter. Life itself felt like the weather, just waiting for the cool relief that was as comforting as a gentle touch on a tired forehead.

There's a certain feeling down in Georgia that this is the ultimate wisdom of the South. So, eventually, the Jelly-bean made his way to a pool hall on Jackson Street, where he knew he'd find a friendly crowd ready to share some old jokes and good times.



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