Short Story Part Four: Anne Kenney
Anna Marie Kowalski came from Ville Platte, Louisiana. She was the middle child of five attractive and gifted children that graced the lives of Maude and Paul Kowalski. The family had moved to Ville Platte from Eureka Springs, Arkansas when Mr. Kowalski’s company opened up a branch office in Ville Platte. Paul Kowalski was a mortician who specialized in body contouring, which meant that his specialty was making people, dead people, fit into the coffins that had been picked out and purchased by miserly next of kinfolk. “You wouldn’t believe how many cheapskates want to carve off savings by putting a size eighteen body into a size nine casket” he would tell his wife and children over one of Mrs. K’s wonderful home cooked meals. A transfer to the facility opening in Ville Platte meant a sizable raise for Mr. Paul and the Kowalskis bought a roomy house with an equally sizable mortgage on West Main; three bedrooms, two baths. There they settled were fruitful and multiplied.
Ville Platte was the home of the Louisiana Cotton Festival. Anna Marie attended school at Sacred Heart Academy where she had average grades and a reasonable amount of friends both male and female. At fourteen she went out for the cheerleading squad and was accepted; it was one of the happiest days of her life, she loved Sacred Heart Academy and she loved being a cheerleader. It made her feel like a goddess.
On a late night drive, after the football team suffered a bitter defeat, while with the fullback of the team, she was informed as to what was logically expected of her as a cheerleader of the mighty Sacred Heart Trojan football team. She was kind of excited when she was told that she would be giving ‘succor’ to the team as part of her duties. The fullback explained patiently (his forte) how much pressure and stress a football team member is really under. “You can’t believe how much of a load one of your team’s players carry” he told sweet Anna Marie. Anna Marie felt tears coming to her eyes as she pictured the poor brute hulks, wearing the Trojan uniform, weighed down by such strains and burdens.
She wondered aloud if she really knew what ‘succor’ was, and the fullback kindly offered to show her. They drove to Hope Park, which is on the corner of Lincoln and Railroad Avenue and she learned on a picnic table, under spreading oaks, about ‘succor’. There was a bit of alcohol involved, but just a bit. Nor did Anna Marie know exactly what a Trojan was; her new friend obviously didn’t know either or didn’t care because he didn’t use one and Anna Marie was with child six months before her sixteenth birthday. She reasoned that, although she far from minded giving her all for the team, she probably wasn’t prepared for the consequences.
Anna Marie wondered, as she lie awake in the bedroom that she shared with her two younger sisters, what course her life should take from here; she hadn’t yet informed her parents of her dilemma, and she knew that in time her condition would avail itself to wiser eyes. Already some of the older cheerleaders had noticed, and told Anna of their experiences with that ‘succor jive talk’. Most had been suckered into ‘succoring’ at least twice; once by mistake and the second with the succor-er of their choice. “You should have seen the silly look on that quarterback’s face when I looked into his baby blues and said ‘ohhmy ohhmy Johnny, how ever can I ease that heavy load you’re carrying? Do, oh please do, show me all about succoring” one of the star cheerleaders told her with a laugh “but ya know, ya gotta take precautions!”
Anna Marie decided to call one of her second cousins who had moved to New Orleans to work with widows and orphans and ask for advice. Beatrice Mae had always been like the big sister Anna Marie had always wanted. It only took a few moments on the phone with Cousin Bea before Anna Marie was sobbing out her story.
“You mean that you actually fell for that succor line?” was Bea’s first impulsive query before her voice softened “I guess you fell for it hook, line and succor, eh, sucker? Now, now, you just relax, honey, and call me in the morning. I’ve got to rush off to some poor Merchant Seaman’s rescue; he’s locked himself in his hotel room and will only talk to a trained professional therapist, and that’s me, baby; by the way, it’s Brandi… I’m callin’ myself Brandi Mae now, that’s Brandi with an I”. As it turned out, Brandi Mae was in a succoring business of her own.
When Anna Marie called the following day (“not before noon, hon”), Brandi had a plan. “Listen hon, it’s almost Christmas break; why don’t you tell your folks that you’re comin’ down to see old Beatrice ‘cause she’s feelin’ a mite bit homesick for kin company. Act like it’s a big inconvenience, but say how much I’ve been such a good friend to you and that you can’t stand for me to suffer and be lonely after all I’ve done for you, and besides which, I can’t leave my job as a therapist during the holidays, can I? You got that?”
Brandi told Anna Marie that she had a “cute little place” in an area called Algiers Point and that she was welcome to stay with her while she made some phone calls and “set something up”.
And so it was that Anna Marie Kowalski went further down south on her school break and stayed there, explaining to her folks that Beatrice Mae had gotten her into a school that was training her in the field of Psychopharisaicpharmacology, for which she had scored high marks as an applicant and seeing how Beatrice was a recent graduate who could help her with her studies in a school, one not found anywhere else in the whole country, she would work hard and do her family real proud. Naturally her family, good god fearing country folks that they were, was flummoxed, confused, impressed…and gave their consent. “Imagine, Mrs. K told the ladies at her quilting bee, “my daughter in school to become a psycho-Para… something or other. I’m sure she has a fine and secure future ahead of her; oh, I do hope she meets as wonderful a man as her father is.” To which the other ladies could not but roll their eyes, Anna Marie’s true story was common knowledge to everyone but the Kowalskis.
What happened next was, at Brandi’s encouragement Anna Marie Kowalski became Anne Kenney and got a job shelving books at the local library. She got her GED and met a Marine Corps recruiter that she liked well enough, and with adequate protection, occasionally ‘succored’. His name was William Stratford Price but everyone called him Billy. Billy had an apartment on Spain Street in the Faubourg Marigny; Anne would sometimes visit him when she thought that he would be less boring than whatever else she had going on. Brandi had introduced them; Anne considered him (as had Brandi) a failure as a lover.
Billy Price was also a failure as a Marine Corps recruiter, and was in danger of being shipped out to the prevailing war, wherever that might be, because his ‘numbers’ were too low. Anne could not let that happen to her; after all, she had boring Billy trained to behave her way and she didn’t want to have to start over with training a new, boring, boyfriend. So Anne, when she saw an opportunity, found recruits for Billy… in likely young boys that she picked up at her job in the library. Anne had grown and prospered. She had taken courses in Library Sciences at Delgado College and had matured into a lovable, but well seasoned, credit to her gender. She still shared a house with her second cousin and sometimes to relieve her boredom with Billy, went on house calls with Brandi as an ‘assisting therapist’.
Anne had visited her family from time to time and on holidays she would send many presents, but she was damned if she would ever move back to Ville Platte. She received word regularly on boring subjects like births, deaths, marriages and babies. She had made up stories about how she decided to forgo the career in Psychopharisaicpharmacology and pursue a cerebral career as a librarian to the public. She told her family how she took the ferry across the Mississippi river each day and how exciting her life was, dispensing knowledge and wisdom to the underprivileged.
Actually, Ann Kennedy was pretty bored with her life and just about the only thing that got her juices going was the effect that she had on the boys that she picked up at the library. They clearly could see the goddess within her.