Southern Fried Austen

All Jumped Up

Jumped UP Dixie

Lizzy and Jane Bea went over to the Piggly Wiggly down in Sugarfield together last weekend, seein’ as how their mama was laid up with the flu and they was slap out of grits. They were in the soft drink aisle near the hard likker when they saw that Caroline over in the produce section, thumpin’ the watermelons and squeezin’ the lemons, right there ‘twixt the taters and the maters.

Jane Bea: Oh, look. There’s Caroline. We should go speak to her, Lizzy. She’s awful nice.

Lizzy: Jane Beatrice! Have you gone completely off your rocker? You know she done her best to break up you and her lily-livered brother up.

Jane Bea: Oh, no, Lizzy! You must be wrong. Caroline ain’t been nothin’ but sweet to me, and Charlie’s my boyfriend now. We just had a little dust up.

Lizzy: I’m about to get all up in your face right here in the Piggly Wiggly! That girl is next door to a hoochie mama, and she’s leadin’ your Charlie around by the nose, bless his heart. And she’s all jumped up, struttin’ around, givin’ herself airs like she’s the County Farm Bureau Queen or somethin’. Just look at her in them daisy dukes and that tight, orange wife-beater, wearin’ her flip-flops and pearls. Snooty thang!

Haute Couture

Jane Bea: ‘Lizbeth Frances! I ought to wash your mouth out with soap, talkin’ that way about my boyfriend’s sister. She aint’ all jumped up. You know good ‘n well she was second runner-up in that pageant. Now be nice. She’s comin’ this way.

Lizzy: She was second runner-up in a pageant that had five girls in it. That ain’t nothin’, and you know it. We need to get away from that there wine before she spreads it all over town that we started drinkin’. Our daddy would skin us alive.

Jane Bea: I’m right shocked at you, Lizzy. Daddy wouldn’t never think that, and nobody else would neither. We’re good Baptists, and we don’t imbibe. We don’t smoke, drink, or chew, and we don’t run with them that do. Now hush up. Caroline’s just passin’ the Bluebell ice cream.

Lizzy: (snort) Caroline ain’t never passed no kind ‘a ice cream in her life, and you doggone well know it. That’s what put all that jiggle in her wiggle.


Jane Bea: Lizzy, I’m fixin’ to brain you with this bottle of hard likker over here. You’ll be laid out like a Thanksgiving turkey right by the Jack Daniels, and I’ll leave the store. Just think what folks will say. “There’s Lizzy, following in those gardeners’ footsteps. I knew she wouldn’t never amount to nothin’ with kin like that.” People already gossip ‘bout how our aunt and uncle have a still.

Lizzy: Just ‘cause people say it don’t make it true, but I won’t do nothin’ to bring more shame to our aunt and uncle. Kin is kin. Lots o’ good people are gardeners. Why the preacher’s wife has a big ole garden, too. So do we, along with everybody else in the county.

Jane Bea: But the preacher’s wife and the rest of us don’t have grape vines. That’s what started them rumors about our aunt and uncle. We know that the gardeners make grape jelly and grape juice with them grapes, but everybody always wants to think the worst. Now hush. There’s Caroline.

Caroline: Well, looky what the cat drug in! Fancy seein’ you two in town. Janie, you got to come by the house with Charlie so’s I can show you what I brought down to the Diva Duds. I got me a real nice outfit to wear to the monster truck rally Friday night.

Monster truck

Jane Bea: Why, Caroline! You sly dog. You gotta big date?

Caroline: (bats eyelashes) I shore do. He just don’t know it yet.

Jane Bea: You greenin’ me?

Caroline: No, sugar. I got my eye on a feller who’s gonna be there. He’s Charlie’s friend, so he comes by the house a lot. That man’s the best lookin’ thang on two legs. Rich, too. Don’t live with his momma.

Lizzy: He has two legs? Then he’s right up your alley, Caroline.

Caroline: Well, Lizzy, since I’m shore you ain’t got nothin’ better to do, why don’t you come see fer yourself? Anyhow, I need to get home. He’s probly gonna stop by the house tonight, and I don’t wanna miss him. Bye, now.1545685_736671433052294_5237843703023940963_n

Jane Bea: Bye, honey. I’ll tell Charlie to bring me by to see your new outfit afore we go to the drive-in Friday. There’s a new zombie movie on I’m dyin’ to see. It’s based on real literature.

Lizzy: I might just have to go to that monster truck rally and clap eyes on that good lookin’ man you’re out to trap, Caroline. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Caroline: Not if I see you first. Mama’s waitin’ in the car, and I don’t want the ice cream to melt. Catch you later.

Jane Bea: Lizzy, why you gotta be so mean? Caroline means well, and you get her riled up on purpose.


Lizzy: I still say she’s all jumped up. Her nose is so high up in the air, she’d drown in a rainstorm. Have you ever seen the guy she’s talkin’ about?

Jane Bea: I have, and he looks like a movie star. Better lookin’ than Channing Tatum.

Lizzy: Well, she’ll be all over him like white on rice. Bless his heart.

© 2016 Robin M. Helm

Wentworth Wednesday

Chapter 16
IN this chapter, Anne continues to watch her family. Mrs Clay is toeing the ground, making noises as if she should leave, “now that Miss Anne was come she could not suppose herself at all wanted;” and Elizabeth gives that answer that epitomizes sisterly love: “…I assure you I feel it none. She is nothing to me compared to you;”

Warms your cockles doesn’t it? Makes you wonder why Anne didn’t jump off the Cobb and beat Louisa to the punch.

This is the chapter that calls Sir Walter’s eyesight into question when he tells Anne that the constant use of Gowland’s lotion carried away Mrs Clay’s freckles. Obviously, the constant use of Gowland’s induces hallucinations. But it’s a great scene in the 1995 movie.

Mr Elliot is also the subject of this chapter. His unhappy marriage is confirmed by Col Wallis and Lady Russell begins hinting that he may be interested in Anne.

Not Elizabeth? Shocking!

Talk of Lyme comes up between them. He wants to see it again, see more of it, just like Anne. If this were a heist movie, Anne would be the mark and Elliot the conman. Though, things in Bath must be pretty dull as, “They went through the particulars of their first meeting a great many times.” I have a short attention span and reliving that one meeting sounds pretty tedious to me.

Endless, boring conversation about Lyme aside, we then come to this line: “He gave her to understand that he had looked at her with some earnestness. She knew it well; and she remembered another person’s look also.”


That look was Frederick’s even-I-see-something-of-Anne-Elliot-again comment from Chapter 12, Adventuring in Lyme Regis, A Guide to Falling in Love, or Just Plain Falling.

Anne is on the horns of a dilemma here. She still loves him, but Frederick is lost to her. He’s gone back to Lyme with no intentions of leaving. Anne fills in the blank with “until Louisa is well and we can marry.” She knows that keeping him in her heart had stopped her from moving on in the past, and she’s closer to those dangerous years now than ever before. There are choices she never had before. Here stands a man who is acceptable, tolerable, and practically spelling out his intentions.

Tempting, but, something’s not right.

Frederick may be out of Anne’s grasp. He may be relegated to one line in this new chapter of her life, but he is still serving a purpose.

Eenie meenie miney moe. Tick tock.

Falling rain and springtime hope

Photo: jc.winkler  (Creative Commons Flickr)

Yellow is more cheerful, but I like these striped kinds of crocus best. Photo: jc.winkler (Creative Commons Flickr)


“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”
“It is the sun shining on the rain
and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Winter in the Pacific Northwest is a season to endure. Gray and overcast with plenty of rain, our sunrises happen under the clouds–for about a minute or two. Look quickly! That’s about the only time the sun appears. Talk about dreary.

The beautiful leaves of autumn are now ugly brown mush on the road. I find myself tramping along the sidewalk instead of striding. Head down, I’m focused only on reaching my destination, hoping I can make it before the dark clouds overhead unleash another downpour.

“When it is misty, in the evenings, and I am out walking by myself, it seems to me that the rain is falling through my heart and causing it to crumble into ruins.”  ― Gustave Flaubert

20160131_144400Despite the rain, this winter has been mild. Several weeks ago I began hearing birds–in January? Incredible! And during Friday’s tramp, my downcast gaze found sprouts of green beside the sidewalk. Tips of daffodil leaves! And crocus! I’d forgotten they grew there. I hurried home and examined my front garden with new interest.

Why, signs of spring were all around–for those with eyes to see. The star magnolia has tiny buds. The grape hyacinths have put up fledgling tips, along with the iris and the Shasta daisies and the Columbines. Hope for spring!


Trust Jane to call Patience by its better name: Hope. Image:

Months of winter remain, but the year will turn–I can see it. The return of the sun will drive melancholy away. In the meantime, I will continue tramping from home to school and back again, but with a somewhat lighter heart.

Then again, winter is the season for books. How can I have forgotten something as important as that? Bring on the rain! For what better time is there to curl up a favorite read?



“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.”  ―Thomas de Quincey

Southern Fried Austen

Bless your heart – Miz Lydia sympathizes with your pain.

60630701Miz Bennet sat a spell on the front porch with her next door neighbor and sister, Miz Philips, yesterday, and said she’s mighty upset about  the whole, entire country decidin’ to make “Bless your heart” mainstream, though she ain’t exactly sure what “mainstream” means, bless her sweet heart. She nearly broke the rockers off her chair, she was rockin’ so hard while she fussed. Miz Philips was plum worried for her. Thought Miz Bennet might have a stroke right there on the porch and drop her mason jar of sweet tea. Bless her heart.
Miz Philips: Yankees and folks out west have taken to using “Bless your heart” just to insult people, and that ain’t right. If I’m gonna call some daft woman an idiot, I don’t usually “Bless her heart” right to her face. That is, as long as she ain’t insultin’ my kin or my cookin’. Like poor Mary Musgrove bringin’ a bucket of Kentucky Fried chicken to our family reunion last Sunday and thinkin’ she’d done her part. I didn’t say nothin’ to her as I laid out my ham and mustard greens, chicken ‘n dumplin’s, green beans with fatback, squash casserole, cornbread, seven-layer caramel cake, and banana puddin’. I just shook my head. When her sister, Lib, caught my eye and said, “Bless her heart,” I knew what she meant. My daddy’s baby girl is stupid enough to think “dinner on the grounds” means we won’t have tables. It was just the plain truth, but I wouldn’t say it to Mary or her daddy, Walter.


Miz Bennet: Exactly, Sis. Down South, we don’t say such a thing right to a person, though if Mary had shown her tacky bucket of chicken to me and asked me if she’d brought enough, I’d have said, “I’m sure you did all you could do, dear. It’s just good to have you here. Bless your heart.” We’re kind down here. We got manners. I always let at least one car in front of me in the Walmart parking lot. Kitty, you must have worked your fingers slam to the bone all day Saturday to get up that spread. Bless your heart.

Miz Philips: That’s right, honey, I did. You know, some people can’t help being stupid, and there ain’t no cure for it. Their parents were likely first or second cousins. They probably met at a family reunion and just don’t know no better. You gotta hope for the best for ‘em. Gotta be careful about marryin’ yer kin folk. Them apples don’t fall far from the tree.

Miz Bennet:  Talkin’ ‘bout no cure for stupid, how’d you like those them orange dresses Caroline keeps wearin’? Bless that girl’s heart, she don’t have a lick of sense about what to wear. Why don’t her mama help her?

AvIMVFwCIAAcOMG.jpg large

Miz Philips: Ain’t that right! And she looks like a big old parrot with them feathers in her hair. Lizzy ended up behind her at church last week and couldn’t see a fool thing. She was right put out she couldn’t see the preacher. Said she felt like she needed a scythe to cut through the mess on Caroline’s head. Lawd, help us all. But you know, her mama’s so busy runnin’ after a man to replace her dear, departed husband (God rest his soul) that she don’t take no time a’ tall with Caroline. Bless her heart, it’s a scandal. And Caroline’s just like her mama. Chases everything in pants. Without ‘em, too, or so I heard tell.

Miz Bennet: It’s downright pitiful, and that’s the gospel truth. Looky here. I got some pictures of my new grandbaby, Scarlett, with her sister. Ain’t they purty?

Bless Your Heart

Miz Philips: Bless ’em. They’re a sight. And how’s your oldest girl doin’ in that foreign country she flew off to? Married a soldier, didn’t she?

Miz Bennet: She did. I remember when we liked the men in uniforms, too, Sis. But my girl’s run slap off her feet with them two babies. I don’t know how she does it, but it blesses my heart. They’re such sweet young ‘uns. Just precious, like their mama and daddy, bless all their little hearts.


Miz Philips: I’s afraid she had ‘em too close together. Bless her heart. I know you miss your girls.

Miz Bennet: All the time, Sis. More’n Carter’s got little liver pills. Wish I could see ‘em more. I’d give a purty penny to get a little sugar from those young’uns.

Miz Philips: It’s a cryin’ shame they live so far away. Bless your heart, honey. I’m gonna pray for you.

Miz Bennet: Thank ‘e, Sis. It’s been mighty fine sittin’ out here chewing the fat with you, but I gotta get home and cook up some supper. The girls are gone, but I still gotta husband.


Miz Philips: You’re doin’ a sight better ‘n Caroline’s mama. And me, too. Been alone these twenty years or more now. It perks me right up when you stop by. Don’t be a stranger.

Miz Bennet: I won’t. I’ll be thinkin’ about you, Sis. Bless your heart. You’re such a sweetheart.



Miz Philips: You, too, darlin’. Get along now. Don’t make that man wait to eat. He looks like nobody ain’t fed him in a month of Sundays.

Miz Bennet: Truth is, he eats so much it makes ‘im poor to carry it. I’ll see ya later, sugar.

Miz Philips: Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Miz Bennet: Amen to that.



© 2016 Robin M. Helm

Wentworth Wednesday

Sir Walter sings his rendition of, “Hey, Hey, Good Lookin'”

Jane Started It!

Chapter 15 is the opening of Book Two of Persuasion, and in this chapter Jane Austen really comes into her element as an observational writer. And with Anne away from Frederick Wentworth, she uses her sharp eyes and wit to expose her family and those around them. If you haven’t read Persuasion in a while, just read the first five paragraphs of Chapter 15. They are great writing, and great storytelling. No wasted words. Austen takes the complicated situation of the Elliots and makes it clear and a little sad.

I’m thinking of calling this post as “Here’s Looking at You, Kid,” because the overarching theme of this chapter is good looks. Sir Walter has an opinion on everybody’s looks. The comments start with Colonel Wallis: “…a highly respectable man, perfectly the gentleman, (and not an ill-looking man,).”


There’s a nod to Elizabeth’s ever-present beauty: “Elizabeth was…

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Wentworth Wednesday

Chapter 15 is the opening of Book Two of Persuasion, and in this chapter Jane Austen really comes into her element as an observational writer. And with Anne away from Frederick Wentworth, she uses her sharp eyes and wit to expose her family and those around them. If you haven’t read Persuasion in a while, just read the first five paragraphs of Chapter 15. They are great writing, and great storytelling. No wasted words. Austen takes the complicated situation of the Elliots and makes it clear and a little sad.

I’m thinking of calling this post as “Here’s Looking at You, Kid,” because the overarching theme of this chapter is good looks. Sir Walter has an opinion on everybody’s looks. The comments start with Colonel Wallis: “…a highly respectable man, perfectly the gentleman, (and not an ill-looking man,).”


There’s a nod to Elizabeth’s ever-present beauty: “Elizabeth was certainly very handsome, with well-bred, elegant manners…” That being a nod, here’s a full-on leap about Mrs. Wallis: “Sir Walter thought much of Mrs. Wallis; she was said to be an excessively pretty woman, beautiful.  He longed to see her.  He hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was the number of its plain women.  He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion.” She must be one heckuva a looker if she’s able to make restitution for the beauty deficit of the female population of Bath.

When they get to Mr. Elliot, they are not so kind: “Sir Walter especially.  He did justice to his very gentlemanlike appearance, his air of elegance and fashion, his good shaped face, his sensible eye; but, at the same time, “must lament his being very much under-hung, a defect which time seemed to have increased; nor could he pretend to say that ten years had not altered almost every feature for the worse.  Mr. Elliot appeared to think that he (Sir Walter) was looking exactly as he had done when they last parted;” but Sir Walter had “not been able to return the compliment entirely, which had embarrassed him.  He did not mean to complain, however.  Mr. Elliot was better to look at than most men, and he had no objection to being seen with him anywhere.””

Yikes! That’s pretty harsh coming from a guy who squandered the family fortune and had to put the homestead up for rent. Self-awareness isn’t his strong suit. I can hear it now: “Yes, Mr. Elliot, you have defects in your face, and I can’t say you haven’t aged dreadfully, but I’m not embarrassed a bit being seen with you.” Back-handed compliment doesn’t begin to cover that.

We eventually arrive as the greatest schmooze of all.  The Baronet is talking about his favorite subject: Sir Walter. “It was evident how little the women were used to the sight of anything tolerable, by the effect which a man of decent appearance produced.  He had never walked anywhere arm-in-arm with Colonel Wallis (who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing that every woman’s eye was upon him; every woman’s eye was sure to be upon Colonel Wallis.”  Modest Sir Walter!  He was not allowed to escape, however. His daughter and Mrs. Clay united in hinting that Colonel Wallis’s companion might have as good a figure as Colonel Wallis, and certainly was not sandy-haired.”

I’m not sure what they have against the sandy-haired. I was born in California and all that sun produced on me a stunning platinum blonde so I feel a sort of kinship with towheads across the ages. the Elliots would go a little  go nuts if they knew how many women now pay pretty pennies to become sandy-haired. Anyway, it was sure kind of Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay to point out the Baronet has a figure equal to that of Col Wallis.

Then comes poor Mary: “How is Mary looking?” said Sir Walter, in the height of his good humor.  “The last time I saw her she had a red nose, but I hope that may not happen every day.””

With talk like this, do we really have to wonder why she’s the way she is? I don’t like the character of Mary. She serves a wonderful purpose in contrasting dear Anne, but really, the state of her nose? It’s a good thing that Regency women were comparatively covered and not hanging out all over like they are these days. I don’t even want to hear Sir Walter’s discourse on cellulite, jiggly upper arms, or facial hair. He’d be a great spokesman for the medi-spa movement. Or he could sit across from a B-list star, asking all the right questions about the face/thigh/toe cream they’re pushing on late night infomercials.

The most galling thing for Sir Walter Elliot had to be seeing Frederick Wentworth again: “…the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages.  She had seen the same Frederick Wentworth.”

And I’m betting dollars to doughnuts that Frederick won’t be caught dead walking arm-in-arm with Sir Walter anywhere!

The lure of Austen words…

Pride-Poetry-MagneticIsn’t this great? A gift from my writing pal Roslynn. Intriguing words. Jane Austen words, but in magnetic form.

You may recall that I live in a household of men. These tantalizing words would languish, alone, on our refrigerator door. Would anyone even notice them? Would anyone even care?

So of course I took the magnets to school. They took up residence on a file cabinet I’ve “repurposed” for my Drama Club costumes. During one of our breaks, I put them up quietly and without fanfare.

AustenWords-girlsSeveral of the girls came over almost at once and set to work making sentences. There were smiles everywhere, and oh, the laughter…

The boys took longer to approach the cabinet because, you know, Jane Austen isn’t a guy thing. Ah, but those words–and the sentences the girls cobbled together–were too tempting. One brave male began rearranging the words, and that broke the dyke. As you can see, these five gentlemen are having a wonderful time.


Every few days, a new sentence appears. And then, of course, a male rebuttal. Sparkling banter, if you will. Miss Austen would be pleased.

“…young bachelors…who… have money”? A girlish sentiment that Mrs. Bennet would certainly approve! The middle school guys, not so much.

If you’d like a set of your own, here’s a link to the Magnetic Poetry website.