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  • When I walked into the small rowhouse with my momma, Preacher already had one customer. Ester Harlow sat on the brown couch by the door half-watching Amos and Andy on the large color television.

    "Morning, Preacher. Morning, Ms. Harlow. This is my daughter, Ruby."
    "Well hello, young lady. Nice to meet you. You're momma said you were coming to visit."
    "Yes, sir. My bus got in last night. Momma, you want a beer?"
    "uh huh."
    "Mr. Preacher can I get two beers have any shots?"
    "Just brandy."
    "Oh, no thank you. Momma, you wanna brandy?"
    "uh huh."
    "Two beers and a brandy, please."

    I sat on the love seat beside my mother. I rubbed her right ear gently, the same way she used to rub mine.

    I reached in my pocket, and pulled out exact change. My mother opened the miniature brandy, took a sip and looked at me. I tapped the top of my beer, more of habit than necessity. Momma looked at me, and smiled.

    "Do you know this mother-fer charges $3 for these 99 cent miniatures? What kind of shit is that?"
    "That's called business, Chell. I'm a business man."
    "You're an old pimp. That's what you are."

    She took another sip, and shook her head. She smiled to herself in that way she did when she was messing with people.

    "Preacher knows the bible,Ruby. He knows the bible backwards and forwards. That's why they call him Preacher."

    I nodded, and took a sip of my beer. I set the can on the floor, and turned to Ester Harlow. She is an old woman with a nice shape, but an unfortunate face. She was drunk, and probably had been drunk for many decades. We made small talk for a little while, and finished our beers. We stood, and said our goodbyes, our nice-to-meet-you's. I followed me down the quiet, country road towards the next bootlegger's house.

    "You know, once Ester Harlow told me that she was one of the two prettiest women to come out of Hobson City."

    She smiled that same smile, looked straight ahead. She waited for it...waited for it.

    "Ester Harlow!"

    She laughed so hard she had to stop walking. She grabbed her stomach, and howled in the street. Wiping an eye, she delivered the punchline.

    "My question to her was what the hell was going on in Hobson City? Was it populated with wolverines walking around dressed as people?"

    We both stood on the dirt path beside the road and laughed.

    "Ruby, Ester Harlow wasn't even one of the two prettiest mules to come out of Hobson City. Much less any number of women."

    We wiped our eyes, and I hugged my mother. My beautiful mother. My funny ass mother. I had been gone too long.
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