September 18, 2018
(An Appalachian Myth)
John Butch Preston
Ten-year-old Kayla is rushing through the front door waving a twenty-dollar bill that her granny has given her for her birthday. Her father, Joe Jack, is lying on the sofa watching Nascar, and she wants to know if he will take her to the store. First, he wants to know where she got the money then tells her he will take her later on. But the money is burning her little fingers so she makes him an offer he can’t refuse, offering to buy him whatever he wants if he will take her—which turns out to be a Red Bull energy drink and a can of Skoal dipping tobacco. Of course, she first wants to know how much that will cost, and he tells her about five dollars. After quickly calculating how much she will have left and thinking it will be plenty enough, she tells him to put on his shoes and come on.
While they are gone her mother, Katrina, retrieves a joint she has hidden in a dresser drawer and takes it out behind the trailer and smokes it. Bubba, realizing everyone is gone, gets out an old tattered copy of Hustler magazine from way back in his closet and goes into the bathroom to sit on the commode and look at the pictures. Baby Melissa wakes up from her nap and begins to cry but looks around and finds that there is plenty of Mountain Dew left in her bottle and her tears immediately cease.
Before long, Kayla and Joe Jack return. He is still sipping on his Red Bull and plans to dip a little Skoal as soon as he returns to the sofa, for the cars have plenty of laps to go. Kayla is carrying a tub of vanilla ice cream in one hand and a cute little jeans and ruffled blouse outfit from Wal-Mart in the other. All in all, the residents of mythical Happy Hollow are now quite contented.
But—although none of them is aware of it—this windfall happiness will inevitably and without prejudice have to be balanced out in the cosmic scheme of things—precisely by some unexpected misfortune. It’s just the way the world works. In the cosmic scheme of things (call it God, or the gods, chance or fate) things have to equal out in the end. Either baby Melissa will get the measles, or their TV will go on the blink, or Granny will die without burial insurance. Something bad will now have to happen because of a tin of Skoal and a Red Bull, a tub of vanilla ice cream and a cute little outfit, not to mention a big fat joint, fun time with Hustler magazine, and a half-bottle of Mountain Dew. Ying and Yang are never wrong, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. And as to unequivocally confirm this, the Good Book makes it abundantly clear that “there is a time to get and a time to lose.”
But for the residents of this mythical Happy Hollow, strangely enough, there is no hint of the bad fortune due them; they simply go on as before without interruptions in their daily lives. For it has somehow been decreed that in the cosmic scheme of things, things are bad enough for them as it is….
However, as often as not, it is the misfortune that precedes the good fortune, the bad before the good, so don’t lose heart in utter despair—in Happy Hollow or elsewhere—for as novelist Rachel Fields writes, “Every thorn that has ever pricked me has eventually turned into a rose.”