• Cindy Marabito

Swinging with Elly May from the novel, Jackson


Grace just kept on laughing. “We’re swinging.” I heard cars and looked up to see a military caravan driving down Capitol Street. Willie said, “Is that the army?” Uniformed young men holding guns were piled into open trucks and jeeps. They looked like the boys we processed at the draft board. One of them saw us and hollered something at us, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I told Willie I thought it was the National Guard, but I couldn’t be sure.

Another one stood up and straddled his legs wide to maintain his balance. He let out a whistle with his forefinger and thumb placed inside his mouth. He was really good at it, too, and loud. I’d only heard one whistle that topped it and it had been at the March of Dimes Telethon in Beaumont. Babe had taken me out to the fairgrounds to see Elly May from the Beverly Hillbillies. She was outside signing autographs in her tight jeans and rope belt like she wore on the show. There was a long, long line of cars waiting to meet her and get an autograph. She was truly friendly said ‘hi’ to anybody and everybody. She had all that blonde hair and would would stick her whole head right inside the car with you.

Babe was getting cranky that afternoon. It was Labor Day, always the hottest and most humid day of the year. I felt bad for her, but I really wanted to meet Elly May. Even though the car ac was cranked and it wasn’t all that hot with the windows rolled up, Babe was perspiring. She kept her bedroom air conditioner on full blast year-round, even in the winter. She also kept her door locked with a dead bolt and a chain, but I never found out the reason behind it.

When we finally got up next to Elly May, she put her face right inside the window and said ‘hey’ to me in a big Southern drawl. She was beautiful and had pink frosted lips and smile as big as the whole world. I had never been up next to a real movie star before and could certainly see why she was one. She reminded me of Grace in a way. I was too shy to say anything, but somebody from behind us hollered out, “Hey, Elly May, whistle!”

With that, Elly put her finger and thumb inside her lips and let out a colossal wolf whistle right in Babe’s ear. Babe stepped on the gas pedal, as she would do to express her mood, and gunned her white Oldsmobile out of there, throwing crushed gravel on the spectators in its wake.

The soldiers riding by started yelling out stuff at us.

“You gals be careful out there?”

“How’s it going?”

“Hey, good looking, whatcha’ got cooking?” I couldn’t tell if they were hollering at me or Grace, but I waved at them anyway. They were serving the country and I’d been taught to respect that. One tall country-looking boy yelled, “You gals sure are pretty!” He was red-headed and had buck teeth and wore a look on his face like he was just trying to fit in. Another guy punched him in the arm as they drove by. Grace seemed like she couldn’t care less. Just kept on swinging like we were at a party.

We sat there for a long time after they’d gone.

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