Dixie Sue

They bumped across the dusty railroad tracks in the oven-hot August air on North Gay Street in sweet Auburn, and headed up the hill toward Toomer’s Corner in the center of town. Halfway up the hill Susan put her hand on Flapper’s leg, and for reasons she did not try to understand picked this time to tell him something she had known since before they left St. Louis. “I’m pregnant,” she said.

Flapper, intent on his driving, still not convinced the other drivers in this curious land were entirely reliable, heard the words, and was instantly overwhelmed by a torrent of thoughts that threatened to drown him in hot, bubbling emotion. To his great surprise he said, while keeping his eyes on the street, “Our children will be born in Alabama.”

Susan, struggling with her own emotions, and looking out at a store window sign that read EAGLE HARDWARE, to her great surprise found herself repeating Flapper’s words, “Our children will be born in Alabama.”

Flapper eased the car into an angled parking space at the top of the hill and cut the engine. He turned to look at Susan, and found her looking at him with wide, and he thought, perhaps a little frightened, eyes. They stepped from the car, and walking hand in hand, soon found themselves on the Alabama Polytechnic Institute campus, where they sat on a shaded bench and began to unravel their tangled thoughts. The sudden realization of impending parenthood caught them both by surprise. They knew they should be happy at the prospect, but they were faintly uneasy and strangely apprehensive.

Flapper thought, but hesitated to say it, I’m not sure I’m ready to share Susan.

Susan thought, I’m going to be a mother.

Flapper turned his head slightly to look closer at Susan. She was dressed for travel in shorts, sandals, and T- shirt, her dark brown hair pulled back in a ponytail against the heat. Small beads of perspiration formed above her upper lip. She didn’t look any different. “How do you feel?”

“Hot,” she answered, then added, “A little stiff from the driving . . . maybe we could find a court and shoot a few hoops.”

Flapper shifted to face her and said quickly, “No hoops for you Doctor Jackson.”

“Ping pong?” she offered. “I really could use some exercise.”

“I don’t think so.”

They sat quietly for a while before Susan said, “It must have been the champagne.”

“If it’s a girl we’ll call her Dixie . . . what do you think?”

Susan nodded. “DixieJackson . . . Good. I like it. If it’s a boy, how about Homer Junior?”

Flapper shook his head vigorously from side to side. “Oh no, not in a thousand years. Why don’t we name him after you. What do you think of Sue?”

Susan looked at him in astonishment. “A boy named Sue?”

“Why not? Anything is better than Homer.”

Susan looked at Flapper, but he avoided her eyes. She knew he wasn’t serious. She looked closer. She was pretty sure he wasn’t serious. She changed the subject. “So. Here we are in the heart of Dixie. It does feel . . . ” she paused, considering how it felt. “ . . . Hot.”

In the mid-August heat, the early afternoon sun blazing, the campus was empty except for a few maintenance men drowsily working around shrubs and flower gardens, and cleaning up around the messy magnolia trees. They sat near a fountain in front of the Ross Chemistry Laboratory, a stately three-story brick building with four tall Greek-style columns spread across its wide portico.

Susan sniffed the air, trying to place the faint odor. “Do you smell anything, Flapper?”

He nodded. “It smells like goats.”

Susan agreed. “Yes, goats.  . . . It’s caproic acid.  That must be the chemistry building . . . unless there are some Gingko trees around here.” She looked but saw only magnolia trees framing the square.

Susan had more than a passing interest in that chemistry building because in a little over a month she would be teaching biochemistry there. It had happened as suddenly and as unexpectedly as Flapper finding the notice about the Presidential Academy in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  It was a six-line ad in the Job Opportunities section at the back of SCIENCE magazine.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BIOCHEMISTRYTenure track position. Nine month appointment.               Successful applicant will teach undergraduate and graduate biochemistry to pre-med and chemistry      majors, and will be expected to initiate a research program. Salary commensurate with experience.             Send curriculum vita and three letters of reference to Professor Achilles Demimelius, School of                 Chemistry, Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Auburn, Alabama.

Susan was surprised to receive a job offer less than a month after submitting her application. So there it was. She would teach at API, and Flapper would teach at Tuskegee. They would live in Auburn; Flapper would commute to Tuskegee, only 20 miles away.

Susan stood up and said, “Flapper, let’s go take a look.”

Flapper was uncertain. He looked at Susan in a funny way and asked, “Is caproic acid good for Dixie Sue?”

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