by Randy Reynolds

Highway 23 north of Gainesville,Georgia, seems more remote than it actually is for a nighttime driver in 1942.  In the small civilization at Rabbittown some folks have electricity and the convenience of porch lights. Further along, in the less electrified community around Springway Baptist Church about the only light a driver encounters is from passing traffic and that is sparse in these gas-rationing days of World War II.  
........Rounding a curve hidden from the longer stretch of road by a bluff, the driver sees the girl for a split second as he passes. Simultaneous with man-chemicals flooding his brain and clouding his judgment, he hits the brakes and manhandles the Chevy Coupe to a screeching stop. He angles his rear-view mirror to see if there's anyone else around and sees no one but the girl, back-lit by moonlight, more enticing now than at first glance.

He twists in his seat, straining for a direct view through the small rear window.  Her hair, which he is sure is beautiful, is obscured by a headscarf.  Her makeup is gaudy, and that’s a good sign—it marks her as the kind of woman he wants her to be.  He says aloud, “Look at those jugs!”—little realizing that they ARE jugs on a boy’s body, braced beneath the billowing blouse.

As the “girl” hikes the skirt to mid-thigh, the driver jerks the gear into reverse and passionately works the clutch and accelerator. The car fishtails backward and he leaps out to grab this dream come true.  “She” jumps the ditch, with him in hot pursuit. “She”  climbs the slope and he follows. “She”  enters the kudzu field just barely out of his reach.

Like some big bad wolf in a fable, he intends to catch this sweet young thing. When “she” discards the jugs in the heat of the chase, he realizes he's been tricked.  Anger replaces lust and he keeps up the chase.

This boy with the pretty face whose sister and a friend had a blast dressing him in a woman's clothes, jewelry and enough make-up to embarrass Jezebel, thinks the big old grunting, yelling, cursing man is going to give up at any moment, but he doesn't. Scared now, the jokester races desperately across the kudzu field, through a patch of woods, across a rutted road and into a cotton field, trying to make it to the safety of his grandmother's house. 

She hears them coming, grabs her straw broom for a weapon and opens the door. Her grandson, in skirt and blouse, rushes past her.

Any other grandmother might have asked, “Why are you dressed like that?” or “What’s going on here?” But Gene Reynolds’ grandmother doesn’t need to. She knows about the jokes he plays on unsuspecting drivers on Highway 23, how he or his friend Joel Taylor sometimes dresses like a girl and flags down cars while other youngsters watch from across the road, giggling behind their hands; and how the boys sometimes place a purse filled with the absolute freshest available cow dung in the middle of the highway to lure some driver into stopping to pick it up and drive off with it, leaving the farm boys of Highway 23 laughing so hard their stomachs hurt while taking turns enacting the poor sucker’s probable reaction to sticking his hand inside the purse while driving.

Grandmother Chesty Reynolds is a gentle soul about most things, but she can summon unexpected fierceness when protecting her brood. 

“Get on out of here and leave this boy alone,” she says to the gasping man in her yard.

He points at Gene, smiling in the doorway.  “But she—he—you don’t understand, Miz Reynolds—he was on the highway dressed like a—“

No big bad wolf is going to touch her precious grand-young’un, son of her eldest son, no matter what had happened down yonder on the highway. Grandmother Reynolds raises her broom and takes a step forward, like shooing chickens out of her rock garden.  She does it twice before the big bad wolf turns on his heel and retraces his steps through the cotton patch, the woods and the kudzu field to the main highway where his car should still be idling if Gene’s friends haven’t driven it off somewhere and hidden it.