It all started because my mother and I were trying to rescue a dog. There was no other reason to be out at that hour of the night, inching the car along at almost a walking pace, down that bedraggled street in that crime-infested neighborhood. It was a big, scrawny dog, a boxer-pit bull mix, and she was clearly nursing puppies. We had to follow her and find them. The dog was so desperate and filthy that she couldn’t have belonged to anybody, or if she did, they deserved to be shot.
Alerted by the flash of oncoming headlights slicing the darkness on Georgia Highway 42, Geneva glanced up from behind the convenience store counter to see Jerry’s 1950 Dodge pickup rolling into the gravel lot. For the past two weeks already, he had been coming in after finishing his second-shift job at the plant, but she kept re-living their very first encounter in her memory.
She remembered him asking cheerfully, “You got a high school boy or somebody who c’n go out there’n fill up my truck?”
“No such thing aroun’ here,” Geneva had replied. “You’re looking at the help. I’ll go pump it for ya.”
Jerry looked aghast at the idea of Geneva pumping gas for him. He let it slip to her that he thought it unusual for a lady to be working in such a remote place at night, with no help, and that he had mistakenly assumed her to be the store’s owner, which would also have been unusual then, in 1963, but that she seemed like a natural leader.
She answered him politely. “Well, I sure ain’t the owner, but I ‘preciate you thinkin’ I look like one.” Geneva had picked up on his flirting. But having been twice divorced already, with two teenagers plus her oldest boy, who was already grown and in the Army – which in itself was another thing for her to worry about, as things in Vietnam were escalating – the last thing she wanted, or had time for, was a man.