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In which we meet Our Millie and Big Mil, get a Red Letter Bible and an Elvis smile and enter the Have a Cuppa Coffee shop.

Our Millie used to say that she lived in the hairy armpit of life, and I never knew what she meant until I met her Ma, Big Mil.

Big Mil stood almost 6 feet tall with muscles built from hard work and harder play. She could scare the bull out of the pit bull and the rattles off the snake and make any skinhead want to grow hair and go to church.

Big Mil grew up on the side of a mountain in a cabin with a coal stove, linoleum floor and the outhouse in the back. Outhouses were something to be thankful for, chicken and biscuits in a cast iron skillet on the stove were mouth-watering and linoleum, even when it was cracked and yellowed, mopped up good.

Our Millie left home when she was 19. Three years later than her sister Marcie Jean — MJ — and four years later than her brother Billy Bug, who wanted to go to California and be a surfer dude.  Since he wasn't old enough to drive, could only dog paddle and couldn't surf, he only made it as far as Macy's Junction, where he got a job at the only full-service filling station in the tri-county area. He lived out in back with a three-legged dog named Tripawed and did real good without Big Mil around.

Our Millie said she left home so late because she was lazy, but I think it was because she was afraid of the dark, and the world can sure be a dark and lonely place when you are on your own.

The leaving happened like this. She was layin' on the couch one day eatin' potato chips and watchin' "Days of Our Lives" in her Daisy Mae cutoffs and halter top when a man came to the door. His name was Mac C. Donley the Third and he was a traveling salesman. He was really good at it too. Whether it was encyclopedias, magazines, vacuum cleaners or Prep H, Mac C. Donley would sell it. Today it was Leather Bound Red Letter Bibles, genuine Silver Crosses, which would never turn green, and Real Religious Relics from the Holy Land.

Our Millie fell in love. Who could resist Red Letter Bibles? You don't have to read anything but the red letter. Jewelry guaranteed not to turn green and real religious relics sounded mysterious. Of course the 6-foot, blue eyes, black hair and young Elvis look of Mac C. Donley the Third helped too.

Since Our Millie wanted to get something for Big Mil's birthday but didn't have any money, she took one of everything Mac C. Donley the Third was selling and went with him as collateral.  She scribbled a note to Big Mil saying — "I'm off to see the Big World and I won't be alone.  I have seen the light and his name is Mac C. Donley the Third," and she went out the door.

As it turned out Mac C. Donley the Third got more than he bargained for and Our Millie got less. She read all the Red Letters in the Bible, and the leather cracked. The silver cross turned green after all, and the chain got twisted into knots and broke, and the Real Religious Relics from the Holy Land were made in China by child labor. So, our Millie was out the door and gone again.

She soon opened the door to the Have a Cuppa Coffee Shop to get a little java, and one minute she is sitting on the customer side of the counter talkin' to Big Lou about the way life had treated her. Not complaining you know, just talking about green jewelry, Red Letters and Relics and how such a good traveling salesman wasn't real good about sellin' himself, and the next thing you know she was on the other side serving coffee and doughnuts to truckers and hunters and gettin' good tips. She was livin' the life. The coffee was hot and strong and so were the men. The fluorescent lights were bright and hummed with energy. The darkness stayed outside.

Our Millie had arrived.

Judith Allen

Judith Allen lives in Central Ohio with her retired husband, aging Dalmatian and one-eyed cat.

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