Honie Briggs

Seriously!

Larkspur

I don’t know where she was buried; somewhere in Kilgore Cemetery, I think. That’s usually where they put people who don’t have any family. Her name was Millie Hollingsworth, but everyone in Hawthorn called her the dog woman. She used her government check to feed about thirty strays that lived with her in an abandoned house out on Old Airport Road. The times she came into the store to cash her check she only bought a few cans of beans or tuna fish, trash bags, Ivory soap, and a twenty-five pound bag of Chuck Wagon. People said she was crazy, and that’s why she got money from the government, but Daddy told me she had a husband who got run over by a tank in the war and that was really why she got a check every month. I think maybe she got two, one for her dead husband and one for being crazy. Anybody that would live in a house that didn’t have electricity or a working bathroom with a bunch of dirty, stray dogs and used plastic trash bags to cover the windows in winter must be crazy.

Millie walked along Airport Road talking to herself while she picked up trash. Mostly beer bottles and bags from What-A-Burger that kids threw out their windows when they drove to the woods to park on Friday and Saturday nights.

“People in Hawthorn have the cleanest cars in the world,” Millie mumbled.

She didn’t care that drivers blew their horns as they swerved to miss her. It wasn’t her fault they were going too fast. She didn’t even mind that some people shouted curse words at her, but it did bother her when some inconsiderate ass wasn’t paying attention and made her dive into the ditch, getting beggar lice all over her clothes. That happened at least once a week. One time, Fred Johnson slammed his Buick right into her grocery cart scattering an entire bag of Chuck Wagon all over the road.

“You must think you are the only one entitled to use the road!” Millie was screaming, down on her hands and knees scooping up the dog food.

“Millie! Somebody’s gonna come around that corner and run right over your crazy ass!” Fred shouted.

The smell of burning rubber filled Millie’s nostrils as Fred Johnson floored the gas and rifled off toward home.

“No human decency. He’s going to hell for sure.”

The rules were simple for Millie. Do good, go to heaven. Do bad, go to hell. Wash your face and say your prayers, go to heaven. Litter and abuse dogs, go to hell. Millie knew where she was going. She never went out in public that her face wasn’t shiny and smelling of Ivory soap, her hair pulled into a tight bun on top of her head. She forgot to say her prayers once. That was the night some kids snuck into the old house to smoke pot and burned it to the ground. Millie awoke to the sound of the volunteer fire department banging on her door in the middle of the night. She never forgot to say her prayers again.

In Millie’s heaven there would be long tables of all-you-can-eat corn on the cob and fried chicken. Golden pitchers of sweet tea, always full, and every kind of cobbler she could imagine, warm with vanilla ice cream, would be served morning, noon, and night. Dogs of every breed would chase butterflies through fields of wildflowers and take naps in the shade of pecan trees. She and her dogs would have the run of the place. Millie didn’t think about hell. Except when she was picking ticks off of one of her dogs or beggar lice out of her hair. That was hell enough for her.

After the fire, somebody from the First Baptist Church gave Millie an old tent and a sleeping bag. She pitched that tent on some floor boards she salvaged from the old house and built a shelter for herself and the dogs, using some plastic she found in the dumpster behind the Ace Hardware to insulate it.

The air was crisp and the morning star twinkled in silence as I stepped out to see a deep blanket of snow had fallen overnight. The waning moonlight cast a faint glow over the landscape, in the distance, an eerie howling chorus.

Poppies

Red Poppies

1-DSC_0849

1-DSC_0921

 

32 thoughts on “On Earth As It Is In Heaven

  1. hollybernabe says:

    Is this fiction, or is this somebody you knew? I’m not clear on that. How did she die?

    I love the pics of the poppies, btw. They are my absolute favorite flower. Soo pretty!!

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      You’ll have to read my next book to find out. 😉 Planted in mass, poppies are spectacular.

  2. Susan says:

    Wow. This piece is awesome. I was already so proud of you but now I’ll strut when I say, “I know her.”

  3. Beautiful writing, Honie, keep up the good work!

  4. I am blown away by your words. Really. To say this was well written is an understatement. I was completely taken away to another world. All I know is– I want more.

    1. acflory says:

      Me too. I fell in love with Millie from word one, and I’d love to know the story of her life. More please?

    2. Honie Briggs says:

      You ladies made my day. There will be more, much more, in my next book – Beyond Belief – hopefully available very soon.

  5. You ARE a writer, that much is obvious. The good ones paint vivid pictures. I could smell the burning rubber you described. It doesn’t get any vivider than that!

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Validation! Mr. Petruska, it doesn’t get any better than that. What about the dogs? Could you smell them? Hear ’em howling over the poor Millie Hollingsworth’s frozen body?
      Seriously, thank you. Book II is in the hopper.

  6. Allan G. Smorra says:

    This is a very touching post. You have said so much by saying so little and leaving the rest to our imaginations.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hey Allan – thanks! It does seem better when I get out of the way and let a story tell itself.

      1. Allan G. Smorra says:

        Kinda like life, eh?

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    Wonderful story, and I have to agree with Millie–nothing much better than warm fruit cobbler with ice cream. Yum.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks Carrie. I was surprised to discover Texas is a big peach producer. I thought peaches only came from Georgia. HA! I love peach cobbler. Actually, I never met any dessert I didn’t like. Add ice cream and well, heaven!

  8. Brigitte says:

    Honie, is this your new book? I don’t know what you’ve been doing but whatever it is, keep doing it. This was absolutely wonderful and wow, I so want to know more. Great, just great my friend.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hey Brigitte – the new book does have this vibe. Day tripping seems to be agreeing with me. Hopefully, I’ll get a flash of inspiration to wrap it up…SOON! Thank you for the kind words. I’m pleased you like this. That lets me know I’m on the right track.

      1. Brigitte says:

        Nah, you certainly don’t need me to tell you that. You already know, don’t you? ;).

  9. mairedubhtx says:

    A beautiful story. And beautiful Texas wild flowers. Ours in the south are nearly gone except for the wine cups. The bluebonnets have gone to seed. It was an early year.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Pockets of color lined the road. Lady Bird Johnson was quite the visionary. A kinder, gentler wild, wild west.

  10. What a beautiful picture you have painted.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks Val – I think a weekend in the country did me good. Fredricksburg was much more than I expected.

  11. I second what Lisa said — you paint a picture that has true depth

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks LouAnn. You might be surprised to know that picture painted itself in my mind – a few brush strokes from real life.

  12. artsifrtsy says:

    I love this – rich – and the photos are amazing. I love those fields of flowers, where is this?

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      I spent last weekend just outside Fredricksburg, TX. These photos are at the Wildseed Farm. The poppies and larkspur were like fireworks, bluebonnets were pretty much spent, but oh, the poppies! More pics to come.

      1. artsifrtsy says:

        Love it. They remind me of the tulip farms outside of Portland.

  13. It’s a good thing I was laying down when I read this otherwise I would have fallen over backward from the sheer greatness of it. I’m serious, Honie, it reads like Carson McCullers. I had no idea you could write like this. I’m in awe of your talent. You make it look easy. The photos are gorgeous, too.
    Okay, I’ll settle down now. Sorry if I embarrassed you. (not really, I like gushing when I see talent.)
    Have a good night, my writer friend.
    Lisa

    PS- I love Millie Hollingsworth, I’m a little dog woman myself.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Lisa,
      What a compliment! It’s a good thing I was sitting down when I read your comment. Otherwise I might have hit my head on something when your kind words knocked me out. 🙂 Embarrassed? If discovering my yoga pants were on inside out AND backwards while in downward dog didn’t do it, a flattering remark from you….well, gush away. I’ll take whatever extra praise anyone has to spare. I suppose, if anything, I could be embarrassed that I’m not familiar with Carson McCullers’ writing.
      Thank you~~so very much!

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