Dixie Lee ~ Part 3

Let’s get back to Dixie’s story! If you’ve been reading each week, I’m glad you’re still with me. If you’re just joining us you can catch up by reading part one of Dixie’s story here, and part two here.

I hope you’ll join me every Friday for the continuing story of Dixie Lee. I’ll be posting a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end the posts will turn into a full fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

A week had passed since Dixie’s first day at the Academy. She had come home to a beautiful bouquet of daisies from sweet Sadie. The rest of the week was a blur as she acclimated to moments full of energetic children, learning the ropes of teaching, and getting used to a new routine.

Now she was bouncing along a country road in her blue pick up headed to her favorite spot on the river. School was over and there were a few hours of sunlight left to squeeze some enjoyment out of. The breeze pouring in the open windows tossed her hair playfully. Belting out the words to a favorite country tune she was enjoying the freedom of a few moments to herself.

Of course she could go home to relax but conversations with her mother had been tense lately. As usual, she didn’t know why. Besides, the weather was luxurious and the sunshine seemed to call her to the river. After tossing her guitar in the back of her truck she had headed out.

As she rounded a corner of the dusty road, it curved to a place where the river wrapped itself lazily along the bank beside her. The sunlight dappled it’s surface and winked through the trunks of the trees. Hair blowing, fingers drumming, music blaring the details of life seemed to slip from her shoulders.

Suddenly her attention was caught by a tall, slim figure up ahead. Dixie strained her eyes against the glare of the afternoon. Dressed in jeans and a red and white stripped t-shirt the young woman was walking along the right shoulder.

It wasn’t Dixie’s habit to give strangers a lift but in this somewhat isolated area it was rather warm to be walking very far. Where could she be headed, there wasn’t much out here along the river? Mostly just a few spread out houses and some cotton fields scattered along the back roads.

In just a few seconds she had made up her mind to offer a ride. Surely there wasn’t much of a risk.

The figure grew closer. Dixie pulled along side, slowing to a stop. Looking through the passenger window their eyes met. Her heart skipped a beat. What she had assumed was a young woman, in actuality, was a young man.

Quickly, Dixie regained her composure. “Hey, ya’ want a ride?”

A tentative smile lightened the young man’s sensitive face. “Sure, I’d be happy for a lift.”

“Well, hop on in. Where ya’ headed?”

Opening the creaky passenger side door, he swung a small satchel up on the seat and slid in. Dixie took in his appearance quickly as he got settled. Tall and almost willowy it was understandable she had mistaken him for a young woman. His features were delicate, the cleft in his chin and turned up nose almost pretty. His perfectly shaped eyebrows framed beautiful blue eyes. Was that eyeliner he was wearing?

Her mind was spinning to keep up with the discordant information it was gathering.

“I’m heading to County Rd. 12, if ya’ don’t mind taking me that far.”

“Seriously? It would have taken you a few hours to walk all the way over there.”

“I know, but I don’t have a car and I need to get to a friend’s house.”

What was it in his tone that disarmed her? Sorrow? Despair? Casting a sidelong glance she noticed his hands tremble as he fiddled with his bag, his brows knit together.

“I’m glad I happened along then,” she replied cheerily.

“Me too, it’s too hot to be walking that far.”

“My name’s Dixie, what’s yours?”

“I’m Kenny McNab.”

“It’s nice to meet you Kenny.”

He seemed to relax just a bit.

“Thanks, I’m real glad to meet you. Thanks for giving me a ride. I was getting discouraged walking along thinking about my problems. I’m glad you stopped.”

“Well, I’m happy to help.” Should she probe any deeper?

But there was no need. “My dad kicked me out of the house. I’m hopping I can stay with my friend, Robbie. I don’t think his parents will care.”

“Do you think you and your dad can work things out, Kenny?” Dixie fished around for something useful to say, but came up short.

“Naw. He’s a drunk and I’m tired a gettin’ my tail whooped. I guess it’s time to realize he just doesn’t like me.”

Dixie shifted uncomfortably, casting the young man a sidelong glance. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry things are so bad between you. But I’m sure he likes you, every parent loves their kids. Maybe he’s just, just in a bad place himself, you know.”

Kenny shook his head slowly, eyes down, hands resting in his lap almost in resolution. “No, he don’t like me. He said so, said he don’t want no gay son.”

Dixie’s heart squeezed and she felt tears sting her eyes as his words gouged her emotions. She was way outside her comfort zone on this one. What had she gotten herself into? She wasn’t prepared for this conversation. This was the Mississippi Delta, deep in Baptist land, for goodness sake. She had never knowingly had a conversation with a gay person before.

Softly, as her mind spun and insides churned, the word “listen” swept over her.

Up ahead was a convenient dirt patch on the left hand side of the road near the river. Slowing down she pulled over and eased her truck to a stop. Turning to Kenny she said, “Let’s get out and sit by the river and you can tell me your story. It seems you need to talk and I need to listen.”

Kenny climbed out of the truck and followed Dixie to the rivers edge. The water sang and soothed. Dixie wished it’s ancient melody held an answer.

As they moved under the arms of a giant spreading oak Dixie frantically searched through her mind. What had she grown up hearing church men say about homosexuality? Mostly it had been hushed whispers of condemnation and disdain. Occasionally a strong sermon on the ills of our country and sin of sexual perversion. Surely her youth pastor had taught about it in his many lessons on purity. College friends were just crass.

All that surfaced in her mind were angry, harsh words. Gay people were twisted, fallen, sinful; weren’t they? That’s all she could remember hearing. How could she be so unprepared? Homosexuality wasn’t a topic of regular conversation in her household or among her friends. Not beyond the snide comments or stiff theorizing. In concept she had a position on the issue, but confronted with flesh and blood it all seemed academic.

She looked at the young man beside her. He was certainly different. But he was human. Why is it we always seek to turn people who are different into something less than human? The thought flitted through her mind, begging further thought.

She knew what the Bible said about the practice of homosexuality, and she believed it. But what did the Bible say about homosexuals. What she knew about a lifestyle and what she saw in this person left her feeling incomplete.

Usually unflappable and armed with an opinion, Dixie felt out of her element. Contrary to her nature she decided to listen.

They settled themselves awkwardly on the sandy bank under the shelter of the gnarled oak. A stranger pair could hardly be found.

Compassion nudged Dixie forward. “So what happened last night to make your father so mad, Kenny?”

Leaning his back against the oak tree, arms wrapped around his bent knees, the young man looked up into the canopy overhead. Sunlight dappled his face. A tear slipped from the corner of one eye.

Coming back to reality he shrugged. “I’m different. He can’t stand that I’m different. My mom left us when I was little. I hardly remember her. Sometimes my aunt would take me to church but Daddy never went much.” A deep sigh filled his lungs and he kept going. “He says it’s unnatural. Being gay. It goes against God and it’s wrong.” Turning to face Dixie with anguish in his eyes Kenny continued, “I don’t know if it’s wrong or not but it’s how I am. I’m tired of feeling lonely, and bad.”

“God loves you Kenny, whether he approves of you being gay I think is between you and him, but I’m certain he loves you.”

His eyes flashed to her face. “I know God loves me. I’m not worried about him loving me.”

The unspoken accusation hung in the air. It wasn’t God’s love in question, it was everyone else’s.

What had been intended as a relaxing country drive had taken a detour. Her heart was in upheaval. For a while Kenny just talked. Talked about the isolation of being different in High School, talked about the ache of being abandoned by a mom he’d never known, talked about disappointing his dad. The words rolled out joining the music of the river, getting lost in the waves.

“What will you do now?”

Again a deep sigh, as if every pain could be expelled with a breath. “I guess stay with Robbie until I get a job and can rent my own place.”

Spurred on by the moment, Dixie blurted, “Why don’t you come home and have dinner with my family. Maybe my dad knows of a job in town. I can drop you at your friend’s after we eat.”

“I’d like that. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, and I’m getting hungry.”

They climbed back into the pick up, Dixie turned around, and together they headed in the direction they’d come from.

Banging through the screen door Dixie called out, “anybody home?”

“In here,” called her mother from the dinning room. Sharon Lee emerged, carrying a stack of linens she must have been in the process of putting away. In a split second Dixie took in her mother’s perfectly styled short, sandy hair, matching diamond earrings and necklace, manicured nails, and neatly pressed slacks. Her mother’s slender eyebrow arched as she, in turn, took in the young man standing in her kitchen.

“Mother,” Dixie cleared her throat, “this is Kenny. He’s had a rough night. I brought him home for dinner, I hope you don’t mind.”

For a moment Dixie had a pang of guilt, her mother’s inscrutable face disguised her thoughts well, but Dixie knew the wheels of her mind must be spinning, just as her own had been a short while earlier. She should have given her parents a warning. In that brief moment, her mother grabbed tightly to composure and evenly said, “Of course dear, your friends are always welcome.”

Turning to Kenny, she put her impeccable manners to good use. Offering her hand she said, “Kenny, I’m Sharon Lee, it’s so very nice to meet you. Can I get you a drink? Some lemonade? Water?”

Kenny shook her offered hand self consciously, “Yes ma’am, I’d really like some water, and it’s nice to meet you too.”

Dixie cringed, not only was he gay, he was as country and backward as the day was long. That would be two strikes against him in her mother’s book.

Handing Kenny his glass of water Sharon suggested, “Kenny, why don’t you go sit in the other room for a bit while we get dinner together. There are some nice magazines on the coffee table in there. Dixie’s father will be home in a minute and I’ll send him in to sit with you.”

Obediently, Kenny, glass in hand, headed in the direction pointed out to him. Sharon whirled on her daughter, “Dixie Lee, who is that young man,” she hissed.

“Mother, I’m honestly not sure. I came across him out on Catfish Lane.” She lowered her voice, her face animated, “I swear, I thought he was a girl. It’s an isolated stretch and I stopped to offer what I thought was a young woman a ride. He was kicked out of his house by his dad last night and was trying to get to a friends house. He told me some of his story. Mother, I felt bad for him. So,” she finished helplessly, “I brought him home for dinner.”

Her mother closed her eyes, shook her head, and sighed, “Dixie, you’d bring home every stray you found if I let you.” After a moment she scrutinized her daughter, “Was he wearing nail polish?”

Dixie suppressed a chuckle, “and eyeliner. Mom, he’s gay.”

If it was possible, her mother’s upright posture straightened even more, “Gay?!” she whispered loudly. “Of course he is,” she said almost to herself, the pieces fitting into place. “Why in heaven’s name did you bring a gay man here, Dixie? What were you thinking? Did you not consider your father’s reputation in this community?”

Dixie jutted her jaw. “Daddy spends time with all kinds of people. He counsels couples getting divorced; he helps teens doing drugs. What does Daddy’s reputation have to do with anything? He has a reputation for helping people. I just felt bad for Kenny. I know it’s awkward,” she finished lamely. And then jabbed out one more sentence, “but if you had heard his story you would feel sorry for him too.”

“I don’t know Dixie. Gay? Did you really think bringing him home was a good idea? Why didn’t you just take him to his friend’s house?”

Dixie shrugged, “I don’t know mother, truly, I don’t know. I suppose I was curious. And like I said, I felt sorry for him.”

“Well, it can’t be helped now. After dinner take him to his friend’s, and then leave it alone. Don’t get involved Dixie. Your father will be home any minute. Help me get dinner on the table.”

Her father got home shortly after the chicken casserole, steamed broccoli, and Waldorf salad where set out on the immaculately laid kitchen table. A quick explanation, and he was sent in to meet Kenny and bring him to the kitchen for dinner.

The meal was tense. The mood Dixie had been caught up in down by the river had evaporated. Sitting in her family’s kitchen Kenny seemed out of place. Though her parent’s tried to make polite small talk, they had each one sunk into a somber mood. Dixie couldn’t help but wonder if she had made things worse by bringing Kenny home.

On the drive to Robbie’s house Dixie apologized. “Kenny, I’m sorry dinner was awkward. I hope we didn’t make you uncomfortable.”

Tears swimming in his eyes Kenny shook his head, “No. No, you didn’t make me feel bad at all. Your parents are real nice. It’s just, just,” he faltered looking for words, “it just seemed like a fairy tale. I wish I had parents and house that nice.”

Pain stabbed her heart again. How often had she taken those things for granted when other people longed to walk in her shoes. They rode the rest of the way in silence, lost in thoughts unknown to each other.

Several minutes later, as the golden day was fading orange, Dixie pulled up to a double wide trailer. Turning to shake Dixie’s hand Kenny smiled, “Thank you Dixie for everything; for dinner, for the ride, for listening. I appreciate it.”

Dixie smiled back, hardly knowing what to say. “I hope things work out for you, Kenny.” As he turned to slide out of the truck she stopped him, “Can I have your number. I’d like to keep in touch and see how you’re doing. And maybe you’d like to come to church and have Sunday lunch with us sometime.” The words were out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying, shocking her own ears.

He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, “sure, I’d like that,” he said eagerly. They exchanged numbers and Dixie pulled away as the shadows deepened, hiding Kenny from sight.

Come back next week to find out what Dixie’s friends and family will think about Kenny, to see what Gabriel has to teach her, and get a little taste of southern living!

I have to confess this post was hard to share. Usually when you read a writer’s finished work it has gone through several edits, most people never see the rough draft. I’m very aware this week’s piece is rough. Also, I know I’m tackling some really tender and controversial subjects. The reason being that I feel if my writing doesn’t make people think or ask questions then I haven’t been successful.

So, I’d love to hear how you think the story is working so far! And, please, if you have comments to make regarding homosexuality keep it polite.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

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One thought on “Dixie Lee ~ Part 3

  1. Another great chapter, Beck! Easy to read and become absorbed in the story. Your Dixie is easy to love, so natural in her actions and conversation. The subject can be controversial until we imagine ourselves in the same life moment, where our heart and integrity come into play. Your writing is very honest and I believe the characters will find their way through an inspiring journey. Loved the reference to “water sang and soothed”. Two corrections: “What she knew about homosexuality” (rather than new) and “I’m hoping (not hopping).” Keep on with this refreshing story! I’ll look forward to next week.

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