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The Slacks
by Madeline Otts

Some winters in Mississippi can be unkindly harsh, especially if the underside of your house is open with no proper "skirting" to act as insulation. I can see still our house sitting up high on randomly scattered brick pillars. You could even see the dog underneath the house. Maybe it was that way because the house was near the mighty Mississippi River and the river did flood sometimes.

There were two main residential streets in my town: Front Street and "the other street" where we lived. There were, of course, side streets and then the street leading into town to get to Front Street.

The way to my school was long, I think about a mile, and we didn't have a car. Mama was real worried about my freezing to death, so she ordered two pair of corduroy slacks for me, one forest green and the other maroon. I could hardly wait 'til they arrived from Sears, Roebuck Co. in Memphis. The prospect of something brand new, plus their warmth, made the delivery seem as if it were taking forever.

It was near Christmas, and I spent a lot of time on the couch next to the coal-oil heater looking through the catalog. My favorite pastime was pretending I was a rich lady, ordering things for poor children. I pretended I was going to get corduroy slacks for everyone.

Christmas cards began to arrive. Since I had learned to read, Mama passed them on to me. My favorites had coatings of shiny crystals that looked like sprinkles of sugar scattered across the top. However, one day an unusual one came with raised white etchings on front of a dark (almost maroon) card which said: "Here come the Slacks. I was so excited -- thinking it was a card announcing that Sears was sending the slacks Mama ordered. Upon opening the card, was I ever disappointed! It said: "Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

The card was from our Doctor Slack and his family with caricatures of a man, woman and dog.

However, during the holidays the corduroy slacks did arrive . . . and they were everything I could have hoped for.


You may reach Madeline Otts, a Mississippi native, at mkotts.

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