It was a bright day in late July. The main street section of downtown Benton. The area that is located a few blocks from the harbor was filled to the brim with people. Parking spaces on both sides of the brick paved street filled cars. People were crammed onto the concrete sidewalks. The noise and confusion of people shopping and visiting filled the air.
The women were dressed in their best pastel colored sundresses. The young gentleman wore casual dress pants or jeans. The bargemen, men who earned their livelihood on the Big Black, pushing cotton to Vicksburg filled the streets too. Their pocket's full of money.
And there I stood, dressed in a pastel colored dress. The dress made me blush, it was a lightly colored dress that reached down to my thighs. It was bright pink with the helm and the sleeves trimmed with lace that was so white it looked like sugar a frilly white apron was worn over the dress and was tied in the back with a bow. A peach colored headband kept my long golden locks from falling down into my face. White stocking and semi high heel shoes rounded out the outfit.
Beside me, there stood a booth of some kind. The booth had been constructed using white, plastic PVC pipe of various lengths and widths. This piping formed the frame and supported a thirty gallon reservoir that was filled to the brim with creamy frosting that was strawberry pink with swirls of white running through it.
On the other side of the tank there stood my best friend, Her name was Robin. Robin, was a tall girl with coppery red hair and emerald green eyes that almost seemed to shimmer. And with her porcelain complexion, she tended to remind me of one of those chine dollars my grandmother collected and often gave to her grand-daughters around Christmas and for birthdays. Robin was dressed in a white, lacey dress. With her headband being mint green.
And finally beside Robin there sat a vintage chalkboard easel. Written upon the ease was "Lily Elizabeth Potter'' Followed by "$540.90" and under it was "Robin Katherine Peers" Followed by "$550.80" below that written in pink curving letters where the words. "Gunge the maid! Voting ends at twelve noon today! All money goes to charity!'' It was signed by "Ginger Jennifer Evens". The women who owned and operated the bakery we were standing behind and the one who paid are wages.
"So Lil." Robin said as she peered toward the board. "Seems like people want to see you get gunged the most." She said, as she spoke a small smile formed upon her lips and her green eyes scanned the passing crowds. A few of the people passing by, paused and read the sign a scant few even entered into the bakery where Mrs. Evens was, taking orders and collecting donations for the upcoming vote.
"Right. And it might be." I said turning around and sticking my pink tongue out. "Maybe the cheerleaders will pull their resources together and gunge their favorite little sister." I said as I rolled my eyes and crossed my hands and folded them under my breast.
Robin high cheekbones flushed with color as she looked down at the color was draining from her cheeks. "Hey Amy graduated last year. So like you know. I'm no longer part of the pompom fortress." she whispered in a low tone of voice. "Plus, maybe the scouts rally and gunge you!: She said trying to return cheek with cheek.
"Totally. You know once you complete the CIT Course you like to become public enemy number one." I said, taking a deep breath. That something else that Katherine and I have in common. We've been in the scouts since kindergarten. We have advanced through the ranks together if you will.
"Yep." Robin said as she peered toward the board. "So, it's almost time." She said smiling as she peered toward the big clock that hung above the door of city hall. The numbers written upon the face of the clock were all written in Roman numerals. Just as she had finished speaking, the big brass bell's of All Saints, the local Roman Catholic Church chimed eleven times.
Then the wind chime above the bakery door rang and the pink door to the bakery was pushed open. And there in the doorway stood the queen herself, Ginger. She wore a simple midnight black dress that reached down to her thighs, black flats with a white buckle covered her feet. A bracelet of white gold shimmered on her left wrist and her coppery red hair hung loose and free. She smiled toward Robin and me, patting us both on the shoulder.
"It's almost time girls." She said as she turned the small crowd that had gathered around the booth. The massive crowd even spilled from the sidewalk and onto the very edge of the brick paved streets. The crowd numbered at the very minimal one hundred or so people. And more where starting to form around the bakery.
"Attention!" Gingers voice boomed over the nose and confusion. "May I please have your attention, may I please!" A hushed silence fell over the crowd. The whispered conversations stopped and all eyes turned toward Ginger who was standing there, hands folded in front of her and a small, lady-like smile forming across her cheeks.
"Thank you." She said as she cleared her throat. "First off, let me thank all who have donated thus far. Thanks to your efforts we've raised close to a thousand dollars. And every penny of that will be donated to our local hospital, King's Daughters. The money will go into their building fund." And with that being said, she gave the crowd a big thumbs up. "And as you know, one of my lovely helpers here." She held her hand toward us. "Will soon be getting covered in thirty gallons of my special homemade frosting. It's extra creamy and extra sweet." She said with a wink.
The crowd responded with a loud whoop.
"Okay where going to have one more round of collecting." She continued. "Then one of these two lovely ladies will be going into the tank and getting the goo." She said with a Hollywood smile. As she spoke her eyes fell upon Robin. Who had the good grace to blush!
The crowd again responded with hoot, hollers and whistles. A few of the older gentlemen in the far back even gave their version of the Rebel Yell. Finally, Ginger started to motion with her hands for the crowd to calm down and slowly the noise level dropped to a bearable level.
"Okay as you all know. Y'all been donating money all week to see one of these girls get covered in frosting. It's been pretty neck to neck. With Y'all wanting to gunge poor Robin here and spare Lily. Nowhere is going to have one more round of voting. My daughter Tiffany here."
She motioned her head to the side to a girl a year or so younger than me stepped forward and dropped a quick curtsy to the gathered crowd. I noticed that unlike her mother, she had honey blonde hair. Her hair seemed to sparkle like gold in the strong afternoon sunshine. Her eyes were blue too, blue like sapphires. Clearly she had received these her eyes from her mother and her hair must have come from her father.
"Tiffany, will be coming around with a bucket. Just drop any close change or small bills into the bucket. One of the girls will then be making a last minute plea for you not to vote for them. In the end whoever collects the most money will be the one going into the tank. She paused and then peered toward Robin and I.
"So Robin. Since you are in the lead, by say ten dollars. I think it's only right you go first." She said with a sagely nod of the head. "So go ahead and tell us a little about yourself. We already know you brew some really good earl gray tea, and your homemade chocolate brownies with fudge icing is almost sinfully good. But we need to know a little more about you!" Ginger said chuckle. Her laugh was one of a refined lady, she even had the good grace to blush as she brought her hand up to cover her mouth.
Robin cheeks turned scarlet and slowly she started to speak.
"We'll I attend the Benton Agricultural High School. I'm a sophomore." She paused and started to wiggle her hips as she noticed a hundred pair of eyes were peering toward her. "I'm on the field hockey team. I'm a proud Lady Gator." She paused as she tried to think of something else. "Oh and also a volunteer at King's Daughter Hospital. I'm taking some clinic base courses.. So thank you for donating."
She finished speaking and her eyes fell to Tiffany who was making her final rounds. A few of the people started donating a few folded bills into the bucket. Tiffany then returned the bucket to her mother who started to count the coins followed by the bills.
"So, the final count for Robin right now stands at Robin.. Sorry to say girl, but right now you are in the lead with five hundred and twenty nine dollars and thirteen cents. If Lily.. It's your turn." Ginger said peering at me.
I took a deep breath, it was coming down to the nut cutting now as my mother would say.
"Okay my name is Lily Elizabeth Potter. My family owns and operates Potter's Mercantile. Located right here in historic Benton. I also attend Benton Academy. I'm a Sophomore." I paused. "I'm working through a Bakers apprenticeship here and earning a little extra cash on the side by working at our local library. And thank you all for donating."
My eyes followed the few people who dropped a few coins into the bucket. Finally the bucket was returned to Ginger. Who started to quickly count the coins before proclaiming.
"We'll.. I have some good news and bad news." She said after she finished counting the coins. "Good news, Lily, I think you'll be glad to know that you'll not be going into the gunge tank this time. Robin, I'm sorry to say." She held the door open and motioned for Robin to step in. "But it seems the crowd wants to see you get the frosting!"
Robin took a deep breath as she peered around, I could see her cheeks turning redder than coal burning in the deepest pits of hell. Slowly she stepped toward the tank. Tanking a deep breath she eased her bottom down upon the wooden, three legged stool sitting under the vat. Blushing she looked up and for several long seconds she peered toward the tank!
"We love you so much Robin!" Ginger said, taking a deep breath. She then motioned me over. "Lily would you like to pull the lever?" She said handing the cord to me. A look of shock passed over Robin's face followed by a little smirk.
"Of course." I said as I reached and took the dangling cord. "Take a deep breath girl." I said as I gave the chain a hard yank. The minute the chain was pulled the plug holding the frosting popped open, opening a channel and allowing the thick, bubble gum frosting to flow down over her.
In a matter of seconds. Robin was covered from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet in thick, sweet and pink frosting that poured down like a mudslide. To her credit she stood there, standing straight as the gunge fell down over her. Coating her shoulders, ruining her headband and matting her hair.
"Oh God.." I said giggling as the last few drops of gunge came dripping down on her head.. She was totally covered from like I said head to toe, the slop even filled the bottom of the tank.
"Wow.." Ginger said, taking a deep breath. "That was fun, how do you feel Robin?" She asked as she reached down and helped Robin up.
Robin still blushing and even smiling a little under all that goo held her hands up and rolled her shoulders. "It was.. It was something alright." She said trying her best not to giggle.
"We'll have been a great sport. Everybody thank you for donating!" Ginger then turned to me and smiled. "Lily would you mind taking Robin out back and helping her get cleaned up. Robin, I want you to know there is a spare change of clothes in the back, and once you get most of the frosting off, you can come inside and use the staff showers."
"Thanks.." Robin said as I guided her off the sidewalk and into the fenced off patio section. And there are tale ends.