Her trailer was a ripe patch of excess, bloomed conspicuously at the base of a cliff on the edge of a bone dry, Baptist county in East Kentucky. The half-acre around it was littered with faded Mountain Dew cans glinting in the sunshine and decorated haphazardly with a half dozen busted toilets turned planters. Mary had filled them to the brim with rich bottom soil and planted sturdy annuals that burst forth in bright colors come springtime. And you could hear her racket from a ridge over. Never music, just the strained voices of lonely people seeking solace over air waves. Her regular customers learned to lean in when she hollered them across the thresh hold and into her home. They learned to brace themselves against the blast of cackling talk radio hosts crackling out into the hillbilly breeze via AM radio, the regulars planted their feet against decibel after decibel blaring through the stacks of second hand speakers that towered and teetered close to the drooping, water-stained ceiling. If you were a brand new customer just looking for a quality buzz, it could be downright overwhelming.
Mary herself was too much–too big, too loud, too self-assured, too self-righteous. She’d answer the door in a muu-muu splattered with crusty, sausage gravy and tacky floral print. She’d tell you how Jesus don’t mind pot, but you better stay away from that ol’ Detroit dope. She conducted most all her business out of the kitchen. There was always an abundance of food bubbling over on the stove and her rumbling old refrigerator was always stocked with strange, leftover smells and cold beer. The mismatched canisters lining the counter tops were stuffed full of product. On the rare occasion she wasn’t cooking when you’d show up to score, she’d take your money all flopped out and sweating across the queen size bed crowded into the built-on, back room of the mobile home. And she’d produce a thirty bag or a sixy bag or even a whole ounce or two out from under the folds of her dress. Or maybe out from under the folds of her pale, fleshy body. Nobody ever dared to question the hygienic aspect once they realized that sticky, hairy, bud smelled even stronger and danker than the dealer.
No one knew where she kept her crop, but she gave the living room over to the house plants. The ivy grew up over the arms of the couch and she warned guests to avoid the moldy Lazy Boy. Not for the sake of their pretty, clean clothes or pretty, clean lungs. Because once, the rotting plaid armchair had belonged to her Granny, and now it belonged to the rosary vine. Her favorite. Her Granny’s favorite. Mary kept the room cool and dark so that the thick, durable foliage of it shone under the light of a single lamp that faked sunshine. And the blossoms were back lit, flickering red and wavering like candles at the base of a shrine to homegrown botany. Everybody on this side of the state knew she was thanking the good Lord for her green, green thumb.
Misty Marie Rae Skaggs, 32, hardly ever leaves the holler anymore.