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FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE FOR THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING
That afternoon is like one of Berenice’s failed cakes. The morning was like the fluffy outside and the afternoon is like the "damp, gummy richness near the center." F. Jasmine finds an "unfamiliar sweetness in the known old kitchen ways and tones." John Henry tells her that he and Berenice are going to the wedding because Uncle Charles died. John Henry will be staying with the Addamses for the next few days. F. Jasmine doesn’t like the idea and Berenice scolds her for being so selfish. They then discuss how strange it feels to have someone in their lives die. F. Jasmine thinks it’s odd that Uncle Charles should die the day before the wedding.
F. Jasmine tells Berenice about meeting a soldier on the street trying to buy the organ grinder’s monkey. When Berenice asks if the soldier was drunk, the question makes F. Jasmine feels strange and uneasy. She had meant to tell Berenice about the soldier, but now she hesitates. She takes off her dress and walks around the kitchen in her petticoat. She asks Berenice to be sure to wash and iron all her things since she plans to leave town for good tomorrow. Berenice tries to convince her that a married couple doesn’t want an extra person with them. They argue for the length of the afternoon about the wedding. F. Jasmine tells Berenice she wants her organdy dress to be ironed with pleats instead of ruffles. Berenice tells her she has no time to do that and then asks F. Jasmine where she’s been all morning. F. Jasmine tries to tell her about the connections she had made with people on the street, but Berenice doesn’t understand her. She says F. Jasmine is going crazy, walking around town telling complete strangers the bizarre plan she has of joining the wedding. She wants to know what Frankie will do when the couple won’t have her along. F. Jasmine says she plans to shoot herself with her father’s gun.
They sit down to dinner, their last meal together. They eat and begin to talk about love. All the other times the subject has been brought up, the old Frankie would have laughed at it and not let the conversation proceed. Today, however, she gets into the flow of the conversation. Berenice tells them she has seen many strange things in relation to love. She’s seen boys fall in love with completely ugly girls and extraordinarily peculiar weddings, and she’s even seen boys fall in love with other boys. She remembers one in particular, Lily Mae Jenkins, who fell in love with Juney Jones and changed into a girl so he could be with Juney. Despite all she’s seen, though, Berenice says she’s never heard of someone falling in love with a wedding.
They stop talking in order to get on with the dinner. Hopping-john is F. Jasmine’s favorite meal. She always tells the others that if she ever dies, they should test her corpse with the smell of hopping-john before they nail the coffin shut and bury her. Berenice’s death test is fried fresh-water trout and John Henry’s is divinity fudge.
As they eat their meal of hopping-john, cornbread, hot baked sweet potatoes and buttermilk, they carry on a conversation about peculiar things. John Henry is preoccupied with how Lily Mae Jenkins changed into a girl. Berenice is trying to convince F. Jasmine that all she needs is to find a "nice little white boy beau." She tells her she can make the boy treat her to the movies and pay for everything when they go out. She tells F. Jasmine she should fix herself up and "speak sweetly and act sly." F. Jasmine wants to tell Berenice about the soldier, but she can’t do it. She asks Berenice what she means by a beau, if she means a soldier who will take her out to a dance. Berenice tells her she means someone F. Jasmine’s own age. She mentions Barney MacKean and F. Jasmine exclaims loudly over the terrible Barney.
John Henry wants Berenice to tell her about all the beaus she has caught in her life. Berenice asks him how many hairs she has in her plaits. She begins to talk and her voice goes on and on so her words become like a song. F. Jasmine realizes that Berenice always talks of herself as if she were very beautiful. She tells Berenice she should stop worrying about beaus since she’s at least forty years old and settle down with T. T. Berenice looks crossly at F. Jasmine and tells her she can still "ministrate" and that she has many years ahead of her before she resigns herself to a corner.
John Henry brings Berenice back to the topic of the beaus paying her way. F. Jasmine wants to know who paid when she took the trip to Fairview and rode on the airplane with the African-American pilot. Berenice answers that T. T. paid. She says she couldn’t possibly have made that trip since she makes nothing but six dollars a week. F. Jasmine next wants to know if other people call the dish she likes so much hopping-john. Berenice says she’s heard it called peas and rice as well, but she can’t say what people in Europe call it. F. Jasmine tells Berenice that a funny thing happened to her and she can hardly say what it was. Suddenly someone begins to tune a piano and everyone exclaims over the horrible sound of a piano being tuned. F. Jasmine stands very still in front of the kitchen table and "the gray of the kitchen was a stale gray and the room was too flat and too square." They sit and listen as the notes are tested on the out-of-tune piano. F. Jasmine remarks that she has heard that in Milledgeville, they punish people by tying them up and making them listen to piano tuning.
Then she asks Berenice what she would think if she ran into someone who seemed terribly peculiar but she didn’t know why. She adds that the person might seem to be drunk, but might not be and he might want you to join him and go to a big party or dance. Berenice says she might go with him to the party and then look for someone better. After she says this, she narrows her eyes and asks F. Jasmine why she asks the question. F. Jasmine tries to figure out how to tell Berenice about the stranger, but then the phone rings. No one is on the other line, but the interruption sets F. Jasmine on another topic. She wants to have her fortune read before she leaves town. Berenice asks to see the new dress, so F. Jasmine goes up to her room and puts it on, then comes downstairs and models it. Berenice thinks the dress looks like someone is making a Christmas tree out of herself in August. John Henry likes it. F. Jasmine says the dress can’t be returned, so Berenice tries to make it fit better in the waist. As they talk, they hear the piano tuner, Mr. Schwarzenbaum, tuning the piano. F. Jasmine says it feels like he is trying to torment them, but Berenice assures her that people tune pianos in just this way all over the world.
John Henry remarks that Uncle Charles is dead and they are going to a wedding. F. Jasmine feels that Berenice is thinking of all the dead people she knows. F. Jasmine thinks of all she has known. She doesn’t count her mother in the number since she never knew her mother. She has known several dead people. She asks Berenice if she often thinks about Ludie. Berenice replies, "You know I do." She says Ludie never would have let her be lonesome so she had to get involved with so many "no-good men." "Of all the dead people in the world, Ludie Freeman was the one F. Jasmine knew the best." When Berenice talks about her life with Ludie, she talks slowly and deliberately and the words begin to sound like a song. Berenice remarks that sometimes she wishes she hadn’t known Ludie because it spoiled her too much and left her feeling lonesome afterwards. F. Jasmine reminds Berenice that T. T. Williams is a good man and asks if Berenice will marry him. Berenice says if she married T. T., she would be able to quit her job and stand behind a cash register tapping her foot, but that she won’t marry T. T. because he doesn’t make her shiver. F. Jasmine says thoughts of the wedding make her shiver.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version