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FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE FOR THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING
They discuss how terrible it would be to be dead. Berenice suggests that they turn on the radio, but F. Jasmine doesn’t want it on because it reminds her of the summer. She advises Berenice and John Henry to keep the radio on when they come back from the wedding because they will likely hear news of her and the couple since they will be famous world travelers. John Henry mistakes her and thinks she means that he and Berenice will be traveling with her. F. Jasmine laughs loudly and long. She walks around the kitchen and bangs on things. Suddenly the piano goes silent. F. Jasmine sees four older girls going across the yard. The old Frankie would have watched them and waited, hoping they would call to her and tell her they had elected her to become a member. When they would have passed on, she would have yelled at them and told them to stop cutting across her yard. Now, the new F. Jasmine isn’t even jealous of them.
They begin a second round of the dinner after five o’clock. In the old days, they would have sat around on an evening like this and criticized the creator. They would think up ways they would improve the world. The Holy Lord God John Henry would create a mixture of the devilish and the freakish in his world. He thought of arms long enough to reach to California and chocolate dirt. He thought of an eye that could see a thousand miles and a hinged tail that could be used as a seat. The Holy Lord God Berenice Sadie Brown created a "round and just and reasonable" world. She imagined there would be no different ethnicities, but everyone would be a light brown color with blue eyes and no one could separate African-American people off by themselves and make them feel low and dirty. She imagined a world without war and no holocausts. She imagined food being free and people working as much as they wanted to for extra things. She also imagined that Ludie Freeman would be alive. The old Frankie’s world was like Berenice’s in some respects, though she thought she would have a war island so people could still be war heroes and heroically give blood to the war heroes. In her world boys could change to girls and girls to boys whenever they wanted to. Berenice didn’t like this part of Frankie’s world. In her opinion, human sex was exactly right and shouldn’t be changed or improved. John Henry wanted to have half boy and half girl bodies. Frankie told him they would take him to the fair where he could join the freak show, and he closed his eyes and smiled at the thought.
On this day, things are different. F. Jasmine has taken off the wedding dress and she is barefoot and comfortable in her petticoat. The food is neither hot nor cold and they start on second helpings. They start a strange conversation of the kind they’ve never had before. Berenice reminds Frankie that she had been about to say something earlier when she was interrupted. Frankie says she had been walking home and she saw something out of the tail of her eye and when she turned to look it was two African-American boys at the end of the alley. She notices that Berenice is looking like she understands what she is talking about.
When she stops, Berenice pushes back from the table and lights a cigarette. She asks Frankie if she’s been reading her mind. She says she knows just what F. Jasmine means. She says it’s happened to her many times that she thought she saw Ludie and she would whirl around and it wouldn’t be him. In that minute, she would feel like she’d be dropped down a well. She says this is the first time she had ever heard her thoughts put into words. F. Jasmine covers her face so Berenice won’t see how pleased she is that she has been so remarkable. Berenice says that is the way it is when a person is in love. F. Jasmine marvels that she is now a person with "worthwhile opinions."
They begin to talk about love in a way that the old Frankie would have jeered at. She used to go the movie matinees that featured "crook shows, war shows, or cowboy shows." One day last May there was some confusion at the theater and they had seen a movie called Camille. Frankie had started cat-calling and inspired the whole theater full of people to begin hooting at the screen until the usher ran them all out of the movie theater. Now F. Jasmine is sitting at the kitchen table talking calmly about love. She reaches over and gets one of Berenice’s cigarettes. Berenice doesn’t take notice.
Berenice tells them she will tell them a story that is a warning story. John Henry points out that F. Jasmine is smoking, but Berenice doesn’t pay any attention to him. She begins with her life with Ludie Freeman. She says she was happier that anyone else in the world had ever been, no matter their color or station in life. The story of Ludie begins twenty years ago when they met and goes forward through the wedding at the Welcome Ascension Church and on to the Christmas of the fox fur to the June of the fish fry. The years are filled with Berenice sewing and ironing Ludie’s suits and shirts and the two of them having a good time. She tells of the nine months they lived in the north in Cincinnati where they saw snow. When she tells the story "it was not so much the happenings she mentioned as the way she told about these happenings that made F. Jasmine understand."
Berenice talks in an "unwinding kind of voice." She "unwound the story of her and Ludie like a colored queen unwinding a bolt of cloth of gold." Always when the story ended, she looked sad. Usually, when she finished speaking, everyone would suddenly get busy with something to do, but this afternoon, no one spoke until F. Jasmine asked what he died of and when. Berenice says he died of something like pneumonia in November of 1931. F. Jasmine thinks it’s a strange coincidence that he died in the same month she was born. Berenice talks about the time of Ludie’s dying. She says she lied down on Ludie with her arms stretched out and prayed that God would give her strength to Ludie. She prayed until night. She exclaims his name over and over in her grief as she remembers. F. Jasmine says she thinks it strange that she doesn’t want to cry over Uncle Charles, but she intensely feels Ludie’s death.
F. Jasmine reminds Berenice after a while that she had started out to tell a warning kind of tale. Berenice thinks a minute and then tells the story of her other three husbands. This is also an old story. In the spring of the next year after Ludie died, Berenice was at a church and felt a shiver run through her. She looked around it saw a man’s thumb that looked exactly like Ludie’s smashed thumb, the only part of him that wasn’t pretty. She ended up marrying that man, Jamie Beale, who turned out to be a no good liquor drinker. After she left him, the same thing occurred to her in the case of Henry Johnson, her next husband. She was walking down the street and saw Ludie’s coat. She had sold the coat after Ludie’s death and Henry Johnson had happened to buy it. He turned out to have emotional problems and she had to leave him too.
She interrupts herself to exclaim over how much Frankie eats. She says Mr. Addams always complains about the grocery bills, accusing her by his looks of stealing food from the pantry. F. Jasmine tells her she doesn’t plan to be so greedy after today. She wants to know how the story of Jamie Beale and Henry Johnson applies to her. Berenice says it applies to everyone and is a warning. She had loved Ludie but then she had tried to "marry off little pieces of Ludie whenever [she] came across them." It was too bad that they were the wrong pieces. She tells F. Jasmine that she seems to have fallen in love with the wedding. She warns F. Jasmine that if she "starts falling in love with some unheard of thing like this," she should be prepared for what else will happen to her. She wonders if F. Jasmine will be trying to break into weddings for the rest of her life. F. Jasmine feels sick when she has to listen to people who don’t make sense. She puts her fingers in her ears, but doesn’t push so tightly that she can’t hear the rest of what Berenice has to say. Berenice tells her she’s laying a fancy trap for herself. F. Jasmine insists that the couple will take her.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version