The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII
Jewell then lures O’Malley into another trap. O’Malley concedes that she intends to take Evelyn away from Mud Creek, and Jewell says, “Evelyn hates it here. . . . Reckons she’s too good for it.” O’Malley replies, “Maybe she is too good for it” (75), and Jewell assails her: JEWELL: I seen the look on your face when you catch sight of the chickens roostin’ on the porch or the fallin’ down roof or the junk layin’ round the yard. But it’s the outhouse is what the real kicker, ain’t it? Folks what got indoor plumbin’ are always lookin’ down on folks what don’t. Oh, you might laugh about it [. . .] but the truth is you’d rather pee outside than use our toilet. [. . .] What Evelyn’s tryin’ to do, it’s what we call “risin’ above your raisin.’’ But the truth is she ain’t no different than the rest of us. Oh, she might talk different and she might wear different, fancy clothes but underneath it all she’s still what your kind calls trash . She’s still the girl what ate food bought with food stamps, what used government money to pay for college. [. . .] But most important—and don’t you never forget this, Professor—she’s still the girl what shit in the outhouse everyday [sic] of her growin’ up. And that makes her no different than me. ( The Other 76) Having rejected the notion that Evelyn’s experiences can affect what she is and, by implication, having pointed out that O’Malley’s privilege has shaped her into a different kind of person, Jewell asserts that there will always be a divide between the young women. Victorious Jewell leaves the scene defiant while O’Malley remains confused. This exchange forces a crisis for O’Malley, who reels from this confrontation and feels even more disoriented when Evelyn enters covered in mud, having been butted down the bank of an old swimming hole by a nanny goat, symbolically described as “one of the meanest creatures God put on earth” ( The Other 79). While O’Malley attempts to embrace and comfort Evelyn, Evelyn complains over and again that she is getting O’Malley dirty and then enters the house to change clothes. She soon steps on the porch wearing, by coincidence, a t-shirt with the same imprint as one O’Malley’s mother has donated to a charity when she impatiently cleaned out her daughter’s old room. Jewell has gotten this shirt and other clothing from the local Catholic mission, although Evelyn has noted that Jewell has enough clothing “junking up the house already” ( The Other 27). Still stung by Jewell’s comments, O’Malley’s instigated doubts spill as she tells Evelyn that she should not be wearing charity: “When rich people give their old
A dirty story, however, denigrates. It suggests that the actions described have something inherently wrong, shameful, or nasty about them. Those who tell dirty stories intend to express their superiority, even if they recount their own involvement because, ironically, they imply that their recognition of the action’s supposed degrading nature proves their own inherent worth. Lacking empathy, a dirty story cannot be earthy. Lacking joy, a dirty story cannot be bawdy. The dirty story tears down. Jewell tears down. In a key exchange between her and O’Malley after she discovers that O’Malley and Evelyn are romantic partners, Jewell begins a passive-aggressive attack on O’Malley, placing O’Malley on the defensive by asking about Evelyn and college: JEWELL: Is that where she learned her to be one of them gays? [. . .] She was fine when she left here. She musta learned it somewhere. . . . Does your mommy know you’re one of them gays? . . . Did she tell you you was goin’ to Hell? [. . .] Well you are. What you and Evelyn do together is a sin. The Bible says so. ( The Other 73-74) When O’Malley refuses to argue, Jewell first challenges her for having no fight in her and then offers what at first appears to be an expression of tolerance: “I said the Bible said it was a sin. Personally, I ain’t much for readin’ the Bible. Too many rules and regulations” ( The Other 74). O’Malley appears somewhat placated, but then Jewell explains how she understands homosexuality: JEWELL: Why, I remember oncet when my Daddy was tryin’ to raise him up a passel of pigs and had the dangdest time cuz his two stud boars—Buddy and Luther—they was more interested in doin’ it with each other than they was in breedin’ with the sow pig, Lulabelle. Let me tell you, when Buddy and Luther got together . . . whewee! You ain’t never heard such a squealin’ in all your life! And it wasn’t the prettiest sight to look at either, if you know what I mean. I reckon nothin’ you and Evelyn do together could ever be as disgustin’ as what them two pigs did. When O’Malley replies, “Gee. Thanks” ( The Other 75), one understands that she knows to be wary of Jewell’s viciousness, but she makes the mistake of continuing the conversation. Jewell has clearly indicated her prejudices— while she does not hold traditional church beliefs, she nevertheless dwells on the image of the pigsty. When Jewell makes a comment about comparative disgust, she nevertheless expresses her personal disgust with Evelyn’s sexuality.
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