Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories The Ballad of the Sad Café, Part 2

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The Ballad of the Sad Café, Part 2

  • The two drank two big bottles of Miss Amelia's liquor: they got drunk and bond.
  • Miss Amelia asked the hunchback's name. It was Lymon Willis. Miss Amelia invited Lymon into have supper… which was a rare thing for her to do.
  • The townsmen left, and Miss Amelia and Cousin Lymon ate supper together and then she showed him to a room in her upstairs apartment.
  • The next day was beautiful and Miss Amelia got up, toured her properties and went about her business.
  • Meanwhile the town was gossiping, and by noon everyone knew about the hunchback. At first they figured he must have left after eating supper, only later someone thought they saw a strange face in the upstairs window.
  • On the day after that, Miss Amelia kept the store door locked, and a rumor started going around the town that she had murdered the hunchback. Everyone was pretty amped up about this juicy story.
  • Miss Amelia simply kept to herself, and had no idea what rumors were taking hold. She did so until eight o'clock, when a group of townsmen began to wait on the porch without knowing why they were waiting.
  • Then the door to the store opened, and it was bright inside, and Miss Amelia sat at her desk in back office, doing paperwork, not noticing the small crowd.
  • This office was where she did all of her paperwork (and took care of sick people, like a country doctor).
  • Although she did stitches and offered tinctures of her own recipe to the ill, she wouldn't take care of "female complaints."
  • The crowd outside waited and watched Miss Amelia work, until she couldn't stand it and closed the office door.
  • The crowd took this as a sign and came into the store, and watched, shocked, as the hunchback descended the stairs from the upstairs apartment.
  • He looked less haggard, was clean and wearing fresh clothes and strutted around the floor of the store as the crowd watched. At last he sat down and took out a snuffbox.
  • The snuffbox was recognized as having belonged to Miss Amelia's father, and was filled with sugar and cocoa, which the hunchback ate bits of as the crowd continued to gawk.
  • The hunchback began to ask questions about the lives of the men in the crowd, and the noise of conversation attracted more townspeople until the store was packed, everyone talking happily.
  • At ten o'clock, Miss Amelia finally emerged from her office and asked if anyone needed anything. She sold them all liquor, and allowed them—for the first time ever—to stay and drink and talk and eat crackers.
  • Miss Amelia took care to warm Cousin Lymon's whiskey with water from the stove, and the townspeople saw a closeness between these two weird characters.
  • After that evening, the café became a daily event, and Miss Amelia watched quietly as Cousin Lymon hosted the crowds. She seemed happier—maybe in love?
  • Amelia did her best to spoil Cousin Lymon, doctoring him and feeding him well, but he didn't seem to strengthen.
  • For her part, Miss Amelia wore her overalls most days and a red dress Sundays as usual, but was a little nicer, and a little more straight with the townspeople. Her liquor and doctoring and café-running improved in the company of Cousin Lymon.
  • For several years, life went on like this for Miss Amelia, Cousin Lymon, and the town. Happy days for everybody.
  • The odd couple spent time together, Lymon following Amelia as she worked, watching but not working. In the mornings, Amelia sat quietly with Lymon as he recovered from a bad night of poor sleep. In the evenings, the two ran the café.
  • It was obvious to the townspeople that Miss Amelia loved Cousin Lymon, and some wondered whether the cousins were indeed cousins (yikes, incest) or if they were even together in a sexy way.
  • Others felt the two should be let to live, and love each other, however they wanted to, since love was a precious, rare, and private thing. Who were they to judge?
  • A lover, the narrator explains, doesn't need to pay attention to the object of love, so much as the feeling of it—which is determined by the lover only.
  • Loving is easier than being loved, the narrator reasons, and some people find being loved, paid attention to, "intolerable." (Ballad.82)
  • Now the story turns back to Miss Amelia's marriage, which the narrator says is important to understanding the rest of the story.
  • This marriage was the only social contact Miss Amelia had in her life, besides Cousin Lymon.
  • When Miss Amelia was nineteen, her father had died, and she was alone in the world.
  • There was a loom-fixer, age twenty-two, named Marvin Macy. He was known throughout the town for being hot.
  • Marvin Macy broke lots of hearts, but at last he set his sights on Miss Amelia.
  • Though Marvin Macy had been a heart breaker, it seemed understandable: he had been beaten and starved as child. He and his brother Henry were adopted. Henry had grown up good and kind, and Marvin had grown up bad and cruel.
  • Marvin Macy fell in love with Miss Amelia and began to behave himself; going to church and becoming well mannered, and for two years prepared himself to be worthy.
  • After two years, he declared his love to Miss Amelia and then proposed.
  • The two married, although the town wasn't sure of bizarre Miss Amelia's motives.
  • Miss Amelia wore her long-passed mother's dress (yellow, too-short, satin, all wrong), and seemed super uncomfortable during the ceremony.
  • She walked out of the church ahead of her groom, and immediately headed back to her store, talking to him as if they had not just been married.
  • The town hoped the marriage would soften Miss Amelia. Spoiler alert: it didn't.
  • The couple had supper, served by Miss Amelia's regular cook, during which Miss Amelia read the newspaper.
  • When it was time to go to bed, the couple went upstairs, but Miss Amelia was back down in a second, angry and dressed in her usual mannish clothes.
  • She stayed downstairs, working in her office, and by dawn was working on a rabbit hutch in the yard.
  • Marvin Macy tried everything to romance Miss Amelia: jewelry and candy from a neighboring town. She ate the candy and sold the jewelry in the store, and didn't soften at all.
  • For three days, Miss Amelia slept on the first floor, and ignored Marvin Macy, who followed her around like a puppy.
  • On the fourth day, he signed legal papers, giving Miss Amelia all he had in the world. She looked at the papers and then filed them.
  • Marvin Macy got super-drunk.
  • That evening, he approached his wife, but when he touched her, Miss Amelia punched him so hard that he fell and broke one of his front teeth.
  • After that, if Marvin Macy was ever drunk or approached his bride, Miss Amelia took a swing.
  • Eventually, she kicked him out, and he watched her from the edge of her property, until he could stand it no longer and attempted one night to climb through her window.
  • Immediately, Miss Amelia went to the court to try and get him locked up.
  • Marvin Macy slipped a passionate love letter under her door and left town.
  • The marriage lasted ten days, altogether, including all of the violent hullaballoo.
  • Then Marvin Macy was gone and Miss Amelia left with all of his things.
  • She took scissors to his KKK robe to cover her crops.
  • Miss Amelia remembered the marriage as being horrible.
  • After all this, rumors reached the town that Marvin Macy had held up gas stations and a grocery store, and had possibly killed a man. He was caught and sentenced to prison, which made Miss Amelia happy.
  • It had been such an weird affair that some of the townspeople thought of it once Cousin Lymon came to town. They wondered about Marvin Macy… and what might happen if he was ever brought up.

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