Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories The Ballad of the Sad Café, Part 4

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The Ballad of the Sad Café, Part 4

  • Six years passed. One night the café was packed and a chicken dinner special advertised for that August evening.
  • Henry Macy, Marvin's brother, sat in the corner with a sick-looking child waiting to be doctored by Miss Amelia.
  • She emerged from the kitchen with a bottle of cough syrup, gnawing at a chicken part.
  • Though the boy had a large boil to be drained on his thigh, Miss Amelia fed him cough syrup and chicken dinner until he was drowsy and wouldn't suffer when she was ready to lance the boil.
  • Cousin Lymon came in, saying hello to everyone and telling tall tales and bragging as Miss Amelia watched calmly. Everyone in the town knew he was a liar, but he was harmless, and made any day a party.
  • When the sick boy was at last asleep, Miss Amelia carried him to her office, Henry Macy following along.
  • Cousin Lymon, bored, let the night go on and hung out on the porch.
  • Miss Amelia came out to get him for supper, but he said he wasn't hungry.
  • She led him back into the café, and they sat with Henry Macy.
  • The boy's father came to pick him up, and Henry Macy and Cousin Lymon ate quietly.
  • The night went by as usual, townspeople in and out.
  • At 1 a.m., Henry Macy confessed that he had gotten a letter from Marvin, saying he was out on parole.
  • Cousin Lymon listened in carefully, and wanted answers, about who Marvin Macy was, and why he was in prison, because he was super-interested in stories about criminals.
  • But no one answered his questions, and Henry Macy told Miss Amelia that his brother hadn't revealed his plans for freedom.
  • Miss Amelia, angry, said he wouldn't be allowed on her property.
  • The night came to a close, and as it did, everyone else left and Miss Amelia and Cousin Lymon talked a bit before bed, (though we don't get to know what they talked about.)
  • Summer was over, and the weather was moderate, and Miss Amelia was busy with her liquor still and crops.
  • The townspeople had noticed that this busy season made Miss Amelia happy: she laughed and stretched, and once even wrote a story.
  • Cousin Lymon followed alongside her. Everyone was pretty sure Miss Amelia was in love.
  • Once it was cold, the work was done, and Miss Amelia had some business in the neighboring town. Though she asked Cousin Lymon to join her, he said no.
  • She asked him to watch over the barbecue pit, where she was roasting pig, and planned to be back by night.
  • It wasn't rare for a car to come through the town, and so no one paid much attention to the truck that let a man off near the café.
  • Cousin Lymon was the first to see the man… and the two stared at each other.
  • When the man turned to walk away, Cousin Lymon followed him.
  • The man was Marvin Macy, and the news spread through town like wildfire.
  • He walked through the town, visiting the mill and his old house. Cousin Lymon followed him, even as he headed onto Miss Amelia's property.
  • At last, at dark, Miss Amelia returned to the crowd of people in her yard, where everyone was waiting to see how she would react.
  • Though she seemed calm and dreamy as she walked toward the crowd, as soon as she spotted Marvin Macy and Cousin Lymon, she was shocked.
  • Cousin Lymon stood wiggling his ears, trying to charm Marvin Macy, who basically rolled his eyes, asking the crowd what was wrong with this guy.
  • After the ear wiggling didn't work, he tried batting his eyelashes and dancing, but Marvin Macy still didn't care, even when Cousin Lymon lost his balance and fell to the ground.
  • Everyone in the crowd wanted to know what Miss Amelia would do.
  • She went into a sort of trance, as if she was trying to figure out something very deep inside, and said nothing.
  • Marvin Macy left without a care, leaving Miss Amelia in her trance, and Cousin Lymon on the ground, and the crowd watching, no one saying a word.
  • After his return, Marvin Macy reinstalled himself in the town, staying at his foster mother's and taking anything he wanted from her.
  • Miss Amelia and Cousin Lymon kept the café closed that next night.
  • In the days that followed, a heat wave came over the town and everyone's meat spoiled.
  • Marvin Macy walked around town, doing as he pleased, taking what he wanted.
  • Cousin Lymon did his best to follow him around, though no one knew why, exactly.
  • Everyone in town wanted to know how Miss Amelia felt about this, but she went on being stoic, changing nothing but to put on a red dress she usually reserved for church and special occasions.
  • Otherwise life went on as usual, and the café was open each night, and even when Marvin Macy came in he was served.
  • Meanwhile Miss Amelia did whatever she could to get back Cousin Lymon's attention, and even once set a trap for Marvin Macy, but nothing worked to change the situation.
  • As winter approached, the café was a warm cozy place for everyone in town.
  • The cold was bad for Cousin Lymon, who it was believed had tuberculosis, ("consumption," in those days), but even as Miss Amelia paid special attention to him, he wouldn't let Marvin Macy be.
  • Each morning, he went to Marvin Macy's foster-mother's house, and called for him, and when Marvin was ready, the two would set off.
  • Miss Amelia wouldn't give up, doing everything she could: feeding Cousin Lymon well each night, and once trying to poison Marvin Macy (though accidentally she poisoned herself and realized in time, alive but defeated).
  • Marvin Macy drank and ate for free and had his run of the café, but when he was cruel to Cousin Lymon, Miss Amelia approached silently, with her fists balled, and did nothing but stare, since it wasn't yet time to fight.
  • This particular winter was peculiar for the town, and not just because of the Miss Amelia/Cousin Lymon/Marvin Macy situation. It was also the winter it snowed, which was quite a thing in this Southern town.
  • The snow affected everyone differently, and Miss Amelia seemed afraid of it, Marvin Macy strutted around like it was no big deal and sneered at everyone who thought it was.
  • Cousin Lymon followed after Marvin Macy like always, marveling at the snow, but seeming otherwise undisturbed.
  • On account of the snow, Miss Amelia figured she wouldn't serve dinner that night, but as a crowd built, she opened the café for drinks.
  • After dark, Marvin Macy arrived, with his belongings… and Cousin Lymon.
  • Miss Amelia asked Marvin whether he was going to leave, but he didn't answer, warming himself at the stove.
  • Cousin Lymon told Miss Amelia that Marvin Macy would stay with them.
  • She had no reaction to this news except to warm herself at the stove too, bringing her red dress to her thighs without any modesty. A miniskirt! Scandalous!
  • Marvin Macy and Cousin Lymon went upstairs.
  • Marvin Macy took Cousin Lymon's room, and Miss Amelia, feeling badly for infirm Cousin Lymon, gave him her room and she slept on the parlor sofa.
  • Like the poison, everything Miss Amelia did, short of kicking Marvin out, seemed to make her life worse instead of his.
  • The snow melted, and Miss Amelia cleaned house and tied a homemade punching bag to the branch of a tree in the yard and boxed with it each morning.
  • Miss Amelia was an inch taller than Marvin Macy and even though Marvin Macy was fast and tough everyone in the town thought Miss Amelia would win if they had a fight.
  • Miss Amelia had won a fight against a man before—a lawyer who had tried to cheat her—and she was brave and practiced her boxing daily. The town was betting on her.
  • Cousin Lymon walked about trying to make trouble between the two, imitating Miss Amelia's walk and crossing his eyes. No one laughed except for Marvin Macy. Miss Amelia looked sad, then enraged.
  • Marvin Macy went on with whatever he was doing, playing his guitar and behaving as if he didn't care.
  • Tension built between the two of them, and each evening they looked at each other as if they were going to fight, getting closer and closer each time.

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