This is a short chapter, though the reader learns how Minny and her new employer, Miss Celia spend their days, as Minny describes cleaning up Celia’s mansion. There’s a laundry list of food items to prepare for Mister Johnny, Celia’s husband and for Celia. Minny grouses:
Even though she has zero kids and nothing to do all day, she is the laziest woman I’ve ever seen. Including my sister Doreena who never lifted a royal finger growing up because she had a heart defect that we later found out was a fly on the X-ray machine. Minny (Pg 48)
Now, recall that in chapter two, Minny explained the reason she didn’t finish school was to help her mother because her sister had a heart ailment and her dad was “no-account.”
If the line about the fly on the X-ray machine isn’t hilarious enough, then this next one is sure to be.
When Minny presses Celia about telling Mister Johnny that she’s now the house domestic, Minny explains how jumpy she is about all the deception:
“Cat got on the porch this morning, bout gave me a cadillac arrest thinking it was Mister Johnny.” Minny (Pg 48)
Much like Kingfish mangled words on Amos ‘n Andy (another show about oh so humorous black people during segregation, though its set in the early 1950s), so too does Aibileen and now Minny. For more examples see Make ‘Em Laugh under the heading Why the Help Gets on My Last Nerve
Minny has good reason to be worried about Mister Johnny catching her in the house without his permission.
See, I need her to explain to her husband why a hundred and sixty-five pound Negro woman has keys to his house. I need him to know why I have his sterling silver and Miss Celia’s zillion karat ruby earrings in my hand every day. I need him to know this before he walks in one fine day and calls the police. Or saves a dime and takes care of business himself.
Minny tries her best to show Celia how to use the stove to cook (a ham hock in this case)
Saying, “Get the hamhock out, make sure you got enough water in there, that’s right. Now turn up the flame. See that little bubble there, that means the water’s happy.” (pg 49)
Celia somehow channels Skeeter by asking Minny “Are you happy, Minny?”
To which Minny replies “Why you asking me funny questions like that?”
Because of Celia’s friendliness, Minny almost wants her to act like the regular women in Jackson. Celia makes Minny uncomfortable with her niceness. And because she still needs her husband to think there’s no one helping her with the housework, she advises Minny not to clean the mirrors so good. “Leave some smudges,” Celia tells her.
All in order to fool her husband.
When Celia whines about not being able to tend to the azalea bushes outside, while laying on the couch. Minny’s soap operas are on, and the maid notes:
She’s got so many azalea bushes, her yard’s gonna look like Gone With The Wind come spring. I don’t like azalea and I sure didn’t like that movie, the way they made slavery look lika a big happy tea party. If I’d played Mammy, I’d a told Scarlett to stick those green draperies up her white little popper. Make her own damn Man-catching dress.
Unfortunately for Minny, the author has her playing both Mammy and Prissy in this book.
The reader learns more about Celia’s idiosyncrasies, her fear of having to return to Sugar Ditch, how the mimosa tree is hairy and reminds her of little baby hairs, her inability to truly make friends in Jackson. Minny advises her to get out and “Go shopping…get some new clothes. Go do whatever white women do when the maid’s home.” (Pg 51)
Only Celia refuses, content just to go back upstairs and rest yet again. Since resting and interrupting Minny’s chores to talk is what she seems to do best.
The Cookie Monster
The reader is next introduced to Minny’s youngest child Kindra. Kindra, to Minny’s chagrin, appears to be a chip off the old block.
“Mama, fix me something to eat. I’m hungry.” That’s what my youngest girl, Kindra, who’s five, said to me last night. With a hand on her hip and her foot stuck out.
Minny takes pride in her five kids, because she’s taught them to say yes ma’m and please before they even say cookie.
Apparently all obey except Kindra, who Minny laments is turning out just like her when the girl, upset that Minny has denied her a cookie until supper yells “Why are you so mean to me? I hate you!” before running out the door.
Minny can’t help but think of this while peeling peaches, what with Kindra’s smart mouth, her son Benny’s asthma, and her husband Leroy coming home drunk two nights a week, he knows that’s the one thing I can’t stand after nursing my drunk daddy for ten years, me and Mama working ourselves to death so he had a full bottle. I guess I ought to be more upset about all this, but last night as an I’m sorry, Leroy came home with a sack of early okra. He knows it’s my favorite thing to eat. Tonight I’m going to fry up that okra in some cornmeal and eat like my mama never let me. (Pg 52)
Minny’s so busy thinking about that yummy okra that she almost misses Mister Johnny coming up the walk, and Minny has to make her getaway. With her heart thumping like a cat in a clothes dryer (most, if not all of the black characters think and speak in similes, metaphors and analogies) Minny, in another hilarious turn of events winds up hiding in Miss Celia’s guest bathroom.
My eyes grow sharper in the dark. After a minute, I see myself in the mirror over the sink. Crouched like a fool on top of a white lady’s toilet.
Look at me. Look what it’s come to for Minny Jackson to make a damn fool of herself.
Uh, yeah. Especially when she talked all that smack about what she’d say to Scarlett. Or rather, what the author wrote for her, as a “gal playing the gal who’s really another gal.”
Sorry, I couldn’t help but misappropriate Robert Downey Jr’s line from Tropic Thunder here.