Chapter Ten

The POV switches to Minny in this chapter, and she’s got a man on her mind. As she ponders “I’ve got another man I’m waiting on. And it’s not Santy Claus and it’s not the Baby Jesus. It’s Mister Johnny Foote, Jr., who will learn that Minny Jackson is his maid on Christmas Eve.”

She’s also worried that she may not have a job on Christmas Day, since Johnny Foote may fire her once he finds out she’s been working for Celia. She recalls hiding in the bathroom, standing on Celia’s toilet lid after a false alarm. But the man that had both Celia and Minny scrambling for cover was only the meter man, not Johnny. Minny’s thoughts turn to Louvenia Brown’s grandson Robert. He’s finally home from the hospital, recuperating at her house. He’s got a cast on his arm and bandages on his eyes. Louvenia asks Minny to leave once Robert starts to stir, explaining that he wakes up screaming. Robert has been blinded in an unprovoked attack, all because he used a restroom that was meant for whites. There was no sign on the door though, and that mistake has cost Robert his sight.

The chapter also deals with Minny’s continuing attempts to teach Celia how to cook, with Minny teaching Celia how to cook butter beans.

“But I did butter beans last week.” Celia complains.

Minny tells her once she learns to cook butter beans, everything else will come easy. It’s been almost three months and Minny is upset that Celia can’t boil coffee. When Celia asks to make a chocolate pie, Minny lies and says she doesn’t know how. But the mention of a chocolate pie has her thinking of Miss Hilly.

Minny knows why Celia isn’t getting any of those society ladies she keeps calling to call her back. It’s because she looks like a hussy and because Johnny Foote dumped Hilly for Celia back in college, something Hilly never forgave him for.

The next night is Wednesday, and Minny is at the church with Aibileen. She notices that Aibileen is wearing another hand me down dress given to her by white ladies. Minny notes, Aibileen has white lady clothes out the wazoo. White ladies love giving her their old stuff. As usual, she looks plump and respectable, but for all her prim and proper,  Aibileen can tell a dirty joke that’ll make you tinkle in your pants.

Minny really goes on about nothing,  grousing over Kiki Brown using too much lemon cleaner on the pews. Aibileen makes small talk, asking how Minny’s son Benny’s asthma is. When someone Minny describes as Hoity-toity Bertina Bessimer waddles (a favorite word of Stockett’s to signify someone hefty) towards them, Minny notices her big, tacky blue-bird hat. She also recalls that it was Bertina who called Aibileen a fool all those years for marrying Clyde.

Bertina thanks Aibileen for putting her on her prayer list. She tells Aibileen that her angina is much better now. Aibileen smiles and nods at her as Bertina “waddles” back to her pew.

That starts Minny up with “Maybe you ought to be a little pickier who you pray for.”

Aibileen remarks “Aw, I ain’t mad at her no more. And look a there, she done lost some weight.”

“She telling everybody she lost forty pounds,” Minny says.

“Lord a mercy.”

“Only got two hundred more to go.”

After this exchange, Minny asks Aibileen why she wanted them to meet at church early.

Aibileen mentions Miss Skeeter’s attempt to compile stories on the maids for a manuscript. She explains that the names will be changed and even the employers won’t be identified.

Minny thinks Skeeter is crazy for believing they’d so something as dangerous as that for her.

Aibileen tries to use some reverse psychology on Minny, telling her “We don’t want a change nothing around here” and that “they don’t want to bring all that mess up and tell people the truth.”

Minny ponders this. She’s been trying to tell white women the truth about working for them since she was fourteen years old.

She realizes Aibileen is thinking about doing it though she can’t believe her friend would want to tell Skeeter the truth. When Aibileen asks her to be a part of it, Minny tells her “Ain’t no way I’m gonna do something crazy as that.”

The next time Minny goes to work, it’s the day she washes Celia’s bed sheets. But when she arrives, Celia is still in bed and tells Minny she doesn’t need to work today.

“What Mister Johnny gone do if he come home and the house’s a mess?” Minny asks. She also wonders if Celia is ill.

Minny has all kinds of questions for Celia, but she’s cut off when Celia demands that she go home.

Minny is flustered, not because she hasn’t ever been yelled at, but because this is the first time Celia has ever yelled at her.

The next day the city is covered in frozen ice. Minny decides to call Celia and tell her she can’t make it into work today, since the roads are frozen and the schools are closed.

I call Miss Celia to tell her I can’t drive in the ice and to find out if she’s got power out there. After she yelled at me like I was a nigger in the road yesterday, you’d think I wouldn’t give a hoot about her.

Only its not Celia who answers the phone, but Mister Johnny. Minny is tongue tied, especially when Johnny demands to know who’s calling. Minny gingerly hangs up without saying anything.

After most of the town thaws out in a day, Minny makes it over to Celia’s house. Celia’s still not feeling well, but she apologizes to Minny for hollering at her. Minny accepts her apology, thinking, I guess we all get a little snippy when we’re not feeling good.

The next time Minny arrives for work, Celia isn’t home. Minny begins cleaning, and continues to think about the deadline to let Mr. Johnny know she’s employed by his wife. Little does she know, today’s the day he’ll find out.

When she’s stripping the sheets off Celia and Johnny’s bed, she’s shocked when he comes up behind her, asking who she is.

Minny notices he’s carrying an axe. She panics, wondering if he’s going to use it on her.

But Johnny just stares at her, swinging the axe a bit.

Minny does the only thing she thinks she can do in this situation. She wrinkles her face as mean as she can and pulls her lips back to yell, “You and your axe better get out of my way.”

Her bluff doesn’t work, though Johnny looks down at his axe like he forgot he was holding it. They stare at each other for a few more moments before he notices Minny’s sack with his dirty clothes in it. Minny blurts out that she’d told Celia to tell him about her.

Johnny begins to laugh. He shakes his head. Minny misinterprets it as him laughing because he’s about to chop her up.

“Calm down, girl. I’m not going to get you, ” he tells Minny. “You surprised me that’s all.”

But Minny is panting by this time, easing her way to the bathroom. Johnny asks her what her name is and how long she’s been coming there. He swears he’s not mad. He assures her that it’s fine that she’s working for them.

“Fire you?” He laughs when he finds out that’s Minny’s greatest fear. “You’re the best cook I’ve ever known. Look what you’ve done to me.” He frowns down at his stomach that’s just starting to poke out. “Hell, I haven’t eaten like this since Cora Blue was around. She practically raised me.”

That revelation seems to calm Minny, because she recognizes the name. “Her kids went to my church. I knew her.”

Johnny asks where his wife is, and wants to know why Celia doesn’t want him to know about Minny working in their home. He says he doesn’t care if Celia can cook, he just wants her with him.

As they converse, Minny decides that Johnny Foote is sort of handsome, for a white man.

He presses her about Celia. “She doesn’t seem happy,” he says. “Is it me? Is it the house? Are we too far away from town?”

Minny tells him she doesn’t know.

“Then what’s going on?” Just tell me, Is she…is she seeing someone else?”

Minny feels sorry for him then, as she realizes he’s just as confused about Celia as she is.

“Mister Johnny,” she says, “This ain’t none a my business. But I can tell you Miss Celia ain’t having no relations outside a this house.”

Johnny nods and agrees that it was a stupid thing for him to ask.

He makes Minnypromise not to tell Celia that they’ve met and that he now knows Celia has been getting help with the cooking and cleaning.

Johnny wonders if Minny will cook pork chops for dinner, but in the meantime she fixes him a proper BLT sandwich for his lunch.

Now that the ice has been broken between them, Johnny needs to know what his wife does all day since it’s Minny doing most of the housekeeping and preparing their meals. Minny shrugs, telling him “I ain’t never seen a white woman sit there like she do. Most of em is busy -busy, running errands, acting like they busier than me.”

Johnny suggests that Celia needs some friends. He also says that he’ll ask his friend Will if he’ll get his wife to come out and teach Celia how to play bridge, and to get her in a group. Then he mentions Hilly.

Minny just stares at him, hoping its not true. “That Hilly Holbrook you talking about?”

“You know her?”


Minny feels like she’s got a tire iron rising up in her throat at the thought of Hilly hanging around Celia’s house, and is terrified of Celia finding out about the Terrible Awful Truth. She knows there’s no way Celia and Hilly can be friends. If the truth gets out about Minny working for Celia and how she crossed Miss Hilly, then she knows she’s done for.

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