Chapter Thirteen

Skeeter and Minny meet over Aibileen house to work on the book. They sit in Aibileen’s small warm living room primarily to recite while Skeeter types. Minny usually storms in mad, then quiets down later. She tends to be furious at white people, and says of Miss Celia “She sneaking upstairs, think I don’t see her, but I know, that crazy lady up to something.”

In between talking about Celia, Minny loves to talk about food. “Let’s see, I put the greens in first, then I go on and get the pork chops cooking cause, mmm-mmm, I like my chops hot out the pan, you know.” (Pg 166)

As Skeeter takes down her words, Minny gets wise. “Half this stuff don’t have nothing to with colored rights. Ain’t nothing but day-to-day business.” She tells Skeeter “Look to me like you just writing life.”

But that’s exactly what Skeeter was hoping to do.

As Skeeter furiously works on typing up Minny’s words, her mother calls to her, telling her a very tall young man is downstairs.

Stuart Whitworth has come by to see her.

When her mother inquires as to whether Stuart is a Greenwood Whitworth or a Natchez, Skeeter reveals that Stuart is the state senator’s son. To say that Charlotte Phelan is shocked is an understatement. Skeeter even has to ask her mother to leave so that she and Stuart can have some privacy. Stuart is waiting on the front porch in khaki pants, a blue coat and a red tie. Skeeter thinks he looks ready for Sunday dinner.

But after their disasterous blind date, Skeeter wants to know why he’s come, and if Hilly sent him.

Stuart has come to apologize for the way he behaved. He realizes he was rude that night, and he’d been thinking a lot about how he’d hurt her. She has to laugh, because by bringing it up, he’s forced her to relive the nightmare of their date, especially when he states “Now look, I told Hilly ten times that I wasn’t ready to go out on any date. I wasn’t even close to being ready…”

But like both Skeeter and Stuart can attest, Hilly can be quite persuasive.

Skeeter asks him to explain further, and Stuart tells her about Patricia van Devender, the girl he was engaged to last year. He tells Skeeter that he and Patricia had been sweethearts since they were both fifteen. He expects her to understand how it is when someone has gone steady for that long.

Skeeter shocks him by revealing that she wouldn’t know about going steady that long, since she’s never dated anybody.

Suart admits that he finds Skeeter different from most other girls. He says he’s never met anyone who says exactly what they’re thinking, at least not a woman anyway.

From the novel:

He sighs. “When I saw your face, out there by the truck. . . I’m not that guy. I’m really not such a jerk.
I look away, embarrassed. It’s just starting to hit me what he said, that even though I’m different, maybe it’s not in a strange way or an abnormal, tall-girl way. But maybe in a good way.

“I’d come by to see if you’d like to come downtown with me for supper. We could talk,” he says and stands up. “We could…I don’t know, listen to each other this time.”

I stand there, shocked. His eyes are blue and clear and fixed on me like my answer might really mean something to him. I take in a feep breath, about to say yes–I mean, why would I of all people refuse–and he bites his bottom lip, waiting.

And then I think about how he treated me like I was nothing. How he got shit-dog drunk ne was so miserable to be stuck with me. I think about how he told me I smelled like fertilizer. It took me three months to stop thinking abou that comment.

“No,” I blurt out. “Thank you. But I really can’t imagine anything worse.”

He nods, looks down at his feet. Then he does down the porch steps.

“I’m sorry,” he says, the door to his car open. “that’s what I came to say and, well, I guess I said it.”

End of Excerpt

Skeeter stands on the porch watching Stuart. She thinks about Charles Gray, the only other boy who’s ever kissed her. She recalls wondering if that kiss had really been intended for her.

Stuart is looking so forlorn, Skeeter can’t help but have second thoughts. She finally gives in, asking Stuart to give her a minute while she gets her sweater.

Stuart takes Skeeter to the Robert E. Lee hotel for dinner and she can’t help but smile when thinking about it the next day. When her mother climbs all the way to the third floor where Skeeter’s room is, Skeeter pretends to be asleep, just wanting to savor the memory of their dinner a little longer.

When Skeeter ran upstairs to get her sweater, her mother insisted on brushing out her hair and asking all sorts of questions about Stuart Whitworth. Skeeter’s mother tells her “And don’t forget to smile. Men don’t want a girl who’s moping around all night, and don’t sit like some squaw Indian, cross your –”

Skeeter’s not sure if her mother means don’t forget to cross her legs or her ankles.

Charlotte Phelan reminds her that she when to Missus Rheimer’s etiquette class, where she learned to cross at the ankles. Skeeter is also reminded not to crunch on her ice at the table, and if the conversation begins to lag, to bring up the second cousin who’s a city councilman.

After all that, by the time Skeeter and Stuart make it to the hotel, the dining area is about to close. So all they get to eat is desert. Over strawberry souffles he asks Skeeter what she wants to be. She reveals that she wants to be a writer, a journalist, maybe a novelist or both. Stuart tells her he likes that, and tells her he’s been thinking about her. He gives her several compliments, telling her she’s smart, pretty and tall.

All Skeeter can focus on is that he called her pretty.

He tells her that he hopes she writes something good, something she believes in. She thanks him, but doesn’t mention the book she’s working on with Abibileen an Minny, or even Missus Stein, the NY editor.

Skeeter then takes a closer look at Stuart. She notices how his skin is thicker than hers and is a gorgeous shade of toast, and that the stiff blond hairs on his cheeks and chin seem to be growing before her very eyes. She also decides that his nose isn’t so pointy as she’d first thought, and that he smells like starch and pine.

When Stuart kisses her at the date’s end, Skeeter’s wishing she’d washed her hair instead of just bathed in the morning. She’s glad for having brushed her teeth at least.

From the novel:

Right in the middle of the Robert E Lee Hotel and Restaurant, he kissed me so slowly with an open mouth and every single thing in my body–my skin, my collarbone, the hollow backs of my knees, everything inside of me filled up with light. (Pg 171)

Next Skeeter finds herself in the library, searching through the card catalogues for books on domestic workers.

From the novel:

In nonfiction, I spot a single copy of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. I grab it, excited to deliver it to Aibileen, but when I open it, I see the middle section has been ripped out. Inside, someone has written nigger book in purple crayon. I am not as disturbed by the words as by the fact that the handwriting looks like a third grader’s. I glance around, push the book in my satchel. It seems better than putting it back on the shelf.

In the Mississippi history room, she finds a Compilation of Jim Crow Laws of the South. It’s a booklet that lists the laws stating what colored people can and cannot do, in an assortment of Southern states. It’s eye-opening for Skeeter to read. She starts to put the book back, telling herself that she’s not writing a book about Southern legislation. Then she realizes there’s not much difference in these laws and Hilly’s bathroom initiative. After noticing the book was returned to the wrong library, and that it’s the property of the Mississippi Law Library, Skeeter decides to take it. As she’s leaving to attend the Junior League meeting, the girl behind the desk asks if its true that she’s been dating Stuart Whitworth. Skeeter pretends not to hear her, thinking I’ve never stolen a thing in my life before today. I’m a little satisfied it was on Susie’s (the girl behind the desk) watch.

At the Junior League meeting Hilly is behind the podium telling sixty-five women that three cans apiece isn’t enough to feed those poor starving children in Africa.

A member asks, “Isn’t it kind of expensive, carting all this tin across the world to Ethiopia? Doesn’t it make more sense jst to send them a check?”

To which Hilly replies “You cannot give these tribal people money. . .and how would we know if they’re even feeding their kids with it?They’re likely to fo to the local voodoo tent and get a satanic tattoo with our money.” (Pg 175)

Skeeter is the center of attention though, after word gets around that she’s dating Stuart Whitworth. She’s been seeing Stuart for three weeks, and no one could be happier than Hilly.

Hilly even suggests that they go on a double date.

But Skeeter doesn’t answer her. She doesn’t want Hilly and William, (Hilly’s husband) coming along. She wants Stuart all to herself.

She also isn’t sure that Stuart will brush her hair back if other people are around.

But Hilly insists, and she knows just which picture they’ll see. She tells Skeeter “I’m just dying to see It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  Won’t this be fun. You and me and William and Stuart.”

Skeeter is suspicious of the way Hilly has arranged the names, as if the point of them getting together were for William and Stuart to meet. She knows she’s being paranoid, especially after being stopped by the police while crossing over the bridge to the colored section of town. The cop had shone his flashlight into her truck, and also on her satchel. He asked for her license and wanted to know where she was going. Skeeter lied, saying she was taking a check to her maid, even mentioning Constantine by name. Skeeter tells the officer that she forgot to pay her maid. When another officer joins in, Skeeter panics. What if they look in my satchel? she wonders.

But the police let her go, saying the problem lies with some Yankee trash starting up trouble. They vow to catch them and tell her to do her business and get back over the bridge.

After Skeeter got to Aibileen’s house she shook for close to an hour.

But now that she’s at the Junior League meeting, Hilly wants to know where the notes are for next week’s newsletter. She even begins to look in Skeeter’s satchel, but Skeeter catches her in time.

When Skeeter gets home, she takes a call for Pascagoula from her cousin Yule May. Skeeter promises to tell Pascagoula that Yule May called. It’s then that Skeeter wishes Constantine was still in the Phelan employ, like it used to be. Skeeter would have loved to share her day with her former maid.

It’s then that Skeeter realizes she has misplaced her satchel. What’s worse, she realizes that she’s left it at the League House. Before she can rush out the house, another phone call stops her. This time Hilly is on the line, telling Skeeter she has the satchel.

Skeeter must get to that satchel, especially since she knows Hilly has never had a problem going through other people’s things.

When Skeeter hangs up the phone, she screams for her mother not to pull off. Since the truck is gone, the catching a ride with her mother is the only choice. But Charlotte Phelan tells Skeeter she has somewhere she needs to be.

Skeeter flippantly thinks I can’t imagine my mother has anything more important to do what I’m staring down the throat of. And then she asks “What? A Mexican’s trying to join DAR? Somebody got caught reading the New American Dictionary?”

Frantic that her mother isn’t driving fast enough, Skeeter suggests that she drive.

She then asks her mother where they’re heading. That’s when Charlotte Phelan reveals her doctor’s appointment. She tells Skeeter that she’s going to take a few routine tests but she doesn’t want Skeeter’s father to know. When Skeeter drops her mother off at the hospital, she helps her mother out of the car and offers to go in with her. But Charlotte insists that her tests are routine, and Skeeter should go on ahead to Hilly’s and come back to get her in an hour.

For the first time Skeeter realizes how frail her mother has become. But since she has to get to Hilly’s she doesn’t dwell on it.

When Hilly meets her at the door, her mouth is tight and red. Skeeter looks down at Hilly’s hands, noticing that they are knotted together, and she believes that she’s too late. Hilly has already learned what’s in her satchel.

Hilly invites Skeeter in, and tells her that she’s going to the movies with William, to see the very movie she suggested they double date on. Skeeter’s heart is seizing inside her chest, that’s how afraid she is. But Hilly lets on as if nothing is amiss. Only saying, “You know, I was just thinking about how Stuart’s daddy stood right next to Ross Barnett when they fought that colored boy walking into Ole Miss. They’re awfully close, Senator Whitworth and Governor Ross Barnett.”

Before Skeeter can say anything, William Jr., Hilly’s young son totters in. Hilly plays the loving mother, telling her son, “There you are . You are perfect, my perfect boy!”

Skeeter is certain Hilly has seen what she wrote about the bathroom initiative. In addtion, when she checks her satchel, the Mississippi Law Booklet is gone.

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