Lou Ann's baby had not been born on Christmas, or even the day after. He had come early on the morning of January 1, just missing First Baby of the Year at St. Joseph's Hospital by about forty-five minutes. Lou Ann later thought that if she had just pushed a little harder she might have gotten the year of free diapers from Bottom Dollar Diaper Service. That was the prize. It would have come in handy now that her washing-machine fund, which was meager enough to begin with, had been parceled out to all the neighborhood kids.
"I don't see how a body can grow no tobaccy if it don't rain," Granny Logan said.
"They don't grow tobacco here. No crops hardly at all, just factories and stuff, and tourists that come down here for the winter. It's real pretty out in the mountains. We could have showed you, if you hadn't had to go back so soon." The baby coughed again and she jiggled him up and down. "And it's not usually this hot in January, either. You heard it yourself, Granny, the man on the radio saying it was the hottest January temperatures on record."
"You talk different. I knowed you was going to put on airs."
"Granny, I do not."
"Don't talk back to me, child, you do. I can hear it. I expect you'll be persuadin' the baby that his people's just ignorant hill folks."
Ivy brought in the bags of food and her suitcase, which was held together with a leather belt. Lou Ann recognized the belt as one she had been whipped with years ago, when her father was alive.
"Honey," Ivy said, "tell Mother Logan not to start in on you again. We've got to git."
"Tell Ivy to mind her business and I'll mind mine. Here, I brung you something for the baby." Granny Logan retrieved her black velvet purse, purpled with age and wear around the clasp, and rummaged through it with slow, swollen knuckles. Lou Ann tried not to watch.
After a minute the old woman produced a Coke bottle filled with cloudy water. The bent metal cap had been pushed back on and covered with cellophane, tied around and around with string.
Lou Ann shifted the baby onto her hip, pushed her hair behind her ear, and took the bottle with her free hand. "What is it?"
"That's Tug Fork water. For baptizing the baby."
The water inside the bottle looked milky and cool. A fine brown sediment stuck to the glass bottom when she tipped it sideways.
"I remember when you was baptized in Tug Fork, you was just a little old bit of a thing. And scared to death. When the reverend went to dunk you over, you hollered right out. Law, I remember that so good."
"That's good, Granny. You remember something I don't." Lou Ann wondered how Granny Logan was picturing a baptism in one bottle of water. Of course, the original plan had been to have Dwayne Ray sprinkled as a Catholic, but Granny would die if she knew that. And everything was up in the air now, anyway, with Angel gone.
"Doll baby, I reckon we're all set," Ivy said. "Oh, I hate to go. Let me hold my grandbaby again. You see he gets enough to eat now, Lou Ann. I always had plenty of milk for you and your brother, but you're not as stout as I was. You never was a stout girl. It's not my fault you wouldn't eat what I put down in front of you." She gave the baby a bounce on her pleated bosom. "Lordy mercy, he'll be all growed up before we see him again, I expect."
"I'm as fat as a hog since I had him, Mama, and you know it."
"Remember you have to use both sides. If you just nurse him on one side you'll go dry."
"Don't expect I'll see him again a-tall," Granny Logan grunted. "Not his old great-grandmaw."
"Mama, I wish you'd wait till Angel gets home and we could drive you down to the station. You're going to get all confused if you try to take the bus. You've got to change downtown." The way they had both managed to avoid Angel he might as well not have moved back in.
"It's a sin to be working on Sunday. He ought to be home with his family on the Lord's day," Granny Logan said, and sighed. "I guess I oughtn't expect better from a heathern Mexican."
"It's shift work," Lou Ann explained again. "He's just got to go in when they tell him to, and that's that. And he's not a heathen. He was born right here in America, same as the rest of us." Just because he wasn't baptized in some old dirty crick, Lou Ann added in a voice way too low for Granny Logan to hear.
"Who tells him to?" the old woman demanded. Lou Ann looked at her mother.
"We'll manage, with the bus and all," Ivy said.
"That don't make it right, do it? Just because some other heathern tells him to work on the Lord's day?"