“Good Country People”
Mrs. Hopewell gets up at 7:00 AM and turns lights and heaters on—for Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs.Hopewell’s daughter Joy. Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Hopewell talk about big business every morning over breakfast together, most of it is not really that important then Mrs. Hopewell gets to gossiping in the kitchen with Mrs. Freeman. Joy, who is thirty-two years old and extremely intelligent, takes time coming into the kitchen since joy does not like to be around them while chatting.
Mrs. Freeman has two teenage daughters, one married and pregnant, and one not; the girls are a big topic of morning chat. Mrs. Hopewell employs the Freemans, they are tenant farming family—Mrs. Hopewell has liked having them here for the past four years—and they’ve worked out great because they are not trashy but actually, they are ‘good country people’, before the Freemans, a year was about the most a family stayed working for Mrs. Hopewell.
Joy has a grouchy attitude, but Mrs. Hopewell lets joy get by with it because joy has a wooden leg. When joy was ten, joy’s leg was shot off in a hunting accident. Joy’s name was legally changed to Hulga when Hulga was twenty-one, Hulga wanted to change it in spite of Hulgas mom, so Mrs. Hopewell doesn’t call Hulga that because Mrs. Hopewell hates that name. Hulga has a doctoral degree in philosophy but lives at home because Hulga has a heart condition and needs to be cared for by Mrs. Hopewell. Hulga might only live another ten years or so.
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Other days a bible salesman would come but and try to sell bibles to Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman. Today (Saturday) Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman are questioning what Hulga talked about with the Bible salesman because Manley usually only talks to them, who came by yesterday; apparently, Hulga is an atheist. Manley Pointer, the Bible salesman, wasn’t able to sell Mrs. Hopewell a Bible, but Manley did get lunch, some conversation, and a date for today at 10:00 AM with Hulga out of the visit.
Hulga and Manley meet up and begin walking in the woods. They kiss and talk about God, damnation, nothingness, and Hulga’s leg. Hulga thinks Manley not nearly as smart as thought. When Manley suggests they find a place to sit down, Hulga leads Manley to the barn loft. Manley kisses Hulga more and takes away Hulga’s glasses. Hulga doesn’t notice. Manley tells Hulga “I love you” and wants Hulga to tell the same in return. Manley also wants to see where Hulga’s false leg attaches to the real one. Hulga ceases, involuntarily at first, to both requests.
After Manley removes the leg, Manley refuses to give it back. Hulga panics. Manley opens the Bible and It’s hollow inside. From the hollow, Manley removes whiskey, cards, and condoms. Hulga is not dazzled. Then goes on to demand the leg and loses all romantic feelings. Manley packs up the things… as well as Hulga’s leg. Then tells Hulga that Manley is just as smart as Hulga is and suggests that Manley completely fooled Hulga. Manley is an even bigger believer in nothing than Hulga is. Through the loft opening, Hulga watches Manley leave. Helga’s face is disturbed.
Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman watch Manley leave, too. Mrs. Hopewell thinks Manley was selling Bibles to the black people who live in the direction from which Manley came. It’s not clear what Mrs. Freeman thinks, but Ms.freeman gets the last word in the story. No one knows what happens to Hulga.