(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The fact that Georgeann and her friends are forbidden by all the women in town to speak to Rose-Johnny is enough to pique the inquisitive eleven-year-old’s curiosity. That Rose-Johnny has become a legendary horror does not frighten Georgeann; it only makes speaking with her a kind of public dare.

Sent to buy chicken mash after school by her parents, Georgeann meets Rose-Johnny. The woman’s very ordinariness almost disappoints Georgeann when she finally meets her: The woman’s hair is cut short like a man’s and she wears men’s Red Wing boots, but the rest of her looks like anybody’s mother “in a big flowered dress without a waistline and with two faded spots in front.” At the store, Georgeann encounters several local men, who try to warn her away from Rose-Johnny. The things they say sound threatening and seem to frighten Rose-Johnny, but they are incomprehensible to the little girl. Georgeann is all the more confused when Rose-Johnny proves to be a kind, likable soul, who even has a sense of humor. Despite the men’s warnings, Georgeann finds herself unafraid of the woman. Trying to make sense of what the men have said, Georgeann asks her Aunt Minnie why girls should not go near Rose-Johnny. Aunt Minnie reluctantly tells her that it is because Rose-Johnny is a “Lebanese,” and that she will understand when she is older.

Georgeann concocts a tale, her first important lie, that will allow her to continue going back to Rose-Johnny’s feed store. She tells her parents that Rose-Johnny is sick and that Mr. Wall, Rose-Johnny’s father and the store’s proprietor, has asked her to help out until Rose-Johnny is better. From Rose-Johnny, the little girl...

(The entire section is 692 words.)