Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1317
The morning after the Benefit, Minny is tired and sore. Her daughter, Sugar, who also worked at the event, is counting her earnings: nine dollars and fifty cents. The phone rings; it is Mister Johnny calling to tell Minny that Miss Celia had a difficult time last night. He asks her to take good care of her since he will be out of town all week. He will come back if he is needed; all she has to do is call him. Minny promises to look after her and tells him Miss Celia will be all right.
Minny did not see the end-of-the-night events, but she did hear about them. When Sugar started to make fun of Miss Celia, Minny smacked her, yanked her into a corner, and told her she was never to speak badly about the lady who helps provide her food and clothes. Sugar nodded and went back to work, muttering that Minny does it all the time. Her mother put her finger in her face and told her that it is her right to complain; she has earned it every day “working for that crazy fool.”
Monday morning, Minny finds Miss Celia huddled in bed with her face buried under the sheets. Despite her coaxing, Miss Celia does not get up and refuses to eat. On Tuesday morning, the food Minny left is untouched, but Miss Celia at least gets up and locks herself in the bathroom. As Minny is tidying the room, she sees a letter from Miss Hilly among the opened mail; before she can stop herself, she has read the entire note. Miss Hilly says she wants a check for no less than two hundred dollars, made out to the League, to compensate for the torn cuff on her dress. She also tells Miss Celia that her name is now on a probationary list and she may never volunteer for the League in any way.
On Wednesday morning, Miss Celia will neither get up nor answer the phone. Finally Minny answers it. Mister Johnny wants to talk to his wife but Miss Celia says to tell him she is asleep. Minny looks her “hard in the eye” and tells him she is in the shower but she is doing all right. By Thursday afternoon, Minny cannot stand it any longer and urges her to get up and clean up before Mister Johnny comes back home. Miss Celia sniffles and says none of this would have happened if she had stayed in her place and Johnny had “married proper.” He should have married Miss Hilly because she knows the right things for this kind of life. She is still upset about being called a liar and being accused of getting her that pie; she never would have been sick if it were not for that accusation.
Minny is curious and asks about the pie, and Miss Celia says Miss Hilly accused her of playing some kind of trick on her by signing her up to win Minny’s pie at the auction. It slowly dawns on Minny what has happened; she does not know who made sure Miss Hilly got the pie, but she does know why Hilly reacted the way she did. Minny knows she should just walk away and stay silent, but she feels too much guilt at the sight of Miss Celia crying. When Miss Celia says she has decided to leave Johnny and go back to Sugar Ditch, Minny knows she has to tell her about the Terrible Awful Incident. At first she sits, which she never does, but eventually she knows she must stand for this story.
Last year Miss Hilly called Minny to tell her she was going to put her mother in a home for old people, and Minny got scared about how she was going to feed her family. What she did next was not Christian, she knew, but if a person sends her own mother away it seems kind of right to do her wrong. Every day after work, Minny went to house after house, looking for another job. For three weeks she tried but no one would hire her. Minny admits she has a sassy mouth—always has; she figured that was why no one would hire her. With only two days left before Miss Walters was leaving, Minny was scared and wondered how she would pay her bills. Then Miss Hilly came to her and offered her an extra twenty-five cents a day to work for her. Minny would never consider taking a job away from her friend Yule May, so she refused. (Not everyone is as two-faced as Miss Hilly is.) Telling the story is making Minny sweat, and Miss Celia is listening as if in a daze.
Miss Hilly then offered her fifty cents more a day, but Minny still refused. Then Miss Hilly “broke her back” and told Minny she knew that no one else would hire her because she made sure they all thought she was a thief—so she might as well come work for her for free. Minny said, “Eat my shit,” and went home. That night she made a chocolate custard pie, and the next day she brought it with her to Miss Walter’s house. She knew Miss Hilly would be there to go through the silver and take anything else of value from her mother.
The pie was sitting in plain sight, and Miss Hilly ate two large slices, believing it was some kind of peace offering. When Miss Walters wanted a piece of the pie, Minny refused to give her any. Miss Hilly insisted that her mother could have some (but just a small piece), and then she asked what Minny put in it to make it taste so good. She told her exactly what she put in that pie. Miss Celia is still rapt, but Minny can no longer meet her eyes. Nobody in the kitchen said a word, and then Miss Walters began to laugh. She laughed so hard she almost fell out of her chair. She told her daughter she got what she deserved, and if she were to tell anyone what Minny did, she would be known all over town as the woman who “ate two slices of Minny’s shit.”
Miss Celia looks disgusted, and Minny apologizes. Miss Hilly thought Miss Celia knew the story or she would not have attacked her as she did. Still Miss Celia just stares. Minny tells her that if she leaves Mister Johnny, Miss Hilly will have beaten them both. Finally Miss Celia gathers herself and thanks Minny for telling her the story. The next morning Miss Celia is up and dressed as always, though she does not say much and looks very tired. She tells Minny her plans for the garden and spends the rest of the day working outside.
The next day Miss Celia is sitting at the table and looking at the mimosa tree outside, the one she thinks is ugly and has wanted to get rid of for months. Minny wonders if she will still have a job after today. Miss Celia takes off her heels, cracks her knuckles, and heads outside into the rain. When Minny sees her next, Miss Celia is carrying an axe. She takes a practice swing and then she starts chopping. It is pouring rain and leaves are sticking to her, but every chop of the axe is stronger than the last. Minny sits at the table and waits for her to finish. Underneath the newspaper, Minny sees Miss Hilly’s note and a check for two hundred dollars. When she looks a little closer, Minny sees that Miss Celia has written something in the little space for notes. In pretty, cursive handwriting, Miss Celia has written, “For Two-Slice Hilly.” Outside, the offending tree finally crashes to the ground.