Chapter 4 Summary
Minny spends her first week at Miss Celia’s scrubbing the house until there is nothing left to scrub it with; the second week she scrubs it again because “it’s like the dirt grew back.” The third week Minny is satisfied and begins to settle into a routine. Miss Celia always seems surprised that Minny comes back every day, and Minny enjoys the quiet. (It is unlike her house, which contains five kids, a husband, and neighbors.) Each day has its task, and since there are no children to tend to, there is time every day for a cooking lesson with Miss Celia. These are the only times she rouses herself from her bed. Every few days she sneaks up to the second floor for five minutes (where there should have been children, according to Minny) to visit the “creepy rooms.” The only time Miss Celia leaves the house is to get her hair trimmed and frosted, but that has only happened once in the three weeks Minny has been there. Minny is thirty-six years old and knows she cannot ask, but she desperately wonders what her employer is so afraid of outside her house.
Every week Minny reminds Miss Celia of how many days are left before she has to tell her husband about having a maid, and both of them get more nervous about it by the day. Miss Celia is a terrible cook, but Minny needs her to learn so she can explain Minny’s presence in their home. One day Miss Celia asks Minny if she is happy. She says she is and tells Miss Celia she has got to be happy with all she has too. Normally Minny would enjoy bossing a white woman around, but there is something in Miss Celia’s eyes that causes Minny to speculate about her employer’s circumstances. Miss Celia must have noticed the suspicion and explains that she often has nightmares about having to return to Sugar Ditch, which is why she sleeps so much during the day. Minny does not believe her but gives her a “stupid smile.” Miss Celia always tells Minny to leave a smudge on the glass when she cleans the mirror or leave at least one dirty dish in the sink—to make it “believable.” Minny does her best to comply, though it is difficult for her to do so.
One day Miss Celia explains what she would like to do with some of the flowers and plants in the yard, and Minny is surprised to learn that her employer used to tend flowers back in Sugar Ditch. When Minny tells her to go work on the plants and get some fresh air, Miss Celia sighs and says she “needs to be still.” That answer continues to stir up irritation in Minny, who then suggests that perhaps Miss Celia should make some friends, like other women her age do. Miss Celia explains that no one will accept her offers to help with social activities. Minny is not surprised because Miss Celia has “her bosoms hanging out” and her hair colored platinum blond. Minny suggests shopping or whatever else white women do when the...
(The entire section is 808 words.)