Stella Cretek

The Saga of Rita Sue LaDeux

By - Aug 22nd, 2010 04:00 am
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“Murder in the Nodaway Valley” by Judith Ann Moriarty

There was this event wherein not one, but six, were whacked dead with an ax. A mystery never solved, various leads were followed wherein male suspects described as having “small eyes,” and “dark skin,” were drug forth for questioning. The sum total of suspects resembled trapped rats, so unlike the blue-eyed blondes populating the Valley where the Sabbath carnage occurred.

While folks prayed at the Church of Everlasting Life, one adult and five kids met their maker. They’re up there on that hill, resting side by side. It’s said that in the dark of night, they rise en masse and enjoy the view to the east. It is, indeed, quite a view.

The ghastly mass slaughter put the Valley town on the map, and The Ax, allegedly the original weapon of choice, is enshrined in the County Historical Society, though it’s still debated who swung the thing. The horrifying act is re-enacted once each year, when the curious gather to watch Professor Noel Account, an obviously frustrated actor-turned-ax-murder-expert, puts on a show at the otherwise boarded and bare Rialto Theater.

Following the presentation, folks gather in the town square to discuss the murders over paper plates dripping with red-eye gravy and huge pink slabs of ham from local hogs. Most all agree that a man did the dastardly deed.

All but one, that is, for out of the assembled, rose a shout, “Well, why not a woman? They were strong what with toting water, chopping wood, kneading bread, and chasing kids.” The crowd stared at the shouter, and then turned back to their slabs of ham.

I alone know who swung that ax. I can see her now … her flaming red hair blowing in the wind, her big breasts heaving heavenward above a skirt that no decent woman would dare wear. A local, she was oft heard humming to herself in the park, though the tune she hummed over and over and over wasn’t known in these parts. She went by the name of Rita Sue LaDeux.

I’m thinking she was bored stiff in this Valley where nothing much ever happened. Plus, she took offense when her righteous neighbors suggested she lower her hems and lay off of the henna rinse. A few even suggested she learn how to sew, others whispered in church that Rita Sue’s cleavage was surely the work of the Devil himself.

Not one Valley citizen ever knew a LaDeux other than Rita Sue, who seemed to appear in the tiny town, almost like magic. In early May two decades ago, there she was, sipping a cool limeade, perched on the drugstore’s stool near the rack of True Romance and Hot Tales. It’s said she was born just over the hill to the north near BareKnuckles Ridge, and that her other, a twin, expired upon entering the world. The LaDeuxs, or so it’s said, were tenant farmers, descendants of the Sloboviania LaDeuxs, immigrants who entered the state at least three centuries back. To the rest of the Valley, the LaDeuxs were foreigners, loners, outsiders.

Except for Rita Sue, none had been sighted, though had they been glimpsed, they would have been duly avoided.

As Rita Sue grew and nature carved curves in her formerly scrawny shape, the town swells took to courting her hither and yon, up and under, round and bend over and then some, but it wasn’t until a particular chap settled in, a chap named the Reverend Peter P. Burger, that her heart burst into fire. A splendid wedding, and two kids later, Rita Sue found herself bored to kingdom come.

It wasn’t that she’d let herself go to seed like the rest of the town matrons. No indeedy. Rita Sue had not one ounce of lardy lard on her frame hewn from muscle nurtured every time she swung the family ax up and down, down and up. Through the night she was often heard humming while she chop, chop, chopped. The piles of firewood on the backside of the Reverend Peter P. Burger’s frame house on Hemlock Lane grew ever higher. The cast-iron stove in their parlor never stopped blazing, though the fire twixt the Reverend and Rita Sue had long ago died. It was said that the Reverend saved his passion for Sunday sermons. It did not go unnoticed that Rita Sue’s hair grew ever redder, her skirts ever shorter, and well, her shoulders ever broader and muscled. Her woodpile was the envy of everyone in the Valley. Chop. Chop. Chop.

And more and more her ax needed a good sharpening.

When Rocky Sharp blew in from Nebraska on a stiff westerly, he was already known far and wide as the best sharpener around. His wheel of flint was superior in all ways. And it whirred ever faster when Rita Sue waltzed by, her red tresses blowing in the wind. “Sharpen your ax, lady? Every lady of account needs a sharp one. Won’t be charging you extra just because you’re a looker. Guarantee that you’ll never forget my edge.”

Soon Rita Sue had an ax that could split a hair, pare a fingernail, snip a thread at twenty paces, and slice ham so thin you could read the Bible through it. The Book of Revelation never looked so good.
Rocky took to putting an edge on her ax every evening around twilight time. “Can’t never have an edge that’s too sharp,” he quipped.

And though the Reverend P. Burger failed to notice the towering woodpile on the backside of the house on Hemlock, he felt blessed to have Rita Sue LaDeux as his wife, for weren’t hers the best pork chop, bacon and grits breakfasts in town? “Never mind that our flame is extinguished, her Sunday breakfasts are enough,” he said.

And so it was on a dark and dismal December night, just hours before the dawn roused yet another Sabbath, that Rita Sue brought forth the ax and gave her Reverend and two kids forty whacks, plus another forty for each of the three neighbor kids who, unfortunately, had been invited for a sleepover.

Well, anyway, that’s how I see it. Rita Sue LaDeux swore on a stack of black Everlife Bibles that the attack happened as she sat in the outhouse studying the Ward’s catalog. What with her newly bobbed hair and skirts slashed thigh-high, she soon was a widow who got away with murder. “Why, I could never ever have heaved that ax,” she simpered. “Only a genuine man could have done it.” The men all heartily agreed with the Widow LaDeux.

After an appropriate period of mourning, Rita Sue LaDeux and Rocky Sharp teamed up in Chicago for a match made in Heaven billed as the splendiferous “Rita & Rocky Revue.” Folks lined up to have their knives sharpened to a fare-thee-well. For one slick dollar, Rocky would hurl his clients’ knives at Rita Sue, lashed nude to a revolving red wheel bolted to a portable stage. At show’s end, Rita Sue would gather the knives and Rocky would display his skills. For an extra $5, clients could have a hair from Rita Sue’s Titian tresses. Another $1 and Rocky would split the hair in half. For a ten, he’d split it before he plucked it from her noble head. So far though, they’d had no takers in that category. $50, and Rocky would pluck a hair from Rita’s elsewhere.

It’s interesting to note that a big glittering sign attached to the stage informed the sweating masses that the two no longer sharpened axes, the reason being that they were most difficult to hurl through the air. And sadly, more than one assistant lashed to the revolving wheel had lost an ear or worse when an ax went astray. In prior days, Rita had been the ax hurler, but her eyes were growing weak, and well, to tell the absolute truth, she enjoyed being lashed to a wheel, naked as a jaybird. On a hot, steamy day it was hard to beat.

And so we have the saga of Rita Sue LaDeux. You need not ask me how I know this to be true.

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