Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Big Mama Pulls the Plug

Hello! Thank you for calling UAM, Universal Answering Machine, the official replacement for a human. Press 1 to leave a message. Press 2 to leave a callback number. With a little luck, a machine will get back to you before you die.

(Sigh) "Okay, listen up, people. This here is Big Mama Nature calling and I’m sick and tired of leaving messages for you. This will be the last time you will ever hear my voice but I've got plenty to say and times a'wasting.
"I'm not going to be Big Mama Nature any more 'cause y'all have done wore me plum out. I am so outta here.
"Just so you’ll know, I plan to gather up a few of my things to take with me when I leave. They were always mine, never, ever yours. You took it for granted that my things belonged to you, but you were dead wrong! They were on loan. Consider today as your personal Chapter Eleven Day.
"I'm talking about all of the birds, every last one of them. Sparrows, ducks, egrets, gulls, especially the egrets and gulls. OMG! What you’ve done to my seabirds is unacceptable. And to make matters worse, you went and gave my little chickies and piglets the Flu. Well, you won't get any more chances to hurt my babies 'cause Big Mama Nature takes care of her own.
"I'm reclaiming the rain forests and all of its inhabitants. You never "got" their simple logic no matter how many times it was explained, so just forget about the rain forests. They'll be well protected under my personal supervision and I won't need to worry about them anymore.
"The Mississippi River is high on my list of retrievables. How can I not take back the Mighty Mississip after the way you've treated her? She's been crying out for my healing touch for years. The Great Lakes, the Colorado River and the Pacific Ocean will be coming with me as well. You can have all of New Yawk City and every drop of water surrounding it; it's way too far gone for me to fix.
"Originally, I’d planned to leave the Gulf of Mexico because I figured you learned your lesson after my Katrina wake-up call. Something so devastating should have gotten a big blip on your unconscious radar, but that didn’t happen. Instead of helping with the clean up, you whined and carried-on like a bunch of wussies and then let BP come in and turn the entire Gulf into a deep fat fryer. I'm taking the Gulf. You don't deserve one drop of it.
"The beaches along the east coast of the United States are mine, mine, mine. It'll be another millennium before even I can get them clean again, but they don't call me Big Mama for nothing.
"There are a few mountain ranges I'll collect on my way out, at least the ones you haven't gotten around to leveling. You won't miss them since you stripped away their natural resources long ago. I intend to rescue what’s left of them before your bulldozers turn them into corn meal mush.
"I am also taking back the air you've been polluting for the last century. I need what little is left so that my birds can keep flying and my rain forests can flourish again. Chances are, even I won't be able to undo much of the damage you've done, but I'll give it a shot.
"I should remind you that the minute I take back the air, clouds will vanish before you can say Boo Hoo! That's a fact, Jack. There will be no more clouds in the sky, but you won't miss them because you never bothered to look up anyway.
"I'm willing to leave the moon for now, but the sun goes with me. Don't even think about giving me any lip on this. I created sunrises to wake you up and get you going every morning. Those out-of-this-world gorgeous sunsets? They were there for you to reflect on the beauty surrounding you. But you blew it, Bubba, when you took me and my gifts for granted. I am so not happy.
"You figured the sun would come up and the sun would go down forever, didn't you? Well, you figured wrong. Now you'll have to remember what that lucky old sun looked like and how your skin tingled from its warmth. It won't replace the real deal but you can text the memory of it to your grandkids.
"I'll be back for some other things later, but you won't realize they're gone until you need them. That's when you'll be shocked to discover that they are no longer available for you to abuse. If history is any indication, you'll be more inconvenienced than sad. (sigh)
"I loved you from the beginning of time, loved you with all my heart. For eons, I forgave you your negligence and overlooked your ignorance. I even chalked up your indifference to human evolutionary learning deficiencies. I'm ashamed to say I forgave you over and over for your folly.
"But I will not forgive you for the shambles you've made of my beautiful earth. I trusted you to love, nurture and protect it and I didn't think for a nano-second that you would destroy it. You have broken my heart. (Sigh)
"No doubt, the human blueprint needs tweaking and I wish I had it in me to take you back to the drawing board, but you have drained me bone dry.
"Don't bother trying to get in touch with me. (Sigh) You couldn't be bothered to acknowledge my many calls, so we are so done.

Like the Big Guy says, "It's not nice to fool Big Mama Nature."


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where Angels Gather

 Nowhere is God’s grace more evident than when a Hospice Angel walks through the door.

When Tom’s daughters sat dow with him for a heart-to-heart talk last April, he was the picture of a man near the end of his rope. Five months of caring for his wife Jenny had kept him awake most nights. Occasionally, he catnapped in the afternoons but it was never a good rest.

The love of his life was dying; his own discomfort could not compare with hers.
Daughters Susan and Carol gazed lovingly at their father, a man whose looks normally belied his definitive age. But months of worry, chemo, and hope had stolen his vitality and lined his face with the weight of concern.

“It’s time, Dad,” Susan said placing her arms around him.

“Time?” His puzzled face expressed an inability to think beyond the moment.

“We’re worried about you,” Carol said, following her sister’s lead. “Mom’s many needs these days are too much for you to handle alone. It’s time to call in Hospice.”

Tears pooled in Tom’s eyes. “They are bluer than a robin’s egg,” Jenny had told him on their first date.            

“Hospice,” he said, “is for later, when there’s no hope, no reason to...” his voice trailed off as tears slid down his sad, sad face. “She’s my wife, my life.”

In his heart, Tom realized that he couldn’t do everything for his wife, but Hospice? Jenny might think they had given up on her.

After his daughters explained how Hospice could insure Jenny’s ultimate comfort and care, Tom was better able to come to terms with that which he had not wanted to face. With the help of Jenny’s oncologist, the family reached out to Hospice.

The children and Tom were there the day Linda came into their lives. She wore no wings, no long flowing gown, no halo. She was dressed in a cheerful pair of yellow pants topped with a bright blue smock. She also wore a radiant, sensitive smile that completely overshadowed the intensity of her clothes.

Tom greeted her with a responding smile. “Come in, Linda, and meet my beautiful Jenny,” he said.

Jenny grinned at her new caregiver. “Your blouse is the exact color of Tom’s eyes,” she said. And in that moment, Jenny and Linda bonded. Jenny was assured that, no matter what, she would be cared for with love, compassion and excellence.

During the time that Linda cared for Jenny, she did much more than was expected of a Hospice nurse. True, she met all of the patient’s needs, but beyond that, she sipped coffee with Tom and his daughters while listening to them tell the story of Jenny’s life —the third grade students she had taught who kept in touch even after they were grown, the tennis trophies won four seasons in a row, the prize roses she'd grafted and named after her two daughters. There was so much to recount.

Linda laughed out loud when told about the Halloween that Jenny dressed up like the Jolly Green Giant using food coloring mixed with cold cream on her face and arms.

“She scrubbed and scrubbed,” Carol said, tears of laughter streaming, “but it wouldn't come off. She had to go to school the next day looking more like a sick leprechaun than a jolly giant.”           

When the time came for Jenny to leave this life, her family was there: Tom, Susan, Carol, and also Linda, who had become so close to them all. They gathered around her bed while Jenny gazed deeply into the robin’s egg blue eyes of the love of her life, and then swept the room for a goodbye look at her two devoted daughters.

When at last her eyes came to rest on Linda, Jenny smiled, not a bit surprised to find that Linda’s always vibrant clothes had been exchanged for a long, flowing gown, a shimmering halo and a perfect pair of angel wings.
Jenny’s story is repeated every day due to the gathering of Hospice Angels caring for our families and friends. It is so important, especially in these economically stressful times, to support the dedicated people of Hospice who are always there when we need them.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Lump in the Mashed Potatoes

While in the shower doing my ‘when I remember to do it’ breast exam I find it: the lump I never thought would pop up onto or into my upper body. Frigid blood drains from my brain and rushes down to my bunions. I stand still, water dripping off my belly, before I think to check again to make sure I didn’t screw up. After all, I could have grabbed old fatty tissue languishing like Lana Turner on the Rivera of my boob.

So I soap up the second time more than I need to, and with two fingers working in tandem, slide and thump defiantly over the area in question. There it is. Just when I thought I might someday wear a bathing suit again.

I fly out of the shower like I’m on the Concorde. Soapy water soaks into the new carpet while I grab the phone, dial my gynecologist and stutter out my need for an appointment. “Immediately, if not sooner,” I say, and why.

I manage to get myself dressed, into the car and over the causeway to my favorite doctor (except when she puts my feet in the stirrups). She is a delightful woman, sunbeam bright and sweet as can be. She likes to tell me jokes so I won’t be uncomfortable while spread eagle in one of a woman’s most vulnerable positions.

This day I am the one making with the funnies in hopes she’ll enjoy my jocularity. But while I’m telling her an off-color boob joke, her sincere gaze remains one of empathic concern. She gives me a slight smile. Normally, she laughs at my stories, but not this day.

Clearing her throat she says, “I think it’s probably nothing, but let’s get you to a surgeon for a second opinion. Jeanine will make an appointment for you.”

Frigid Blood Rush Number Two captures what is left of my rational mind, so I leave the office craving serious chocolate. Two super-size Crunchy Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars should do it. Why not three, my obsessive brain shrieks.

Jeanine calls two days later to say I have an appointment with a surgeon (whose name I have never even heard) in five fret-filled days.

After thinking it through, I tell myself that Jeanine’s call heralded good news. If my situation were about to show me firsthand what the other side of the flowerbed feels like, they wouldn’t make me wait five whole days. Would they?

Something else takes the edge off a bit. My boob feels like a stubbed toe and Mr. Google says pain is not usually a sign of a malignancy. I’m willing to go with that. Denial is my happy place.

The appointed day has now arrived and I have done a great job of thinking about everything BUT my lumpy mashed potato. Deep down, however, there is a glacially cold fear that the “Big C” may have taken up residence in one of my girls.

I don’t understand how that could be. Nobody in my family has had breast cancer; I do the monthly exam thing occasionally. I grit my teeth and never scream while enduring modern medicine’s answer to water boarding, aka a mammogram. I swallow daily vitamins and eat tons of cruciferous veggies. Surely cancer would not have the audacity to show up in my boob when cauliflower and broccoli are my two best friends.

I am so pissed.

Yet, I have a burning urgency to express my fright, my anger and my anxiety with someone who would be more willing to drown in a toilet bowl than to offer me “there-there platitudes.” I need to share my anxiety with someone who can make me laugh at the more serious thought of “what if.”

So I do the thing that works for me ... I write about it. I type furiously of feelings, fears, denial. Everything. I begin to think that this thing might be a wake-up call, and I scoff momentarily at the notion that it might be worse.

I choose to write about it because if I am not absolutely honest about my fears, I’ll have to look outside of myself to find a new best friend!

Post Script:
I wrote this piece for a humor writing class I was teaching: “How to Write Serious Humor With a Straight Face.” While the lump was very real and very scary, it turned out to be the wakeup call I hoped it would be. I needed to get whomped upside the head in order to realize the importance of monthly breast self-exams. As for the class, I was able to show  how to inject humor even when writing something as serious as cancer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Fifteen-Minute Window

By Cappy Hall Rearick

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh.” —Matthew 24:32.

The fig race, normally begun in mid-June, is late. Every year at this time it boils down to: it's them or us, man against nature. Fig lovers have a fifteen-minute window of opportunity before an army of black birds dive-bombs every fig tree in sight. After gorging on the tender ripe fruit, the birds fly away en masse, winging their way straight to a recently washed vehicle. Nothing is left on the fig trees save the fat umbrella-like leaves, a colorful reminder that early birds go after more than the lowly worm.

As I pull into my driveway I notice the plump, magenta colored figs on the neighborhood tree, which makes me hope the birds have taken a wrong turn this year. The tree is so heavy with fruit it looks almost Biblical.

I can hear my mother’s voice. “Cappy, go out there and pick those figs before the birds get ‘em.” Mama never knew my St. Simons Island neighbor, Ed Cheshire, aka the Fig Filcher. I once saw him out there picking only a fig leaf. Knowing Ed, he probably had plans to wear it. If Mama had known Ed, she'd have amended her warning so as to include the Fig Filcher.

When I was growing up, we always had a fig tree in the back yard. It was the first thing Mama planted whenever we moved. Now, as I look at our neighborhood tree, I am reminded of when back yards were playable, trees were climbable, hopscotch was hoppable, and if any cement could be found, it provided a perfect surface on which to play Jacks.

We ran so hard. Ran till we were out of breath and had to stop and hold our aching sides. “Time Out!” we yelled if we were being chased in a wild game of tag. We drank sugared, thirst-quenching Kool-Ade in frosty aluminum tumblers, ate Cracker Jacks for only one reason: the prize in the bottom of the box, usually a plastic monkey with its tail curled into the shape of an “O.”

“Oh, shoot! I got a gnat in my eye,” I so often said. We grew up with gnats, mosquitoes and houseflies. We didn't use “Off” to keep them away. Insects coexisted (with an occasional swat) alongside children tumbling onto stretches of dirt at the bottom of a sliding board, or kids looking for the elusive four-leaf clover in patches of green not yet planted with St. Augustine.

We skinned the cat on tree limbs big enough to hold us, and small enough on which to wrap our skinny legs. We even climbed fig trees, once the birds had come and gone.

The birds! I totally forgot about them! I need to take a detour off Memory Lane and get cracking before they pick that tree clean.

I park my car, unload groceries and think all the while about the bulging fig-laden tree just outside my door. In less than twenty minutes, I am there, scanning up and down Butler Avenue for either Ed the Fig Filcher or the swarm of expected black birds. Neither, they are anywhere in sight. My window of opportunity appears to have been extended beyond the fifteen minutes, which makes my heart pound in expectation.

I continue to gaze at the sky and down the street while moving stealthily with plastic grocery bags in both hands. As soon as I reach the tree, I am thunderstruck. There is but one fig left. One! And it’s hiding underneath a fat leaf way in the back.

Damn those thieving black birds! Not only did they strip the fig tree bare, but they stole my fifteen-minute window right out from under me.

I shake my fist and yell Just wait till next year at the few remaining birds hovering over the roof of my recently washed car.

“And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves.”

—Mark 11:13

Hot Diggity Dawg Day

We hold these truths to be self evident: every mother’s spaghetti tastes better than anybody else’s, and every hometown has a hot dog dive serving up the best hot dogs on the planet.

No argument on the spaghetti issue, although honestly? MY mama's spaghetti can beat YOUR mama's spaghetti. Also, the Dairy O hot dogs in Orangeburg, South Carolina, really ARE the best anywhere.

It’s only natural for folks to claim their hometown eatery to be better than anybody else’s because being loyal to hot dogs, apple pie and barbeque is the American way. Nowhere is that more true than south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

In Orangeburg back in the day, there were two hot dog dives, one with curb service and one without. The place on Broughton Street was truly famous for hot dogs served to you in your car. They were ugly dogs, but who cared? A Julius’s hot dog, even today, can resurrect saliva glands in a corpse.

In Babe’s Pennsylvania hometown, folks show up at Bailey’s when they crave a taste of yesterday. Nailed to the walls are hundreds of football, basketball and wrestling team pictures, some going back as far as the Forties. Bailey’s sells all manner of fast food, but their made-to-order hot dogs topped with their secret sauce, is what keeps people coming back for more.

Bailey’s puts out a pretty good dog, but … not as good as the ones served up at Orangeburg’s second most famous place: the Dairy O. It’s impossible for me to pass through the burg without stopping for one or two.

In Hendersonville it’s Hot Dog World, touted as one of the best restaurants in North Carolina. I know a fellow who, when on vacation in the mountains, heads for Hot Dog World before he unpacks his suitcase. There was even a couple that hosted their wedding reception at Hot Dog World. (I didn’t make that up.)

Close to Duke University in Durham, Pauly’s Dogs rule. Each one, created by Pauly himself, is named appropriately. The Southern Belle is the standard h.d. with mustard, catsup, onions and Pauly’s special sauce. Aunt Jamima is a breakfast hot dog topped with maple syrup, and Cap’t Crunch is topped with … you guessed it. I doubt he’s ever offered one named Fido.

St. Simons Island’s hot dog claim to fame is Hot Dog Alley. The owner set up his business on a corner fifteen years ago, a cart on wheels usually seen at flea markets. I call them Roach Coaches, but that’s just me. He eventually bought the building on that same corner next to an alley and voila! Hot Dog Alley was re-born. A pretty good dog, but not great. My opinion is obviously jaded due to past eating experiences at the good Dairy O in Orangeburg, SC.

Walterboro South Carolina has Dairyland and my kids, raised in that small lowcountry town, claim it to be the very best. Ehhh …

When I was a student at USC in Columbia, South Carolina, we used to go to the old Sears store in Five Points to gobble up the best slaw dog ever made. Sadly, the little annex hot dog joint hooked onto the big Sears building has been gone for more years than I want to count. Only the memory of that special taste is left. But oh, what a fine memory it is.

I am on a quest to find where the best hot dogs can be found. Next week, I am going to Hendersonville to chow down on a recommended dog from an appropriately named place: Piggies. I am told it is so good you won’t want to stop with just one. We’ll see.

In any case, as we approach the Fourth of July, America’s official National Hot Dog Day, I hope you’ll stop for a moment and think about that special dive you knew as a kid, the one that floods you with memories of days gone by. By all means, stick to the July 4th menu by cooking up a bunch of dogs. Serve them to your kids and grandkids while telling them about that special place in your old hometown that served the best hot dogs on the planet.

I dare you to name one of them FIDO.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Boneyard Bunch

United we stand. Divided we fall. We're tighter than pantyhose two sizes small!

Recently, I almost joined a workout center where sweet young things were sporting thonga-majigs that barely covered their thingamajigs. For fifteen whole minutes I gawked, feeling years older than I am. Working their pecs and abs like NFL linebackers, they did push-ups, pull-ups and jogged in place, all while texting their BFF's.
It was a workout center that boasted programs promising to make me live a few years longer, so joining up was compelling, but I decided I would rather eat dirt. I am happier taking walks each morning with women my own age and physical abilities, where conversation is just as important as deep stretches.
We walk in a cemetery (as if we're marking territory), and nobody there cares that we all collect Social Security or wear baggy sweats instead of thongs. The graveyard is flat making our walks easier than on a hill. Upshot: we don't need to know CPR.
It's also nice to know that if and when any of us has to remain at the cemetery permanently, the sister would still be nearby, if only in spirit. Not wanting her to miss any gossip, we would make it a point to speak in very loud voices.
Because I work alone at my computer most days, the early morning strolls (notice I didn't say power walks) are my way of socializing. Over time, my friends and I have shared searing social commentary, movie and theater reviews, recipes, family shenanigans, not to mention some first-rate group therapy.
Frances is our pack leader. She is the quiet one and the most constant. I don't look forward to her wakeup call at 7 a.m. each morning, but I can depend on it. By eight o'clock I am perched on the front seat of her golf cart tooling toward Reebok Ridge or Boot Hill, as the case may be.
Talley is the gracious one, energetic and determined to work out all of the body kinks she collected over the years. Dressed to the nines, she huffs and puffs along with the rest of us, and then she line dances. Talley makes me feel like I'm missing out on something.
Sweet Altha has a smile that simply won't go away, and when she is not walking with us, a large hole is created by her absence.
Gloria adores garden parties, people and dogs. She's forever hatching projects and loves sharing ideas with us.
Paula gifts us with great stock tips when she is not in Florida. Hey Paula, has my ship come in yet?
Betty's knee replacement motivated her to use her feet instead of wheels, so now she roams around like a little bear just out of hibernation. She makes me tired.
We try to avoid political or religious topics on our walks, and most of the time we succeed. A spirited discussion on local happenings or current affairs, however, is not totally off track. We are apt to discuss arthritis medications more often than up-to-the-minute fashions, however, but news of a better-designed walking shoe can be a real conversation grabber.
Should the talk ever turn morbid, we need only to glance at the tombstones and the subject will quickly change. Like the ebb and flow of life itself, lively conversation is what fuels our pace.
Men are not so dim-witted as to try joining our sassy little group. They know that the eight o'clock walks each morning have more to do with companionship, support and sisterhood than sweaty exercise. 
My women friends offer me compassion when needed and pats on the back when deserved. They don't give a hoot that I wouldn't be caught dead in a thong, even after I become a permanent Boneyard resident and it is my spirit that rises at eight o'clock every morning to walk with my friends.

Sisters By Choice
Sisterhood, sisterhood 
 Calling others to walk 

And come together 
 Where each one can talk 

About what is going on  
In different parts of the world 

Sharing tales with each other 
 Of when we were a girl 

Now, speaking as a woman 
Sometimes loud is good 

When we come together 
 As a sisterhood should 

Inviting other sisters 
 Each talking from the heart 

A sisterhood grows in strength  When each sister shares a part
Of a special woman circle  
Creating a strong bond 

Bringing together many 
 Where all become one. 

© 2007  ­Maggie Lee Scott

The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen


It was a run-down house that stood abandoned in the corner of a fallow field of has-been cotton. The road leading to it was dirty, dry and empty but for a cloud of dust left dangling in the air, trapped. Our kitchen was the largest room in the house but it sat catawampus like it was fixing to fall off from the rest.

The misery we would be forced to endure for the next four years began when Daddy moved us from town out to the country. Not only our friends but also everything that had been “our life” immediately became “our used to be.” Unable to find carpentry work in town, Daddy didn’t have two nickels to rub together, so he figured he might as well become a no-count sharecropper. Which he did.

While Mama and my brothers unloaded our few things from Daddy’s truck, my sister Pearl and I, feeling dirt poor and ashamed, stood in the road looking at and hating our next home.

“It’s so shabby.” I muttered the words because talking was just about impossible while tears were stinging the back of my throat. “Looks like a colored house.”

It was the summer of 1930 and we were unlucky enough to be living in the state of Mississippi. I guess having a roof over our heads, whether it was a piece of shit or not, was better than nothing. But we were kids, and didn’t think like that. Even if we did, it wouldn’t have mattered. Once we started crying we didn’t stop for five hours, or maybe ten even.

I swore out loud again and wiped my runny nose with the back of my hand. The tears I’d tried to hold back busted out like a broken levee and ran down my dirty face.

“Damn dust. This is the dirtiest piece of road in the entire state, if you could even call it a road.” I could feel the grit on my teeth. I could even taste it — a mud pie without water.

The day was hot and sticky. There was not another place on earth as hot as the Delta in mid-summer. Maybe hell was, but not by much.

I was only six-years-old the first time I said the word hell out loud and Daddy tried to beat the hell out of me for saying it. “Ain’t no daughter of mine gonna go ‘round cussing like a goddamn slut,” he yelled.

I told him I heard Preacher talking about hell in the pulpit on Sunday and that Preacher said it was in the Bible. I should have kept my mouth shut because his lip curled back and his eyes looked mean as a gator and the next minute I was flying across the room. The last thing I heard was, “You better learn to shut your goddamn sassy mouth, Nora Kathleen, or I’ll keep on shutting it for you.”


So there we stood, my sister Pearl and me, in the middle of the road crying hard on the hottest, stickiest day I had ever known in my twelve years of walking this earth. Pearl was a year older than I was, so all things being equal, she should have been a year smarter. I thought she should say something about us being dragged out to the middle of nowhere and plunked down like a bale of cotton. Something smart. But she was staring at the field like I wasn’t even there, every now and then sucking in a deep breath of air and letting it out slow and jagged-like.

I sat down in the road and waited. Sooner or later something besides tear breath would have to come out of her mouth.

My own tears had started up again, so I licked them as far as my tongue would reach. When I wiggled my toes around in the dry dirt, it made my feet look like dirty windowpanes that hadn’t seen a speck of rain all summer.

When Pearl finally stopped gawking at the stone dead cotton field, she mumbled, “You know what, Nora?”

“What?” I figured she had come up with a happy thought, something to break the gloomy spell sticking to us both. That’s what I hoped anyway. But then I saw the new tears filling up her bottom eyelids so I quit hoping.

“Ain’t nobody ever gonna come down this road. And even if they did, it would be because they were lost.” She sighed. “Ain’t nobody gonna come. I just know it.”

“You don’t know anything,” I argued.

She turned to look me in the eye. “Yes I do. We might as well call this place Seldom Seen.”

Her words came out tired as if her heavy sighs had used up every piece of breath left in her scrawny body.

“You want to name what Seldom Seen? The road?”

Things were bad enough without her carrying on like we were fixing to die out there with nobody else around.

“No, not the road. The house. Look at that awful house, Nora.”

“What makes you say such fool things, Pearl? I swear, you’re getting too miserable for me to be around.” I paused long enough for my words to sink in, and then I blessed her out some more. “We ain’t gonna name this place anything.” I was getting madder by the minute. “It’s a nothing house and it don’t deserve a name. And Pearl, you got to quit staring off at nothing like you do and naming everything you see, like houses. Sane people don’t do stuff like that. You want everybody to think you’re crazy? Just stop doing it.”

She pretended not to hear me. “The house’s name will be Seldom Seen whether you like it or not.” She eked out the words right in the middle of another heavy sigh. “Ain’t nobody ever going to come out here to see us, Nora, and I hope to God they don’t. I’d rather be dead and buried than have people see us living out here like trash.”

I turned away from my sister to look at the old house again, to study it for a minute and maybe see it through her eyes so I could understand why she would bother to give it a name.

Right away, a raw feeling of grief and sorrow and filled with misery began to ooze out of that house. It swept right through me, chilling my bones with a deep, cold ache such as I had never felt before. Every hair on my body stood up straight and rattled.

I turned away fast as I dared, but by then, the nightmare rooted inside that house Pearl named Seldom Seen, had attached itself to my soul, sticky as coal smoke and thick with years of ugliness and doom.

"The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen," is a new novel written by Cappy Hall Rearick. It is available at: in hard copy as well as Kindle.

Ode to Boiled Peanuts

"Willpower is the ability to eat one boiled peanut."

When it's summertime in my home state, it is time for frosty cold beer and munchies at four o'clock in the afternoon. There's never been a munchie yet to compare with a fresh batch of hot boiled peanuts.
Southerners feel a certain kind of reverence to this almost holy way of cooking the lowly goober. Yankees may think we're nuts, but that just begs the question of how they were raised. Yankee husband Babe, on the other hand, eats anything not Super Glued to the floor and he considers boiled peanuts a gourmet delicacy. I claim responsibility for his fine epicurean taste bud sensation because I work overtime hoping to purge him of his Yankeeness.
The large quantity of All-You-Can-Eat Buffet restaurants found up and down the East Coast is clear evidence that Southerners have an enduring taste for good food. We are proud of our ability to pick something from the garden, like the peanut, boil it to death in salt water and then proceed to dance it around in our mouths. Cold beer and a bowl of fresh goobers can make a one-legged man shag to that tune all day long.
I tried explaining to my unenlightened northern friends that a boiled peanut is a viable food source in Dixie, but they stare holes in me as if I am the nut in question. Imagine that! Instead of embracing the subtle salty flavor and delicately firm pip of the South's unofficial favorite food, they turn up their noses without even a taste. I'll never understand how we lost that war.
Popping a warm boiled peanut in my mouth any time from June through October, is akin to going home again. I can never swallow that first goober without thinking of the twenty-five cent bags that were available on every street corner in my hometown.
When, several years ago Georgia's good neighbors to the north were polled by Charleston's Post and Courier Food Editor in order to ascertain South Carolina's most popular food, the ugly, no-color, lowly, salty, boiled peanut came out on top. Who'd have thunk it? I was born and raised in South Carolina, but nobody polled me. If they had, I'd have cheered for the bald peanut, as we from the Palmetto State like to say.
After reading about the food poll, I began to ponder the pinder and the reason why it is so beloved in the South. Why, I questioned, do we place it on a pedestal up there right next to Robert E. Lee?
I think it is because the quintessential Southerner, like the boiled peanut is unpretentious, albeit a bit salty. Southerners revere tradition and a boiled peanut IS tradition; eating one is not unlike a right of passage for those of us lucky enough to be raised below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The peanut was a Southern titleholder long before Jimmy Carter made it a household word. Like religion, a boiled peanut experience has been known to change a life.
When my friend Eve moved to our small South Carolina town from Wilmington, she spied a boiled peanut stand on the corner by Wood's Five & Dime. Twenty-five cents a bag. "I wanted to cross myself," she says. "In my opinion, a town with a local boiled peanut stand is a holy place."
Which is to say that eating a boiled peanut is about as close to a religious experience as a southerner can have. I might not cross myself or genuflect in front of a peanut stand, but I will go to my grave saying this: "If there are no boiled peanuts in heaven, then I don't want to go there!"