Monday, September 24, 2012

"The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen" Excerpt


"Blood Is Thicker Than Water"

It was dark underneath the house and smelled like old dirt. It made me want to sneeze. I thought about crawling out long enough to look up at what was left of the sun, long enough to finish off that wishy-washy sneeze. But I was scared, so I sat on a pile of damp dirt and caught my tears with my dirty hands.

Why couldn’t Daddy just die? If he wasn’t around, we'd make out all right. It wouldn’t be long before I was old enough to get a job. Annabelle got one and everybody knows she doesn’t have the sense God gave lettuce.

When she gets paid, she lies about the amount; thinks nobody knows she’s giving most of it to her boyfriend so she won’t have to bring it home. If Daddy finds out he’ll knock her teeth down her throat and dare her to swallow them. If you ask me, Annabelle is about an inch away from running out on all of us. Ever since she started working and silly old Floyd started sniffing after her like a dog in heat, she’s been the devil to be around. I wish she'd hurry up and get it over with.

I was in the middle of asking God to consider taking Daddy back so he wouldn't hurt us anymore when I heard Pearl, Lonnie and Rusty racing up to the house. Before I could call out to them, I heard their loud footsteps on the porch and then the sound of the screen door banging shut behind them.

“I won. I won,” Rusty yelled as other feet stomped up the wooden steps after him. Pearl laughed when Lonnie called Rusty a big, fat cheater. Then there was total silence up above me.

It was too quiet. I figured they'd found Mama dead. Daddy had finally killed her with his mean old temper and hard fists. Something inside of me wasn’t a bit surprised. Hadn’t he already murdered one innocent person? I would always remember Orville J. Tinsley, the ugly Bible salesman, even if Daddy did forget all about him.

I knew my sister Pearl inside and out, so I pictured what she was probably doing up there in the house. In my mind’s eye, I saw her tending to Mama. It made me feel some better to think that our mother was getting attention, if she was still alive, that is.

Right about then, I heard Daddy roar like a bellowing bear at my sister. “You want me to give you some of what I just give your mama?”

“No sir,” she said. “But she’s hurt bad, Daddy. Look at her. She’s bleeding. We got to do something for her. You can see that, can’t you, Daddy?”

I heard heavy footsteps pounding the floorboards above me. There was a scrambling noise and I figured it was Pearl trying to get away from Daddy.

“Don’t you run off from me, young’un,” he yelled. “You git your sorry ass over here right this minute. I’ll teach you to sass me and try to run off like a rat. Git over here, I said.”

There was a storm of loud sounds then. Lonnie and Rusty were both crying out and Pearl was yelling for Daddy not to hit her. I covered my ears and squeezed my eyes as tight as I could. It didn’t begin to muffle their cries and it didn’t keep the new tears inside of me either. I heard the first crack of Daddy’s belt even with my hands closed over my ears. Pearl was getting the might of his wrath. Lonnie and Rusty somehow managed to sneak back out to the barn so I didn’t hear any more out of them.

After Daddy hit my sister every which way and twice as hard on the way back with her sobbing steady through it all, things got real still. Pearl quieted down while Daddy took a breather. The last sound I heard was squeaking bedsprings which made me fear that he had drug Pearl’s skinny little body out of the kitchen and into his bed. Some birthday present, I thought.

I thought about Mama telling me and Pearl that blood was thicker than water. But then as soon as the word blood came to my mind, I saw Mama plain as clean glass lying on the kitchen floor with blood all over her face. I believed Daddy had killed her, so blood being thicker than water didn't make sense. I thought and prayed, thought and prayed until I fell asleep.

When I woke up, light was creeping through the ragged foundation boards of the house. I had hid under there for eight hours, nine maybe. After I didn’t hear any movement above, I steeled myself to go up there and find about Mama. If she was not dead, then she was hurt bad and I needed to help her.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Work It Out Without Me!


“It’s very important to have the right clothing to exercise in. If you throw on an
old T-shirt or sweats, it’s not inspiring for your workout.” ~ Cheryl Tiegs

It’s a known fact that writers never break a sweat if it means they have to exercise. Most of my days, when I am not searching for an excuse not to write, I am sitting at a computer keyboard. That’s enough of a workout for me. I don’t have arthritic finger lumps, I have tiny biceps. Then there is the up and down movement of my mouth while talking or eating. What more of a workout do I need?

I have occasionally made the decision to ‘get with the exercise program,’ but not anymore. I’m tired of donating what’s left of my money for a health club membership card I know will sit in my billfold until one of us expires.

The last time I went to a gym, I looked at the young, cavorting members and became immediately conscious of my state of under-dress. I was wearing a timeworn University of South Carolina T-shirt, circa 1962, the year I would have graduated had I not wasted so much collecting fraternity pins. The gym shorts I wore that day had once belonged to my husband Babe, which is to say that either he used to be much smaller or I am in big trouble and I seriously don’t want to go there.

I stepped inside that oversized den of stinky sweat and throbbing tendons, looked at the throng of well-turned-out women in gymnastically correct leotards and coordinated thongs, and I cringed. At that moment, a craving for chocolate dropped down on me as if it had come straight from God.

So who in their right mind ignores a directive from Himself? Spinning around so fast the revolving door didn’t have time to turn, I headed straight for Sweet Mama’s Bakery where Mama doesn’t give a French fig fritter how I’m dressed. God didn’t intend for me to die all sweated up and dressed like a throwback to the Sixties.

That night, Babe, my good humored, patient husband, lifted the lid on a pan of Southern fried chicken. “Hell-ooo,” he exclaimed, “Something tells me another health club expired today. The dirty look I gave him replaced a less than ladylike digit gesture.

In the past, Babe has supported my infrequent urges to eat cabbage and kale for seven straight days in hopes of losing a pound. He even claims to like kale although he doesn’t have the slightest idea what it is. On our last anniversary, the last of the big-time spenders gave me a new bicycle in lieu of the ten days at Canyon Ranch for which I had outrageously hinted. What a guy. It is true that I have joined too many health clubs while believing in the fantasy of regaining some resemblance to the size-eight I used to be. Where there’s life there’s hope, they say.

My friend Craig once joined a gym following a New Year’s Resolution, and being a humorist of some note, he asked, “Has anybody ever died in this place?”   

The trainer assigned to give him the nickel tour didn’t bat an eyelash and smiled with a mouth full of Chicklet teeth. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in any other place,” she said.

His question and her response gave me pause. What did this silly notion of mine to keep my body fit have to do with anything? Whatever possessed me to heed that nagging inner voice each time it shouted, ‘No pain, no gain.’ Did I pay attention to it in order to stay healthy or because I wanted to reclaim a portion of my youth? At my age, the portions are few.

When I am even older and my brittle bones clack like a set of bad-fitting false teeth, when my hair has turned white and wiry and falls out in clumps, I may experience a little remorse. I might regret having spent too much time at my keyboard instead of sweating while straddling a stationary bike.

But until the dawning of that day, I’ll ride my little old lady’s bike every now and then and I’ll keep working my jaws up and down hoping for a trickle down result.

The bad news is it won’t restore my youth; the good news nobody expects me to wear fashionable workout clothes ~ not in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seven Days of Gaga



“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Day 1:
As Empty Nesters, my husband, Babe brought home an adorable chocolate Lab. I didn't think I would ever be able to own a dog because of my allergies, but Babe assured me it would be okay. I'm glad I listened to him. I haven’t sneezed, coughed or swelled to the size of an NFL linebacker in the twenty-four hours since puppykins came to live with us.
Day 2:
I could put that precious little face in my mouth and eat her up. What a doll baby. Because she's such a perfect little dog, we were in a quandary trying to decide on which name would suit her best. I suggested Lady Gaga, but my husband said, “No. It should be Lady Godiva, for obvious reasons.” I won that argument because I believe when you give something a name it acts accordingly. My dog will have more going for her than if she were associated with an upscale Hershey Bar.
Day 3:
Lady Gaga has taken a shine to my antique oriental rug, the one my grandmother, God rest her soul, left me when she died. The upside of it is that it seems that our precious puppy-poo, like Granny, has excellent taste. The downside is that she feels it necessary to mark her territory on every square inch of my beautiful rug, the little dickens.
Day 4:
Babe said he didn't mind making an emergency trip to PetSmart at seven o'clock this morning when we completely ran out of puppy peepee pads. He took along a sledgehammer heavy enough to break the glass and rob the store in case it hadn’t yet opened. What a clever man I married. Lucky for him, the manager is a morning person. Babe could only buy five-dozen peepee pads for our little bundle of badness, but that should be more than enough. Surely, it can’t be much longer before she is housebroken.
Day 5:
It is hard for me to understand how, but Puppykins has managed to go through every one of the new pads Babe bought only yesterday, so Lady Gaga scored another point on Granny's rug. My house smells like a nursing home. Lady Gaga’s loving eyes and the cute way she cocks her head to stare straight through me were adorable four days ago, but today, they are getting on my last nurturing nerve. If Babe's dog pees or poops on Granny's rug one more time, they are both history. I have allergies. I have lived all of my life with a firm Animals Don't Live in the House with People Policy. I have limits.
Day 6:
This morning Babe went in search of an open all night pet store in case we need more peepee pads later tonight and just after he left, my doorbell rang. It was the UPS man delivering a new issue of It's All About Moi Magazine. I love getting packages via UPS and flirting with the hot UPS guy. I may be over fifty but I’m not dead. I asked him if, by chance, he suffered with dog allergies. He said he did not. Then he added (with tears pooling in his luscious Paul Newman blue eyes) that he was still mourning for his recently departed Poodle, Tammy Faye. The poor little thing had choked trying to eat his wife’s false eyelashes and within fifteen minutes she had taken a trip to PTL Dog heaven. Feeling obliged to help that poor man out of his sorrow, I gave him Lady Gaga. I hope his burden of grief will be lifted, not as high as Tammy Faye went, but enough to get him through. 
Day 7:
I have been grinning for so long my jaws ache. Each time I picture Lady Gaga riding in the front seat of that UPS truck looking so darn happy, I know in my heart that Mr. UPS and Lady Poopoo, uh, I mean Gaga, are a match made in heaven. I will have to muddle through my days while lounging in my now environmentally refreshed and blissfully quiet home with no distractions or smelly rugs, reading my newest issue of It's All About Moi Magazine
What can BROWN do for you?