Saturday, May 11, 2013

Heads Will Roll

I loved the sound of my mother’s voice. It was pure Southernness, magnolia smooth. I heard it as she was wheeled into surgery. She told me not to worry, that she would be back. She was wrong.
One day last week while grocery shopping, I heard her voice again. She told me to buy brown sugar. As clearly as if she had been wheeling the cart herself, she said, “Go over to aisle six and pick up some brown sugah.” When she wanted to, my mama could smooth out the end of a word and cradle it in mid-air for five minutes. Listening to her talk was akin to taking a snooze in a Pawley’s Island Hammock.
Right after the brown sugar episode, I heard her singing an Irish ballad one day while I was making up my bed. I remembered that song from my childhood — a sad tune. I used to go to bed with tears in my eyes after she had sung it to me. But last week, when I heard the familiar soprano melody drifting through the house like elevator music, oddly enough, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I felt like I had just slipped my feet into a pair of old Weejuns.
Cooking supper that same night, (chicken and dressing, butter beans, rice and sliced tomatoes), I heard her voice again. She told me to put more sage in the dressing. So! We were back to the Seasoning War, were we?
The next morning while driving to Savannah, she broke into the Oldies But Goodies I was listening to.
“Turn around and go home.” The voice said it as if asking me to pass her some more of that cornbread dressing (the one that needed a touch more sage).
Up to that point, I had not responded to any of this odd communication from my mother. After all, she had been dead for ten years and besides, I didn’t talk back to her even when she was alive. But the idea that I should deep-six my shopping trip to Savannah based on a voice only I could hear? Well … that wasn’t going to happen.
I told her to bug off.
For the rest of the ride, her voice Xeroxed itself in my ears. Go back home! Go back home! Go back home! By the time I got to the Savannah Mall my head was spinning from the pounding in my eardrums.
Glancing in the mirror at Macy’s, I saw that I was turning green around the gills, so I started to think maybe I should forget shopping and go home. The thought of wrapping up in the cocoon of my own little nest began to feel right, so I left the mall and headed back to St. Simons without any of my proposed purchases.
I boogied down I-95 thinking Ibuprofen thoughts washed down with a chilled martini when Mama’s voice suddenly blurted out again.
“Slow Down!”
Since I was doing a bit over eighty, I said, “Yes ma’am.” But my headache did not slow down when the car did. Can’t win ‘em all.
I closed my eyes for only a moment and when I opened them again, the first thing I saw was an overturned eighteen-wheeler only a nanosecond in front of me. I braked as fast as I could and was barely able to avoid broadsiding a truck full of iceberg lettuce.

I watched in horror as hundreds of small green heads rolled off the truck and down I-95, gaining momentum as they bounced up and onto unsuspecting cars. Grateful that my own head was still attached, I gulped air (lots of it) while my heart did a Myrtle Beach shag step.
Later back at home as I snuggled down in a fetal position, I thought about what had happened. That got me thinking about Guardian Angels. Could they be real?
Had Mama come back to be my personal G.A.? Well, anything is possible, I supposed. Hadn’t I been saved from becoming an Interstate Tossed Salad by a voice from … from out of the blue?
So now whenever I hear a voice, any voice at all, I listen up. For all I know, it could be my Guardian Angel hovering over my shoulder with winning lottery numbers.
Even angels know that writers don’t earn squat.

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