Friday, February 18, 2011

All a Man Needs: Good Gun, Good Dog, Good Woman

From my novel ROOTED: 

Slade came to when he heard a deep voice drawl, “Afternoon, Miss Eleanor.”

Eleanor nodded to the man and quietly said, “Hello, Bullfrog.” 

The man laughed easily in his muddy boots and Case tractor hat. “Shoot, I didn’t know you knew they called me Bullfrog. In class you always called me by my name proper. I can still hear you saying, ‘Rodney Hollister, go stand in the corner,’ like it was yesterday. ’Course I spent most of fourth grade in that corner. Still, you were my favorite teacher.”

“That’s nice,” Grover said. “Now if you’re done reminiscing, I need your help.”

“Yessir.” Rodney looked over the scene. When his eyes set on Slade he said, “Excuse my language, but what kind of a sorry sack of shit you got there on the lawn?”

The words were hardly recognizable to Slade, so thick was the accent and the wad of chewing tobacco in Rodney’s mouth.

“And what happened to your cow?”

“What’s it look like?” Grover sputtered. “He crashed this pile of rusted junk into Lucy and killed her.”

Rodney inspected the scene with a critical eye and then spit a long stream of brown tobacco juice, barely missing Slade’s cheek. “Looks like she was shot in the head.”

“Of course she’s shot in the head,” Grover thundered. “I had to put her out of her misery. You don’t think I’d let her lay there suffering. She’d already been through enough.” Grover cast Eleanor an accusing look.

“You taking her down to Paulson’s meat house? Bet you’d get some good cuts off of this’n,” Rodney said appreciatively. “She’d make for a good-sized barbecue if -”

“Say another word about a barbeque and I’ll lease that hundred acres to some other farmer with enough sense to keep his mouth shut.”

Rodney looked down and mumbled, “Sorry.”

“That’s better. All I need you to do is get him over to the sheriff’s. Tell him,” Grover kicked Slade’s foot. “You tell Watkins he killed Lucy. I want him locked up.”

Even in Slade’s compromised state, the word sheriff was enough to put some life back in him. Slade opened his mouth to defend himself, but all that emerged was a gross gurgling sound followed by a thin line of drool that ran down his chin.

“Yessir,” Rodney answered. “After that, you want I should come back for Sarah Jane?” The barrel-chested farmer’s eyes gleamed.

Eleanor glanced nervously at her husband. “Grover, surely you’re not -”

“You best wait a day or so. I’ve got a few things to take care of around here.”

Rodney’s shoulders slumped noticeably. “I cleaned my truck out and everything. Put the Colonel in the bed.” He hitched his thumb at the hound in the back of his truck.

“It’ll still be clean when you come back out, so quit your whining. Take care of this for me, and I’ll make sure Sarah Jane’s ready for you.”

Rodney thought about it and then nodded. “I can do that.”

Shaking Rodney’s hand, Grover said, “I expect you’ll be respectful.”

“Mr. McQuiston, you seen how fine I treat my bitch pups. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you. Besides, all a man needs is a good gun, a good dog, and a good woman. I already got the other two. Sarah Jane might be a little ornery at first, but she’ll come around.”

Eleanor whispered furiously, “Don’t do this. Please, Grover, I’m begging you.”

Grover slapped Rodney on the back and said, “I know I can count on you.”

“Yessir.” Rodney spit again, this time striking Slade’s arm. Then he grabbed the sorry sack of shit around the waist and tossed him over his shoulder. At the truck he dumped Slade in the bed with Colonel.

Slade lay on his back with his eyes open, the dog panting and slobbering excitedly above him. He felt outside himself, as though everything was happening to someone else. Then Eleanor was at the tailgate, silent, faded and defeated. He wanted to be with her, that calm, sad woman. He wanted it to be true, her being his grandmother. He wanted her to nurse him, to be at his side wiping the blood from his brow once more.

But when she reached her hand out as if to touch him, the truck began moving and she was gone.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Behold, the Chigg: Praying on the Pooper

From my novel Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign to Save the Chigg!

So after a triumphant raid on the boys’ bathroom to swipe all the toilet paper, we paraded into the girls bathroom, laughing and shouting, “Ding dong, the witch is dead, the witch is dead, ding dong the wicked witch is dead.”

Then Mindy, with her short, spiky blonde ponytail bobbing anxiously on her head, asked, “Have you ever in your life seen anything as funny as those funny little sinks in the boys’ bathroom?”

“Not I, Min-min,” replied Shannon gravely from behind her round owl glasses. “How do you think they wash their hands? Those sinks didn’t have any faucets.”

“Silly rabbit, those weren’t real sinks. They’re urinals,” I explained in my harsh, toneless Mrs. Jutney voice. “They don’t need sinks. It’s a scientifically proven fact that boys do not wash their hands.”

“That’s just gross!”

“It’s disgusting!”

“Why it’s downright revolting, if you ask me!”

Then mayhem ensued until I kicked open the first bathroom stall and declared, “I christen thee, La Toiletta, Queen of the Golden Waters.” The toilet was flushed and we erupted into riotous cheers.

I found this exercise very agreeable and moved on to the next stall. But when I kicked the door open, there sat Carrie Larson. But no one ever called her Carrie, just Frecklefart Fanny because of the big, red, splotchy freckles that covered her entire body.

But never, not once did I ever call her Frecklefart Fanny, or Frecklefart, or just Fart as others did. That’s just disrespectful and crude, two things I am most certainly not.

I only ever called her Chigger, or the Chigg, because every time I looked at her during the first two weeks of school she was furiously scratching chigger bites. Some people I could name said she had fleas, but I knew they were chiggers from experience.

Let’s just say, it is not a good idea to run through a field of waist-high stinkweed wearing only an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny Pocahontas bikini and red velvet cowboy boots in the dead of summer while pretending to be Miss America. Take it from me; such an exercise will only end in tragedy, tragedy in the form of the most obscenely thorough case of chigger infestation ever!

And did I itch like crazy?

You know I did.

Carrie sat there on the pot with that frizzy red hair puffed to extremes all over her head, her face covered in what could only be described as a bad case of being the Chigg. She wore a ridiculous blue and white ski jacket, as she had every day since school started the month before, even though it wouldn’t get cold in Alabama until December.

She had a book in her hand, one of those little green pocket bibles.

And there she was, not looking at us, frozen, quiet, small, waiting for us to go away. Waiting for us to run back to class and tell everyone that we caught her praying on the pooper. And maybe we would have. Only there was something about Carrie Larson that made me pause for once.

So instead of running to class with my big mouth yapping, which in retrospect is exactly what I should have done, I threw my arm grandly toward Carrie, did my award winning bugle salute sound effect, and announced, “Behold, the Chigg.”

And that was when everything started for me.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

This One Goes Out To The One I Love: A Valentine Ode

I love you in the morning. I love you in the evening.

I love you in bed.  I love you on the sofa.

I love you alone.  I love you in public places.

I love your coldness, your creaminess, your sweetness.

I love you regardless of how you come.

I love you, Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As I Lay Dying...Literally

I am thinking of you, my healthy, non-infectious friends with your sinus passages clear of mucus and your lithe little bodies free of fever.

I am thinking how you're probably all eating ice cream and going outside to play while I waste away in this sick room amid my used tissues (at least I didn't say snot rags) and throat lozenge wrappers.

I am thinking you are enjoying a picnic or sunning yourself as today is probably the warmest yet and all signs of snow a forgotten wintry nightmare. (I can't say for certain as I am too weak and sickly to open a window and check for myself.)

I am thinking how you're probably not even giving a thought to my compromised condition or the fact that I may never walk again.  (Actually, there's nothing wrong with my legs, but as true friends I'd at least expect you to fear the very worst.)

But please, my healthy, non-infected friends, go about your day, enjoy yourselves, live it up. 

Whatever you do, don't let the fact that I am lying on my deathbed, battling a deadly disease (cold) make you feel bad, or ruin any of your good times.

Just know that you are in my thoughts today.

Key Components of the K9: A Tribute to My Head

In truth, I must admit to having a haircut christened “The K9” in a corporate office in Memphis.

And not just dubbed K9, but also diagrammed on a white board, the sides and front dissected to look very much like a cocker spaniel. It all was very professionally dissected and displayed for an eager audience. And in truth, it was a pretty accurate portrayal.

Humiliating? Yes, but not surprising. Turns out I have a secret genius for having my head violated.

I can ashamedly claim a long line of haircuts that have left me semi-mulleted, clown-headed, shagged up the back like Carol Brady, and helmet headed like a Lego figure.

Or worse.

Like the time my parents agreed to splurge on my first perm. I was 14 and it was the early eighties. The event? A most important basketball party at my new school. I wanted to make the very best impression possible.

As did my parents, which is why they sent me to the beauty school in the small west Tennessee town known more for councilmen smuggling sheep across state line to seedy motels than cutting edge style. 

The STUDENT assigned to my head was perhaps thirtyish, wore white leather shoes with yellow plastic soles, a sharp white smock and sported a yellow poodle perm that matched his trim yellow moustache.

Warning signals fired off in my sacrificial virgin's head like a big city Fourth of July celebration.

But I was in the chair and he was above me. And this is where I fail, at fourteen, and still to this day. As much of a big mouth as I have, as many pages I have filled with my thoughts, I am tragically unable to clearly communicate how I’d like my hair cut.

It has proven a historic impossibility for me and ultimately my downfall.

By the time that yellowed fiend was through with me, my sweet, innocent fourteen year old self was confused for my eighty year old great-grandmother – BY MY OWN FATHER.

And no, pictures will not be posted. 

This industrial strength perm had hold of my tender head through freshman year and into my sophomore year until finally, THANK GOD, it began to loosen up.

Just in time for my maniacal butcher of a sister to "trim" my loose ends.

The horror... the horror...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No, He Is Not Marvelous - He Is Satan, In The Flesh

From my novel, ROOTED:

After exiting the truck, Grover grabbed Slade by his bony arm and pulled him toward the house. “You look like you haven’t eaten in a month of Sundays. Got a pot of beans and a pan of cornbread inside. Get yourself filled up.”

Slade tried to resist, but Grover was stronger. “But…”

“But nothing,” Grover replied. “Come on.”

They mounted the porch and entered the house. The warm smell of cooking made Slade want to vomit, but there was nothing in him to come out. In the kitchen, Althea stirred a pot at the stove while Miss Josie spoke on the phone. Sarah Jane turned toward the men as they entered, and then turned quickly back to the sink full of dishes.

Grover marched Slade to the table and pushed him into a chair.

“Get him a plate, Althea,” Grover instructed, “and make sure he eats it.” Grover kept a stern eye on Slade.

“I’m not eating crap,” Slade mustered weakly. The truth was, even if he wanted to eat, he didn’t know if he could manage a fork.

Althea placed a plate of white beans and two large slabs of cornbread on the table before him. “Oh, you’re eating,” she stated, “and you’re going to clean your plate like a good boy.”

Slade looked at the plate. “This looks like puke,” he protested, crossing his measly arms across his measly chest. He looked up to find Althea and Grover standing over him.

“I don’t care if it tastes like puke,” Althea countered, “you’re gonna eat it, and you’re gonna eat it all.” She wagged a large and intimidating metal spoon in Slade’s sullen face.

“What about that one?” Grover nodded at Sarah Jane. “She been helping out?”

Althea frowned. “Of course, as best she can under the circumstances.”

Grover studied Sarah Jane’s frozen back at the sink. “Make sure she don’t run off on you. There’s cleaning to be done. I expect we’re going to have a houseful of guests, and I don’t want them thinking we live like trash.”

“Leave that girl alone, Grover McQuiston. You got enough to worry about without fussin’ about the house.”

Just as Grover opened his mouth to reply, Myrna rushed into the kitchen. Her eyes fell, solely on her father; she did not see anyone else.

Myrna’s many chins quivered and her lips shook. “Daddy…,” she held her arms out to Grover, who looked very uncomfortable with what was about to happen. “Daaaa….ddy,” she wailed and flew to him.

Grover reluctantly allowed Myrna to clutch him in a bear hug. Her sobs rose, her tears fell and her nose ran, all on Grover’s suit jacket. Her grief knew no bounds. Grover’s arms slowly and mechanically embraced his daughter. She failed to notice his stiffness, his unbending authority.

Grover patted Myrna’s formidable shoulder three times, and then said, “That’s enough, Myrna.” He opened his arms and expected Myrna to release him. But Myrna was not through needing her daddy. Grover had to say, “Myrna, that is ENOUGH,” to be free of her.

Myrna continued to cry and sniffle but had exchanged her big, gulping sobs for more of a whining whimper.

Grover looked at his daughter with a little disgust and a lot of dismay. “Pull yourself together, Myrna. That is no way to act at a time like this.”

“How’s the girl supposed to act?” Miss Josie questioned after hanging up the phone. “You could stand a little grief yourself, Grover McQuiston.”

Suddenly, Slade developed a strong need to lie down. His head hurt beyond anything he could have imagined, and the plate of puke before him only added to his discomfort. In his heart he knew what he really needed was a cigarette, and maybe a little blow, a couple of drinks to set him right. He was just low on reserves. He needed to refuel.

But there didn’t appear to be any fuel in sight. The only thing in sight was beans, white, puky beans. All thought left his head as he studied his food. Without being aware of it, he was drawn closer and closer to the plate mesmerized by the general pattern of the beans. His nose was only centimeters away from the bean pillow when a loud, piercing scream broke the spell and brought him back to reality.

It was Myrna. She had discovered Slade at the table and was shrieking. She clutched her chest and neck with her hands and scuttled to the far side of the kitchen. Everyone in the kitchen, but Slade, stared at her in amazement.

“What has got into you, child?” Miss Josie asked.

“He- he-,” Myrna gasped for air and pointed wildly at Slade. “That.. he’s the one… him…,” she babbled incoherently. Her wild eyes searched each face in the room.

“Stop that this instant,” Grover ordered. But Myrna would not be calmed.

“At the gas station, yesterday...” She pointed at Slade and managed to speak an entire sentence. “He attacked me. He attacked me and Precious. He’s…he’s a rapist!”

Slade turned his head to the side and said, “Give her the fucking beans.” At which point Althea struck his shoulder with the metal spoon and commanded, “Eat.”

His hands full with Myrna, Grover only said, “Mind your manners, boy.”

“Are you crazy?” Myrna screeched wildly. “Call the police, quick!” Myrna beseeched hysterically. She turned wide-eyed to Miss Josie and Althea and croaked, “We’re not safe, we’re not safe.”

Precious entered the kitchen and was not so much startled by Myrna’s screeching as the sight of the ghostly, blue-haired stranger. She opened her mouth and whispered breathlessly, “Isn’t he marvelous?”

“No, he is not marvelous,” Myrna hissed. “He’s Satan, in the flesh. Avert your eyes from the abomination!” Precious’s doe-like eyes remained glued to Slade as her quivering mother jerked her by the arm. Placing her substantial body protectively before her daughter’s unquestioned virtue, Myrna eyed Slade with panicked intensity. Precious squirmed behind her mother, desperate to see past the mammoth maternal object blocking her vision.

Slade dropped his fork and said, “Anyone got a smoke?” He looked hopefully at everyone in the kitchen, but didn’t recognize anyone but Grover. His eyes rested on Myrna. “Hey, aren’t you that dead cow from out front?”


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