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Before Momma Crown could counsel her child that it was entirely possible to be popular without being a miniature slut, there was a clatter as Granny Crown traipsed into the kitchen from the living room. “Mother!” exclaimed Momma Crown. “When did you get here?”
Granny Crown sighed, which was clearly a trademark move with this family. “I’ve been here for a bit. I was checking to see if you’ve bothered to dust the house this year. What is that child babbling about being popular? She needs to be more popular. Maybe she’ll get out of the house more often and I won’t have to think of new things to say every time I see her sitting there like a toadstool.”
“Mother, she’s not deaf.”
“I’m NOT deaf,” confirmed little Harley. “I’m alive just like you.”
Granny Crown glanced briefly at her 47th grandchild, grimaced, then turned her attention back to her 6th daughter-in-law. “Why won’t you let the child be popular?”
Harley immediately changed sides in the brewing battle, as children are wont to do, not yet understanding things like consequences and alimony. “Yeah, Momma, I wanna be popular. Please?”
Momma Crown rubbed her left temple, begging the creeping baby migraine to return to its cave. “Harley, sweetie, you can be as popular as you want. But you are not going to do it by waving your fanny at all the boys.”
Granny Crown snorted. “Isn’t that how you landed my son?”
Momma forced herself to smile in Granny’s direction. “Can I get you something to drink? Hopefully something that will make you lose your ability to speak?”
Granny waved her hand. “I’m fine, thanks for finally asking now that I’ve been here at least thirty minutes. We old people don’t need as much lubrication.” She studied the mounds of paper on the table. “What is this child doing?”
“Mother, you can speak directly to her, you know.”
Granny sighed again. “Of course I know that. But what would be the point? I’ll still have to come to you for an actual answer that I can understand. Is she applying for boarding school? I can certainly help her with that.”
Momma Crown, firmly convinced that a tenth cup of coffee certainly couldn’t do any more damage at this point, reached for the pot while explaining. “We’re helping Harley decide who to invite to her Halloween party.”
Granny looked at Momma in surprise. “Halloween? Surely the child understands that-”
Momma held up her hand. “We’ve been down that road. It’s not important. We just need five names. And don’t ask any more about that part, either. You really don’t want to know.”
Granny reached down and snatched the piece of paper out of Harley’s startled hand. “Is this the list?”
Momma and Harley both nodded.
Granny scanned the wrinkled sheet, then threw it down on the table. “All of these scamps are horrid little creatures. This is boring. I’m going to go watch wrestling. Let me know when dinner is ready.” She turned and marched back into the living room.
Harley peeked around the corner, waiting for Granny to move out of earshot, then looked at her mother and whispered. “Daddy says he drinks because of Granny, too.”
“Interesting,” breathed Momma Crown. “You and your father seem to be very chatty. You might have to fill me in some day. Okay, the stuffed peppers are calling. Who is next on your list?”
Harley looked down. “Lisa Wines.”
“Lisa?” asked Momma, mildly surprised. “Isn’t she in Europe?”
Harley nodded. “She lives in France. In Paris. She does Bo He-man things, and tries to stop pressing of minor T’s, and wants a world piece. And she blogs.”
“What does she do with dogs?” hollered Granny Crown from the other room.
“Mother,” hollered Momma back. “If you want to be a part of the conversation, you need to come back in here. I’m not in the mood to translate for you.”
“I’ll stay right where I am, thank you very much,” came the reply. “Even if it’s so dusty in here you’d think it was Oklahoma in 1934.” This was followed by a clearly fake but exuberant sneeze.
“I know what an Oklahomo is!” piped up Harley. “It means ‘the land of the red van’. We learned that in school.”
Momma forced another grim smile. “It’s so nice to see that paying all those school taxes has been worth every penny. But I don’t think Lisa can come to the party. She lives too far away.”
Harley frowned. “Can’t we just go pick her up? She can sleep over.”
Momma sighed, then reached down to tenderly caress her daughter’s hair. “You are such a pretty little girl.”
From the other room: “But when God was handing out brains, she thought He said train, and she got at the end of the line.”
“Betty, we have to face things for what they are or-”
“We can face them later! Watch your damn TV show.”
Harley: “Why does Granny want me to get on a train?”
Momma Crown stroked the wee one’s hair again. “It’s nothing, sweetie. She’s old and she sometimes forgets where she’s at. Or why she even bothers to come over here. Okay, who’s next on your list?”
“Hmmm. I don’t think I know this ‘Lisa’.”
Harley nodded. “Yes, you do, Momma. She’s a nurse, and she lives in the Land of the Red Van like Granny was just talking about. She helps people. I like people who help people. Don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” confirmed Momma Crown. “But if she lives in Oklahoma, she can’t come, either. It’s too far.”
Harley frowned again. “We can’t go get her in the car?”
“No, sweetie. It would be a very long drive, and people will get cranky.”
Harley pouted. “Then I don’t understand why we have cars, if they can’t go get your friends when you want them to.”
From the other room: “Buy the child a map.”
“Mother, that’s TWO strikes…”
“Betty, the commercials are on right now. I know all I need to know about Metamucil. I have to do something to pass the time until Fox News comes back on.”
Momma Crown sighed again. This was truly a day for sighing. Perhaps records would be broken. She looked back at Harley. “Okay, sweetie, who’s next?”
From the other room: “Child, why are there so many Lisa’s? Is there some kind of club? Are you in a cult?”
Harley, bewildered: “Is she talking about farming? That sounds like a farm word.”
Momma Crown, exasperated: “Mother, would you PLEASE-”
“-stop throwing out your mean little comments while I’m trying to-”
Pause, then: “What, Mother?”
“You need to come in here. And don’t bring the child.”
Momma Crown glanced at Harley, who quickly made a motion that she would rather do anything in the world than go in the living room. Staying right here was just fine. Hiding on the back porch would be even better.
“What IS it, Mother? Can’t you just tell me?”
“Fine. That husband of yours is fornicating on the front lawn.”
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