So I was sittin’ out on the back porch, eatin’ me a moon pie and wonderin’ if that Bufford family down the street was ever gonna spit out a kid that was worth somethin’, when one of my own youngins hollered out for me to come look at the TV for a minute. I thought about pretendin’ like my hearin’ was done gone, but this was one of my feisty girls hollerin’ and I knew she wouldn’t shut up till I took a gander.
So I dragged my ass in the house, bangin’ through the screen door and throwin’ my wadded up pie wrapper at one of the cats, the speckled one that could play with that piece of nothin’ for hours. Made me wonder if sometimes it wouldn’t be better to just be simple and let people feed you.
“Mae…. Hurry!” yelled Lizzie from the TV room. “You gonna miss it!”
I paused a sec, because she done about 47 different things wrong in those five seconds. First off, I have never cared for her callin’ me Mae. I’m her mother, and she was breach, which means she needs to respect me till one of us dies, way I see it. But no, fool girl has to go off to the only college that would let her in, where she took drugs and read snooty books and came back home callin’ me “Mae” instead of “Momma”, like the first 20 years of her life was just practice. Total waste of hard-earned money, that school was.
Name changin’ didn’t stop there, though, no sir. Switched her own name from “Marisa” to “Lizzie”. Now how the hell you get “Lizzie” out of that? Said it fit her spirit-self better. Bunch a crap. “Marisa” is a fine name, got it from a nice Mexican couple that lived near us back in the day, thought it was a real fine name, pretty. Had no idea my child would turn her nose up at it twenty-odd years later. Damn school again. At least the lesbian thing didn’t stick. Nothin’ wrong with likin’ the women, ‘course, that comes from inside and can’t be helped, but I knew Marisa wasn’t that way. Mommas know.
Like I know that this child ain’t the sharpest tool, never was. Just callin’ it for what it is, fair and square. Poor thing thinks I’m gonna miss whatever’s on the TV ‘cause she still don’t get the “pause” button on the remote. Tried tellin’ her a hundred times, but she still waits for a commercial to run pee real fast. We all have our ceilings.
All this went through my head in about three seconds, ‘cause when you get old you got to get things done, no time for screwin’ around, not like when you’re a young pup and you can take three months before you get around to seein’ a movie you wanna see. At my age, you go do somethin’ soon’s you think about it, or it might not ever happen.
I clattered into the TV room and plopped in my second favorite chair, ‘cause my favorite had Lizzie’s big-ass purse takin’ up all the space and I don’t like to do heavy-liftin’ after suckin’ down a moon pie. “What’s all the fuss about?”
Lizzie hauled her ass off the couch, ‘cause she’s one of those that can’t just say somethin’, it has to be a production with tickets and everything. “I think they’re gonna show Rick Perry sayin’ he’s gonna run for President!”
My poor, simple child. “Honey, we all know he’s gonna run, what you all fired up about?”
Lizzie lost a little of her spark, like she always does when folks don’t give her a gift certificate for every thought that falls out of her head. “Well I didn’t know. He hasn’t said yet. How does everybody know he’s runnin’ if he hasn’t said.”
I did one of my careful smiles, just a little turn-up at the corners so I didn’t seem like I was makin’ fun. “Honey, he’s been talkin’ about it for a year. That’s somethin’ you don’t talk about unless you mean to do it, or the tax man catches up to you before you can. It’s all a show.”
Lizzie/Marisa/Not-Lesbian frowned. “Whaddya mean a show? You’re makin’ it sound like you don’t think he’s serious.”
“Oh, he’s serious, alright.” I smoothed out my skirt that was all wrinkled for some reason, one of those “don’t know what the hell happened but it did” things, things you don’t have time to worry about in your golden years. “He’s right serious about running for President. And I’m sure he thinks he’s gonna win.”
Lizzie plopped back down on the couch, in that rough, un-womanly way she has, somethin’ I know I didn’t teach her, so it must have come from her daddy, or maybe that preacher from Locust Grove we had on loan for a year way back when most of my kids were still wild-eyed. That preacher ended up in prison a few years later, somethin’ about farm animals and some missin’ money, never really knew. We’ll blame him for Lizzie not sittin’ like a lady, I already blame her daddy for enough else.
“You sound like you don’t want him to win,” pouted Lizzie, her eyes havin’ that look they do when she’s not sure she’s going to understand an answer but it’s worth a try.
“Well, I don’t want him to win, truth be said. Man has done some terrible things in Texas, awful things, and to let him get the chance at hurtin’ the whole nation, well, it’s not right.”
Lizzie squirmed around on the couch, in that fidgety way she has of lookin’ like she’s about to birth a calf, right there on the afghan that took me six months to finish up. “How can you not like a man that wants to get Jesus back in our lives?”
Hold up. Didn’t see that comin’, no way. “Honey, what are you talkin’ about?”
Lizzie rolled her eyes, another feature she got from her daddy or the livestock preacher. “He had a big ole prayer meetin’ in Houston, askin’ the Lord to get us back to right.”
Well, now. That took me aback. Not so much for the prayer meetin’, cause that was just a big load of people with nothin’ better to do than act uppity and decide how everybody else should live their lives. But I’m not one to ask anybody to give up on their faith, whatever that might turn out to be, unless that faith means hurtin’ people for no reason. So I had to be tender. “Baby girl, you been goin’ to church lately, is that where your heart is?”
Lizzie squirmed some more, and I really wanted to run snatch that afghan out from under her before she tore up my handiwork, but I let it go. Then she took a deep breath, a sign I learned long ago that means she’s about to say somethin’ dumbass, and I braced myself. “Mae, I know you think I lost my way back when I went to the college, everybody says it down at the beauty shop, I can hear ‘em even though they don’t think I can, and maybe I did make some poor choices, but I’m tryin’ to do right now. We need Jesus in the White House. And Rick Perry has the best hair ever!”
Aw, hell. For two seconds there, I actually thought my girl had some sense finally, and my eyes almost got watery. Then she had to go and yuck it up with nonsense, and even though I try to stay level-headed, ‘cause you really have to do that when your family is a little crazy, I couldn’t help myself. “Rick Perry has the best hair? Honey, what are you talkin’ about? That hairdo of his is somethin’ you’d see on the head of some Church of Christ wing-nut just before he slipped in the backdoor of a whorehouse. And what has hair got to do with runnin’ this country?”
As I’m sure you can guess, I done lost her with that little outburst. Her face all scrunched up and her eyes got beady, her fingers rippin’ at that afghan that I might as well give up on bein’ good for company no more. “But you’re a Republican! Essie Lee says when you’re a Republican you vote for who they tell you to vote for!”
Well, this was some fresh hell out of nowhere. (Although it did confirm that Lizzie was still friends with that no-good tramp Essie Lee, even though Lizzie had denied it up to this point, a bit of fact that I could file away and whip out at a better time. Mommas have to juggle their vengeance, the good mommas know that. And I had more pressing issues.) “What makes you think I’m a Republican?”
Lizzie seemed startled, in that way I knew meant she’d done forgotten somethin’ else important like she’s always doing. “But you vote conservative…”
“No, honey, I vote for what is right at the time. Things change, you pick the best option. If you have to be black and white about things, maybe you’re not looking at the whole picture. But right now, the Republicans have a big ole stick up their ass and they seem hell-bent on destroying our country.”
Lizzie’s eyes welled up, with tears a comin’, then she hopped off the couch with more spring than I figured her blood sugar levels would let her. She went to runnin’, but not before she could blurt out somethin’ mean. “You hate me, that’s what this is all about. You never want me to be happy!” Then she popped into the guest bathroom and slammed the door, proceedin’ to start knockin’ around all the pretty knick-knacks I done set out to make our friends comfortable when they had to tinkle when visitin’.
Well, this was now out of control, and it was time for reinforcements. Which meant I had to call her daddy, bein’s I was all dead to her now, somethin’ that happens every other weekend or so since there ain’t nothin’ else to do around here but watch the corn grow. I picked up the phone and punched in some numbers. It only rang once, which meant that Virgil was just as bored on a Saturday night as we were. “I need you to come get your daughter off the ceiling.”
Virgil sighed. “Which one?”
“Who do you think?”
“What pissed her off now?”
“She wants to vote for Rick Perry because of his hair.”
Virgil sighed again. “Does she understand what he’s done to the people of Texas?”
“Went there, sure did, she has no clue. None. So I’m assumin’ that the Tea Party done got her at the Piggly Wiggly. Probably a Christian bake sale or somethin’.”
Virgil chuckled. “Sure is different than we ever thought it‘d be, ain’t it, Mae, these later years?”
“Yep, different times, Virgil. But we still gotta knock some sense into people. That never changes.”
“Well, I’ll hop in the truck. Still got some of that bourbon I got you last Christmas?”
“Still got, Virgil. Learned to keep it on hand. Ever since the breach birth and folks started gettin’ ate up with the dumb-ass.”
“See ya in a minute.” Took him about five minutes to get the phone back to wherever he puts it, him bein’ so ungainly and all, opposite a me, and provin’ once again he’s the one that taught our kids to be uncoordinated. I went back into the TV room, knocked Lizzie’s ugly purse on the floor, and took a seat, her bangin’ on somethin’ in the bathroom ‘cause she can’t stay focused, and me waitin’ on her daddy to come bring her back down just by walkin’ in the room.
Maybe I oughta get me another moon pie, keep me company till the next show around here. Might just oughta.
(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 08/17/11, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)
Categories: The Stories