Melva, far left: “Well, I do declare. Look at that mess over there!”
Gertrude, middlin’ left: “Honey, this is New Awlins. We got mess everywhere. Which one you talkin’ ‘bout?”
Melva: “Right there in front of your dadgum eyes, woman. You go off and leave you spectacles back home again?”
Gertrude: “I done told you I don’t need no dang spectacles.”
Melva: “Doc Wiggins says you do. Especially since you run into that grain silo with that rattle-trap Buick you think you know how ta drive.”
Gertrude: “Doc don’t know nothin’ worth hearin’.”
Melva: “He sure knew you was with child that one time when you thought you had the gas somethin’ fierce. You know, when you up and had that one baby that didn’t look like any a your other babies.”
Gertrude: “Why you always gotta bring that up ‘bout Earl Junior? I done told you a thousand times what happened with that. I had me a bad cough durin’ that year’s carryin’ time and I got ahold a bottle of cough syrup that had turned. Sometimes that happens with babies, they look like what you been eatin’ while you were cookin ‘em.”
Melva: “Was that freckled cough syrup? Cuz none a your other kids had freckles. And why’d you name him Earl Junior, again? Cuz your husband’s name that year was Buck. The one that built the silo you tried to kill with the Buick.”
Gertrude: “Melva, I love ya to death, but there are times when I wanna smack you into the street and keep walkin’. Now, knock it off and get back to what you were talkin’ ‘bout fore you stuck your nose in my freckle baby business that ain’t yours to know.”
Melva: “Hmm. Guess you ain’t takin’ those nerve pills Doc Wiggins says you should be takin’, either. Why you even go to him if you ain’t gonna listen?”
Gertrude: “Girl, my hand is gettin’ twitchy. Go ahead and poke that stick one more time.”
Melva: “Fine. I was talkin’ ‘bout that man over there with the fancy camera. I think he’s one a them boggers.”
Gertrude: “Boggers? You mean that pack a trash family lives over on Grunt Bucket Creek? In that rusted-out shack half-ass fallin’ in the water? Girl, they can’t afford to come to the city like we can. Besides, Olivia Crumple told me that some of them Boggers voted Democrat last election. People like that ain’t got sense enough to work a fancy camera.”
Melva: “I don’t mean them, you fool. I mean a bogger, those folks what take pictures and write stories on the social media.”
Gertrude: “Social media? That sounds just like socialism, and we can’t have that in God’s country, no sir.”
Melva: “Well, Gertie, this is New Awlins. It’s Sin City. Ain’t much of the Savior left up in here. That’s why I told you to tuck your pistol in your Bible and wear an extra girdle in case we need to run from somethin’.”
Gertrude: “Oh, right. And I did just that. Well, close to it, anyway. I might a got it back-asswards, cuz I brought two Bibles and there’s somethin’ lumpy in my girdle.”
Melva: “That’s okay. It never hurts to have a double-barreled Bible, or at least says Pastor Lilywhite. More important, what are we gonna do about this bogger man? He’s lookin’ right at us like we done somethin’.”
Gertrude: “Well, I say we stare him down hard. He ain’t go no right to accuse us of nothin’. Heck, he ain’t go no rights at all, bein’ a socialist in this country and whatnot. Use your best stare, Melva. Let him know he ain’t never gonna steal any chickens outa our coop but he might die tryin’.”
The bogger clicked his fancy camera.
The rest of New Awlins continued drinking and paid no mind to how other folks might choose to live their lives.
Later that evening, back at their respective family farms and after the chicken coops had been checked to make sure no liberals had swiped a few eggs to share with the poor, Melva retired to a back corner of her house and whipped out the laptop she had disguised as a Daughters of the Confederacy Cookbook. She kicked off a browser, entered some very specific keywords that she would deny knowing in a court of law, should it come to that, and managed to locate the latest post of the New Awlins bogger they done spotted.
Turns out, the bog post was all about the gay couple behind them in the photo, an about-to-be-married duo who were in the midst of dueling and whimsical bachelor parties, fun larks in the Crescent City. Melva was only mildly-surprised to now recognize one of the two as a former high-school prom date. She had sort of known back then, as most people sort of do, and she briefly wished him well, because he had been such a sweet guy, despite how things played out. But then her upbringing instincts kicked in, as they often do, and she shook it off, stiffened her resolve, and headed over to the “Fox News” website to learn who the far-right expected her to hate tomorrow.
Meanwhile, over to another coop-checked farm, Gertrude finished drying the supper dishes and did not check the socialist media, mainly because she still didn’t know where in tarnation her spectacles might be. Instead, as her seventh husband retired to an early bed, what with all that plowing that needed to be done, come sunrise, Gertrude snatched up her hidden bottle of rum and splashed a bit of temporary pain reliever in her ritual evening Coke. Then she splashed a little bit more, just for good measure.
She relaxed on the divan in her sewing room, where everyone else feared to tread because she made it clear that it was her private space, and she began to reflect on things. Like the choices we make without fully understanding why, and the facades we build out of fear, and the overlooked opportunities that should have been so obvious.
But mostly she thought about a certain long, hot summer spent in a rusty shack half-ass falling into the creek and falling in love, and the cutest freckle baby you ever did see…
Previously published. This is one of those Past Imperfects where I completely wiped out the original story arc and started all over again, because sometimes you just should. And I hope we all take that chance when we have it…
Categories: Past Imperfect