In a rare moment when the Public Health Commission in Mississippi was allowed to speak freely without intervention by religious nut-jobs, the citizens of Biloxi learn what they can expect to encounter when it comes to bladder control in their senior years…
Hedda Mae Groaningrock, standing behind the misogynistic cordon of the special “Section for the Womenfolk of Biloxi” (cuz Mississippi ain’t keen on that there equality, no sir) and fanning her heated face with the bulletin from that morning’s service at St. John the Apoplectic Baptist Church: “I fail to see why this is necessary. Nothin’ good comes from discussing personal plumbing in the town square.”
To her left, Libby June Mayfair was also fanning, albeit in her case she was sporting a slightly-damp paper coaster from last night’s service at St. John’s Guzzle and Gossip Pub and Emporium. (How these two managed to be acquaintances involved an interesting backstory, but we really don’t have time for a full exposition in this current tale and the fleshing-out is best left to the devices of a Southern Gothic novelist with a drinking problem.) “Darlin’, you know I love you despite your awfulness, but you’re off the mark, here. We’re older than dirt and our plumbin’ ain’t been tuned since the Civil War. Maybe we can learn somethin’. Don’t you wanna know how to stop the flow?” (Over in nearby Alabama, an aspiring country singer overhead that last line and immediately adopted the wordage for the title of his next banjo-tinged ditty.)
Hedda Mae: “There is nothing wrong with my plumbing. It’s as pristine as the day I was born, when the angels left me in the lap of my sainted mother and then flew back to Heaven to prepare for me eventually joining their sorority.”
Libby June, guffawing and tossing aside the wet paper coaster as it was doing little to conquer the unending Mississippi heat: “Girl, you are so full of crap. Your momma was no saint. Ain’t you ever wondered why you was born two years after your daddy went off to fight in The Great War. Do the math.”
Hedda Mae: “Math is not ladylike, so it never occurred to me, no.”
Libby June: “Well, I’ll do it for you. Wait, look at that. It doesn’t add up. So somebody was messin’ with the numbers and it wasn’t your daddy. At least not the daddy on the papers filed at the courthouse.”
Hedda Mae: “Momma was never good at learnin’ stuff. It took her a while to figure out how to get from here to there, so she just needed some extra time on the assembly line. I was just overcooked a little, that’s all.”
Libby June: “You are somethin’ else, girl. How do you get through the day?”
Hedda Mae: “I do what I need to do, Libby June. And right now I think I need to get away from this mess about gushers from down under. It has nothing to do with me.”
Libby June: “It has everything to do with you. I try to be nice, really do, but you have been leavin’ wet spots all over town. Your kitchen sink has some loose bolts in the faucet. Maybe we can learn somethin’ from these nice science people.”
Hedda Mae, briefly connecting to reality: “I still don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. But maybe I’ll stay a minute or two. The afternoon service at St. John the Apoplectic doesn’t start for a bit yet.”
Just then, because it fit nicely into the pacing of our story, a withered old man approached a microphone that had been set up near the spewing barrels, despite the known fact (at least in states outside of The South) that electricity and water are not friends. “Gentlemen and Cordoned Ladies of Biloxi. There are two ways in which you can stem the outrage from your ancient bladders.”
Most of the crowd just stared at him, because he was saying a lot of words and their personal CPUs were far outdated and lacking in relevant upgrades.
Withered Man persevered, because he was used to the dearth of processing units in states that smelled like ignorance. “The first remedy is to wear one of these.” He pointed a trembling finger at an assistant, a young man by the name of Harley Lowrider (a moniker that was the result of parents who didn’t read a lot of books or appeared in court when they were ordered to do so). Harley marched forth, whipped out an adult diaper and expertly ensnared it around one of the Niagara Falls barrels. The gushing stopped gushing, with nary a drip after that.
The crowd, for the most part, did not respond. Because it was science. And it was Mississippi.
Withered Man continued to persevere, because he had no other option. “The second thing you can do is this.” He pointed once again at the assistant. Harley approached another barrel, whipped out a giant cork from a fetching satchel that no one had really noticed until this point, and he viciously shoved said cork into the hole of Bachelor Number Two. Again with the instant non-gushing.
This the crowd understood. Because it involved violence and it was in their DNA to respect such.
Withered Man: “So, you have these two options. You can choose to quietly adorn your portals with discreet but prohibitive undergarments, or you can seal things shut with processed tree bark, which will lead to further complications. I think the choice is clear. Thank you for your time.” Withered Man then wandered off the stage to wait for his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. (This did not immediately happen.)
Hedda Mae, affronted: “Well, I can assure you that I’m never doing either of those things.”
Libby June, unsurprised: “And I didn’t expect you to, although I did have a glimmer of hope that you would move forward into the same century that I live in. But I do have something to add, even if no one in your family has a clue about addition. Did you notice anything about Withered Man? Maybe his eyes?”
Hedda Mae: “Why would I bother to do so?”
Libby June: “Because that’s your real daddy. He never served in the Great War, staying here instead so he could keep running his family’s fruit stand in the town square. And one day your momma chanced upon a banana that she just had to have.”
Previously published, considerably revised and extended. (The original was just the first paragraph.) This is an example of why I love digging through my archives and finding some bit that wasn’t properly serviced the first few times around and I give it another go. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you have to keep playing or the plumbing rusts…
Categories: Past Imperfect