I guess while we’re waitin’ for Thorn to get back from his sebatical to his ancestral home, which just happens to be the former residence of his ancesters, (I guess that’s why they call it an ancestral home) Maximilien de Béthune, duke de Sully, also called Marquis De Rosny (born Dec. 13, 1560, Mantes, France—died Dec. 22, 1641, Villebon), French statesman who, as the trusted minister of King Henry IV, substantially contributed to the rehabilitation of France after the Wars of Religion (1562–98). Anyway, it’s a big ol’ Castle somewhere over there on a lake, I’ll give y’a somethin’ to read.
So, since there hasn’t been much activity around here and stuff in a while, I guess I’ll answer the ‘oft asked’ question about how come I’m a grown-up and still live with Granny and that dang rooster. So, here’s the answer… (after you read this, you’ll prob’ly be wishin’ Thorn would hurry and get back ’cause I got a ton of Granny stories to tell y’a………..)
Well, I guess the first thing I outta tell y’a is that despite what my ex-wife, a jailer or two, my old probation officer, and grandma might tell y’a, I’m really not a bad guy. I’ve just been runnin’ through a string of unfortunate events, bad luck if you want to call it that, and it started all the way back when I was just a kid. It’s beginnin’ to wear me down.
It’s not my fault neither. Somewhere up there in heaven is an angel with a sick sense of humor, and he’s testin’ me to see if I got what it takes to make it right on through the Pearly Gates when my time comes. He’s got to be some kind of over-achiever angel because I don’t know anybody else that’s being tested like me. I know plenty of guys that are twice as bad as me that don’t have half the problems I have.
I’ve tried to live a good life though. I talked nice to my mama and always did what my daddy said. Heck, back in high school, I worked real hard and was All State Tackle from our school here in White Rock, Texas. I played tackle all four years; sophomore, then junior, then junior again, and then senior year.
At six feet two inches tall, two hundred fifty pounds and prob’ly less than ten percent body fat, I was the dude out there on that football field. They called me Loco-Motive because I just crashed over everybody like a crazy guy. It was fun.
Most of the teams we played were from little schools like us, and they suited up their little skinny guys ‘cause that’s all they had. The coaches would tell them, “You’re runnin’ backs and it’s your job to carry the football from wherever you catch it to the other side of the goal post. And don’t stop for nothin’ ‘til you get past the goal post. GOT IT?” and the coach would poke ‘em in the chest about ten times real hard while he was hollering at them. Most of those kids busted their asses tryin’ to please the coaches and their daddies and their mamas and some skinny girl with pigtails. But, most of ‘em, me and Catlow busted their asses and after we gave ‘em their first good hit, a lot of ‘em cried and went home and joined the science club.
I remember this one time, we were playin’ against Water Valley High, and this little skinny kid caught the football. He stood there lookin’ like somebody had just flicked a booger on him and he didn’t know how to get rid of it. Then he looked up and saw the LocoMotive blowin’ steam out his ears, bearin’ down on him, growlin’ real loud and you could of heard that kid suckin’ wind all the way out in the parking lot.
The Water Valley coach was goin’ crazy running up and down the side line yellin’ at booger kid and the kid finally started to run. He was pretty fast too.
I’m fast in a sprint, but if I can’t catch you in the first fifteen or twenty yards, I’m done, out of gas, ‘change my Energizers’ dead! So anyway, there was that little kid, runnin’ like the devil had jumped up out of hell and was chasing him, and I’m wearin’ down real quick. I finally got within’ hollerin’ distance of him, knowing I wasn’t going to catch him. He looked back and saw me and he caught some more speed and started pulling away from me. I yelled, “Get down, or I’m gonna kick your ass!”
I never touched him, but that kid hit the dirt like somebody had shot his legs right out from under him. He bounced a couple of times and finally just laid there, all curled up around the football like it was his Mega Bucks winning ticket. His coach ran out on the field and hollered at him, questioning him somethin’ about whether his mama’s mother and father were ever married, and talkin’ bad about fixin’ him so he’d never father a child if he didn’t get up and get tough real fast.
That poor kid laid there shakin’ in his cleats. I elbowed Catlow in the ribs and pointed at the kid and told him, “Hey, that kid’s mama’s gonna have more than grass stains to wash outta his uniform. There’s brown stuff on the back of his pants and the field ain’t muddy.” Catlow laughed real hard and punched Claude standing next to him and told him what I’d said. Claude dang near fell over laughin’.
With all that was going on out there on the field, it got real quiet in the stands for a minute and then the band decided to play somethin’, just to ease the tension I guess. I don’t know what they were playin’, and I don’t think anyone else did either. It just gave everybody something else wonder about.
There were only five kids in our band and that’s not much for a high school. For their field performance one time, they made a comma. Three of ‘em huddled together on the fifty yard line and made a dot. Then the other two marched up and kinda trailed off in an arc makin’ the tail on the comma, and they were playing “The Macarena.”
Five proud mamas jumped to their feet and wiped tears out of their eyes yellin’ to their darlings out there prancing around the same field where us guys had fought and left skin and blood. Our mama’s never cried except when we broke a play and brought shame on both sides of the whole family all the way back two or three generations or brought home our dirty, nasty smelling uniforms and socks and jock straps for them to wash.
Anyway, back to the game. The coaches all ran out on the field and got in each other’s face and hollered and poked each other in the chest for a few minutes and then the referee came up and blew his whistle and busted that up.
All that time, I was tryin’ to win some money from the other guys on our bench, bettin’ that skinny kid wouldn’t get back in the game, but none of ‘em would take my bet. Claude said while everybody was watchin’ the coaches hollerin’ and pokin’ each other, he’d seen the kid sneak back to the locker room and it wasn’t half time or anything. Science club got a new member that night I guess.
Right before I graduated, I was offered football scholarships to University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Christian University, and a few out of state schools, but like a fool, I fell in love at the beginning of my senior year and was the only guy at graduation that was there with his wife and son.
My boy, Taylor, watched his dad get his high school diploma. I loved him and my wife both with all my heart, and was busting with pride that night. But I never knew that all that fun down at the river after football games and school dances and at the drive-in movies in San Angelo was going to change my life from steak to ramen noodles overnight, and that wasn’t even the worst of it.
After graduation, while Catlow and Claude were out drinkin’ beer and shootin’ pool, I was working at the Fina station twelve or fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, and getting home after nine at night, tired and dirty and hungry and in bad need of some sweet lovin’.
Not being educated in the ways women think, or don’t think, I made a near fatal mistake one evening. On my way home I was thinkin’ maybe I’d hand over my paycheck and then we’d eat dinner and put the kids to bed early and then have some time to ourselves. I got real excited just thinking about the romantic possibilities. You know, lock the bedroom door alone time.
I walked in the house with a big grin on my face and my paycheck in my hand, and there she was. She was barefooted wearin’ dirty gray sweat pants and one of my old t-shirts that one of the kids had spit up on, all doubled over, groaning and complaining of those dang cramps again. She raised her eyes and growled at me and blamed me for everything that had gone wrong in her life starting all the way back to her conception and up to and including what she called her cramps and her bad hair days.
Well, deflated like a balloon that you’d blown it up real tight and then just let it go. I flew all over the room, bouncing off the ceiling and the walls making a pooting sound until, finally empty of all hope for an exciting night, my will to live went down in a fire storm that would have made the Hindenburg look like a cheap cigar. That’s when I told her that I had worse pains when I was playing football than any little cramp she might be having, and she just needed to quit whining and get into the kitchen and fix me and the kids some supper and I didn’t want to discuss it anymore.
I started feeling pretty stud when she smiled real nice and walked up to me like she was gonna kiss me, but instead she reached out and grabbed me down there and squeezed real hard and just kept squeezing the boys until I was finally down on both knees howling like a cat with its tail caught under a rocking chair. Then she gave ‘em a quick twist to the right like she was pluckin’ ripe peaches off a tree. That’s when I curled up on the floor and started begging her to shoot me. She laughed and let go and walked away saying, in a kinda snotty way, “I had more pain than that last time I had my cramps.” She wasn’t walkin’ toward the kitchen to fix any supper neither, but I sure didn’t call that to her attention to that fact. Me and the boys couldn’t handle another discussion with her that night. We’d been plucked!
It takes a long time to learn how survive being a husband, if you ever do. There outta be a Husband School you can go to or somethin’. You know, like football camp. But in the real world, learning to be a husband is all just on the job training.
I call that kind of training, “Learn by screwin’ up!” That’s a painful way to learn but you shouldn’t have to repeat a lesson. If you do, it’s your own dang fault and you deserve what you get in that second class, and I’m gonna guarantee y’a she’s going to give you a lesson you’ll never forget in that second time. And more’n likely, her mama’s gonna be there to make sure you pay attention and learn.
I tried to be a good husband. I just wasn’t very good at it, and I got real tired of eating jelly and biscuits for dinner when my Darling Darla changed the rules while I was at work or was in one of her moods. I never ate peach jelly though. The boys crawled up in my belly every time anyone mentioned peaches. Too many painful memories there, and I liked strawberry jelly just fine.
Despite her mood swings and, well just everything else I didn’t know about her before we got married, I still loved her. She was a pretty good wife and mama, but I think the kids just kinda wore her down. Those three kids came along in less than three years. My Darling Darla was like a guppy. As soon as she delivered a baby, it was like she had some sperm stored up and she just got pregnant again. I sure don’t remember being that active in the conception of the last two kids but maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, she finally convinced me to ‘get fixed’. Now that’s a story I’ll have to tell y’a later.
Finally, after five years of cramps and bad hair days and three kids, the magic was gone and she told me she’d had about all the fun she could stand being married to me. So, rather than try to change her mind, I started packin’ stuff in my new Dodge truck and that’s when she came bustin’ out of the double-wide, hair up in curlers and our three kids hanging off of her in all kinds of ways. She looked like a dang ‘possum with all her babies loaded up, ready to go somewhere.
Anyway, she started hollerin’ like she thought she was going to scare me, and I told her right then and there that I wasn’t scared of her and she just needed to get herself back in the house and hush up. That’s when she reached over and snatched her cell phone out of Tara’s little mouth and that made her bite her tongue so she set up a squall that you could of heard two blocks away. Darling Darla punched the speed dial number for her mama.
The boys jumped up in my belly, and I started backing down and apologizing as fast as I could and praying to God for forgiveness for every single sin I’d ever committed and even apologized to Him for terrorizing all those skinny football players for all those years. Anything! Just don’t let her mama come to my house.
She was five feet four and weighed maybe ninety two pounds. I never saw her that she didn’t have those pink, beer can size curlers in her hair and a cigarette with four inches of ashes on the end of it hanging off her thin, fire engine red bottom lip. It just stuck there in front of her brown teeth. When she talked, it sounded like someone had thrown a shovel full of gravel and a duck in a Briggs & Stratton cement mixer and ran it on slow speed. That cigarette hung there on her lip bobbing up and down and those ashes never fell off.
When her mama drove up in her twenty year old Lincoln Continental, I was standing on the porch trying to stay calm. She walked up to me and we stood toe to toe, both of us hollerin’ as loud as we could, breathing heavy and snot slingin’ mad. I told her, “Look, old lady, this is my house and my family and you just keep your lousy old ass out of our business!” The last thing I remember was seeing her head spin around about three times and her fist coming up from somewhere down on the porch.
When I regained consciousness, Taylor, our five year old son was sitting on the porch looking down at me. He’s my only friend in the family. Anyway, I pulled my right eye open, and Taylor was sittin’ there on the porch, pickin’ his teeth with a blade of grass and starin’ down at me laying there in the grass like a turtle on its back.
“Dang, dad. You musta flew six or ten feet in the air when Nana plugged her fist into your chin.”
I reached up and wiggled my jaw bone to see if it was broke, and it wasn’t but it sure hurt like it was. I rolled over and climbed up off the ground, brushed the grass of my clothes and sat on the porch beside Taylor. He heaved a heavy sigh and reached over and put his arm around my neck and offered me his blade of grass.
The door swung open and the screen door smashed against the wall, and my Darling Darla, my wife of five years, threw a couple of pairs of my Wranglers, my old boots that the soul on the right one flapped when I walked, three dirty shirts and some underwear and socks out on the porch. Now that’s not all the clothes I had, but it looked like it was all I was going to get. Maybe she was havin’ a bad hair day.
“That’s all your getting,” she yelled out the screen door. Little Tara was slung across her hip and even the kid, our three year old, shook her fist at me. Can you believe that? Shook her fist at her father! The man who made her. Well, made half of her anyway.
I started putting all that stuff in my new Dodge truck and she kicked the screen door open again and hollered, “Oh, no. That truck’s in my name. You’re not goin’ anywhere in that!”
“Now, honey, I gotta have a way to get to work and stuff so I can…”
“You can walk! That’s my truck!” and she pulled out her cell phone and started to call someone. I was afraid she was callin’ her mama to come back and finish me off.
I held my arms up like I was under arrest and backed away from the truck.
“Well, I’m gonna have to stay here until I find a place to live then.”
“Live on the street for all I care. Or in the storage room down at the Fina. I don’t care where you live. It’s just not gonna be here.” Then she slammed the door and the whole double-wide shook. Her cramps were going to destroy that mobile home before a tornado ever got around to it.
That made me mad, so I stomped up on the stairs and about the time I grabbed for the door knob, her mama jerked the door open from the inside. The devil incarnate stood there in the door of MY house, burnin’ a hole through me with those hell-fire eyes. I stood there for a second, bugged eyed and slack jawed, quivering like a bowl of Jello in an earthquake, and I think I might of peed a little bit.
I jumped back and tripped off the top step and landed flat on my back in the yard. She walked out on the porch and hissed at me. I came up on my arms and legs with my belly stickin’ way up in the air and kicked up some serious dust when I did the backward crab walk all the way to the street.
She leaned over the porch rail and spit a wad of tobacco juice on the zinnias, walked back in the house and kicked the door shut. I heard both of ‘em in there laughin’.
I grabbed my clothes out of the truck and found a couple of Walmart bags in the trash can out back, stuffed my clothes and boots in them and started walkin’ down the street.
I looked back once, and Taylor was standing on the porch, hanging on to a post, leaning out toward the street with his hand up like the bill of a cap, watching me walk away. He sure looked sad.
I felt real bad leaving him there, but at the time I didn’t have a choice. I mouthed the words, “I’ll be back for you,” and waved real big, but he didn’t wave back.
The Lord knows I’d rather move into a rattlesnake den and make love to a porcupine than have to stay with grandma, and I just couldn’t understand why He’d make me have to do it. But, lookin’ back on it now, I think that over-achievin’ guardian angel of mine had more to do with it than the Lord did. I’m still wonderin’ if the angel wrote down all he did to me in his monthly report.
Before I get to her house, I need to tell you some stuff about grandma.
She was a tiny, wrinkled up, hot-tempered, red headed, Irish, bible thumpin’ Baptist woman that didn’t tolerate beer drinking and pool playing and hanging out in bars, and she really didn’t approve of extra-marital female companionship. In other words, she hated my life.
She looked so little I could prob’ly have picked her up and let her sit in the palm of my hand, but some say she could have grabbed me up and tossed me around like a sack of potato chips if I made her mad. I wasn’t gonna put that to the test. I’d had enough abuse from my Darling Darla and was still walkin’ a little bow legged from the last time she got hold of my boys.
But grandma’s was the only place I knew to go and surely she’d take me in if I promised to be good. I’d prob’ly have to sign a contract though.
My plan was for it to be just temporary. But, down deep in my heart, I knew it was going to have to be permanent. That’s just what that dang over-achieving guardian angel of mine wanted. And that’s what he got.
The sun was goin’ down behind the hills and also on my life when I turned off highway and started walking up the dirt road that led to her farmhouse. I stopped under an old pecan tree, bowed my head and said a long, tearful prayer.
Then I walked up on the porch and knocked on her door.