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  • Family commitments

    2011 - 07.25

    Because I’m swamped with family commitments and working on a new book deadline, I’m reduced to posting a chapter from Saturday Night Cocoa Fudge. But then again, it could be worse.

    The Day of the Dead Rabbit

    Papaw was a typical man in the deep south in the 1950s. He worked in a coal mine, watched wrestling on television, went hunting with his dog and a rifle and hung out in beer joints as often as possible, which was however much Mamaw allowed before she sent one of their sons out to find him. Whenever he got home there would be a terribly loud argument. Lord how Mamaw hated it when Papaw drank that beer.
    Because he died when I was young I don’t remember much about my grandfather. I do remember how yellow his fingertips were from smoking all those Pall Malls-unfiltered. I remember how he raked up a bunch of weeds and burned them in the backyard, not realizing he’d gotten poison ivy mixed in with it all. I remember how his eyes swelled shut and his lips were the size of the Goodyear blimp for several days. I remember his wearing suspenders over his plaid flannel shirts. I remember he could curse a blue streak, he could say cruel things to his kids but he was never mean or hateful to me. And I remember the day of the dead rabbit.
    It was a Monday but Papaw was now retired so he didn’t have to worry about climbing down into the mines anymore. But it was summer; he’d already pulled all the weeds and burned them, making sure there were no poisonous plants of any kind mixed in, so he had nothing important to occupy his time. So on a hot summer day when the starch your wife so thoughtfully ironed into your shirt melted under the onslaught of humidity and you had nothing to do…where do you go? That’s right—to the beer joint! All you have to do is lie convincingly to your wife so you can slide out of the house.
    “Mae, I’m goin’ huntin’.”
    “Jeb, you better come up with a better story than that. There ain’t any animal in season anywhere in this country. What you mean is you’re gonna go hunt beer. You don’t need a gun for that, Jeb.”
    “I ain’t gonna go to no beer joint, Mae! Dammit to hell!”
    “Stop that cursing in front of Glora Lynn, Jeb Housley!”
    “Aw, you’d make a preacher cuss, woman! I’m leavin’!”
    “If you leave to go to a beer joint, don’t bother comin’ back ’cause I won’t let you in the door.”
    “You damned well better let me in the door, this is my house.”
    “Who takes care of this house, Jeb Housley? And who made all the payments when you were out of work? If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have nowhere to hang that ugly hat of yours and you just best remember that!”
    Without another word Papaw stormed out the front door, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. Mamaw didn’t bother to yell at HIM for doing it, either.
    I forgot all about Papaw being in trouble the rest of the day. Gail and I made mud pies and decorated them with pretty purple clover flowers. She dared me to eat one of the blossoms and I enjoyed the look of revulsion on her face when I obliged her by not only chewing the flower but opening my mouth, sticking out my tongue to illustrate just what ground up clover flowers looked like before I swallowed it. She then dared me to eat a big ol’ fat worm crawling next to my leg. Before I was forced into a 1950s version of Fear Factor and have to prove my superiority by actually biting into that worm I was stopped by the squealing of brakes then the slamming of a car door.
    I stood up to peer over the hedge and saw a yellow car stopped at the top of our steps. I wondered if one of Miz Bennett’s cats had run in front of the car and hoped I wouldn’t have to go tell her, again, that one of her beloved pets had met an untimely death beneath the wheels of yet another car.
    I scampered up the steps just in time to see Papaw slide from the back seat of the taxi. He fell to the street, laughing, right next to the twisted body of a formerly beautiful rabbit. He managed to get to his feet, finally, brush himself off and throw his money in the open window of the cab.
    “Hey buddy, wait a minute! Don’t run over that rabbit again. I’m gonna take it in the house; give it to the ol’ lady. She can make me some rabbit stew.”
    Because he hadn’t noticed me, it was easy to run behind the hedge and hide. Not only did I NOT want to see him pick up that dead bunny rabbit, I didn’t want to watch him drag it in the house. On second thought, maybe it’d be fun to see how Mamaw acted when he handed it to her.
    Gail was less than subtle when getting my attention.
    “Glora, where you going? Get over here right now. I got that worm under a cup so it can’t get away. You’re gonna eat it, ain’t you?”
    “Shhh, I’ll be back in a minute. I gotta go do something.”
    “Hurry it up, then…ewwww, Jeb, what is that you got there? Is that a dead animal?”
    “Yep, it’s a rabbit.”
    “La’, Miz Mae’s gonna be mad at you…”
    There must be something blissful about dead rabbits because Papaw just smiled and kept walking. I was hidden in the back bedroom, closest to the kitchen, when he encountered his wife.
    “Oh dear Lord! Jeb, what is that you have in your hand?”
    “It’s a rabbit, for rabbit stew. Look how big and plump it is. Yessss, there’s some might fine meat on that one, there is. Now ain’t you glad I went huntin’ today?”
    I didn’t have to see her face to know the expression she wore.
    “Huntin’? Do I look as crazy as you are, Jeb Housley? Law, I can smell the beer clear over here, across the room! Where’d you get that rabbit, you ol’ fool?”
    He sputtered, stuttered and cursed but Papaw couldn’t seem to recollect exactly where it was he DID get that rabbit.
    Always the helpful granddaughter, I dashed into the kitchen to help clear up Papaw’s confusion.
    “It was in the road, Mamaw. The cab that Papaw was ridin’ in run it over. It was dead as four o’clock when Papaw fell out of the back seat. It ain’t his fault the rabbit’s dead, Ma’am.”
    Papaw leaned over to make a swipe at me with his hand but lost his balance and fell to the floor with a decisive thud. He just lay there, looking up at his wife. Mamaw stepped over him, paused long enough to give a not so gentle kick at his backside, then went outside to sit on the porch. I heard Papaw’s loud drunken snores before Mamaw eased the screen door closed behind us.
    She shook her head and would’ve been angry if Papaw could’ve seen the slight smile on her face.
    “Glora, c’mere hurry!”
    Mamaw stood quickly to tell Gail to stop shouting.
    “Jeb just got in and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up, Gail.”
    “Yeah, I saw how drunk he was, Miz Mae. Mommy says she don’t know why you put up with him…”
    “Shut up, Gail Tidwell before I give you a whipping. Glora Lynn, you’ve played enough today. Time to come in and get ready for supper.”
    Gail protested mightily but I merely nodded as if in weary agreement. I was, in fact, thrilled to be told I couldn’t play with Gail anymore today. I’d seen that big ol’ fat worm crawling from beneath that stained coffee cup.

    To buy this book: http://tinyurl.com/3aw86l9
    (Simply go to my homepage, www.gloriateague.com, to see what all I’ve written)

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