I got out of bed bright and early. I had my chicory coffee out on the front porch with my hounds. I have seven dogs. House dogs. I have three dachshunds, a basset, a shih-tzu, a border collie and a coonhound. I also have a cat. She runs the show. I was sitting on the swing, a blues station tuned in on the radio and tossing a ball for the dogs. I was praying to take the dread out of my heart. I was a mad woman today. Getting up to go and refill my coffee, I grabbed my cell phone. The only person who could truly pull me out of my funk was my Mother. Ivy Arden Addison was a pistol. She had been married five times and was the hottest ticket in Meridian. She was seventy years old, looked fifty and acted forty, on a good day. She still worked full time at the local beauty shop. She had worked there since the year before I was born. Hairspray and gossip were like home to me. Ivy loved clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry. She dressed better that Jackie Kennedy. She had five closets in her house and they were all stuffed full with her clothes. She also had about three hundred pairs of shoes. Wren and Ivy were best friends. They loved each other more than anything, but the shoes and clothes sealed the deal.
Ivy picked up on the first ring. “Hi! What are you doing this hot and sticky morning?”
“Packing. I am coming home for a couple of days. Webb called and Delilah shot herself in the head and Dax has asked me to come home. Park and his girlfriend are already there, they are staying at Webbs.”
“Well then, I guess I’ll change the sheets in grandma’s room.”
“That’s it? Really?” exasperated, I went looking for my cigarettes
. No I don’t smoke. I just keep some around in case I need some. I walked out to the well house and stuck my hand inside the door. I kept an old Donny Osmond lunch box that I stole from a kid when I was in fourth grade in there. It had cigarettes, a lighter and a wad of cash.
“Well, I don’t want to set you off. You know how you are” Clearly mother was trying to ‘handle’ me. I hated that shit. Everyone acts like I am so high strung. Dammit!
“Dammit Mom!! I need to have a fit.”
“Okay then! What in the hell are you coming here to put yourself through that for? You’re just asking for it! That whole family is nothing but a pile of snakes in the grass and you’re going to voluntarily step right into it. I don’t know why you do this crap!” Ivy said crap. If she says ‘crap’ or ‘damn’, she is pissed. Ivy never cusses.
“Dax asked me to. I am coming for him. He’d do the same for me.” I was going to cry. I hated to cry. I hated more that she was right.
“Would he? Who all is coming?”
“Just Wren and I. We are leaving in the morning. I am having my Xanax filled today. I’ve already called Dr Kepner. And I am bringing the Camero. I don’t want to hear about how it’s a death car. I like it and I like how fast it goes. So you just hush before you even start.”
“Whatever. What do you want from the grocery?” She was giving in way to easily. I’d hear about all of this when I was in her living room and couldn’t hang the phone up.
“Chicken salad and fruit. I want a sugar cream pie and Wren will want ice cream and kettle chips.”
“That’s about what I thought. Gene’s is open. We will go get a hotdog when you get here. That would cheer anyone up.” This brought a smile to my face. Gene’s is a hotdog stand that has been there since before I was born. They have the best damn coney dogs in the world, I guess. Their root beer compares to none and their onion rings are to die for. I was going to have to bring my fatass underwear, the ones that suck all of me in. I can’t help it. Gene’s is my favorite.
Hanging up, I felt a bit better. Knowing that through all the crazy that was about to take place, I could run back to Ivy’s and hide. Thank God.
I had to go upstairs in the attic to get the suitcases. This is my favorite space in the house. Brick’s father started remodeling this for Sissy, Brick’s mother, several years ago. It was now half new, half old, you could see the sparkle had just started to shine, then dulled.. Brick’s parents were killed in a plane accident twenty years ago, they were flying home from Allen, Texas, where they kept a farm that we now own but never visit. Brick pays a family to maintain it and we send them great chunks of money to take care of it all. When we first moved into the home, I wanted to make this space mine but Brick wouldn’t have it. He wanted it shut off just like the farm in Allen.
The room is huge, there are windows all across the back, which overlook the backyard and lake. The ceilings and walls are covered in old barn material and the floor is ceder. It smells of mothballs up here, moth balls and bat leavings. There are bats up here.
I freaking hate bats. Can you think of anything more nasty? My Grandmother Arden always told the story of her mother getting one stuck in her hair and they couldn’t get it out. Someone had to cut the live, squealing thing from her hair and kill it. Oh My God! I would lose my mind. My grandmother used to find them upstairs in her trash cans in the bedrooms. She would call me and say with much disgust, “Ruth Grey!! I found another bat in my belfry! It was dead too!! Where in the world are they coming from?”, as if I had a chart that traced some sort of crazy nocturnal pattern of suicidal bats. It creeped me out to stay upstairs in her home. Now Mother lives there. Ironically enough, she called me last week and told me a black thing flew through her living room and into her kitchen. “I thought it was a bat but then I thought it was a bird. It was really black and it was really fast. It went so fast, I couldn’t really tell what it was. It unnerved me terribly. I got my broom after it but it kept flying from room to room really fast. I finally got it to fly out the door by waving the broom and yelling at it. The whole time I kept thinking, where did it come from? I mean, I was sitting here and hadn’t been anywhere all day. So it came from in the house!” Holy shit. This is where I am going to stay.
Harrison put about twenty traps in the attic to try to resolve the situation. They did nothing. I put rat poisoning up here, certain that’s what was going to work. Sayar’s cat ate it. Jesus. That cat bawled and squalled. I took it to the vet and Doc Baker, patting Sayar on the shoulder, said it appeared the cat had been poisoned. Holy shit, Sayar threw himself on Doc Baker’s linoleum floor and called me a murderer about a hundred times and I felt like a turd for a month. Sayar took to calling me Lizzie Borden and Lucretia Borgia every chance he got. Last fall, we were at the Methodist Women’s luncheon/coat drive and he called me a murderer when I wouldn’t let him have a fourth cup of cocoa. I hissed at him that if he didn’t shut up, I was going to poison him. I got a lot of looks from all the big hat ladies, but I didn’t hear another word about that damn cat from Sayar.
I came to the attic prepared today. I found a badmitten racket in Finn’s room and I found a red can of hairspray with the words Big Sexy written on it. I can only assume this is Princess Pigpen’s. I figure as rigid as it holds her hair, it will paralyze a bat on contact. I have my pant legs tucked into my rain boots and a turtleneck on . I found a swatch of mosquito netting left over from a porch project that I fastened into a shroud to protect my face and hair. Hair bobs around the wrists of my shirt completed my ensemble. I crept up the stairs and flicked the light on, wincing.
I quickly found the suitcases and pushed the ones I needed with my toe, scooting them around to where I wanted them. I was going to have to make several trips up and down the stairs without my weapons to get all of these to the first floor. That scenario gave me goosebumps. I went over to the long row of windows that overlooked the backyard. There below, perfectly placed, was Wren’s trampoline. I looked at the suitcases and made my decision. I elected to lay the racket down, determining that the hair spray would pose more of a threat to a bat. The way it cemented Pigpen’s hair, it would stop a bat mid flight. I opened the biggest window and looked down, gauging the distance I would have to throw the suitcase to hit the trampoline. I picked up the smallest case and hurled it out the window. It landed square in the middle of the trampoline. I proceeded to throw each of the bags down. When I got to the last one, the biggest one, I picked it up. By this time, I was a hot and sweaty mess. My hair was falling out of my hat and was clinging to my face in great sticky clumps, my sleeves had worked their way loose of the hair bobs that secured them and I was wide eyed from fear of the bats. I was just tipping the case over the edge when Harrison came running out into the back yard. He was looking up, shielding his eyes. “Oh Lord Miss Grey! What the hell are you doin up there?”. I got tickled. Dammit. I pee when I get tickled. I threw the last suitcase out, missing the trampoline entirely, slammed the window shut and locked it. I picked up my racket and stork-ran towards the stairs. Oh my God!! I heard something. Holy Crap! The terror of ‘what if’s’ took over completely. I ran then. I tripped on the stairs and went sprawling down them. I looked like I was on a slip-n-slide with no water.I was peeing now. Not just a tinkle. Peeing. I slid down the first flight, hit my head on the banister and tumbled down the second flight. I landed on a wood floor that was way more than a hundred years old. I continued to empty what was left in my bladder. There was no use even trying to stop it now. When Harrison got back around in the house, he found me sitting in a puddle of piss, dressed like a bee keeper, holding a badminton racket and wait, where the hell was the Big Sexy? No freakin way was I going back up there now. Screw it.
“Well shit. Harrison, are you just going to stand there or what?” Harrison scurried over and put his hands under my arm pits. My rubber boots couldn’t find purchase on the urine soaked floor but Harrison finally got me up. Rubbing his forehead in the exasperated way he does sometimes when I irritate him. He asked, “Why can’t you ever just ask for some damn help?”
“Don’t you cuss at me Harrison Moss. You’re in my house.”
“Yeah, yeah. Git on outta here so I can clean up this mess.”
Under his breath I could hear him mumbling. I strained to hear, I loved Harrison’s tirades. They were just too quiet. Unfortunately, he did all of his yelling in a whisper. I went into the mud room and stripped down. I put my stinky clothes in the washer and and grabbed one of the tee shirts I kept for the boys.
I ran upstairs to get dressed. I threw on old jeans and I kept on the work shirt. My old Birkenstocks would do for know. Macon called these my Jesus shoes. I couldn’t live without them. I started downstairs to begin putting things in order for my trip, my foot hit the third step or so and Miss Pigpen came running out of the big hall bath having a hysterical fit.
“Miss Grey! I can’t find my hairspray! I can’t find it anywhere! It’s a red can with Big Sexy written on it! I am not leaving with out it! I will not go! I mean it! I. Will. Not. Go. This will be the first time Webb sees me! What will he think?? Oh my God!”
Clenching my fists, I replied, through gritted teeth,”He will think you have huge tits. He will ogle your big tits the whole time you are there. He won’t even notice you have hair. Now, I want you to shut the hell up. I mean it. Not one more word. Every one is stressed and no one gives two shits about your red can of sex. Get your ass upstairs and get your shit together.”
Starting to say something, I held my hand up my hand, turned around and walked off. I could hear her stomping off. Horny little cow. She had to go. Now.
I spent the next three hours running from the third floor bedrooms to the first floor laundry room and back trying to gather everything. I had to wash and iron and even remove spots from Wren’s dress I wanted her to wear to the funeral. It was navy blue and had a sweet little Peter Pan collar. At some point, she had dripped chocolate ice cream on the collar and hung the dress back in her closet. Most likely when I threatened to turn off the cable in her room if she didn’t clean it. I made a sticky note and put it on the bathroom mirror, reminding myself to spank her when she came in from outside.
When I finally finished taking everything out of my closet, bureau and dresser that I thought I might want to take, there were about a hundred and thirty pieces of clothing on the bed. Holy shit Grey, you’re going to be gone four or five days. I began eliminating. I broke it down into going’s on. Slouching around mom’s house, hanging with Betsy, Lucy and Mikie and (my three best friends), dinners, funeral , days at dad’s cleaning, extra clothing for unforeseen shit. Forget it! I was taking it all. I got two garment bags from the closet and the suitcase that missed the trampoline. I meticulously folded and hung everything. I filled my little train case with all of my toiletries and things that would make me look not quite as old. I paced around for twenty minutes wondering if I’d forgotten anything. Oh hell, if I did, I’d go to Marshall’s or Dillard’s and buy it.
Now to tackle Wren’s. This would be even harder. I wore black. Sometimes grey. If I was feeling froggy, I might throw some navy on. Wren wanted leopard stripes and sparkles and glitter. She had her own ideas about what matches and what doesn’t. I know nothing about the fashion intricacies that go on in this birdy’s head. I take a few things from her closet that I know are her favorites and a few things that I will insist on. Sometimes her outfits are a little flamboyant for public, and we live in the south, where ladies where men’s pants and huge hats. Frequently at the same time. I get her black and white polka dotted bag for her shoes. Wren loves shoes. The first time Mother and I took her to Shoe Carnival she was just two. She stood just inside the door and clasped her hands together, staring in wonderment. She said only two words, “Oh! Shoes!” I picked out eight pair. Surely that would hold her. I got her Fancy Nancy dolls and books and anything else I thought she might deem a necessity. I laid an outfit out on Wren’s bed for her to slip on in the morning. Feeling as if I had this job fairly tied down, I decided to sit on the porch for a bit with some tea.
I went downstairs and into the kitchen and stopped dead. Every so often, I wish I could act like a four year old. At this particular moment, I would have thrown myself on the tile floor and kicked my heels and pulled my hair and wailed. Finn and Sayar had company. That may be an understatement. There were, at first glace, at least twenty kids in my kitchen. They were sitting Indian style on the counter, backwards and forwards in the chairs, two kids were under the table, tying what seemed to be firecrackers to Wren’s Dora the Explorer kite. Ice cream, the cake I baked for Odette Wilson’s family to welcome the new baby and all of my Klondike bars were all gone. Wrappers, dirty spoons and my crumb filled cake plate were all that was left. The back door was open, letting all the cool air out and two of the boys had Macon’s bras on, I’m guessing they took out of the laundry room where I had hung them to dry. I snatched those first.
“Get out! Get the hell outta my house or I’m gettin my gun! Oh no! Not you two!” I pointed a finger, now stuck to a Klondike wrapper, at my asshole offspring. “You two dipshits get you asses back here and clean up this mess or I’m going to get something to beat on you with!!”
As the kids started to scatter, all of them laughing and poking fun at my boys, I picked up all of Macon’s under things and took them into the laundry room. I was no more than two steps in,when I heard the door slam shut behind me. I whirled around and ran at the door, banging on it. It wouldn’t budge. I started screaming obscenities and threatening to pull tender and much needed body parts off of my overgrown, undereducated spoiled children. I kicked and pulled and screamed until I was horse. I could hear the four wheelers start and peal away. Shit. They were so dead. And they didn’t even freaking care. Dammit!!
About an hour later, Harrison found me laying on a pallet I made out of some old quilts and towels I had stuck up on a shelf. I was sweaty again and thirsty as hell. I wanted to cry. I may have. Who the hell knows. Harrison peeked his head in and raised his eyebrows. “Don’t ask!” I warned him. I took the knife he had in his hand. One of the idiots had wedged in the door to keep me in. I tucked it in my back pocket. They were toast.
Later that evening, right before supper, I stolled outside as Park was fastening his bike onto the bracket on the back of his jeep. Dumb and Dumber were working their way down the driveway with grade school scissors, trimming the grass. This was their punishment for locking me in the laundry room. This is the one they knew about. The punishment they hadn’t seen yet was the picture I posted of them on Facebook. They woke up late last week and Brick was yelling about grounding and beheading if they didn’t hurry up. So they jumped in the shower, together. I took a picture. I thought I’d put it in their scrapbook. At the time, I just thought it was sweet. Today, I thought it was revenge. I tagged both boys and several of their friends. I currently had two hundred and nineteen likes! I’d be in Mississippi before they had a clue.
“I’ll call you when we get there, Momma. I hate things like this. I’m sorry you have to go.”
“I’ll be fine. You take care of you.” Rubbing my oldest child’s shoulders and giving him all of the obligatory safety precautions, he jumped into his jeep. I heard Clarissa start something in her whiniest voice, my son cranked a Dave Matthews CD and started on his trip. Smiling, I was very proud.
I turned to head back into the house when a great caterwauling began. Wren must have seen the clothes I laid out for her. Sigh. Macon was already up there with her by the time I appeared and had already negotiated a compromise.
“Momma, Wren is going to wear the jean shorts with the blue ribbons and her pink sparkly top. She also gets to wear her hawkin shoes with the understanding that she has to slip on her Keds when y’all stop anywhere.” Winking and nodding her head, Macon was pleading with me to let go and just accept. Wren’s ‘hawkin’ shoes were her princess shoes that were plastic and three sizes to big. She named them that because of the noise she makes when she walks.
I was too tired to fight. Sighing, I patted Wren’s head, “You win. Kiss your sister thank you. Macon, come fix supper with me. I haven’t seen you all day. I’ll show you the mean, horrible thing I did to the boys.” I laughed and headed toward the kitchen.