Monday, October 17, 2005

A bedtime story

This is a short story that I wrote a little bit (like a couple of years) ago. It's not great literature, but I had fun writing it. It's a little long, and I hope the formatting is readable, since I can't link it, seeing as how I don't have a dedicated page to link it to , but anyway, hope you like it (and if not, you don't have to tell me. But you can, and I will try to take it as graciously as possible.)

How Moses Saved My Life

“I talked to Daddy again last night,” I drawled sleepily as Moses peeled back the covers. He crawled over me carefully, dismounting from our small bed with a nimble half-leap, even though he’s a right big guy. He looked down at me and smiled.

“That’s great, sugar,” he replied as he kissed the top of my head, the only part of my body that I hadn’t already pulled back underneath the covers.

“Yep,” I murmured, as I drifted in-between sleep and morning, still hovering in a syrupy fog. I’d have to tell Moses what Daddy had to say about the oil pan on the tractor. Daddy’s a mechanic, and he likes helping with those things.

Daddy also likes Moses. And Moses likes Daddy, or what he knows of Daddy, which is mostly from my talking about him. Moses doesn’t seem to mind the fact that I talk to Daddy frequently, a three or four times a week at least, getting advice about everything from my cooking to the baby to the leaking oil pan on the tractor. A lot of men might have minded, or thought it was a little excessive, or maybe thought that I was a Daddy’s girl and a little crazy on top of all that. Especially since Daddy has been dead for fifteen years.

Moses padded quietly back into the bedroom and sat down next to me. The aroma of good strong coffee lured my body into an upright position almost against its will.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” Moses whispered as he handed me my cup of coffee, perfectly sweet and milky, just the way I love it. How romantic. He is so good to me. No wonder Daddy likes him so much.

Daddy has special reason to be so fond of Moses, considering he did save my life and all.

There I was, minding my own business, just walking down Main Street one beautiful but already terribly muggy July morning in Branton’s Leg, which is where we live, and where I was born, and which is a very, very small town. We have no stoplight, just a big stop sign in the middle of town in the middle of the road, which some people find a little off-putting, but boy, it does make you slow down. I tell you about this stop sign because it is a major factor in the life-threatening conditions from which Moses so valiantly rescued me and which cemented his good favor with Daddy from the very beginning of our acquaintance.

So anyway, there I was, just strolling down Main Street, not walking fast and certainly not jogging, since I was born with bad knees and have never been able to jog or really do anything stressful on the legs, and that is just fine, since I don’t have the best coordination or the interest or patience necessary to really apply oneself to an athletic endeavor. My mind was out for a stroll, too, which isn’t unusual, since I’ve always been a dreamer, as Daddy would say wistfully and my teachers would say disparagingly.

My mind was wandering so far out that I didn’t hear the squealing of the tires on Mr. Rodney Dunn’s baby blue ’64 Mustang convertible as it slammed on breaks in a belated attempt to slow down so as not to hit the big stop sign that we have in the middle of the road here in the middle of town. That car skidded for about fifteen feet, which seems like a long ways unless you’re in a car going 40 miles an hour and you need to stop real quick and your car definitely does not have anti-lock breaks.

Fifteen feet certainly was not enough room for Mr. Rodney Dunn’s baby blue ’64 Mustang convertible. It ran up the side of the decorative grassy knoll that the big stop sign was set in, ran right over the pretty little petunias that Miss Opal Mae Pritchard plants there every spring, and hit the bottom of the sign just right (or just wrong, if you ask me) so that instead of bending up and falling over, it popped right out of the ground, flew back over the length of the car, and landed not 2 feet in front of me on the sidewalk. This event sure woke me up, and rather rudely at that.

In fact, what it really did was get my dander up. Now, I am a very nice person. Too nice, maybe. And very quiet. I hardly ever get good and riled up. But having my person threatened with imminent injury all because some idiotic 50-year-old drunk playboy couldn’t remember that for the last twenty years, there’s been a big damn stop sign in the middle of the road in the middle of town because he was too drunk at seven o’clock in the morning while I was out for a quiet morning stroll before the weather got too hot and the townspeople with their incessant chattering and sideways glances emerged to look at me strangely and titter about my abnormal height and even more abnormal silence - well, that just pushed me over the edge with absolutely no warning. Maybe it was the humidity.

Whatever it was (Daddy would say it was the devil, with a wicked grin), it caused me to recover from the shock of it all rather quickly and light upon Mr. Rodney Dunn like a duck on June bug. A real mean, nasty duck. That poor stupid drunk man hadn’t even staggered from his car yet, hadn’t even opened up his door before I was over there, scrambling up the decorative grassy knoll, right through Miss Pritchard’s pansies and up to his car. I leaned down and beat on the driver’s side window, screaming like a banshee. I don’t know what was coming out of my mouth, but Moses said later it sure wasn’t words. Maybe it was the devil.

When Mr. Rodney Dunn didn’t respond, I took it upon myself to yank open his car door and pull him out by his collar. Mr. Rodney Dunn was a big man, well, bigger than me at least, and I’m a fairly big girl (big in the tall sense, not so much in the wide sense, although I’m not skinny, but I’m certainly not fat or even big-boned, just not delicate and petite like the rest of the women in our family.) But I had superhuman strength, or superhuman righteous indignation, anyway, and he slid right out of the car and onto the grassy knoll. I stood over him with my hands on my hips and nudged him not too lightly in the ribs with my sandal.

“What in the hell are you doing, you stupid %*%$## drunk?”

I don’t know what other cuss words I said because Moses wouldn’t tell me, not because he didn’t want to foul my virgin ears but because he didn’t want to embarrass me by reminding me what horrible things I called Mr. Rodney Dunn, words I’m not even supposed to know, and in front of half the town, no less, since Moses and most everyone else that lived on Main Street had heard the crash and was standing outside on their porches watching the festivities. Daddy would have told me, but every time I thought to bring it up (it’s hard to remember these things in your dreams, you know) he would start to tell me and then he’d get to thinking about it and start laughing so hard that he couldn’t talk. And I’d get so mad at him laughing at me that I would wake up myself up with the pouting.

So anyway, there I was, in the middle of the decorative grassy knoll, standing over Mr. Rodney Dunn, calling him unspeakable things, nudging him from time to time with the end of my sandal, and him just laying there like a bloated dead mule, when up runs Parker Jean Dailey. She was Mr. Rodney Dunn’s girlfriend, well, that week anyway, since he liked variety in his life. She was full of bright hopes for their love, certain that this time will be different, certain she will be the one that finally catches and keeps hold of this slippery little bachelor that’s worth so much money. Maybe she was thinking that she could outrun him and pin him down, since she was considerably younger than him. She was my age, which was twenty-five then, to his fifty-something, not that there is anything at all wrong with that. May-December relationships can be very rewarding, just ask my mama, who was nearly thirty years younger than my daddy and she married him not for his money, because he was a middle-class mechanic, but for his ‘erudite charm, dapper good looks and other grand manly attributes,’ as she told me on my wedding day with a wink. That is something I happily could have gone to the grave without knowing about my daddy, but what can you do?

So Parker Jean comes running up, hands a-flapping like she was getting set to take off into the wild blue yonder, squealing so loud it made me stop my screaming and turn and look.

“Oh, my poor little Rodney baby! Get away from him! Get away from my Rodney baby, you creepy little freak!” she screeched, pushing me out of the way, causing me to trip and fall face first onto the grassy knoll, into a mud slick created by the skidding tires of the baby blue ’64 Mustang, my waist length, natty, blond hair splayed out around the head of Mr. Rodney Dunn, right as he opened his mouth and threw up what appeared to be lentil soup.

It was all too much for me. I nearly had been killed by a rampaging drunk, I had been slandered in front of all of Main Street, I had been pushed down into the mud, and now, I had been puked on. And Parker Jean was responsible for three out of four, which were bad odds for her.

I tossed my head, splattering vomit all over Parker Jean, who was kneeling at the side of Mr. Rodney Dunn, patting his head like she was Florence Nightingale or some such nonsense. She made a little noise of disgust, which was quickly followed by a scream of horror as I leapt over the head of Mr. Rodney Dunn and right on top of her.

I straddled her ample bosom, grabbed a big handful of her impossibly jet-black air, and began methodically pounding her head into the grassy knoll. It was strangely soothing, and I soon got into a comfortable rhythm. I might have killed her, and then been arrested, followed by a jury trial by my peers, who already thought I was an odd duck, and undoubtedly convicted due to the testimony of 50 credible witnesses, all of whom were standing on their porches watching the entire incident take place (but not interfering, mind you), and sentenced to certain death for first degree murder as everyone would say that I was so calm about the whole matter that I likely had been planning it for sometime and that I never liked Parker Jean anyway (which was true, but it didn’t mean I wanted to kill her). This would have been my sorry fate if Moses had not intervened.

I didn’t even know someone had come up behind me, as I was so into my work at that point, but I suddenly had the sensation of levitating above the scene. I froze, puzzled. My fingers uncurled and Parker Jean’s head fell back with a soft thud into the muddy indention it had created during my pummeling. A strong and binding force (that incidentally smelled like fresh mown grass) enveloped me. A deep voice whispered in my ear.

“Sugar, you aren’t going to be able to beat any sense into her, so you might as well stop now.”

That’s pure Moses. He doesn’t ever get upset, even under dire circumstances like these. He makes quiet observations and precise little jokes, which is why Mama likes him as much as Daddy does. Plus his dapper charm. I haven’t told Mama about his grand manly attributes, because frankly, that is none of her business.

And that is how Moses saved my life. Instead of going to the electric chair, I got to go home. Carried by Moses, even, because I think he was afraid if he put me down, I would run back over and start beating Parker Jean, who was still passed out from the shock of seeing the quietest girl in town turn into a raging madwoman. She got over it and suffered no discernible damage to her cranium (although Dr. Peacock did tell Moses later that it was a good thing the ground was soft or else Parker Jean would have been a bloody mess and by the way, he’d advise him not to make me angry, since you know it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Moses told me this with the cutest little evil grin on his face, like he was going to bust a gut trying not to laugh, ‘cause he knew that would make me mad. Which is more than I can say for Daddy. I thought it was good of Moses to restrain himself for my sake.)

No one in town ever brought up this incident in front of me, I think because they were probably afraid I might snap and jump them like I had Parker Jean. Bettie Sue Dimmesdale made the mistake of bringing it up to my mother at the beauty parlor, saying I had seemed like such a nice girl, not the type to try and beat a poor young woman like Parker Jean into a bloody pulp. My mother countered that Parker Jean had it coming to her, calling someone else a nasty name when she was a money-grubbing little slut shacking up with the biggest drunk in the Tri-County area. Well, Bettie Sue shut up real quick and no one ever mentioned it to my mother again.
I don’t talk about it much. I haven’t thought to bring it up to Daddy in a while, since I enjoy our conversations so much I don’t want to wake up from them. Moses doesn’t remind me of it, either, but when someone asks me what’s the most romantic thing he’s ever done for me, I tell them. Moses saved my life.


Blogger MaddieHope said...

Okay, the format sucks. I tried to format it in the editor, but I guess the whole 'copy & paste' thing doesn't work that way. But it should, damn it.

10:05 PM  

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