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My mother usually chose the dinner hour to express her thoughts on a hard days work. Dinner was served on wooden trays while we all sat on the couch, TV blaring in the background. Foil tray instant meals with plenty of salt and gravy were her specialty. If my mother did cook, it was spam loaf with powdered mashed potatoes. I imagine, now that I look back on those days, that it must be quite difficult to cook while you’re drunk, so just the fact that she mastered the skill of placing the TV dinners in the oven without burning herself or the house, was good enough for me.
The discussions my parents had over the dinner hour were, more often than not, tainted but colorful views on our small town and the perilous lives trapped within. With each highball of Jack Daniels she poured, my mother would continue her series of the most well pronounced slurs this side of the Mississippi. She was the only person I knew that could narrate rated R stories with the enthusiasm of a Disney character.
Speaking to my father and I, as we sat dumfounded and quiet, she would begin,
“Miles, Myrtle. You’ll never guess what I did today!” Pouring herself another highball she continued, allowing the liquor to loosen her tongue. “Mr. Jones, yeah that guy down the street, coded on the table and while he was sufferin’ arrest, he shit himself. Isn’t that great, you should’ve been there!” Her giggles were infectious. Her smile--contagious. My father would excuse himself to regain his long gone composure and then rejoin us. I would simply stare. It wasn’t that I was surprised by her story, just in utter mortification that she had just said the word shit in front of me. In the south, women did not talk this way. And my friends would wonder why they could never come over to my house for a sleep over....
“But wait! It gets better!” She interrupted her own thoughts with sentences that lathered my pock marked face, “I screamed at the tech to clean ‘em up, but ya’ll know they never listen to me. They’d like to pretend they’re the ones who paid for years of college to clean up crap, nope…my role. I’m the registered shit patrol. They’ve got no right to undermine me. Conspiracy, I tell ya!” My mother’s lips formed into a pouty red mess as if she was personally being insulted by the living room furniture. Continuing at the expense of my emotional health, she continued to let the drama run rampant through the room, “Who do I need to sleep with around here, I tell em…who? Me, charge nurse--them, peeeeoooonnnss. My job’s hard ‘nuff without having to deal with their antics.” Her version of the story was always better than the truth. I egged her on,
“Mama, what happened next?” My father stared me down. He didn’t like the provocation of his drunken wife.
“Oh honey, you just wait. Gets better.” She poured herself another glass and tinkled the ice cubes around with her pinky finger before taking a swig, “Then the man came back to life. We’d just stopped CPR as a wild-eyed old bag stormed in. Security guards surrounded her and alls we could do is stand around the body, silent like. She came in screaming, ‘Stop!’ and then the woman cast off obscenities that even I’d never heard.”
My mother was clearly inexorable. With another swig, she cleared her throat, walked over to me and perched her legs over mine. I was willing to sit like this if it meant I could hear the rest this tale before bedtime. I smiled and nodded for her to continue.
“We were just dumb, Myrtle, just plain dumb. Dr. Mike, you know the good looking one…He lost all train of thought and couldn’t continue with any kind of professionalism. We’d come to the conclusion that this was the old battle ax herself, Mrs. Jones. The Southern Ladies Society hadn’t given her the reputation of being a hard sass for nothing. And this was no kinda legend, it’s the plain truth, I tell ya. That wild look in hers eyes, I won’t forget it for the rest of my life! She screamed at us ‘til her lips were blazing blue! ‘I can’t believe you guys’re putting so much effort into this old bastard! I just caught him cheating with Mrs. Sipolata from next door and was thrilled to hear his ticker wasn’t working.’ She breathed heavily, panting. We thought she might even go into an Asthma attack, but then she started back up, ‘I even told that pansy-ass secretary from dispatch to stop your efforts. Couldn’t listen could you? Any bastard that rips my heart out after 30 years of cleaning his toilets, making him chicken pot pies for breakfast, and lying to his boss about his gambling habits, deserves to have his organs shredded. You should chop off his thing while the old arse is still under the effects of that morphine.’”
Dinner Conversation continues...