In the eighth week of our series we pick up at chapter 13: “Buh-Bye, Bimbo”
If you’re just coming across this series, you can catch up from the beginning HERE.
From the trilogy
Somewhere Between This & That: An Absurd Journey
THE MAKING OF A NATURAL DISASTER
This is a work of fiction. Although it is written in the form of an autobiography, it is not one. Clearly, no reasonable person would ever consider this absurd story to be true. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. With the exception of public figures and those with reputations of public renown, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Full of salty language – This is intended for mature audiences.
“JESUS. JESUS. JESUS.”
Uh-oh. I could hear Nona crying before I even got in the house, so I listened at the door.
“Thank you, Lord Jesus.”
That was different. I’d never heard her crying out Jesus’ name with gratitude outside of church. I was cautiously optimistic as I entered.
“Oh, Harmonie, I have the best news! Your granddaddy is finally leaving that God-forsaken hussy, Bambi. Praise the LORD! I just pray he gets back together with Viola. Please, Lord Jesus.”
This was grand news indeed! However, I found that last part a little disingenuous coming from Nona. For 28 years Nona referred to my wonderful grandmother as “that bitch Merle’s married to.” I don’t think she actually wanted him married to anyone, but maybe she was being sincere. Surely, having to put up with Bambi must have given her some appreciation for my grandmother.
Nona had really been shittin’ with Bambi since Mother’s Day. After church, Granddaddy took us out to eat and presented Nona with a white gold and diamond necklace. It was simple, elegant, and beautiful.
“Well, Merle, I believe that diamond is a helluva lot bigger than the one you gave me!” Bambi exclaimed.
“Hush, now, Bambi.” Granddaddy whispered.
“And why wouldn’t it be?” Nona asked curtly.
Half the restaurant was looking at us. I could feel my face getting hot as I glanced at the diamonds hanging from Nona and Bambi’s necks. Nona’s was at least twice the size.
“Because I’m his WIFE! Hello?”
“Second wife.” Nona quipped.
“Now Bambi, she’s my mother.”
“And he ain’t got but one of those.” Snapped Nona
“Little Mother, please. Y’all are making a scene.”
“Well, we’ll talk about this when we get home, Merle.” Said Bambi, as she sucked the last of her meal from her teeth. “I just don’t know why in the hell you would do that.”
“Now, listen here. She’s my mother and we ain’t talkin’ about shit when we get home. Unless you want to talk about taking that diamond off your neck?”
Granddaddy pulled his wallet out and threw the money down for the bill.
“Here you go darlin’.” Granddaddy said sweetly as he pulled out a $10 bill. “Here’s a little extra lunch money for school.”
“Don’t you give her any damn money, Merle!” Barked Bambi as she snatched the $10 bill away.
“Come on, Harmonie. We’re leaving.” Announced Nona.
As I slid out of the booth, I could see the entire restaurant staring at us now. Nona grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear.
“Head up and shoulders back. Don’t you worry about her.”
After Nona and I strutted out of the restaurant, Granddaddy caught up to us in the parking lot.
“Give me some sugar darlin’.”
I kissed my granddaddy and he squeezed me tight.
“I’ll call you later, Little Mother.”
He gave my hand another squeeze before walking away.
“I love you.” Said Granddaddy with a wink and a nod toward my hand.
“I love you, too.”
I felt something in my palm but waited until we were in Nona’s car before I looked. Nona and I both laughed when we saw that Granddaddy had slipped me a $20 bill.
“Don’t you worry, Harmonie.” Laughed Nona. “Mark my words. That little hussy’s days in this family are numbered.”
Class & Church
AT TIMES, LIVING with Nona and Slim could be quite entertaining. Being sisters, they’d occasionally argue, and their most heated exchanges always took place in the kitchen. Usually, it was over how many chicken legs to use in the perlo or what size pot to boil the potatoes in, especially if the preacher was coming to dinner. They did, however, share a complete obsession with bowel movements.
“Have you had a B.M. today, honey?” would be Slim’s first question if you were experiencing anything from a headache to a sprained wrist.
Nona, on the other hand, would read bowel movements as if they were tea leaves, and was most concerned with their size. She was convinced all sorts of things could be determined by viewing someone’s movements, including the level of class a person possessed. I once neglected to check for the necessity of a second flush and was summoned to the bathroom.
Nona looked at me with great concern and inquired, “Harmonie, has anyone ever touched you back there?”
“No, Nona, why would you even ask me that?”
“Just look at the size of your B.M.” she demanded as she lifted the toilet seat. “It should not be that big.” She was clearly alarmed.
“Oh my God, Nona!” Overcome with embarrassment, I quickly flushed the toilet. “No, no one has ever touched me back there.”
“I’m telling you it’s not supposed to be that big! Mine are no bigger than my pinky!”
Nona went on to explain that I should do better to conceal my movements because larger ones could be construed as coming from a person with little class. Hours later, I was once again summoned to the bathroom.
“Now, I want you to look,” said Nona, pointing at the toilet. “See, they ain’t no bigger than my pinky,” she proudly proclaimed, holding out her pinky to confirm the daintiness of her stool.
I had to admit that was some classy poop.
Nona and Slim also shared a love of church and went three times a week, including Wednesday nights and twice on Sundays. Nona insisted on making an entrance into Sunday morning services. On the mornings we skipped Sunday school, we’d always be just a few minutes late. Slim and I would scurry around to the main entrance and sneak in at the back of the congregation, but not Nona. She insisted on using the door that entered at front of the congregation, just to the side of the pulpit. Even if we attended Sunday school, she’d find a way to make her entrance after the preacher started. This drove Aunt Slim nuts.
The Pentecostal Holiness Church in Conway had a robust fire and brimstone preacher at the time. This wasn’t a congregation of snake handlers, but there was a lot of speaking in tongues and laying on of hands. Nona could frequently be found running up and down the aisle, waving her cane in the air, while speaking in tongues. It was loud and there was a lot of singing. I enjoyed opening the hymnal to “Victory in Jesus”, but I dreaded “The Old Rugged Cross”. There was an elder member of the congregation who would sing that particular song quite passionately and his voice was awful. I’d have to plug my ears to prevent my teeth from hurting.
In the South, we call lunch “dinner”, and what most people call dinner, we call “supper”. After church, we’d have Sunday dinner around the antique lazy Susan table. This beautiful table was handcrafted in Georgetown and floated up the Waccamaw River as a wedding gift from my great-great-grandfather to his new bride in 1900. Nona used her good china on Sundays and there was always more than enough food for anybody who might drop in. We’d eat until we were about to pop and Aunt Slim always fretted about the leftovers.
“I just don’t know where you think we’re gonna put all this.” Slim would fuss. “It just doesn’t make sense to cook all this food.”
“Do you think I need to buy another fridge for the garage?” Nona would ask.
“Shoot, no.” This was the closest I would ever hear Aunt Slim come to cussing.
“Well, what then?”
“We need to not cook so much food!”
“Don’t hold your breath, Slim.”
Some version of this exchange would go on nearly every Sunday. This was always followed by a much-needed nap before returning to church for a more subdued Sunday night service.
When the school year ended, the nice couple who ran the Wednesday night youth group sent me on my way back to California with my very own Bible, complete with my name inscribed on its leather cover.
The absurd journey continues in chapter 15: “Back to Madness.”
If you don’t want to wait, you can purchase the paperback or eBook HERE
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