Wary Boy

I knew things wudn’t right.  I knew it.  I knew it from the get go.  Got that wiggly squiggly feelin’ between my shoulders and couldn’t swaller right.

And still I let it go.  And things?  They look to be gettin’outta hand now.

But no woulda coulda shouldas.  Won’t do us much good now, I reckon.  What we got is a situation.  A right full and fat whopper of a situation.   And cousin Marie-France hogtied me and purt’near  dragged me kickin’ and screamin’ into the sticky quagmire swirlin’ in the dead center of it.

See, me’n Marie France, we’re blood cousins, and more’n that, we’re next to twins in the way we see the world and think things through.  She’s a dreamer where I’m a doer, but betwixt us two, and sometimes with mean ol’ sister Luce, we’d get the henhouse built.

We also fought like the dickens, too, our way of stayin’ even.

This time,  though, that girl had me be-fuddled something awful.  What had she gone and done?  And why the hay did I allow myself to be sucked in?

I’m still shakin’ my head.

The men and us boys, extended family all, been in the fields all day long, dusty and dirty and sticky, clover and grass stickin’ to all our exposed parts.  Stick-tights ringed my saggin’ socks.  Gnats and flies pestered my eyes and buzzed in my ears.  We’d all trudged, tired from haulin’ and weedin’ and plowin’ and balin’, up to the well pump back of Marie-France’s family’s woodshed. Took turns under the solid flow, rubbin’ our arms and our necks with the cool water.  The dryin’ water meant itchin’, but it sure beat the dirt.  Even dunked our heads under, shakin’ after like dogs at how good it felt.

The women, and littler kids, spent most of the day preparin’ a feast for us, outside, back of the porch, on tables built of split wood and saw horses.  Pretty much our ever’ summer night dinner table, be it at our place or theirs.

They’d be piles and platters of golden fried chickens, baskets of crunchy-on-the-outside squishy soft on the inside biscuits sized of baseballs, home-churned butter (no oleo for us) and honey along side, sliced ripe red tomatoes, mashed potatoes with light-colored creamy chicken gravy flecked with black pepper, Mama’s homemade sour cottage cheese, sautéed green beans and new potatoes, yellow foot long corn on the cob with big ol’ kernels yellow and plump, pickles and slaw and canned beets and small bits of this and that weighin’ down the center.  Never once did we begin a meal, however, than Grandpap beller out one o’his hallowed prayers.  Folks next county over was surely blessed, as I reckon his voice’d be echoin’ their way, too.  We was reverent, we’d be popped upside the head if we wudn’t, though our stomachs was competin’ with the heavenly petitionin’.

Come to think of it, Grandpap’s volume may’ve been doggoned purposeful!

Still, we stayed still and penitent until the last “Amen and Amen, ” then began the passin’.  Again, we didn’t none of us pick up a fork, nor snitch a golden crumb of the chicken crust, till we was all served, plates full to groanin’.  Grandpap’d look about, satisfied even the last littlest cousin had his meal arranged just so and his napkin tucked in tight to the front of his shirt, then he’d lift a forkful to his mouth.

Signal to dig in!  And dig in we did!  That was all she wrote!  We’d eat, we’d laugh, we’d talk, kids and adults and aunts and uncles and all o’us.  We was kin, after all, we’d our rules and we’d our ways, but we was all part of the same family, tucked and tied together tight.

So when Marie-France sidled up to the table just before repast this particular evenin’, slow and deliberate instead of wet from fallin’ in the crick or bloodied from fallin’ from some tree after chasin’ squirrels, I took notice.  Somethin’ was up.

I watched.

She smoothed her fuzzy braids, uncharacteristic,  then rubbed her forehead hard before catchin’ her mama and pullin’ her to the side.

I continued to watch.  ‘Couldn’t hear a word.  But somethin’ was stewin’.

Marie-France talked earnest-like.  Lengthy and wordy, eyeball to eyeball.  Why, she even put her hand on her mama’s shoulder, like some city councilman or horse trader.  And her mama listened, same earnest look, then nodded, slow.   Marie-France, she bounded off like a deer, her mama wipin’ her hands on her dress, watchin’ with wonderin’ eyes as her daughter skittered away down the long hill to the woods.

Odd, them doin’s, but then, so was Marie-France from time to time.   I figured one o’her giggly schoolgirl girlfriends done asked her to break bread with them and theirs. I’d not give it one more thought, so I thought then.  Smug and shruggin’,  I silently and gratefully claimed her servin’s as mine!   After long sticky day in the fields, my insides squishin’ together from emptiness, I had me bigger fish to fry!   I made my way to dinner!

So there we was,  all gettin’ ourselves seated and situated up and down and ’round the outdoor table, Grandpap givin’ his “get ready” throat clearin’, when who marched straight up to the table, tall and determined,  but Marie-France.

Draggin’ a little su-prise in tow.

Now if you knew Marie-France, she was always into somethin’.  Her mind clinked and clanked to who laid a chunk, spewin’ out unusual and crazy and off the wall ideas and schemes, often involvin’ strays needin’ a helpin’ hand.  Like totin’ a box of mewin’ babies and announcin’ plans for a shelter for wayward kittens done abandoned by their mamas. Or there was the time come to the table cradlin’ a little robin with a broken wing,going at length ’bout baby bird sanctuaries.

So I’d  like to think we was used to her shenanigans.

‘Pparently, we wudn’t.

This evenin’ the word come to mind for all us at the table, our mouths hangin’ open like we was stupid, was “dumbfounded.”

Some words just fill the bill, and this was sure does, don’t it?

This time her su-prise wudn’t her typical stray mangy mongrel needin’ savin’,  nor some bow-backed near-dead horse needin’ a place to live out the rest of its days.  No baby birds nor mewin’ baby kittens.

No, this time  the stray she was pullin’ along behind her was of a diff’rent sort.  This stray was a big ol’ blond man/boy.  One stiff and hollow-eyed, scratched and ripped, hank o’ yeller hair hangin’ low on his high forehead.

He looked fearful.  Marie-France looked fearless.

I like to fell outta my seat.

Think it was the look of his prison uniform what got me.

And the fact she turned full face to me, sayin’, “This here’s my cousin Liam.  You’ll be stayin’ with him.”

And with that, things was for sure outta hand.








The trouble with me….

Let me begin again.

The trouble with gardens is…..me.

I cannot, should not, better not, attempt any kind of anticipatory planting.

In other words, I should expect nothing after hoeing, fertilizing, raking, weeding, watering toiling, sweating, and planting.  Of course, I do get some exercise.  I expect that is something.  And fresh air is nice.  I expect that is something, too.  Then there’s the satisfaction of communing with nature.  Yes, I expect so.

But blast it all to bits!  I can’t get a seed to germinate and stick it’s spiky little head out of the dirt to save my soul!  A living plant in a pretty pot in moderate sun and receiving the proper amount of water will give up its photosynthetic ghost within a week.  And I expect that’s the worst thing of all!

I come from a long, extinguished line of planters and growers and farmers.  Florists, horticulturists, and people making a living from the rich, black, Midwestern soil fertilize my heritage.

I’ve now come to believe I am adopted.  Their DNA clearly does not run deep in my veins.  I am but a graft on the family tree.

Try again, you say?   It’s a piece of cake, you say?  ANYbody can plant a seed and coax it to life, you say?

I say, X!!&&*^%!!

Growing up, my Mama planted roses and Rose of Sharons.  She pulled dandelions and crabgrass.  My daddy laid out Fescue grass and cut it regular, felt like a carpet.  My grandpa raised forests of corn, acres of beans, miles of hay and alfalfa, year after year after year.  My Auntie Grace won competitions for her orchids.  My Grandmama jarred her Strawberry Rhubarb jam and sold it for a premium to markets near and far.

Not one of them would let me near a water bucket nor a pair of garden gloves.

I expect my anti-bontanist tendencies showed themselves early.

I satisfied my sorrow over my want of green thumbs by refusing to eat vegetables and turning my nose up at Billy O’Dell when he brought be flowers on the first day of third grade.  Things what bore themselves by sprouting from the dirty ol’ ground, I determined, were not my cup of tea.

And no, I didn’t drink tea either.

But, I sprouted myself, up and out and away from the misery of horticultural household Hell, moved off to college, then married and had my own children.  I eased away from my bias against vegetation and stigma and seaweed.  Even ventured to name my babies  “Lily” and “Daisy” after favorite aunts.   And while my husband’s name is Basil, I forgive him.  He’s British and can’t help it.

My wallpaper before I painted it over?  Giant hydrangeas.

My silverware passed down from Great Grandma Iris?  Buttercup.

And my stemware, is, well, STEMware.

Surrounded, I had no choice but to  succumb.  I fed my babies vegetables, albeit from a glass jar.  I sang “Ring Around the Rosie” ad nauseum.  I “flowered” my cake pans, for pity’s sake!  I had given in and given up for this world was a florinated, deciduous, perennial jungle.  And I had no choice by to stay rooted and, ahem, grow where I was planted.  That, or wilt and whither, turning brown and slimy and covered with bugs.


Still, once I hit the dark mossy bottom of my flowerpot of despair, something inside me, some little bud of  hope, began it’s little dance of life, aiming it’s nubby green face upward, eager to bloom and blossom.  I could feel the urge, the nudge to grow past my little seed pod and spread my branches skyward!  Petrified, but determined, I felt I was beginning to flower.


It began with geraniums.  Wilted on the way home.

And every child should have a wheat grass filled Easter basket!  All my children’s friends had them!  They only cried a little when the bottom of their baskets were cushioned with white speckled potting soil.

Don’t even get me STARTED on those durned Chia Pets!

Mother’s Day corsages?  Browned on the way to brunch.

Daffodils from my beautiful girls picked from the beds in the park to surprise me?  Thrown in the trash bin when the rangers discovered the beds had been violated by my vicious curly-headed moppets!

And so, I’ll not say I’ve thrown in the shovel completely, but facts must be faced.  When it comes to Flora and Fauna, Fauna ##&&@*^-s all over the Flora.

We got a dog.









Minutiae Minuet

First attempt at 50 word non-fiction narrative…


Eighty-year-old Dad shocks us all with his tech savvy.  He’s got the phone, he’s got the hands-free, he’s got the WiFi and the varied emails, and Tweets with regularity.

Riiiiing!  Riiiiing!

“Hiya, Pops, ” I say.

“Hello, sweet girl!  Just caught me heading up Kilimanjaro.  Call you back?”