Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

And the First Shall Be Last

Julia Lee Pollock


Mama? Where are you?

Jamie crouched behind a box in the alley and sobbed, frantic for his mama to come rescue him from the FBI man who was chasing him with a machete. He peeped out from his skinny white fingers and saw a bony white cat clawing at the dumpster.

Is that you, Mama?

The cat jumped into the dumpster, growling and licking the scraps from Vito’s, the one Italian restaurant in town.

Jamie leaped up and ran through the back door of Vito’s, grabbing the waiter. They’re going to kill me! he whispered. I cut off the president’s head last week and now they’re coming to kill me!

The waiter walked over to the counter and picked up the phone beside the cash register.

Damn that boy! said Mama, as she slammed down the phone and stepped into her red and orange hibiscus moo-moo. Fifty-five years old and still hanging onto my tit like a newborn kitten! Damnation! By the time I get there, he’ll be curled up in the alley, sucking his knuckles. Why me? Why me? Mama popped a handful of Rolaids into her mouth and took off in the green bomb, a 1968 Impala.

In eight minutes she peeled into the alley, jumped out of her car and grabbed Jamie by the collar. Boy, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you know what time it is? If you make me miss ‘Days’ one more time, I’m going to shoot you dead. Just cause you’re jumbled don’t mean you have to act like this. You do this again and I’ll drown you in Turkey Creek. I ain’t kiddin, boy!

Jamie smiled and sucked his thumb. You’re a good mama, he said.

Shut up! Mama screamed. And get that thumb out of your mouth! Mama hauled off and slapped the fire out of Jamie’s face, and he smiled.

I love you, Mama, he said. Then he sat up straight and clasped his hands together like a little old lady on her way to a tea.

You are the weirdest creation I ever did see, said Mama. When I get to Heaven, I’m going to ask God what the hell he was thinking.

They pulled into the gravel drive of their small clapboard house, complete with sunflowers, plastic geese, and an oversized heart-shaped birdbath out front. Jamie leaped from the car before Mama turned off the ignition and headed straight for the birdbath.

Get away from there, Jamie! Mama screamed, to no avail. This ain’t the day, this ain’t the day! It’s Tuesday, Jamie, not Wednesday! Don’t do it, baby – don’t do it!

Too late. Jamie leaped out of his clothes and climbed into the birdbath, stark naked. Tweet, tweet, he said. Tweet, tweet, tweet, he continued, his voice becoming shrill. Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, he said, his face enveloped in bliss. Fly, fly, fly, little birdie. Fly, fly, fly. Jamie fluttered his arms like a hummingbird. A transformation occurred and he rose to his knees, and on to a standing position. Jamie was now an American Eagle. Arrrrrck, arrrrrck, arrrrrck, he screamed, flapping his arms gracefully. Arrrrrrck, arrrrrrck, arrrrrrck. I love you, Mama . . . goodbye.

Jamie blew a kiss, took a flying leap and landed face down on the grass. Mama ran over to him and placed her fingers on his neck. Then she grabbed his wrist and counted silently, her lips moving.

Damn! she screamed. Damn! One of these days, boy, you’re going to fly on out of this world and we’ll both get some peace and quiet. Get up from there and get you some clothes on.

Jamie stood up, then yawned and stretched. He strolled into the house, took a shower, then sat down at the kitchen table beside his mama. Say the prayer, Jamie, she said.

Dear God in Heaven, thank you for my Mama. Thank you for my ravioli, and thank you for letting me fly. Please forgive me for cutting off the president’s head. I promise not to do that again. Amen.

At nine o’clock, Jamie changed into his aviator pajamas and curled up in his bed. Mama took him a glass of water and sat down in the rocking chair beside him.

Once upon a time, she read, there was a little boy named Jamie. He was delivered by God’s special angel, and he was a beautiful boy with hair of gold and eyes like robin’s eggs. His mother loved him very much, even though he was different. Mama knew Jamie would never change. He would never grow up, and he would always need her. She promised God she would do her best for Jamie and prayed for forgiveness when she threatened to kill him. In her dreams, God often promised Mama that he gave Jamie to her for a reason, and that one day, she would understand.

Mama blew her nose, closed the book and tucked Jamie in, safe and sound.

I love you, boy, she said.

I love you too, Mama, he said. You’re real good.

***

Julia Lee Pollock is a seventh grade English teacher in Columbia, Tennessee. She also writes feature stories for area newspapers, and she has just completed her first novel. In addition, she writes short stories and songs, and she is a member of ASCAP.

© Julia Lee Pollock

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012