always been old. Have never felt young, not the least bit. I probably
miss out on a lot of laughs. I listen to the other kids get tickled
and I might smile occasionally, but no belly laughs. I am so old
that I spend hours lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. When
youre young, you can do that. These are moments when my
mind can stop. It is my hiding place. It doesnt take much
to make you old. One small event and then you cant go back.
It happens so fast that it is only when you think back that it
all makes sense. Now going to a secret place in ones head
is not a negative thing. It can be very comforting, like my moms
quilts, the more, the better.
Geezer, who has a very poor respiratory system and thus announces
his entrance into any room with a long series of mucus filled
coughs and gasps that would rival anything heard in a tuberculosis
ward, if there were still any around these parts anyway; well,
as I was saying, Uncle Geezer was the cause of my early entrance
into solitary brooding. Hed always try to tickle me, even
when I screamed and yelled for him to stop, while definitely not
laughing, which should have told him to stop, anyway, if hed
ever pay attention to the world around him. But, he never,ever
did, pay attention, and that was what started all the ruckus.
Geezer was known to be a real Casanova in our little town, even
after the hacking started, caused by too many Camel cigarettes
carried in the rolled up sleeve of his T-shirt when working outside.
Hed tuck the pack, crumpled or full, minus the one hanging
from his lip, into his breast pocket if he wore a jacket, the
left breast pocket because he was right handed. Mama and Daddy
never scolded him because they liked their Camels, too. Mama had
quite a little cough of her own and Daddy had asthma, so we wont
Geezer liked the ladies, all of them. He only married when we
moved far away, and so he was a permanent fixture at our house
for many years, especially at mealtime. He never brought any lady
friends over for us to see, but wed hear Mama and Daddy
talking about who was he seeing now and what happened to the last
one because she was nice and had potential. Nobody ever said anything
about Uncle Geezers potential. Daddy used to tease him about
how he ate too fast and how fat he was getting from all my Mamas
good cooking. Id get mad and tell any and everyone seated
at the dining room table,
no, hes not fat. He
just wears big suits.
could sit and watch Geezer eat fried eggs and toast, neither of
which I could stand, and he would make that yellow, runny mess
look tantalizing, slurping and mopping the eggs with his wilted
toast. Id sit on my knees on the big chair across from him
with my elbows on the dining room table. I would end up with red
marks on my elbows from the embroidered tablecloth. Id never
seen anyone enjoy their breakfast as much as he did and Daddy
was right, he didnt chew his food, just swallowed it whole.
Mama made a rump roast on Sunday with rice and gravy and green
beans, there old Geezer would be, all smiling and joking and grabbing
each serving bowl with a gusto not experienced since the time
of Roman orgies. Well, I think they were Roman, that is what my
older sister called it when she said it under her breath while
trying to get a chance at the butter plate. I dont know
why shes always in such a big, hot hurry for the butter.
We are only allowed one biscuit each anyway. Id rather have
mine with jelly but Mama says thats why Ill always
have to watch my weight. Mama is no skinny woman by any stretch.
I saw her coming out of the bathroom once with just a towel wrapped
around her and I thought then, that is how I am gonna look one
day and I was not pleased with that prospect; kind of worried
me, actually. (Unfortunately my family had christened me Candace,
Candy for short.) Now Daddy, he doesnt have an ounce of
fat on him. Guess that is why he always bugs the rest of us. Geez.
meat was sacred and remained on the platter in front of Daddy.
He would carve what he considered an appropriate amount for each
of us and pass our plates around to the left. Daddy, of course,
got the first slice, the outside slice with the browned side that
made it look like nothing could taste any better and it had to
be the best piece yet. I couldnt say for sure cause I never
got to taste it. Well, I did cut a piece off the edge of my meat
once, where it was browned, and it was a bit tastier than the
rest of the slice so I could see how Daddy would want that piece.
Sometimes Mama would cook the beef so tender that it would fall
apart on the platter and we would each get a pile of meat instead
of a slice. Every once in awhile, when church ran late, it would
burn all on the outside which ruined the gravy and wed all
act like it was just as good as ever, but what a disappointment
that would be. Mama would also made a pear salad, a recipe I suspect
shed seen in one of her magazines. She would place two canned
pear halves on a bed of iceberg lettuce; usually one of the outer
leaves, which were the greenest. This would all be arranged on
a salad plate and the pears would each have a dollop of mayonnaise
and some grated cheese on top. I always scraped the mayonnaise
off my pear.
it was toward the end of one of these Sunday meals that Geezer
began coughing and gasping. We all just continued shoveling in
the pear salad, all the while hoping Geezers episode
would soon end. But, his coughing and gasping did not let up at
all. Next thing I know, hes face down in the gravy boat,
his face all red and his hair sticking out every which way.
what is he trying to prove now? said my mother.
was known to think he was very funny, as I said, even when he
wasnt. So this was one of those times when he should have
just slurped up his dinner so he could chase us all around the
house and irritate my father who would be yelling at him to stop
getting us all wild before somebody got hurt or we broke something.
cut it out! yelled my father, who always yelled everything
he said, even if it was please, pass the butter, to
my sister who had been hogging it all through dinner.
my Daddy started to stand up, but sat down. Then my Mama stood
up, and then she sat down. My sister and me, we just kept eating.
my Daddy did something he never ever does. He jumped out of his
chair and knocked it to the floor. He leaped across the table,
well, it was more like a belly buster dive, and landed square
in front of old Geezer. He knocked the gravy boat onto the floor,
where it broke into a thousand pieces, slopping gravy all over
everything. Daddy had rice in his hair and mayonnaise, too. The
butter dish was flat underneath him.
my mother is laughing her head off and so am I. My sister is rolling
her eyes, which is all she ever does anyway. Daddy is wiping gravy
off Geezers face and is slapping him while he tries to get
up out of the butter and is trying to make his legs work right
but they are just jerking back and forth like a frog. He finally
does a roll off the table, headed right for me because I am sitting
between them and he is pushing Geezer off his chair. We all land
in the gravy-soaked floor and now Daddy is pounding on his brother,
yelling words which Id never, ever heard which began with
and other stuff like that. He is screaming
at me to get out of the way, so I start crying because he was
the one who pushed me out of my chair anyway. Mama is still laughing
because it happened so fast, I guess. Who knows why anyone laughs
in this family?
thing I know, my mother has jumped up out of her chair, which
makes four of them turned over at this point and she runs around
the table past Daddy and Geezer and is grabbing me and dragging
me through the gravy, trying to get me away from Daddy and all
the mess, I guess.
finally sort of half way stands up and then does another dive
plopping both his knees onto Uncle Geezers chest.
just know hes dead and my Daddy killed him, but Geezer fooled
us all. He starts gasping and gagging and then blows a half-chewed
double chunk of rump roast straight up in the air. We all watch
it go higher and higher and then it starts falling back to earth
and now I realize it is travelling straight down toward my face
and so I duck and it lands on top of my head. Im screaming,
get it off, get it off! and Mama is laughing again.
Daddy is yelling at her that its not funny and to stop laughing.
Geezer finally pushes my Daddy off of his chest, and he starts
cursing a blue streak. Mama lets go of me and runs to the kitchen
shrieking that she is getting a towel and to hold on and shell
clean everyone up, but we are not waiting. My sister is out of
her chair, headed for her bedroom and I am trying to wipe food
off my arms and the bottoms of my shoes so I can follow her. I
know for a fact that two dinner plates are broken and nothing
makes my Mama madder than broken dishes, especially her good china.
just a minute, young ladies. You both march yourselves right back
in here and help your Mama clean up the dining room, yells
my Daddy, who never misses anything.
ha, sneers my sister, looking sideways.
my turn to wash the dishes, so YOU get to clear off the table.
that was the first time I ever spent a really long time just laying
prone in my bed, a loose quilt pulled up over me even though I
still had on all of my clothes. Well, not my dirty Sunday clothes,
fresh ones that I had planned to wear on Monday but now I probably
couldnt since Im was all crumpled up in bed and someone
would surely say I looked like I slept in my clothes, which would,
in this case, be the truth. Mama made me strip in the basement,
by the washer, then gave me a towel to wrap up in so I could run
up the two flights of stairs to the bathroom and take a bath in
the middle of the day which I sincerely hope is a sign that I
wont have to take another one at bedtime. Just this once,
I also dont have to clear the dining room table. Daddy and
Geezer are doing that and my sister is in the kitchen, pouting
and washing whats left of Mamas china.
Id had enough for one day.
a journalism degree from the University of Georgia in hand, Suzanne
Brunson has toiled through the years as a newspaper editor,
a reporter, an occasional columnist, a Vanderbilt fundraiser,
a freelance writer, and is the author of one novel. She is a member
of the Council for the Written Word and the Tennessee Writers