Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

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Suzanne Brunson

“Come on, sugar cakes. Mommy is still looking for that treatise on Grecian army strategy that we talked about on the way over here. Okay, here we are. Let's just settle you all down here in the children’s section and see what fun and evocative books we can find. There you go. All right, I’ll be back in a few. Oh teenie one, please don’t wipe that there. Okay, I’ll be back shortly.”

“Ma’am, that is a special order. We don’t have it on the shelf. Oh, here, the distributor says it is out of print, but they have one in stock."

“Will I have to buy it if I don’t like it?”

“Well, ma’am, it is an $800 book, so I think we’d need a commitment right now.”

“So, do you have a book with a blue cover? It's about a guy and a dog. I read it when I was little. Anyway, could you help me in the music section? I’m looking for a CD by Jimmie Rogers. It’s an old country record that I just know is out on a CD. I went to the local bluegrass singalong at the uber cool grocery store/music venue out in the country, you know, where all the country music stars live. They talked about it like I would, like, you know, really benefit from it.”

“Ma’am, I think a used CD store might better be able to serve you. Oh goodness, child, please don’t rip those pages out. No really, you need to give me the book. This is not your book.”

“Ha ha! Isn’t she just too cute? She wants to read just like Peyton Archie and Loretta Tammy there. Oh, darlin, just put that book down. Okay, my little Fudgecycle, we need to go. Oh, wait, I know what I forgot!” She walks, no, strides toward the coffee shop behind the magazines. Peyton Archie, Loretta Tammy, and little Fudgecycle are left standing by the store clerk.

He is the young man working on his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering with a minor in southern literature. He puts his hands on his hips, for effect, but the mother is long gone. She calls back over her shoulder telling the kids to stay put right where they are which is directly in front of a rack full of Vogue, Elle, and Paris Match magazines. Little Fudgecycle, who can’t yet walk, crawls over to the rack in about two seconds, according to the clerk’s explanation later that night.

“She saw that cover picture with the bright blue ocean and with the half-naked lady laying in the sand and surf in some kind of toga wrap thing, which anyone could clearly see through. So, she just grabbed the second tier shelf like it was a library ladder, which information would have been more helpful if I’d only known this about her. That is when the rack fell over and Fudgecycle started screaming. Peyton Archie started yelling haw haw haw, guffawing actually quite loud and the other one, what’s her name, Shania Faith, well, she started running around in a circle, actually around me. She was screaming, ‘Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!’ with the emphasis on the first syllable....”

“No, sir, I thought you’d want to get the big picture.” he tells the manager. “Anyway, that all would have been manageable until I heard shouting from the Spiritual/Self Help area. Yes sir, there was a bit of an altercation, which I could have handled without Shania’s and Fudgecycle’s and Peyton’s help, you understand...."

“Well, yes sir, that could have been the pivotal moment when I should have stayed with the children, but there was someone yelling so loud that even Shania stopped screaming, although she continued running in a circle, which I did manage to jump out of because by now she was staring at the ceiling and staggering. I think she was getting dizzy because she started to meander in different directions, bumping into people, including her brother, Peyton Archie, who just shoved her away and told her not to touch him again. Little Fudgecycle had crawled on down into the automotive section...."

“Oh, all right, back to the loud voices. You have never heard such language. By the time I got there, one really large man, a Mountain of a Man, if I may use that descriptive term, was flailing around, waving a book in one hand and shaking his fist at another man. The other man was red, almost purple in the face and, I swanee, I thought he was having a stroke. No sir, he was on the floor. I’m thinking, oh my goodness, this man could be dead when Shania Faith, Peyton Archie, and Fudgecycle all run up to me to tell me they can’t find their mother and so I said, hey, why don’t you all start yelling ‘Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,’ and I bet then we’ll find her....”

“No, sir. I am not making this up for your entertainment benefit. I thought the Mountain of a Man, who was now also purple in the face, was gonna keel over on top of Heart Patient. And sir, I must say, mocking me won’t help get this information which you will most assuredly need when the insurance adjuster starts asking questions....”

“All right, the police, too. No, I haven’t forgotten the police, but I believe they are conducting their own interrogation, sir....”

“No sir, I’m not trying to be a smart ass....”

“All right, I’ll finish. Mountain of a Man has a self-help guide in his hand, you know, the one with the yellow cover and a picture of the husband and wife team who promise eternal salvation in the afterlife and a pretty much problem-free life here on earth. Right, that’s the one. I know, can you believe people buy this stuff? ...”

“Okay, I will stop smirking. Well, Mountain of a Man, still bellowing at the top of his lungs, abruptly stops and just purses his lips—yes sir, I did use the term purses—he purses his lips and just throws the book squarely at the Heart Patient, hitting him right in the chest. I know he wasn’t a Heart Patient. He looked like one, okay? Apparently, and no way would I vouch for anything Mountain of a Man said, when Heart Patient tried to duck, that’s when he hit his head on the corner of the bookshelf. Yes sir, I was running. It all happened very fast, like in a split second. Yes sir, I could give you the scientific term—like nanno-second, but I think the point here is that he hit his head, not how fast I moved....”

“Why was Mountain of a Man yelling? Well, from what I could get out of him, he was sitting on the floor, spread eagle, if you will, next to his wife, who was sitting the same way. According to Mountain of a Man, and I think the police will corroborate this, the Heart Patient wanted to look at the boxed calendar sets on the counter where Mountain of a Man was leaning, sort of using it as a simulated lazyboy recliner. This is when Heart Patient just kicked Mountain of a Man in the leg with his sandal. Yeah, those velcro things you can wear to the beach. No, they were not JC water walkers. Then he tried to act all innocent, according to Mountain of a Man, and say, ‘… excuse me, I was just trying to look at this cat calendar.’ Having bent one of his toes back while kicking, actually I think he broke it, well, he lost his balance again and this time hit the calendar table with his head as he fell. This is about when Ms. Grecian Army Treatise shows up, shouting, ‘Where are my children? What have you done to my children?' She shoves past the lady pushing a grocery cart from T.J. Maxx...."

“Yes sir, I’ll push it back up there when I leave.
I was aghast that Ms. Grecian Army Treatise would be anything but ashamed for having left her children in the first place, and I am assuming they were really hers. She could be the nanny from hell for all I know. Yes, I know the customer is always right, but I did save Fudgecycle from a blunt force trauma. No sir, it means horrified, which I was. Yes sir, that is when she and her three tots climbed right over Heart Patient. Yes, she never missed a beat while Archie Peyton was yelling, ‘Blood, blood, there’s blood! Look, the man is dead!’ No she did not shush them, but Ms. Treatise turned and said, ‘Honestly, I can’t believe you would subject my children to this. I will never come to this bookstore again!’”

“I don’t think we will have Heart Patient’s version until tomorrow. He was still unconscious when they put him in the ambulance. Yes sir, I will clean up the blood, but the police acted like I should maybe leave it alone until they were through with the crime scene. Yes sir, they did call it a crime scene. No sir, I’m not kidding. So, I think we need to just put a chair or step stool or something on top of it in the meantime. Yes sir, that would block the aisle, but what about the blood? Yes sir, I will cover it with gift wrapping paper but I just think it will soak up the blood and I don’t need to get arrested right now. I’m in the middle of midterms. Okay, I’ll tape a garbage bag over it. Hey, good thinking....”

“Uh, yes sir, I’ll go in the back right now. Sir, am I still on the clock?”


With 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 Alliance.

© Suzanne Brunson

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