Momma Crown sighed for the twenty-second time that day as she entered the living room and approached her mother-in-law, who was standing at the picture window in the front of the room. “Tell me, Mother,” she queried, “why is it that Buford is your son when he‘s being good, and only my husband on the days that you don’t like him?”
Granny Crown didn’t even bother to look at Momma, her eyes remaining fixed on whatever horrid spectacle she had encountered on the lawn. “I don’t claim him when he does something that a child of mine wouldn’t do, and I certainly never taught him to do THAT.” She pointed out the window with a dramatic flourish, as if instructing a jury where they might find the serial killer in the courtroom.
Momma Crown almost didn’t even bother to see where the gnarled finger was directing eye traffic, but she did glance briefly and had to pause. Buford was facing away from them on the far side of the yard, and if one were inclined to assume that men would always be doing something sexual if given the opportunity, it certainly did appear that Buford was fiddling with something about groin height. And his buttocks were vibrating.
“The neighbors,” whispered Granny, her words dripping with outrage. “They must be mortified!”
Momma turned away from her husband’s jiggling bum so she could address Granny properly. “So it would be okay for him to do this as long as the neighbors couldn't see him?”
“I didn’t say that,” murmured Granny. “But it will certainly make the next meeting of the Ladies’ Auxiliary more challenging than it really needs to be.”
Just then there was a loud roar from the lawn, followed by a zipping noise, so they both turned back to the window to review the latest developments. Buford was now slowly walking along and trimming the edge of the grass, after apparently having resolved some type of snafu.
“So, Mother,” said Momma, “he was just replacing the line on the weed-eater and you were convinced that he was intent on spilling his seed far and wide. Great. Now, go into the kitchen and apologize to your granddaughter for calling her daddy a fornicator.”
“She has no idea what that word means.”
“Apparently you don’t either.”
“I’m okay!” hollered Harley from the other room. (Translation: I like my life much better when the old woman isn’t near me.)
“Furthermore,” continued Granny, “I have no intention of apologizing. My children have been trying to get me to do that for 50 years and I’ve never done it once.”
“And all of your kids turned out so well,” muttered Momma. “Especially the two who went to jail.”
“Those were circumstantial situations,” scoffed Granny.
“The convictions or the kids? Anyway, I’m going to go help Harley. There’s still hope for her generation. Let me know if your son decides to impregnate some more lawn and garden equipment.”
Momma Crown reentered the kitchen. “What’s the next name on the list, sweetie?”
“Why is Granny so mean to everybody?”
“I don’t know, darlin’. She probably bit into something sour when she was a little girl and never forgot about it. Who’s next?”
Harley checked. “Chandra Sullivan.”
“Chandra? Is she still in that all-girl band with… is it Chavonne Hayes?”
Harley nodded. “Yes, she’s next on the list. Their band is really good. It’s called the Flaming Assignment Girls. My favorite song is ‘I Should Probably Put You On Hold But I’m Bored So I’m Just Going To Hang Up’. Everybody claps really loud on that one.”
Momma paused. “Flaming Assignment Girls? Those are some interesting initials.”
Now Harley paused. “Initials?” She wrote out the name of her friends’ band. “So that would be ‘F’, and then ‘A’ and then… Oh.”
Momma nodded. “Yes, it makes a word that we probably shouldn’t-”
“I don’t think they meant for the initials to spell a British slang word for cigarette.”
Momma smiled. “Well, look at that, I may have done something right with you.” She squatted down so she could look her daughter in the eyes. “Harley, don’t ever change.”
“I’m not going to, Momma. I don’t know how.”
Granny Crown clattered into the kitchen once again, completely ruining the tender moment of bonding, which was one of Granny’s special talents. “Betty,” she barked.
“What’s the matter, Mother? Not enough people in the living room for you to torment?”
Granny grimaced. “I was trying to be nice and let you know that you need to get started with those stuffed peppers if dinner is going to be on time for the Fishbeins. You haven’t had enough practice to make them as quickly as I can.”
“You’re just hungry, Mother. You couldn’t care less if the Fishbeins get to eat or not.”
Granny snorted. “While I am starving to death because you haven’t placed out any appetizers, I’m only looking out for your social standing. The Fishbeins are on lots of committees, and one of those organizations might be able to help you out some day. Probably not, because it would mean you had actually done something artistic, but one never knows.”
“Tell you what, Mother,” said Momma, taking a seat next to Harley. “Why don’t you get started on stuffing the peppers while I finish up here.”
“ME?” asked a startled Granny. “Why on earth should I start the peppers? This is your house.”
“Oh, you’ve waited until NOW to realize that? Besides, everyone knows you are very good at shoving things where they don’t naturally belong. I’ll join you in a second.”
Granny made a huffing noise, but quickly began dragging things out of the refrigerator, already relishing the high praise that she was surely to get for the finished meal, compared to the mediocre culinary output that this house usually experienced.
“Now,” said Momma to Harley. “Let’s try to get through these quickly, if we can.”
Harley nodded, referring to her list. “Um, there’s Bobbi McDonald Klinger. She works in a dentist office during the day, but then she goes home and writes stories. She’s good. You should read the one about the avocado that learned how to talk. It’s very moving.”
“Avocados can’t talk, Harley,” intruded Granny, as her greasy hands violated wads of meat. “That’s just silly.”
“It’s a parable,” explained Harley. “I like parables.”
Granny Crown chose that moment to become very interested in some handy bread crumbs, mainly because she had no idea what a parable might be, but she certainly wasn’t going to admit that. Besides, the word sounded like something that spokes models were always warning her to avoid on Fox News.
“Let’s finish your list, Harley,” prodded Momma Crown.”
Harley turned her eyes once again to the sheet. “Okay, there’s Yvonne White who talks to me every day and always says nice things. And Darlene Cunningham who is a production assistant at ‘Backup Dancers From Heck’. And Kathi Sandlin Andrepoint, who works in the Recruiting Department at Bonnywood Manor. And Sage Thunderbolt, who is a former prawn star who found Jesus.”
Granny Crown paused with the stuffed peppers shoved halfway into the oven. “Could you repeat that last one?”
Momma Crown intervened. “I don’t think you need to hear it again. Keep going, Harley.”
“But the child just said something about pornography, I’m sure of it.”
“Mother, let her talk! She never gets to when you’re around.”
Granny made a disgruntled noise, then turned to attend to the dinner salad, firmly convinced that her endless suffering on earth was going to be amply rewarded once she made it to the pearly gates. Then she began chopping an onion with much more violence than was necessary.
Harley continued. “Um, and then there’s HRH Tammy Christesen and her Royal Consort Muffin Bruce. Jennifer Coit, who makes sure that I watch the right TV shows and doesn’t let me get too lippy. And the Davis sisters, Sara and Melissa and Tiffany, who between the three of them need more therapy than can possibly be available.”
Suddenly, there was the noise of determined stomping on the back porch, and then the door flew open and crashed against the wall, exposing a very sweaty and probably smelly Buford. He had some news for the startled viewing audience assembled in the kitchen.
“I’ve decided to join the priesthood.”
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