Verbal Brutality — A Still Life in Words


You ever get something on your mind and you cannot move on to something else because you can’t concentrate with THAT thought rolling around in your head? You know, kind of like getting “It’s a Small World After All” stuck in your head on an endless loop? I’ve run into that syndrome this fine Monday morning.

I was balancing out the checkbook from the weekend, pretty much the way I do every Monday, and I uncovered a couple of bills that had slid or slipped or — knowing me — been placed under a stack of other papers. One was the water bill and of course it was overdue so I went online and paid it immediately since Budge doesn’t ask for much, but running water IS one of her requirements.

Anyway, after settling up those couple of bills and scheduling out the taxes (which were ALSO resting comfortably under the aforementioned pile) I realized we had about a third of the money I’d hoped we’d have for Christmas. Now, please understand, that’s nothing unusual. It was just a little disheartening to get socked with this early on a Monday morning AFTER my awesome new-to-me laptop decided to lose it’s mind (and LCD screen) AND after spilling a heaping cup of Domino’s Extra Fine Granulated Sugar all over the counter and floor as I was making tea. I just wasn’t in the mood to be reminded of this particular incident, but . . . what’re you gonna do? There it was rolling around in my head and I’m hoping that telling this story publicly for the first time will help exorcise this foul mental demon. After all, I need the room up there.


So without further fanfare, I want to tell about the most brutal, most condescending, most intentionally hurtful thing ANYONE has ever said to me. Names have been changed to show how even with  BPD, Dysthymic Disorder, anger management problems, and all my other issues I’m not on the same level as this cretin, which gives me a certain cold comfort.

My Papa John had a 1965 Pontiac GTO that he was insanely proud of. He loved that car. When I was small, he would put me on his lap and let me steer it down the highway. The GTO died when I was in middle school, but instead of getting rid of it, Papa took it down to our little white church and put it up on jack stands (not blocks) and threw a nice cover over it. Our plan was for me to “fix it up” and drive it once I got to high school and got my own job. Apparently, at some point, Mr. Ash Whole, the antagonist of this story and filthy rich Pontiac aficionado, found out about the GTO and offered to buy it from Papa John for a pittance. Now, folks, Israel will give up the West Bank of Jordan and leave Jerusalem before my Papa John would have sold that car. So he said, “No thank you.” Undeterred, Mr. Ash Whole would make papa the same offer several times over the years.

Then in my senior year of high school, Papa John had his first major debilitating stroke. It wasn’t his first stroke, but it was the first one to take him out of action. Papa John gave me the title to the GTO and said to go ahead with our plans and as soon as he got well, we’d work on the car together.

Unfortunately, I found out that restoring cars is a rich man’s hobby. Even repairing the GTO enough to return it to the road proved to be beyond my means with my high school jobs. Fortunately, the GTO wasn’t eating anything, didn’t cost much in taxes, and was more or less safe from the elements.

Once Mr. Ash Whole found out about Papa’s stroke, he started turning up the heat on ME to sell him the car. Please bear in mind I had all the same issues back then that I do now, BUT I didn’t know anything was wrong with me, I just thought I was a slight jerk with a hair trigger temper. So I said, “No.” When he kept asking, I upped my response to “Hell no.”

Then, one night after I’d had a pretty disastrous day, the phone rang. This was in the pre-caller id days or I’d never have answered it. It was, of course, Mr. Ash Whole. We started going through the usual preliminary small talk that is expected of Southern men even if they DO hate each other but this time, he had a different tack. He went straight for the guts. He said, “Shannon, I’ll tell you, I’ve been trying to buy that piece of $#@! GTO from your grandfather and now you for too long and I’m just going to be straight with you, John’s never going to drive again and you’ll never get that car running on what you make at a grocery store– you need to sell me that car tonight if for no other reason than

(here it comes)

(the ugliest thing anyone’s ever said to me even to this day)

I know you are dirt poor and could desperately use the money.”

I didn’t have anything to say. He was pretty much right. I told him I’d come by his store with the title and the key after school the next day. What he gave for Papa’s beloved GTO wouldn’t buy a cart of groceries today.

Just as a little side note, I went to high school with Mr. Ash Whole’s son. Later on, I would be roommates in college with Mr. Ash Whole’s son and that dude was one of the most solid friends I’ve ever had. I can only figure he took after his mother. I never mentioned that conversation with his father to my buddy. He wasn’t real crazy about the man either. Still, that did open up some more painful wounds because he knew where the car came from even though he didn’t know the circumstances. With total innocence, he’d update me on his dad’s restoration project. Mr. Ash Whole poured thousands upon thousands of dollars into that car. Today, it is a national show winner.

I don’t think St. Peter allows driving where Papa’s gone to now. It’s most likely hard to get tire marks off golden pavement, so I doubt Papa could care less.

As for me, whenever I see a 1965 GTO, to this very day, I taste bile and — more than that — dirt in my mouth for hours afterwards.

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and be careful what you say to each other.


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