Category Archives: About Friends

Skip Party Aftermath

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When we last left our intrepid hero (that’d be me) he (or rather I) was standing on the front deck of the Overbay hacienda eating one of the first bags of Cool Ranch Doritos to grace the snack shelf at the local Stop ‘n Steal watching my best friend Robby allowing two of our class (drivers license-less) hotties to take his car for a spin. They were on the return trip with KC in the driver’s seat and CC riding shotgun as Robby sat helplessly in the backseat. All had gone well on the trip out and now, one more turn and KC would bring the little Phoenix to a nice safe stop and we’d all go home to supper.

Only she didn’t make it.

Like most families of my childhood friends, the Overbays had that bane of a bicycle-riding child’s existence — a crushed gravel driveway. Inevitably, some of the gravel would travel out onto the black top and create a gravel slick, which could throw and unwary two-wheeler into a serious case of road rash in a skinny minute. Little did we know, it worked for cars just as well as bicycles.

KC hit the gravel slick and the front end of the car got a bit squirrelly. Now an experienced driver would have just backed completely off the gas and waited for the dust to settle. KC was not — as I have mentioned before — an experienced driver. She panicked and stomped BOTH pedals at the same time. The accelerator won out over the brake and the poor Phoenix skidded completely off the driveway to be quite rudely introduced to the sawn off telephone pole that served as the north corner post of the Overbay’s barbed wire fence.

Looked a lot like this, only there were two head prints instead of one. We drove the car to school the next day and had "KC" written over one and "CC" over the other.

As usual in these cases, time seemed to stop as the collective gasp of the party goers caused me to drop my chips and bolt towards the stairs. Once on the ground, I was joined by several other people in a headlong Jack and Jill-esque tumble towards the scene of the accident. What we found was not encouraging.

The front end of the car had wrapped its bumper around the cruel pole in a desperate lover’s embrace . . . and so did the radiator. Simultaneously, KC and CC – seatbeltless, naturally — launched forehead first into the windshield. They didn’t do the classic “shattered glass fly through” but they hit with enough force to make two NICE spiderwebs — one on each side of the glass and raise beautiful raspberry blue goose eggs on both their classically beautiful high foreheads. Meanwhile, Robby, the Phoenix’s erstwhile owner, was tossed into the hatchback where he lay on his back, feet in the air, somewhat dazed like a spring-woken tortoise newly crawled from his winter’s den.

Ignoring all first aid training and advice, we helped the girls and Robby from the car. The girls were a bit unsteady on their feet and might even have had a mild concussion. We would never know because this was a skip party and what happens at the skip party STAYS at the skip party, or at least it did in those pre-cell phone camera days. We certainly weren’t going to call the police and ambulance. At the risk of sounding heartlessly arrogant, we were the cream of the Laurens 55 High School crop (what I was doing there, I still wonder sometimes) and we couldn’t risk the hoopla and resulting brouhaha a police report would generate.

The party disintegrated just as soon as everyone realized that no one was dead or critically injured. This is referred to even to this day as the “Getting the Hell out of Dodge” procedure. Robby took the driver’s seat, I sat shotgun, and Duane folded his lanky frame into the backseat. Hopefully, Robby turned the key and the little Phoenix that could sputtered to life. Against all odds, it backed away from the pole and with the help of a couple of Raider linemen, ended up back on the road and off towards home.

This is a pretty good facsimile of Duane's dad . . . pretty much all the time.

We did have one nasty dilemma. We had to get Duane home under his parent’s radar. They were the most strict parents of our entire group — if by strict one means somewhat Stalinesque. That party I mentioned in the first act of this tragedy resulted in Duane being put on restriction for the rest of his life. He didn’t get to leave the house on the weekend until college. If his dad found out about THIS snafu, Duane would probably end up in a shallow grave somewhere. Luckily, we had always planned for just this kind of eventuality. Duane got out of the car about 200 yards from the schoolbus stop for his house. When his younger brothers got off the bus, he just fell in behind them — no muss no fuss. Duane didn’t even worry about them ratting him out. Those five boys were tight. None of them was going to risk bringing the wrath of Gray Court’s version of The Great Santini down on a sibling.

So with Duane’s continued future assured, Robby and I limped the Phoenix back to his house. He asked me if I wanted to take his motorcycle home and thus avoid the ensuing confrontation with his dad — Bobby. I told him that I’d been with him when the mess started and I wasn’t bailing now. I figured I owed to him as my best buddy to face the music with him. Besides, Bobby T was one of my greatest father figures growing up. He knew how things were with me and Mama and with me and Daddy so he always made sure I had walking around money as well as doing five thousand other little things for me that I’ll never be able to repay him for. Bobby T is a great man and I really looked up to him so I couldn’t run home like a coward and let Robby take the heat alone.

This is what we started with.

We sat across the den from each other waiting for the sound of Bobby’s car in the drive. In that eternal hour, I caught a glimpse of what a condemned man must feel like waiting for the warden and the preacher to come to his cell. Bobby got home and walked in the house all smiles and hellos like always. Robby and I realized instantly that he hadn’t seen the car. Now Bobby was the type of parent who hadn’t forgotten that he hadn’t been a complete angel as a teenager either, so he recognized our guilty looks pretty quickly. We didn’t even BOTHER trying to explain anything; we just led him out to the car. He looked at the damage, then at us, then back at the damage and just shook his head. That head shake was his ultimate mark of disappointment.

Funny though. Duane’s dad would have launched into the stratosphere. I don’t really know WHAT Daddy would have said, but I know I couldn’t write most of it on a family oriented blog. Bobby just shrugged and said, “Don’t plan on going

and 16 hours later we had this.

anywhere Saturday, boys,” and walked in the house.

I spent the night with Robby that Friday and we spent about 16 hours the next day cleaning out Bobby’s three bay garage / workshop. The Augean Stables that Herakles cleaned as his fifth penitential labor were pristine compared to this building and alas, we had neither Alpheus nor Peneus to reroute to our aid. We worked mightily fueled by gratitude and hot dogs until the floor of the shop was FDA approved. It was a learning experience for certain, but it still wasn’t the last skip party we’d have 🙂

Love y’all! Keep those feet clean.

Springtime = Skip Party

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The Indigo Girls said it best when they sang “There’s something about the Southland in the springtime!” I was just sitting on the porch looking at the living proof that God Almighty is a University of North Carolina fan — a gorgeous Tarheel Blue sky. The temperature is just about perfect and if trees had a way of reproducing that didn’t involve that fluffy yellow pollen, I could stay outside forever. I know people say that we’d get tired of one continuous type of weather year round, but I promise that if someone could invent a Claritin or Allegra pump similar to the insulin pump some diabetics wear, I’d be willing to test this time of year all year.

Back when I was in high school, a day like this would result in several feverish calls between our group’s houses, and in those days — not THAT long ago — “calling around” meant dodging parents who always answered the phone. We didn’t have cell phones, Facebook, or email. Of course, it’s just as well. I probably wouldn’t have graduated if the Internet had been fully open and operational in the middle ’80s. In any event, we’d be attempting to set up a skip party for the next day.Some people favor playing hooky on Fridays to get an early start on the weekend, but I was always the type to skip on Monday so as to put off the first of the week for as long as possible. Skipping Mondays also had the advantage of less makeup work. In a tradition I was later to continue as a high school teacher myself, Fridays were always quiz and test days. Mondays were just notes and worksheets. My teachers didn’t really care if I made up notes. Tests were mandatory though.

Our parents had differing opinions about skipping. Mama simply required that I let her know if I was planning to come down with a 24 hour bout of “spring fever.” Robby’s dad was pretty much the same. Duane, however, was forbidden to skip school under any circumstances. That meant he had to actually drive to school then walk down Raider Road a bit where one of us could pick him up. For some reason, the girls got to do pretty much whatever they wanted to — and they ALWAYS wanted to skip.

"Honey, does this new vodka taste a little watery to you?"

Skip parties were eclectic affairs. Sometimes, we’d just congregate at someone’s centrally located but somewhat off the road house and sit around running our mouths and eating another set of parents out of house and home. Later on in high school — I think we started our sophomore year — some of the more adventurous souls would score some “adult refreshment” from Mom and Dad’s liquor cabinet. Those of us who were Pentecostal or Southern Baptist usually relied on the Presbyterians or the handful of Episcopalians to take care of the alcohol needs. Pentecostal parents — like Mama — really didn’t drink and the Southern Baptist parents managed to hide their liquor stashes in much more difficult to find locations. One particular young lady who will go nameless, always brought a jar of very nice vodka . . . until she finally learned — the hard way of course — that one can only replace JUST SO MUCH vodka with water before Daddy noticed. Fortunately for her, she had an extremely cool older brother who was a Clemson University student and complete Helion and gave his baby sister carte blanche to throw him under the bus with their parents whenever necessary.

Just as a reflection though, I don’t remember our parties ever getting completely out of hand; well, except for that ONE time at Duane’s when his parents were in Europe for a week and we had a weekend long bash with over 250 people showing up, but other than that, we didn’t go for some of the insanity I’ve seen among high schoolers (and even middle schoolers) of this generation. A little liquor WOULD change the dynamic somewhat, just as it always has since Jesus turned the water to wine in Cana of Galilee, but except for a few fights that produced more bruised feelings than bruises and a strange relationship or twelve, we didn’t get nearly as rowdy as today’s bunch. Of course, our parents probably thought the same thing about THEIR generation since they were certain we were in the grip of the Antichrist.

 

Like this, only LOTS more kids.

I remember two particular incidents from those days quite well. Once, around this time in April of our senior year, a great cloud of us met up at one of the girls’ lakehouses and piled on for a pontoon ride around Lake Greenwood. About ten o’clock in the morning, I noticed Robby counting people. I asked him what in the world he was doing and he said, “look around.” I picked up his drift then. We had around 30 people divided between two pontoons and of those 30, twenty-six were in our second period math class . . . which just happened to be meeting at that very moment back at school — with a grand total of 2 people in it, if they had actually shown up.

 

The second incident was during the spring of our tenth grade year. Robby picked me up and told me we weren’t going to school, which was fine with me. I just ran back in the house and left Mama a note so she’d know what to say when the school called her after she got off third shift. Then we picked Duane up in Laurens as per our SOP and headed to the Overbays. It was a warm enough day to swim if anyone wanted to–unlike yours truly who couldn’t, and still can’t, swim. The four Overbay brothers had an awesome Olympic sized pool with no fence around it. That made one of the more interesting water sports at their house the “water walking contest” where someone would get about twenty yards back from the deep end and take off at a dead sprint right out onto the water to see how many steps he (and it was ALWAYS “he”) could take before getting pulled over by the long arm of the law of gravity.

That wasn’t what made this day special though. THIS day, Robby made the grave mistake of letting people talk him into driving his car. Robby was one of the few of us with night licenses and a car. Unwisely, he started sitting in the back while different folks took the trusty little ’83 Pontiac Phoenix Hatchback out for a spin.

A little browner than this, but a pretty good likeness.

The first ten or fifteen trips actually went quite well and it was getting about time to shut the party down anyway when Robby, in a total lapse of judgment, let Kathryn get behind the wheel with Carolyn riding shotgun.

The trip out was fine. Kathryn guided the little brown car up the gravel driveway and out to the stop sign about a mile away with no problem. She was doing great on the trip back in as well when the car skidded ever so slightly on some loose gravel at the head of the drive.

Now, keep your feet clean for a while and I’ll tell you the Paul Harvey in my next installment.

Love y’all 🙂

Whatta YOU Make of It?

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This'll be a lot clearer once you start reading!

This story comes to me secondhand via The-Closest-Thing-I-Have-On-Earth-To-A-Sister, aka my Girl Child, aka my Mormon Wife, etc. I hope I do it justice because it is entirely too awesome not to be out on the web. The really intriguing fact in my mind is this story is unembellishedly true.

Girl Child has a good friend who works as a bookkeeper at a supermarket in an Upstate city that shall remain nameless. A few weeks ago, she was in early . . . real early. Like 6 AM and she’s already on the job. That means she had to get up at probably 4:30 AM. I didn’t know 4:30 CAME twice a day!

Anyway, she is at her post working when the cashier on duty calls and asks her to “come take a look at this.” Having worked in a supermarket, I can attest to the multitude of meanings that phrase can have. Strange things happen in supermarkets and the smaller the hour, the stranger the things can be.

So bookkeeper girl goes to cashier girl who points out a customer who has just entered the store. The customer was a tall, elegantly attractive lady in complete make-up, with heels, hose, and hair-did. Nothing particularly odd about that, you say and I agree. What is odd, though, is the REST of her outfit consisted of a blue velour bathrobe. That’s it. The woman walked in the store right off the cover of Businesswoman Daily — except she was wearing a power robe instead of a power suit.

Don’t go away, it gets better or weirder depending on your point of view. The woman took a grocery buggy (that’s a “shopping cart” for any Yankees reading along — I’m looking at you, Eric D.) and disappeared down the household goods aisle. Ten minutes later she was back with her buggy filled with one item only. The buggy was level full of boxes of Glad Force Flex 55 gallon Yard and Leaf Waste garbage bags.

Like these. Lots of these.

Level. Full.

Garbage. Bags.

Black. Ones.

The woman paid for her buggy full of trash bags and left without comment.

Now, let’s recap for those late to the party. Woman, impeccably dressed in hair, heels, hose, and a bathrobe. It’s 6:00 AM. The Sun is not up yet. The little old ladies at Hardees are just getting the first biscuits out of the oven. The elegantly dressed bathrobe clad woman bought a buggy load of really big, really strong, really opaque TRASH BAGS.

Why?

I mean, you HAVE to wonder.

Mama, God love her Pollyanna heart, said that maybe something was wrong with the poor woman’s mind. Maybe, but if you are THAT bad off in the head, the nice men in the white coats usually don’t let you out of your custom fit jumpsuit with the sleeves in the back and it’s hard to drive wearing those things unless you happen to be Linda Blair and then you could just levitate or do that creepy spider-walking thing they cut from the original movie.

Some people have suggested maybe she was going to a company picnic and was in charge of cleanup later in the day. I could buy that if the bathrobe had sported a bunny tail and a rabbit head silhouette on the lapel and the robe was covering some of Vickie’s finest Secrets or some hot number from Freddy out in Hollywood. Oh yeah, and she got in a limousine with Hef because the “company picnic” was at The Mansion.

Budge, The Girl Child, and I have another theory that the bookkeeper who originally recounted the story put forth as well. Elegant Bathrobe Lady was getting dressed for a day at the office in some high paying, high-powered executive position. She’d gotten a bad night’s sleep because she was worried about her ne’er-do-well husband / boyfriend / live-in lover . . . whoever. This significant other had called the previous evening to say he’d be “a little late” getting home.

Well, a little late turned out to be 5:00 AM while EBRL was getting gussied up for work. She’s already decided the evening was going to be “tense” when he walks, or more accurately, staggers into the bathroom, clothes askew, reeking of stale cigarettes and booze. That would have been bad enough. After all, she has been keeping his sorry a-, oops, family blog — his sorry HIDE up for over a year now since he “got laid off” from his tasting job at the pie factory and decided to take some time and “find himself.” So she’s already not really happy with him.

BAAAAAD idea, son, REAL bad! Sucks to be you -- or it will in about ten minutes.

BUT THEN, she catches a whiff of something UNDER the bar funk smell. It’s perfume, and, Brothers and Sisters, IT AIN’T HER BRAND.

This will not end well.

At that moment, all the times her mother told her “he’s worthless” come screaming back.

Then she looks closer. LIPSTICK STAIN ON CHEEK.

All the times her girlfriends had tried to warn her about his hound dog ways come surfing the wave of her anger right on in to shore and, to quote the immortal Garth Brooks-before-he-went-blond-and-weird, “The thunder rolls . . . ”

Move over Leatherface, Honey Pie is PISSED!

So, she’s out buying the big, black, strong trash bags to go with the nice new chainsaw she picked up at Lowes as soon as they opened. She has to go by the cleaners to drop off the dress she was going to wear to work and ask them to try to save it even though it’s pretty stained up. It’s one of her very favorite dresses.

Then, she’s going home. She’s already called the office and told them she’ll be a little late.

She’s been meaning to take care of a mess she’s got laying around at home and she just can’t put it off any longer!

What do y’all think?

Me? I was raised by a Mama. I was engaged SIX times. I married Budge. I’m CERTAIN that Hell hath no fury, etc, etc.

In any event, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean . . . you never know when they may be entered in to evidence!

Epiphany of a Vine Tester

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I was in Mr. Sublett’s AP US History class on a winter Friday, second period, junior year, halfway listening to The Sub expound on the role states’ rights played in the War Between the States and halfway to Daydream Believer Land when it hit me what a bunch of low-down, four-flushing, underhanded rat-finks my buddies were when we were in the late single digits and very early double-digit years of our lives. The epiphany was nothing short of shocking. I let half the class in on my astonishment by suddenly sitting up straight in my desk and muttering loudly, “What a bunch of sorry . . . ” Well, we won’t go into exactly what sort of sorry they were. This is mostly a family blog.

Just because you've got on a cape don't mean you can fly.

Anyway, this is what hit me. When we boys were young and rip-romping around the woods behind our houses, we had two favorite past-times: splashing in the creek looking for “spring lizards” and swinging on vines over the various ravines and gullies that pockmarked the tree choked hills. As I’ve mentioned many times here before, I am not now and never have been a lightweight. I’ve always been fat to the point of being big around as I have been tall. That made my rip-romping a little more difficult than my lithe and agile blood-brethren. As a result of the large disparity between my ability to cover ground and my lighter buddies’, I often lagged behind the gang . . . far behind at times. On good days, I could stay within earshot; on bad days — if I didn’t know the woods intimately — I’d get hopelessly lost.

Luckily, and here’s where my epiphany kicked in, the boys always waited for me at every vine swing or log crossing. Now all my buddies were raised to be kind and mannerly — just like I was. All of our parents and grandparents had been friends and sometimes even kin. So for nearly ten years, I thought the guys were looking out for me. They knew that I was slow AND (I hate to admit this) they knew I was terrified of getting lost in the woods and eaten by a grizzly bear or worse. It didn’t matter to me that no wild grizzly bear had lived east of the Mississippi River — much less Upstate South Carolina — in over a century. I was just an easily scared little boy. (Who, incidentally, grew up into an easily scared man).

But I digress.

Without fail, I’d always find the group waiting for me at the aforementioned log crossing or vine swing and, without fail, they always let me go first. I figured it was their way of keeping me close enough to hear my death screams as Gentle Ben was having me for lunch. That day in Sub’s class though, the harsh ugly truth hit me. Altruism wasn’t anywhere in their equations.

I was the vine tester.

Quite simply, I was always the first to cross the logs over the creeks or gullies. I was always first to swing across the logless gullies on a vine — Tarzan style. What I had mistaken for kindness was cold, calculating self-preservation. I easily outweighed the next heaviest member of our circle by a good fifty pounds. At some point, they all got together and realized if they sent me across first, whatever material was in question would definitely hold them!

They used me and my fat to keep themselves from cuts, sprains, and wet jeans. I was so certain of their tender motives that I never questioned them. After all, I was a very poor vine-swinger so they would always give me a boost up and a good push to make sure I got across. Once or twice, I didn’t. I would have shoes full of muck and poison ivy all over my legs, but they would be safe.

Why sure, guys! I'll go first. Hold my drink will ya'?

I would have gone on to my grave in blissful innocence of my “friends'” duplicity had it not been for night hunting. That was what turned my mind to those halcyon days as I sat in that AP History class. Some of my friends from those bygone days had taken up the quintessential Southern “sport” of coon hunting.

Briefly, coon hunting consists of moving rapidly through woods, fields, and creek bottoms in pursuit of a pack of demented dogs — coon hounds — who are themselves in pursuit of a raccoon. To up the degree of difficulty into the stratosphere, this is all done at night. Usually WAY at night. Oh, yes, and the season is also in the dead of winter.

I had joined these acquaintances on a few of these moonlit excursions and, just as in days of yore, I was always invited to cross the fallen log first. Ten years on, I was still “the vine / log tester!”

Thanks to that second period awakening, however, my tenure as quality control for creek crossings was at an end. We had scheduled a hunt for that very night. I went along as I always did and, we came to a fallen log, as we always did. One of the guys called out, “Wham, you head on across so you don’t get so far behind”, just as they always did.

For the first time, however, I spoke up at the crossing.

“Fellas, it’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally figured out this game. Y’all gonna send my fat . . . butt across that log so if it don’t break with me you’ll know it’s safe. Now don’t deny it, I’ve come to this conclusion, but I’ve got one thing to say. I’ve worked over this here shotgun of mine and she’s got a nice easy trigger pull. It’s gonna be a shame if a log breaks tonight or any other night from here on out because I’m pretty sure if I fall, this shotgun is going to go off. Furthermore, despite all our training with guns and such, I’m almost CERTAIN this shotgun will be fall out of my hand in such a way as to be pointed in all y’all’s directions. Just thought I’d let you know. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll cross this log.”

It was the last log I ever “tested”.

Now keep those feet clean and remember how much G.S. Feet loves y’all!

Me and Freddy

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Tomorrow is the celebration of the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain. For the less pagan among us, it’s All Hallow’s Eve. Most of us folks around here just call it Halloween and it’s a time to dress up in a silly costume and eat way too much candy (if you’re a kid), dress up in a silly to slutty costume and drink way too much alcohol (if you’re a typical college student), or dress in the most comfortable things you own to walk / drive all over town so your little goblins and their friends can load up on carbohydrate laden loot (if you’re a parent).

One time-honored tradition for Halloweiners of all ages, though, is the Fright Fest Movie Marathon. That’s when normal, sane folks cut the lights out and cut the DVD player on to watch the craziest, goriest, and scariest movies available to modern man. What results is everyone trying to scare everyone else and lots of jumping and general mayhem. Most people think it’s a terrific way to spend an evening.

I am most emphatically NOT one of those people. When it comes to cinematic terror, I am the most lily-liver coward in the room. You could launch aircraft from the yellow streak down my back. I simply don’t go to or watch horror / thriller / scary / suspenseful movies unless I am tricked or forced (and by forced, I mean you’d better bring the BIG boys) into watching them. My reason is simple — I have bad nerves, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and an overactive imagination.

In other words, I’m jumpier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs at the BEST of times. I don’t need any more terror in my life. This seems quite strange, I know, coming from someone who grew up with Michael, Jason, and Freddy. In some ways, my tween and teen years were the golden age of slasher flicks. All my friends ate them up.

Not me.

The focus of this particular fiasco is the time I got tricked into going to the first “Nightmare on Elm Street” at the old Oaks Twin Theater in Laurens when I was around 13 or so. Now the Oaks, like a lot of theaters back then, had heavy velvet-like floor to ceiling that hung about a foot or so from the cement block walls of the building’s outside. That space was just wide enough for the theater employees to slip into and go up and down the side aisles unnoticed.

This provided ample opportunity for mischief.

Well, most everyone knows about Freddy Kruger and that stupid bladed glove of his — NOW.

We didn’t THEN.

I’m sitting with three other guys two rows down from the mom who brought us and I’m hunkered down as much as my tubby little frame would let me, watching the movie through my fingers and it’s barely past the opening credits. Then, as if my nerves weren’t already shot, random screams started erupting from up and down both sides of the theater. We were down front, so all the screams were behind us. I had no idea what was going on and I was scared poop-less.

I was stuck next to the wall; this turned out to be unfortunate.

At a terrifying moment where Freddy jumps out from nowhere, the curtain next to me parts and a bladed glove come slashing down towards me, followed by an arm in a stripped sweater and a grotesque, hat topped face and head. I screamed like a little girl. Thankfully for my pride, so did my compatriots.

Now, I knew deep down in my psyche that this was a theatrical stunt because things like Freddy didn’t exist, but at the time, the part of the brain tasked with relaying that information to the rest of my mind was on lunch break or something so the message didn’t get out and the more “primitive” sections of the old gray matter took over.

Now folks, I learned early on in life that white boys can’t jump and fat kids can’t run. Whenever my “fight or flight” reflex kicked in, I knew it was root hog or die. Running just meant I’d still get the wedgie and I’d be tired and sweaty in the bargain.

So this arm is coming at me and I’m screaming and my buds are screaming and the folks in the rows in front and back of us are screaming and I’ve got no where to go and nothing to do and I’m terrified and trapped.  Just so you know, a terrified fat kid backed into the corner of a movie seat is a dangerous and unpredictable thing.

I wasn’t sure if the wetness on my pants was from a sudden loss of bladder control or sudden loss of 48 ounce Big Burper slushie control. (It was the slurpee I discovered later) All I was certain of was I was going to die and I determined not to go out like the chumps on the movie screen so when the blades brushed my cheek, I reached up, latched on with both hands, and proceeded to chomp down amidships of that sweater clad arm like a mule eating corn. I swear I felt my jaws lock and my teeth touch bone. I was like Ricki-Ticki-Tavi fighting Nag the Cobra; if I was going to die, at least let me be found with my teeth sunk into my adversary.

At that point, the arm started to shake violently and another whole set of shrieks got added to the surrounding cacophony which just caused me to bite down even harder. Suddenly, the grimace on the masked face was real, actual pain. That’s when my buds started banging me on the back and trying to get me to let go because they’d realized that it was all a stunt. I guess that’s when the message relaying part of my brain decided to return from the potty and I understood what was going on. The poor guy who’d been going up and down behind the curtains scaring people was holding his arm and cussing a blue streak. We didn’t see the rest of the movie.

Just so you know, if they cut the lights on in a movie theater and the show isn’t over, that’s not a “good thing.”

That’s just one of many incidents of my bad reactions to a horror movie. Later on, maybe I’ll tell you about why I was banned (much to my relief) from the campus haunted house in college or perhaps about the time I dislocated my then-girlfriend’s shoulder during Pet Semetary.

Til then, though, Trick or Treat; love y’all and keep those feet clean!

 

They Shall Run and Not be Weary

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Requiescat In Pace, Mi Amo.

As years go, 1995 sucked rocks big time.

My great-grandfather died New Year’s Day. Two of my favorite cousins were killed in a huge car wreck in March. One of my wrestlers was killed in July and while I was on the way home from his visitation, Mama called and told me to go to the hospital where Granny Wham was recovering from a stroke. I broke every speed limit possible getting to Hillcrest thinking the whole time that Granny had died. She hadn’t . . . Papa Wham had. That was enough to send my world reeling, but the year wasn’t over yet.

On this day 15 years ago, my buddy lost her long brutal fight with cancer. She was just shy of turning 20. She was one of the very best friends I ever had and she’s the only woman, besides Mama, that Budge doesn’t mind me having a picture of on my desk. Budge knows what my buddy meant to me. Not many others do because I’ve never told that many people about her.

I met her when I was doing my student teaching in 1993. She was a senior which meant at that time, she was just over three years younger than me. I won’t say we had love at first sight, but we definitely had chemistry at first sight. The crutches made me curious.

She got around on crutches better than I could get around on two legs. Her left leg was gone. Once I got to know her, the story came out. She’d been a first rate cheerleader and volleyball player up until her freshman year of high school.  One day after practice, she had a cramp in her left leg behind her knee. When she sat down on the bleachers to rub it out, she found a knot. The knot didn’t go away in several days. She went to the doctor, the doctor did some tests, and the next thing you know, Jed’s a millionaire and she’s being diagnosed with acute lymphoma.

They took her leg with a saw; her health and hair followed with chemotherapy. None of it ever broke her spirit though. She just threw up and rocked on. That’s how she rolled, as the saying goes today. When I met her, she’d finally gotten a full head of hair back, even though it was short, and she was in full remission.

We started calling and hanging out together. She had a Corvette she drove with hand controls and in those days when I had more courage than sense, she was one of the few drivers who could put me in the floor with terror. She was utterly and finally fearless. She said cancer couldn’t kill her so she wasn’t going to worry about anything else.

I graduated in May; she in June. We met up at the beach and hung out some. She loved the beach. I was over 21 so I kept her hotel room supplied with party lubrication. Yeah, it was illegal. Sue me. We had a great week before I went back to find a teaching job and she went back to get ready for college.

She never made it to college though. She called me two weeks later. I went to see her at the hospital. The cancer was back. In her lungs this time. They took out the offending lung lobe, gave her more chemo and again pronounced her in remission after six months. I called her daily and went to see her every chance I could. One day while we were laughing and cutting up driving around the hills around her home blasting out Skynyrd, Hatchet, and Duane and Gregg,  I even asked her if she’d like to get hitched to a redneck like me. After all, it was obvious we were a perfect match.

I’ll never forget her reply. She reached up and cut the radio off, suddenly all business. She locked eyes with me and said, “I’d love to, but I’m going to die before long and you won’t be able to bear it if we were married. It’s going to be hard enough on you as it is.” I nodded. She turned up “Tuesday’s Gone” and we took off again.

Turns out, she was a prophetess. Less than three months later, I went back to the hospital to see her. It was in the right lung this time, but this time things were different. She wasn’t a minor anymore and she made her own decisions. To the abject horror of her mama, daddy, friends, and me, she announced she had no intention of leaving the world one piece at a time. She was done fighting. She was tired.

I kissed her on the cheek before I left her room that night. It was the last time I saw her alive. In the end, the big C sucked her dry. She weighed less than 50 pounds at the end. Her hospice nurse called me when it was over. My number had a heart around it in her contact book. I heard it was a closed casket funeral. She wanted everyone to remember her as she’d lived, not as she’d died. I went to see her mama and daddy but I didn’t make the funeral. No way I could. Hard to go to a funeral fifty miles away when you can’t get your eyes dry long enough to drive.

I only knew my buddy a little while in the grand scheme of things — barely two full years — but she taught me a hell of a lot in that short time about loving life and what it was to show real courage. On her tombstone is the picture of a soaring eagle and her favorite Bible verse:

“They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”

I lost a lot of love in 1995 and love, especially the kind of love I lost, can’t be replaced.

That’s why I love all y’all so much.

Keep those feet clean and remember to live like you were dying!

Didn’t Get the Memo

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My Budge has been out-of-town for the last three weeks, so I’ve not thought about getting a haircut since how I look is much more important to her than it is to me; however, when I looked in the mirror yesterday and saw Bozo the Clown looking back, it was time to go see Roger or Bobby down at Hall’s Barbershop. Hall’s is an amazing anachronism owned and operated by a fourth generation of Hall men. “Grandpa” Hall opened the shop back in the early 1930s, then “Pop” Hall learned from him and took over when he retired and, after nearly 60 years of cutting hair, Pop retired and now three of his sons: Perry, Don, and Roger and two of Perry’s sons: Lee and Bobby. It’s a great place to get a HAIRCUT and not a HAIRSTYLE. It’s also one of a dying breed.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with this story other than the setting where I ran into my buddy. Seeing him reminded me of a story I love to tell.

I cannot use any names in this story because I like my house intact and not incinerated, and I’d like to have a chance to make it to old age. Mentioning names would be detrimental to any of that occurring. Anyway, this buddy of mine has a precious wife (not as precious as Budge, but who is?) who is friendly and warm and caring and about as sharp as a sack of hammers. Actually, she is quite academically intelligent, but when I met her, I realized I’d found, after a lengthy quest, ONE person with less common sense than I have. Still, she’s a wonderful person . . . just a little slow out of the mental gate at times.

For instance, several years ago, the two of them went on a ten-day Alaskan cruise. While they were packing, she turned to my buddy with a cute little bikini in her hands and asked him to put it in the suitcase. He looked at her and said, “Honey, we’re going to Alaska remember? You know, polar bears? Igloos?” She looked him dead in the eye and, with complete seriousness said, “You said we were leaving from a port so I thought we’d go by the Caribbean on our way to Alaska and I could lay out in the sun on deck.” We live in South Carolina.

Trying to keep a straight face, he replied, “Honey, we’re leaving from GREENVILLE AIRPORT.” She said, “Yeah, so?”

Geography . . . it’s not taught as much anymore.

Another time, my buddy got a call at work. It was his lovely, at the time, fiancée’. She said, “Baby, when you heat up soup on the stove, how do you get the Tupperware gunk off the stove eye?” This was not long after she LITERALLY burned water trying to boil eggs.

Still, crazy as all that may sound, her crowning glory came about six years ago in the spring of the year. My buddy was taking her out for breakfast not too long after sunrise. This happened to be the day after the biennial time change. You know, “Spring forward, Fall back”? Well, they were driving into the sunrise and this precious young wife turned to her husband and said, in all sweetness, sincerity and seriousness,

“Hon, I’ve always wondered . . . how does the Sun know it has to come up an hour earlier in the Spring and an hour later in the Fall?”

Life is often much stranger than fiction can ever be!

Love y’all! Don’t forget to wash your feet! 🙂