Icy Showers and Rotten Sausage

Cousin Kat was tight. We always took plenty of food when we went to visit, knowing how “conservative” she was. She thought three rolls, three scrambled eggs, a little jam and a dab of butter was plenty for any number of guests there might be for breakfast. “I just don’t think there’s any point in folks being hoggish,” was her favorite phrase as she set out a meal. She was a devout believer and had probably heard that story about Jesus feeding the multitudes on five loves and three fishes one too many times.

A few days before our last visit, someone had given Cousin Kat some fresh homemade sausage. She’d eaten a bit and saved some for us. That sounded fine till I opened her tiny 1940 model refrigerator to get some water. The rank smell of bad meat nearly knocked me down. “Ooh, Cousin Kat, I think something’s gone bad in here!”

“Oh, it’s not bad. It’s just that sausage Barney gave me. It’s real spicy!” She answered, totally unconcerned. “I’m gonna cook it up for supper.”

I made up my mind then and there to eat popcorn. I’ve never smelled a spice that mimicked the smell of rotting meat so closely. Mother and Phyllis both found other options. Count Kat cooked that sausage and ate up all by herself, since she was determined not to let it go to waste. It stunk the whole house up with its nauseating odor as it cooked. We all told her it smelled like it might have “gone to the bad.” She disagreed.

We planned a road trip for the four of us to go into Amish Country and packed a nice picnic …no sausage. Phyllis and Cousin Kat decided to take their showers the evening before so The four of us wouldn’t be competing in the morning. Cousin Kat told her how she could run a bit of water in the tub, sit on the edge, wash her face, ears, neck, then her body before washing the best parts and her feet. That way, she could get by with just a little of that expensive hot water. Well, I do believe I heard the shower running while Phyllis was in there, despite her lesson. Cousin Kat perked up her ears, too. When Phyllis came out, Cousin Kat said, “I hope you stopped up the tub and saved your water for me. Just one person don’t mess up bath water none.” Shamefaced, Phyllis had to admit she run it all down the drain. Cousin Kat gave her a look.

We went on to bed. I snore and talk in my sleep, so no one would bunk in with me. I am always early to bed, so I took the small bedroom. Cousin Kat gave Mother an inflatable mattress her son had left there to put on the living floor. Unfortunately, he had taken the pump home with him, so they sent a great deal of time trying to inflate it with a small hand-held hairdryer, the wrong tool for the job. Eventually, it approximated a mattress, though it flattened out the minute Mother reclined on it. They hadn’t bothered to pad the floor with quilts, so Mother was freezing the minute she lay down that frosty October evening. She got up, dragged her covers tote old-fashioned bi-fold sofa and tried to warmup. It was hard, lumpy, and had a couple of exposed springs but it was better than the icy floor.

Meanwhile, things weren’t going much better for Phyllis in the large, unheated upstairs bedroom. She’d chosen it because she liked to sleep in the cold. She’d dawdled and was the last to get to bed. I was quickly asleep though I kept up a listen for retching during the night, expecting Cousin Kat to come down with food poisoning, but the next thing I knew, Phyllis was climbing in the small creepy bed with me. “I thought you were too good to sleep with me.” I reminded her.

“I am, but when I got upstairs and switched on that dim overhead light, and everything looked fine, but when I turned back the quilts, rice scattered all over the place. I couldn’t imagine why rice would be on the bed, like that. I turned on that little flashlight Cousin Kat gave me and saw the bed and floor covered in mouse pellets. Mice were scattering everywhere. I can’t sleep up there with all those mice. She was mad! I was laughing so hard the springs were creeping. We sounded like honeymooners.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t sleep well, I talk in my sleep. In truth, it’s much worse than that. I curse and hurl epithets, language I’d never use during waking hours. Once I drifted off, Phyllis and I rolled up in that ancient mattress like a couple of hotdogs in a bun. She swears I shoved her and screamed at her to “get the f…. Out of here. I don’t remember a thing about it!

In a huff, she got up in search of a place to sleep. Seeing that Mother had abandoned the perfectly good air mattress, she gave it a try. Of course, it put her right on the floor. Not to be defeated, she folded it in half and stretched out. That was a little better. Just as she drifted off, it gave up the ghost and blew out. Hearing all the racket, Mother and I got up to help. I invited her to share my bed, but she was mad and wouldn’t have any part of it. Mother offered to share the bi-fold sofa, but there was no way that would work. She ended up spendinding the rest of the night wrapped in a blanket trying to sleep in a not-so-easy chair.

We got up early to Have breakfast and get ready for our trip. At the kitchen table, We chatted over breakfast and sipped coffee. Mother and Phyllis lied about the extent of their miserable night. Phyllis had to come up with an excuse about abandoning the mousy attic. Cousin Kat polished off the last piece of the rancid sausage with her breakfast.

I got the first shower, keeping it short, since I remembered Cousin Kat’s lesson. It was pleasantly hot, but Mother said Cousin Kat ducked down to the basement to “get something” while I showered. Mother was next in line. When she got in, the water was nice and hot while she soaped up, but in just a minute, an icy blast hit her. Obviously, Cousin Kat’s basement errand was to cut off the water heater. The water came from a spring, so Mother’s hot shower was over. She had to wipe the soap off with a wet washcloth dipped in icy water.

She was furious when she shivered out of her shower, accusing me of using all the hot water.
“Mother, I wasn’t in there but a couple of minutes. I didn’t use that much!”

All the while, Cousin Kat sat humming contentedly, finally offering, “Oh well, that water heater’s old. I guess it just gave out.” Only the day before she’d told us that her son had just put in a new one, over her objections. “I can heat what water I need on the stove and save the heating bill.” She made no mention of turning off the water heater.

Finally, the cold, sleepy bunch was ready to start the trip.

To be continued

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All Wrapped Up

My friend Jean could fall in a bed of roses and come out smelling like cow manure.  Best of all, she couldn’t resist telling off on herself.  After having three babies in four years, she somehow decided she needed a little romance, though why anyone with three babies would encourage that behavior was a mystery to me.  She took the children to her mother for the night and hurried home to fancy herself up for a steamy night.   Having read an imbecilic article suggesting meeting your guy at the door with a  rose in your mouth wearing nothing but cellophane, she decided that was the very thing.  She showered, did a daring style and bit of a color job  on her nether portions and perfumed herself enticingly.   Just before her man was due home, she started at her ankles and wrapped herself in plastic wrap.  This was unfortunate, as it effectively hobbled her.  She waited by the door, rose clenched between her teeth.  Though her husband was usually punctual, this day he was late.  She waited in anticipation for several minutes till it was obvious he was late.  Tired of standing, she hopped toward the sofa, still clenching the rose.  Since she had toddlers, a malicious Lego was lurking in wait.   Propelled forward, nosediving the sofa arm.  Blood gushed.  She grabbed the nearest thing to staunch the cascade of blood and somehow got herself up on the sofa.  In agony, she lay there, trying not to scream as every heartbeat pounded in her damaged nose.  As the pain abated a bit, like any mother of three toddlers, she went to sleep.

She was awakened by her horrified husband standing over her.  “Oh My God!  What happened?

Icy Showers and Rotten Sausage part 2

We toodled happily through the hills of Virginia in high spirits for a couple of hours till Cousin Kathleen asked for a rest stop. She wasn’t feeling so well. Uh oh! Still fearing the onset of food poisoning, I wheeled into a service station and she scurried for the Ladies Room. We filled the car, took our break, and waited. She came out looking a little green around the gills. “I ain’t feeling too peart. Something must be going around. I have a feeling I knew what was going around, that rotten sausage rolling around in her gut.

“Do you think we ought to go back home? I don’t want to take you off sick.”

“I’m fine. I just kinda’ had loose bowels.” That phrase always gave me visions of a person walking along with their arms full of slippery guts that periodically escaped and slipped to the ground. “I think I am fine now. My stomach’s rumblin’ a little. Think I’ll have a little bite to settle it.”

The sharp smell of rancid sausage assaulted us as she unwrapped a sausage-biscuit she dug out of her purse. “I’m sorry I ain’t got enough for y’all, but I didn’t want to waste this last piece.”

We couldn’t talk her out of eating it, and she cleaned it up, even licking its wax paper wrapper. Around noon, we stopped at a rest area for our picnic, spreading it out on a table under a shade tree. Several other groups were picnicking close by. Cousin Kat wasn’t hungry, so she headed for the restroom, telling us “Y’all go ahead and eat. I need a few minutes to sponge off a little.” That sounded ominous, but I didn’t offer to go along, assuming she wanted privacy.

By the time she came out, she looked bad. At a nearby picnic pavilion a couple with three little children was putting out their lunch. Dad smoothed the red and white checkered cloth and corralled the kiddies as Mom laid out the matching napkins and dishes. It was obvious tradition meant a lot to these parents since the kid’s clothes matched and Dad pulled out a nice camera and set up a tripod. It was a beautiful day for a picnic and family photos until Cousin Kat walked up, leaned against one of the poles of their pavilion and started projectile vomiting in their direction. She continued retching as they hurriedly packed their things, apparently in no mood for a new tradition.

When she regained her equilibrium, drank a Seven-Up, declaring she was fine now. “Sometimes I just get real sick like that, then it’s all over. Let’s get on down the road!”

She must have had a constitution of iron. We couldn’t talk her into going home, so we headed on. All was well for a couple of hours, then she got nauseated. I pulled over so she could retch to her heart’s content. Reaching in the car behind her, she grabbed Mother’s brand new red fleece jacket to wipe herself up with. Mother is still griping about her ruining that jacket. We whipped into a hotel and got a room, so she could rest and recover. We loaded her with fluids. I tried to get her to go to the Emergency Room but she would have no part of it. You can’t make an apparently competent adult go to the Emergency Room against their will. Believe me, I tried. Every time she opened her eyes, I had her drinking fluids.

After a few hours, she seemed better. At her suggestion, the rest of us walked over to the hotel restaurant for dinner. When we got back in an hour or so, the room smelled like a charnel house after a fresh episode of diarrhea and vomiting. Worst of all, her hemorrhoid had flared up and started bleeding. There was a bloody, poopy mess on the toilet, the walls, and a trail back to the bed where she lay sleeping like a baby. We made sure she was okay, gave her more to drink, and got to work on the mess, calling for extra towels to clean up. We also had to wash her clothes, since she’d already messed up the two outfits she’d brought. Then we headed to the pharmacy for remedies and air fresheners. Just in case you don’t know, they don’t give that stuff away. It was not a good night.

Somehow, we made it through the night. The next morning, she’d won her gastrointestinal battle. Now all she had to deal with was agonizing hemorrhoids. Her generous descriptions of her progress and suffering did not make her a better travel partner. We did some anti-climatic sightseeing in Amish Country, due to her ailments. Naturally, she didn’t feel like getting out, so we just made abbreviated stops. The only place she got out was at a quilt shop, where she was outraged at their prices. She’d thought she might be able pick up a nice quilt for twenty-five dollars.

We headed out early the next morning, determined to drop her off and head home to Louisiana. We had no intention of ever spending another night at her house. I think she was happy to see us leave, especially since we left her pantry well-stocked.