Aunt Ader’s Place Part Eleven


evil-womanTrouble had its own plan and always lurked in the shadows waiting to jump me.  The simplest thing could go wrong.  There was just no way to anticipate what was down the road.  Billy and Troy were out of pocket when Uncle Parnell was ready to leave.  Daddy sent me and Sue to look for them.  Some neighbor boys told us they had seen them close to the railroad track.  Daddy had told us many times not to let him catch us on the railroad track.  We played close to it all the time, but out of consideration to him, were very careful not to let him catch us.  The kids went along to help.  Near the railroad, we found Billy’s sling shot.  I knew he would never have abandoned it.  This was serious!!!!   One kid slipped under the fence and scrambled up into one of the railcars, pulling the other up after him.  We heard them exclaiming, “Golleeeee…would you look at this!


Realizing they had probably found the boys’ bodies, we forgot about our warning and flew after them into the car.  There weren’t any bodies, but we stared in disbelief at graffiti-covered plywood walls. Most were in pencil, but many were brilliantly colored.  Monsters, naked women, effervescent angels, lurid devils, chimeric animals, faces of both beauty and evil, and, beatific pictures of Jesus looked back at us. Creativity in the form of poems also adorned the walls.


Since I had only a smattering of suspicion of the meaning of sex, I found the artwork and poetry edifying, though I suspected its use would land me in the doghouse at home.  Caught up in this rare cultural bonanza, we forgot about Billy and Troy.  Anyway, I was pretty sure they would turn up, but this was going to be my only chance at an educational opportunity of this magnitude.  Apparently, there are a lot of creative people riding the rails.  I certainly never saw anything like this at Sunday School.

As we continued our inspection, we heard a low rumble and felt the car jolt.  Holy Cow!!!   We jumped out and raced for the house as the train squealed and jerked into movement.  It was nearly dark! Caught up in all we’d seen, we’d completely lost track of time.  We sped for the house, knowing this was the most heinous crime we’d ever committed.  We were almost out of breath, when we met Billy and Troy.  “Boy are y’all in trouble.  Everybody’s out looking for you.”

I felt sick.  We went in slow and sad, the walk of doom.  Sure enough, everyone was furious.  The truth had beaten us home.  Froggy and Jamey had told them they left us  in the boxcars.  Daddy was furious!!!!  We’d done exactly what he had always warned us against and terrified them all.  Mother thought we had either fallen under the train or the hobos had gotten us!!!  Furiously, Daddy sent me to my room to ponder the evil I had done while Uncle Parnell grabbed Sue and Troy up and took off.  I didn’t dare open my door.  No one mentioned supper, especially not me.  Wild animals couldn’t have dragged me out of that room.  I rethought the whole incident over and over, re-scripting it in my mind, the way it should have been.  It wasn’t my fault.  I was only looking for Billy and Troy.  They could have been bleeding to death in the boxcar.  In my mind, I saved them countless times, risking my life as I jumped from the moving railroad car at the last second.  I imagined lots of different versions, none of them including me doing that I’d been forbidden to do.  No matter how hard I worked at it, I just couldn’t make it come out right.  I never realized it when I went to sleep, but my trouble was the first thing I remembered when I woke up.

I was surprised when Mother called me to get ready for school and eat breakfast, justlike  every other morning.  How could the day start out normally when I was in so much trouble?  I hated oatmeal, but ate it without complaint hoping to get on Mother’s good side.  She never said a word about my trouble and I certainly didn’t bring it up.  I went to school with a sense of dread, where it was business as usual, except I made sure to behave and avoid a note from the teacher.  I didn’t know if things could get any worse, but I certainly didn’t want to find out.

I hated to see the school day end.  I didn’t want to go home.  Daddy never forgot to take care of business when we’d gotten in trouble.  He wasn’t home when I got off the bus, a brief reprieve.  I did my homework, ate dinner, and was watching TV with the other kids when I heard Daddy’s truck.  I went to my room and sat in the gloom, waiting for the worst.  He and Mother laughed and talked just like they always did.  Finally, my door opened.  I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep, but Daddy wasn’t fooled. He started his lecture the way he always did.

“We need to have a talk,” even though I wasn’t going to be doing much of the talking.  “You scared us all.  You did just what I told you not to do.  Something terrible could have happened.  Your mother thought either hobos got you or you were stuck on the train.”  He droned on and on like he always did, while I waited for my punishment.  I got in trouble all the time and knew the routine. I zoned out pretty soon, hearing just “rumble, rumble, rumble” like he was turning a crank.

I was careful to listen for the pause, when he always asked me why I did whatever it was I had done.  I had learned to stick with, “I don’t know” until he tired of asking because, I wasn’t  about to tell the truth: “I didn’t think I’d get caught” (“Smart aleck”- deeper trouble), or “I thought  such and such” (“That’s what you get for thinking”) or “I didn’t think so and so” (“If you’re not going to think you might as well be alike on both ends.”) Daddy’s lectures always went on forever until he got down to business, something involving a switch or belt.  I never did decide which I preferred, despite extensive research.  Unbelievably, this time ended differently.  Because my cousin Sue was involved, Daddy had gone by to talk to Uncle Parnell on the way home.

Uncle Parnell’s children didn’t enjoy the consistent discipline our family did.  Sue was a talented liar, and got off the hook with an incredible tale which Uncle Parnell pretended to believe.  Daddy was disgusted, and for some illogical reason, for which I was truly grateful, Daddy reasoned that even though I had disobeyed, at least I hadn’t lied the way Sue had.  I got credit for being the better person and was spared.  Good old Sue!!!

Sunday Meditations

imageThe Swains lined the third pew from the front on the right side of the church.  Daddy insisted on it.  I might be a better person today if I’d gotten to sit on the back pew and write notes and giggle with my friends.  I had a lot of time over the years to study those in front of me, the only thing that kept me from going bonkers during the long service.

Brother Deck, an ancient deacon sat in the middle of the front pew, wearing ancient suits, heavy black, wool in winter and gray gabardine in summer.  The gabardine had been pressed so much it was thin and shiny.  Should it be hot enough for him to remove his jacket, we were treated to a view of a gray, gabardine wedgie, which somehow, he never seemed to notice, though I was always puzzled at how he could tolerate it.  Though the poor old man was stone-deaf, he never missed a service.  He nodded off to sleep as soon as the sermon started.  His anal sphincter must have relaxed as well since he punctuated the sermon with occasional farts instead of “Amen!”  It was nice comic relief to sermons.  I was fascinated with Brother Deck, anyhow, since he left the bed in a spooky old farmhouse with his two reclusive old sisters.  The kids told tales that they were crazy, but that didn’t discourage any of us from accepting the wonderful newspaper wrapped pears they passed out every Halloween.  They couldn’t have been nicer the few times I saw them.

Mr. and Mrs. Bob Lincoln sat at the opposite end of the pew in front of us.  Mr. Bo was on the school board and Miss Mary Lincoln a retired teacher.  They appeared quite prosperous and were much admired in the community.  I had plenty of time to observe Mr. Bob, and one day noted he was wearing BVDs. I had no idea what BVDs were at the time, but could clearly see a cross-cross strap pattern through the back of his his thin dress shirt.  Not only that, he wore fancy silky black socks, with alternating sheer and slightly heavier woven stripes.  I always felt a bit like a voyeur sneaking  peeks at the sight of his nearly naked ankles through those dashing socks.



Miss Bonnie sat in the middle of the front row of the choir, next to her sister Miss  Ozell, whispering and giggling silently, her shoulders heaving with poorly concealed mirth. A mountain of a woman, that pew must have suffered under her amusement.  I always anticipated the collapse of the pew, but my evil thoughts were never rewarded.  One memorable Sunday, the minister preached with an unzipped fly, holding everyone’s attention.  It’s really hard to keep your eyes on someone’s face while they’re tromping around with an open fly.

One fine Sunday when Daddy worked, my brother Billy took convinced Mother to let him sit with his buddies.  They slipped into a back pew at the last minute.  When the sermon started, Bill pulled a super ball from his pocket to amuse himself and his friends.  Clearly, nothing good would come of that.  Predictably, it wasn’t long before It bounced to the sloping hardwood floor.  It was amazing how beautifully it entertained as bounced joyously to the front, not even waiting for the altar call.  As it neared the altar, the minister stepped from behind the pulpit and deftly scooped it up and put it in his pocket without a pause in his sermon.  Bill vainly hoped his ownership would remain secret till the minister returned it as he exited the church.

The next Sunday we all lined the pew.

The Case of the Mysterious Spotted Dog Murder

Our life with Annie, our surly, farting Dalmatian was complicated by her partner in crime, Greg, the ever-present kid from across the street.  I use ever-present in the strictest sense.  Greg’s mom worked nights.  In a casual relationship never addressed by any of us, Greg made a beeline to our house as soon as he got home every day, hit the pantry for a snack, and let Annie out of prison.  Greg was well known for investigating our premises, keeping himself abreast of what all that was going on at our house, while he dawdled about, picking things up, questioning, “What’s this?  When did you get this?”   We’d chat about his day.  Afterwards, he and Annie would go off on a ramble, since we lived in a rural neighborhood with many large wooded areas. They were a common sight, known all over the neighborhood.

At any rate, one afternoon he and Annie stumbled on a construction site, just as a human skull was unearthed.  Naturally, the ensuing hub bub was tremendous. With law enforcement and news crews arriving, Greg and Annie managed to be front and center, part of the big story. Greg was ecstatic, carrying the news all over the neighborhood, taking full credit for the entire situation.  Anxious to milk the situation for all it was worth, Greg made a hasty trip back to our house to retrieve a gag item of my daughter’s, a dummy arm and hand intended to hang from the trunk of a vehicle, giving the impression of a body is in the trunk.

Returning to the wooded area near the site of all the excitement, Greg tossed the “arm” to Annie, initiating her favorite game of “keepaway.”  Annie burst from the woods, arm in her mouth, ripping through the yellow crime scene tape.  Greg was right behind her, yelling his head off. It was like a scene out of a Monty Python movie. Annie, no novice, at being chased by shouting strangers, headed home, dragging the incriminating arm.  Winded, she scratched at the back door, still clinging to her prize.  Shortly, she was followed by Greg and a bevy of law enforcement officers, asking to see the arm.  She’d hidden in the bedroom, reluctant to part with such a desirable prize, but I brought it out for their examination.  I was so glad not to be Greg’s parent that day.

Oh, the skull turned out to be that of a Native American who’d probably died more than one hundred years before.