Character Study: Following Doctors Orders

Country woman in her late 70s. 

 

My life sparked when my mama laid herself down with a bunch of horny toads in some city by a bay. She never rightly said but I think it was in Florida since according to my mama she ain’t never been west of the big river called the    em   i   double-s    i    double-s     i      humpback        humpback     i.               I always liked saying that. Sort of like singing.

However I do believe I have cause to question my mama’s statement seeing as how a cousin I got in California said she enjoyed it when my mama came to visit her sister. This auntie and cousin I only heard tell of and seeing as how my mama was always prone to exaggerating                  okay I’ll call it what it is lying           I did not believe they existed.

You can imagine my surprise when that cousin called me at the house one day saying she thought it was time we got to visiting seeing as how we were now a couple of old women and had nothing else better to do.

I told her I did not know who she was talking about. I’m only fifty-one I said and did not consider myself old. She laughed. Said I sounded just like she remembered my mama sounding and that is when I found out mama had been to California which is a whole heap further past the big river than she had let on.

Which brings me back to which city by the bay my mama was in while she laid under all them horny toads. I’ve got a romantic streak in me and have decided it wasn’t Florida in which I was kindled but that other city that Tony fella sang about that time on the radio when I was on my way to work for the midnight shift at the textile mill.

’Course I am a old woman now and that cousin I mentioned before is too. I watched a show on the tv about old folks and the things they have to dispense with in their old age and other such whatnots only rich old folks have to figure out. I’m not rich so I din’t pay no mind to that. What did catch my attention was something called Writing Your Memoirs for Generations to Follow.

Some tv doctor said young folks would want to read these writings later but he was just silly. They won’t read what I write ‘til I’m dead and buried and they is wanting to learn about their past which means they’ll just be old and wanting to write their recollections.

So what I’m doing now is in vain. But the tv doctor said it would make old folks feel good to write about their life and God knows feeling good is something I could use so here I am writing this down.

I started working at the mill when I was sixteen. I got a daddy when I was ten and he was a nice fella. He never tried to touch me up like my mama’s other beaus. But my mama wasn’t so nice and so the only daddy I ever knew left when I was fifteen. He tried real hard to stick it out on my account and he apologized for leaving. He was crying. I am crying.

*****

I’m back to the paper now. I don’t want to write no more about my only daddy. I hope the younger generation can forgive me for that. So I’m going to mosey on over to some other topic and see what I see to say about that.

I started working at the mill when I was sixteen. They put me in the carding section. It paid good for 1960 though the big boss what wore the tie took a shine to me and kept trying to make nice. He weren’t the only man at the mill what spied me out.

The big boss was an old man at least I thought so at the time. But looking back I reckon he was in his prime maybe forty-five or fifty. From this old woman’s perspective a man of that age is vigorous and generous not like the dried up old prunes I see at the Publix on Senior Wednesday who is still the horn dogs even if they are only looking for a purse or a nurse. I remember when I knew what to do with a man full of vigor and generosity. Not proud to say it but I’m not a liar and won’t pretend otherwise.

In this man thing I am a lot like my mama.

Unlike my mama I protected my precious virginity until such time as I married. In this I am proud. But what do young girls know after all? The man hisself turned out to be a low-down snake and took to bedding my mama who didn’t see nothing wrong with it. I had a good cry and went to work and just did my job. The pay was steady. Company checks didn’t bounce. And the men at work still liked me and flirted and such and that made me feel good. The women didn’t like it so much as some of the men was their husbands.

But it’s not like I enticed them over or nothing. They just naturally swarmed. Manhood sometimes cannot be denied. I never had nothing to do with no married man once I knew he were married. And once I found out why the barn door was locked good and tight to him and no amount of sniffing around and pawing at the dirt and kicking at the stable gate would let him get through.

Sometimes if I happened to find out who the woman was I’d have a little chat with her and apologize and explain. But mostly I left the women alone as most did not understand that I was not the aggressor in this matter and was honorable about it when I found out the truth about the man.

In due course I found a man who said he would love me true and I didn’t believe him because it wasn’t the first time I’d heard that from some fella who turned out to be temporary. But my Frankie finally wore me down and I said yes and I said we should elope and he said no woman he were marrying was going to sneak off and do the deed and we were married proper in a church.

My mama was eyeing Frankie from the first time I brought him over and I saw Frankie smile at her and give her a hug and a peck on the cheek and I saw my mama smile and give him a flicker of interest but Frankie said he was going to do right by me and he promised to my mama that very same.

’Course I was nervous every time Frankie was near my mama because I know how she is and I know how I can be when I’m around men and I know all men are weak and I knew right and well that manhood cannot be denied and my Frankie were a man after all. But my mama never got nowhere with him and she tried hard.

One time Frankie could tell I was ’bout to say something to him after a particularly hard campaign my mama had put his way but Frankie just patted my hand and he said doncha worry my sweetness I’m all yurn.

My sweetness. That’s what he called me my Frankie did. And in time most of the women forgot about me and most of their husbands stopped trying to get in my panties and I was considered a passably respectable woman.

My Frankie and me never did have kids. We even took a trip to the city by the bay        the one in California                hoping maybe some magic would happen but it didn’t. Come to find out my baby maker was all stove up and shut tight and no amount of magic would make that work. I would’ve visited my cousin but at that time I did not know she was real and my mama didn’t think to mention it when I told her where we were going.

My Frankie passed away one night in the bed. Nineteen and ninety-three it was. June twenty-eight. No rhyme or reason for it. Just his beautiful dead head on the pillow. I cried of course. The only thing my mama did was shake her head and say she regretted she never got to find out how good he was in the sack. My mama is not so good at giving comfort but if I had any doubts about my Frankie they passed right that second so you could say I was comforted at least once by her.

I kept working at the mill all those years until I retired. Saved a right pretty penny but have nobody to leave it to. Maybe I’ll use it all up before I die. Now let’s see. Carding was the first job I had there. Then spinning. I remember those metal travelers getting stuck in the bottoms of my shoes. I cut myself a few times while sawing at the roller chokes. Then I went to the basement below the weave room. Inspected cloth for a long time but gradually found myself set up permanent as a grader.

Other folks wanted to work in the weave room because that was the choice job and when I say choice I mean choice. Paid more than any other in the mill because of all the intricate training. I never wanted to work in the weave room so I never tried to put in for a empty slot when a folk retired or died.

I liked the quiet of my lit-up booth with the cloth speeding from behind my back and over my head and then in front of me on the light table. I liked being alone but didn’t know I liked it until I was.

Oh the men still popped around my booth occasionally especially when they thought the widder woman needed some comfort. Truth be told I took the comfort because I needed it but I was a whole lot smarter about it and had no more married man fuss to worry about. In this I was not like my mama.

When I learnt a lesson it stayed learnt.

Most of the men didn’t hang around long. And it weren’t ’cause some of them didn’t wanna. Volunteers aplenty to stick around for sure but I couldn’t bear it.

For instance this one fella I allowed to sit in my Frankie’s seat at the table for a couple of months. I enjoyed going to sleep with him. And waking up with him was nice. And having somebody to cook for. I do like to cook. This fella         I done forgot his name         I remember he did dishes with no complaining.

Ain’t it a hoot what sticks in your mind and what goes? His eyes were blue. I remember that. Icy blue. Bright blue. But they sure did light up when they saw me. But his name? Maybe it’ll come to me.

Now rightly speaking           no bragging          that fella enjoyed being with me too. But the longer he sat in my Frankie’s seat and slept on my Frankie’s side of the bed and did the dishes my Frankie and I picked out for special I felt like my chest was constricting and I had to tell him to go. He was sad about it but he knew he didn’t fit in with me for no longer piece of time. No fuss or muss when he left.

I heard he got married to a woman in the next county over. I think it were a good match and they was happy until he died. Proud for him I was.

*****

Jerry McAlister. That was his name. I think that tv doctor was onto something about this recollecting in writing. Made me remember important things and such as that.

Men.

I don’t think a lot of women are so blessed in the man department as I was. At least from the women in the breakroom at the mill talking about their husbands I concluded that fact. At first when I overheard tales of their man falling short in pleasing them I couldn’t believe it. I thought they had to be lying to make their husbands unappealing to other women. Nobody is gonna steal a horse with a broke leg.

But the entire spell I worked at the mill all the women seemed to have letdowns from their men though it didn’t stop them from getting pregnant so something must have worked right every now and then.

Other than my mama’s boyfriends when I was a little sprite I’ve been a blessed woman when it comes to men. God as my witness Jerry sure knew what to do with a woman and I believe it could be honestly said with no lying he were the best I ever laid with though I seem to have had my fair share of men with mighty fine ample aptitude for pleasing a woman.

Lord the memories this old woman is having right now.  There was Chip and Tim and Martin and Charlie and Mabry and Wayne. And some others that flit through with names like Aaron and Carlos even if Carlos was a white man. He told me the story of his naming. Sad and romantic tale it was about a girl with a crush. Then Tyrone. Darwin. He were from Tennessee. Otto who come from Norway. Some faces I do not remember but the man hisself ain’t never forgot.

*****

I’m back at my paper after having read everything I wrote thus far. I think I might should tear it up. If somebody finds it they might think I was Jezebel herself. But since I am writing it down and I am an old woman and ain’t nobody cares what old folks have to say anyways and the tv doctor said to be brutal honest then maybe they ain’t no harm in proceeding with my truth.

The truth about me is that Lordy I do like the men.

The apple didn’t fall far from my mama’s tree that is for sure. And seeing as how she got me by laying up under a bunch of horny toads then it’s a sure bet both trees I came from were randy. Yes Lord I do like the men. See my mama was indecent about the men and they always felt guilty about what they did with her. Like they was sneaking around even if they weren’t married. They wouldn’t look my mama in the eye if they saw her in public.

Oh the times my mama would catch site of one of her lays and he’d pretend he didn’t know her and she’d go off on a rant about how they did this and that and embarrass the man. My mama could cut hard with her words. In this I was different from my mama.

I was a lady with manners.

I’m recollecting honest in this matter like the tv doctor said to be. Ain’t no man I ever laid with what felt he was doing something wrong and he would say that to God’s face.

I didn’t chase after them in public or mean mouth them when they walked out the door. I never made the first move toward a man if I found myself in the same space. They’d circle the room shaking hands and chatting up everybody they met until in a natural fashion they’d get around to me. Gentlemen they were. Took me places dancing sometimes. Weekends even.

For the most part it seems it was gentlemen what loved my company and when we parted company it was always with a thank you and a long hug. And a little wave and a sad smile from the car just before they pulled away.  In these things the men were sincere too. Said I made them feel good about themselves. Said they could go out and conquer the world like a king after having been with me.

I don’t know what they meant by that conquer thing but no matter ’cause it sure made me feel like a queen and that’s not a bad thing for a woman to look back upon in her old age.

At this time I am finished following the tv doctor’s orders. There weren’t much to tell.