Mama Loved Clark Gable
There was a little porch right outside our back door. It got the full effect of the morning sun, and I loved to take me a cup of coffee and go sit there and bask in the glow of the soft morning light. It reminded me of the days when I was younger and used to sit outside our cabin with my dog Poochie by my side.
Mr. Jenks had already done the morning dishes. It turned out that living on his own for so long had made him into a first class cook. He wanted to contribute something to the meals, so we gave him a key and he started coming in the morning before we got up. Thurman and I would wake to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and frying bacon. The best thing was that he even cleaned the dishes.
I was sitting on a little white chair. It had this little red line that followed about a half inch on the inside of the sitting area. Looking at that little splash of color made me start to thinking about how all the chairs I noticed in California were store bought and painted. Maybe they didn't know how to make chairs from scratch out here.
There was this chair I was sitting on, the red chair that wouldn't let loose of Cain Bush's ass that day, the green chairs that Mr. Jenks and his company would sit on outside, and the blue chairs that Thurman and I used with the kitchen table that was painted green and orange.
Back home, if you needed a chair, you made it yourself or you had someone make it for you, and if you would have suggested to the craftsman that he paint it too, he would have spit tobacco juice on your feet, commented on your ancestry, and sneered at you like you was a Northerner or something worse.
And thinking about these chairs got me thinking about Mama and how hard she tried to make our lives more livable. Daddy ruled over our farm like an Oriental despot. He was to be obeyed in all things. I know he must have had some reasons for being that way, but it was kind of hard to swallow nevertheless.
I started thinking about how Colton had mentioned that he remembered voiding his bowels in our outhouse. The fact that he remembered taking a shit still made me smile. I thought it was such a odd thing to remember out of all the things in the world that should stick in your mind.
It also made me remember of the time that Mama tried to bring some culture into our austere little world. She had bought some paints. That fact alone was exceptional as Daddy would rather have pulled out all of our mule's teeth than spend money on anything frivolous, or what he considered frivolous. But Mama did some sewing on the side, and he let her keep the money which also surprised me quite a bit.
Anyways, she painted the seat of our outhouse purple and painted some pretty yellow and blue flowers on the walls. I remember watching her do it. It was special, magical morning. Daddy had gone into town, and she just came out of the house with some paints and some brushes and started painting.
I didn't even know there was such a thing as the color purple. I saw it nature, but no one had ever explained it to me. I noticed that she had no color purple either, and she patiently informed me how she mixed colors together to make it. While she was talking, she was sitting on the ground smiling, and her smile was so lovely that I still tear up when I think on it. It is that smile that I remember most whenever I think about her.
Daddy came home and eventually had to go use the outhouse. I saw Mama look out the window in anticipation of his reaction. She didn't have to wait long. He no more than entered the place before he came storming out with his eyes blazing and his face as red as a tomato.
"What in the blazes have you done, you stupid woman. The outhouse is place to perform our bodily functions and nothing else! Do you understand me!"
Mama tried her best to explain that she just wanted things a little nicer, but he wasn't hearing none of it. After he shamed her, he went back in and slammed the door shut. He never did make her cover it up though which I thought was strange in itself. I came to believe that deep down he kind of liked it his own self but could never admit it. And that's the single most important fact that I remember the most about my Daddy.
My Mama grew a little emboldened by the fact that he left the flowers on the outhouse walls and never did nothing about the purple seats either. The one thing that Mama truly loved besides us and her pretty colors was movie star magazines. I wasn't around when her and Daddy got into it over them. She bought them with her sewing money though. Thurman told me later that she had flat out told him that it was her money, and she wanted to read them magazines and that's all there was to it. I had a hard time believing that as she generally put up such little resistance to his rages.
She got to putting them magazines in a little special built tray inside the outhouse. Painted flowers on an outhouse wall were one thing, but having Clark Gable staring at him while he was taking a shit was too much for Daddy. So, he tore off a piece of the cover with a picture of Clark Gable, Mama's favorite actor, and used it to wipe his butt.
That night, Daddy had gone over to my Great-Uncle Eb's to drink moonshine and discuss church politics. I could tell by Mama's pacing that something big was going to happen, so Thurman and I pretended to be asleep and snuck into a closet off the main room and cracked the door to watch the fireworks when Daddy came home.
He came stumbling in the door and saw her standing defiantly in the doorway of the kitchen and instantly grew enraged. I saw him raise his hand over his head and start to bellow like he was drunk assed Biblical prophet from back in the day. He looked like Moses must have looked coming off the mountain, only drunker.
But before he could get a word out his mouth, Mama reached behind her and brought forth a can of store bought beets and beaned him right between the eyes with it. Blood gushed forth from a three inch gash in his forehead, and he stumbled and almost fell. He regained his footing by grabbing the door with both hands, but he was on shaky pins the rest of the way.
I had never, ever seen my Mama angry, and it scared me terribly. I can still see the look on Thurman's shocked face as it was illuminated by a tiny sliver of light coming through the cracked closet door. I learned that night that my Daddy wasn't like Jehovah, God of Old Testament, afterall. I learned he bled as easily as a doomed pig on butchering day and that a simple can of beets could bring him down. Thurman told me after she'd died that he had brought a smile to her face one day when he called her Goliath. I didn't think that shit was too funny because it conjured up an image of Mama hacking on Daddy's neck with a butcher knife.
On the other hand, I learned that my sweet, darling Mama wasn't all sunshine and light either. It took an awful lot to make her angry, but she had bit of rattlesnake in her too, and if you kept poking at her with a stick, she would eventually sink a tooth or two into you.
And I have wondered ever since what it was about Clark Gable's big old toothy grin that would make her go off like that. And I use to wonder a lot about Daddy tearing off a piece of the cover of the magazine because it was stiffer paper, and the pages on the inside of magazine were a lot softer. Did he really have something against the actor that I should have known about?
I sat outside until I finished my coffee and then took my cup, washed it in the sink, and sat it on the counter top to dry. I noticed that Mr. Jenks had written Get more coffee on a piece paper. I made a note on it.
It was sure nice having Mr. Jenks around and Burney Bush too. It was like we was starting to put together a new family. I knew it wouldn't be long before Thurman and Burney got married and we would have to come up with a new living plan, but for the moment I was contented the way that things were going.
This state of affairs somewhat scared me, for in my short experience at romance and domestic bliss, when you think that things are going well, things change, and sometimes they change pretty damned dramatically.
But then again, Guinnie and I never had a whole hell of a lot domestic bliss anyway. Things went south on us pretty quick. It was sweet while it lasted though, and I wondered if I would ever be as happy as I was when I came home from a hard day's work and Guinnie and little Stewie would be out on the porch waiting, and he would come running towards me with arms outstretched saying, "Daddy! Daddy!" I'd pick him up and plant kisses on both his red cheeks and then step and up and kiss Guinnie hard on the lips. Them were days when I didn't have two dimes in my pockets, but, at such moments, I was richer than Clark Gable ever thought about being, and no one that I knew of was using my picture to wipe their ass.
I was two years back in Oklahoma inside of my head, but in this reality, the one that seems to matter most, I was looking out of the kitchen window on a beautiful California morning, and I saw a bluebird perch on one of Mr. Jenk's green chairs, and it was staring in my direction. I stared back at it and suddenly gasped for air and cried out loudly, breaking the thin silence, "My God! My God! Will I ever be that happy again?"