Southern Comfort

 Southern Comfort

I swear, the day my daddy died, the devil in him jumped out and into my brother and nobody’s been the same since. My daddy was a mean sonofabitch he was, you should pardon my language, ma’am. My daddy was a Communist, imagine that will you, a Southern White Catholic Communist. All that fine William and Mary College education, and he was a bleedin’ Com-mu-nist.

One day, when I was twelve-years-old, he handed me a pick and a hoe and said, “Son, go out to the field with the Negroes and start earning your keep.” I ‘bout near had a fit, but I did what my daddy told me to. As I followed the workers along the land, I slammed that pick into the ground harder and harder ‘til the sweat just poured out from me, drenching me so much the salt from it made my shirt stand away from me as it dried like it was starched, scratching my young boy skin. I vowed then and there that when my daddy died, I’d never work another hard day in my life. Sometimes, though, I dream about those hot, long, boring days in the cotton fields, how the hired hands used to sing for no reason but to keep from dying, and I remember how I used to think about me killing my daddy, how I’d use my pick, slamming it down through his heart, giving that old devil in him an opening to jump out from and leave all that meanness go to dust.

            Oh, it was a pitiful death, ma’am, not that I grieved, you understand. We naturally thought he had just passed out again, but my daddy done drunk his last bottle and cussed his last cuss and just plain dropped dead, face forward into his plate of mashed potatoes and gravy, the cigarette in his hand still smoking ‘til it damn near seared his dead fingers. This was no blackout, no sirree, this time he was silenced forever and I could turn in my pick and hoe for good and enjoy the life to which my mother had blessed me. But, when I went to my brother to ask for my share, he just laughed in my face! We was rich then, lots of land and lots of fine things. We got nothing at all practically, no land, no house, nothing. Yes, he give me and my siblings a share, but none of us has been able to live on such a pitiable amount, and my poor sisters have had to marry beneath them to get enough new money to live on and, sometimes, they’ve had to work.

And, my poor beloved mammy, why she died from abandonment, she did. Wasn’t nothin’ for her; no money, no shelter, and certainly no thank you for raisin’ my chillun. I loved her more than anybody. She said how proud she was of me standing there tall, strong, not a tear at the funeral. My, what a good soldier you was, Bobby, she told me. I was going on twenty then, but I was always her little Bobby. She was always proud of everything I did. That made up for a lot when my dear mother passed on when I was but ten. My mammy cried so when my mother died and she shed a few tears for my daddy, too, though that was before she knew she’d be left with nothing, then she cried big time. Two months later, she herself was dead. Broken heart, I always believed.

I do treasure those few precious mementos my brother allowed me: my mother’s beloved Martha Washington chair; my grandmama’s German cuckoo clock, (wonderful piece of work,) the black Basalt ware my daddy gave my mother on their wedding day, had it imported he did, just ‘cause she said she’d always admired it. They give me a sense of peace, beautiful things, but  small comfort compared to a dwindling bank account, thanks to the meanness of my brother who sold the land and done kept put near all the money himself.

Sold the land! When I heard that, I knew he was besieged by the devil himself. NO thinking Southerner would willingly sell the land unless the bank was insisting on its due and even then most bankers are gentlemen and want to help other gentlemen, but my brother was no gentleman, that’s for damn sure. Sorry, ma’am, the memory of it angers up my blood and sets me to talkin’ like my low-life brother. Ironically, under my brother’s poor besotted management, he lost put ‘near everything he stole from my sisters and me.

Oh, now, you mustn’t fret about me, dear. My place is small albeit sophisticated and I do have my little mementos to comfort me, plus the magnificent statue of Mercury on my portico overlooking the park; bronze it is, hernia-heavy my daddy used to say. I do so love the burled wood writing partners desk. You write, too, do you? My, you must show me your work some day; I would so love to see it. I write alone. That way ,I have room to spread my thoughts about. No, I’ve not yet been published. Someday. 

My, this cemetery is kept up nicely isn’t it? The service drew quite a respectable number don’t you think? No, I’ve never had the pleasure of a wife, but I’ve known a few fine and handsome women who enjoyed my conversation and my social ways, thanks be to my dear departed mother, God bless her immortal soul. I understand women, I do, and know how to listen to them, engage them into my world. Some, I admit, are my equal or better in intelligence and I welcome it, not like my boor of a brother who’s married five times now and left all them good women brokenhearted, thanks to his arrogant ways. Well, I hate to rush now, but it’s time for me to prepare for the evening. The opera. With that handsome woman, Mrs. Albright Fitch. Box seats, another token from her dear departed latest husband, but no comfort to a woman, all alone.

            Tea? Oh, that would be lovely. Since you asked, here’s my card. Yes, I enjoyed chatting with you, too. I’ll wait for your call then?

Diana Rosen

Diana Rosen is a poet, essayist, and flash fiction writer with credits in Rattle, Tiferet Journal, Dime Show Review and other online and print journals and anthologies. Several of her poems previously appeared in Ariel Chart. Forthcoming work includes an essay in "Far Villages" from Black Lawrence Press, poems in the art and poetry anthology, "Book of Sighs", and her flash and poetry has been accepted as "Love & Irony" to be published by Redbird Chapbooks.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post