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Here we are in a La Quinta Inn in San Antonio for the second straight night. And Sunday is Father’s day.

My dear” better half” informed me of this returning from an interview to our hotel off I-37 and Goliad Road on the south side of the city.

We pulled into a Starbucks to satisfy a need for some dark roast in a grande cup. I bought her a moist pumpkin bread slice. It seemed the appropriate thing after a hard day chasing down mysteries and arranging interviews with a San Antonio Express-News reporter. The story, we were assured, should run next weekend.

Then I ran into a Subway and got a footlong club with all the fixin’s. Lost 80 pounds once eating those things for eight months. Half for me, half for her, without the tomatoes, of course, on her side. For me, a sandwich is not a sandwich without tomatoes. It would be our dinner back at the hotel.

“There’s Walmart,” she said, pinching off a small bite of pumpkin bread. “We need to get a card for dad’s Father’s Day.” She called my father “dad.”

“Not now,” I moaned, placing the grande in the cup holder on the consol between us. “Got to get back to the hotel. I’m bushed and don’t want to shop now.”

“Father’s Day is Sunday,” she insisted. “We need a card for him with a twenty in it. Hmmm, thank you for the pumpkin bread. It’s very good.”

“A twenty! How about just a card. Money’s too hard to get and too easy to fly. Besides, you can’t find a simple card for less than three dollars. And postage is near half a dollar.” But she wasn’t convinced.

“We’ve got to mail it tomorrow,” the Good Wife insisted.

“Ok! Ok!” I said. “But lets relax abit. Let me eat this Subway club and sip my grande, then I’ll go get a card.”

The son called as I pointed the Escape between parking lines and bumped to a stop against the curb. “O, hello,” the Good Wife replied. Mother’s are like that. Makes no difference how many times their son or daughter calls. To them it’s like the first time and are they ever so thrilled to hear from them. I had to beat it to a urinal. I was about to wet my pants. She sat in the car with the door open to the 98 degree summer heat. I ran to the hotel room with my Subway in one hand and grande in the other.

I took the last bite of the Subway club and sipped from the grande when the good wife walked cherrily through the door.

“It was just wonderful talking with Doug,” she said. “Do you know he wants to bring the family to visit next week?”

“The family?” I said. “That will be nice when he gets back.”

“Yes,” she replied. “I just thought it was so sweet how Sarah helped her boys buy their dad gifts for Father’s Day. And with so little money to spare, mind you. He’ll never forget that.”

I slathered a vanilla waffer with peanut butter and popped it into my mouth.

“By the way,” said the Good Wife as she leaned down to kiss my cheek. “Doug wanted to tell you happy Father’s Day, but you weren’t there.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Well let me call him back,” I said feeling a bit guilty.

“You can’t,” the Good Wife replied.

My puzzled look said more to her than I had intended.

“He called from a satellite phone from a remote base in Afghanistan,” she said. “We can’t call him. But, he said he’d call again Sunday. Wants to tell you happy Father’s Day himself.”

“The Walmart is just across the street,” I said after a minute of silence. “Be back in twenty minutes or so.”

“Don’t forget to put a twenty in it,” the Good Wife said as I closed the door on the way out.

In the muggy darknesss beneath the cloudless moonlit sky, I walked across the street to the Walmart. No I did not have my hands stuffed deep into my pockets as if in deep thought. But I knew I’d better get that card for my dad and stuff it with a twenty. It was the least I could do for my son and the Good Wife.

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Photo by Hud

There is nothing better than Southern fried chicken Sunday afternoon after church, except maybe chicken fried steak. No one could fry up chicken better than Auntie either.

She sang gospel songs while she fried up the chicken. We all thought God blessed the chicken because of Auntie’s singing.

Golden, crispy, and hot. Fried to perfection and stacked succulently on a big platter in the center of the table. Surrounded by mashed potatoes in a big old bowl, beside which sat another bowl of white gravy, a platter of real biscuits! Not the frozen kind we get from Wal-Mart today.

Some real hand-churned butter, and the South Texas version of a tossed salad with iceberg lettuce, green peas, little yellow cubes of chedder cheese, and Miracle Whip for dressing.

And the tea. Sun tea morphed into “sweettea,” said quickly all in one syllable.

Auntie put Lipton tea bags in a gallon jar filled with cistern water. Sat the jar on the back porch and let the sun shine on it until the water turned a golden brown. This could take nearly all day. But, boy! Made with rain water. Mixed with lots of white sugar it became sweettea, a heavenly drink fit for sweltering South Texas afternoons.

The circuit preacher came home with Uncle, who deaconed the all denominational church in Simmons, Texas. It was the custom. Everybody knew it, for the preacher loved Auntie’s fried chicken and all that country cooking that went with it. And her impromptu gospel singing in her high nasal voice. He looked forward to dinner at Uncle’s when he came to preach in the little white community church.

Because Uncle’s family was so big, we sat at two tables – one for the adults and adult children and the other for the rest of us younger ones. David sat at our table. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like sitting with “children,” he said. He belonged with older folks on such occasions.

Sweet little Liz always understood. But the rest of us boys, and Uncle had plenty, were not quite so sympathetic. Of course, our snide comments were usually repaid with a thumb on the head or a well placed frog in the fleshy part of the bicep when we were least expecting it.

Then there were the well timed and nefarious epithets David delivered with squinted eyes that made us laugh, but stuck forever like a tick on a dog’s back. Of course, it wasn’t anything I said this time, it was what I did that got me tagged with a new moniker by David’s flagitious wit.

After the preacher “God blessed” the chicken and praised Auntie’s kitchen with all its savory, smacking good country cooking aromas, we sat and hands flew into the platter of fried chicken.

Between David and I remained the last piece of fried chicken in the platter. We’d each consumed several pieces already and were eye-balling that last piece. About the time David finished up the thigh he’d been working on, I had finished a drumstick. We reach simultaneously and I came up with the prized last piece while David glowered at me.

“Got’da be faster,” I quipped, fully satisfied at having beat my older cousin to the draw.I bit into the chicken with more gusto than usual. David continued to glower.

Into my last bite, the epithet formed on David’s lips, fell preponderously upon the table, bounced around among the dishes, and ricocheted off walls into the ears of all gathered around the table. Then an explosion of laughter!

That’s how I got labeled, “Old One Horn.”

And much to David’s chagrin, I did try to live up to that epithet. It was the least I could do for the old bull that ruled the pasture across the creek in Uncle’s back forty.

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