Answers to Everything

“Ultimately it is a matter of self defense, an attempt to condition male thinking. That is the reason women will say size does not matter. Tertiam Quidd, 1982

Back in 1967 Miss Debbie was just a cute little coed making the most of every blessing Mother Nature had given her. She was smart. It’s already been mentioned that she was cute and though I never saw her soaking wet, my guess is that even then she still would have smelled a whole lot better than a wet dog. Southern ladies are like that; they seem to have a naturally pleasing fragrance about them that a drop or two of rain or even a bit of the sparkle with which they glisten on particularly hot days only seems to enhance their delicate bouquet. They are delicious I assure you.

Cute, smart and with a lovely natural fragrance, Miss Debbie graduated from college and then, in spite of her acclaimed intellect, went on and married Mr. Dave, a somewhat slovenly male whose origins were more than just rumored to be from somewhere a bit north of the Mason Dixon Line. I may as well come right out and say it, he was a Yankee! Most of the student body at the time had presumed Miss Debbie was just engaging him as a distraction to provide her with some necessary diversion from her more serious scholastic pursuits. After all, a lady must maintain a social life regardless of the sacrifices that may heap upon her. The consensus of opinion at that time was that Mr. Dave didn’t deserve so much cute, smart and aromatic a package all together in one of the most divine feminine creatures to grace the hallowed grounds of Roanoke College. Some guys, it would seem, are just damn lucky and no mistake. If one of those other northern gentlemen, Mr. Ducey ever got married to anyone at all you’d have to call him lucky. Mr. Robert Ducey once kept a live pancake in the trash can of his dormitory room and observed it over the weeks as the fuzzy green mold that grew upon it steadily took over the inside of that wastepaper basket. He named the green blob Hilda and occasionally threatened to toss an annoying freshman into her loathsome maw. For a while he spoke lovingly to the homely dear and even played for her the genres of music he thought she most preferred; but eventually even Mr. Ducey himself came to so fear the likes of Hilda that one day when she wasn’t looking he took her outside and lit her on fire. It was a horror beyond belief to be certain and I really don’t like to talk about it. To this day it gives me chills whenever I recall those desperate guttural sounds of Hilda’s dying agony, the putrefying stench and the curling black globules of god knows what that rose in the cloud of thick, greasy smoke pouring from that glowing metal waste basket. The cataclysm wasn’t caught on video because nothing digital had been invented at that time, but the horror of the flames and agonizing sounds reminded me very much of the old news reels that captured the Hindenburg disaster; including the radio reporter screaming “Oh the humanity, Oh the humanity” into his microphone. The entire event simply left me with an empty feeling, a gaping hole in my gut and a new appreciation for existentialist philosophy.

Happily ever after, though most inexplicably, Miss Debbie and Dave lived just like good people are supposed to live. They worked hard, were frugal and prudent with their money, had a son and a daughter, bought a nice house in a clean and charming neighborhood, went to church and, except for a somewhat perplexing friendship with Mr. Waggadorn, they became pedestals, if not true pillars of their community. The friendship with Mr. Waggadorn probably came about as a result of his fortunate marriage to another daughter of the South who had both the feminine wiles and a right jab – left uppercut combination that could readily reduce a good old boy like Waggadorn to little more than a quivering puddle of sideburns and Pabst Blue Ribbons.

For all accounts that history has left us with, Miss Debbie was a good mother. Her children grew up healthy and smart. Mr. Dave began losing his hair and putting on a few pounds like most men do after the age of fifty when they realize they no longer have what it takes to make much of an impression on women under fifty no matter what, so they start kind of falling apart. So do a lot of women you might be thinking, but not our Miss Debbie. She remained as smart, cute and pleasantly scented as ever. And if that weren’t enough, over the years she had become a world class cookie baker famous for her chocolate chip and sugar cookies and of course pralines. That may have had something to do with Mr. Dave putting on a pound or two; but the baldness was strictly his of own doing.

So when Miss Debbie and Mr. Dave became grandparents they were once again storybook perfect. By that time Dave was quite bald, old and in the habit of mumbling. By this time there were days when he might only wake up occasionally from his Lay-Z-Boy slumbers to find himself completely startled and in a state of total confusion between his most recent dream and the reality of the outside world. He would be so thoroughly disoriented that little children giggled and adults just shook their heads and offered him prune juice which he always took just to be polite. Miss Debbie, of course, had the little rug rats fawning all over her as the wonderful aroma of baking cookies filled the house with sweet promises of sticky fingers, cold milk and laughing at the crumbs that would inevitably tumble down the front of Grandpa’s cardigan.

The grand parenting role came easily to Miss Debbie. Whenever the grandchildren were over for a visit her policy was simple: Grandma rules. As he had for most of his life, Mr. Dave had only to do what he was told and as long as he did so promptly he could generally stay out of trouble. So he allowed the grandchildren play tricks on him for April Fool’s Day. He screamed in total surprise every time a spring snake jumped out of the bright yellow can of what he was told was a gift of peanut brittle. He shrieked like a girl. He seemed to find his full Grandpa stride in becoming the butt of many jokes because everyone seemed to enjoy laughing at him as he did one foolish thing after another. To be a great grandpa, he realized, all he had to do was be himself. He did so, over and over again.

Of course, everybody loved Grandma Debbie. She made cookies, gave presents, kissed boo-boos and helped anyone who was interested to play devious tricks on Grandpa. Sometimes the tricks got very elaborate. One turned out so well that old Grandpa had to take a shower immediately afterwards. More often, he just had to change his pants.

Grandma was not only nice and fun; she knew the answers to everything. No matter what they asked her Grandma could give them an answer that satisfied their curiosity. Like all kids, they asked some pretty tough questions too; such as “Where does a fire go when it goes out, where did I come from, why are there no cows in that field,” or “what’s a transvestite?” She could handle those with remarkable aplomb. Mr. Dave tried his hand too, but the kids seemed to prefer Grandma’s answers so he just gave them a referral to Grandma whenever their questions got too tough or too dicey for him.

On one such day of questions and answers a lovely little granddaughter asked Grandma Deb what made flowers smell so sweet. She got a marvelous answer about bees and honey and the work of the flower fairies. She asked about where she came from and was answered with a beautiful story about how children first begin as the special ideas of god in heaven who sends them down to earth riding in magic rain drops hidden among all the ordinary rain drops; but the magic rain drops only fall on the special ladies chosen to be mommies. She asked if puppies came the same way, she asked what makes cookies get bigger in the oven, why birds eat worms, why fish have to stay in water. The answers she got grew more fascinating, more colorful and wonderful to hear so she just kept asking questions and getting answers.

“Grandma, how do fires make smoke? What’s the moon made of? What makes rocks hard? Why is the sky blue? Do teachers poop too? Will dragon flies really sew your lips together if they land on you when you’re asleep?” Questions, answers, questions, answers; one leading to another, asked and answered without a moment’s hesitation. It went on: Could there be red grass if god wanted it? Answered. Are there any people living under the ocean? Answered. What makes some people gay? Answered. Was Grandpa ever gay? Answered. “Grandma, why are your underwear so big?” NOT ANSWERED. Major pause here.

Grandma had to think. Her eyes rolled up. The muscles in her neck tightened and facial muscles pulled her lips down and back. No sounds came out of her. Total silence there was. But Grandpa was sitting in his chair shaking, turning red, eyes getting bigger and bigger until he burst out laughing. He shook with laughter. He howled. He got on the floor and rolled with laughter. He laughed like he’d never laughed before. He couldn’t stop laughing. He didn’t want to stop. He wanted to tell it to the world. He was going to tell it to the world. Even on pain of death. Because for once in his life Grandpa was the only one who had the right answer and he was willing to share. And of all things, that son of a gun was a damn Yankee.

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared at The Brown Duck and reposted here by the author. Feature Photo: From Photobucket
Frederick Palmer

Frederick Palmer

Writer, painter, Registered Nurse and teller of tales true and untrue who loves nice people, lives in the woods, had a big heart attack, grew up by a funeral home, plays with dogs, makes music sometimes and likes watching people. Loves creativity and strange ideas.

One Comment
  1. Eileen Dight

    I bet that was fun to write! It was certainly fun to read.

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