Sunday, October 23, 2005

Up the Creek Without a You-Know-What

By Cappy Hall Rearick
To be published in her upcoming book:
"Simply Southern Ease"
Publication Date: Late 2005

“I just don’t know what I’m gonna do without Bo Bo. Why, in my entire adult life, I’ve nevah even had to lick a stamp.”

Darla Jean’s husband of twenty something years took off with a nineteen-year-old hairdresser in the middle of the night. He left a note.

“Darla Jean,

I’m through being your lackey, your bill payer, your flunky. From now on you’ll have to figure out how to do your own nails, answer the telephone and make your own dang hair appointments. You have done wore me out.

Don’t bother to come looking for me ‘cause I will be long gone by the time you read this. I am going to the island of Crete, where I plan to open up a cafe specializing in Southern food. Like, you know, Shrimp Grits. I have gone off with Merleen. Yes, Merleen Stucky from the Buck-a-Cut who has been cuttng my hair and taking care of all my needs going on six months now. I know she only graduated from high school last year and that some people might say she’s a little bit young for me, but doing hair is not the only thing Merleen learned how to do at beauty school. Unlike you, she can also cook.

I did a load of laundry before I left, put two quarts of my home-made spaghetti sauce in the freezer and bought two weeks worth of groceries that cost me way over a hundred dollars. You will just have to figure out what to do next when the food’s all gone and you can’t find any clean underwear.

Hasta la Vista.

Bo Bo”

Darla Jean is sitting across the table from me sniffing. Her eyes are rimmed in red instead of the overdone black eyeliner without which she wouldn’t be seen going to the mailbox. Her hair is flat, a far cry from its normally teased and lacquered state. Darla Jean began teasing her hair in 1960 and has finally mastered the technique. The fact that you could land a 747 on the top of her head has never seemed to give her a minute’s pause.

“Big hair defines who I am,” she loves to tell people.

You think?

I place Bo Bo’s farewell letter on the table and look up at the Doodah Sistah I have known for many years, but am barely able to recognize today. We go way back to the Sixties when Darla Jean was what could be described as a professional beauty contestant. Her long term goal was to win more Georgia competitions than anybody in the history of beauty pageants. Her mother, Darla Dean, stood behind her, supportive to the end. Let me rephrase that. Darla Dean pushed, shoved and cow-prodded Darla Jean all the way. Rumor has it that she took out a second mortgage on her house to pay for a designer gown for Darla Jean to wear at her first evening dress competition.

She won a few and lost a few, capturing the titles of “Miss Butter Bean” and “Miss Savannah River Catfish.” Darla Jean was even third runner-up in the “Miss Southern Railway System,” no small feat for a hick town gal from South Georgia. She was a shoo-in to win the title of “Miss Water Nymph” over in Darien until an accident pulled the plug on the odds-on favorite.

That fateful day, Darla Jean began her talent exhibition with a swan dive off the high board while wearing black patent leather spike heel shoes. I’m pretty sure nobody but me noticed the little splash she made as her feet hit the H2O. She popped up out of that water with a smile big as you please, flashing her whiter than white teeth, the very same color of a new porcelain toilet. She was on fire. Every strand of her lacquered hair remained exactly as it had been before she stepped off the diving board. Now that I think about it, a blow torch could not have penetrated that mop of hair.

Her routine called for a water ballet, which she performed looking, if not like Esther Williams, at least like one of Esther’s fans. We all clapped and whistled as loud as we could while she shimmied up the ladder and out of the water for the final segment of her talent exhibition.
Shoulders back, tummy tucked, immovable hair intact and showing off her bleached molars with a smile leveled at the judges, she prissed herself over to the microphone clicking those spike heeled shoes. Darla Jean was supposed to serenade the audience with her chosen song, Handel’s “Water Music,” to which she had written lyrics.

A trumpet, a squeaky clarinet and a loud snare drum comprised the so-called band. In actuality, they were three discontented teenagers doing public service for setting fire to the school principal’s prize winning camellia bush. They had almost finished the song’s introduction when Darla Jean stepped up to the microphone with a veteran beauty contestant smile bonde to her face. Not realizing that she was also standing in a good sized puddle of chlorinated pool water, she grabbed hold of the mike as if it were the Miss America crown, (Darla Jean’s personal Holy Grail.)

To my knowledge, Darla Jean never danced so fast before or anytime since. I can’t even guess how much time passed before the audience realized that she was boogieing with enough electricity running through her body to power a small substation.

The kid playing the snare drum saw what was happening first and jumped up to unplug the mike. That was only after her mother, Darla Dean, began to holler, “She ain’t allowed to dance. We’re Pentecostal!”

Darla Jean collapsed right in the chlorinated puddle she had made. Her hair, until that first spark of electricity got hold of it, still had not moved. When the voltage hit however, it went straight to her head causing every strand to stand up and say howdy. Darla Jean was the spitting image of a deep fried Medusa.

She was rushed to the hospital where the doctors shook their heads in wonder. They couldn’t believe she wasn’t dead or brain damaged although in my opinion, it would have been hard to tell with Darla Jean. To this day, I am convinced that she owes her life to hair lacquer. It provided a protective shield and saved her life.

Bringing myself back to the here and now, I clear my throat. “Ahem. Darla Jean, I think you should just forget about Bo Bo. You’re a whole lot stronger than you think. Now put your big girl bloomers on and get a grip.”

She blows her nose and stares across the table at me. “So what is your point?”

“You don’t need Bo Bo. There’s a lot you can do on your own.”

A turbo sigh shoots out of her mouth as though it were a field Howitzer. Cocking her head to the side, she looks at me. “Oh yeah? Name one thing.”

I know she can’t cook, and operating a washer/dryer, a no brainer for most people, makes Darla Jean break out in hives. Some people might say she’s electronically challenged. I say she’s just spoiled rotten. Bo Bo did everything but chew up her food for her. She doesn’t even have the skills to be a people greeter in the store where America shops. But she is good at one thing: Princessing.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime, I think to myself.

“Darla Jean, lean over the table and look me straight in the eye.” I pick up a small scrap of paper and hold it between my thumb and forefinger.

“Now watch my lips,” I say, before sticking out my tongue. “You’re fixing to get your first survival tool. I’m going to teach you how to lick a stamp.”