Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yellow Bellied

                                                                “Yellow Bellied”

     1313. Translated that’s 1:13 in the afternoon or “Navy time” as Mama calls it. I don’t think she believes in that cosmic gunk, but she proclaimed 13 her lucky number long ago. Seems like tempting fate with reverse psychology if you ask me. Anyway that’s what time I showed up for my birthday shindig. 

     They were lucky I chose to come at all that day with the ruckus going on outside my room between the screaming crazy woman bent on evicting me from my cozy accommodations of the past nine months and the militant event coordinator who from the sound of it, threatened to have her locked up for disturbing the peace. 

     “I need another shot!” she begged. 

      “I already gave you one.”

     “That was two days ago!” she ranted.

     Please. Such drama. It’s my birthday and Mama’s already hitting the sauce. 

     “You knew my rules before coming to this little extravaganza,” he said while she whimpered like a wounded seal pup. “Nurse Gooch, break out the Saltines. STAT! We have a screamer,” he sighed, as Mama choked them down. 

      I don’t know who was in charge of these refreshments, but these crackers are stale. I was grateful for the quiet until my landlord Mama came down with the worst case of hiccups while attempting to push me out of my humble abode. What’s going on? Hey! Stop that! Help! I’m going be sick
Suddenly without any warning I was yanked out by the head with what resembled giant salad tongs and plopped down onto the sheets like an unwanted potato in the buffet line. Talk about an entrance!

     Brrr. I’m freezing. Somebody crank up the heat. There were paparazzi lights, gasps, and moans from Mama as if I’d come out sideways wearing pointy tap shoes and a spiked German helmet. What’s that awful smell…cat pee? Kerosene? I haven’t been using my nose for very long, but I know I don’t like it. No mind, the birthday gal is here so let’s get this party started.  

     But I was in for a rude awakening. Instead of singing Happy Birthday that so-called party planner—Dr. Leonard Drips, U.S. Navy Obstetrician smacked me on my backside before we were even properly introduced. Kindly release my ankles and give me some clothes. I certainly could understand Mama’s hostility toward this diabolical man. 

     “Yeow!” I bellowed, my derriere still stinging, while dangling over my exhausted Mama who was sprawled across the bed like road kill.  

     My eyes briefly traveled to the nerdy physician with the menacing name of Drips and it was certain he was no Elvis. This being Memphis I’d hoped The King would pop in for my big day, but one look at this character sporting orange socks despite a strict military dress code, and as the name implied, suffering from chronic postnasal drip and I knew I was any place but Graceland. I was in fact so wrapped-up in his appearance that I hadn’t given much thought to my own until the good doctor dropped the J-bomb giving me the shock of my life.

      “Haven’t seen a case of jaundice this bad in my en-tire career. Bet she’d glow in the dark,” he declared.

      “Look at this yellow baby. It’s like somebody dumped a bowl of egg salad all over her,” Nurse Gooch exclaimed, dousing me under the faucet doing her best to scrub me rosy until I thought my skin would peel off. Then she wrapped me up like a prized grouper in the pink blanket and placed me into a glass fish tank bed that was anything but comfy. Jaundice? Glow in the dark? Me? Perhaps there was something to this 1313 thing after all.  

    As fate would have it 1962 marked a new trend for newborns. Out the window went the old adage of “blue for boys and pink for girls.” Yellow had become the popular unisex color of the times. My Great-Grandma Cason jumped aboard the fashion train knitting an entire yellow ensemble for me to wear home from the hospital. Naturally she had no clue that I’d one-upped her, arriving in style with my yellow curls, body, and a scrunched yellow face to boot. “Saffron” the nurse phrased it. Daddy just called it tragic.
      My dutiful Mama obliged Daddy’s grandma and brought me home in the crocheted yellow outfit, a dead-ringer for an oversized, marshmallow Easter Peep. The nurses howled, saying, “It’s hard to tell where the gown begins and the baby ends.” Wonder if Big Bird had the same problem?
      Later, the jaundice long gone, my proud parents took me down to Piney Flats for Grandma Cason and the rest of the scrutinizing clan to get a good look at me. I suppose they weren’t overly impressed. It became more apparent as Grandma Cason and the aunts and uncles shrieked at the sight of me with my bandy legs, spindly arms, and eel-like body.
      “Not much to look at is she?” snooty Aunt Clara-Kay remarked, snatching me from Mama’s protective arms, inspecting me like a prized bovine on the auction block. “Doubt she’ll make it through the winter!” she proclaimed, quickly tossing me back to poor Mama.
       How insulting and from my own kin too. Bet if I were a dog they’d shoot me on the spot.
      “And what kind of name is that?” Uncle Buford asked, as if Mama named me something ridiculous like Lassie, Sasquatch, or Cathedral Rotunda.
     “I think it’s a beautiful name.”
     “You should’ve named her after her grandmother,” he said.
       Strike one.
       “I did,” Mama defended.         
         Oops. Strike two.
        “But it’s the wrong grandmother,” Uncle Buford retorted.
         “That’s a matter of opinion,” Mama said bravely.
          And you’re out!
       It was some time before we returned to Piney Flats to climb up what I discovered to be a slightly twisted, “family tree.” Mama later remarked it had 1313 carved all over it. Did it ever! Had I known lay ahead I would’ve had all my branches lopped off. Tim-ber.

Mellie Justad

I write humorous stories about everyday life. My work has appeared in anthologies, NYMB on Being a Mom, NYMB on Sex, The Storyteller, Smile, American Humor, Parenting Plus, New England Writers Journal, and online-- Midlife Boulevard, Midlife Collage, Dew on the Kudzu, and Muscadine Lines. Please visit me at JUSTADSHUMOR.COM