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death

and other

miseries



by

katyjean

leslie


edited

by

shannon

leslie

for Shannon

“the comma queen”

and my most beautiful

blessing


The works titled

“Short Story”

and

“The Boy”

are fictional.

All others are semi-autobiographical.

Names have been changed

and some blanks have been filled in

as best as the authors memory

would allow.


©2017 Katyjean Leslie

Published by Katyjean Leslie

Edited by Shannon Leslie

Smashwords Edition

The following ebook is not for resale. It is meant for

the personal enjoyment of the owner/purchaser

or the recipient it is gifted to.

No portion of this ebook can lawfully be

reproduced, in part or in full, for sale/resale.

The author has put a lot of work into the

creation of this ebook.

Please respect that effort.

Thank you.



Table of Contents


A Summer Day in 1976


The Robin-a story in verse


Short Story


The Boy


Night Skirmish-a story in verse


Summers with Alma




A Summer Day in 1976


A lot of people have tried to pack into the church. Men are dressed in black with somber ties wrapped around their necks like nooses; their dress shoes polished to a high reflective shine. The looks on their faces are as serious as their suits. There is one gentleman, though, who really stands out. I have no idea who he is but that brown suit he’s wearing looks way too big. He looks like one of us kids except he’s got on a bright green tie covered in palm trees. And God bless him, he’s wearing the biggest grin I’ve ever seen. He is truly happy to be here! I can’t think why.

The ladies, of course, are not to be out done by a bunch of men. Or each other. They look oh so grand in their black linen and silk chiffon dresses each adorned with very sparkly brooches. In fact, they sparkle from the top of those funny little hats with the veils to the tips of their black high-heeled shoes. I’m telling you, sitting in church is a bit like sitting among the stars. They are sparkling something fierce. It is very impressive. And blinding.

Being one of four girls, I notice these things. Unfortunately, it means I, too, must wear a dress; a frilly, itchy UGLY dress with white ruffles; oh, dear God! How girly can it get!? I’m eleven years old; eleven! And I’m wearing ruffles!

Well, at least we girls get to sit together. This way we get to ‘gossip’ about everyone here and seriously discuss what they are wearing. Or shouldn’t be wearing. Well, except for the guy in the green tie. We like him.

The air is a bit warm in here even with the A/C on. It’s quite flavorful too, with all the different perfumes and aftershaves. Combine that with bad breath and, ugh, someone’s body odor, you have a cocktail that can knock the fleas off a dog’s back! It might be a big church, but it’s having a bit of trouble containing the stink.

Who are all these people anyway? Did Uncle Dale have that many friends? I don’t see how. He was always mean to us. Ah! Maybe they want to make sure he’s truly dead! Why not? I looked. I wanted to know. Although, I’m still not certain. I mean, it doesn’t really look like him.

Honestly, if I didn’t have to be here I wouldn’t; the unfortunate side of being eleven. He was just so mean. He would say horrible things to us. And about us! Ok, some of it we may have deserved, like laughing at him falling inside Nannie’s front door.

Everybody knows she polishes her wood floors at the beginning of each month and every holiday. They also know she has this old rag-rug just inside the front door for folks to wipe their feet on. And, yes, it could be a bit slippery on those occasions. Such was the case that particular day. We kids made it through ok. But then, in comes Uncle Dale running his mouth, complaining about someone like always. He took one step onto that rug and the next thing you knew rug and feet were flying. It had to have been a good four feet off the floor!

Now, I don’t know if it really was the force of hitting the hard floor that caused the air to turn blue but the words that escaped from his mouth were unparalleled! Men at sea would be embarrassed. Our adolescent brains couldn’t handle it. We were laughing so hard we were unable to stand upright. Of course, we were kicked outside where apparently, “dogs and rotten brats belong!” Even outside you could hear him. Our Uncle Dale was performing a fine example of what ‘cussing up a blue streak’ means.

But I guess these fine people here in this grand church wouldn’t know anything about that. I wonder if they know about his false teeth. Oh lord, I remember the first time I found out. It scared the crap out of me! Out of us! Well, near enough.

Uncle Dale and Aunt Mary weren’t really our aunt and uncle. He was Nannie’s uncle. They lived on the other side of German Town road and Nannie lives on the southside of Richmond. It must be a long way because every week when they would come to visit Nannie he would have to sit in the car and take a nap before he could come in. He called it ‘resting his eyes’. Well, he could call it what he liked but asleep is what he was.

It was on one such occasion that we nearly got the scare of our lives. They had arrived on a very hot Saturday afternoon. We had already been sent outside to ‘play’ so we saw them pull up. Aunt Mary got out and went in as she usually does. Personally, I think she liked having just a few minutes away from him. As usual he sat there, window down, glasses on the dashboard, eyes closed. Originally, we didn’t have a plan, it kind of evolved out of an ‘I dare you’.

Nannie’s yard has a small strip of grass on the far side of the driveway that butts up to her neighbor’s driveway. It was this strip of yard that we had migrated to. All the better to see him and make our unformed dare. It was also this strip of yard that had the most white clover. By this time, we could clearly hear him snore. The beautiful thing about a snore is that it can’t be performed with the mouth closed.

I just want to take this opportunity to say that I am a very bad shot. I don’t usually hit my target. I also can’t turn down a dare. So, armed with as big of a handful of clover as I could hold I proceed to shoot clover at the man’s gaping mouth. Did I mention I am a bad shot? I hit everything but his mouth. The man was covered in clover!

However, I was not alone in my endeavor and one of our number actually hit the target, waking him up! He sputtered and gagged. We stood holding our breath, trying not to giggle. Until he started to choke and his face turned red, beet red! Now we were getting scared. We didn’t want to kill the man! He lurched forward forcefully hitting the steering wheel and out flew a tiny white clover. He took a deep breath; so, did we. He looked up at us, spit running off his chin and a look of terror in his eyes. Anger quickly followed. When he opened his mouth again he unleashed an entire encyclopedia of cussing on us in the most unearthly octaves. No foul word was spared. Then, without warning, right in the middle of the ‘F’ word his teeth fell out. I mean OUT. The fear of God fell on us. A scream forced its way out of our bellies, through our mouths and into the muggy summer air. Our chicken legs flew into the house. This in turn scared the hell out of Nannie and Aunt Mary. We all tried to speak at once and yet no one could.

Eventually, Nannie got the story out of us. We were sent to the side porch where we couldn’t do any more harm until dinner. We could think about what we had done but we barely got the door shut when we heard laughter. The two of them were laughing at us! How were we to know his teeth weren’t real?

Uncle Dale was sore about this for quite some time. He would grumble under his breath about us “damn kids” every time he saw us. For a while we kept our distance. But...we are kids. And in all fairness, WE did not start it.

By now it was the middle of October. The days were growing cool and crisp. Our mother would have sent us outside without a second thought but Nannie was of another generation that believed our uncovered heads would lead to pneumonia. So, most Saturday afternoons when we visited we found ourselves on her screened porch with its tiny crank windows. We didn’t mind since she kept spicy ‘true crime’ magazines under the copies of ‘Good Housekeeping’ in baskets on the floor. These were under a table between the old lounge chair and a very uncomfortable patio chair. The lounger had over-stuffed cushions big enough for all four of us to huddle-up on. So, we did, along with the ‘True Crime’ stuffed inside the ‘Good Housekeeping’. We really thought we were slick, like no one would ever know.

So, there we sat, waiting for dinner, taking turns reading in whispered voices so as not to get caught. Engrossed in our story we never heard cars pull up or doors slamming shut. The sound of voices never met our ears. So entrenched were we that we never noticed the figure at the door peering through the curtains.

I whispered loudly, “Look, lady, you can tell us where your husband is hiding and we might go easy on him, see? But if we have to find him ourselves it could be very bad for him...and you. Kapeesh?” We were gasping, clutching the magazines, when we heard a scratching at the door. Eyes as big as saucers, we looked up to see Uncle Dale, face pressed to the glass, ‘piggy nose’ and all.

In a deep voice he said, “What are you kids doin’?”

With some weird half girl, half hyena sound we screamed, ripping the ‘Good Housekeeping’. He in turn let out the biggest belly laugh I had ever heard come out of him. Honestly, it might have been the only laugh I ever heard come out of him. We just sat there staring in disbelief. He laughed so hard he was crying.

As he wiped away the tears, still laughing and pointing at us, his teeth fell out. He muttered something too low for us to hear.

It was our turn to laugh but our laughter was short lived. As he bent over to retrieve his teeth he whacked his head on the door. We heard a loud thump followed by a rush of feet and voices that we didn’t recognize. Jumping up from our little world we ran to the door.

“Don’t open that door!” someone yelled.

Oh, dear God, is he dead!? We heard the shuffling of feet move away from the door but we were too terrified to look.

I don’t know how long we stood there. It seemed like forever. When the door finally opened a woman whom we’d never met told us it was dinner time.

“Is he still alive?” we ventured.

“Of course, he’s still alive, you silly child.”

Then she stopped and looked right at us and very sternly, “You children need to be a lot nicer to him. He is old and next time he may not be alright. Didn’t your mother teach you to respect your elders?”

We just stood there, stunned.

“Well, go wash your hands and get ready to eat!” and she pointed to the bathroom. Suddenly, we found our feet.

The problem with hunkering down on the porch is that you miss anything going on in the house. In this case, it was full of people. Strange unfamiliar people with their equally strange offspring, one of which kept picking his nose and trying to wipe it on all of us.

During dinner, we learned that Uncle Dale had a sister named Doris and Doris had three children who in turn had, well, too many. Children who, at present, were getting food all over Nannie’s house and feeding Susie, her Chihuahua. We also learned that Doris had just died and they were at Nannies to make something called ‘arrangements’; which apparently takes a lot of talking, arguing and crying.

At this point, I should mention that we four girls have a little brother but he’s only four and, well, a boy. The only time we really have anything to do with him is when he’s being a pain in the butt or someone is picking on him, which is often since he’s such a little worm.


By now the grown-ups had just started on their third pot of coffee. Their voices were getting loud and we girls were hiding in Nannies bedroom when it happened. It was one of the loudest slaps I had ever heard immediately followed by a blood curdling scream. We flew out of that room!

The only sound in the entire world was the hideous, high-pitched caterwaul coming out of booger boy. No one moved. We all just stared at him. It was really quite impressive. It wasn’t until the dog started to howl that we come to our senses. His mother ran over and hugged him which apparently was the only way he would stop screaming. Unfortunately, he started crying, pointing to our little brother. From what we could tell, little brother smacked the crap out of that kid. When our mother asked him why his bottom lip started to quiver but he said very clearly, “He put boogers on me!”

Booger boy’s mother got really indignant and decided it was time to go. Then one-by-one they all left except Uncle Dale and Aunt Mary. Never have I been so proud of our little brother. I even mussed his hair.

Nannie had insisted that Uncle Dale and Aunt Mary stay with her that night which meant we couldn’t stay. It was rather late when we left but as we were leaving, I turned to Uncle Dale.

“I’m sorry about your sister.”

“Thank you.” He looked down at me and suddenly looked very old.

“I’m sorry about your teeth, too.”

For a brief second, I thought he was going to hurt me but he chuckled instead.

“It’s alright, kid. But let that be a lesson to you. Always brush your teeth!”

Funerals are such strange events. Especially when you’re a kid. Everything seems more accentuated, more extreme. And when it comes to grown-ups, we kids are often overwhelmed. Grown-ups dress strange. You would never see one of us wearing the weird stuff grown-ups wear. Well, not willingly.

Grown-ups also smell. I think they often forget just how tall they are. Things are a lot different from our perspective. And, may I add, perfume and cologne do NOT always help.

That also goes for our sense of sound. Our voices may not be fully developed but our sense of hearing is pretty good.

Uncle Dale had all kinds of friends from work, his neighborhood and church. It is his church that organized the funeral, the music and the lady singing. She has to be well into her nineties. She is really shrunken and though she doesn’t use a cane she gives the impression of someone trying not to fall. Around her head is very fine, wispy hair, almost like angel’s hair, through which we can see her bright pink scalp. But the most fascinating thing is that she sparkles more that anyone here. She is like a little star flickering on the stage. I don’t know what Uncle Dales favorite hymn is but this little shining star is about to sing it.

I’m sure in her day she had a lovely voice. However, after ninety some years of use it no longer had the desired effect. As she starts to sing a high-pitched squeak fills the room. Her voice hits octaves so high that I’m pretty sure they are not meant to exist. They certainly don’t belong in this song. The worst part though is she is so sincere. It’s rather surreal. The lights in the church aren’t that bright but they are dancing off her little person like diamonds. The whole room is hushed. I’m not sure if they are as fascinated as I am, but no one is moving.


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