“Maw, whut we havin’ fur supper?” a small voice echoes off the termite-eaten floor and into my ear.
“Well, I’m makin’ grits, slaw, buttur, and your favorit: chickin nuggits,” I respond back, slack jawed and wide-eyed, while a cut-off crop top reading, “Dale Earnhardt Forever,” reveals my pregnant belly.
“Butt Maw, this is the 4th time we’ve had chickin nuggits this week! Jamie, Davie, Kenny, and Lizabeth, we don’t want no mor chickin nuggits,” the voice whimpers.
The complaint is coming from a dirty five-year-old. He looks like Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown. He’s covered in filth, like he just finished dumpster diving at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
I grab the boy up by the collar and look him dead in his soft brown eyes.
“Jesus, Lynn Jr. (he took my middle name), yur daddy ran off with that woman down the road. We ain’t got no money. They’ll be takin’ the double-wide any one of these days. The governmint’s on my ass like that neighbor dog is always on ole Bessy’s rear behind.”
I see a glimmer of what it’s like to be a child again, full of opportunity, hope, and chicken nuggets. God, I admire his tenacity. He ain’t one bit scared of me.
He don’t look a lick like his daddy, either. Thank God.
“You outta be thankful that yur momma can even scrape up enuff money to feed you suns of bitchis. I jus want you to hav thuh life I never had,” I say as I throw him back down to the ground.
I fall into the floor and hold him. We both cry.
Just a little glimpse into my dark place. In this alternate reality, I stayed in Alabama, got pregnant as a teenager by the Johnson Boy, had a shotgun wedding, birthed my first kid at 16, and progressively remained pregnant for the next decade.
Well, until the doctor told me that this one would have to be the last. Otherwise, my overworked ovaries could internally explode into 10,000 pieces, thus turning me into a form of human shrapnel.
In my own hell, I have six children by the age of 26. The oldest is Kenny. He is now ten-years-old and wants to know why everybody in town thinks our family is trashy. He’s starting to ask questions about why his daddy still cuts his hair, “Business in the front, party in the back.”
Yesterday, a middle-class student’s mother provided him with a few brand new t-shirts. His daddy didn’t like that much.
“You thinke we POOR, or sumpthin, ladie!!?” Eddy screams from his beat-up truck, sporting not one, but two rebel flags.
“Kiss my POOR ass, you damn highfalutin bitch!” he continues, as he pulls directly beside her harmless Honda Civic in the carpool lane.
“My son don’t need none of your fancy people clothes. He got everythin’ he ever needs right here. You let me do the parentin’. These damn people always thinkin’ we’re some chaurity case,” he scoffs, as his tires quickly hit the asphalt with a screeching sound.
Hell on Earth was a reality for a lot of the girls who went to my high school. Even though this was back in the late 2000s, I’m sure it’s still happening almost ten years later. It’s so easy to get sucked into poor country life. Thankfully, I wasn’t an idiot, plus I always knew I was meant to be bigger and better than that.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I want to go and save all the girls who are doomed for this life. I want to hop on a plane, back to my little hometown, and drive immediately to my high school at 3:00 a.m. I’ll sit in the auditorium for five hours before anyone shows up and reenact this dramatic play that the nursing home across the street from my apartment keeps making me add to.
I’ll save that story for a different time.
In my one-man show, I’ll perform all eight characters from the all-star hillbilly cast I’ve created.
If we’re being technical, I think this is also referred to as Multiple Personality Syndrome, but I’m a writer, so, whatever.
Forget abstinence programs, this is full-blown designed to put the fear of God into high schoolers. It’s like the Great Awakening, but for safe sex. All fire and brimstone, baby, because WWJ(E)D? What Would Jonathan Edwards Do?
It’s very “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” meets The Grapes of Wrath, meets Forrest Gump.
Side note: While I was writing this, I wanted to Google “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” because I didn’t know if it should be italicized or put in quotations, being that it is a sermon. Nevertheless, I stumbled upon this epic review:
“I hate you,” is the thesis of Jonathan Edward’s 1741 Puritan masterpiece of dickery. “And God does, too.”
Enough about eternal hell-fire, though.
As I terrify the living shit out of a group of freshmen and sophomores, I’ll say, “This could happen to you. It probably happened to your parents. I escaped. I went to college. I live in California now. It’s totally possible. You don’t have to get pregnant and live off the government forever, because you don’t know what birth control is.”
You think I’m joking, but I’m not.
Just wait until you see a couple my age at Longhorn’s Steakhouse telling their eight-year-old daughter to, “Use your fork!” as she sticks her tongue into a cup of butter.
That’s child abuse in California.
If your kid isn’t on an all-organic diet by the time they finish breast feeding, you’re looking at jail time.
Now, more than ever, I’m convinced I shouldn’t have children. What if I pass on some hillbilly genome to my kid and it somehow turns out like little Lynnie? I’m facing five-to-life, just because he has a genetic hankering for chicken nuggets, Randy Travis, and Jeff Gordon.
These worries have honestly been on my mind a lot lately. Even though I survived, and didn’t end up living this life, the “what if’s?” are scary enough. I think about what some of my high school classmates are doing. While some of them are successful, the majority of them aren’t.
I guess I have a lot to be thankful for. I wish this nursing home would stop haunting me. It’s seriously like Get Out, but the old people version.