Pickles Gap

Dave left his downtown Fort Worth loft at 6am for the seven hour drive to Pickles Gap, Arkansas where his 84 year old father, Bruce lived on the old home place. Bruce had steadfastly refused to be moved into a nursing home in Conway. “I’ve lived in this house for 57 years dammit. Can’t nobody make me leave now or never.”

The sky was overcast but no rain fell – perfect driving conditions – no glaring sun to blind him through the windshield of his brand new Toyota Tundra pick-up. Lately Dave dreaded the drive home to Pickles Gap, and rarely told people the truth when asked where he was from. Dave was embarrassed by the name of his home town, and ashamed of his poor upbringing and uneducated family. His visits had grown fewer and farther between the last few years. Ever since mom passed, we’ve all drifted to the far corners of the world, Dave thought as he exited onto I-30 East. Even the bopsie twins don’t visit these days.”

Dave’s mind drifted to his younger sisters, Linda and Bonnie (the twins, with names that mean ‘beautiful’ but whose faces are ‘handsome at best’). They are both busy raising families of their own in California and Georgia respectively. “Mom was the glue that held us all together,” Dave remembers hearing Bonnie cry through muffled tears at the burial site almost two years ago.  Linda, the older “beauty” by 3 minutes replied stoically; “We’re family and families stick together no matter what. Dad needs us now more than ever.” She hasn’t been back to Pickles Gap since the day we put momma in the ground, Dave thought bitterly. Being the oldest, and the only male sibling, really sucks sometimes.

This trip would prove particularly difficult. “Your father’s dementia is getting a whole lot worser lately,” Starla, the nurse’s aid who checks in on Bruce daily said on the phone Thursday morning. “Somebody’s got to take his car keys before he kills hisself or somebody else,” she declared emphatically.  “Sunday after church service, he backed into the bar ditch and Larry had to winch him out with his truck. Everybody gets out of his way when they see that old beat up Impala a comin’.” Dave rarely spoke to Bruce these days, only to Starla for weekly updates . It was just too difficult… He doesn’t know his only son’s voice half the time, so what’s the use, Dave reasoned. He replayed his latest conversation with Starla, that had lasted fifteen minutes, over and over in his mind. The usual weekly call lasts five minutes, the time it takes Dave to walk from his condo to his office four blocks away.

Dave pulled his truck into a spot on the gravel parking lot of The Hamburger Inn, in Mayflower – just a hop, skip and a jump from Pickles Gap. I’ll grab a quick burger before I get to Dad’s. Maybe Carly will be working today… Dave was happy to see Carly’s pretty smile as she poured him a cup of coffee even before he slid into the corner booth. “Hey sweetie, good to see you! The usual today?”

Carly had long since cleared away Dave’s empty plate. It was late Saturday afternoon, the lull between the lunch and dinner crowds, and she had time to linger with her favorite customer. She knew why he was in town – didn’t even need to ask. Everybody did. Her heart ached for him. First his momma die’n and now his daddy’s lost his marbles. She longed to sit down next to him and lay her head on his shoulder like when they were in high school. But those days are long gone and too much water is under that bridge.

I was kinda drunk all day Thursday,” Dave admitted to Carly as she filled his coffee cup again. “After Starla told me it was time, I ditched work and spent most of the day at the bar. “That’s ok honey,” Carly said. “You’re here now and that’s what matters. Your daddy is gonna be so happy to see you.”

You Make The Deviled Eggs

Bridget approaches the grocery store with confidence, her nine-month old daughter on one hip and her two-year old son clutching her free hand. The words her mother spoke to her on the telephone last week are still fresh in her mind, “You Make The Deviled Eggs this year sweetie. I’ve got plenty on my plate and Lord knows, at 27, if you can’t handle the deviled eggs, we’ve got worse things to worry about.”

Never before has Joyce, the matriarch of the huge family let anyone else make the deviled eggs for Thanksgiving. She finally accepts that I’m a responsible adult, Bridget thinks to herself as she gets the kids settled into the shopping cart. Earlier she Googled deviled egg recipes searching the list of ingredients for those that sound like they might closely match the famed deviled eggs her mom and grandma before her have fixed for eons. The recipe is not written down anywhere. Bridget silently whishes she had paid closer attention in the kitchen all those years.

With her shopping list pulled up on the Workflowy app on her iPhone, Bridget navigates the aisles of the store swiftly, gathering all the right ingredients, and is back home by nap time when she puts the kids down and dons her grandmother’s vintage apron that hangs on the hook inside the pantry. In no time, the eggs are boiling. Everything goes off without a hitch and she proudly places the finished eggs on the special tray, garnishing the center with olives and pickles. No one is going to be able to tell that Mom didn’t make these eggs.

The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, Bridget and Kyle get the kids dressed in their new clothes, and they all head to Grandma’s house where Bridget’s five sisters and brothers, plus their spouses and 12 children will all gather for the much anticipated annual noon meal. Bridget knows each family will bring a side dish, and is so excited for everyone to try her eggs that she is beside herself with joy. The ear-to-ear smile plastered to her bright face.

They are not the first to arrive, and when they let themselves in through the front door and make their way to the kitchen, past the hustle and bustle of kisses and hugs to everyone, and a smattering of small children running around the house, squealing with the excitement of the holidays, Bridget’s smile turns upside down when she sees a huge tray of deviled eggs in the center of the kitchen island. Joyce sees Bridget’s forlorn expression, walks over and whispers in her ear, “Just in case yours didn’t come out quite right, sweetie.”

Thanks Mom, You’re The Best

“UGH! What is your problem? I’ll clean up later,” Heather sighed heavily as she finished lacing up her shoe and brushed past Josh in the narrow hallway of their apartment.

“But that’s just it,” said Josh, following after her. “You never seem to get around to it. We’ve been living together for what…six months? and I haven’t seen you clean anything yet!”

“It’s no big deal. Lighten up. I promise, if it gets real bad, I’ll get around to. Right now, I’m going for a run. Come on Disco.” She grabbed the dog’s leash off the hook by the door and slammed it behind her. Geesh, what a nag, she thought as she walked briskly toward the trail, a frisky 2-year-old chocolate lab leading the way. He’s starting to sound just like my mother.

Josh was still fuming when he answered the phone a few minutes later, “Hello,” he barked into the receiver. “Oh, hi Mom. No, it’s Heather…we just had another huge fight. I can’t get her to clean up after herself. She’s such a slob.”

“Honey, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that girl has some serious issues. You were not raised to live in filth. I can’t even imagine….why don’t you bring your laundry over here. I’ll fix you a nice dinner while your clothes are in the wash.

“Mom, it’s not that bad…and we kinda have plans tonight…”

“Let me ask you something Josh…is this the woman you plan on marrying?”

“No,” Josh admitted.

“Then it’s time, isn’t it?”

“Yes ma’am.”

When Heather and Disco returned from their run an hour later, Peggy was standing in the middle of the living room with her arms across her chest. A burly man stood behind her.

“Oh, hi Mrs. Denton…where’s Josh?” Heather asked as she looked around nervously. Her eyes landed on the stranger.

“Josh is not here and he’s not coming back until you’re gone. I am here, along with Raul, to escort you and all of your belongings out of the apartment. Josh is breaking up with you.”

“Wait. What? Who has their mother break up for them when they’re 25 years old?” Heather’s mind was spinning. This is crazy. But she’s secretly relieved because all she could think about while on her run was how she could get Josh to move out.

Peggy interrupted her thoughts. “I am prepared to pay for one week at the Extended Stay motel near your office, or Raul will take you to your mother’s house. You have 15 minutes to gather your things. We brought boxes.”

Two hours later Josh came home to a clean apartment. Not only was Heather and all her crap gone, but good old Mom had the place cleaned too! What a deal. One of these days I’ll find the right woman and Mom won’t have to break up for me anymore.

Josh picked up the phone and dialed. “Thanks Mom, You’re the Best.”