Special surprise today! Jackson’s grandma, Mamie, plays a big role in Southern Fried Blues, and today she’s scored a visitor pass at the prison to see Lillian Summer Fairview with her friends from In For A Penny. So I’m just going to step on back so y’all can listen in. Keep your hands to yourself and stay quiet—we don’t want to attract the guards’ attention. I might not have gotten enough visitor passes for all of us.
(Mamie gives the worn carpet in the visiting room a suspicious glance, then pulls out a chair and sits at the table with the others.)
Mamie: Lord-a-mercy, Lillian, we’re gonna get us started right off with you and your story. Your Harlan got you rolling down a big ol’ hill of trouble, what with that mess he left you in when he up and died. Give it to us straight, sugarplum. If you could go back and do it all over again, would you still marry him?
Lillian: Mamie, dear, it’s such a delight to have a new visitor. Maggie mentioned you wanted to stop by, so I was sure to add you to my visitor list. My girls try to visit as often as possible, but the upkeep of Summer Haven comes first, so I discourage them from making the trip more than once every other week.
(She sighs and leans back in the hard plastic federal prison camp chair.) My Harlan. Now that’s a question chockfull of potholes. Harlan was a good man, but…can I be honest here?
Mamie: Of course. We’re all friends here.
Lillian: But he was a bit weak. Daddy saw it right off. Tried to warn me that my suitor didn’t have the Summer family backbone. Well, I ask you who does? No one, that’s who. Oh, Harlan. (She smiles, the secret smile of a woman looking at a piece of chocolate she knows will ruin her diet) He was more handsome than Rock Hudson. But he was much sweeter on girls than Rock, of course. And young girls, well, we’re fools for a handsome, smooth-talking man.
And yes, even dead, he’s landed me in a hot mess. But his mistakes have also brought some wonderful new friends into my life. And in all likelihood, a new career to boot. (She winks)
Mamie: Oh, honey, the skills you must be learning for that new career! But I’ll bet working won’t be the first thing on your mind when you head for home. When you finally get out of the big house, what’s the first thing you’re fixin’ to do? Hair, nails, makeup? I’m bettin’ you’re gonna be lookin’ for all the buffin’ you can get, bless your heart.
Lillian: Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a decent salon visit and some excellent hand crème. That being said, my friend Martha (nods toward a younger woman with dark straight hair sitting at another visiting table) keeps me trimmed up and has a girl who’s good with nails. I’m surviving.
Mamie: You’re an inspiration to us all, honey. (She turns to her fellow visitors) Maggie, hon, y’all used to run a hardware store. You got any good house-fixin’ tips for us single ladies of a certain age?
Maggie: You bet I do. Two of them actually. Number one, if you’ve got something like tree-trimming to do? You find yourself a strong, young man—now I know what you’re thinking, but I am not one of those cougars—like our Teague Castro. You promise him a little special ice tea. Then you let him climb up on the roof and take care of it for you. Number two, never leave home without a roll of duct tape. (She wrestles around in the pocket of her khakis) In fact, I’ve got an extra roll for you right here. (Plops it onto the table) You just never know when you might have an emergency. (Her grin spreads across her full cheeks) Or might need to restrain a bad guy.
Mamie: I got a new granddaughter-in-law who knows her way around some duct tape, but she ain’t had the right cup of sweet tea just yet, and we’re looking to show the girl what she’s missing. Don’t reckon I can sweet talk you into that recipe for your special tea?
Maggie: Now, Mamie, you seem like a nice sort. But my special tea recipe? Well, it wouldn’t be so special if I just shared it willy-nilly. But if you’d like to come on out to Summer Haven sometime, I’ll serve up a nice cold pitcher right there on the front veranda.
Mamie: Miss Maggie, you are Southern hospitality at it’s finest. Don’t think I won’t take you up on that offer, now. Might even bring my granddaughter-in-law along with me. (She shifts to look at another of their friends in the visiting room.) Now, Sera, talk to me about this yoga and healthy eating and chakra business. If a respectable Southern lady’s looking to improve her bowling score, you got any special moves she might could try?
Sera: Hmm… (stands and circles Mamie’s chair) The triceps muscle is critical in the concentric motion. Several others in the isometric contraction, extension, and hyperextension. Not to mention the rectus femoris in the leg. For that, I would say the Bridge pose and the Boat pose. They both stretch and strengthen your quadriceps. If you’d like, I’d be happy to work up a bowler’s series of poses for you.
Mamie: That would be right nice of you. And I’m wondering, too—what’s an old gal have to do to get a ride in that van of yours?
Sera: (laughs) Oh, not much. Maggie complains that it stinks of what she calls Mary Jane. It’s true I’ve been known to relax with some purely medicinal marijuana on occasion. And if you like pumpkin seed and anise granola, I’ll happily have Maggie move out of the shotgun seat to make room for you.
Mamie: Sounds like a good excuse for some research. (She smiles at the last member of the group.) Abby Ruth, what’s your favorite sports team?
Abby Ruth: (Leans back in her chair and gives Mamie the once-over) Is this a trick question?
Mamie: No, I’m genuinely curious. We have such big football rivalries over yonder in Alabama, we don’t hear much about any other teams. Especially after that last Iron Bowl. (She fans herself.) Hoo-boy, that was a game.
Abby Ruth: If I tell you the Texans, then the Cowpokes’ll be pouting all over the Metroplex. If I say the Cowboys, the Texans—which is a stupid name for a football team. I mean, of course they’re Texans—will likely wade out into the Gulf and drown themselves. Men. You can’t live without ’em, and it’s illegal to shoot ’em.
Mamie: And ain’t that a shame? Speaking of men, tell me the truth, sugar. You ever use one of your pieces to impress a man, or are you on the single-to-my-dyin’-day plan?
Abby Ruth: Now, Mamie, I like you. I really do. You seem to be a spunky sort and I admire a woman who goes after what she wants. That having been said…Sugar is my word. I call you sugar, but you don’t call me sugar. You got that, sugar?
Mamie: Oh, my word, honey. I reckon you might could use a cup of Maggie’s special tea. Back when I was going through the change, a nip of tea helped my constitution right good. But I promise not to call you sugar, sugarplum.
Abby Ruth: Now that we have that settled…I have known a few men in my life. The ones who get scared off when they see my gun collection? Well, that tells me pretty much everything I need to know about them. None of those men were Texans. I’m pretty sure the last one who skedaddled was from Illinois. 🙂 As far as getting hitched? I don’t know one man who could keep up with me for the long haul.
Mamie: Oh, sug—ah, honey-pie, those are famous last words right there. (She gives them each a broad smile in turn.) Ladies, it has been a pleasure spending visiting hours with all y’all. I do hope we can do this again sometime, and next time you’re ‘round abouts my way down in Alabama, y’all just give a holler. We’ll bake up some biscuits and have us a real good time.
Okay, everybody be real quiet and follow Mamie and the girls out. That inmate over there was looking at us funny, so we’d best skedaddle. Hopefully we’ll get to tag along again the next time Mamie comes up for a visit.
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