Posted on July 8, 2015July 8, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair7.8.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by William Eggleston July 8, 2015: Some mornings… Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Sundays our mum rises early doors and she opens all the curtains of the house and she says it’s so the crows will know she’s decent. And she dresses in her best dress and she does her hair special, and she lays out clothes for me so I’m dressed smart too. On Sundays our mum goes to church and not for God or Jesus, but all for show. And I go with her.
My dad don’t ever step inside a church, not on Sunday or any other day. Not even at Christmas or Easter. He draws the line at churches, he says, and our mum sighs and she tells me out of his hearing that my dad is our shame and he is the cross we must bear, and she means it, every word. Sundays my dad sleeps late even though our mum has thrown his curtains wide.
The crows is not birds like I first thought. What for would our mum care about what the crows thought of her if the crows was just birds? She hangs nuts in bags from the trees at the bottom of our garden and she breaks two day old madeira into crumbs and lays them neat on the bird table once a week and she always changes the water in the bird bath even if it’s been raining, makes a show of doing so – not for crows them madeira crumbs, but for greenfinches and sparrows and blue-tits – only, she don’t call them ‘tits’ and just calls them ‘blues’ or ‘pretties’. No, the crows as our mum cares about, if by caring I mean the reason she goes to church, well that is the two old women that live in the two big houses at the end of the street, the Misses Mary and Joanne. Our mum cares about what they might think of her if one Sunday she did not go to church.
It’s also why she makes my dad do the front garden to a design she found in a book. She orders flowers from a catalogue and the delivering of those plants is all such a careful palaver for she does not wait for the delivery man to tap at her door but meets him at the gate and signs for the parcel where everyone can see and she hopes the crows are watching – which mostly they are.
And three times a week our mum plates up a cooked meal for old Mr Johnson at 25. She says it is her good deed and my dad says she’s soft in the head and he says Mr Johnson is capable enough he can cook his own tea. Our mum takes me with her to number 25. For decency she says, and she means so the crows won’t think it peculiar or so they won’t suspect.
I sit downstairs in Mr Johnson’s and I watch the tele with the sound turned so low it’s like everyone on Bonanza is whispering and all the guns have silencers. And our mum takes Mr Johnson his tea in his bed, only that’s all for show, too. I know and I’m the only one as knows. I hear them upstairs and they’re doing what our mum calls the birds and the bees and what my dad would say is going at it like rabbits – what he would say if he knew, that is.
And after, our mum scrapes the uneaten food into Mr Johnson’s bin and she washes the two plates and says we should go now before it gets dark – the dark is the undecent time, see. Also in Mr Johnson’s bin is a small pink Johnny with Mr Johnson’s milky business inside, but our mum don’t think I know that.
‘What did you watch on tele, dear?’ she says as we walk home, and that’s all for show, too. And I play along, telling her about the episode of Bonanza or The Beverley Hillbillies that I watched.
Momma always says I should be nice to Nana Bertram. She says it don’t cost nothing to be nice and being nice might one day have its own reward.
I thought she was talking Heaven again when she said that, cos momma’s always saying that she’ll get her reward in Heaven when she does thankless good deeds. Papa set me right though. He said Nana Bertram was worth a pretty penny and some and he said she was old as history books and steam trains, and even as old as hills. And papa winked and he tapped one finger along the length of his nose and he said how nothing lasts forever in this life. And ‘One day,’ he said and he didn’t finish what he was saying then, like he didn’t need to.
But being nice to Nana Bertram is not ever so easy. She’s sour as sucked lemons and she’s stiff and cold and scowling. I tell her I’m pleased to see her and I kiss her powdered cheek and I put on my best smile. Nana Bertram don’t thaw a bit. I say that I’ve missed her since our last visit and she looks at me through the slant of her eyes, like she’s looking for the lie in me.
We go to her house about once a month, and on special days, too, like birthdays and such. We always phone first – momma does, and she keeps her fingers crossed when she’s phoning, hoping that Nana Bertram will say that she is busy this weekend and maybe they could take a rain-check on the visit.
She smells of violets, Nana Bertram does, and if you stand too close the smell catches in the back of your throat, like something dry and chalky and it makes you cough. Nana Bertram’s always saying my momma should take me to the doctor to see about my cough.
‘Take my picture with Nana Bertram,’ I sing and we stand with our arms linked – mine tucked in hers, and I smile at papa’s box camera and Nana Bertram frowns. Momma says Nana Bertram should just turn that ol’ frown upside down, but Nana don’t ever do what she don’t want to. We got a hundred pictures of me and Nana Bertram, and I’m always smiling like a fool and Nana Bertram is always scowling. Pictures at the fair or the park or standing out front of Macey’s store, and all of them the same, except I’m small in some and taller in others. And Nana Bertram is always wearing the same coat and the same faux-fur fox stole, though the moths have been at it again this year.
We stay for tea and cakes and papa is always checking his watch when he thinks no one is looking. Nana Bertram has an old fashioned cake-stand, like a tower with cakes on every level. She has them delivered by a boy called Greg. He’s been delivering cakes to my Nana Bertram for maybe six years and in all that time she ain’t never given him a penny more than the cost of the cakes. And she don’t slip me money when I leave, not though I kiss her powdered cheek again. And she don’t give to the minister when he comes collecting at the door or any other charity box. And all of that makes me wonder about what momma says about being nice to Nana Bertram and how one day I might get a reward for that.
‘I’ll get my reward in Heaven,’ momma says when she drops all her change into the paper cup held up by the man in dirty clothes who sits outside the supermarket with a bag-of-bones dog sleeping at his side and holes in the man’s shoes so you can see he don;t wear socks. ‘I’l get my reward in Heaven,’ momma says.
And I reckon maybe I’ll get my reward in Heaven, too, my reward for being nice to Nana Bertram.
Back in the car, when Nana Bertram has gone back into her house and we’re pulling away, I wave in case ever she looks. And I can taste the cheek I gave her and it makes me want to spit, but I don’t. And momma says she should take me to the doctor about that cough like Nana Bertram said.