Posted 07-15-2004 at 08:05:48
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Daddy was a spitter. The man simply loved to spit. He would spit for the sheer joy of it. He would spit just to see how far he could spit. One time I decided to see what the attraction of spitting was, and set about spitting all over the back yard. Mama caught me, and proceeded to wash my mouth out with soap.
“Now spit!” She demanded, when my mouth was full of suds. I did. Enthusiastically trying to rid my mouth of the taste of Safeguard.
“Little ladies don’t do that.” She finally informed me.
But daddy just went on spittin’. He never got his mouth washed out with soap. He just kept on spittin’. In fact, I didn’t know it yet, but daddy was fixin’ to move from recreational spittin’ to full time professional spittin’.
When the doctor told daddy if he didn’t quit smoking, it was going to kill him, naturally he made the transition to smokeless tobacco. Now he had a fine, understandable reason to spit. And he was good at it. Our days at home were filled with the sounds of the ring of daddy hitting his spittoon: a solid brass job with a wide neck, and a broad bottom.
We got up in the morning and went to bed at night to the ring of that spittoon.
One Sunday mom and dad were off ‘yard saling’; their favorite Sunday afternoon pass-time. As kids tend to do when lacking parental guidance, we involved ourselves in activities that would get us skinned if we got caught. Having drinks in the living room. Making harmless, but annoying prank phone calls to area grocery stores.
“Good afternoon. Do you have a Prince Albert in a can?”
“Yes we do.”
“Well you better let him out, he’s gonna suffocate!”
I don’t know why we found this so funny, but we did, and we would roll on the floor laughing. When we tired of the phone, we would crank the stereo up full blast, and….dance. Kinda. Basically we went into convulsions and bounced all over the house like crazy balls. Yeah, we were livin’ on the edge.
Anyway, it was one of those wild Sunday afternoons when we had reached the ritual dancing stage, that the inevitable happened.
One of us managed to kick over daddy’s spittoon. Oh, Lord. While we watched, frozen in abject terror, the stain from the contents of the spittoon spread like a cancer across mama’s beige wall-to-wall carpeting.
“Oh…my…God!” My sister Judy wailed. “What’re we gonna do?”
Well clearly there was only one thing to do. We had to clean it up, and make it look like nothing had ever happened. My brother simply walked out of the house.
“I’ll go watch for mom and dad.” He said. It was clear that he had no intentions of helping in any meaningful way. We didn’t need a sentry. We needed somebody with a strong stomach. Little Dianne went to crying, as if she actually needed to prove to us that she was useless. Which left it to me, and Judy. Judy was probably the most mature of all of us, even though she was the second to the youngest. But maturity is not bravery. I remember her asking me once to pierce her ears for her. Mama wouldn’t let us have it done, and it seemed that Judy just didn’t want to live without pierced ears. So one day, she approached me with a nice fat sewing needle and a small potato.
“Whatcha do, is you put the tater behind my ear and then you stick the needle through my ear and into the potato. It’s real easy.”
I had no idea what purpose the potato served but, not being the squeamish type, I was all set to oblige her.
I put the tater behind her ear, lined up the needle and rammed it home, promptly jabbing myself in the thumb with it. As I stared at my harpooned thumb, a great red drop of blood appeared. Judy took one look…made a “unnnhhh” sound in the back of her throat and fainted dead away. The sound of her body hitting the floor could be heard for miles. I could only imagine what might have happened had I actually poked her in the ear with that needle. She probably would have suffered a coronary. Anyway she laid there unconscious leaving me to explain to mom the tater and the needle, and guess who ended up getting’ a whipping over the whole deal.
Anyhow, it was safe to assume that I was on my own as regards the spittoon dilemma, so I opted to do what any other kid would do when faced with an overwhelming task. I lit a shuck for the creek and hid until almost dark.
Later that evening at supper, mom brought up the subject of finding the overturned spittoon and described in great detail the steps she took to cleaning up the mess. One by one we all lost our appetites and begged to be excused, leaving behind fresh fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob. All except daddy, who had a cast iron stomach, and could eat Mom’s fried chicken under even the worst of circumstances. We passed on dinner, and desert; which was ice-cold watermelon slices from the fridge. As much as we loved watermelon, none of us had the heart to sit and watch daddy spit out the seeds.