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LAce Posted Monday, August 2nd, 2010
Riding to Bohanan’s with Daddy
Kim Townsel

It was the Fourth of July before I was to begin Junior High. If you believed Michelle Stark, the meanest girl at school, I was the only one who didn’t have her period yet. It worried me, but who could I talk to? Not the girls at school. Michelle already made fun of me. Why add to it?

I sure couldn’t talk to my Mother. She never gave me “the talk” that all the other girls at school said they got from their mothers. One day, I came home from fourth grade and was all proud of a perfect score on my Alabama History Report. I bounced in my bedroom and there on my bed, laid out like my Sunday clothes, were a box of Kotex napkins and what looked like a garter belt. It was scary stuff. I pretended like I didn’t see it, and took Mother the report.

“Four Little Dead Girls,” she said. “I don’t know why you couldn’t have dwelt on something more pleasant.”

I made an A, Mother, a perfect A. Those little girls got robbed of their growing up because someone had something nasty to say. Be proud of me. I wanted to say all those things but I didn’t. Why start something?

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have a project on dogwoods for science class.”

That made her happy. She likes to grow things. Our yard is the envy of the neighborhood.

I went into my room with my report and unwrapped the Kotex. They were huge and I wondered how I could ever wear them and not have everyone know I was on the rag. How did these long tails go in that garter thing? I slid one of the pads between my legs, and I couldn’t close my thighs enough to walk without waddling. I felt sick in my stomach about managing, not sure I could handle this business of being a woman. It seemed overwhelming.

I stuffed it all under my bed and prayed I would never have to figure it out.

That was three years ago, and it’s still under the bed for all I know. I’m as bloodless as a summer frog smashed by a tire and left to fry on the asphalt. My cousin Joel likes to pick up those flat frogs and sling them at us girls. It is truly gross to pick out dried frog parts from one another’s hair. We swear we will get him back some day, somehow.

I pull my hair tight into a ponytail because we are on our way over there for the huge annual Fourth of July picnic. I’m excited because it’s never boring over there, but I dread what drama will happen. Something always happens.

But me being an only child, I do like running wild with my cousins. “Why do they have so many kids if Aunt Helene complains all the time about them?” I ask Daddy.

He laughs that real deep laugh of his, the one that he mostly saves for me. “’Cos John-David just finds Helene too damn pretty.”

I’m confused. “Don’t you find Mother pretty?”

Daddy’s laugh falls off his face.

My heart booms. Wrong question, again.

Daddy leans over and grabs his car keys out of the ceramic ashtray. Nobody better ever smoke in my mother’s house, but one winter she made ceramic ashtrays just the same. “I’m going to Bohanan’s and fill up the tank. Wanna ride?”

Well, he knows I do. I always want to ride in Daddy’s truck. He has old gas tickets folded up all around the headliner. The scratchy seat makes me want to hold my breath as long as I can until we get to our stopping place. My nearly exploding lungs help take my mind off the crawling, crazy feeling in my head from those fibers in the seat, all so anxious to weave into the backs of my thighs.

I love Bohanan’s almost as much as I love my Daddy and his truck. Mr. Bohanan’s store has wood floors that creak with every step. Just about anything you could possibly want is in his store. Daddy absolutely refuses to go to the Piggly Wiggly, where everything is shiny and clean. Of course, Mother absolutely refuses to go to Bohanan’s. That makes it all the more special when Daddy and I go. It’s our own time and place.

Daddy gets gas and talks to everyone in the store, just about. Everyone loves my Daddy. I’m proud when they say, “there’s Charles Lynn’s girl.” It’s a stamp of instant approval. Some of their love for him flies right over to me.

While he cuts up with everyone, I roam the store. Up and down each aisle, saving the candy section for last. Tiny little wax bottles, full of colored sugar water. Ever the mystery to bite off the top and see what cool taste would slide over my tongue. Millions of candy balls in all the colors of the rainbow. The expensive Zero bars, with their white coating. Glittering Reese’s Pieces in a dusty jar. Strange fat white eggs blobbing in wide-mouth jars.

“Grab a handful of something, darling,” my daddy calls out. He sets a huge box of those Kotex napkins on the counter, and just laughs with Mr. Bohanon like men did this all the time.

I take my bag of goodies and climb back into the truck. I could tell him about those Kotex napkins under my bed, but I don’t. I don’t want the smile to drop off his face, because it seems that I should be using those Kotex and that Mother shouldn’t be. Daddy gets ice and beer and shoves them together in his old Igloo Cooler.

He drives in silence, that huge Kotex box right there on the seat between us. Before he gets out of the truck, he says, “Go easy on your mother, sugar. She’s had another rough week.”
I nod. Why start something?

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Donna Levy [ ] on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 8:58 PM
Kim, you are a delightful storyteller. I look forward to more pieces from you. Love, Donna

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