Posts Tagged 'Zola'

Southern fried girl

I am a southern fried girl. I am a southern fried girl. I am tearing off my wings and dipping them in hot sauce. I am a southern fried girl.

I read a story once about a man who had a need to get away from where he was living. Arkansas, I think, but it coulda been Oklahoma. Anyway, there was a bank and a whole lot of people who lost the farm – that expression always makes me think of my daddy – bought the farm, actually, but that’s close, lost the farm. So he and his family put together all their money and drove out to California, where they could eat oranges picked fresh off the tree.

Not me. I am southern by choice, I am. Allergic to oranges; they give me hives. Peanuts too, come to think of it, and they do grow peanuts around there, but anyway I ain’t moving to California if all they got going for them is a buncha oranges and people with shiny orange skin and six pack abs.

But what I had been thinking about was someplace with less sun. Sun makes me sick sometimes, seems like it don’t ever go away. One damn sunny day after another. First I thought I’d go to China and live on a boat on the Yangtse river. A junk. I pictured myself leaning back on a pile of soft cushions, leaning my hand out one side of the boat, eating Peking duck from a bucket, and some good looking man rubbing my feet with warm oil. Turns out China’s not hiring American, though, not buying American either, and keeping all their money in their own towns, which don’t seem like a bad idea, though it never seemed to happen in the south, which I had decided to leave, as I mentioned before.

I pictured these mountains in my head, and they were foggy and cool, and there were lakes, and fish, and not a whole lotta sound. I don’t like a whole lotta sound. Makes my head feel funny. I like to sit back quiet and cool and let the water brush past my fingers, brush past my fingers. China was out of the question though, I could tell after I looked into it some, so I got to thinking about Oregon, or Alaska, or Washington, and those looked closer to what I had in mind. I took the bus – the Labrador Lines, Greyhound was too expensive for me – to Portland and stopped there for about two days before I ran out of money. Then I went west, into the rain forest, and it was quiet there, and foggy, and there were lakes, and rivers, and any number of hairy, mildewed river trolls who were friendly enough to a good natured deep fried southern girl, and I got a job and a place to stay. Drove an old blue truck around, delivering eggs and local herbs. Then one day Hal, who grew the herbs, says to me, we’re done with that truck, go put it away for now. And he gives me the key to Nirvana, his electric car that goes up and down the Oregon coast, runs on moss and powdered crab shells, and I drive smooth and quiet as a cat, and that’s what I like, that’s what I like much better than hot dry sun and smoke and trucks with their screaming truck stop brakes. A little quiet, that’s what a southern fried girl can live on for awhile.

(Prompt: three pictures, chosen randomly. 15 minutes. To be added to Zola stories, in Mayhem Texas.)

Summer vacation

wooden crate

I lived for a time in a solid wooden box. Not cardboard, you can’t live in cardboard for long; first rain takes you out, puts you back in shelter.

I believe in shelter. I believe in shelter like I never believed in some other things. Once, when I was little, I lived in a doll house behind a big old palace, or mansion I guess it might have been. In Texas. The folks who lived in that mansion were almost never there; they lived in Connecticut most of the time is what I heard from Elba, who washed their clothes and put food out for the stray cats in the neighborhood (pretty good food, it was, and with cloth napkins, sometimes). I slept in that doll house, belonged to these folks little girls, only like I said they were never there anyway and I guess the people who kept the place up while they were gone didn’t much mind me for a certain length of time. I stayed there one entire summer. It was small for a real house, but real big for a doll house. There was a kitchen that actually worked, only it was short, like for kids about 7 years old or so, with a sink and a little fridge. No stove, but I did find cigarettes and matches in the little bitty roll-top desk in the living room. There was a velvet sofa in there, too, almost big enough for me at the beginning of the summer but I had a growing spell and had to switch to the little bedroom with the two twin beds. I had one big summer of pretend. I pretended I was Goldilocks. I pretended I lived in the Magic Kingdom. I pretended I was a fireman. I pretended I was flying through space in a rocket ship. I found a telescope one evening in the gardens near the house and looked through it on a clear night and I saw shooting stars and I imagined myself up there in the constellations riding a horse with magnificent wings. This was maybe my best summer ever in my entire growing up years. There was a little bitty library in that small house, too, and since I like to read I found myself curled up on that velvet sofa or stretched out on those twin beds with the chenille bedspreads reading all night.

In the daytime, when there were people around, I headed on into town and went to the full size library, where they didn’t have snacks lying around or anything like a little privacy, but they did have air conditioning, which was new in Texas at that time and most welcome by just about everyone. Back then all the older ladies still carried their fans with them everyway, and every one of them smelled like lavendar sachet and talcum. Old ladies always made me sneeze, and I can barely think of them even now without the end of my nose twitching reflexively. In those days, librarians were strict about silence, and about not folding the pages of the book back. I knew how to follow the rules, even back then, and how to break them without getting too lost from my own sense of what was right and what was wrong.

At the end of the summer, I came home to the doll house one evening and found that it had been visited. There were piles of toys stacked against the wall in the little living room, most of them with their price tags still on. There was this one toy donkey, about 3 foot high, almost big enough to ride on, and if you pulled his tail and let go, he made a big hee-haw sound and his ears wiggled. That was one expensive donkey. I looked around – didn’t seem like anyone had noticed my stuff, it wasn’t touched at all. So I gathered it up and put it back in the pillow case I’d been carrying it in before I stopped here, and I left. I found a bag out by the back porch where the cats eat, with peanut butter sandwiches, some fritos, and a few apples, and I took those with me. Cats don’t really like peanut butter, anyway, I said to myself.

stuffed donkey

Zola labors

She refused a cigarette and did not want to sit down.

“I have been jealous before, don’t think I haven’t. This just isn’t it.” She said. She paced and the light in the room was hard and white. She was soft and brown. Soft and brown and angry, in more trouble than she knew. Too young, this girl. Odds were against her, if you want to know the truth.

“Tell us again why you shot him,” said the younger man, who might have been good looking if it weren’t for the bad skin and that expression. A flat expression, flat like a sidewalk, that gave nothing back. Zola stopped pacing and smoking for a minute to look at him. She had the cigarette hanging out of her mouth, like she’d practiced when she was learning how to smoke, and it was burning her eyes. She wiped them dry, and put the cigarette out.

“Going to tell you again that I didn’t shoot him. You got a hearing problem?” She said and she looked at him and dared him to tell her fuck-all. She rubbed her big belly and said she needed to sit down before she went into labor. The younger man looked away, sudden discomfort marking his face, adding to the acne scars and he looked too young to be hard like a sidewalk. She felt sorry for him, with that bad skin, maybe he might not be such a bad guy if…

The older man interrupted this line of thought with a sudden hard bang on the table. Hey, she thinks, suddenly energized by loud noises at this late stage of her pregnancy, these two are playing good cop/bad cop with me. The fog and the hormones cleared like a rough weather front all of a sudden and she played her one and only card. Childbirth. Clutching the belly, she crouched suddenly down and commenced a good primitive wail, like she’d learned in that Lamaze class her social worker had been taking her to. She leaned, she wailed, she tried to pee herself but couldn’t quite manage it. Bubba one and two couldn’t tell, though; she’d scared them already with that first round of deep breathing.

Zola prayed to the gods of delivery to spare her from an actual early labor, and they were listening. She was out of the hard tile room with the sharp white light and into the warm unconditional arms of her social worker and a maternity ward, where she spent the next three weeks as a ward of the state, eating good and with blankets, stuffed animals, and unlimited cable TV. They cut off her cigarettes, but this was better than jail and interrogation, she figured, and when she did finally give birth to that hairy little girl, she was happy to see the pink skin and the long newborn fingers, and all in all, she was glad she scared holy crap out of a couple of redneck cops if it led to this cadillac delivery, all nice and clean like she’s a lady with full medical coverage and a husband somewhere waiting in the hallway to come in after all is birthed and bathed and settled to pretty rights.

On more than one occasion in the life of Zola Gorgon, she’d fallen into a hormonal trance that convinced her that all was well and safe and easy. On more than one occasion, she’d snapped out of it in time to avoid permanent damage. This was one of those times.

 


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