Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Rock Star Mama.


Mama was doing her own hair in the kitchen when I got home from school.
I was shocked.
It wasn’t like her at all.
It was the last day of school and I had been prepared for it.  I had my pens and my notebook tucked under my arm as I walked into James Madison Junior High School for the last time-at least, for the last time I was going to be a sixth grader, unless I hadn’t passed the ninth grade, which I think I did, even if my grades were usually a C average.  It wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t have good jeans-most of them had holes in them because my family was poor, and we usually ate beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We couldn’t afford the fancy meals.  My father was dead and my mother was a singer for a small country bar called the Pig’s Barn Inn.  It wasn’t really an inn, it was a bed and breakfast deal, and my friends and I were going to have sleepovers there this summer.
Anyway, after first through fifth hour came sixth hour and I sat in my seat, listening to Mr. Lincoln drone on and on about what he was going to do on vacation, the bell rang, signaling the end of the day.
It startled me so much I almost fell out of my seat.
“What are you doing?”  Mr. Lincoln stuttered.  He had a bad stutter that he had acquired in high school, because he was a nerd.  I’m not a nerd, and my friends and I often made fun of him in the hallways between periods.  My best friend’s name was Mabel (it wasn’t her fault), and Dennis Short.  He was actually very tall, so I don’t know why that was his last name.  He had brown hair and brown eyes and spindly legs.  His father was a dentist and he had a baby sister named Anna.  I didn’t like her.  Much.
Anyway, the school bell rang and as we went out the door, the teacher handed us our report cards.  I looked at mine with a frown in my face and stuffed it into my pocket.  I wondered how I was going to break my grades to Mama.  Especially math.  I loathe math.
It was a warm day outside.  I shed my jacket and hurried home to our run-down apartment and clambered up the first flight of stairs to the second floor, where our apartment was.  I unlocked the door and went inside, where I found Mama struggling with a hair curler.  “Mama!”  I said in a shocked whisper.  “What are you doing with that thing?”
She looked at me, hair partially falling over her face, and scowled.  “What does it look like I’m doin,’ sugar pie?  I sure ain’t milkin’ a cow!”
“They only do that on farms,” I pointed out.  “In Ohio, I think.”
“Sure.  Whatever.”  She sniffed, which meant she didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
“Why are you doing that?”  I asked her.
“I’m getting ready to do a solo act tonight,” she replied.  “My career is flyin’ off the ground.  Soon, we’re going to be rich!”  She threw her head back and laughed.
I didn’t see why that was so funny.  Money is serious business.
“So, honey chile, how was your last day of school?”
I sighed.  “Mr. Lincoln is going to visit his mother in Switzerland.”
She snorted.  “Them teachers sure make lots of money to go where they please,” she muttered.  “Not at all like us common folk, who go paycheck by paycheck.”
“I don’t get paid,” I pointed out.
“Effie, you ain’t old enough to work,” she said, laughing.  “Now, go on, I’m busy, hafta finish this before my ride gets here.”  She started humming a tune I didn’t know, so I ran down the hallway to my room and flopped on my bed before she asked for my report card.  She was busy with other things.  Good.  I know she was going to ask me about it sometime, but not right now, thank goodness.
I laid down on my bed, and started looking at the ceiling.  It was a nice ceiling.  Pretty soon, I fell asleep.  It was around six-oh-clock when my mother woke me up.
“Time to get goin,’ dearie,” she was saying softly in my ear.  “It’s time for me to sing!”
I squirmed to get away from her bear hug.  “Do I have to go?”  I whined.  “I don’t like bars.  They smell like pee and the men stare at you like they want to eat you right up.”
“You have to,” she said firmly.  “I don’t have anyone to watch you tonight.”
“I’m almost eleven.  I can watch myself!”
“You don’t know how to cook.  Who would make your dinner?”
“I can eat cereal.  Or soup.”  I was desperate to stay at home, even though there was nothing to do, it was better than having my mom watch my every move.
“Maybe the bar can give you lemonade,” she said brightly.
Mama was so weird.
Mama and I waited outside for her ride.  She kept glancing at her watch and frowning.  “He better be here,” she muttered.  “Or I’ll never speak to him again!”
She was referring to her boyfriend, Rex.  I didn’t like Rex.  Much.  He had long hair and tattoes and he wasn’t very bright.  He flunked out of high school because he was heavy into drugs, which to me meant he was a bad dude.  I wish he would leave us alone, but Mama seems to like him.
Finally his clunky red truck pulled up to a stop next to the curb.  I climbed into the car and sat next to Rex at the wheel.  He wasn’t a very good driver and I hoped he didn’t go too fast.
Too late.  He did anyway.  We were at the bar within minutes.
“It’s really more of a bed and breakfast deal,” Mama explained while they pulled into a parking lot.  “I’ve been here before.  It’s really quite lovely.”
“Hope out, everyone!”  Rex ordered.  “I gotta get back home.  The game’s supposed to be on in a half an hour.”
Mama put an arm around his shoulder and pretended to pout.  “Don’t you want to hear me sing?”  she asked sweetly.
He grinned and chucked her under the chin lightly.  “Dear, I can hear you sing any ole time, but this game is only on once in a lifetime.  I gotta watch it.”
Mama smiled.  “I was only kiddin,’ dear.  You go watch your game.  Sophia and I will be just fine, won’t we, sugarkins?”
I shrugged.  “Whatever.  I want to get back to my nap, maybe I can take one while you play your jams.”
“I play the guitar and sing,” she reminded me.
I scowled at her and crossed my arms over my chest.  “I know that!  Let’s go!”
I took her hand and dragged her into the inn.  I forgot to tell you about the outside.  It was large, and overlooked the ocean.  The salty smell reached my nostrils while I was outside, talking to Mama and Rex.  The inn was four stories high and was painted a light blue.  All the windows were open and the curtains fluttered lightly in the wind.  We went inside, and was greated with barking by a small brown dog.  It looked like a long hot dog to me.
“Mama, look at the dog!”  I grabbed her arm and tugged at it.
“Stop it!”  she hissed at me.  “The manager is coming!”  She smiled her sweet smile as a man wearing a blue suit walked over to her and shook her hand.
“You must be Dolly Harper,” he gushed.  “I’ve heard so much about you!”
I was puzzled.  “But, haven’t you heard her sing?”  I asked him.
He shook his head.  “My wife takes care of that,” he explained.  “She runs the whole place by herself, and then I get the joy of doing the business side of it.  Paying the help and such.”  He saw us staring at him, so he continued.  “My father, Mr. Burrows, owns the inn.  People from all over the country stay here, especially during the summer months because we’re so close to the ocean.  I can’t say how happy I am to have you here today, because I have a little treat.  Mrs. Carter, the widow of Daniel Carter, is going to stay with us this weekend!  She will hear you sing!  Her car should be arriving shortly.”
“Who the heck is Mrs. Carter?”  I asked in a puzzled voice.
Mama turned towards me.  “She’s a very rich lady,” she explained.  “She owns some famous hotels in New York City and Paris, but she prefers to live the quiet life, which is probably why she is coming here.”
I frowned.  “Oh.”

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