Monday, December 21, 2015
Krystle Gayle (Blogophilia 44.8)
[The scene is a trailer park. The units are older, but in good repair. Children play tag in the dead end road. A pudgy woman with a mass of salt and pepper curls is holding court on the wooden stoop outside her home. Clothed in a T-Shirt and faded jeans, it’s obvious she has been drinking for a while]
“My name is Krystle Gayle Tomley, but my friends call me Miss Piggy. I’m 46 years old, a mother, grandmother and soon to be great-grandmother. They say I’m the third generation Tomley here at the trailer park. But that’s not important. What’s important is that you know my story"
[Lighting a cigarette, she coughs briefly and continues]
“How we Tomley’s got here was Granddaddy come down from Villanow to work in the bomber plant just after he got back from Korea. But he wasn’t the first Tomley. That’d be Uncle Rufus. That’s his picture there on the table, the man on the motorcycle. He’s probably more like me than any of my direct kin. He came equipped with a wild streak wider than a river.”
“Now, Rufus wasn’t actually from Villanow. He’d came up over in Fort Payne where his Daddy worked at a strip mine. For some reason the Army didn’t want him, so he’d come here just as the plant first opened. He lived over in that blue trailer over there. When Granddaddy go back home, he let him stay there a month until he could get this trailer we’re sitting on. Grandma joined him as soon as he was settled and Momma came real soon after.”
Grandma died having her, so I didn’t get to meet her. I always was sorry about that. From what the cousins say, she was a fine Christian woman. But that was how things went back then, not every birth went right. Granddaddy was so heartbroken he never did remarry, although he did have offers. Instead he spent his time with his Mary Nell, making sure she looked presentable and fed. She was truly the light of his life.
[She reaches into the cooler next to her chair for a beer. When she opens it, it sprays out, soaking her hair and putting out her cigarette]
Dang it! Y’all hand me that towel over there.
[Quickly drying off, she takes a swallow and settles back on the porch]
Anyway, Rufus died when I was a baby, so I don’t remember much. But Momma said he was nothin’ but an old drunk. The Law was always picking him up for something. One night when Momma was in high school, Granddaddy came in and caught Rufus trying to reach up her skirt. He kicked ol’ Rufus right through the screen door and told him never to come back. He went on back up to the mountains and drunk himself into the grave.
Momma met Daddy in school when they were in the third grade. Momma said they would walk along the fence outside the school in the summer, picking honeysuckles and talking about their futures. Daddy wanted to be a pilot, out fighting the commies in Vietnam. Momma would smile at her would be hero, hoping, like in the fairy tales she’d hear at bed time, their dreams would come true.
Granddaddy liked Daddy and invited him to church. I guess his folks didn’t mind. Afterwards, they’d take dinner down to this grassy field next to the Ford Dealer on Four Lane Highway to watch the planes from the plant take off and land. Momma said it seemed like magic when the big metal things would lift off, pretty as you please and Daddy would play like he was at the controls, banking right and left, always going the distance in battle. Momma would hug him for winning.
[Stops a moment to light another cigarette.]
Daddy flunked the army physical, something about a heart murmur. I guessed that’s what killed him later, but Momma never talked about it. He figured if he couldn’t fly the planes, he could at least build them. Granddaddy told him they wouldn’t hire him at the plant unless he finished school, cause some of the jobs at the plant were changing. They weren’t making bombers anymore, but these big ol’ cargo planes. Daddy did what had to do. He buckled down with his studies and got finished.
One Sunday after they graduated that they went on back to the trailer instead of the field after church cause Granddaddy had something to do. The honeysuckles were out and Daddy picked a few to take home with them. Since no one was home, they shared them and their lips locked. One thing led to another and I came along right after that. Y’all probably thinking shotgun wedding, but Daddy was an honorable man. They got married in Pastor Jackson’s office with Granddaddy as the witness. So, I was a “legal” young’un.
They both told me the only thing wrong with what happened is I pushed up the wedding a year or so. I asked Momma how I was named after a singer, and she said it was just a coincidence. Gayle was Grandma’s name and Momma thought Krystle was a nice word. I think so, too. Krystle Gayle didn’t get on the radio until I was in school, anyway. They never did say why I had Momma’s last name, though.
They wanted more kids, but Momma just couldn’t carry. Made me sad ‘cause I always wanted a sister or brother to play with. But you just have to go with what God gives you. The old biddies in the park said it was Momma’s punishment for sin of having me too early. That was a load of horse to my mind. Other women would have kid after kid with no husband and nothing bad would ever happen to them, excepting getting beat by whatever man they were with. Momma told me not to pay them no mind. They were jealous ‘cause she had a hard working man and they didn’t. Oh, they had their fusses, Momma and Daddy did, but he never hit her and she wouldn’t have it no other way.
I went to the same schools they did, but by the time I came around black people had started moving in. A lot of the neighbors moved out, but Momma and Daddy wouldn’t. Said it wasn’t right to treat them like that. But then them big cats started picking fights and it was all you could do to keep out the way. Daddy didn’t like that and even talked about sending me up to a cousin’s in Villanow for school. But he died before could do it. He collapsed at his paint station. He was just 30 years old. Every said his heart just gave out, but I always suspected he got a big huff of paint. A couple of boys at the high school died huffing paint earlier that summer. It made sense to me since Daddy worked with paint, paint was what killed him.
Momma never was the same. She took to drinkin’ and yelling at me. Granddaddy would try to calm her down, but how do you calm a grieving widow? Of course, I can say that now, having been down that road myself. But back then, it just confused me. We fussed all the time over school, boys and liquor. I was a headstrong young’un and I upped and ran away. Ended up down in Atlanta. I’m ashamed to admit I walked the streets, but it kept me fed and I learned how to keep my wits when things would get crazy.
I had my Mary Nell just short of my 15th birthday. I named her after Momma and for about six months we lived out on the streets. I wasn’t tricking as much, but I would do a few to buy diapers. One man tried to make me his working girl. Somehow, Granddaddy heard about it and brought us home. Like he did with Momma, he made sure Mary Nell got taken care of. Momma never could reconcile what I had done. She ended up moving on back to mountains and left the trailer to me. Granddaddy, bless his heart, passed a few months later. I was on my own again.
I never went back to school; I ended up working in a warehouse down the road. It wasn’t a bad job and the guys were great to party with. Oh, I’d hear those old biddies’ beaks flapping about being me being fallen, but I kept Momma’s advice about it. Pastor Jackson, he really was a good man, tried his best to rein me back to the flock. But I wasn’t havin’ none of it. I’d done tasted the moonshine and couldn’t get enough.I was as bad, if not worse than any man when Friday night came. I’d bust out of work and go find the liquor.
One night, when Mary Nell was about six, I went to this girl’s trailer on up Austell Highway. We got it in our minds at 3AM that I needed to be blonde. A girl had given me a box of dye when she moved out of state, so we cleared off the kitchen sink and started to work. Can’t remember exactly what happened, but we mixed it up wrong, and when we got finished the girl looked at me real funny. It wasn’t just a bad dye job, but the worst one ever. This red and green thing was looking back at me from the mirror. I decided to quit drinkin’ right then.
I met Billy later that day at Waffle House while I was trying to sober up. He said it was the first time he had seen someone turned totally green. I couldn’t help it. I threw up all over his shirt. I was expecting to get hit, but he just cleaned us both up and took me home with him. We didn’t see outside for three whole days.
I guess you’d say Billy was to me like Daddy was to Momma. Like all them, he worked over at the plant, only he was on the assembly line. He didn’t care about my past, though, and he took Mary Nell as his own. I knew I had loved Daddy dearly, but it wasn’t until I met Billy that I understood how deep Momma’s love was. We never did get married, though. He had his place and I had mine and this worked for us. As long as I could talk to him, it was enough. I stayed sober. Oh, it wasn’t a bed of roses. There would be fusses and he did have other women. But I was in no position to judge on that. But those quicksilver moments…they were worth it.
Oh, I could on about how Mary Nell didn’t fall far from the tree, or how Billy died, but I need to get on down to the store. I’m out of beer and I need to get my Quick Pick tickets for the lottery. If I win, I’ll take you to Vegas and teach you the real meaning of partying.
Topic- Jay Sole
Picture: Colleen Keller Breuning
Pic Guesses: Red and Green (in blog), Lip Lock (in blog), RiffRaff and Magenta, Time Warp, Tasty, Sweet bite, Nibbles, Hungry.