R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Page 2 of 30

Happy birthday, Steve!

Today is my stepfather’s birthday. Steve has been a part of our family for nearly a quarter-century, and I don’t know what we’d do without his witty humor, his genius handyman skills, and his kind heart. He also has a knack for rescuing baby animals in need.

In this 2014 photo, Steve’s holding my solid-black cat Miller, still a kitten here, whom I’d adopted a couple days before from the Walmart parking lot. Steve is the reason there are so many pets at his and Mom’s house: “Awwwww, look! That poor little abused kitty [puppy/piglet/calf/foal/donkey] needs a home!” Ten cats and five dogs later—yep, you know the drill.

I also don’t know what we’d do without Steve’s obscure Southern vocabulary words. This considerable vocabulary includes exceptional profanity skills for emergency situations. While my favorite Steve phrase is “shining like a diamond in a goat’s ass,” he’s at his verbal peak when danger is near.

One summer afternoon in 2007, Mom, Steve, and I were grilling out at their house when a large hornet flew up out of nowhere. Close to three inches long from antennae to stinger and wearing angry-looking yellow and maroon stripes, it made the kind of noise that lets you know an insect means business. Sure enough, the hornet made a few dive-bombs at Steve and me. We panicked.

“Goddamighty, Gina!” Steve shouted at Mom, who’d gone back indoors for a minute. “There’s a big-ass wawst out here!” [Wawst = Southern pronunciation of “wasp”]

The hornet kept circling the porch, probably looking for its nest entrance. Each orbit brought it closer and closer to us. When it disappeared into a small crack between the eaves of the house, we could still hear its hostile buzzing. This did not bode well.

“This thing is huge, Mom,” I called. “You better bring the big guns.”

“Just a minute,” we heard Mom yell back from inside the house. She’d been through this before and was in no big hurry to get back outside. The hornet had probably been there for weeks. It would no doubt still be there when she got onto the porch.

Despite my stepfather’s being a formidable-sized guy at 6’2” and 240 pounds, there are two things that rattle him: any kind of thorn-bearing plant, and any kind of stinging insect. I have seen him jump off of more ladders than I care to count when one of these bugs comes buzzing by, just minding its own business.

As such, Steve’s plan of action upon seeing a wawst takes one of three directions:

  1. Drown the wawst (hornet, wasp, yellow jacket, carpenter bee, horsefly, etc.—whatever insect it really is, he still calls it wawst) in half a can of Raid,
  2. Whack at it with a 22-ounce hammer until it’s dead, muttering the whole time that “this thang don’t know who it’s fuckin’ with,” or
  3. Take off across the yard like a shot, yelling his fool head off.

So there was no doubt in my mind Steve was going to put into effect one of his usual three modus operandi this time, too.

“Brang the wawst spray!” he shouted back into the house. “I can’t grill with this damn thang flyin’ around my head! I’ll burn the steaks!”

“I’ll be out there in a minute,” Mom shouted back from inside the house. “Let me find the ‘wawst’ spray.” Originally from Michigan but having lived in the South for almost 50 years, Mom still pokes fun at a few Southern-accented words—including wawst.

“Hurry!” Steve shouted. “You don’t know how big this thang is!”

“I’m sure it’s the biggest wawst ever,” Mom replied, without affect.

“HURRY! This thang’s as big as my left nut!”

At which point I collapsed on the ground, laughing too hard to move, speak, or breathe.

Mom finally emerged from the house, the can of Extra-Strength Wasp and Hornet Killer in her hand. “Mom! MOM!” I gasped between belly-laughs. “It’s as big as Seeben’s left nut!”

“Yes,” Mom said. “And you’ll also notice that it’s always ‘as big as his left nut,’ never the right nut.”

Happy birthday, Seeben! I love you!

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Caturday: 3/2/19

It’s a bonkers-busy deadline #Caturday, so Buddy’s giving Flannery a bath while I work and drink coffee.

Friday Photo: 3/1/19

Closeup, vivid color photo of a clear glass sugar dispenser next to a cream-colored ceramic Waffle House logo mug. Both sit on a laminated Waffle House menu, the Hashbrowns section of which is included in the lower middle portion of the image (

“Sugar and Coffee with Menu”
Waffle House # 646
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)

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Wednesday Photo: 2/27/19

Saturated red-and-yellow photo of a hammered-steel tabletop. At the left edge and the upper right edge, a plate and a water goblet peek into the frame.

“Still Life at Brunch”
Raleigh, North Carolina – 2016

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Hillside Monday: 2/25/19

If you don’t write the book you have to write, everything breaks.
— A.M. Homes

“For Wes, Part 17”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017
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Caturday: 2/23/19

Against a creamy pastel background of jacquard seat upholstery and an old terry-cloth bath towel: A close-up of a gray tabby cat's rear foot, with dark pinkish-brown toes (aka

“Root Beer Jellybean Toes of DOOM”
LaGrange, Georgia (2015)
Model: Buddy

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Friday Photo: 2/22/19

A smooth-sanded pine bench, with two painted steel crow statues as armrests, sits against the handmade field-rock exterior wall of the main house at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, near Rabun Gap, Georgia. "The Bench Crows Know," indeed.

“The Bench Crows Know”
Rabun County, Georgia – 2017

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The Daffodils That Always Mean “Home”

A bright yellow, single-cup daffodil (likely an old farmhouse variety developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s) bobs in the wind against a backdrop of winter-tan grass. The daffodil's foliage streaks upwards behind the flower, thin and tall like wild onion leaves.

Living in a small town often means commuting a long distance to work somewhere else. Before I began freelancing, I drove about 90 miles round-trip to my university teaching job. While the commute itself sometimes bored me, the scenery on U.S. Highway 27 between LaGrange and Carrollton never, ever did.

It’s almost spring now. In the Deep South, spring gives us an ice storm one day and tornadoes the next. This year’s early warm weather has brought out the daffodils a little early. I love watching them pop up along U.S. 27’s shoulders.

When you see daffodils, you can safely assume that someone put them there. Unlike seed plants, daffodils and other bulbs have to be dug up and replanted. In order to get them from where they are to where they’re going to be, someone has to move them at the right time of year (late spring, after blooms and foliage have died back), transport them to a suitable location, and plant them.

Most of the daffodils we see along the roadside make their homes in someone’s yard. Sometimes they’re in neat flower beds. Sometimes, as is the case with my own yard, they’re randomly planted in a sunny patch of lawn to surprise everyone, year after year, with unexpected yellows and creams in a sea of brittle brown grass.

But what about those planted in or near a roadside ditch—without a house nearby?

Just because you don’t see a house doesn’t mean one hasn’t ever been there. Daffodils stay underground most of the year. Once they’ve finished blooming, their leaves die back and don’t reappear for another year. Old houses get demolished, and their sites fade into and gradually out of memory. Yet the bulbs embedded around them come back every spring thereafter—house or no house.

Plant ghosts, I call them. They don’t know the house and the people are gone. They come back because this is their home. In every sense of the word, they are rooted here.

The daffodils pictured above are very simple, single-cup daffodils, an old variety we often see around old houses. They’re about 12” tall, and amazingly hardy. Judging from what’s left of the house, and from the size of the flower clumps, these daffs have been here for about 50 years.

Behind the thick, overgrown privet hedge, nearly 20 feet down the bank from the southbound lanes of U.S. 27 in Carroll County, appears the faint outline of a house—or what used to be a house, anyway. Out in front: these happy yellow bells.

I wonder why the last residents left. I wonder if they left in a hurry. I wonder who decided to let a once-sturdy farmhouse simply fold itself back into the earth.

I wonder if, on leaving, they took one long, last look toward the flower bed. I wonder if they wept for the flowers waiting beneath its surface, for the daffodils that always mean “home.”

Photo: “Daff Nipped by Frost” (Carroll County, Georgia – 2012)

NOTE: An earlier version of this post appeared at Forgotten Plants & Places on 25 February 2012.

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Wednesday Photo: 2/20/19

In foreground: a Waffle House logo coffee cup about half-full of light coffee, and to its left are three a knife, fork, and spoon on a white paper napkin. The rest of the frame is a wood-grain (Formica) laminate table top, light in the middle and dark around the table edges.

“Time for Another Refill”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia (2015)

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Hillside Monday: 2/18/19

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.
— Mary Oliver

“For Wes, Part 16”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017
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Caturday: 2/16/19

“Orange Cat with Dresser and Wall”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017
Model: Hunter

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Friday Photo: 2/15/19

“Morning Coffee, Morning Booze”
Denver, Colorado – 2017

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For Valentine’s Day 2019

“Pink Heart in the Gutter”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

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Wednesday Photo: 2/13/19

“Roadside Valentine No. 330”
Troup County, Georgia – 2012

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Hillside Monday: 2/11/19

“Cat Silhouette, Window, and Wall”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Model: Miller

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Caturday: 2/9/19

Two cats snooze together in a chair: the solid black cat in the background, and the smoky-gray "bull's-eye" tabby in the foreground, heaped atop his older brother. The black cat's eyes are closed, and its ears out to the sides of its head in relaxation. The gray cat squints at the camera, ears turned forward in interest. Both cats show the "toe beans" on one foot; the black cat's toes are dark gray/almost black, while the smoky tabby's toes are a dark pink-gray.

“Two Sleepy Cats with Gray Diamond Jacquard”
LaGrange, Georgia (2016)
Models: Miller (solid black) and Hank (smoky gray “bull’s-eye” tabby)

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Friday Photo: 2/8/19

“Petal Steel”
Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver, Colorado – 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 2/6/19

“In a Parking Lot at Dusk”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

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Hillside Monday: 2/4/19

Close-up view of a part-Siamese/part-gray tabby cat's front paws: striped like a tabby cat, but also with the color gradient of Siamese cat

“Paws of Human Resources Doom”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Model: Nooz (aka Tennessee)

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Caturday: 2/2/19

“Two Cats with Old Vinyl Floor”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Models: Lucinda (foreground) and Buddy

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Friday Photo: 2/1/19

“Waiting on a Train, Part 18”

Anniston, Alabama – 2017

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Wednesday Photo: 1/30/19

Heavy brass-plated steel chains (the kind used to secure large machinery on flatbed 18-wheeler trailers) form a cross against a black vulcanized rubber mat background. The brass-plated chains and matching lock appear neat yet messy, a sort of "bow" adorning an unexpected gift in an everyday industrial setting.

“Don’t Let the Pretty Gold Fool You”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

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Hillside Monday: 1/28/19

Vivid color image of purple iris flowers (colors ranging from medium purple to very pale lavender) covered with beads of rainwater. Below the blooms, a dozen sword-like iris leaves, also dotted with raindrops, poke up into the photo. In the background lurk an old steel tub full of rusty water, a black-painted wrought-iron porch railing, a gray flagstone patio floor, a few green leaves from a trumpet vine, and the verdigris-mossy edge of a glass-topped outdoor table.

“April Showers, April Flowers”
LaGrange, Georgia (2015)

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Caturday: 1/26/19

“Black Cat with His Sweet Potato”
LaGrange, Georgia (2016)
Model: Miller

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Friday Photo: 1/25/19

Close-up view of one wheel of a freight train car, massive and rusty-brown, on a clean silvered steel rail. The asphalt of the railroad crossing shows behind and in front of the train car wheel. In the background hangs the red-and-white striped reflective rail crossing "arm" that lowers automatically when a train approaches. Spring-green tree leaves fill out the far background, beyond the crossing arm.

“Waiting on a Train, Part 23”
LaGrange, Georgia (2015)

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Wednesday Photo: 1/23/19

Close-up view looking down into a clear acrylic glass of milk, near the rim of the glass. In the background are the edge of the tan/brown wood-grain laminate restaurant countertop, the rim of a heavy off-white ceramic cup full of coffee, and the colorful laminated Waffle House "Favorites" menu. A clear plastic drinking straw extends up out of the glass of milk and past our view, out of the photo to the upper-right.

“Jump On In, the Milk Is Fine”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia (2015)

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Hillside Monday: 1/21/19

Close view of brick building facade and boarded-up corner of shop window. Plywood and 2x4 windowsill are spray-painted turquoise, with a black silhouette (in profile) of a man's head and upper torso.

“Silhouette with Turquoise and Brick”
LaGrange, Georgia (2017)

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Caturday: 1/19/19

“Saint Clark of Hillside”
LaGrange, Georgia (2016)
Model: Clark

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Friday Photo: 1/18/19

“Post-Holiday Letdown”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)

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Wednesday Photo: 1/16/19

“Looking East from My Father’s Grave”
Heard County, Georgia – 2015

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Hillside Monday: 1/14/19

Dramatic (high contrast) black-and-white photo of a dark night sky, with a thick, foggy halo of light shining from behind the jagged black branches of a small tree. In the background, we see the ghostly exterior corner of a small clapboard house and the utility pole next to it.

“For Wes, Part 20”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2018

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Caturday: 1/12/19

“Black Cat, White Wall #2”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)
Model: Miller

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Friday Photo: 1/11/19

Blue and white holiday lights on a string whiz past the camera in a blur of off-white rhomboids and bright blue dashes against a dark 9pm late December sky.

“Blue Light, Star Fight”
Heard County, Georgia – 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 1/9/19

Sepia-toned closeup photo of a Waffle House logo coffee cup (white ceramic) filled with black coffee. At upper left, the blurry thumb of someone's hand tips a small tub of half-and-half ("creamer") into the black coffee. It makes ripples and swirls on the surface of the coffee, and one last large drop of creamer seems to hover above the coffee surface before it falls in.

“Good to the Last Drop (of Creamer)”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 2016

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Hillside Monday: 1/7/19

On a gray, overcast day, we look up into the green-painted, rusty steel beams under a railroad bridge, and also see the mossy concrete edge of bridge showing in the upper left corner of photo. Hanging from a thin piece of plastic fishing line is a 12-ounce Pepsi-Cola can bearing the bright red-white-and-blue standard Pepsi can design and logo. Presumably, the fishing line tied to the can is affixed somewhere on top of the railroad bridge, off camera.

“Fishing from the Railroad Bridge”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)

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Thank you, sweet friends

Blonde, pale-skinned woman wearing black-framed eyeglasses and tan leopard-print dress lying on patterned textiles. Other than her dress, her heavy eyeliner, and her glasses, everything in the photo is washed with bright reds and oranges, almost as if the camera lens is working with a wash of thin red paint over it.

Many, many thanks to the following for their patronage:

Amanda Guyton
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Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
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Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
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El Queso
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
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Connie Frank
Ellen Koga
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Katherine Ferguson
Jeff Miller

Val Williams
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Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Just $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content—photos, poems, creative nonfiction, and behind-the-scenes secret stuff that nobody else gets to see. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait: Seeing Red” (2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Caturday: 1/5/19

Two short-haired, well-fed cats (one black & white, the other gray tabby) lying on their sides, facing one another, on the wooden floor boards of a front porch. Behind them is a concrete walkway glazed with rain and a bright green patch of grass. Behind the cats and to the right, a lush green vine with white/red flowers climbs across a red brick wall.

“Porch Cats at Rest”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)
Models: Mooakura (left) and Clark

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Friday Photo: 1/4/19

A sky filled with roiling dark gray clouds looms above a large parking area for a trucking company. In the background and at the left foreground, the dozen or so 18 wheelers (each of which is 13 feet high) and the truck garage (which stands about 30 feet high) resemble children's toys about to be swept away by the massive, looming storm behind them.

“Storm Clouds with Truck Yard”
Marietta, Georgia (2018)

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Wednesday Photo: 1/2/19

Highly saturated color photo of the corner interior walls of Wintzell's Oyster House, in Montgomery, Alabama. Brightly colored, hand-lettered signs line the walls all the way up to the dark ceiling. The signs bear many various humorous old sayings, such as "Come in and eat before we both starve" and "Free oysters to any man 80 years old accompanied by his father."

“Saturday Lunch at Wintzell’s”
Montgomery, Alabama – 2018

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Here’s to 2019

“Turquoise Leap”
Denver, Colorado – 2014

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Goodbye to 2018

This photo to close out the calendar year was an accident. No, really.

After applying a new red lipstick, I blotted the color with a square of toilet paper, then tossed the TP square into the toilet bowl. Several hours later, long after I’d flushed the toilet, I lifted the lid and saw the carmine-red half-kiss still on the side of the bowl.

The beauty of blazing red pigment against clean-yet-crawling-with-germs white porcelain? It’s a fitting metaphor for 2018.

“Lipstick on Porcelain”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2018

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Caturday: 12/29/18

Black-and-white digital photo of two gray tabby (striped) cats asleep, one atop the other. The lower cat's stripes are two shades of dark gray, for a foggy/cloudy effect; the upper cat's stripes are black on gray/brown fur, and stand out more starkly. Both are sound asleep with eyes closed and ears relaxed, despite the camera so close to their faces.

“Two Sleepy Tabby Brothers”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)
Models: Buddy (top) and Hank

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Friday Photo: 12/28/18

“Forest Floor with Autumn Drought”
Heard County, Georgia – 2016

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Wednesday Photo: 12/26/18

“Dogwood Vigil No. 2”
Atlanta, Georgia – 2013

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Christmas Day 2018

Camera is at seat-height level, about 18 inches from the rust-and-tan ceramic tile floor with black grout floor. The view leads us down a row of black cane-back chairs with red enamel seats (the customary Waffle House waiting area). The row of chairs extends into the background, where there's also a dark plastic high chair next to the dark gray/silver side of the jukebox. In the foreground and to our left, behind the black steel and glass foyer enclosure, are the lower branches of an artificial holiday/Xmas tree, with spherical ornaments in metallic fuchsia, blue, and green; a cream velvet ribbon with red snowflakes; and a few tiny red, yellow, and white twinkling lights.

“Another Lesser-Known Christmas Vigil”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)

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Monday Photo: 12/24/18

“A Christmas Eve Devotional”
Waffle House #1248
Valley, Alabama – 2018

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Caturday: 12/22/18

“Gray Tabby Meditation”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)
Model: Clark

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Friday Photo: 12/21/18

“Stars All Along the Way”
Pine Mountain, Georgia – 2015

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Someone Has to Be.

Rubygene looked down her nose at me with a pinched little expression, part frown and part sneer, the kind that indicates complete disapproval, utter disgust, or chronic hemorrhoid pain. With her, it was always difficult to tell. “Don’t you think you’re being hard on the great state of Alabama?”

I shrugged. “God knows someone has to be.” Purse in one hand, I readjusted my hat with the other and made to leave. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have people to see and bets to place.”

“You have what to place?!” She huffed after me onto the wide, cool, screened-in porch that my grandmother kept wrapped in ferns. The sound of barely-controlled laughter told me Aunt Birdie and Uncle Ralph were already four to six sheets to the wind—at nine-thirty in the morning. In most families, this is a disaster. In my family, this is Tuesday.

“If you need me, Rubygene, you can find me at the track,” I said as I nodded to my great-aunt and uncle. They smiled and raised their highball glasses in my direction. “When the horses call, I answer. Don’t you go cooling my lucky streak.”

Uncle Ralph staggered up out of the mildewed club chair and pulled a crisp $100 bill from his wallet. “Here, Myrtle Mae”—buuuuuuurp. “Put fifty dollars on Lucky Bastard, at forty-nine-to-one.” He bowed deeply and almost fell onto the gray enameled porch floor. “Buy yourself something purty, while you’re at it.”

“Why, thank you, Uncle Ralph!” I hugged his neck and steadied his descent into the creaky wicker chair. He was a notorious tightwad, except when it came to liquor, or to getting on Rubygene’s last good nerve. “See?” I turned back to my grandmother’s other sister. “At least someone around here recognizes that I know what I’m doing.”

Rubygene stared at me in silence, then whirled on her heels and stomped into the house, the scalloped fuchsia edges of her orange housecoat flaring out like a daylily—a nosy daylily that couldn’t just stay in its own flowerbed and do what the good Lord intended. But I didn’t have time to worry about her. I had to be in Thunderbolt by noon.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Wednesday Photo: 12/19/18

“Long December”
Heard County, Georgia – 2015

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