“Let me in.” she yelled through the screen door; her floral print bathrobe hastily buttoned and askew, pink plastic rollers in her hair, a sloppy attempt at applying coral lipstick all over the bottom of her face, her nightly rosary in one hand, a coor’s light in the other, barefoot. My mother flung open the screen door and jerked her inside from the mosquitoes that danced around the Mason jar that served as home to our porch light bulb.
Mom was angry; almost in tears, “I’m in the middle of making dinner, momma.” she said with a clenched jaw, “What is it now? Why are you running around outside half dressed at this hour? Did you forget to take your medicine this evening, and if you did take it, why in God’s name are you washing it down with beer?” She said rubbing her temples.
“Ruthie, did you see to it that your Maw Maw took her medicine this evening?” she yelled at me over her shoulder.
“Yes, mom.” I said, placing the dinner plates out on the table.
“Ruthie, did you sneak Maw Maw one of your dad’s beers this evening?”
I couldn’t help but laugh just a little under my breath. “No mom.”
Mom shook her head, wrung her hands, turned her face up to the ceiling and said a quick silent prayer to St. Jude, her favorite saint of lost causes. Maw Maw winked at me over mom’s shoulder. I winked back. She was a nut job and I loved her.
She followed behind mom and me, stumbling into the kitchen, alternating burps with apologies while readjusting the curlers that had come lose as a result of my mom’s rather violent means of welcoming her into the house.
“Is that chicken stew I smell?” Maw Maw advanced towards the pot simmering on the stove.
“Yes, it is and you know I’ll bring you some when it’s done. There’s no need for you to be roaming the streets at dark half dressed and three shits in the wind.” My mom said yet again looking up to the ceiling for some sort of relief.
“Well, I wouldn’t be if it weren’t serious.” she said sticking her bony finger in the pot of stew and licking it off.
“For crying out loud, would you stop that? You reek of Ben Gay and your sticking your dirty fingers in my food!” Now mom’s hands as well as her face raised to the ceiling.
Maw Maw and I both looked up at the same spot on the ceiling, then at each other. We then both shrugged simultaneously.
“Well, someone’s got a bee in her bonnet.” Maw Maw said with her hands on her hips, “So, Ruthie, what’s up with Hitler over there?” She then popped out her dentures and ran them under the faucet to make sure no stew meat had gotten stuck. This repulsed me and entertained me at the same time. It simply threw mom over the edge and she managed to smack both Maw Maw and me right in the butts with one sharp snap of a dishtowel while pointing to the door.
We went out and set side by side on the porch swing, swatting flies. She decided she couldn’t be bothered putting her teeth back in so she tossed them into the pocket of her bathrobe which caused her mouth to become like an empty cave on her face.
“So, what’s so serious, Maw Maw?”
“Huh, what’s that honey?”
“You said there was something serious.”
We swung back and forth listening to the creaks of the rusting metal chain that supported the old handmade wooden swing, the crickets in the distance, the sound of mom clinking pots in the kitchen and the sound of our own breathing. Maw Maw took a swig of beer and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand causing additional lipstick smearing. She tilted her head against the back of the swing, causing a few rollers to fall to the ground and looked up at the stars in the pitch-black sky.
She let out a sigh, “Ruthie, I’m seriously old.”