This is another largely true story. This is my Mothers Day story, because it involves someone’s mother.
I knew all the folks involved, so I guess I believe every word of it. Like any event I write about it, I hope it’s true. If not, it is certainly based on a true story, and that’s good enough for me. I’m not using names in this story, because those involved may not appreciate it. I hope it doesn’t make the reading too awkward.
I had two or three close friends most of my childhood. Like most kids, my friends would come and go with the school year, people moving, etc. I had one friend who was a constant . He lived a few blocks from me, and we spent most of our free time together.
Despite what you’ve seen or heard, Eastern Kentucky is not just shacks and run down trailers. There are nice little neighborhoods in almost every town. I lived in one of those. So did my friend.
My friend lived at the end of a street in a garage apartment next door to his grandmother. Grandma lived alone in a small but nice house. That is to say that Grandma lived alone until my friend’s cousins moved in with her. The cousins were teenagers, probably 15 and 17. They had moved from “up North.” Typically, up North meant Michigan or Ohio, where the people talked funny. The cousins talked funny, too.
The cousins were odd lads. They didn’t go school. I never found out what happened–if anything–to their parents. The cousins just arrived one day. They delivered the morning newspaper for a while. When people stopped getting their papers, Dick Russell, owner of a the store where the papers were picked up in the morning, spied on them one morning. When the papers were dropped in front of his store, Mr. Russell watched the cousins take the bundle and toss it in the river. When they didn’t throw them in the river, they dragged the papers along the ground crying as they made their rounds. Like I said, odd.
My friend was always regaling me in stories of his cousins’ antics. The cousins were several years older than us, but we took great delight in terrorizing them. Once, we told one of them that we had put grass and sticks in the gas tank of his car. Oh, did he get mad. The joke was almost on us as he lit his cigarette lighter to get a better look in the tank. Our screams of terror made him drop the lighter. Again, odd birds they were.
One of the cousins, in particular, was a bit of a thorn in the side of his uncle (my friend’s father). Now, I don’t know if he actually did anything to merit this or if the Uncle was just generally disagreeable. Regardless, it was a bit of ritual for the Uncle to castigate the Cousin when got home from work. Usually, this centered around the Cousin being lazy and good-for-nothin’. I witnessed this several times myself. Normally, it started with the Uncle getting out of his truck and greeting the Cousin with something like, “What in the hell have you been doing all day? Pick up this stuff up out of the yard!”
So it went one fateful afternoon. There was a driveway leading from the street to the garage on the left side of Grandma’s house. The drive was about 75 feet long. The Uncle parked his truck right in front of the garage. He got out of the truck and slammed the door. He immediately spotted the Cousin reclined at the bottom of a tree enjoying a cigarette. “What the hell are you doing? Clean all this up!” The Cousin had been working on some type of project requiring the dis-assembly of various small engines. Apparently, he had lost interest or direction during the project and abandoned it. The Cousin only responded that he was “working on it.”
This did not sit well with the Uncle, who glared but said nothing. The Cousin–perhaps emboldened by the silence–yelled “You can’t tell me what to do!!” The Uncle would have no more of his insolence. A great shouting match ensued with each hurling threats and invectives toward the other. Finally, the Uncle removed his glasses and headed toward the Cousin. It appeared that the Cousin was about to get taught a bit of a lesson.
The Cousin hopped to his feet and looked about for anything with which to defend himself. There were no weapons to be found, only random engine parts. What would he do? Then, he spotted Pedro, the family cat. In a move which can only be described as a combination of madness, desperation and admirable creativity, he scooped up Pedro with one hand.
There was a bucket beside the tree. I know this is true, because I had seen that bucket many times. It was like a big paint bucket or maybe a drywall bucket. It was full of water.
Often, heroic acts are performed not because the person is brave or fearless but because the person is in a situation where only a daring act can spare him. Such was the case here, I believe. By the time Pedro was in the Cousin’s grasp, the Uncle was mere 10 feet or so away and closing quickly. The Cousin spotted the bucket, and without any apparent thought, dunked Pedro into the stagnant water. In one motion, the Cousin pulled Pedro from the water and threw him at his would-be attacker.
By all accounts, Pedro hit the Uncle in the chest, claws out, tearing into his shirt. This did nothing to stop the Uncle’s advance. The Uncle wrenched Pedro from his shirt and tossed him on the ground. The Cousin, though, had made a run for the back door of Grandma’s house. He was not quick enough, and the Uncle cut him off. The Cousin now ran to the other side of the truck. The combatants were on opposite sides of truck. Each move by the Uncle was met with a counter move in the opposite direction by the Cousin.
Grandma, being advanced in years and hard of hearing, had missed most of the action; however, she now emerged from the backdoor. (As an aside, in all the years I knew my friend, I only saw her once or twice. I had images of Norman Bates’s mother in her rocker.) She tottered down the three or four steps to see what was happening.
The Cousin was in again dire straights, trying to keep himself on the opposite side of the truck from his uncle but the Uncle was relentless. Underneath the steps which went up to the garage apartment were several bags of cat litter. The Cousin grabbed one and ran from behind the truck. Here came his uncle. Like an Olympic hammer thrower, the Cousin twisted sideways with the bag at arms’ length. He then swung forward with a mighty heavy toward his uncle, letting the bag fly.
The Uncle ducked. Grandma, again being advanced in years, did not. The cat litter bag caught her right in the old bread basket. I was told that you could hear the air come out of her on contact. Doubled over, she folded in half and hit the ground.
Say what one will, the Cousin loved his Grandma and was horrified. He ran toward her, screaming “GRANDMA!” This was a mistake. The Uncle caught him with a really nice punch right in the middle of his face, breaking his glasses in two. He fell to the ground and cried quite a bit.
Oh, Grandma. She was okay. Just had the wind knocked out of her. Surprisingly, there were no broken bones or internal injuries. She didn’t even go to the hospital. Pedro was fine, too, although I’m sure he was traumatized by the whole experience. I’m pleased to say the both Grandma and Pedro lived several more years after this. As far as I know, Pedro was never again used as a weapon and Grandma was never again violently assaulted.
Over the years, I came to realize that the cousins were alright. They weren’t even all that odd. Just a bit different.
So, I guess that’s the end. I don’t really have an interesting way to end the story. The late, great Michael O’Donoghue once noted that poor writers don’t know how to end their stories. When stumped, he suggested this sentence: Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck.
Since my story is set in Eastern Kentucky, here is the ending:
Suddenly, everyone was run over by a coal truck. The end.