Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Stopover at The L Household

: Running in from the backyard with Rex, The Wonder Dog at her grubby, blinking heels, Erica L lets the screen door slam again. They stop instantly, awaiting the onslaught from Mom lurking somewhere nearby. Don't slam the stupid door, she'll scream for the umpteenth time. Only there's no scream this time. Erica looks down at Rex's glossy black face and they stare at one another in amazement. Erica leaves the kitchen and walks into the living room. No Mom. She walks down the hall to the den and finds her dusting the room while deep in conversation with someone. Erica and Rex walk over to the big easy chair while Mom's back is turned, and jump in, Rex turning himself into His Girl so he can perch his top half on her lap. The news is on TV, but the sound is down. On the screen is a shot of an unattractive woman with long, limp brown hair, glasses, and a sweater her grandmother wouldn't wear. The crawl at the bottom of the screen says something about being arrested and put in jail.
"I know, it's amazing in this day and age," Mom says, her earpiece blinking blue as she talks. "...yep...yeah, she--...yeah..." She's stuck in a loop and begins dusting the tops of the books on the shelves, standing on her tiptoes to reach the top. "...yep... Well, that's what I was---yep....yep.."
She turns around and sees Erica & Rex in the chair and jumps a little. Erica mimes "who is it" and gets back the signal for Uncle Jerry. They both smile. Mom cuts in and says,
"Jerry, hold on. Erica just came in, she wants to say hi--" 
Erica rolls her eyes and frowns, pointing to Rex looking expectantly saddened.
"...a-and Rex. They both wanna say hi, hold on." She pulls her phone from her jeans pocket and taps the screen.
"Jerry, can you hear us?"
"Of course I can hear you! Hello sweetie. Hi Rex." Uncle Jerry's voice fairly booms from the speaker.
"Hi Uncle Jerry!" Erica shouts. Rex barks once. He's not really sure why, but everybody else was making noise, so it seemed like a good idea. He's glad he took the risk.
"Can you believe that crazy broad in Rowan County? Gawd, I hope somebody does a made-for-TV movie about her so I can watch something else!" Jerry caws, forcing Mom to put him back on her earpiece. She turns and goes out of the room mumbling. Erica grabs the TV remote and turns up the sound.
"...ordered her to jail when Davis refused to allow any of her deputies to hand out marriage licenses. Clashes ensued outside the court when the decision was announced. with one group of Davis supporters attacking a group of LGBT protesters on the courthouse steps. Televangelist Pat Robertson expressed his displeasure with the ruling, saying 'gays want all Christians thrown in jail, get used to it.' Presidential candidate Ted Cruz also came out in support saying he stands with Kim Davis, and that 'the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith.' Donald Trump--"
Erica mutes the TV instantly. Some names aren't allowed in the house. That was five of them.
Mom comes back in, her earpiece in her hand.
"Is Uncle Jerry coming over?" Erica asks excitedly. "I've been working on my Tallulah Bankhead, tell me what you think!" She jumps up, throws her hair in front of her right shoulder, extends her face and says "Dahling. I call ev'rybody dahling because I can never remember their names! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahah!"
"If I catch you with a cigarette and a martini before you're 50, I'll murder your Uncle Jerry. Why couldn't he have turned you on to Shirley Temple?" 
Still in her Tallulah phase, Erica croaks"Louise Brooks said Shirley Temple was a swaggering, tough little slut."
"Erica!" Mom's eyes and nostrils flare. "Jerry?"
"Uncle Patrick, dahling. He also said you caaaan't get a maaaaan in a Peter Pan collar, dahling."
Mom closes her eyes and sighs deeply. She's having a flashback to growing up with Jerry. 12 years old and spewing one-liners from all the old movies he forced her to watch over and over again. And now she's raising another one. She's beginning to understand the murderer mentality.
Erica smiles. Obviously her La Bankhead is spot-on. She asks again.
"Are Uncle Jerry and Uncle Patrick coming over or not?"
"Not," Mom says, expecting what she gets; Erica throwing herself melodramatically into the chair, Rex barely able to vacate the space before splashdown. "He and Patrick have dinner plans for tonight with Miss Tunie and Mr. Harold."
"Foop!" she sneers. " What did he want, then?"
"He was going on about that clerk in Kentucky again."
"They sent her to jail!" Erica exclaims, pointing to the TV. "Isn't that what they wanted?"
"It's not that simple, sweetheart." Mom walks over and turns off the TV. "There's a lot of people who are still very upset that gays have won the right to marry. And this woman in Kentucky has become a symbol, on both sides. Do you know why she went to jail?"
Erica and Rex look at one another knowingly. Mom's decided to have what Dad calls a "Huxtable Moment." Rex lays down at her feet as His Girl gets comfortable.
"They said on TV that she wouldn't let anybody else give out licenses. Which means she didn't do her job, so they sent her to jail. But I don't understand why she went to jail. Why didn't they just fire her?"
"Well," Mom says, sitting down on the sofa. "They can't just fire her. She was elected. Only the state of Kentucky can fire her, even if she's in jail."
Erica thinks for a minute, then asks "why are they saying that she was arrested because she's a Christian?"
"That's the complicated part. She says the reason she's not doing her job is because her religion won't let her let gay people get married."
Erica frowns as she thinks, and slowly asks "sooo...if I say that homework is agai--"
"No." Mom says firmly, suppressing a smile. "Doesn't work that way, especially here. And that's why I wanted to talk to you about this before you go back to school tomorrow."

She's put on her serious voice. Oops. This can't be good.
"Because she made the decision to defy the judge and go to jail, a lot of people are upset about it. Because people think that it affects their religion. We've talked about this before, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember." Jeez Mom, it was only a couple of months ago. I'm not stupid, Erica thinks.
"So I want you to promise me that you won't get into it with people about this in school, all right? It's late summer, people get crazy this time of year. And this whole thing? Well, it''s just a little too much." Mom leans in to Erica, very seriously.
"No matter what anybody says tomorrow, promise me you won't get into a debate or a fight, OK? Promise me!"
"I promise, I promise. When is Dad coming home?"
Mom leans back and stands up, turning on the lamp next to the sofa.
"He's said he'll be home by nine, if not sooner. It's inventory at the store tonight. We'll eat when he gets home. Now go upstairs and take your bath, take Rex with you--"
Erica and Rex break for the stairs as Mom yells after them.
"--and tonight can we please keep the water in the tub?!?" The pair galumph up the stairs as Mom walks back over to the TV and taps it back to life. They're still covering the brouhaha over Kim Davis, and all the people protesting and shouting into the cameras. If they can all just get to cooler weather in October in one piece...This is My New Orleans.

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