The following is an excerpt from my book,
A book about coming of age
in a Penecostal environment....
in a Penecostal environment....
D I V O R C E and a SUNTAN...
One Wednesday night, just before church, me and Shelly were sitting out in her daddy’s truck, minding our own business and listening to the radio. All of a sudden, real quick like, Patricia Elaine Duncan yanked the truck door open and said, “Yall move over.” Julie Ann, my smart-aleck little sister, was right behind her. We all squeezed together in the front seat. “I’m trying to get away from your stupid little sister, Molly,” Patricia said. “She is worrying me to death. Tell your little shit-ass sister to get lost.”
“I will not,” Julie Ann said. “I asked you a question, Patricia. Why are you orange?”
“You little shit-ass – I am not orange,” Patricia said.
But she was. Shelly and I were staring. Patricia's hands and face and especially her elbows and knees were a rusty colored orange.
Patricia waved her hand in the air. “This is a suntan,” she said. “I went to Florida last weekend with my daddy.”
Patricia’s mama, Teresa, and her daddy, Max, were divorced. They were just about the only divorced people we knew. Talking about divorce was kind of like talking about blaspheming the Holy Ghost. It was something we didn’t know much about, but we knew it was something you needed to be afraid of. When Teresa and Max got divorced, they had to put Patricia in the hospital for three solid days. The day her daddy left her mama, Patricia stopped eating and she cried so much they had to put her in the Mercer County hospital and feed her through her veins.
The next time I saw Patricia, after she got out of the hospital, she seemed happy as a pig in a mudhole. And she didn’t look like she had missed a meal since. After that, her mama and daddy kept her spoiled rotten because they were scared to death they were gonna kill her.
Patricia’s daddy, Max, would come over to her house to pick her up every other Friday at 5 o’clock sharp. Their weekends together sounded like Heaven to me. Max would take Patricia to restaurants and they would usually go to the picture show. Max would buy her all kinds of stuff she didn’t need. Patricia got to go to the beauty shop on a regular basis too. She had an appointment at Ozella’s Beauty Shop in Mercer County every other Saturday morning at ten o’clock. Patricia’s hair was short and shiny black. She wore it straight and it was just a little longer on the sides than it was in the back so it did a pretty little swing when she moved. She had a thin streak of blonde peroxided down the right side and she was just in the seventh grade. Patricia got a TEEN magazine every blessed month and she had picked the hairdo out of one of the magazines. Ozella fixed Patricia’s hair the exact same way as the picture.
“You big stupid liar,” Julie Ann said in a mean way to Patricia. “You are orange. What is that stuff you’ve got on?”
“Well, okay, if it's any of your beeswax, I’ve got on QT. It’s a lotion that’s supposed to make you look like you’ve been to the beach,” Patricia finally admitted so Julie Ann would shut up. You couldn’t get away from Julie Ann once she started in on you.
Patricia had gone to Carrollton, Georgia to spend the weekend with her daddy and he had given her twenty dollars and she spent it all at the West Georgia drugstore. That’s where she got the QT.
Patricia was always telling us that her daddy and mama were going to get back together someday because they still loved each other. She told over and over about the time her daddy came over to pick her up and he came inside the house to talk to Teresa. “My mama was crying when my daddy left that day,” Patricia informed us. “And it wasn’t because she was mad at my daddy. It was because she is in love with my daddy. And while he was there, I saw him, with my own eyes, put a band-aid on a little bitty ole cut on my mama’s finger and it didn’t even need a band-aid. So, they still love each other,” she said smugly. “And I’m gonna to see to it that my daddy moves back in with us when the time is right.”
All I know is that Patricia Elaine Duncan could get away with more stuff than you could shake a stick at. One time she shaved all her eyebrows off and painted them back on with an eyebrow pencil. She looked downright scary. I asked her what her mama said about it. Patricia said her mama didn’t say anything except to remark that one of the eyebrows was crooked so she had to wipe it off and start all over again....
Sara Joanne Saxon Hill
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