Everything’s Coming Up Roses

My roses win at the County Fair every year, even though I tell my secret to anyone who asks.  They say Myra, how do you get them to bloom so red and full? And I tell them it’s the blood. Some folk find it unsavory, but nothing has quite the nitrogen count as blood meal!

In the old days, we used rabbit blood. My husband Henry set in the vegetable patch and would blow their little brains out, and I’d drain the blood and make a stew. Those things are all bones. Hardly worth the trouble. The blood would fertilize the rose beds, it’s really the best thing for it. Now Henry’s gone, so no more rabbits. It’s just little old Myra, holding down the fort.

You know who else was famous for her roses? General Robert E. Lee’s mother. In fact, when the Yankees took his land, they buried Union soldiers in her garden, right up to the front door. Isn’t that just awful and childish? When you have a disagreement, you should at least keep your manners. What did his mama, or her roses ever do to anyone?

Yankees can be downright uncivil. Like the family who moved onto Maiden Lane, after old Miss Dufresne passed away last year. Has it been that long? She nearly made it to ninety, still driving every day. Almost backed over the Lassier child with her wagon! Bless her heart. Thankfully the Good Lord took her before she caused a tragedy.

The Yankees, or the Meltzers I should say, they came all the way down from New York. If you pardon my language, they’re Damn Yankees, since they’re the kind who stayed. After the storm, now that property values are low. And what did they do, they took out Miss Dufresne’s lovely live oak, and put in a basketball hoop. See what I mean? Now instead of shade and songbirds, we get to hear her Mr. Meltzer slam dunking, or whatever they call it, all through tea time.

He works from home, if you can call it work. For all the basketball he plays, he can’t be working much. Now, I know you’re thinking I’m a lady who lunches and has nothing better to do but grow award-winning roses, but I taught school in the Ninth Ward for nearly forty years, so I’ve done my share. Teaching the tough kids, with metal detectors on the door! I confiscated my share of straight razors and even snatched a little mother of pearl pistol from a boy’s belt once. Made the papers. Pistol-packin’ teacher mama! His parents didn’t see it that way, when I dragged him by his ear to the security office. That’s why I had to retire.

There’s such meanness in this world.

And the first thing the Yankees did when they moved in was get themselves a dog. They won’t stake him in the yard, no, he’s “free range,” like the chicken she keeps asking where to get. You want free range, put a coop out back. You can feel good about eating local, as they call it, and you can give me the blood for my roses.
But no, she keeps asking every week. Like something’s wrong with Mr. Cathaway’s market for not carrying it.
That dog of theirs kept rooting in my garden, digging up my bulbs. I told her I use fertilizer and chemicals, and it’s not safe. The street’s getting busier now, with all the new folks moving back, I said.
But “Darcy,” as they call their chocolate Lab, remained free range.
Would you believe she had the gall to look surprised when he didn’t trot home one evening, when she rang that tacky dinner bell she nailed to Miss Dufresne’s lovely porch?
First thing next morning, she was knocking at my door and shouting on my front step.

“Mrs. Carling? Hello? Anyone home?”
Henry’s truck was in the drive. She could’ve just waited a moment.
“Well good morning, Mrs. Meltzer! How are you this lovely morning?”
She wore her shameless jogging outfit and a pair of those Hollywood sunglasses, which she did not remove. “Have you seen Darcy anywhere?”
“Would you care for some chicory coffee? I just made a pot.”
“Was Darcy in your yard last night? He never came home.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not the neighborhood dogcatcher. Though there’s a pound over by the rendering plant. You might want to check there.”

“Did you turn him in? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I did no such thing.”
“Well if you see him, Brett’s home, can you ring the bell? Thanks.”
Then she jogged off without even a goodbye. See what I mean? Uncivil.

My memaw, she always told me, Myra, you have to kill ‘em with kindness. So I went next door, and interrupted Mr. Meltzer’s “work,” by ringing the bell.
“Come in,” he hollered.
He was on the couch in a track suit, like one of my students, not a grown man. His computer on his lap.
“Hey, Miss…”
“Mrs. Carling,” I said. “I would like to have you and Mrs. Meltzer for tea when she returns from her constitutional. You were never properly welcomed to the neighborhood, and I find that uncivil.”
He snickered. “Like the war?”
“Are you referring to the War of Northern Aggression? Bless your heart. You made a little joke there! Well yes, please come over for tea and biscuits. They’re organic. Not sure if the eggs were free range, though.”
“Seeya then,” he said. Didn’t look up from his computer once.

They came over for tea time, in their exercise clothes. Really!
“Good biscuits,” he said with his mouth full. Yer darn tootin’ they are, Yankee boy!
Even his wife had one, that skinny thing. Baking and roses, my specialties.
“So, did you ever find your pup?” I asked.
“No, he’s just plum disappeared,” she replied, with that mocking tone.
“Oh, I have a feeling he’ll turn up. All the birds come home to roost.” I sipped my tea.
“Can I have another biscuit?” he asked.
“Of course!” When he reached for one, I gave his finger a squeeze.
“You’re fattening up on Southern cooking, I see!”
“It’s so good.”
“Have another one, Miss Ann.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t. They’re great, but really, so fattening. Do you use lard or hydrogenated oil like Crisco?”
Her husband’s head thumped on the table, but she, oh she gave me a run for my money, I tell you. I had to hold her by the ear and use a straight razor from my desk.

And waste some of that lovely fertilizer!
Bless her heart.

© 2010 Tommy Salami

5 thoughts on “Everything’s Coming Up Roses

  1. Yeah, growing up in Georgetown, South Carolina I quickly learned one of the most vicious creatures ever to walk the earth was little old southern ladies. Great story!

  2. A true Southern lady… her manners are impeccable!Yes… those damn Yankees! Run 'em all up a flagpole, I say! Haha!Love your story, Thomas… always very entertaining and such creative use of the prompts.Very well done! Thank you!

  3. Joyous! I could hear Mrs Carling's voice so clearly.Beautifully understated – it really takes the biscuit!(er…..perhaps I should re-phrase that…!):-)

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