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She Was Such A Dear
by Charles W. Dowdy

If you turn up that light a little more I might be able to work on my tan. Yeah, well, what do you expect me to say? The thing's about to melt my eyeballs. I'm trying to answer your questions and you guys are on pore patrol. It's bad enough you beat on my door at such a horrendous hour. I'm still waiting for some cream for that brown water you keep referring to as coffee.

What's that? Back to the task at hand? Sure, where were we? My mind's slightly scrambled at such an early hour. Like I said before, I'll do whatever I can to help.

How would I describe my relationship with my mother-in-law? I would describe it as excellent. Problems? No, never. No problems at all. Nothing comes to mind.

My wife said that? Well, sure, I guess you could say there were a few "incidents," but nothing really out of the ordinary. You know, the kind of things that go on in every family.

Like what? Oh, I don't know. Family stuff. Harmless stuff.

That incident in Aspen? My wife told you about that? What a hoot. We have laughed about that for years. There's nothing much to tell, really. My mother-in-law wasn't much of a skier. Couldn't stand the cold. Preferred sitting at the base of the mountain with a toddy.

Oh, yeah, right -- so on this particular day we were making our way down this one run, heading for another lift and trying to maneuver our way up the mountain before the lifts closed. My father-in-law doesn't say a lot, but he's an avid sportsman, and that's what you do with him. You have to get to the top of the mountain before the lifts close; you know, get in as much skiing as the day will allow. Heaven forbid you have to go to the bathroom.

What? Well, be patient, I'm getting to it, setting the scene, if you will. So my mother-in-law is bringing up the rear, of course. We can see her way up the slope, just standing there, watching us, and we're all yelling and waving for her to hurry up.

So she starts our way. I don't know if she was showing off or really trying to make that lift line, but she put herself into a tuck and just rocketed down toward us. With her arthritic knees and all, who would have thought she could even get into a tuck? But she did. Just started dropping down that mountain at an outrageous speed. This from a woman who uses the snow plow in lift lines.

Oh, yeah, we were all cheering her on, but at some point she lost control. Must have been her knees. She couldn't get out of that tuck. Had a slope a mile wide and she just shot in amongst us like a bullet. Right before impact she managed to stand. Screaming something fierce. Well, it was perfectly natural for her to stick her poles out in front of her -- poor woman was panicked.

Oh, no, she was fine. Now, I did have to spend some time in traction. And one of the poles got me right above the eye. Eighteen stitches. But she was fine. And they all got to ski the rest of the week, so, you know, no harm, no foul.

No, Mr. Smart Aleck, these are prescription glasses. Indoor/outdoor glasses. So turn the light up, boys. I'm ready for you now.

What did you do that for? Accident, my foot. You're paying for those glasses. I want to talk to your supervisor about this when we're done.

What? The Christmas tree? My wife told you about that? Talk about a funny story. Well, it was something of a family tradition with them. Going out together and cutting down the tree. Putting up the decorations together. What a wonderful time -- and I'd like to think I was a big part of that.

How? Well, a couple of years ago I replaced all of the old Christmas ornaments. Christopher Radko, very expensive. They had all these terrible paper ornaments. Popcorn strings nuked with shellac and, hey, they even had this cut-out of a camel with a childhood picture of my wife glued to one of the humps -- like camels have anything to do with Christmas. I slipped out and burned all that junk in the backyard.

Yes, well, point well taken on the camel, but it was all dreadful stuff anyway. Every year that tree looked like a charity fire hazard, especially with those old ratty wires. I was the official light hanger. I know all about those wires. They were constantly sparking and shocking me.

Now, who told you that? That wasn't my fault. Anyway, things have a way of working out for the best -- the patio home has been wonderful. Shame about the insurance though. And there wasn't time to get any personal items out of the house but my father-in-law gets his tree in October; come December that thing's as dry as the Sahara. With those old wires it was an accident waiting to happen. I replaced all the Radko out of my own pocket.

Yes, well, the fire wasn't what you were talking about?

Oh, that. The incident you are now referring to happened the first year they were in the new house. Sorry. Not much to tell. I was down under the tree doing the lights, which is now a lot less painful, and my mother-in-law was on a chair above me. She was up on the ladder placing the new angel on top of the tree and she lost her balance.

Oh, no. I broke her fall. She was fine. But the puncture wound was unfortunate. She fell from at least eight feet above me, and that angel's halo was sharp. Got me in the back and went through right under my collarbone. All I could see was a bloody halo sticking through my chest. You talk about smarting.

Well, the surgery would not have been quite as complicated if she hadn't broken the thing off inside my body, but with all that blood and my screaming, obviously the poor woman panicked. And as you can see, I've gotten most of the mobility back in my right arm. Couple more months of rehab and I should be as good as new.

You, too, with the Jeff Gordon thing? Why is that funny? I'm a painfully cautious driver. Why do those infernal women get such a kick out of calling me that?

What do I know about this Gordon guy? Just what they tell me. A race car driver. Wins a lot of races. My mother-in-law said she called me that name because I always finished first. Then she and my wife would laugh hysterically. Women. Does that mean anything to you guys? This finishing first bit?

No, no, I don't get it either. Women, who knows?

What's that? Why am I referring to her in the past tense? Good question. You're right. We don't know that she is past tense yet, do we? I guess it's just that, well, she's been missing for over a week now, and this was not a woman who struck out on her own very often. I am terribly concerned about her.

Well, no, I haven't participated in the search parties because of this dreadful corn on my left foot . . . and the rehab. Lots of rehab. Besides, there's no way she's in the woods behind the house. Like what? Somebody just brained her with a shovel and buried her out in the woods? Come on.

My wife told me about the missing shovel.

What do I do for a living? Term life is my specialty.

No, actually my wife is the beneficiary.

The blisters? No, didn't get those writing policies, old chap. No, I was doing some gardening.

For my mother-in-law.

And haven't we gone full circle now? Yes, well, you are correct, that was the last time I saw my dear mother-in-law.

No, actually it was pansies.


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Congratulations to
Charles Dowdy
Named Humor Writer for April, 2003
by the
Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop
at the University of Dayton [Ohio]


Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!

Read more of Dowdy's stories at USADEEPSOUTH:
The Waiting Room War Zone
Goodbye, Debt . . . Hello, Ricecakes
Small Towns and the Three Second Intersection Rule

Reach Dowdy by writing him at this e-mail address.

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