Mom’s Bio Outline

Mom seemed a paradox. She was very self-conscious, but could be a real clown. She was very creative and intelligent, but constantly called herself stupid. She was nice looking, yet thought she was ugly. She had a good singing voice, but would clam up if anyone outside the family heard her. She could be jocular or angry and it didn’t take much to bring either side to the fore.

Mom learned as a young child, when “Papa” died, that he was not her father. Grandma Alma had to go to work as a cook and Mom’s half sibs went to the Masonic Orphanage, but little Constance went to a different orphanage. She didn’t learn until much later in life that she’d been sired by an employer of Alma’s. Connie was born at a home for unwed mothers across the state. When Papa married Alma, he had children that were her age and they inherited his property.

Photos show young Connie as a pretty girl, but a bicycle accident on a cracked sidewalk broke her nose and the inability to afford braces for her teeth only made her self-image worse. Her early teens were spent in a Catholic convent/boarding school, where she learned fine embroidery, but not the employable skills Grandma thought she’d learn. When she didn’t qualify for the factory job Alma had arranged for her at 16, she found work as governess for the children of a respected minister.

At twenty-one, she eloped with a man, who then gave in to parental pressure and had the marriage annulled. Connie didn’t tell him that, while on their “honeymoon,” she had become pregnant.

The minister could not employ an unmarried pregnant woman, so Connie had to stay with her younger sister and her new husband. While there, she was introduced to my Dad by a neighbor lady. Dad proposed to her as she was washing diapers. They were together through the Depression and separated only by the War, until his death nearly 25 years later. She had four children, three fathered by Dad, and nine grandchildren. She died at 88 and is buried next to him.

Mom Spent most of her life in the St. Louis area, but during the Depression had gone with Dad to Arkansas and New Mexico as he sought employment. After I came to California, Sunny married and our sister, Jackie, asked Mom to move to Nashville, Tennessee and help her with her four (then six) children. Mom stayed there for ten years and loved that period, but when Sunny and his wife divorced Mom moved back North to housekeep for him. When her senile dementia progressed to where he could not give her enough of the assistance she needed, Marcia took her until Mom needed to be in a nursing home. She lived there for a while before the sadly typical broken hip and a later sickness and infection took her.

Coming To America

I loitered in the kitchen listening to Dad and Uncle Joe talk about the family. They sat at the table drinking beer and reminiscing. For the first time, I heard about my Great-grandfather Pauli. Dad asked, “Do you still have his pistol?”

Joe said yes and they talked about firing the “cap & ball” revolver. I asked what a cap & ball was and Dad said, “It’s the kind of pistol soldiers used back in the Civil War and it belonged to our grandfather.”

Uncle Joe said, “Your middle name is Joseph, so it will be yours.” He may have added, “someday,” or “when you’re older,” or “after we die,” but I only heard that he would give it to me.

“Which Army was he in?” I asked.

“He was in the U.S. Cavalry.”

The next time I saw Uncle Joe I asked him for the gun. “How old are you, ten or eleven? You can’t have it now!”

Dad must have noticed as my smile fell, because he spoke up, “Dammit, Joe, you did say he could have it and we shot it when we were his age. Go on and give it to him.”

Joe frowned but shrugged and gave me the long-barreled 1860 Colt Army .44, which I assumed Great-grandpa had carried during the Civil War. I felt pride that he had fought for Lincoln and helped end slavery.

Years later, Aunt Doris, Dad’s sister, provided more information. My Great-grandfather, Joseph Peter Pauli, was both a violinist and a braumeister (brewmaster) born in Prussia in 1839 and immigrated from Hamburg to the United States. It’s very unlikely that he had entered the Army before the end of the Civil War.

She gave me his photograph and some papers he received from the Prussian Consul in 1870 addressed to him as a member of the 5th Cavalry Band at Fort McPherson, Nebraska, which had been established to protect the Overland Trail between Fort Kearny and Julesburg, Colorado.

Joseph had petitioned Prussia to allow him to return there at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War that broke out that year. The letter states that Prussia did not restore citizenship to those who had emigrated.

After his enlistment was complete, Joseph Peter settled in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he owned a tavern. He married young Swiss immigrant Rosalia Sabina (Geyer) Pauli (b. 1857) and they had three children by 1880. His tavern was so successful that his telephone was listed in that city’s first one-page directory in the 1890s.

When I read the autobiography of William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, I learned that he had supplied bison meat to the Army and was attached to Fort McPherson in 1870. Either of Joseph’s talents likely made him fairly well known to anyone who spent significant time there.

I learned later that the 1860 Colt Army .44 was issued until replaced by the Colt Army .45 of 1872. It irritates me no end that Hollywood depicted (and still does) the 1872 pistol being used before it was invented. I’m sure it was easier than showing the lengthy reloading process of the 1860, even though they rarely showed the 1872 model being reloaded. In reality, the 1860 would have created more suspense than non-stop action.

Coincidentally, the self contained cartridge which made the 1860 Colt obsolete, was invented by another Pauli, Samuel, but he was an Austrian and not related to my family.

Great-grandpa (2)

 

My First Bike

Kick-startin’ this bike was a pain in the ass

Now I throw out the clutch and I give ’er the gas

I shift into first and I slip in the clutch

She’s as noisy as hell, but she didn’t cost much

 

I ease into second; the pipes shoot out fire

How many miles are left in this tire?

The handlebars startin’ to shimmy and shake

Whoa, is this pedal even hooked up to a brake?

 

The lights are a joke and the oil is black

And this ol’ hardtail is killin’ my back

Damned Amal carbs are beginnin’ to leak

And the Lucas magneto is awfully weak

 

I do love this paint, genuine metal flake

Shows an arm and a sword coming out of a lake

And the seat’s covered in tuck’n’rolled Naugahyde

She looks awful good, even though she just died

 

So I sit here and wait at the hamburger joint

But I just gotta smile when the kids stare and point

My bike may not start, but this car-hop is fine

She said she likes bikers and gets off at nine

 

I wonder how long it’ll take for my pal

To get here and help me repair the ol’ gal

I sure hope my buddy gets here right away

If we get this bike started it’s my lucky day

 

Tags are expired? Officer, I just bought ’er!

Well, since that’s the case – no ticket, though I oughter

So stay off the road or I call the tow truck

If I see it again, you won’t have as much luck

 

Well, my buddy and I couldn’t get the bike started

She just wouldn’t fire, although one time she farted

The car-hop just left with some big guy named Mike

But, hell, I don’t mind –

                                                    I just bought my first bike

Carl Ramon

Deep in the depression

A baby was conceived

But after only four short months

His loss his mother grieved

 

Why he couldn’t survive

We here shall never know

Was it because she worked so hard

Or just his strength too low?

 

Was it from a bumpy drive

With Sonny on her lap?

Or was it something more than that?

Or just a thunderclap?

 

Did Momma eat good food

To make a child form strong

Or did the poor folks’humble fare

Consist of beans too long?

 

Daddy really loved us

All of our lives we’d hear

But while we had holes in our shoes

Dad always had his beer

 

Momma loved her babies

Proof of that we’ve seen

But couldn’t she have sent them off

To not witness her screams

 

That neighborhood is gone

A highway took its place

No marker shows where Carl lies

I’ve never seen his face

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad

That Mom and Dad had me

There’s no one else upon the earth

That I would rather be

 

I cannot blame our parents

They did their best, I see

I just wish I could have Carl

Here with my sibs and me

 

DnPnGNS

You could say I had it comin’

But I never did believe

That things would get so crazy

Or that she would up an’ leave

 

We been together so dang long

But much longer I will grieve

She saw me wink at Debby

So my Patty left with Steve

 

Now I’m cryin’ in my beer and

Wishin’ my eyes hadn’t strayed

Starin’ at the door she left through

There went all the plans I’d made

 

I shoulda known that he would tell

When Deb started comin’ in

Steve liked Patty since grade school

But winkin’ back ain’t a sin

 

I saw Stevey grinnin’ so big

As the dancers cleared away

Then the crowd started screaming

When Pat threw that chair my way

 

Blood was runnin’ from a scalp wound

Beer was burnin’ in my eyes

I guess I won’t dance no more

Since she kicked me ’tween the thighs

 

Now the tavern is real quiet

Just the bar-man washin’ up

Even Debbie found an exit

When Pat hit me with that cup

 

Some of us are just born losers

Some of us are just naive

Doin’ crazy things with Debbies

And Patties and guys named Steve

In Memory of Marla B.

At the Rock Store Sunday morn, I was the first one there
I’d stopped a while to meditate and offer up a prayer
Of thanks for all my favorite roads, my cycles and my friends
And ask for vivid memories after all my riding ends
I prayed for riders yet to come and those who’ve gone before
Who taught us to respect the roads that they can ride no more
From down the road I heard a sound – Mulholland’s banshee cry
Then I glimpsed a long-haired girl on phantom bike go flashing by
But she came back and whom I saw my eyes could not believe
For I’d been told that she was dead – for her I continued to grieve
This petite girl with honey hair, whose face was simply splendid
The first girl that I ever knew to ride sport bikes as God intended
I’d heard that up in Canada back in seventy-five or six
While doing what she loved so much, she’d taken that ride ’crost the Styx
She nodded as her eyes held mine and thanked me for my tears
Then told me not to worry so – death’s not as bad as we might fear
Heaven is an endless road, the best that we will ever share
The Blue Ridge Parkway, Ortega and Cripple Creek cannot compare
And all the bikes are classics there, from desmo Manx to Benly six
With Rennsports and Black Lightnings and some Tridents thrown into the mix
And you can bench-race with the best, like Mike the Bike and Calvin Lee
Or talk design with Ed Turner, or play in dirt with Steve McQueen
So dry your tears, she said to me, be good and keep the faith
And someday we will meet again when you become a motor-wraith
And so, my friends, I say to you, keep your hearts open wide
Help each other ride to live and may God help you live to ride

Uncle Bud

Dad’s mother, Grandma Maude, after coming to East Saint Louis, married Charles “Bud” Hursey. Dad insisted that we not call him Grandpa, so I knew him as Uncle Bud. He was a chubby cigar-smoker who supported Grandma and himself with his dumptruck, delivering coal, which most homes and businesses in that area still burned for winter heat.

Grandma & Bud’s yard was one of my favorite places. There was a cherry tree in the front yard that bore the sweetest fruit I can remember. The back yard had a grape vine with fruit second only to the cherries. Behind the back fence ran a railroad track which brought frequent freight trains closer than anyplace I could be to them at that time.

On a rickety work bench beside the garage was a hand-cranked, round sharpening stone. There were gears inside the housing between that crank and it’s grindstone and, when cranked, it emitted the sound a police, ambulance or fire siren made from perhaps a block away. I couldn’t visit without running back there and whirling the crank to hear its music.

Inside the garage, though, was the real treasure. Hidden within the weathered board walls and heavy doors was the full-sized inspiration for the favorite toy of countless boys of my generation     Bud’s dumptruck.

As a typical six or seven year old boy, being only a door away from a real dumptruck tortured me and I shared that feeling with Uncle Bud through frequent bouts of impassioned begging to sit behind its steering wheel. But Bud and Dad always had more important things to do, such as debating current politics, or the progress of the war in Korea, through smoke haze over the ever present beers.

Once, Bud made the crucial mistake of trying to silence me by saying there was a robot that guarded his truck and it would be neither wise nor safe to let me in there. It was obvious that Bud hadn’t spent enough time with young boys of that era . . . especially one with an imagination such as mine.

If not the next day, then within a few, I began formulating a plan. My brother, in his system of horse-trading with friends for new-to-him what-nots, had acquired the mask portion of a war-surplus gas mask with glass lenses and a tubular proboscis where a filter once attached. Hanging from a nail on a back porch post was an old coal-oil lantern. On the rubbish heap, as yet unburned, was an oval tin waste basket with  a rusted bottom. In the scrap-wood pile, left over from when Dad and the uncles put a new roof and carport on our house, was a wealth of assorted boards.

I gathered those items plus a handful of nails, a hammer and a handsaw and went to work. Taking what seemed like days to saw the necessary boards, I eventually assembled a rudimentary 2×4 skeleton with the waste basket for a torso. The lantern became a head with the gas mask for a face. What I thought was the finishing touch was another of Sunny’s treasures, a space-gun flashlight, which Mom helped me wire to a 1×4  arm.

I stood back and admired my creation when a bit of color caught my eye. On the ground in the carport was a paper-thin disk of green plastic that had covered the sticky side of a hot-patch Dad had discarded when repairing a puncture in one of his car-tire inner tubes.

I picked up the disk and considered it, then, perhaps on an impulse, stuck it on one of the gas mask’s lenses.

That evening, I could hardly sit still through dinner. Dad had admired my robot and was nearly as excited as me to play a prank on Bud.

We then loaded it into the trunk of Dad’s Nash and  began our mission. Arriving, we wordlessly carried my new friend to Bud’s garage, where Dad slowly and silently opened the door. He helped me stand it on the running board of the truck and closed the door.

Back to the car to slam its doors, we noisily entered Grandma’s kitchen door. Soon I was pestering Bud again to let me see his dumptruck. This time, when he groused and refused, Dad took up my cause.

“Oh, (blank)! Bud, just show the kid the (blank) truck.”

Bud scowled, but shambled across the kitchen and driveway and opened the garage doors. Then he looked up and froze. His jaw moved up and down, but no sounds exited his mouth.

By some bit of luck, the evening sunlight reflected at just the right angle to enter the dim garage and strike the bit of green plastic, endowing the robot with an eerie stare.

After a pause, Bud said, “I guess I deserved that. Thought I was going to have a heart attack for a minute.”

We all laughed and it may have been the hardest I ever saw Dad or Bud laugh.

Bud&Maude  chevy dump truck  DavidRobotSmall

 

Grandma, Dad, & The Big C

In December of 1954, Dad’s mother had been bed-ridden for some time when Mom and Dad told me, “Grandma Maude is going to die.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Grandma has cancer of the womb.”

I knew that last word because I’d asked Mom what it was when I learned the Hail Mary prayer. “What’s cancer?”

“It’s when something goes wrong and parts of the body grow too fast–too fast to live. If it had been found earlier it could have been removed, but the cancer has spread to her belly.”

At seven, I had a vivid imagination. “Will I grow too fast?”

“No, Honey, you’ll grow just right. You’ll grow to be big and strong like Daddy and you’ll grow at the normal rate.”

“Uncle Deacon has a big belly.”

“Uncle Deacon took a long time to get big. He doesn’t have cancer; he just eats too much.”

That evening we visited Grandma and I said, “Grandma, I love you and I’m sorry you’re going to die, but can I see your belly?”

Her eyes widened and she looked at Mom. Mom blushed, but said, “He’s just curious.”

Grandma’s lips smiled, but her eyes looked like they were about to cry. She pushed her blanket down to her hip and pulled her nightgown up, exposing her lower abdomen between her navel and her private area.

I saw four lumps that looked more like a cluster of large purple grapes than skin. “Do they hurt, Grandma?”

“Yes, Honey; sometimes they hurt awful.” She pulled the blanket up and reached for me. We hugged.

When I saw her in her casket I said, “This doesn’t look like Grandma–she isn’t smiling!”

Mom said, “But she isn’t hurting any more.”

A few years later, when I was told Dad had cancer, my first thought was of seeing Grandma Maude’s belly. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind of clusters of tumors like Grandma’s filling his chest. Although it would be full-on summer soon, I’m sure I shivered.

At the mortuary, Dad looked like he was sleeping. He didn’t look weird like Grandma had. Dad might have sat up and asked for a cigarette and a coffee or a beer. But, that’s where I overheard Mom saying that when the autopsy was performed, his lungs were so far gone that, had he undergone surgery that Friday, the V.A. surgeon would only have sewn him back up. 

I remembered Grandma and thought, “He isn’t hurting any more.”

Chief

People who know my roots are always surprised to learn my dad bought me a Shetland pony. Well, take a breath because after that Dad came home with a monkey for me!

He smiled at me, looked at something far away and said, “When I was a boy, there was an organ grinder in Hot Springs who had a one . . . I loved it!” So, Dad had seen that squirrel monkey in the department store basement and been transported back forty-odd years to his own youth.

I looked at the monkey and it looked at me. Some people might say it smiled, but I think it warned me. It only took one look at those needle-sharp teeth and one whiff of its scent for me to say, “No thanks. It should be yours.”

Mom stood by, stone-faced. I’m guessing she’d already had her say at Kresge’s and in the car.

Dad removed all the components from an upright console TV cabinet he’d given up on repairing, but left the glass that had protected the picture tube. He made a wood-framed, chicken-wire door for the back, hung a stick across the middle and, voilà, the monkey was ensconced in its own house with a view of the living room and out the side window as well.

I don’t remember at what point Dad decided to call the monkey Chief, but Mom countered that it was too bad Chief was male, because Mischief would have been a more appropriate name. When Dad was at home, he’d release Chief and ply him with grapes or bits of other fruit. Dad would laugh and Mom would cringe as Chief fastidiously rubbed each morsel the length of his tail before eating them.

Mom’s dog didn’t like Chief at all. Poor Lucy would have had him for lunch if left alone. She wouldn’t stray from Mom when Chief was loose, because he was a real pest.

Soon Peanut, too, learned to keep his distance. Dad put a light collar and leash on Chief and took him outside to meet Peanut. The pony, always curious, stretched  forward across his fence to investigate the monkey and was rewarded by Chief’s hand and arm being thrust up Peanut’s nostril to the elbow. Peanut reared, sneezed, and bolted away, circling the yard at a gallop. It took Dad a few days to regain the pony’s trust.

I didn’t care for Chief, but did find amusement in his attempts to fall asleep. He would hunker down on his perch and slowly close his eyes. Seemingly connected directly to his eyelids, as they closed, his tail would wind closer around his body. But when the tip would touch his shoulder, he’d emit an ear-splitting shriek, grab the thing he apparently assumed was a snake, and bite it. Then he’d scream louder and longer, until he could relax and repeat the drama again and again.

It wasn’t long before a fetid aroma permeated the living room if the wind outside blew the wrong direction.

I had to give Chief credit, though, for his agility. Any fly entering the room was doomed. Chief’s favored tactic was the scramble up the open front door and perch on the top. When a fly would pass by, likely attracted by the uncontrollable scent emanating from his TV, he would leap into the air, catch the fly in his deft hand and slap it on the floor before devouring it. I don’t think I ever saw him miss.

With Sunny in Japan and Jackie in Chicago. Marcia commented that she was afraid to venture out of town for fear of Dad buying another animal, perhaps a bear, that would surely eat us.

I wish I could say Chief’s life had a happy ending, but when Dad died, Chief began to grieve and stopped eating. Mom spread the word and found another family that was willing to take Chief to be with their female. The two monkeys got on well and Chief seemed to snap out of his funk, but the female monkey died. Chief stopped eating again and soon he was also dead.

Ellie Smith

This piece grew from a writer prompt in WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION by Professor Tilar J. Mazzeo.

I’m Ellie Smith and I wish I was dead.

Twenty years ago, I met a man who I thought was the last good man on the planet. Nineteen years ago we married. Thank God we haven’t had any children!

A short time ago (what feels like forever) while sorting the dirty clothes, I found lipstick on one of his undershirts.

I only wear lipstick, or eye makeup, for that matter, on special occasions and there hasn’t been one of those for a couple of months     our anniversary, to be exact. I know I’ve washed that piece many times since then.

I cried half the day and wanted to die.

The other half, I raged about him, cussed him, wanted to kill him. If only I could find the right way.

 

Then one day it appeared in front of me. His mom called and asked if I could come by and help out a little with her preparations for an entertainment event she wanted to host. “Of course,” I said.

I drove right over. Mom Smith was one of the reasons I’d married him. She was a real “ginger” sweetheart. But, a neat-freak, she had overdone it and tired herself out. “Ellie, honey,” she said to me, “I’m almost finished, but I still need the hall vacuumed and the guest bathroom cleaned and I’m afraid I’m worn out. I need to take a shot of insulin, eat a bite, and lie down for the afternoon, so I can be at my best when our out-of-town company arrives.”

I hoovered the hallway, even though I couldn’t see a hair on it. The loo was spotless, but I waved a feather duster around and checked the liquid soap dispenser anyway. Taking a peek in the cabinet over the sink, I saw a couple of hypodermic needles. A light flashed in my head and, while Mom Smith was eating a tuna salad sandwich, I slipped upstairs. It the medicine cabinet of the master bath was a nearly full box of syringes. I took two and shoved them in the pocket of my sweater.

Back downstairs, I told Mom that everything was ship shape and went to the refrigerator. As I helped myself to a glass of 2% milk, I checked, and sure enough, there were two bottles of insulin, one full and one a quarter full. The label read, Mrs. Ellen Smith. Yes, we both shared the same first and married names.

 

A few weeks later we were flying to the San Francisco Bay. It took a lot of screaming and forced tears to get him to take me along on his “business trip.” I had a note in my purse stating I wanted my ashes scattered by the Golden Gate.

The movie was old and most of the passengers seemed to be napping. The flight attendant  was taking a break after strolling the aisle, pushing the drink cart. I told my husband I needed to powder my nose. He stood as I rose and walked to a restroom.

“Okay, here goes,” I said to the mirror as I filled a syringe with insulin. I braced myself for the discomfort and injected a full cc into an area I won’t name, but where I was 99% sure a medical examiner would overlook, especially with what I had in mind. I had been careful not to touch any part of the prescription bottle that couldn’t be wiped clean, scrubbed my fingerprints from the rest, and dropped it back into my purse. I removed the needle from the syringe and dropped in into the loo. Then I wiped the syringe, stepped on it, and broke it up before flushing all the evidence. I hurried back to my seat. It was imperative that I make it without fainting.

Safely seated, I whispered to my husband that I was feeling off. “I think I need insulin. Will you inject me, please?”

“Oh Dear! I’ve never done that. Is it that blood sugar thing you told me about?”

I nodded. “It’s in my purse.” I handed it to him.

“How much?” he turned the vial over. 

Good, I thought, get your prints all over it. I ran my fingernail from the tip to the highest mark on the syringe.

“That much?”

I nodded and closed my eyes.

“Where?”

I pointed to the spot on my arm where I’d seen his mother inject.

Just then, the woman behind me leaned over my seat and said, “Is your wife diabetic?”

I felt my blood boil.

“Yes, she is,” he answered.

“Oh . . . ”  she sighed and I felt my seatback move as she lowered herself slowly to hers.

But she arose again, saying, “Hey, you know I think she’s got low blood sugar.”

“Mind your own business,” he snapped at her.

Thank you, I thought, if she butts in again, I’ll use my last drop of strength to pop her on the nose. He injected the insulin, his hands shaking, and I passed out.

 

Why is that light hurting my eyes? I thought. A split-second later, why does my torso feel like I’ve been stabbed over and over? Is this honest-to-God hell? Then a familiar voice spoke softly near my ear.

“Try to relax, Ellie. You’re in a hospital in Denver. You’ve been through the wringer, I’m sure. And I’m sorry, but you’re stable and in good hands now. It’s me, Dr. Jones. Yes, your physician and your mother-in-law’s. I was on the same airplane with you, and boy, was I surprised when I saw who the crew had asked for help with.

“This is hell,” I mumbled.

“No, don’t try to talk. I’m sure just breathing is hard enough. I had to perform CPR on you. A flight attendant and I took turns for over a half hour until the plane landed at Denver International, where the paramedics gave us a break until we got you here. I had them give you a mega-dose of Glucagon to bring you out of the hyperglycemia. 

“Can you tell me why you had your mother-in-law’s Apidra, insulin, in your purse?”

I think every muscle in my body tensed, which hurt more, so I took his advice and willed myself to relax. I whispered, “I didn’t.”

“But it was still there, and your husband said you asked for an injection.”

“No, I didn’t. Why was it there? Last I remember, I’d begun to nod off and I felt a pin-prick. What did my husband say?”

“Never mind for now. We’ll give you something to let you sleep more.” 

I drifted away again.

 

I was awakened by someone shaking my shoulder. “What have you done!” It was my mother-in-law’s voice.

I opened my eyes but the lights made me slam them closed again. I remembered I was in a hospital, an i.v. in my the back of my hand. “Uh, what do you mean?”

“My son has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. They say he injected you with my insulin,” she glared at me, “but you were the only person who’d been in my house between my previous injection and the time I discovered it was missing.”

I felt as if a winter draft had run up my spine. Oh, crap, I thought. “I wanted to kill myself because he cheated on me. I’m sorry, Mom Smith.” Yeah, I was sorry     sorry she’d put two and two together and came up with me.

“Oh, my.” Her frown turned to sadness, then back again. “What makes you think he cheated on you?”

“I found lipstick on his,” I cried real tears, “his undershirt.”

“When?”

I had to stop and think. “A few months ago. Let’s see, our anniversary is Valentine’s Day, so mid-April?”

“You fool! That was my lipstick. You know I always wear makeup because of my freckles. He stopped by to clear my kitchen drain and took his dress shirt off. When he got the sink emptyI hugged him, then apologized for messing up his t-shirt.”