Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Girl The Boys Wanted To Kiss

     Even though it ain't all that cold outside fer December, my bones've got that deep down chill inside, an' for the life of me, I caint seem ta get warm. So many regretful thangs done happened in the last coupla weeks, I don't even know whar ta begin. Maybe the Good Lord ain'tsa good after all. I know I'll probly be damned to eternal hellfire fer sayin' that, but I caint hep it. Blessed Savior of Mankind, my ass. Whatsoever He done giveth, He gets even bigger kicks from takethin' away.

     Poor Luella. Nineteen years old and settin' in prison. Got 'erself in a terrible fix a coupla years back, drivin' drunk. Killed a woman who was drivin' without a license, not wearin' a seatbelt, an' had 'er brake line held together with a pair a pliers, but none a that made no differnce ta the judge. Neither did the fact that Luella was a straight A student all through high school and her first two years a college. He intended ta make an example outta her. Ta make matters even worse, the victim's family was goin' after her mama, Roxie, in a civil suit. As if that was gonna bring their mama back.

     Me an' Roxie started workin' together down at the county clinic right aroun' two years ago. She knew just about ever'one in town. Usually had a story or two to tell about 'em all, too. I didn't know 'er growin' up, but my ex-husband did. They was in elementary school together, an' Roxie was his acrosst-the-street neighbor's girlfriend. From what I hear, she was a real tomboy. Loved fishin' and gettin' 'erself dirty. Baited 'er own hooks an' gutted 'er own fish, but at the end of the day, she was still the girl the boys wanted to kiss.

     The time leadin' up to Luella's trial was real hard on Roxie, but she hid her feelins sa darn good. I come ta think a her as an original steel magnolia. Bein' a mama myself, I could only imagine the worry an' despair she musta felt, waitin' and wonderin' 'bout what was gonna happen to Luella, knowin' how crooked the so-called justice system was in that stinkin' county.

     There was times at work that Roxie didn't look or feel sa good. Me an' her was about the same age, an' there weren't no reason ta think there was nothing serious wrong with 'er. As far as we knew, she didn't have no health problems. Made sense that whatever was goin' on with 'er was because've all the stress she was goin' through.

     Luella's trial commenced two weeks afore Thanksgivin'. Instead of havin' a jury trial, she plea-bargained an' ended up gettin' three years in a soft prison 'bout a hunnert miles north a here. I guess they was all worried that a jury mighta dealt her an even harsher sentence. Hard to tell. We all done heard about a similar case a few counties south which didn't involve no prison time. I thank that person got house arrest, community service, an' lifetime public speakin' engagements instead. None've us thunk prison was necessary or just in Luella's case. The prisons are overflowin' with them non-violent offenders, but the courts keep stuffin' 'em in there. It don't make no sense. Prison must be makin' the powers that be a whole lotta money. Seems like the powers that be is more innerested in makin' criminals outta people than servin' them real justice.

     Roxie come back ta work a coupla days after the trial. She looked a little worse fer wear an' tear, but she seemed ta be holdin' 'erself together perty well. I hadn't never talked ta her 'bout Luella's legal troubles afore, but since I got me a brother who's done been in and outta prison, I thunk it couldn't hurt, and might help. Now, I'm glad I done it. We had a real good talk, an' I told her I was gonna write to Luella, once she got moved from the county jail over to the state prison. We cried and hugged an' said "See ya next week." I had no ideer that Wednesday'd be the last time I'd ever seen 'er.

     Thursday, Roxie called out sick ta work. Friday, she come inta work, lookin' white as a ghost, sayin' she didn't have no feelin' in 'er fingers or toes. She didn't wanna go to the hospital; she wanted ta drive 'erself home. Long story short, poor thing was et up with cancer.  Ovarian cancer had done spread all up  into 'er liver and lungs. Had she knowed she was so sick? None've us'll ever know. Judgin' from how my own mama's neglected her needs what with all my brother's problems, it's easy ta see how Roxie could've waved off any symptoms she might've been havin' as stress.

     The cancer was sa far gone that the doctors done give Roxie right about six weeks to live. None a the treatment she got that weekend was helpin', in fact, it made 'er worse. She ended up on life support on Sunday, an' later that afternoon, her mama an' daddy made the decision to take 'er off. It was the right thing ta do. Roxie died peacefully on Monday, surrounded by love. It's right fittin' that her remains is being kept inside a tackle box. She wouldn't of had it no other way.

     Thank the Lord, the court allowed Luella outta jail on an ankle monitor so she could be with her mama during her last hours an' attend her funeral. Made me sa mad to hear that her bein' outta jail had to be kept on the down low, so's the victim's family wouldn't get upset. Now, I'm not one ta blame a victim. No sir. But somethin' tells me that family don't care as much about justice as they do about cashin' in. Hope I'm wrong about that.

     Luella is the spittin' image of her mama. Besides bein' smart and perty, she's got 'erself a strong will an' a good heart. Her family loves 'er to pieces, an' they'll be there fer her, come hell or high water. Caint get no more solid than that. She's gonna do just fine.

     As for the rest of us, the suddenness a Roxie's passin' still has us all in shock. I hadn't been back ta work yet, and it don't quite seem real that I ain't gonna hear Roxie tellin' jokes or belly-laughin' no more. Losin' a friend ain't never easy, but when yer the same age, it's real damn hard. Reminds you just how precious each drop a life really is. Maybe Roxie knew she was sick. Maybe she didn't want to be a sick person. Maybe she wanted to be the girl the boys wanted to kiss fer just a little while longer.





   






     

15 comments:

  1. Very sweet Kris. You do have that patter...ahem,...down pat.

    btw,
    Do you remember Arlo Guthrie's version of `Percy's Song"?
    Cheers, ic

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    1. Ian, no, I will youtube it. I do love Arlo and Woody Guthrie!

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  2. Lovely. I could just picture somebody sat on a porch regaling their kin with the tale.

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    1. Big D, in real life, her funeral was full of humor and wonderful stories. It really was like storytime with kin.

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  3. A great job, Kris. I only wish it were just fiction. Seems the two things we humans need most in this world are courage and compassion. Courage for our own trials and compassion for those of others.

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    1. I wish it were fiction, too, Marty. I'm still not recovered from the sadness. I completely agree about us needing courage and compassion the most in this world. Wonderfully put.

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  4. Very much enjoyed and touched by your emotion and compassion, Kris. Difficult to lose someone and then suddenly...Take care:) Prayers..

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  5. Very much enjoyed your blog entry, Kris. Very real, touching and personal. So difficult to get through loss and suddenly on top of that. Take care:) Prayers are with you and her family..

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  6. "kept in a tackle box"..lovely small touches (and big touches) And I think the last lines are so true. Nobody wants to be a "sick person" I think we want to be the version of ourselves that feels most true or brings the most happiness.

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  7. Kris, this post is so beautifully written with warmth and compassion. The post title is perfect, and your first line really grabs the reader, “my bones’ve got that deep down chill inside, an’ for the life of me, I caint seem ta get warm.” I know that feeling.

    I felt empathy for Luella right away despite the tragedy of her drunk driving. Don’t think that prison in her case was necessary either. Courts are unduly obsessed with prison; it’s a puritan attitude and for all the religious talk of forgiveness in our society, I see very little real forgiveness or thoughts of redemption.

    Really love the way you introduced Roxie, a tomboy but “still the girl the boys wanted to kiss.” I liked her; so personable and relatable, someone I could have easily been friends with. What happened to Roxie, how she ignored her own health while worrying about her daughter then has incurable cancer and dies so suddenly was such a terrible heartbreak. Just so unfair. Ovarian cancer is hideous, perhaps the worst of the female cancers, I’ve lost friends to it.

    In your writing, I could feel the intense sadness, shock and loss of Roxie’s passing. Your last line, so poignant, brought tears to my eyes remembering women my age who have passed on as well: “Maybe she wanted to be the girl the boys wanted to kiss fer just a little longer.”

    Kris, on a personal note, it’s so beautiful the way you wrote about the loss of your friend and colleague in the setting and vernacular of your wonderfully colorful Southern characters. You are a gifted writer. My sincere condolences, it’s never easy to lose a friend. I bet “an original steel magnolia,” would smile and be honored to be described that way! I loved this post.

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    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, Madilyn. I knew I wanted to write about my friend, but had to find a way to do it where I could really express myself the way I needed to and capture how wonderful it was to have known her. I'm still so sad and in shock over her death. It's still just unreal to me. Her funeral was really quite lovely; so many wonderfully funny and touching stories about Voni. She really was an original steel magnolia.

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  8. Wonderful, Kris. How I wish this story hadn't been inspired by true events. Still, beautifully done.

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    1. I know, Janene. It's so terribly tragic. She was a wonderful, wonderful woman.

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  9. Loss is so hard to deal with when you know that someone has been ill for a while, so I can imagine how much more painful it must have been to suddenly lose someone overnight. You'll never know whether or not she was aware of her illness and due to all that was happening at the time maybe she decided to put her daughter first and not say anything until after the case was heard.

    I'm glad that Luella has a lot of support waiting for her on the outside, and she's bright enough to continue to have a good life when all of this is over. I'm sure you'll be around to keep her on the straight and narrow and guide her, as if she were your own daughter. She must be in a terrible state right now, being in such an unfamiliar place with strangers. Your letters will really help her through it. I'm also hoping that she also has regular medical check-ups as I'm not sure if ovarian cancer can be hereditary or not.

    Such a sad but very touching post about your friend.

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