Chapter 8  Climbing the Corners From Haints and Hickory Switches

by Miranda Brumbaugh in , ,


SUMMER

You know what’s weird? Sitting around thinking you are so special you’ve got your very own Ghost. A Ghost you can’t see because it’s still a Ghost, but the Ghost is always with you, watching. The Ghost is actually watching everyone. If anyone has a question, is sad, or does something sinful, especially the sin, then the Ghost knows. If you are grateful for something you even tell the Ghost thank you. 

You talk to that Ghost in your head or you talk out loud—either way, the Ghost is all-knowing omnipotent. The Ghost can answer your questions or make you feel peaceful or give you something in return for that gratitude you give. Then every few days you meet with other people who love the Ghost as much as you do. You all sit dressed to the nines to praise said Ghost.

When I was alone in my room, I wondered where the Ghost was actually at.

My Bedroom at Ain't’s:

Handmade wooden gun cabinet with rifles stocks in attention, bullets locked in the drawer beneath

Standup freezer where we stashed the chicken cutlets and the Christmas candles 

Tall desk with attached bookshelf and school supplies

Television on a short stand for watching all things Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite in black and white

Waterbed that leaked more than I peed on it, which was good cover for those nighttime accidents, “The bed did it!” 

Wood paneling all around that had worm holes and knots for eyes and mouths

I sat on my waterbed wondering which corner the Ghost was in. Later when the dark shadows came, the Ghost turned black as night and crawled up to the ceiling to watch.

I spend a lot of time in the corner myself, you can imagine I would be. But it was better than getting the belt or the switch.

Before the Ghost, Granny said I used to climb her bookshelves and dressers all the way to the ceiling. I loved looking at that popcorn work up close and personal. I would take my fingertips and flick the sharp paint points off.

Living the life of a little spider monkey, climbing as high as I could be. The only time I would stop was when my daddy walked in. As soon as his car roared up onto the concrete pad in Granny’s attached car garage, I flew to the couch and sat silent still.

To keep me in line when he wasn’t around, Granny took a switch to my legs. I was always, Always too fast for her to catch. She just couldn’t so she didn’t try. She broke a hickory switch out of one of the low hanging trees out back. Grabbed a butcher knife and snipped the leaves and twigs off. Then came some of the bark from one end so it flicked slick as a snake tongue flies.

She would switch that thing at me when I would not listen and was being Wild. She had several switches all tucked away on top of her refrigerator. Collecting them whenever I was rotten in the garden.

Every time I had to reseed rows in the summertime, I had a lazy habit. Just threw them seeds in the wind. Let them fly and back to running around I went or riding my bike through the garden, whatever I wanted at Granny’s. 

Always ending with pushing the wheelbarrow into things on the way back to the house for ice cold sweet milk in the tiniest Mason jar and some cookies or cake or biscuits. Then it was Rocking Chair Time. Rocking in the porch chair by the time the summer heat threw sparks and lit up the tree line with purple lightning and the occasional hail storm. I’d sit wishing for tornadoes to trim across the trees in the horizon.

By the time I got tall enough to find the switches on top of the fridge and throw them out the door, the cancer came.

One summer when I was about seven, me and a cheerleading cousin a couple of years older than me was spending the day together. She was Wild for sure, and oh so much fun! That day we decided to build a fort in the living room when Granny laid down for her usual afternoon nap.

The living room area was one wide open space with a dining room, kitchen, and living room. In living room were two couches, an arm seat, and more than two arm chairs. These all lined the main seating room depending on the season. Granny loved to have company over in the living room.

A square coffee table covered in glass sat in the center, low to the ground. A fireplace with a chimney to the one side opposite the TV that played three stations religiously on the antennae.  

Bar stools lined the long bar dividing the living room from the kitchen and dining room. A large retro aluminum diner-style metal table for eight—surrounded by matching metal chairs—sat in the kitchen.

Lots of chairs for the fort. 

Let me be clear here.

We constructed Fort City.

We took every chair in the house and turned them upside down. Over top we spread every lazy girl quilt, sheepskin rug, cheap polyester blanket, and old lace curtain we could find. From the fireplace to the television it was one flowing sea of fabric.

We were crawling around underneath like a couple of mice. Tunneling through and creating paths by shifting chair legs, scooting couches and loveseats. Adjusting the fabric to make sure she couldn’t see us, so sneaky! We giggled and knew we were going to get a rise out of Granny.

When Granny woke up we were deep in the depths of Fort City.

“What is happening in here young ladies?!” Sassing and slashing that hickory switch. Jerked off blankets, flipped chairs.

We scrabbled! Scuttled through the mess we’d made, out and down hall. Here Granny came yelling with that switch. My cousin flew under the bed, grabbed the phone, and started spinning the rotary dial. Yelling all the time. She was Not going to get a Spanking!

Then before I knew it, my cousin was out the door and running all the way home. Left me there to bear the brunt of the switching. Not so bad as we were all scared to death she would get ran over at the intersection she had to cross to get there. 

Many summer nights sitting in the rocking chair spent listening to smashing cars and glass shattering and sirens and ambulances. Granny’s house sat next to one of what has to be the deadliest interchanges north of Atlanta.

Four lanes of highway traffic going north and south. A crossing country road with creeping country drivers like Granny who had a tendency to be in lawnmower Turtle Speed all the time. So many screaming accidents, helicopters flying out victims, a lot of danger and death in one area of a dead-quiet rural town.

The first climbing memory of mine: At seven years old, I was up early and alone in the kitchen in the cabin-in-the-woods. The sideboard stood on the backside of the chimney. I knew the sugar bowl was up there and I climbed up to get a little taste. Looking down at the sun catching dust specks floating out of my parents’ bedroom door.  

Ate a spoon full.

Jumped down.

Took off out the screen door slamming, without any shoes on.

I started the pushbutton start on my go-kart. Rigged up by my daddy because I couldn’t rightfully pull that long cord at the bus stop all by myself. 

I got it going and jumped on my go-kart. Let me tell you about my go-kart. It wasn’t just any go-kart. This go-kart was a souped up racing go-kart, a redneck child’s wet dream. Roll bars were installed around the exterior and then another set of wider roll bars on the sides just in case. Because let me tell you that thing Flew!

One time I drove it through two cars parked in the driveway in front of the house. The cars were really close together and sparks flew as I scratched the base of each of their metal door frames. Then the surprise came when the concrete base of the front porch was touch too tight between there and the fronts of the cars. I was stuck! SLAM! Right into the porch, dazed and done for that day.

The go-kart had an engine from a dirt bike. It was super loud and gave me the get up and go I needed to get around. I rode it all the way down our wavy one-mile long dirt road drive way in the forest that fed me to the school bus every morning.

That morning I was On It.

I hit the dirt pile.

We had a massive mound of red Georgia clay that was left over from some digging project. I drove that go-kart up on that mini mountain full of speed to see if I could fly off it. I did, almost, the first couple of times, and then the wheels got stuck as I wore down the peak.

I was on the top, the wheels digging deeper in the dirt of the now-plateau. The wheels finally got their grip. The whole rig flipped up over on top of me!

I had the go-kart because I was going to be a race car driver. Because that’s what my daddy told me I could be. 

“You can be anything you want to be.” He stood there in the summer sun, working under the hood of a heavy duty truck, smell of diesel and dirt and dust from absorbent for oil, the same stuff we used in school to soak up throw up. Sounds of the air compressor kicking on loud and roaring, a baby bird trying to get some sleep up in the sunny corner, across from the tractor-trailer attached to the side and full of fun-filled shelves to climb around in.

“You can be a race car driver, an airplane pilot, hell a truck mechanic. You can do anything you set your mind to.”

By then I was grabbing the air hose and spraying highly powered air onto my skin to see it dimple. I’d make my way by the vice grip, metal black. Over and into the tractor trailer attached to the side of the shop. A long, dark trailer full of metal shelves stuffed with cardboard boxes. Inside these boxes were all kinds of goodies. Lots of parts and tools and bolts.

One box was halfway full of seashells of all sizes. I sorted through for the biggest conches and did the bit about trying to hear the sea. But I didn’t know what the sea was supposed to sound like to see if it worked for me.

The birds up there in the nest were robins because the egg shells that dropped down from the high corner home were brill baby blue. The same haint blue used to protect porch ceilings by tricking evil spirits into thinking the house is a sky and to keep on flying.

The nest was way up in the corner, sticking to a short ledge on the rusty red metal framing.

One day a bird fell out of the nest. I wanted to climb right up there and put it back in the nest.

“No, don’t climb up there and mess with them birds. If you do, their mom won’t come back to the nest.”