Chapter 7 Screaming Queens, Strawberries, and Sin-Free Living

by Miranda Brumbaugh in , , ,

Start here as you can read this as a stand-alone short story or go to Chapter 1 and begin at the beginning! You choose. All nonfiction, stories of my childhood.


Spring in the 

Southeast is kitten


Sure, we’ve got Easter morning chicks and baby turtles in


shells getting 

stomped and 

sat on all 

spring long. But the true animal of the 

season is the cat. Cats go crazy come 

springtime. From early
spring all the way to Halloween, millions of felines are begat in the mountains alone. Female queen cats, in particular, get all hot and bothered every couple of weeks. These queen cats also go hard for the most difficult of prizes, the tomcats aka jackasses of the cat world. Queens want as many tomcats as these 

she's can get. Give a queen a chance to get a hold of a tomcat or 10 and 

she’ll give you upward to 150 kittens in her reproductive lifetime. We had quite a few queens running around the cabin-in-the-woods. We even had cats that were not just boss cats but 

straight up bobcats bouncing off the porch 

shelves at night

screaming like wild women in the bed




Strawberries are another 

sign of the 



season. Easily my earliest memory was picking

strawberries out of the earth behind the cabin-in-the-woods. Right out of the deep, red, chunky dirt rows. I looked up holding on a 

strawberry still attached to the vine, too mushy to really pick but I was going to eat it anyway. On the hilltop was the porch. The porch

sitting fat on the horizon. It 

stretched long beneath a black walnut tree overreaching and 

spreading large fuzzy balls filled with delicious nut meat.



set off by a brilliant 

sky blue

space. A

Southerner’s porch is a whole other world. It is an extension outdoors of the world within. Granny had the best porch. Her porch 

sat on a hilltop overlooking the orchard across the rural country road.

Slatted two-by-fours of pine wood well worn running all the way down a long 


strip of porch. On that porch at the far end was 

supposed to be a 

swing but no one ever thought to hang it up for her. At night, possums and queen cats gave chase from one end to the other. Our porch in the cabin-in-the-woods was created from concrete. Wood pillars hoisted an extended rooftop covering the whole of it. The porch doubled the size of the lower level of the house but without any external walls. A pavilion attached to this home 

shaded by the ancient walnut tree and a

sweeping weeping willow tree that cleaned the red dirt earth every day, all 

sitting in 

solitude on a hilltop. The 

same home where Granny was born before electricity

sparked that

side of the

southern hills. On the porch we had our own water well, right there on the porch. Didn’t have to walk far, but most days nothing covered the top of that deep water well pumping up from the pond. Kittens drowning left and right. 

Survival of the 


spring kitties. Around the

side of the house there were all these

shelves, just open pieces of four-by-fours nailed up holding gardening tools, tenpenny nails, rusty coins, and


straight from Florida—all

stashed on

shelf after pine wood

shelf filled with aged glass Mason jars and 

sharp rimmed coffee cans. We cleared the porch for visitors and hosted parties out there a lot. We had a party once with a big gang who drove all the way from the Gulf Coast

states and brought their own fresh

seafood including

shrimp and crawdads and beer cans all on ice in coolers that they tossed up on the fold-up tables lined in rows on the porch under the rooftop.

Swept and

scoured, the concrete pad was

smelling nice and

sparkling with Mr. Clean for the guests. We hung around listening to music, my dad bragging loudly, “Hell, Yes! We are getting Willie Nelson to come down here and we’ll have one hell of a concert!” Boisterous and bold. A beautiful young woman wearing a red 

sun dress and heart-shaped 

sunglasses and with long 

straight hair 

sat next to me and held a manilla folder filled with lined looseleaf paper. Her eyes were 

shaded by her cool




she was going to 

show me how to draw 



sat there next to me

shading the

sun from blinding me, and using colored pencils

she drew a bright red


strawberry and its

soft black 

seeds and green leaves and I copied them in the

sparkles of the




When I was moved to the foster home with the Ain’t, I did not have the cats anymore. They 

said I was allergic to animals 

so no more of those. We had a dog now, a Doberman Pincher that was 

so old and 

scary with arthritis that Ain’t had to physically hoist him up to take a piss right before he passed on and was buried next to the 

Sin-Eater’s cabin-in-the-woods.

Strawberries now came from the grocery 

store and were 

soaked in 


syrup. No more 

strawberry plants, now we had muscadine vines.

Black cat crossing the path!

Mark an X on the windshield fast!

-Ain’t did this to the left of the car windshield whenever a black cat walked across the road in front of the car, which in retrospect happened all the time. Don’t walk under ladders either, and forget breaking a mirror. 

Seven years is a lifetime of 

sin. When I moved to the foster home, every night before I went to 

sleep I made my own criss-cross habit. I had to read at least one word out of a certain book. The Bible. Any Bible, anybody’s Bible, it didn’t matter. I would have to hold it and open the book to any 

section and read it. If I 

spent the night with 

someone I didn’t bring my own Bible Just Because. That would have been weird and 

somebody might have asked Why. I was thrilled with the challenge of having to find a Bible. I would get up in the middle of the night and 

search for a Bible. Most often I got to 

spend the night at church people’s or family people’s houses or at the actual church for church events. 

So let’s be honest—Bible finding was not a problem. 

Sometimes friends’ families didn’t have Bibles and then I was ready to roll by daybreak. I’m not going to 

say I judged those families for not having a Bible. I just felt better when I was in a house that had one I could find. Found a Bible. Flip it open. Read a 

section of it and then rest easy. It didn’t matter what I read. Only 

sometimes did I ever pay 

special attention to what I read. The 

simple act of knowing I went through the trouble and extra effort to find that Bible and read it that was fulfilling and cleansing to my 

spirit. A penchant and a penance. When it comes to finding those Bibles, Well. Like any good book lover, I’m 


swift at 

shifting the Good Book in my direction from kids’ Bibles tossed in toy boxes to family Bibles tucked in chifforobes. From cheap little pocket book Bibles thrown on top of entertainment cabinets to church 

study Bibles 

stuffed with weekly 

service pamphlets and placed in magazine baskets next to couches. You get creative when trying to find a Bible after dark and in a pinch in a 

strange home. I did have a number of my own Bibles. Tons of those little pocket book Bibles Gideons gave away. A black leather and has my birth name embossed in gold print on the front right hand corner. A paperback blue teen Bible that discusses “teen issues” in Biblical context with modern day life lessons to learn. A white leather Precious Moments Bible with images in color of the Precious Moments dolls throughout. A modern day Archaeological 

Study Bible, New International Version, in 

soft-back paper with the tiniest print I have ever 

seen but filled with the most authentic historical 

story of the Bible I’ve found to date. Reading the Bible let me 

sleep easier. I had one other habit I would do if I couldn’t 

sleep. I didn’t do this every night. But if I felt guilty or was bad that day, I did. If I did 

something to 

someone that was 

sinful, like calling them a cuss word, I 


saying their name first, asking for forgiveness. After asking for forgiveness for every 

single act and thought I had, I moved on to the blessings. I would lay there in the dark with my closed eyes and 

say every person’s name I could. 








Over and over until I couldn’t think of anyone. I bet I would have made the perfect Catholic. I didn’t do it for everyone I knew on earth, just…

My dad, kids I knew and all the people at church, living in my house, and whoever I talked to that day. After I did my penchant, my 

soul was at peace. If the Rapture happened before I woke up, I was good to go. I never prayed for my mama and I didn’t ask for forgiveness for hating her. I had to block her out. The anger toward her was not palpable or understandable. The morning 

she left the cabin-in-the-woods after the Bad Deed the night before when I was about four, everything above her waistline went Black. I could not 

see her without having a black cloud over my eyes. From her I understood evil. I had 

seen demons.  

The Day I Saw My Mama Turn Into a Wild Cat

I was “old enough now,” Ain’t


Sunny and

sterile in the waiting room where I

sat flipping a

Smithsonian magazine article about Ancient Egyptians as

She was in there in the ICU room in a hospital bed

strapped down to the bed frame and

sedated or

so they thought when they thought that

sending me in to

see her was a

smart idea when I was just a kid who didn’t know her and

she didn’t know me or

see me when I walked

shy into the hospital room and

she came flying up out of the bed with her

straps the only things holding her away from me and

seeing her eyes two

sparkling earths, hazel balls of blue and green



straight through me and never

seeing me at all

she did not

see anyone, as none of us were on the

same plane of drug addled mental existence that no one even the doctors could reach and

she was now trying to get off of

super pissed, this was all I got if

she died.

The woman who gave birth to me, my mama. I knew the kinder

side of her before that with cans of

SpaghettiOs and peanut butter cookies and Little Golden Books and mocking birds and cool fans and her personalized baby book pages to the age of three, which according to those pages:

“She is the

sweetest baby-

She is ok. As long as you pay attention to her.”

Thanks for reading! Come back soon for Chapter 8!