Another excerpt from GENEVA…

“We frequently had a preacher to Sunday dinner, especially if it was during the summertime “gospel meeting” (Church of Christ) or “revival” (Baptists). These company dinners would not always be on Sunday, because members of the congregation signed up to feed the visiting preacher each meal as well as the regular preacher and his wife and family, too. So sometimes we had a Sunday-like dinner on Tuesday midday, or Tuesday evening, for instance.

“One summer when I was about five, we had a visiting preacher for a midday meal, and he had a very red-flushed face, thin sandy hair and giant yellow horsey teeth. We had fried chicken that day, and I don’t really recall what else, except maybe Heavenly Peach Salad. Mama kept the big ice chest on the inside back porch full of ice from the ice house as a supplement to the old refrigerator we had. Our old fridge was small and did not have a real freezer compartment, so because we always needed lots of ice for tea or extra cold storage, Daddy made regular trips over to West Fifteenth Street to the ice house for a big block that was kept in the aforementioned ice-chest.

“With Alabama’s stifling summer heat and humidity, lots of surrounding trees and open windows and doors because nobody had air conditioning, we had a little varmint problem: big black roaches and the occasional rodent or squirrel. I don’t know what they used to fight them unless it was boric acid and mousetraps, because that was quite a while before we got the Orkin man. Sometimes the varmints would get in, in spite of the fact that our dishes always got washed every meal, garbage went out every day, crumbs were swept up every meal, and we were not allowed to eat anywhere except the kitchen or dining room table. Anyway, that day with the guest horsey-faced preacher, my mother was serving all the grownups at the dining room table when it was still actually in the dining room. She made me stay in the kitchen with her where my little brother was placidly contained in his high chair. She was running around like a mad woman, wiping the sweat off her face periodically with her apron, and I was right under her feet. She was filling the tea glasses with ice that she was rapidly chipping off the big block from the ice chest, then handing them to me to set on the kitchen table to be filled with tea before being taken to the dining room. Suddenly I spied a great big huge roach flailing around in the ice chest in the water. She saw it and promptly scooped it up and threw it out the back door with the frantic admonition, “Don’t you dare mention this!” She washed all the ice in the glasses at the sink before pouring in the tea.

“I was instructed with one more stern look to take in the basket of hot homemade Parker House Rolls right behind her through the swinging door from the kitchen to the dining room. The guest of honor was expounding about something “being false teaching, of course.” The big platter of fried chicken was being passed around, and I saw that old horsey faced preacher take my pulley bone, and boy, was I ever pissed. I started to protest and got pinched — hard. But I piped up anyway, as loudly as possible while looking right at him, “Mama just killed a great big roach in the ice chest!” Daddy frowned, and Mama hastily stammered, “Well, I washed all the ice off good.” I was yanked back in the kitchen then resoundingly smacked and sent to my room. I howled so loudly she finally let me back in the kitchen and sat me down with a chicken leg. I was still pouting about my pulley bone, though.”