Thursday, 27 October 2016

Shootin' th' Breeze

Towards the end of May, the week before the Bank Holiday, I was in the Mississippi Delta. I'd never been there before, in Western Tennessee or on a twenty-eight thousand acre cotton plantation, but it was a special occasion: a sixty-fifth birthday, not that the family members knew I was coming because I hadn't had an invite to R.S.V.P to, I just rocked up and hoped a) they wouldn't send me away, or b) I would melt into the background; and melt I did because it was a sultry evening though I don't know if that's usual for the weather there, but even so they were too busy trying to outdo one another with quips and snipes to pay any attention to a perspiring newcomer.
The screamin' tribe of five however did seem aware of my presence though none of them remarked aloud upon it, just gave me sidelong looks or shot a Bang Bang in my direction as they raced in and out on their fat little bodies. And as they ran amongst adult legs, dodging and barging into everybody or shooting them dead with a cap pistol, I walked the upstairs gallery, thinking that was by far the best place to stay inconspicuous, and it would have been except it saw more action than I had anticipated, and so I had to resort to sticking to walls and listening in at doors; in fact, I caught one or two of the family doing the same. Me, I understood, but spying on your own kind is a low-level thing to do, unless it's a prank and not some one-upmanship business. In this instance, it was the latter, but hell, I'm no judge and jury, I didn't know and still don't know these people.
Huh? Didn't know them? That's right. I heard about this party on the grapevine. I was no relation, close or distant, nor did I have anything even resembling a passing acquaintance with any member. It was pure chance that they were mentioned, just one of those bizarre coincidences, a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend thing, and I just thought why not pay them a visit, I'm due a little R&R. It seems a crazy way to have behaved now I think about it but back in May my head was all over the shop. I have periods like that, where every thought feels like a sudden moment of clarity. You know, the perfect idea or plan which must be acted on before there's a time lapse. This particular itch had to be scratched then and there, though I did suffer some in regard to locating their exact whereabouts. There wasn't an awful lot to go on if I'm honest in spite of them being kingpins, and it was only through many false turns and strokes of luck that I found my way there, but that's a whole other story, one which would end in: the right circumstances come about when they're ready.
Their name, which has at one time or another been on most people's lips, is Pollitt, not that I'd heard of it until I was told, but then I choose to be ignorant until I'm interested if you know what I mean. The party, if you can call it that, was already in full swing when a servant let me in; both sons home with their significant others, one successfully drowning his brain in alcohol, the other more tense and righteous, whilst their wives constantly baited each other and tried to be sweet to their parents-in-law. Mae, the eldest brother's wife, was not only clearly pregnant, but rather cloying in her attempts to be winsome, the preferred daughter-in-law, whereas the one called Maggie was simply catty and delicious, rather like an overripe cherry: more than a little tart, yet nonetheless irresistible. She held your attention alright, not for her looks, though she had those in plenty, but for her sarcastic wit. And yet, in my enjoyment of her caustic dialogue, that was when it clicked I'd done a very stupid thing and crashed a private gathering rather than a massive shindig.
I don't know why I hadn't clocked this fact sooner...possibly their din confused my adrenalin-flooded brain and before I could attune to the matter I got too hooked on the family dynamics, so that when I did finally realise I was embarrassed but too far gone to leave. It was later on that I overhead Big Daddy say to Brick, his youngest son, that 'the human animal is a selfish beast', and that, I thought to myself at the time, was a wise and needle-like observation, for wasn't I there for my own amusement? Whereas now I'm just shootin' th' breeze.

Picture credit: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Triad Stage