Drawing from the archives and posting things via Fine Art America have been my source of blog posts of late because I'm trying to focus on the first draft of my new novel. It's coming along...still happy with how it's evolving.
As always, thanks for reading my work and the following is copyright protected (©Veronica Randolph Batterson). Funny Pages is registered with the US Copyright Office.
Funny Pages - Excerpt - ©Veronica Randolph Batterson
“Holy smokes,” Uncle Johnny whistled.
I turned to see what he was talking about and a fly could’ve flown in my mouth as it opened wide in surprise and stayed there. Pops wasn’t going to be happy.
“A masterpiece, huh?” Uncle Pete said, proudly.
“Holy smokes,” Uncle Johnny repeated, shaking his head.
“What? I think it’s much better than before,” said Uncle Pete.
“It used to be much bigger,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Do you know what it is?” asked Uncle Pete.
“It was a shrub,” Uncle Johnny stated.
“I know that! I’ll give you a hint. They bark,” Uncle Pete said proudly.
“It does?” asked Uncle Johnny, confused.
“Oh, c’mon. Can’t you see the tail?” Uncle Pete asked.
“I really can’t,” said Uncle Johnny, slowly.
“Just step back. Look at the whole thing,” encouraged Uncle Pete.
“I am. There isn’t much to look at,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Everybody getting finished?” Pops bellowed as he rounded the house.
“Oh boy,” mumbled Uncle Johnny.
“So, Jim, what do you think?” asked Uncle Pete.
Pops’ smile was wide when he came around that corner but when he laid eyes on Uncle Pete’s masterpiece, his smile dropped pretty fast. His eyes got big too. And they seemed to get bigger and bigger as the seconds ticked by. So much so, that I worried his eyes might pop out of his head. All was very quiet during that time but I knew it wouldn’t last.
“What in thunder?” Pops said a little too quietly.
“You like it, Jim?” asked Uncle Pete.
“Just for the record, this all Pete’s doing. Keep me out of it,” Uncle Johnny piped in.
“Yep, I came up with this beauty all on my own!” beamed Uncle Pete.
“My beautiful lilac bush,” Pops mumbled.
“Is that what it is? I didn’t know but I think I’ve made it better. Kind of straggly before,” Uncle Pete said.
“How could you?” Pops asked, a little louder.
“Well, it was pretty easy. All I started doing was cutting. Half way through, I had the idea I’d create a masterpiece. Tell me you know what it is,” Uncle Pete said, enthusiastically.
“It was a lilac bush,” Uncle Johnny said.
“No, no, I mean the shape. Can you tell?” Uncle Pete asked.
Pops said nothing but his face grew redder by the minute. He started breathing a little heavier, his chest heaving in and out. I thought he might pass out. I noticed him balling his fists and suddenly worried he might try punching Uncle Pete. I didn’t think he would do it, but if he did, Uncle Pete was a former “Mr. Muscle Body”. I didn’t think Pops would get very far.
Uncle Johnny started whistling and slowly wandered back to trimming another bush. He kept stealing glances at Pops and Uncle Pete, wanting nothing to do with what might happen. Pops stood there huffing like a smoke stack, and Uncle Pete kept smiling expectantly. He was clueless to Pops’ anger.
Just at that moment, a car horn honked and broke the silence. A big red, convertible pulled into Pops’ driveway. Three women riding in it waved in our direction. I noticed that the woman in the passenger seat was Rosemary Wilson, the lady Pops spoke with at the Lookouts’ game and the woman he had dinner with. I didn’t recognize the other two, but the one driving had red hair that peaked out underneath a yellow scarf. She wore sunglasses and dark red lipstick. The lady in the backseat had dark hair and she was also wearing sunglasses. They honked the car horn again.
“Hey, boys,” cried Rosemary Wilson, waving.
I glanced at Pops, Uncle Pete and Uncle Johnny. They looked dumbfounded. It seemed like it took a full minute before they recovered. Pops was first. He raised his hand in greeting and put a smile on his face. The smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, probably because he was still thinking about how mad he was with Uncle Pete. Uncle Pete and Uncle Johnny then followed, recognition on their faces. They raised their hands too. None of them moved.
“Cat got your tongues, or what?” the woman who was in the driver’s said, as she laughed.
“Of course not,” Pops smiled, with that sing-song voice again. “We’re just surprised that’s all. You caught us doing dirty yard work.”
“Oh, Jim. That’s all right. We were in the neighborhood and thought we’d say hello,” Rosemary replied.
“Well, that’s just fine, fine,” Pops said, smiling again.
“Hey, what about you, Petey? Don’t you want to say hi?” asked the woman in the driver’s seat.
Once again, Uncle Pete was speechless. He was staring at the woman and seemed tongue-tied. Uncle Pete never lacked confidence, but he didn’t seem to have it where this woman was concerned. His stupor suddenly wore off.
“Hello there, Millie. Nice day, isn’t it?” he asked, a little weakly.
“It sure is. A nice day for a drive in the country with the top down,” Millie crooned.
“It sure is,” repeated Uncle Pete.
“Well, Johnny, are you going to come and say hi to Betty, or what?” asked Millie.
“Hi, Betty,” said Uncle Johnny, not moving.
“Hi, Johnny,” the woman in the backseat said in reply.
“Jim, would you boys like to meet us later for supper?” asked Rosemary.
“Sort of a triple date and catch up on old times?” added Millie.
“Well, that sounds just fine with me. What about you two?” Pops asked, turning to Uncle Johnny and Uncle Pete.
“Sure,” said Uncle Pete, with a slight screech in his voice. It sounded like a ruffled cat about to claw the nearest dog.
“You okay, Pete,” asked Millie.
“He’s fine. Just a little sore throat from talking too much,” Pops said in reply, giving Uncle Pete a dirty look.
“What about you, Johnny? Can you meet us for supper?” Betty called from the backseat.
“Uh-huh,” nodded Uncle Johnny, his head bobbing up and down, and making no other sound.
“Well, that settles it then,” said Pops, clapping his hands together and rubbing them back and forth.
“How about 7 o’clock at the Rio Grille?” Rosemary asked.
“We can sit out on the patio. Should be a nice evening, not too hot,” Millie said.
“Isn’t that the new place up on the boulevard? We might need reservations,” said Pops.
“Already done,” Mille laughed. “I hear they have the best steaks this side of the Mississippi.”
“Looking forward to it, then,” smiled Pops.
Millie honked the car horn once more as they drove away, waving. Pops waved back, but Uncle Pete and Uncle Johnny stood there like statues. Once the car was out of sight, Pops turned to the other two.
“Hi and uh-huh? That’s all I get out of you two?” Pops asked in amazement.
“I can’t help it. She makes me a nervous wreck,” confessed Uncle Pete.
“Well, I hope you contribute to the conversation a little more tonight, or it’s going to be a long evening,” Pops said.
“Which one makes you a nervous wreck?” asked Uncle Johnny, suddenly.
“Millie. She’s like a drill sergeant that never quits talking,” moaned Uncle Pete.
“Two peas in a pod,” mumbled Uncle Johnny.
“I’d talk if I were you. You’re obviously out of sorts around Betty,” accused Uncle Pete.
“She makes me sweat,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Probably just the heat,” added Pops.
“Oh, no. It’s her. It could be twenty degrees outside and if I get anywhere near her, I look like someone who just got hosed down with water,” stated Uncle Johnny.
“That bad, huh?” asked Pops.
“Oh, yeah. I’ll leave a puddle, trust me,” Uncle Johnny said.
“Wear cotton. It absorbs better,” said Uncle Pete.
“I’ll have to bring a couple extra shirts to be safe,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Bring a stick of deodorant too,” mumbled Uncle Pete.
“You think the restaurant has showers? I might need one half way through supper,” Uncle Johnny said, suddenly worried.
“Oh, for crying out loud, John. Of course not! Restaurants don’t usually have public showers, do they?” Pops stated.
“In foreign countries they might,” added Uncle Pete.
“Geesh, Pete, we’re not in a foreign country,” cried Pops.
“I’m already starting to sweat just thinking about it. What am I going to do?” panicked Uncle Johnny.
“You do look a little wet. Could be a problem,” mumbled Uncle Pete, studying Uncle Johnny carefully.
“There’s nothing to worry about, John. Everything will work out for the best,” said Pops, giving Uncle Pete a warning look.
“You know,” begins Uncle Pete, ignoring Pops, “maybe you should bring a little fan with you. A mini one that you could plug in at the table.”
“Give us something to talk about all night,” said Uncle Johnny, sarcastically.
“Trust me, they work,” continued Uncle Pete.
“Right. And I can hear it now,” Uncle Johnny began, lowering his voice and pretending to have a conversation, “John, what’s the fan for? Oh, it just helps me keep my sweat levels down.” He crossed his arms and stared at Uncle Pete.
“I see what you’re saying,” admitted Uncle Pete.
“Tell you what, John. Go on home, take a nap, shower and take your time getting ready for tonight. There’s nothing to get worked up about,” said Pops.
“What about talcum powder?” Uncle Pete asked suddenly.
“What about it? Tried it and it doesn’t work,” Uncle Johnny said glumly.
“Really? Oh, you’re in bad shape,” Uncle Pete said, shaking his head.
“You think I don’t know it?” cried Uncle Johnny.
“Let’s be calm. Pete, you’re going to take John home. John, you’re going to do as I suggested. Then we’ll have a nice evening with no worries,” said Pops.
So I watched my uncles drive away in the classic. Pops had forgotten about the shrub incident until he started collecting yard tools. He walked right up to the massacred bush and stood there staring. Every once in a while, he’d shake his head and mumble something to himself, as if that would make the favored lilac bush go back to its original state. He looked all around the shrub, over it and underneath. I don’t know what he was searching for but it didn’t make a bit of difference. Uncle Pete had ruined Pops’ shrub as sure as I was standing and there was nothing that could be done about it. He gave up and walked away, still shaking his head. I heard the words ‘Pete’, ‘moron’ and ‘knucklehead’ mixed together, in no particular order, so it was probably a good thing that Uncle Pete left when he did.