A few summers back, my sister and I ventured to the eastern part of the state where our brother had taken up residence in an old and crumbling Southern mansion in an equally old and crumbling Southern town. Our brother Tony seemed oblivious to the home’s flaking paint and rotten floorboards. Cobwebs hung in place of draperies from lifeless windows. So much plaster and lathe were missing from some sections of the home’s interior walls, we could simply walk through them instead of using a door. I marveled as I wandered from room to room, if the home was mid- construction or mid-demolition. My brother had recently fallen into “bad times”, the result of a bitter divorce, financial woes, run-ins with the law, alliances with various unsavory and unscrupulous characters, the culmination of years of alcohol and substance abuse, latent PTSD and some undiagnosed form of mental illness which manifested itself as a predisposition for shooting guns within his homes rapidly diminishing number of upright walls.
Of all the places he could have taken up residence, I couldn’t help but think how he’s landed in this God- forsaken place with the same random outcome one might experience when throwing a dart. If he had been aiming for the bull’s eye, he had certainly hit the outer rim. One day, he was driving through this old town, plunked down some of the money from his Home Equity Line and bought himself a house. A House, in his mind, a fine old house with a capital “H”, in a place far away enough that he knew no one and more importantly where no one knew him.
Still, my brother loved his ruins with the same affection a king might regard his palace. Like a king surveying his kingdom, he put his portable hot tub smack dab in the middle of the homes formerly grand wrap – around front porch. From this vantage point, he could observe the comings but mostly the goings of the town’s Main Street. Unfortunately, the sheriff asked him a few weeks later to please not sit out there naked with the lights on.
It was in this same grandiose spirit that on that hot August afternoon when my sister and I arrived to help him settle in, he brought out an old tarnished candelabra, elaborately placing it square in the middle of the dining room table. He beckoned me, his baby sister, to “run to the kitchen” where he had left a bouquet of summer flowers wilting in the heat on the Formica countertop. No artwork adorned the tops of the old quartersawn oak wainscoting nor chandelier glistened across the room’s plaster relief ceiling. Instead, tiny dust particles floating heavenward as the sunlight tried to stream in through the window panes now covered with a dense layer of weather-resistant plastic.
My brother had cooked “dinner” as a true backwood’s Southerner calls the noon day meal; “supper” is the name reserved for the meal of the evening. I could never get over the fact that my brother, my big ole redneck, tractor-driving, hunting and fishing and cussing kind of brother had taken to watching cooking shows in his spare time. In recent years, before he had flown the proverbial coop, we’d actually had conversations over the Christmas Dinner table about reduction cooking and parboiling and all kind of things more akin to Chef Gordon Ramsey than a Chevy kind of man. On this day, however, he had brushed most of his newly acquired cooking skills aside, settling on a traditional working class menu of roast beef, boiled potatoes, canned biscuits and pinto beans cooked with fatback.
After dinner, my sister and I took to the kitchen for what his generation still deems “woman’s work“- the clean up as our brother stepped out for a smoke. As my ever efficient sister began to wash dishes, I began gathering up the array of pans and dishes strewn across the countertop. My brother had used a decade’s old cast iron frying pan to brown the roast and the bottom was thick with grease. “What you want me to do with the grease in the fryin’ pan?”, I called out to him. “Oh, just set it down on the floor,” he called through the screen door. “The dog’ll eat it.”
My sister, who is I might add, a bonified Junior Leaguer (a proud accomplishment if there ever was one in my redneck family) eyed the pan dubiously as I sat it on the floor of the dilapidated linoleum. My brother’s big old hound lumbered into the middle of the kitchen and began to lap up the grease. “Ick” I muttered under my breath as I continued to gather up dishes and carry them across the room for my sister to wash. The dog finally raised his head and with a lick of his chops began to turn away from the pan. As I reached down to pick up the handle, the dog quickly raised his hind leg and began to pee into the pan.
“Oh! My! Gawd!” I gasped.Behind the black dog whose awkward stance seemed to indicate it was making a left hand hand turn, my sister’s mouth and eyes were frozen into big “O”’s. That dog continued to pee such a long steady stream of piss that I swear I saw it steam up like rain on a hot summer street.
“Oh- my- Gawd- that- dawg- just- peed- in- that-frickin’- fryin’-pan!” I hollered, jumping up and down in disbelief.
“To-neeeeeeeey!!!”, I hollered “Get in here!” Menopause had left me bossy and emboldened in my later years.
My brother finally stuck his head in the back door to see what was all the commotion. In one sweep his eyes took in the dog, the steamy frying pan and his two hysterical sisters- one in shock and one shrieking. For the first time in recent months, he seemed to put two and two together and actually get four.
There has not been many times in my life I could properly use the word “guffaw”, but that’s exactly what he did. My brother uttered a guffaw for a moment then disappeared back outside to continue his smoke.
“Oh my Gawd! That DAWG, he just peed in that fryin’ pan!” I hollered again. “To-neeeey! Get in here and take that pan OUTSIDE right now!” I ordered. I could hear my brother continue to snigger sheepishly outside the door. I looked around the floor; there was not a single drop of dog pee on the floor. It was obviously not the first time that dog had peed in the pan. With the utmost precision, it seemed both my brother and his dog had hit the mark!