FRESH YARN presents:

Little Dogs Humping: Buckets of Love
By Paige Bernhardt

So last Christmas morning I woke up really, really early. Like 5:00 a.m. I was really hot. I had kicked off all the covers and then I couldn't go back to sleep at all which is crazy; I' m a great sleeper. So then I... But wait I should go back... So when I woke up at 5:00 on Christmas morning I had this sensitive part of my tongue, you know, like when you've burnt it on hot soup. But I don' t remember anything like that on Christmas Eve so then I... You' re totally not going to get this -- and you should -- if I don't go back, so... I was born in the Florida panhandle.

My parents lived together as a young married couple for a little over two weeks. Those kids really gave it a shot didn't they? After the forty-five minute struggle to really talk it out and make it work, Mom' s mom, Frances, came to get us and we all drove back up to North Georgia. I didn't drive; I was just a baby. "Mom" tried to live up to her new name for a while, but when I smelled bad from scooting around in my own poopie diaper more than once she, and anyone else downwind, decided the Army might be a better idea for Mom. So she left. For Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I didn't know where the hell she' d gone so, I' m told, I screamed a lot. But at least I smelled nice. About then, Frances decided it would be fun to tell me that Mom was actually my sister and ain't that a hoot. (Another story)

And what did I care? Things were pretty sweet for me. I mean, I was getting absolutely everything I wanted from Frances, her two sisters and their husbands. It was like a royal court. Me, little Queen Elizabeth of Georgia demanding candy on Wednesdays and a big prize on Fridays. Jus cuz.

Let me tell you something though, I was loved. Really loved. There was so much love around we had to keep it in buckets out on the porch. That was the same porch I used to roller skate on. Yes, I wanted roller skates. And I got everything I wanted because my Mom... my sister (ha-HA), was gone, in the Army.

I wanted roller skates because all the kids on TV had roller skates. But the kids on TV also had sidewalks and there wasn't a sidewalk for thirty miles in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Tons of gravel, plenty of red dirt and cow patties. So I sped on those roller skates back and forth and back and forth on that screened in porch like some little hillbilly Papillion. And I had to swerve to not hit the buckets of love. (It took me years to realize how great that love was and exactly how much more of it I had than a lot of kids with normal families. I think that' s what saved me from getting knocked up in high school and becoming a hairdresser in Marietta.)

I only met Larry once when I was six. That' s bio-dad. It was on a summer vacation trip down to Panama City. And I made the royal court stop off in the town where I was born so we could visit him at his work. He sold big construction equipment. Whenever I pass one of those giant yellow Caterpillar backhoes I wave "Hi, Dad."

I have two pictures of my father, Larry. In one, he' s standing beside the open bed of a pickup truck on which lies a giant, dead buck. Ten-pointer from the looks of it. In the picture he looks like he' s trying to hide his proud excitement with an expression that' s saying, "Hey, no biggie, I gun down woodland creatures aaaawll the time." The composition of the photograph is actually pretty nice, considering it' s just a snapshot and Larry probably turned around and took the same picture of the other swamp rat he was hunting with before they hopped in the Chevy and drove off to drink and gut Bambi' s uncle. Larry' s camouflage hat is sitting way up high on top of his head. You know, like it does. And he actually looks good in safety orange. I smiled when I saw the picture. I thought, "Hey, the guy next to that big, dead deer… that' s a good looking man."

So Mom' s in the Army and Larry's shooting anything that moves and I' m racing back and forth on the porch barely clearing the buckets.

Mom found what she was looking for in the Army. She married a handsome Green Beret from West Virginia. And she stayed married to him for twenty-six years. They had my sister who I used to hate but now don' t.

In their 25th year of marriage, Mom started singing with a country gospel music quartet led by a guy named Gordon. In the 26th year, the Green Beret made her choose between the glamorous life of a professional country gospel music singer and twenty-six more years of doing secretarial work for free. `Kay, bye.

She married Gospel Gordon (the guy who puts his fingers up in rabbit ears behind somebody' s head in any picture he' s ever in. No, it' s really, really funny. Every time.) The gospel quartet broke up and so the newlyweds became a duo called "See the Light." Which, in their web address could be interpreted as "Seethe Light" but Mom didn't have a problem with that. I still don't quite grasp what it might mean, but I'm certain the implications are cosmic.

They bought an RV and started driving. They used to have a regular gig singing at Wal-Marts around the country. Usually at openings of new Wal-marts or when, say, a Division One store would upgrade to a Super Store. They' d be there. This gave them an income, supplemented by love offerings at various churches along the way. A couple of times they set up a fireworks booth at this one place outside Austin. Things were pretty sweet for Mom and Gospel Gordon.

Then the Wal-Mart gig dried up. I guess Sam Walton thought it might be too inflammatory for a middle-aged couple to be singing, "Have a Little Talk With Jesus" right next to the Britney Spears cutout and the rifle display. But they' re still out there, spreading the good news. (If anybody needs a W.W.J.D. bracelet or some Screamin' Petes firecrackers, I can hook you up.)

The Good News Truck and Trailer Show travels mostly in the South between West Texas and Florida. But they've driven up as far as New England and Canada in that thing. I can't figure it out. The damned RV keeps dropping parts along every major interstate. Every time I talk to Mom something new broke or fell off. One time it was the septic system. It leaked down under the floor of the RV, you know, between the floor and the bottom of the vehicle that sees the road. See? Like the worst S' more ever. Not to mention Mom occasionally just falls out of the thing altogether. When the door opens, a little step's supposed to automatically come out under it. Sometimes it doesn't. Mom just tumbles out onto the pavement. They also have a little schnauzer dog they' re trying to breed. Just take a moment and try to imagine a Saturday night in that RV. KOA campground on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, the Happy Goodmans playing softly in the background, Gospel Guy lovingly icing the wounds from Mom' s latest fall while they cheer the tiny dogs humping on the driver' s seat.

So, back to Christmas. (ha-HA) On Christmas Eve Mom calls. Gives me a complete rundown of her schedule for the next two weeks, which I immediately forget. Then her voice gets all soft and she says she needs to share with me something really, really important. Okay, shoot. (That' s me sounding casual.) Gospel Gene had a dream about me. Me. He dreamed I was drowning in the lake of fire. Sputtering and flailing and going down for the last time and all that. And she sounds really serious. Not casual at all. I resist the urge to tell her she' s a lunatic, hoping that on some level she already knows this anyway, and I tell her it' s just a dream. I ask her if she likes the new microphone I got her for Christmas. She says yes. Good. Gotta go. Love you. Love you the most (whatever that always means) and we hang up. And I don' t give another thought that night to Mom, the humping dogs, or to Gospel Gordon' s dream until I wake up at five the next morning hot as fire with this weird burnt feeling on my tongue.


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