Mabel and MayBelle could be twins but they were born 10 years apart.
Aunt Clovis is on the funeral circuit looking for a husband.
Aunt Maybelline is juicing everything in sight; fruit and veggies in one hand and a vodka bottle in the other.
Momma and Daddy are planning the family reunion.
Granny Hausenphatt keeps losing her teeth.
And that’s on a good day.
You can’t see insanity, but in the South, you can see crazy just about everywhere you go. In Passacan, you can find people who understand the nuances of crazy and put it on public display. A word to the wise regarding crazy, if you see a new red pickup truck with heavy duty suspension listing to one side, turn and go the other direction, and do it quickly. This is the truck of crazy people owned by MayBelle Johnson. Don’t get me wrong, MayBelle is not crazy, but those two aunts of hers have got enough crazy for the entire states of Texas and Tennessee combined.
MayBelle was not one to keep family business in the family. She went about town telling anyone who would listen about her woes with the aunts. The story always begins the same way: “You ain’t gonna believe this shit.”
Aunt Maybelline called MayBelle at two o’clock the other morning screaming something about her head exploding. Poor MayBelle thought her aunt was having an end-your-rhythm or something and was scared to death for her. She rushed over there and took her to the emergency room. When she got Aunt Maybelline checked in she called her older sister Mable, the one who got the certificate of completion from Cybil’s Executive Assistant Training and Small Engine Repair. Anyway, Mabel wasn’t home, as usual. She was probably out having a great time while MayBelle was dealing with the crazier of the two aunts. MayBelle left her a message that she couldn’t ignore. She told her to come home soon or she was committing herself to the sanitation over in Murle and the Mabel would have to take care of both aunts all by herself.
MayBelle had been taking care of Mama’s sister Aunt Clovis, and Daddy’s sister Aunt Maybelline since she was old enough to drive. This year for her birthday, Daddy bought her a new truck with heavy-duty suspension to ensure it would carry the weight. She could be driving a bulldozer and those two aunts would still be more than she could handle. Before her sister Mabel got her executive assistant certificate and moved away, she helped MayBelle. When she left, MayBelle got custody of both aunts, which by my calculations is about one and a half aunts too many.
The aunts are getting older, more stubborn, and crotchetier with age. Add in the suspected dementia and them living on opposite sides of the county and anyone can see why MayBelle is running herself ragged. Dealing with their crazy requests and medical maladies is enough, but factor in that the aunts don’t like each other, and that they both have enough guns to require arsenal permits, and you have another family feud brewing that would equal the one between the Hatfields and McCoys. MayBelle has to take each one separately to wherever they have to be or want to go. Then she takes the time in between to clean the truck. That means that all the junk in truck has to be removed along with the ‘smell of the day’ left by whichever aunt just exited the truck.
When the two of them arrived at the hospital, MayBelle was sure she went in to the examining room with her aunt. MayBelle doesn’t trust her to tell the truth. When the doctor finally came in Aunt Maybelline started on him. All MayBelle could say was bless his heart.
“Hi. I’m Dr. Passeaux. What brings you lovely ladies here today?”
Aunt Maybelline reached up and slapped MayBelle’s arm before she could shake the doctor’s hand.
“I’m here dying and you’re trying to make friendly with the doctor. Over here buddy,” Aunt Maybelline said. “I’m the one who’s dying.”
Dr. Passeaux walked to Aunt Maybelline, put his hand on her shoulder and asked, “What exactly is killing you?”
“My head, you idiot. It’s been exploding for the past two hours while we sat here waiting to be seen. What would you do if it had succeeded, and you had to clean my brains off the walls?”
“Now, Ms., ummm, what did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t, but if it will help you treat me any faster, it’s Maybelline Johnson.”
“Okay, Ms. Johnson. Let Nurse Polly get your vital signs while you answer a few questions for me. Okay?”
“Whatever. Just make my head stop before it explodes all over every one of you.”
“Can you tell me when the pain started?”
“Is there a part of your head where it hurts more than any other part?”
Dr. Passeaux put his hands on Maybelline’s head and moved them from the back to the front and from one side to the other.
“Hmmmm. I don’t feel anything on the outside of your head. Tell me why you say it’s exploding.”
“Because I hear loud explosions in my head.”
“Could you be more specific and explain the difference between pain in the head and your use of the word exploding.”
“Listen, doc. I don’t have pain in my head. I have explosions. You know, like there’s a gun firing inside my head. I hear it, but you can’t.”
“Okay. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but let me check your eyes and ears and then we’ll do a few more tests to see if we can determine the reason for this.”
As Maybelline was wheeled to another room for additional tests, Dr. Passeaux turned to MayBelle and asked “What relation are you to Ms. Johnson?”
“I’m her niece. Do you think something is really wrong with her?”
“Has she been treated for mental illness before? Is there a history of mental illness in your family?”
“Honey,” MayBelle said waving her hand. “You have no idea. My entire family is mentally deranged, but they’re good people and don’t require any medical help. Three months ago we were here because Aunt Maybelline thought she had something called alien hand syndrome. I think it was her way of excusing her kleptomania. Last year I brought her and her Bible here. She was beating her head with the good book screaming ‘get thee out of me Satan.’ Both times the doctors said it was in her head. I guess this time she figured if she started with the head y’all would have to spend more time with her. Personally I think she makes all of this stuff up. What she probably has is that Munch-howser disease.”
“And you, Ms. Johnson,” Dr. Passeaux said to MayBelle. “Are you also mentally deranged?”
“I hope not. I’m the only sane one and it’s my job to take care of them and all their problems. Trust me when I tell you that it’s a full time job.”
“So there’s nothing you can tell me about your aunt that might help me.”
“Only that she’s the most mental of the bunch. I try to keep books, and magazines and shows about doctors away from her, but she sneaks the stuff in when I’m not looking.”
“Let me complete the tests and then I’ll know more.”
“Do whatever you can for her or you’ll be treating me next, and this time it will be in the psycho ward.”
MayBelle sat in the waiting room for Dr. Passeaux to return. “Exploding head my butt,’ she said mumbling to herself. Where does she get these stupid ideas? I can guarantee there’s no such thing and Aunt Maybelline is just making this up to get attention.”
“Sister? Aunt Clovis? What are y’all doing here?” MayBelle screamed as she saw Mabel walk into the waiting room. “How did you know I’d be at the hospital? And what is Aunt Clovis doing with you?”
“Aunt Clovis called and told me she was having a heart attack and no one here cared a thing about her and if I wanted her to live I better come home fast and get her to the hospital.”
“So why is she standing here beside you and not hooked up to a heart detector or something?”
“As soon as we got here she said she wasn’t really dying. She was just curious about why you and Aunt Maybelline had come here, again.”
“How did she know? I didn’t call her.”
“No, but apparently Aunt Maybelline called her to tell her that you would be with her all night so if she wanted to go anywhere she would have to find some other relative to fetch and tote for her.”
“You see what I have to deal with? They’re both crazy,” MayBelle said.
“Watch it, Missy. I’m still your Aunt and I know who your Daddy is.”
“Don’t be threatening me, Aunt Clovis. I have the keys to the truck and your transportation.”
“Not tonight you don’t. I got a ride with the better sister.”
“Don’t pull me in to this mess,” Mabel said.
“You’re already in it. If you hadn’t left home and left me with these two insane women we wouldn’t be here now.”
“Who knew the minute I left town that both aunts would go off the deep end?”
“Who’s gone off what deep end?” Aunt Clovis asked looking at Mabel.
“The both of you,” MayBelle said. “I’ve got one aunt here who thinks her head is exploding and another threatening a heart attack out of jealousy. If that’s not crazy, we are missing a good chance of crazy happening in this family.”
“Settle down, MayBelle,” Mabel said.
“Don’t go being cond-e, condes, talking down to me. Just because you have a certificate doesn’t mean you’re any better than I am.”
“What’s going on out here?” Dr. Passeaux asked.
“Nothing that a couple of commitments won’t fix,” MayBelle said as she turned to face the voice.
“Hi,” Mabel said extending her hand. “I’m Mabel Johnson and this is my Aunt Clovis.”
“I’m Dr. Passeaux and y’all are going to have to keep it down out here. This is a hospital, not a boxing ring.”
“I’m sorry, doctor,” Mabel said. “I’ll make sure to keep them quiet.”
“I would appreciate that,” he said as he turned and went back in to the examining rooms.
“Mabel Johnson,” MayBelle said with her hands on her hips. “What makes you think you can do any better with this mess than I can?”
“I didn’t say I could do better. Just that I’m here to help and we can get things to settle down now.”
“Oh, I see. I’ve had it all stirred up and you get to ride in to town and everyone thinks you’re Little Miss I’ll Take Care of Everything. If that’s what you think you can take your fancy pants and hiney back to your little apartment.”
“Lower your hackles there. I’m here to help and you want to attack me.”
Mabel turned to head out the exit door but before she took two steps MayBelle had her in another hug. “I’m sorry, sis. It’s just Aunt Maybelline and Aunt Clovis are about to make me insane. Maybe I need a vacation at the asylum.”
MayBelle and Mabel turned toward the voice. “Dr. Passeaux. Do you have news about Aunt Maybelline?”
“What do you mean, you may? Either you do or you don’t.”
“Well. The CT scan didn’t show anything so I talked a bit more to your aunt.”
“You talked to her without us there? Did she make sense?”
“Yes and now she keeps saying that someone is shooting in her head. At first I thought she might be really be mentally deranged, as you said. But then I had an idea. I took what she said and did a bit of research. It appears your aunt has a syndrome called ‘exploding head syndrome.’ It’s rare, but those who develop it say exactly what your aunt is saying. They hear guns or other loud explosions in their head. We can’t hear it, but for them it’s real.”
“Are you serious?” Mabel asked.
“And what is the cause of this exploding head syndrome?” MayBelle asked.
“It can be caused by medication, or stress, or any number of things we’re not aware of.”
“Great,” MayBelle said. “My two aunts are causing me so much stress in my life and she’s the one who gets sick from it. I can’t believe she has an actual illness. That’s a first for her. I’m sure I’ll never hear the end of this.”
Mabel stepped in, “Just tell us what to do, Doc and we’ll get out of here and let you treat some people who are really sick.”
“That’s the bad thing. There isn’t any treatment for it. Women get it more often than men, and people over fifty are more susceptible. Sometimes it will simply disappear by itself. My suggestion is you take her home and try to eliminate the stress from her life.”
Mabel looked at MayBelle and both began to laugh.
“Have you explained this to Aunt Maybelline yet?” MayBelle asked.
“Yes, I did.”
“What was her reaction?”
“She said, I told you so. I knew something was wrong with me.”
“Does she understand that there isn’t anything you can do to treat it?” Mabel asked.
“She didn’t care about treatment. She just wanted someone to acknowledge that she isn’t crazy.”
“Well, you can’t convince me that she isn’t crazy, but I’ll accept that she does have something making noises in her head.”
“Come on sis,” Mabel said. “Let’s load her up and take her back to the rest of the crazy people.”
“Okay, okay. Just don’t be smarting off and telling everyone that you’re the one that helped settle Aunt Maybelline down. I’ll have to tell them all differently.”
“I’m not in competition with you, MayBelle. That wouldn’t be a fair match.”
“What do you mean by that? You ain’t any better than I am, and don’t go shoving that stupid certificate in my face.” They continued to talk as they walked back to where Aunt Maybelline was waiting.
“Maybelline, are you alright honey?” Aunt Clovis asked.
“I’d be fine if someone would get me out of here and get me home.”
“I’ll take you home, Aunt Maybelline,” MayBelle said. “I brought you here and I’ll be taking you and Aunt Clovis home.”
“I brought Aunt Clovis so I’ll be taking her home. I can take Aunt Maybelline too since you seem to find it such an onerous chore to help your poor aunts,” Mabel said.
“I find it what? You’re just trying to impress everyone with those big words. They don’t mean a thing and they sure don’t make you any smarter.”
“All you do is complain about having to help our aunts. What else have you got to do in your busy and exciting life?” Mabel had her hands in the air gesturing at MayBelle.
“Put your hands down right now, Mabel Johnson, or I’m gonna slap them and you back to the county you came from.”
“You try it and I’ll knock you so far backward you’ll be too young to drive.”
“Good. Try it and I’ll run over your sorry ass.”
“With what? I can out drive you, out run you, and outsmart you any day of the week.”
“There you go with that stupid certificate waving again. I told you before you ain’t smarter than me, never have been, and no stupid piece of paper will ever make you smarter,” MayBelle raised her voice for effect.
“Ha! You’ve always been jealous of me for more reasons than my being smarter than you. I’m also smaller, blonder, and can still wear the same size I did in high school.”
“Small ain’t always the best and tonight you’ll lose because of it.”
MayBelle took two steps back and launch toward Mabel but didn’t connect.
Two officers, two orderlies, the charge nurse, and Dr. Passeaux charged into the room. The officers grabbed Mabel and Maybelle and placed them in handcuffs. Aunt Maybelline sat up to watch the commotion. Aunt Clovis moved closer to Dr. Passeaux.
“You ladies were warned to keep it down.” The voice was one of authority. “You’ll have to come with us now. You are under arrest for disorderly conduct and disturbing of the peace.”
“But our aunts. We can’t leave our aunts.”
“Don’t worry about them. You’ve got all you can handle with your own behavior.”
“Well isn’t this a fine turn of events,” Aunt Maybelline said as she peeked through the bars and her nieces.
“I don’t know about you, Maybelline, but I’m enjoying it,” Aunt Clovis said.
“I am too. It’s about time these two girls got to see what it’s like having to listen to them bicker and complain. We can’t help it that we’re old and need help. Looks like we’re not the ones needing help now though.”
“Gotta love it when karma shows her face.”
“Who’s karma?” Maybelline asked.
“You know, when things are finally righted in the world and someone,” she said as she nodded over her left shoulder at Mabel and MayBelle, “finally gets what’s coming to them.”
“I do love a good karma,” Aunt Maybelline said.
“Would you two stop whatever lessons you think you need to give us and get us out of jail?” Mabel said.
“What do you say, Maybelline? Should we pay their bail and spring the felons?”
“You think we should?”
“Get us out of here right now?” MayBelle said a bit too loud.
“Clovis. How much money do you have?”
Aunt Clovis began to count her money. “Five, six, seven, seventeen, thirty-seven. How much do we need?”
“Their bail is $500 each so I guess we need $50 a piece to bail them out.”
“I’ve got enough for one of them. Do you have enough for the other one?”
“Just get us out of here. We have enough money to pay you back,” Mabel said.
Aunt Clovis took Aunt Maybelline by the arm and went to the booking desk to pay the bail. Then they returned with the deputy to get Mabel and MayBelle.
“You can release them now,” Aunt Clovis said. “We’ll take them home and make sure they don’t cause any more trouble. Right Maybelline?”
“Right, Clovis, but which one of us is going to drive?”
From the life and mind of Wanda M. Argersinger
© 2014 All Rights Reserved