Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scenes from Silver Creek: My Mother the Bad-Ass

For most of my childhood the Police Chief of Silver Creek was Albert Dwyer. He was married to the biggest bitch I have ever met. Didi Dupont-Dwyer, she of the pretentious name and blue hair. She insisted on the “Dupont” part because she liked to tell people she was one of the Duponts. She wasn’t.

My mother hated Didi. OK, perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. Hate is something reserved for Klan meetings, not somebody’s whose curtains are nicer than yours. But, aside from lust, my mother felt all the Deadly Sins towards Didi. She envied Didi’s nice house and perfect yard. She coveted Didi’s blue Buick. My mother was always jealous of the fact that Didi’s house was impeccably clean and never smelled vaguely of Toni home perms.

The fact that Didi and Albert could afford a cleaning lady and a gardener, and only had two kids, never seemed to register with my mother. She was just upset that the house was nicer, there was never any clutter or weeds, and the sofas never had old sheets thrown over them to hide the Coke stains.

I hated the two Dwyer kids. In this case “hate” is not too strong a word. Barbara Dwyer played piano, had straight white teeth like picket fence, had an adorable wardrobe, and wore Avon perfume. Clayton Dwyer was a total snot. Even as an adult, when “snot” ceases to be a viable insult, Clayton was a snot. He was the kind of kid who used magnifying glasses to set ants on fire and always insisted on bringing his model steam engine to show-and-tell every year at school. I cannot tell you how many times we had to watch that frickin’ stupid steam engine with the frickin’ stupid pellets, spitting out frickin’ stupid steam.

In spite of the deep loathing my mother felt for Didi she would never (because of “Christian charity”) admit it. In fact my mother went to Didi’s house every Thursday for about 300 years to play gin rummy. And therein lies the tale.

Didi Dupont-Dwyer was a cheater. Everyone knew it. Everyone put up with it because nobody else wanted to host the gin games because they were all just slightly ashamed of how shabby their houses were compared to the Dwyer’s. But she cheated.

She would purposely inflate her score. She would get up for more punch and look at everyone’s cards. She would do everything possible to ensure that she won. And for 300 years nobody said anything. Not Mrs. Cleveland who eventually got so fed up that she invented gout, which prevented her from playing anymore. Not Mrs. Sanaletti who decided that gin was too close to gambling for her Catholicism and dropped out of the group. Not even Mrs. Klinger who also cheated, but was never as good at it as Didi.

But one day my mother, incensed by decades of crystal punch bowls, clean carpets, a Meyer lemon tree, and inflated points flat out accused Didi of cheating.

Now all of this is hearsay….bordering on urban legend, but I have it on good authority. (Mrs. Liebman, who was there.) Didi apparently laid down a hand with four Jacks. Unfortunately for her, mother also had a Jack. Mother, rather than calmly pointing out an overabundance of face cards decided that enough was enough and actually stood up and with a Biblical gesture that would have done Charleton Heston proud, pointed and shouted “cheater.” Pointed and shouted. My mother. The woman who let my father fill out her ballot every election, suddenly turned into Dirty Harry and accused the chief of police’s wife of being a card sharp.

There was yelling and denying. Punch was spilled on newly cleaned carpet. Didi’s hideously hideous yippy dog “Baby” ate a knocked over plate of cookies and puked on the sofa. Didi leapt from her seat and accidentally tripped over Mrs. Liebman’s discarded Dr. Scholls and fell into my mother. Both women went down and in the ensuing tangle mother poked Didi in the ear with her 5th Jack.

And Didi, being Didi, got up with great dignity, went to the phone, called her husband, and told him to come and arrest my mother for assault and defamation of character. He did not, but the gin game came to a sudden and permanent end.

Thanks to my mother, the bad-ass.


Duke said...

Your mother, who kept playing a game she knew was crooked, reminds me of Canada Bill. While on a Mississippi riverboat, Bill was losing his entire bankroll at Faro when a friend approached and said, "Bill, don't you know this game is crooked?" "Yes," answered Canada Bill, "but it's the only game in town."

Decca said...

Duke, that's a great line. Thanks for the laugh.

Kittie Howard said...

What a beatifully written story. You had me on the edge of my chair. Loved your imagery...could imagine it all. And Bravo for your Mother...Loved It All! (What happened to the kids??)

Decca said...

Thanks, Kittie. You guys are great for my ego. Happy New Year to you and all you love.