Miss Nettie & Ms Marzy Meet, Pt 4 – Nettie and Eddie Explain
Nettie and Eddie Explain
by Melissa McEwen & Walter Bjorkman
What you think about these folks in New York?
“Turn that flashlight off Nettie,” Snow, waking up, says in a voice rough with sleep.
Nettie, turning from the window, forgetting she had left the flashlight on, says, “Go back to sleep, Snow. I was just ’bout to turn it off.”
Snow sucks his teeth and asks Zee if he wants him to take the wheel, but Zee says, “Nawl,” and Snow falls back asleep.
“I’m just gonna rest my eyes,” Nettie says, humming along to the tune on the radio, her eyes closing. She has the map spread across her lap, the purse on top of that, for extra warmth.
But soon Nettie’s just-gonna-rest-my-eyes turns into deep sleep and Zee, after a while, starts getting sleepy, and then! A horn honking wakes them up like an alarm clock.
Snow, in a sleepy haze still, turns ’round to look at Nettie as if she is the one causing the racket, as if she would be the one to have an alarm clock in her purse. Then realizing that the noise was their own horn blaring away from Zee’s big old head using it for a pillow, he says, “Zee I thought you were good to drive a couplea mo’ hours, man, pull over and let me drive!”
“Y’all was yawnin’ and sleepin’ and snorin’, I couldn’t help but fall asleep, too,” Zee says, pulling over.
“Maybe we should find a rest stop and sleep for a while, plus I gotta pee,” Nettie says as Zee and Snow switch places.
Snow starts the car and they are back on the highway, Nettie looking out the window for rest stop signs and Zee trying to recline the seat, but Nettie’s in the way.
“C’mon, now, move, Nettie,” Zee says.
Nettie sighs and scoots over to sit behind Snow and Zee falls back and falls asleep.
“What you think about these folks in New York?” Snow asks Nettie who is staring out the window. She turns the radio down and says, “What’s that Snow?”
“What do you think about these folks in New York? Do you even know anything about them?”
“Marzy and Ed? I don’t know a lick about them. I just know they want to hear me tell my stories and you know I love storytelling,” Nettie says.
“Are they paying you?” Snow asks. He is always asking about money and Nettie was surprised he didn’t ask her to pay him to drive her to New York.
“Nawl,” is all Nettie says, turning the radio off to save the batteries.
“I mean they should. They asking you to come to their place to tell them stories,” Snow says. “They must think you famous or something.”
“I’m not gonna be the only one telling stories. They got stories to tell, too. We are sharing. And they are cooking. Reckon I shoulda brought something with me?” Nettie asks. “I got a bag of flour and sugar in my purse and baking powder and baking soda, too. I might bake a cake or something when I get there. If they don’t mind me using the oven.”
“You mean to tell me you don’t have an oven in that purse?” Snow jokes but Nettie doesn’t laugh. If Zee was awake, Snow says in his head, he’d be laughing — coughing with laughter. Snow smiles at the thought of Zee laughing and how he puts on a show when he laughs that people laugh at him laughing even if they don’t know why he’s laughing.
Nettie is going over in her mind what she’s going to make. She forgets she has to use the bathroom and Snow drives on in the night-morning, rolling the window all the way down so the wind can blow hard in his face and keep him awake.
In Maitland’s as Marzy bakes . . .
“So Eddie, we’re not in here before noon on Saturdays, what’s the big rush to get out of the house?” Sid was sucking the foam off the top of a short, not used to beer at eight in the morning. Well, not every morning. Usually when so, the group would wind up cursing the gods they didn’t believe existed, while relieving themselves in a city churchyard, or some other foolishness that seemed to have deep import at the time.
“Marzy and Granma are baking” Eddie shuddered.
“’Nuff said” Sid had no idea if Marzy could bake, never heard of such a thing, and Granma’s peach cobbler was more fit for the sole of a shoe than for eating. Whatever the result, he knew getting there would be circuitous, if not outright calamatous.
“Mitch! Chalky! C’mon grab your chairs, Eddie’s got a tale to tell, he’s buyin’ and probably gonna be drawing bust hands if we’re lucky.” Sid was ready, he hoped the others were.
“Not much to tell, Marzy heard that I heard about this story-teller, Nettie’s the name, so she got this idea to invite them over for a Sunday dinner, and when she found out that they were in Alabama and actually were driving all the way to Brooklyn just for the dinner and something called Saturday Pie, which they have no clue as to what it actually is, well, then she puts the whole thing on me. You guys are invited, by the way.”
“I don’t know, Eddie, I mean Marz never really forgave me for getting all hopped-up about her killin’ my snakes.” Chalky hung his usually ashen but now reddened face balefully to the ground, always looking for an edge in the sympathy department, which had long since lost its sway with this group. Out of force of habit he was inclined to do so anyway. Chalky would take bi-monthly jaunts to visit his mother in Miami Beach, come back sun-burnt, which would disappear in two days, going back to its pallid color, never a trace of tan.
“She didn’t kill your snakes, Chalk, a cop in the property department did, when they were held in evidence after Marz used them to catch the scam artists that bilked Granma and sent her to the hospital, by hiding them in her own purse and cruising as bait. One bit the cop, I would’ve done the same.”
Eddie was tired of Chalky’s screed of how he lost his “reasons for living”, always omitting that he intended to sell them for thirty a pop to pay off a gambling debt he incurred on the plane back last year, holding out from the initial offer of twenty each. So there was some concern there, for his wallet, not the snakes. The lawsuit against the city and the police force never went anywhere, and he was slapped with a $500 fine for keeping unlicensed poisonous pets within city limits.
“Never heard all the details” Mitch, preoccupied with his own fiasco a few weeks earlier, muttered, although he had heard the story almost as much as Eddie had lived it.
Mitch was a classical composer and choral director, with a slightly odd bent. He had thought it would be a good idea if his ensemble, “The Euterps”, at their Little Carnegie debut, perform semi-naked while singing Gregorian Chants while he belted out a rousing rendition of Billy Rose’s “The Stripper” on organ, afterwards ala Kauffman inviting the audience of sixty not to a school cafeteria for milk and cookies, but to a schoolyard for beer and games of Kings with the spaldeens. It was bad enough, but when the local thugs mugged all of the twenty that showed, including the reviewers from the likes of the Sunday Times and Village Voice, it would be lucky if he ever worked again in this town. Mitch was contemplating a move to Munich, or Berlin, where he heard they were more open to that sort of thing.
Halfway through, the game was decidedly going Sid’s way, as he was the only one with no relationship, financial or career threatening possibilities in his life at the time. His only worry was continuing his life in academia, bouncing between one grant, grad school and another, before landing a job crunching monotonous data from the Big-Bang cosmic background radiation, his specialty. Sid loved the concept of astro-physics, couldn’t stand the minutae.
Eddie suddenly folded, throwing down three aces, a hand that would have easily stood up.
“What’s up Eddie?” Chalky’s eyes popped at the three bullets, two of anything were all he ever mustered up in any game, anywhere, anytime.
“I smell somethin’ cookin, or maybe burnin’, and the bread factory’s been shut down for months now.”
“C’mon, Eddie, Marzy’s place is five blocks away!” Mitch was pulled from his reverie of Bierkellers in Oktober, with this abrupt turn.
“A little distance never stopped Marzy before, guys. I gotta go.”