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By Bill Browning
Knowing the answer will pertain to food, I ask Effie Bennett what’s on her mind. Shielding her eyes from a late afternoon sun with a cupped hand, the old woman looks at me. “My momma’s stewed tomatoes. I ain’t had none good as hers in a while.”
It’s 4 p.m., and I’m standing outside work. A friend is bringing me coffee and a book I been wanting to read but can't afford -- for sure not in hardcover or new -- so I’m meeting him in front of Heaven Can Wait.
Nearby, Effie, usually quite the loner, is relaxing in one of the half-dozen white rocking chairs on the facility's portico.
“How you doing, Effie?”
"They give us a good size slice of ham for lunch. Tough, though, and dry as a cotton. Dessert was tapioca pudding."
Tiffany Blackwell, non-English-speaking Olga's niece, throws open the door behind me. Looking pissed, she hustles toward the west side parking lot. I look over at Effie, and she shrugs.
Effie’s a big, slow-moving woman with white, mannish-cut hair. She’…
By Bill Browning
I'm a few weeks into Mrs. Yates’ third grade class. It's after lunch. Quiet time. We’re supposed to put our heads down for 15 minutes, but Mrs. Yates doesn't care if you don't. She's sitting at her desk, and her head isn't down. My nicest teacher ever likes to stare out the window, like my mom, if she can get a goddamn minute to herself to do it.
Mrs. Yates is pretty, even though when she uses the pointer to show you things on a map the skin on her arms wobbles and flaps. It does that because she used to be real fat, and now she’s just a little fat. Still, she’s pretty, and she leaves a smell when she breezes by your desk like the purple flowers growing in the ditch beside Fox’s food market.
Quiet time is really quiet. You can hear the big black and white clock that hangs above the blackboard ticking.
I sit in the first row near the open classroom door, behind Joey Abernathy and in front of Lisa Butterfield. Like the folders labeled with our names in the bottom lef…
By Bill Browning
Heaven Can Wait’s activities director, Sheila, is in the hospital. So yesterday, Jen (the nurse supervisor and my boss), against her better judgement, wanted to know if I'd consider filling in for Sheila on Saturday.
I tell her I have no clue what it is an activity director does.
"Not much," Jen says. "Certainly nothing laborious. Chelsea’s done it several times, and she knows the Saturday itinerary well. So does Gladys. They’re in the little office just before you get to B-Hall, waiting to go over it with you."
"Gladys? Resident Gladys?"
“Yeah. Hell, she knows more about the activities department than Sheila.”
I agree to work on Saturday, but I tell Jen -- since activities are done during the day, and I’m a second-shift kinda guy -- just this once. Jen says great and thanks and hangs up on me.
I walk over to B-Hall office. A standing Chelsea and a wheelchaired Gladys greet me. Chelsea, all smiles, suggests I have a seat. A concerned looking Gladys nods. I pull…
By Bill Browning
Oscar night’s a week away, and I know it’s silly, but I’m a little pumped. I love all the glitz and glamour and competition.
I’ve seen all nine of the nominated films: all of the acting performances and nine of the ten writing nominees. (I didn’t see Before Midnight, penned by Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater.).
I honestly don’t expect any surprises this year. I had Matthew McConaughey winning the Best Actor Oscar months before Dallas Buyers Club even came out. I predicted he’d win an Oscar sometime soon after seeing him in Bernie two years ago, where his small role had a big impact (at least on me). Watching his sublime effort as Danny Buck, I knew Matthew had turned some corner and had managed to become great, a force to be reckoned with.
After seeing Blue Jasmine earlier in the year, I felt Cate Blanchett was a lock in the Best Actress category.
I needed to actually see Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club to be convinced he’d win best supporting acto…
By Paula Burba
A late summer, late Saturday afternoon. I’m driving to a second bookstore with a friend on his mission to purchase everything Rick Bragg’s every written. I notice cars pulling from a church lot just ahead, and I glance over at a precise moment in time to see a bride and groom walking down concrete church steps. I scan further down and recognize a limo parked a few feet away from them.
Immediately I think: What does that feel like? Who are these two people? What a personal moment of theirs for me to witness just driving to the bookstore.
Was she a girl who’s always dreamed of getting married? Was this his idea? Is this the happiest day, one of the most important days, of their lives so far? Has she been planning this day for months, years? And now it’s over, just like that; ended in the amount of time it takes me to coast past on the road? Where are all the guests to throw things as they walk to the getaway car? There are a few people spread about the parking lot, but…