Lizzie Lee Johnson woke up with the sun, same as she had every day for 82 years. When she realized she wasn’t dreaming anymore, she spent a few minutes talking to Jesus, asking him to take care of her family and thanking him for another day above ground. She got out of bed and combed her hair. She dressed quickly in yesterday’s clothes: a floral print long sleeve top, polyester slacks, and a pair of white Keds.
She looked the same every day.
Dressed, she went to the kitchen and started sifting flour to make biscuits. Sift the flower, add the milk, and add the lard. She knew her shit when it came to making biscuits. Today would be a long day, so she made biscuits, and fried the bacon, and scrambled the eggs; next came the coffee—Maxwell House with too much cream and sugar. Usually after breakfast, she’d read the paper and wait for Bob Barker to come on television. She’d tell me on occasion exactly just what she’d do if she were told to “Come on Down!”
She said, “I’d put a lovin’ on that Bob, yes I’d put a lovin’ on my Bob.”
Lizzie Lee cleared away the breakfast she made for my grandparents and me. She took the turkey out of the fridge and began to dress it. She rubbed the outside with spices and butter, and took out the bag of gizzards and liver to make gravy for the dressing.
She looked underneath the sink and pulled out a big tall bottle of Lord Calvert Canadian blended whiskey. Lizzie Lee always had a toddy while she cooked—a toddy, she called it. She mixed up a half a glass of The Lord on ice and poured a little sweet tea on top.
The rest of the day went bye in the usual fashion: family slowly trickling in, swarming through the kitchen to greet my great-grandmother the chef, and to ogle the food on top of the stove.
“Hey, Jerry Don,” Lizzie said. Everyone else in the room groaned. Jerry Don opened the cooler he brought with him, and got out a 12 ounce can of Busch heavy. Jerry was a Busch man. Jerry snorted, and spit into the trash can. “Whelp, this country is going straight to hell. Ole Clinton is gone run us into the ground. Godamighty.”
“Hey, shitass,” Jerry said to me.
“Hello Uncle Jerry,” I replied.
“You know my son came to me in the eighth grade and told me, ‘Dad, I’m going to be a dentist.’ Now he is a dentist, making all kinds of money. What are you gonna do with your life, boy?”
“I don’t know, Uncle Jerry.”
“Whelp, you’re in for a rude awakening, boy. I reckon it don’t matter too much. Jesus will be back soon anyway. Better get ready.”
I turned away and went to my room and fired up Mortal Kombat on my Sega Genesis, envisioning Uncle Jerry as my opponent and I, Scorpion, removing my mask to set him ablaze. I imagine Jesus wouldn’t have minded too much. I still run that scenario every time I see the man.
Once the dressing came out of the oven, my grandfather sliced the turkey and we all lined up to fix our plates. The television was roaring in the living room, but no one was really paying attention to it. Everyone got their plate and found a spot for their own private feast. Nobody ever sat at the dining room table for dinner.
After dinner, Lizzie Lee went over to the dining room, sorted out a thin old white sheet, and draped it over the table. The sound of money jangled throughout the house. “Fast as You” by Dwight Yoakam played on the radio.
My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, uncle, aunt, and great-uncle all settled around the table with their Crown Royal bags of quarters, Virginia Slims, and the Lord Calvert Canadian blended whiskey. Granny shuffled the cards with a prowess, and started dealing a game of Dr. Pepper—a country poker with 3 wilds.
Jesus probably would’ve been at our degenerate table, had he chosen to incarnate during that generation. My uncle Steve offered me a quarter if I’d go to the fridge and get him a beer. He even let me open it for him. I stole a little taste and wondered why adults yearned for the taste of animal piss every night.
Uncle Jerry came over to the card table and said, “Beverly Lee, it’s time to head back to the Farm.”
“You go ahead, J.D. I am in the middle of a game,” Beverly said.
Lizzie Lee took me into the kitchen.
“Boy, you want a little something to help your cold?”
I didn’t have a cold, but I said yes. She pulled a mason jar from high up in the cabinet with moonshine and peppermint sticks inside.
“Take a little sip, honey, you’ll feel better.”
I took a sip that spoke to my thirst, and followed her back to the table, feeling the moonshine burn through my guts.
We went back to the card table where I helped my mom look at the cards. She had a royal flush. Her poker face was impeccable. She kept quietly giving raises and smoking furiously.
At the end of the final round, she turned up a full glass of The Lord, and pounded the whole thing. She pulled up her shirt and screamed, “Hallelujah!” showing her chest to the whole table. She pulled her shirt down and grabbed all of the quarters, probably $50 bucks worth, and lit a cigarette.
Lizzie Lee stepped into the kitchen, opened up the cabinet under the sink, pulled out the bottle of Lord Calvert Canadian blended whiskey, and mixed another toddy.