Grandmama Inola sat on the front pew,
she kept starring at the face of her watch then back behind herself.
She was staring at the wooden doors
that reminded me of doors I’d seen in a spaghetti western.
Paw Paw Dupre would fall asleep on his lounger snoring almost on cue,
while the wild west sizzled on screen.
The tinfoil antenna somehow always made blurred contact
with the fictional sheriff of Canyon City.
Every Saturday at five thirty, I watched a sheriff forced to uphold laws
as deemed necessary by the city’s most vocal and richest occupants.
The camera would rise slowly over the sheriff’s boots.
You could see where the creases made by worn leather had been filled with
traces of blood splatter and bug goo.
As the sheriff trotted, his silver stared spurs
bounced the sun’s rays back into the camera’s eye.
By the time the sheriff placed his hands on the doors
the music would have lowered to a hum.
And by the time the man with a belly full of whisky
landed face first in the dust,
the doors were still fanning the saloon dry of laughter.
My favorite was when the stagecoach would arrive
and the somebody that nobody expected would make a grand entrance.
Everybody in the saloon would stand as still as a cockroach
on the sunrise after Mardi Gras.
The kitchen struggling to breath,
whatever food remained sat soaking in drunken pots.
The spoiled, chocking aroma of another Fat Tuesday
lost to ashen colored foreheads.
The lights are turned on.
The fattest of the fattest cockroaches known to the 504 can’t run,
too full of king cake, of gumbo, crawfish,
boiled shrimp, red beans with smoked sausage, fried chicken and potato salad.
The roach tries to remain calm, trying to blend into the black linoleum,
hoping something else more gross catches the homeowner’s eye.
Even roaches are smart enough to know
every fight to the death begins with the indignant stare down.
Paw Paw’s Funeral was no different.
Canyon City was no different.
After the soap powder lady convinced viewers
that a wine stained tablecloth is no match for brand A,
the saloon’s mystery guest stepped from the stagecoach.
The woman who had kissed every man in town and
taken them up the stairs to the tiny space
above where the bartender spit-washed his glasses, had returned.
The woman who six episodes ago was sent away from Canyon City
running barefoot in a white cotton gown, with only her blonde stringy hair
to wipe the vengeance from her brow, had returned.
The white woman who had “turned more tricks and sang about it
like she was the sunshine after the rain”
as Paw Paw liked to say, had returned.
She could sing too, I ain’t going to lie on her.
The last man (Reverend Bob Thorton) she took up to her tiny space,
before the sheriff and the town’s so-called churchgoers
shipped her out with only the clothes on her back,
he was descending the stairs behind her,
stuffing his buttonless shirt into his unzipped pants.
The woman gliding down the stairs
her hair cascading past her shoulders,
while the man’s suspenders swayed in her hands
spoils from the conquest we missed during the soap powder break.
She turns to reattach his suspenders, he kisses her neck then her breast.
She slaps him and their laughter gives way to a duet about whiskey and gin.
A song about how sin is for the bold at heart and the only good ladies and gents
are the ones who give in to their southern itch.
The man flings the woman onto the bar
and she dances erratically.
Somebody hands her a parasol.
She does the unthinkable, a no, no in Paw Paw Dupre’s eyes.
“Can’t nothing good come from a fool opening an umbrella under a roof,”
Paw Paw would say.
She opens it and mayhem hurls her even deeper into a state of ecstasy.
She kicks glasses to the floor
fueled by the bottle of whiskey racing down her throat.
Then the entire bar rushes to follow her lead,
breaking glasses, kicking over tables and chairs.
The saloon’s patrons grunt out the chorus
as they punch and bash each other over the head with
the broken remains of wooden appendages.
Paw Paw coughs and even in his deep sleep
phlegm from his chest shoots from his mouth
onto the t.v. screen.
I giggled and watched, during the commercial break,
as the snot frog slid down the screen.
I watched as it galloped to the floor,
where it stained Grandma Inola’s rug.
A rug placed under the t.v. stand,
as a grandparent’s attempt, to childproof the idiot box.
On this day, the memory of the woman’s return to Canyon City
catches my mind’s eye.
The swinging doors of the church,
cars taking the place of the infamous stagecoach’s arrival
and Grandmama Inola as sheriff with the rest of us acting as deputies.
Grandmama’s refusal to stop fixating on the wooden doors
drove her younger sister crazy.
Great Aunt Grace whispered, “Look ahead Inola and let me
worry about that strumpet.” Then to the rest of the family she whispers,
“I got first watch at the sign in book.
Choose your orders wisely. And whatever you do,
don’t put no lazy ass weakling back there by themselves.
Evil is always stronger than you think.
Evil can’t rest till it steals the sweetness from your lips
The stars from your eyes and the satisfaction from your heart.”