Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

One thing about Southerners: we like to talk. Yeah, we do it slow, but we do it well. My cousin’s recent visit is a case in point.

I have 10 first cousins on the Thompson side, all of which have a little of the story tellin’ in them. Uncle Tom’s crew is the Alabama bunch and when they’re not reminding us all that there’s a football team in Tuscaloosa that’s supposed to be pretty good, they’re usually cracking wise, a gift bestowed on them by the true storyteller of the family, their father. Aunt Jo’s bunch includes LisaandLinda, the twins. There are countless stories about LisaandLinda, many of which involve one of them (or both) driving poor ol’ Uncle Aubrey nuts with their antics (more on that later). I grew up mostly with them and their siblings, Susan and David. David was my nearest male cousin and, as he was a few years older, was the one I tended to look up to the most (and get in trouble with the most).  Uncle Truman is the baby of his family, and his kids are my youngest cousins. Terrie and Edward grew up all over the country — Dad was in the Army (a subject that always seems to come up when he’s around his Marine brothers and brother-in-law). Edward likes to think he’s taller than me, even though he’s now only the third-tallest living Thompson male. He’s also, like his dad before him, in the Army.

Terrie stayed with us a couple of days last week, at the end of a business trip from Nashville. And we did a scaled-down tourist thing in D.C. — only one museum (Native American), the Jefferson Memorial (her favorite, and mine) and the WWII Memorial, which she had never seen.

Mostly, we talked. A lot. About our families. And laughed about that a lot. But we had great stories about GrannyandGrandaddy, the Alabama cousins, the Redneck Nettleton Christmas and the Wedding From Hell. Actually two wedding stories.

Terrie’s mom, who happens to be my Aunt Linda, got married to Uncle Truman when I was very young. I’m guessing about two. Couldn’t have been much older, but I do remember it. Or at least my part in it. I don’t remember the name of the church or anything, just Aunt Linda’s wedding dress. It was white, she was beautiful and the dress had a long, blindingly white train. My cousin David and I were in the back of the church before the wedding, all dressed up nice, complete with our Sunday best Buster Browns on, standing behind Aunt Linda. This wasn’t during the processional or anything (I don’t think); we were just behind her, and she was in the back of the church.

Anyway, David came up with a very cool idea. He leaped over Aunt Linda’s train. Jumped clean over it. And back. Whoa, I thought. Cool. So, David — being David — convinced me to follow his lead. It didn’t take much convincing. Remember, David was my BigCousinDavid, so whatever he did, I wanted to do. That was Problem #1.

Problem #2 was that David, being older than me, had longer legs and greater train-leaping ability than I did.

Problem #3 was that I didn’t realize this.

So, I took a big ol’ little boy leap and very nearly cleared Aunt Linda’s train. Emphasis on “very nearly.” The heel of one of my Buster Browns didn’t quite make it and landed on her dazzling white train, leaving a perfect, BLACK Buster Brown heel mark. I looked down in horror for about a nanosecond — because it only took that long for my father to snatch me clear of the floor, of the Earth, and haul my little ass outside to receive the spanking of my young life. I’m talking that howling, snuffling whupping you remember for weeks. I guess he felt bad after because I have the distinct memory of him giving me, of all things, an orange soda to drink in the car. Where that thing came from I’ll never know.

Aunt Linda never batted an eye. She just smiled her Aunt Linda smile at me like it was OK. Did I mention she was beautiful?

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