Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Accident Report

One time, when I was in graduate school, my mama invited her extended family over to the house for dinner. I can't remember the holiday. I do remember that after supper we all ended up in what Mama called "the blue den," and there was much talking and laughing and carrying on.

At some point someone asked about Mrs. So-And-So. My aunt started to give the update, and she mentioned that the woman was recently widowed.

There were many "Oh, NO"s and "You don't MEAN"s and general expressions of dismay that Mrs. So-And-So's life had met with such misfortune. You know how we are with misfortune in the part of us can't bear to hear it, and another part of us slides just a little bit closer to the person telling the story, because we don't want to miss a single detail.

Mama was sort of sitting to the side, smiling sweetly, sipping coffee, not saying much.

Things got very quiet, and one of Mama's cousins said, "Oh, that is just horrible! How did Mr. So-and-So die?"

Now I think most of us took that question to mean "what specifically was the cause of death? Cancer? Heart attack? Please do tell us more about his unexpected passing."

But Mama, unbeknownst to us, knew that the man had been in a car accident. So she took the question to a much more specific level than the rest of us expected when she answered it, because here is what she said, without missing a beat, with a smile on her face, with that pinky finger perfectly extended from her coffee cup:

"Head on."

And y'all, there was this pause, and it felt like it lasted for a full five minutes, though I know it was probably 15 or 20 seconds, and we just sat there, not knowing what to do, because poor Mr. So-and-So, he's dead and all, but HAVE MERCY Mama's delivery and timing were just pitch perfect, not to mention that she took a sip of coffee immediately after she said it, like she was Carol Brady standing in the kitchen with Alice, reminding Jan not to forget her lunch. I mean, how in the world do you respond to that?

In our case, you respond with gales of laughter. GALES, I tell you. We laughed. And laughed. We hooted, in fact.

Finally, when the laughter died down, my aunt looked at my mama and said, "I can't believe you said that!"

"Well," Mama matter-of-factly replied, "that's what happened. Mr. So-and-So never knew what hit him."

Couldn't make it up. Not even if I wanted to.


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