Oh Lord, you know I’ve been good! Six weeks, seven weeks… Why, it might’a been nearly so much as eight.
I’ve been brushing my teeth. Flossing. Sometimes every day and once in a blue moon twice on Sunday. Washing behind my ears. No unladylike scratching in public.
No gloating over the misfortunes of my enemies, tempting as that might be. No obscenities across t-shirts that could cause a minor scandal down at the school PTA. No smoke entering these lungs cepting the smoke you, my Lord, hath put in the Houston sky by means of your most holy corporations.
And Lord, I know you’ve seen me around, now. You can admit this, just between Great Big You and Little Old Me. I’ve been bright-eyed and bushytailed. A mother. A wife. A role model to children. A helper of old ladies across streets. A retriever for dwarves of the last box of Cap’n Crunch from the top shelf at Kroger. A giver of the properly calculated amount of change to customers – even to those customers who cannot or will not ever count it later on anyways.
That’s all over now, though, Lord. Katy turned over a new leaf, but the new leaf upped and died on the vine. You see, I have learned my lesson about new leaves. This here is the Story of How.
This here’s the story of a monster most terrible that was known as the Kuzins. And it was the Kuzins that killed my new leaf.
Now the Kuzins is Dana’s kin, albeit in some mysterious and never-quite-explained manner. And I’d heard stories of the Kuzins, but I’d never laid eyes on it until that phone call last week from the end of the family driveway.
And Dana says, “The Kuzins is here.”
Dana says, “The Kuzins is gonna stay a while.”
The Kuzins sloshed on up the front steps. It came squeezing in through the front door with kind of a squishing sound and a wheezing. Flapping tentacles and sending down a rain of luggage and National Enquirer Magazine subscription cards as it arrived.
And when I was introduced, you know I smiled and I looked it right in what I thought was an eye but turned out to be a dimple of some kind. Some part of it I thought was a mole or a wart started talking and then it occurred to me that maybe the thing was lying on its side. Had fallen over during its arrival. That had to be it! Then that over there would be an elbow… Which would make this, let’s see… A foot, maybe? A glove?
I just kept smiling – all teeth – my new leaf having been turned and all.
The Kuzins, it says, “What do you call it?”
Dana says, “What do I call what?” and then the Kuzins points at me with a flipper or a pseudopod or whatever it is that a Kuzins points with when it’s pointing. And it says, “Your husband. Do you call it ‘it’ or do you call it ‘he’?”
And Lord, I hope you were watching me. I was just standing there and I was smiling through it all, like your only Son, Jesus, would have done in my shoes. I mean, at least the Kuzins asked and didn’t just assume like so many do, right?
It was roundabout this point in our tale that the Kuzins started talking to itself, and then several patches of hair about halfway down its girth separated themselves off from the rest of it – Pop! Pop! Pop! And lo and behold! The Kuzins was not one thing at all! It was a group of things – some of them little, some of them big.
The little Kuzins were told to run along and play with my children, and they did.
And everywhere they went, they left behind everything covered with a sticky film.
But I stood a while, and then I sat, and then I smiled, and then I nodded my head at the appropriate times. And I said, “The world is gone crazy!” when that seemed to be the right response to a story the big Kuzins was telling.
Then a day went by, and then another. And I was still on my best behavior, which was my usual behavior now that I’d gone and turned over a new leaf and all.
I was walking down the hall on Day Number Three when I happened to see a large herd of the Kuzins in one of the rooms. At first it seemed they were migrating, but then I noticed they were huddled around an open book of some kind, and with my daughters in tow, no less. They were moaning some kind of spell or some kind of curse or incantation, and when I came in close, I could hear it.
It went like this:
“And if you lie with a man as you lie with a woman, you have committed an abomination in the eyes of God. You are to be put to death. And your blood will be on your own head.”
I took a deep breath through my nose. I exhaled slowly, though my mouth. Just like they taught us in that court-ordered anger management class. And in the moment before I stepped through the door and into that room to retrieve my daughters, I heard my eldest, Rachel, say, “But… Why would they be killed? My moms don’t lay with men!”
Two more days went by. Two more days full of guttural noises and of mystery substances spread all across the carpets. Two more days full to the brimming with stories of the many wonders of that paradise known as rural Oklahoma. Two more days full of blubbery outrage responses to the outcomes of various so-called reality tv shows.
Tick-tock, tick-tock. I just kept smiling, you see? You see? You did see, didn’t you, Lord? Lord, they say you see everything. You see the bad I do, so I surely do hope that you saw the good, while it was there.
Then came the night I had to go away for a few hours. Not too long, mind you: Just long enough to run some errands. And the sun went down while I was out and away, so that when I came back to my house, I could see that only the living room light was on inside.
I walked in the door to see the Kuzins. And the Kuzins was crying out of various orifices, most of them unidentifiable. And the Kuzins was shaking like a thing or things possessed. And somewhere down between its folds of skin and hair and sweat and tears, there was Dana!
The Kuzins was crying, “We can cure you, Dana! Let us take to from this place and to a man we know who can cure you of these demons that have claimed your soul! Pray with us, Dana!”
And that, oh Lord, is when my new leaf died.
I did not smile. I did not inhale through my nose and then exhale through my mouth the way they taught us to do in that court-ordered anger management class.
No, before I even knew what was happening, I heard my very own voice coming out of my very own mouth as I pointed to the door and said, “Get the fuck out of my house. Get your shit together and collect your spawn and get out and don’t you ever come back here.”
In my own defense, I said this quite calmly. I did not yell. I did not repeat myself. I didn’t have to repeat myself, for the message was received by its intended audience the first time.
It takes about six hours to hit the Oklahoma border when you head north on Interstate 45 from Houston.
So that is the Story of the Kuzins who killed by new leaf and the Story of How. And Lord, I hope you understand.
I know in my heart that you do.
And for my part, I promise never to pretend to be somebody else ever again. Never to try and act like another suburban soccer mom. And I promise to forget which fork is which when I go out to fancy restaurants with Dana, to never brush my teeth unless my teeth personally tell me they wanna be brushed, and to always identify a pile of bullshit when I see one lying on the ground.
I thank you, Lord, and I’ll catch all y’all again real soon. Hallelujah, Amen and Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya…