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Havoc In Motion
By Jay White
Mama and the Studebaker
After Mama wrecked his Oldsmobile, Dad brought home a Brand New Studebaker Silver Cloud and called her out to adore it—once. “Opal Lee, that Studebaker right there does not exist. Do you understand me?”
Mama widened her eyes, touched her dimple and nodded meekly that she understood. Dad eased his new goddess into the garage and turned off the engine. He sat there gripping the steering wheel in expressions of rapture; then he stepped out and lowered the garage door over the Studebaker as if he draped Winged Victory herself.
Mama stood on the back porch watching him, a vision of abject innocence. Dad recovered from his thrall and narrowed his eyes at her and was just opening his mouth to utter further admonishments when his driller pulled up out front with the rest of the crew and honked. He got into the car and they drove away.
Dad didn’t deign to look back, but Mama waved anyway; then she moved the hand down to shade her eyes. “That’s a mean-looking cloud coming yonder.”
Less than an hour after that, two things happened as if in response to a Nostradamus prediction: the heaviest hailstorm in a hundred years swept over Sutton County, Texas, and Mama took a baseball bat to the Studebaker.
Imagine: across the Edwards Plateau a bellicose black cloud crammed with crackling lightening approached trailing a tempest of Biblical ferocity—a tempest that caught all our neighbors cars parked in their driveways or on the street--and the balls of ice (“big as cantelopes!”) that fell out of that malevolent disturbance beat bejesus out of everything.
When the storm had passed, Mama went out to find her stuck-up next door neighbor, Miz Barr, grieving over her car, full of impact dents, windows smashed, and said, “I swan, Miz Barr, that’s too bad. I’m glad our car wasn’t out.”
“That’s awright,” Miz Bar snorted, forcing upon us a glance of prodigeous balefulness. “The insurance will pay for it.” And she stalked off, fuming.
When Mama and I got back inside our house the phone was ringing—it was our insurance man, Mr. Leach. “Miz White, this is Preston Leach, do I need to come out and give yawl an estimate on any hail damage?”
“Our car was in the garage,” Mama said proudly. “But, uh, uh...the back end! Yes. The back end! Well, that part was sticking out some...maybe.”
Mr. Leach said he’d be right over and Mama said to me, “Come on.” Mama rolled up the garage door, took my Little League Louisville Slugger off the wall and deliberately whacked a shocking dent into the trunk lid of her life-mate’s spanking new automobile.
Mr. Leach showed up, looked at the dent, scratched his jaw, then jotted something down in a notebook and left. About an hour after that the sun came out and shone down directly onto the dent Mama had made, and the dent went boink! and popped out, leaving behind not a scintilla of evidence that it had ever existed.
A week later the mailman came with a check from the insurance company. Mama said, “Looky here what we got.” “That’s fine,” I congratulated her. “Now tell me how you knew that just the sun shining on it could do that to a dadgum dent in a brand new Studebaker?”
Mama gave me her sweetest smile and said, “Um, do what, Jay Raymond?”