Expensive Janitor - Deeper Clean
Chapter One - Buzzard’s Hollow
Right, so today, has started out like any other day, getting to the office just before noon, cycling through messages, and trying to find some sort of motivation to work. I am bored to the point of distraction, yet again. While I know I need to work, the same dreary grind gets old and depressing very quickly, sort of like March in the American Mid-West. Anyway, I have a new family of clients coming into the office for a PI consult. They were in a nasty freeway accident, and from the sounds of it, liability is clear, so hey it might be a live one.
The family arrives, and as Phoebe lets them into the meeting room, I walk through my offices to greet them in the client waiting area. Sitting in the one chair is a blonde middle aged guy, with a friendly smile and bright blue eyes, wearing a tee shirt and jeans like most people do during Albuquerque’s hot summer. Next to him, in stark contrast, was a Native American woman, whom I guess is Navajo, with her raven hair set straight back, wearing an embroidered turquoise Navajo shirt, and jeans; the classic impassive facial expression endemic to most Indians upon her face. Sitting next to them in the cramped little office were too young women, clearly a mix of their parents, both late teens to early twenties.
I introduced myself, and the man spoke up,’
‘Pierre Montagne, and this is my wife Lucinda Montagne, my daughters, April and Monica. He said with a thick southern drawl. His wife extended her hand partway to mine and gave me a pained smile. Looking at the whole family, I could see that they were hurt, as they constantly shifted position, trying to get comfortable
‘Hi, my name is David Pauly; I understand that you were in an accident?
‘Yes sir, that is correct.’
‘Pardon my curiosity, but where is your accent from, I am guessing Louisiana, as your name is French?
‘Well, close, but my family left Louisiana a hundred years or so and moved to Mississippi.
‘Where in Mississippi? I asked
‘Some tiny town you’ve never heard of.
‘Well, my mother is from Mclain, Mississippi, and you can’t get much smaller than that.
‘Really, Mclain? I was born just outside Lucedale.
‘Lucedale, I have been there a long time ago, my late grandfather had some property up there, with some small lakes to go fishing in, hot and really humid.
‘Wow Lucedale, you are the first person that I have met that’s even heard about it since I left Mississippi. You remember on the way south out of town that little grocery mart with a stop sign.
‘Honestly, I do, there was a stray dog wandering around there that I wanted to take care of, but my grandmother refused to let me open the car door. God that’s going back over 30 years for me; my mother was inside buying her cigarettes, Vantage brand if I recall correctly.’
As I recalled that moment, what I did not say aloud was the ensuing conversation between me and my maternal grandmother
‘Nonnie, can we take that dog home?
‘Of course not, he’s just some mangy stray.
‘But he looks hungry and lost, can’t we get him some dog food.
‘No, and quit asking. Besides, some Nigger will find him and take him home, stray dogs and Niggers look after one another around here. Always have, always will. Now sit back down in your seat and quit asking about that dog.
I certainly was not going reveal the less than enlightened attitude from my southern family about people that were not exactly pale to my potential clients.
‘Yeah, well, the store is still there, but they have named that little intersection ‘Buzzard’s Hollow’, and I was born about 3 miles outside of Buzzard Hollow, in a little house.’
‘Wow, what are the odds of us meeting here in New Mexico?
As I looked down at Pierre’s paperwork, I saw that he had put down electrician as his occupation, and his wife’s paperwork said that she was a registered nurse. I definitely did not see people like this every day.
‘How did you get out here from Mississippi? It’s a whole other world out here, outside the Deep South.
‘You’re telling me.’ piped up Lucinda, making a nasty face.
‘Well I joined up to the Air Force right out of high school, kinda wanted to learn a trade and see something outside of Mississippi. I got transferred here after my first 4 years, and was trained to be a journeyman electrician, so after I got out, I took a job with the State of New Mexico, and have lived here nearly 25 years.
‘Wow, and Lucinda, where did you grow up, I am assuming it was not Mississippi?
‘Not a chance, I grew up in Shiprock, out towards Farmington.
‘I have been to Farmington when I was fishing out there, but never got as far as Shiprock.
‘It’s a nice small town, not much happens there. Same could be said for Lucedale,’ she said
‘You sound like you have been there, how do you like it?
Not at all, I will never go back there, not even for a funeral.
Now recalling my time in the south at law school, the inherent racism of the deep-south is never far from the surface, but I am a bit perplexed. A local boy like Pierre who served his country and is a member of an honorable trade should not have had much trouble with the local red necks, even with an Indian family. So I was curious and asked Lucinda,
‘What happened when you were there?
‘First we drove around and saw a bunch of Pierre’s family, some really odd people I tell you.
‘Let me guess, Pierre, you are the only member of your family who got out of George County?
‘Yep, sad to say none of my kin have ever left Mississippi; didn’t even come to our wedding.
‘I sympathize, my mother’s family are very interesting people, to put it mildly. The ones who went off to college are fine, but the others. Let’s just say there aren’t a lot of branches on their family tree.
‘Sounds like you could be one of Pierre’s cousins.’ replied Lucinda.
Chuckling, I said, ‘Well my father is from Chicago, so I think I am safe from being too inbred. What else happened on your trip?
‘Well, we stayed four days there with his family, and couldn’t get a beer, or a glass of wine or anything decent to eat.
I paused for a moment as to why she was remarking about beer, when I suddenly remembered, ‘Right, is George County still a ‘dry county’? (meaning no alcohol is allowed to be sold there.)
‘It still is and always will be, the town is mostly strict Methodists, no booze allowed.’ said Pierre.
‘When did you take them there Pierre?
‘Wait, you took your family to southern Mississippi in August? The heat and humidity must have been off the charts?
‘You got that right,’ said Pierre, ‘I been away too long, even I started sweating. Lucinda and the girls were miserable.
‘Worst four days of my life,’ said Lucinda, ‘I’d take a shower, put on my clothes, walk outside and need another shower. Nothing for us to do but stay inside in the one air-conditioned room, and watch TV.
‘Well, I can sympathize, but it doesn’t sound that bad, what happened?
I was expecting to hear about some rednecks getting rude and making racist statements, but all three pair of Navajo eyes were now glaring holes into Pierre.
‘Well, everyone was complaining about how hot and bored they were, so I thought I would take them swimming in the river.’ said Pierre.
‘The Pascagoula?’ I asked.
‘No the Leaf River, it’s a tributary of the Pascagoula.
‘Well that sounds all right.
‘Well, we had walk a ¼ mile or so from the dirt road down to my favorite fishing hole, and the girls got ate up pretty bad.
‘Yep, but worse for them were the Chiggers.’
Shuddering, I recalled the time that I was down in Alabama in the summer for a week, and went outside in the neighbor’s yard which was full of grass and some scrub trees. About half an hour later, I started itching all over my legs, and Nonnie, took one look at my itchy legs, and said,
‘You should have sprayed yourself with some OFF, before you went over there.
I replied, ‘It’s the middle of the day, I didn’t think that mosquitoes were out yet.
‘Not mosquitoes,’ she said, ‘but Chiggers.
‘What’s a Chigger?
‘Tiny little bugs, you can see the red specks on your legs.
I remember peering down at my calves and seeing little red dots all over the place, where I had not scratched myself raw. Nonnie brought out a bar of funny smelling soap, saying,
‘Here now go take a bath with this.
‘I already had a bath, I said,
‘Yes but not with this soap.
My father, who was with us at the time, asked, ‘Is this soap different?’
‘Of course, it’s got DDT in it, guaranteed to kill anything, now boy you go and take a bath with that soap, only thing that will kill off the Chiggers.
My father flat out refused and got into a huge argument with my mother who was siding with Nonnie. He was raging about how toxic and terrible DDT was. Little did I know it at the time that there was something much more toxic than DDT present in the room, namely my less than charming parents, but I was only 11, I thought every kid got belittled, hit, and verbally abused like I did. Anyway, I did not get the soap, until late that night. I could not sleep from the itching and went into Nonnie’s kitchen to get a glass of milk. I saw that she was up and having a cup of black coffee.
‘You all right David?
‘No,’ I whispered, ‘the itching is getting worse.
‘Tell you what, you go into the back bathroom where there is a small bathtub, and you can borrow the soap, but don’t say a word to your dad. Be real quiet now.
And that is just what I did, quietly taking a bath and soaping myself up with the oddest smelling soap I have ever came across. Later the next day, Nonnie who had given me some Calamine lotion to put on the chigger marks asked,
‘How you doing today?
‘That soap was amazing; I hardly itch at all now.
‘Good, but keep it quiet.
I rarely knew how to keep my mouth shut, especially back then, but I knew that as long as I was down in Alabama, that I might need the soap again.
Returning to the present, I said ‘Yeah, I encountered Chiggers once; only thing that got rid of them was some old DDT soap.