Mama, The Telephone Man is A woman
I’m not going to regret what I’ve done—I’m going to regret what I haven’t done. That’s why I go out with the boys every morning; even though many people object. But the telephone company is still like home. I had to go to get a job at the telephone company after I left Wayne and moved back in with Mama and Daddy.
Before I went out with the men, I worked at the switchboard and used to listen in on the switchboard when I know Norma isn’t watching. Nope, folks won't believe some of the stuff I've heard. heard. People don’t know Reverend Jackson is cheating on his wife and that ole Mrs. Harpe is sleeping with Mr. Vassy. I used to call folks just right when they to the motel. I found the Klan meetings and sit ins downtown.
Wayne should’ve known I’d find out that he was seeing that lint-head, Anita. I put up with it for a while, then we broke up and got back together again. I’ve always told Katherine that she needs to learn to take care of herself, so she don’t have to put up with any shenanigans. I moved back in with Mama and Daddy after I left Wayne. His skank eventually left him too. I was saving up to get my own house because I didn’t want the children staying with Daddy. The only good thing he’s done since he quit digging wells is take dead crows to court to win his case against the game-warden.
The preacher told me I should forgive him over and over again. I done read my bible and prayed over the situation, and I know leaving him was the right thing to do. Daddy didn’t want me working for the telephone company in the first place. I don’t know how he expected us to survive. After I worked at the switchboard for years, the government passed a law called The Equal Opportunity Act. So that’s when I got my truck and got to go out with the men. People would always do a double take when they saw me and some folks filed complaints
Spring was such a good time to be out of the office and driving around town. I loved driving under a canopy of wisteria. Azaleas, Rhododendrons erupted into blue and pink. Spring always came by surprise and ended too soon.
Earlier that day, I knocked on doors to check numbers. A little boy answered the door, and looks me up and down. “Mama, mama, the telephone man’s a woman.” His Mama came to the door and it took her while to get her to give me the number.
Folks complained all the time about the integration, but I think eventually people will get used to things changing, and things will continue to change. I don’t get mixed up in all the politics and marches; I just go out and do what I have to do.
When I got home from work, Daddy is in his recliner. His broken beer bottles were strewn all over the yard, and Mama had to spend so much time cleaning up after him. I never understood why he wasn’t locked up in the jailhouse, but the police were always easy on him. Daddy had this way of telling funny stories, so people like him, but I’m ashamed to say I’m related to him. I could smell his whiskey breath from across the room.
I smelled Mama’s cornbread. We would’ve starved during the Depression if it hadn’t been for Mama cause she knew how to save and make things last. When the kids were young, he’d take us all out for a drive. Daddy was sitting in the living room in his favorite recliner. He put his pipe down. I hated the smell of smoke. The ceilings were stained because of his smoking.
“Wayne called. I hope you’d get back together with him and knock off your shenanigans with that phone company.”
I folded my arms.
“Someone has to support us. And I’m making more money now. “
Daddy used to dig wells, but he stopped getting regular work after he started drinking more.
“I just hope you don’t start getting involved with those protests.”
“When would I have the time?”
Daddy looked pensive for a moment.
“Okay. I know you think I’m no good to Mama, but I care about you. And I care about what’s happening to this country. “
“Things are changing. They’re always gonna change,” I said. “There’s no point in fighting against it.” Daddy shook his head than took another sip of beer.
Mama walked in from the side door.
“You need help in the kitchen?” I asked
Mama nodded. We put the cornbread, beans, and okra on the table. Mama was an expert at making food last. Daddy staggered into the kitchen and scanned the bowls. His lip curled.
“Why don’t we have any meat? We had the same stuff last night,” Daddy said.
“You know we eat meat on Sunday. We have to use up the leftovers, “Mama said.
Daddy opened the refrigerator and got a beer. Mama sighed and shook her head. Daddy already had way too many.
He opened the can and raised his eyebrow.
“Well, you must not be getting paid that much,” he said. “Where is the money going?”
“Where do you think? I said. “You spend a lot of it on alcohol. “
Daddy banged his fist on the table.
“I won’t tolerate any disrespect in my house.”
I bit my lip so hard, I wondered if it bled. Yes, it was his house, but I was paying all the bills.
Daddy had no idea I was saving to get a home, and I hoped Mama would move in with me.
Mama’s hands trembled.
“I’m fixing fried chicken this Sunday. Your favorite.”
Daddy stood up and didn’t push his chair in.
“You don’t do nothing but talk to yourself and listen to that damned radio. Nobody listens to me. I built this place. Daddy stomped off into the den with a beer bottle in his hand.
“It’s okay. You know how he is when he’s drinking, “I said. Mama wiped the tears off her face.
“Yes. He has a good heart at times. But sometimes we just don’t see the devil.”
“Mama, you got plenty of gumption. You got us through the Depression. You’ve always kept this family together. You can come and live with me when I get my own place.”
“I’m really proud of you. You drive that truck, and you go wherever you have to go,” Mama says. “But your daddy needs me. I’m gonna stay here. And I’ll be okay.”
“Thank you, Mama.” Her support meant a lot to me.
Mama placed all the plates on the table. I helped her put the food on the table and called the kids. Daddy sat at the head of the table and frowned. I was surprised he hadn't passed out already.
Mama gave everyone a helping of turnips and black eyed peas. My mouth watered while we said the blessing. Daddy got that blitz eyed stare again.
"What's wrong?" Mama said.
"It's your daughter ruining our family name by doing a man's job. "
The kids looked down. I prayed Daddy wouldn't make a scene in front of the children.
I took a bite of greens and Mama turned pale. We could all sense when Daddy was about to blow.
"I want you to tell them tomorrow that you're not going out with the guys."
"I will not," I said.
Daddy stood up. He picked up the plates and poured the food on the table then he put the chairs upside down. Stevie grabbed the broom and threated to bop Daddy on the head. Daddy went back into the living room, and I helped Mama cleaned up the mess. I told her everything would be okay, and i wanted her to consider moving, but i knew she'd stay with Daddy no matter what.
I went back to my room at the end of the long, dark hall. I can’t wait to get out of the house and have my own place. If I didn’t have the children, I might’ve just taken off one day. I liked to drive through these small towns that have musical names.
I was exhausted and had to get up early the next morning. I loved waking up early and sitting on the front porch. I’d drink my coffee, watch the sun rise, and go off to work. I never knew what to expect when I was out with the guys. I liked the challenge, and I decided I’d keep driving that truck regardless of what anyone thought. Before bed, I decided I need to write journal entry because maybe my story will help someone. Things are changing. I hope more women will get to see what It’s like to have their own church. Maybe that day would come sooner than I thought it would. Like I said, things are a changing, and I’m ready.