I always wake up cursing.  You don’t want to be the one waking me.  I’ll curse ya two ways from Sunday, and it’ll take ya a month of Sundays to say your Hail Mary’s for every name I call ya…  Ask her—she knows.  When she was a child she used to wake me.  Maybe that’s why she’s my favorite, my favorite granddaughter.  Because I called her every name in the book, every name under heaven, and some not even known to us down here on earth…  So maybe it’s my fault.  Or maybe it was fate.  Hell if I know.  Maybe what’s in you is your fate.  And I have a temper.

Suppose it’s true though.  All that you have inside of you is all that you are and what happens to you.  I mean what if I had been different.  Maybe I wouldn’t have met the men that I met.  Wouldn’t have loved some of them, and hated some of them.  I could even look the same—what I’ve seen in the mirror all these years.  Just a different temperament.  A different way with my words.  What I like now, what I have an affinity for, all jumbled up and reversed.  I mean what if I didn’t wake up cursing?  What if instead I smiled, just smiled to a new day, and had kind words for it?  What if instead I just yawned?  And I guess I can’t really pinpoint it—the hour and the day when I lost my first husband’s love.  I know the day he took the children.  When I came home the next day—he knowing I’d been with another man.  And I can’t say it all happened that day.  There wasn’t just one defining moment.  Because I remember what led up to it.  Prior arguments.  Where I lost my temper.  And said things. Done things Things I knew hurt him.

He wasn’t from France, but everyone called him Frenchie.   From what I heard he was from Bayou La Batre—a shrimpin’ town.  Round the turn of the century he moved further west along the Gulf Coast and became a barber.  God knows why.  He wasn’t that good at it.  I let him cut my hair once.  Just once.  And after that he stuck to man’s hair.  We met at a church pot-luck.  I’ve never much set foot in a church and probably never will again, but some of my girlfriends from the bars told me if I wanted to find a good man I should go to one.  I’d just got beat up bad by a man.  That’s why my girlfriends recommended it.  And I only went to one, one church meet and greet, but I can’t say the men are any better there than what you find in bars.  Honest-wise at least.  He was a horny old devil—my old man, my first husband.  Maybe that’s why he got the name Frenchie.  Not on account he was from France or even been to France, but because of his lovin’ ways—the old skunk.  Sometimes even I had to go tell him to just masturbate, especially after he knocked me up three times.  His damn thang got me into whole loads of trouble.  And after tryin’ the married life for a spell, well, I figured my bar gals had it wrong and they had it right.  You might find a good man at church, a man that don’t beat ya at least, but a good man just gets you children, children a bad man don’t want.

Seems like as you get older hopes just get replaced with regrets.  Seems like if it’s just fate it wouldn’t be like that, but it is.  And you can say one thing leads to another, and I suppose it does.  But what about that one thing—that first thing—you?  What made you you—that leads to all these other things, these other things that happen?  Maybe if I’d had a better father, one that didn’t run off when I was child—maybe that would have made who I am different—I don’t know.  I’ve had a temper as long as I can remember.  Maybe I inherited it.  I inherited from him—my daddy that run off.  And seems a shame when your inheritance just becomes a hand-me-down that don’t do anybody no good.  I see it in her—Bethany—my granddaughter.  Her mother ain’t a lot like me, but she is.  And I don’t know.  I don’t know how that happens and who you should blame for it.  Seems like you get stuck with a bunch a things about yourself that you can’t change.  And they hurt you.  They cause you pain.  The worst of it—the worst pain of it—when you judge yourself for it.  When you don’t like those things about yourself you just sorta got stuck with.  Bad blood that bleeds ya.  Bleeds ya ‘til you’re dry.  And it don’t seem really fair—does it?  Don’t seem like you should be responsible for it if it’s just fate.

Wish there was something I could do about it—my temper.  Wish I could control it some way, but I can’t.  It’s just a part of me I gotta live with I guess.  And I’m too old now to change or even waste my time with it.  But it don’t change the regrets no ways neither.  That’s something I gotta live with now…

And maybe it’s funny how the record skips.  This imagined old phonograph recording of Bethany’s grandmother.  How maybe if it was replaced with Bethany’s voice it wouldn’t sound much different.  When she was born in 1923, in the town of Hemphill, Texas, her grandmother lived in a cabin her father built on his land.  She was already into her forties, but she hadn’t married or divorced her second husband yet.  She hadn’t had the son she lived with in the 9th Ward yet.  She hadn’t done some of the things she’d come to regret yet.  Some of them had already happened.  Like abandoning her three children from her first marriage to Frenchie Duvette for numerous superficial encounters with other men in the bars of East Texas.  But some of them hadn’t happened yet.  It wasn’t in her voice yet.  You didn’t hear it in her voice.  Maybe Bethany had to be born.  She had to be conceived for it to happen.  For it to come into her voice.  And this is what happened.  This is what happened the day Bethany Labeau was born…

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