Winnie tried not to think of a bullfrog when she looked at Clarence. He couldn’t help it, but that is what he looked like. No one could deny it. He didn’t have much of a sense of humor so it made it all that much harder for her to keep a straight face when looking at him. The front of his neck protruded so much and sort of hung down from his chin. He had bulgy eyes like a frog, too. But she was a woman of principles, and she always gave him the proper respect and attention. After all, he was Christine’s husband, and Christine was her favorite cousin.
Christine was in the kitchen of their farmhouse frying chicken. She went to the doorway of the living room to check on Winnie and Pete every few minutes. She asked Winnie if she would like some tea, and Winnie said she would. Christine was an excellent hostess – just like her Mother, Aunt Dollie, in West Texas.
Christine and Clarence lived in a ramshackle house in Ravenna. They had four rooms – a living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms. The outhouse was west of the house about forty yards – almost to the cotton field. On weekdays, Clarence was out on the John Deere tractor in the field, but it was Sunday, and he sat in his recliner with the football game on the television. Winnie hated football games with a passion, but she didn’t dare say anything to Clarence since they had been invited to lunch there.
Clarence didn’t go to church services so Pete wasn’t extremely friendly to him, but he had shaken his hand when he walked in and settled himself on the couch to watch the football game.
Christine had told them to sit in the living room while she finished up lunch. Winnie could smell the chicken frying, and her mouth watered. She needed to go to the outhouse, but she had gotten spoiled by having an indoor bathroom, and the thought of going to the outhouse filled her with revulsion. She thought she could wait until she got home. Maybe. The trouble was that there was no restroom at the Ambrose Church of Christ either. It had been almost three hours since she had gone to the restroom. She glanced out the window at the outhouse and decided she didn’t have to go that bad.
Christine called them into the kitchen and asked Pete to bless the food. Pete sat across from Winnie at the kitchen table and bowed his head.
“We ask you Lord to bless this home and the hands that made this food that will nourish our bodies. Help us to be kind to one another and to think of our dear Lord’s example in all our ways. In the name of thy Son and our Redeemer, Amen.”
Winnie was already reaching for a chicken leg. She rarely got this hungry. Usually, she ate because it was time to eat, not because she was actually hungry. She had only had one boiled egg for breakfast and her stomach had begun to rumble during church services. She had glanced around in embarrassment, but it wasn’t something she could help.
“I guess you all heard about old man Johnson down the road?” Clarence said around the food in his mouth.
“Oh Clarence, that’s not a story for the dinner table!” Christine chided.
“Well, Old Luther Johnson lived by himself out there on about 40 acres just a few miles east of here. I’d see him out in his field sometimes and we’d wave to each other, but then I noticed I hadn’t seen him in several weeks. I kept thinking about him and he kept coming to mind so I got in the car and drove over to his place. “
“Clarence, please,” Christine pleaded. Winnie looked at Christine and then at Clarence.
Clarence went on with his story as if Christine had not spoken. She looked down at her plate as he continued with his story. Winnie began to have a worried look on her face. She didn’t like dissension especially at the Sunday dinner table.
“Well, I pulled up in front of his house and hollered for him, but no one came out except a few scrawny hound dogs. I walked around back and I saw that his back door was open and I went in his house. It didn’t look like anybody had been there in several days. His car was outside so I was puzzled. He didn’t have any relatives that I knew about.”
“Clarence, let’s just eat. You can tell your story later,” Christine begged.
“Then, I saw his outhouse and the door was standing just a little bit open.” Pete nodded to Clarence as if inviting him to continue the story.
“Well, I walked out there and that darn outhouse seat had caved in while he was sittin’ there. He was buried up to his neck in, well, you know. I really didn’t think he was still alive, and I started backing out of there, but then he made a sound. I grabbed his arms and started pulling him out and there was a horrible sucking noise.”
Winnie had put her chicken down. She wasn’t sure she could eat another bite – ever.