Uncle Elmer


When me and Sister were little Uncle Elmer took us to Wendy’s because they have the biggest senior citizen discount, and we didn’t know what that meant, but somehow, we knew that meant cheap because this was a word he loved to say: cheap—I can get that for cheap at Sam’s he’d say. He wore a cap that said Read The Instructions with a picture of an open book that said The Holy Bible and he played the guitar and made us sing Power In The Blood because it was the only song he knew how to play. And he held us too long when he hugged us real tight, and he made me sit on his lap, and it wasn’t until my first kiss hundreds of miles away when I was eighteen, sitting on a couch made out of leather that I remembered Uncle Elmer licked my ear too. And I didn’t say anything to anyone about it. See he’d tell us at Wendy’s when he was born in Georgia his mama didn’t want a boy, so she sent him to school in bonnets and dresses, told everyone he was her little girl. He fought in Germany in World War II, got married and had two children: one became a jewelry thief, and the other one married a woman who believes Jesus had blue eyes. He lived in Virginia Beach and he drove with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake pedal. He wore shirts that showed his chest hair—it was black. He took us to the mountains. He took us to the mall. He paid us for picking up pecans in his yard. At Wendy’s he’d dump whatever crust was left of his French fries out the box and onto a napkin and then lick his finger and pick up every piece of salt. After my Aunt Lillie died, he married a woman in the Philippines, much younger with children and dreams of any American college. He flies over to see her, navigating the overcrowded streets in his tennis shoes from before I was born. He sends us a picture of Philippine string beans—they’re real skinny and long. He takes out his hearing aids and has sex with his new wife, and when they’re done he takes her family out to Wendy’s, and he licks his finger again.  

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