Meet The CastI write stories about real people. I've found we all have at least one good story in us, and our stories take surprising, and often funny, twists and turns as we go forward, blunder, fall down and get up again — in other words as we live life[F]unscripted.
DADDY, NORVELLE GUYTAN SIMMONS WAS A STORY ALL BY HIMSELF.
He cussed, chewed tobacco, spit, and never went to church with Mama and me. He was a tugboat captain, and in his youth, a lady’s man, lover, and occasionally, a prizefighter.
Daddy was also magnetic. He walked into a room and lit it up. He had a quick wit, a bearing, flashing blue eyes, and a huge personality.
He could read people, could read how they thought and what they'd do. When he summed up a person, you could see that person, and hear him, and sometimes, smell him.
When Daddy comes into a story, you can expect humor and plain-as-dirt wisdom — like someone written by Mark Twain.
MAMA, EVA MAY SIMMONS WAS A WOMAN LIBERATED AHEAD OF HER TIME
Five feet two inches tall with brown eyes that laughed and a quick, sometimes mischievous smile, Mama didn’t look mighty, but she was. She had a mighty faith in God, a sense of fairness, and the courage to speak up for what she thought was right and fair. She was no-nonsense and no-excuses when it came to doing what she said she'd do.
Mama stood up to power. She fought for, and got, a union in the grocery store where she was the head cashier. [READ MORE]
She demanded, and got, a credit card in her own name at a time when stores had the policy to issue cards in husbands’ names only.
She even stood up to the preacher, and she knew the Bible well enough to win the debate.
GRANDMAMA, AMANDA DELIDA THOMAS SIMMONS STORIES HAD IRONY.
Grandmama had the sweetest face and wry wit that gave her stories a twist.
There was a faded brown photograph in her album of a tiny woman in a bonnet. Right beside her was a little spotted pig.
Grandmama said, “She was your Great-Great-Grandma Thomas. Back then regular folks didn’t have cameras. Traveling photographers would come by and take your picture for the money.”
“Why did she have her picture taken with a pig?”
“Oh, that little pig! Grandma petted it and it followed her around like a puppy dog.
“Whatever happened to it?”
Grandma gave me a look, and said, “Why, we ate it.”
THE OLD LADIES ON PETAIN STREET’S PORCHES
I spent afternoons sitting on Mrs. Gates's front porch because all the ladies stopped by there to get or tell the gossip.
One day she was telling Mrs. Roberts about the funeral of one of the neighborhood men who had died.
“Oh, the flowers at Ralph’s funeral, and ….”
Then, she started laughing so hard she couldn’t talk.
“Hon, you never saw the like! Right in the middle of praying, Sarah jumped up, screaming, and waving her arms. Before anybody could get ahold of her, she had run-up to the casket.”
She stopped to laugh again.
“Sarah reached right in that casket and grabbed up poor Ralph — nearly toppled it. Would have if some men hadn’t caught it. It took three men to get her away and settle Ralph back in place.”
KINFOLKS WITH NAMES RIGHT OUT OF SOUTHERN NOVELS
There were Willie, Wylie, Rufus, Gus, Eb, and Tup. And Ella Bell, Ernie Mae, Eula, Lzzie, Minkie, Matt, Gert, and Earline. They all had stories.
My great aunt Minkie was funny and feisty — pig-headed Daddy called her. In her nineties, she still drove her car and did just as she pleased.
Any time I heard Aunt Mattie say, “Oh, I have to tell you what Minkie’s done now!” I knew a good story was coming.
“You know Minkie pays no mind to speed limits. Well, she got caught! When the patrolman stopped her, she snapped, ‘Why are you bothering me?’ He said she was speeding, and she shot back, ‘I was doing no such thing! You should be ashamed.’ Then, she took off — and ran over a patrolman’s foot!”
THE HR DEPARTMENT —YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR
Crazy blunders, bloopers, and dilemmas happen in every company. But no matter who causes them, they all wind up on the HR desk.
You never know what people interviewing for jobs will do or say. Mr. HR asked a candidate interviewing for an administrative assistant position about her organizational skills. “Oh, they're great! I organized my closet by types of clothing, purpose, and color. Here. Look at this. I took a picture with my iPhone to show you! See?”
Bosses are unscripted too. When the boss blows it, HR has to fix it — like when a partner in the firm told his assistant, “If you don’t have something intelligent to say, never speak to me again.” And added, “I'll enjoy the everlasting silence.”
STRANGERS, ALMOST STRANGERS AND WEIRD ENCOUNTERS
I'm stunned when people jump into my life without warning — or invitation.
I was walking down the street, thinking about my next meeting when a woman beamed a hundred-watt smile at my face, and commanded, “Smile! God loves you!” I didn’t want to smile. She insisted. I got away, angry that I hadn’t come up with a snarky retort.
Then there was the almost-stranger, a fellow teacher, who cornered me in the teachers’ lounge and told me too many and too graphic details about her sex life with her husband. I didn’t want to know. I couldn’t get away.
MY HUSBAND, RON BIRCH, A TOUGH LITIGATOR AND WAY TOO-GOOD SAMARITAN
I think he loves me because he has a sense of humor and he thinks I'm funny. He's told me I'm almost as much fun as a guy.
Ron is the one with stories! With a law degree from Columbia, Ron headed to Alaska when the state was 7 years old. He was Clerk to the State Supreme Court Justice, DA, and Chief of Staff to Senator Stevens, the founder of what became the largest law firm in the State.
Ron is terrifying to opposing lawyers — and sometimes to the people my good Samaritan decides to help. For example, the first time he tried to drag a blind man across a street the man didn’t want to cross wasn’t so funny. By the third time, it was hilarious.
ME — BLUNDERING THROUGH MY LIFE[F]UNSCRIPTED.
I've had a lot of good ideas — that weren't. But they gave me good stories.
In the third grade, I got sent to the principal’s office. I thought it was a smart idea to write my name in the wet cement sidewalk. The principal didn’t.
I was the only kid in school who could never hit a baseball. I failed again and again until there was a crowd screaming instructions at me.
I once saw a clown slip and fall on a banana peel. It was funny. I did it without the banana. It wasn’t so funny. No. Actually, it was pretty funny.
My first job was in a grocery store — for two long days. Did you know that if you're on an old cash register and you don’t hit every key right, you have to start all over? When the line backs up to the meat counter, people can get nasty.
I once made a list of every dumb thing I ever did. It’s the funniest thing I've ever written — I lost the list.