|LULU AND BUTTERBEAN GO HOUSE
by Nene Adams ©2004 - All rights reserved
You know, there was a time when I didn't believe in much 'cept cold beer, country music and a good pair of boots. A time when me and Lulu Cantrell lived a simpler life. A time when we didn't have no ambitions other'n a satellite dish and a big ass monster truck that required an escalator just to get into the cab. Them times is over, son. Pass me a beer.
I reckon the trouble started when Lulu - bless her heart - decided that since her best friend from high school, Missy Purdue, had just bought herself a house, she ought to have one too. The best double-wide trailer at Friendly Bob's weren't good enough. No, sir. Every damn day and every damn night, Lulu was on to me about a house, 'cause she can't stand it when some other woman gets an inch ahead of her. Lulu was crowned Tomato Queen of Flathead County for three years running, and ain't nobody allowed to forget it. I hemmed and hawed and generally tried to squash the notion, but finally Lulu put her dainty foot down.
"Butterbean Shirley McCall," she says, giving me one of them looks, "you will buy me a house, or by thunder, I'll deal you a blow that'll knock some sense into your head and pitch it out again on the other side."
Lord knows, I love that woman, though I wonder if I really need all this excitement in my life. Not out loud, of course. Mama McCall didn't raise no fool.
I wisely figured that since I didn't want get my skull stove in by a riled up Cantrell with an economy sized can of Do-Right hairspray, I had best get in gear and see what could be done to satisfy the latest bug to crawl up Lulu's pretty pink behind. Let me tell you, brother, there ain't no misery ever devised that can rival the pure-dee horror of house hunting. Finding a place to satisfy Lulu was like trying to herd cats, but she was in a powerful hurry, too. Couldn't let Missy Purdue out-do the Tomato Queen. Lulu had me moving so fast, you'd've thought my feet was on fire and my butt was catchin'.
She dragged me up and down the county every weekend, from Meridian to Picayune, Gulledge, Carterdale, Perdition, Hogbend, Broomstick Ridge and even Backwater Slough, giving various properties the eyeball. We must've stumped through every doghouse, cathouse, chicken house and outhouse, too. Lulu was leaving no stone unturned in her search for the perfect home that would show Missy Purdue who was who in dear ol' Flathead.
At last, we came upon a place 'bout five miles outside of Picayune, down this dirt track that wandered off Route 9. It was literally the last one on a list that Lulu had gotten from her cousin, Larry Cantrell, who sold real estate between the deer hunting and fishing seasons. Lulu's eyes lit up like a knocking shop on payday when she spied the house. As for me, I like to have swallowed my teeth.
The house was one of them grand affairs, all columns and porches and la-dee-dah, the sort of place you figure can't nobody live in unless they wear hoop skirts, drink mint juleps by the gallon and say, "Fiddle-dee-dee" a lot. A real Southern belle's home of the kind described in them fancy real estate brochures as stately, gracefully appointed, lots of old-fashioned charm and other code words to let you know that it costs serious money. In other words, if you have to ask the price, bubba, you ain't going to afford that sucker in your lifetime. You might as well mosey on over to Friendly Bob's Trailer Heaven and please, don't take the shine off the doorknob when it hits your poor ass on the way out.
Lulu, on the other hand, was squeaking and moaning and damn near foaming at the mouth. The light of love was in her eyes. Missy Perdue was going to shit kittens when she saw Lulu, gracious lady-of-the-manor in a home that Scarlet O'Hara wouldn't have sneezed at. I took one look and knew that I was in trouble with a capital "T."
With my stomach hoverin' somewhere in the region of my toenails, I went inside with Lulu, who continued embarrassing me with her little noises. I ain't heard sounds like that since she accidentally grabbed a worn-out electrical cord when we were in the middle of a boot-knocking romp and she was close to the Promised Land. Don't know exactly what that did for her, but she hollered loud enough at the end to bust the ceiling fan loose and was real nice to me for about a week afterwards. Until she found out that I'd replaced the cord, whereupon Lulu grizzled something fierce and burned the cornbread.
Anyhow, the inside of the place was huge and there was lots of furniture covered in sheets. Lulu peeked at all of it, and the more she saw, the more excited she got. She was already imagining the look of drop-dead-bitch jealousy on Missy Purdue's face, and I felt lower'n a toad in a dry well. There was no way I could afford this house, not unless Jesus Christ co-signed the mortgage papers and the Devil himself coughed up a down payment.
Lulu don't take disappointment very well and I was dreading the moment when I'd have to put a stick in her spokes. The more she giggled and tee-heed and scrubbed her hands together, the worse I felt. Nervous don't begin to cover it, son. I reckon you could've put a chunk of coal up my ass and gotten back a diamond.
Finally, I says, "Honey-pie, we can't afford a big ol' place like this. It's plumb marvelous and all, only I'm pretty sure that my boss ain't going to raise my salary four-hundred percent so's I can make the payments and we can starve to death on what's left."
Lulu fixed me with an awful look. "Butterbean," she says, "you are standing in our new home, which is going to turn Missy Purdue pea-green with envy. Cousin Larry told me that this one was an absolute steal. Now quit your belly-aching or I'll smack you clean into next week and jerk you back to last Tuesday by the small hairs."
Well, there ain't no arguing with Lulu, who was clearly happier than a dog with two peckers who'd just stumbled into a T-bone steak mountain. I consigned myself to doom and returned to the truck, wishing I'd had the sense to bring along a six-pack to keep me company. An absolute steal? That's the sort of thing them real estate folks tell you before they start whetting the fillet knife and pickin' out their pound of flesh, preferably as close to your wallet as possible. Lulu, meanwhile, was busier than a cat covering crap on a marble floor. She ran all up and down that house, squealing with delight. I must've fallen asleep, 'cause the next thing I knew, it was full dark and I was the all-you-can-eat mosquito buffet.
I went back in the house and there was no sign of Lulu. It was also darker in there than the inside of a hog at midnight during the dark of the moon. I stubbed both big toes and took most of the skin off my left shin, stumbling around in search of a candle or a flashlight. Finally, I found one of those fancy doo-hickeys like Liberace used to have on his piano and lo! There was light, 'cause I had the foresight to carry that buck-naked lady lighter I'd won off Whisper Haggard in a spitting contest. That boy never could handle his chaw. When it came down to the moment of spit or swallow, Whisper could be counted on to get confused about half the time.
I couldn't find Lulu so I went upstairs, beginning to worry about that crazy Cantrell girl that I love more'n cheese on grits.
I got my first surprise on the landing when a soldier dressed in a Union uniform ran up and stabbed me through the gut with his bayonet. I dropped the candle doo-hickey and let out a yell that ought to have blown that bastard back a yard or three. He acted like he didn't even hear me and kept on stabbin'. Strange thing was, I didn't feel a thing. Not a twinge. And then it hit me.
He was a ghost.
The house was haunted.
Shit, I just can't win for losing sometimes.
I picked up the candle doo-hickey and walked right through that soldier, who hollered an oath that would've made my Papaw reach for the big scary switch that was saved for special occasions. Soldier-boy followed that up with, "You're under arrest!"
Well, that plumb stopped me in my tracks. I turned around and gave him the stink-eye. "What on God's green earth are you talkin' about, you damn Yankee fool?" I says.
I have to give that solider's spirit credit. He stood his ground and says, "You're under arrest, you Rebel murderer."
My first inclination was to laugh until I busted the elastic out of my drawers. I mean, have you heard anything crazier in your life? There I was, flesh and blood. There he was, about as solid as a fart in a hurricane. There weren't a damn thing he could do to me. It was like the time when I took on that notorious school-yard bully, Junior Junior, behind the gym in 10th grade on account of his talkin' trash about Lulu. Two hundred-ninety pounds of pure mean vs. skinny ol' Butterbean. Little did he know that I had a kick like a bad-tempered mule and had learned the art of putting the hurt on a man from Momma McCall, who is no slouch in that department herself. I ducked the first swing and nailed that boy so hard in his denims, he just shriveled up and crawled away. Took him a week to walk straight, then he apologized to Lulu like I told him.
Needless to say, Lulu took me behind the gym and rewarded me for bein' her hero, but that ain't neither here nor there.
Ah, sweet memories.
Now there I was with this ghost giving me what-for, and my sweet Lulu in God only knew what kind of mess. I turned my back on that damn fool Yankee and went on up the stairs, where I found a whole bunch more damn Yankee spirits waitin' for me. They was right nasty looking, too, with beards and other facial fungus you could've hid a herd of possums in, and every last mother-lovin' son of 'em was trying to put the frightener on me.
An officer ghost says, "You murdered my men with poisoned mushrooms, you Rebel bitch. I should have known not to trust a Southern woman. An invitation to dinner, so charmingly and politely extended though we looted your smokehouse and took the family silver. You smiled and smiled while we ate, and smiled even more when we died. Now it's your turn!"
Well, I wasn't about to let no ignorant spirit give me down the river for something I didn't do. Besides, I would've bet my last nickel that these here damn Yankees were some of Sherman's raiders, so they probably deserved it. And I was still worried about Lulu somethin' fierce I resisted the urge to annoy them with a few choruses of Dixie and walked through without harm. Oh, a couple of 'em jabbed at me but it didn't even tickle. Stubborn but dumb as a bag of hammers, the lot of 'em.
I got my next surprise when I opened the first door. There was a gallows inside with a crook-necked man hanging from it. Another ghost, naturally. He flapped his black tongue and rolled his bulgy eyes at me in what I can only describe as the worst flirtation attempt I've ever received, and I'm counting the time when G.G. Walker pissed my initials into the barbeque ash at the annual Pig n' Plenty social back in my high school days 'cause he had a crush on me. I wasn't impressed. Neither was Lulu, by the way. I never did find out exactly what she said to him, but G.G. gave open barbeque pits a wide berth from then on.
Inside the next three rooms were a passle of Indian spirits on the warpath. The bathroom was playin' host to a group of ghostly settlers who kept circlin' their wagons. Made me kind of dizzy, so I went on to find a whole troop of dead folks in old-fashioned clothes occupying six spare bedrooms and a linen closet. The attic was filled to the rafters with spooky but substantial lady spirits dressed in lingerie and less, who said things to me that I would blush to repeat. They were doin' things, too, that would have gotten 'em arrested in most states except Georgia, and that's only if you do it with your cousin.
I beat feet out of the attic and finally found Lulu in one of them little cubby-hole places under the stairs. She was fast asleep, bless her heart, all tuckered out from gloating the whole day. She didn't rightly believe me about them ghosts at first. Lulu kept sniffin' my breath and wondering how the hell I managed to find Mr. Jack Daniels in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere. Don't rightly know what she smelled, though.
I ain't had a drop of hard liquor since Diddy Ryebolt got me drunk as a boiled owl and dared me to steal Dreama Slidell's g-string off the washin' line in her backyard. I think I was s'posed to run 'em up the flagpole outside the courthouse. Instead, I woke up hoisted to the top of the pole myself with the biggest, pinkest, laciest pair of drawers you ever laid eyes on bein' used as a sling. Folks sure gave me some odd looks after that. Nowadays, I stick to beer and cow tipping, 'cause I reckon I'm about the worst underwear bandito in history.
Anyhow, Lulu changed her mind about me being a low down dirty liar when some of them Indian spirits came riding down the staircase, chasin' a wagon train.
I think the cherry on the cake was some woman ghost bein' burned at the stake in the parlor. Or it might've been the headless guy who popped up out of the toilet when she went to relieve her distress at listenin' to said woman screeching and hollering fit to beat the band. As Lulu told me later, it was touch and go there for a minute, but she figured on treatin' it like a gas station facility and just hovered, although having a man between her thighs (even if he was only a ghost) was sure distractin', and not in a good way.
Lulu was still willin' to give the house a try. "Missy Purdue's place ain't full of haints," she says, watching a gaggle of gibbering ghosts in straight jackets bouncin' off the walls. "It might be fun."
I kept my mouth shut.
After about a minute, Lulu says, "Yes ma'am, I'm sure that nobody in Flathead County will have a more haunted house than ours."
I still kept my mouth shut. Ol' Butterbean ain't a complete moron, you know.
The headless ghost of the toilet came splashin' out into the vestibule. Some flappers from the 20's danced by, showing off their bullet wounds. A wagon rolled past my nose, followed by them damn Yankees marchin' in formation. All that noise just had to be heard to be believed. It was louder than a Fourth of July family reunion, a guinea hen convention, a Baptist tent rally and Two-For-One night at the Mass Panic Roadhouse, all rolled into one.
Lulu says, "We can get used to it, I'm sure."
And then, by thunder, some spooks-of-the-evening from the attic came jigglin' down the stairs, wearing nothing but smiles. They waved at me and called, "Yoo-hoo!" and I knew they weren't askin' for a cold drink.
Lulu gave me one of them looks. It like to have peeled my hide clean off. "If I find out that you've been eyeballin' other women, Butterbean Shirley McCall, I will knock your teeth down your throat and you'll spit 'em back single file."
See, I kept my mouth shut for a reason.
Well, we got out of there after that, and Lulu said not another word about buying the most haunted home in the whole state. Which should've made me happy, only it didn't 'cause Lulu gave me eleventy-dozen different kinds of hell over them naked lady ghosts. She even went so far as to confiscate the naked lady lighter I'd won from Whisper Haggard. No idea what she did with it, but damned if the backyard didn't stink of burned plastic somethin' fierce for a while.
I reckon the one who got the worst of it was Larry Cantrell. Turns out the house was not only built on an Indian burial ground, witch burnin' site and old cemetery which had never been moved, it had also been a whorehouse (all the girls were slaughtered by a dissatisfied customer), insane asylum (half-burned down after a massacre of the staff by the inmates), and speak-easy (another massacre). Larry said it was called the "Hell-no House" 'cause nobody who stayed more'n a night in the place would have it on a silver platter with a side helping of a million dollars.
Lulu paid Larry a visit and like to have snatched him bald-headed for playin' her such a trick. I believe the boy honestly thought that his cousin Lulu was the equal of anything a spook could throw at her - and normally, he'd be right - but he forgot about her jealous streak. There was no way that Lulu was goin' to let me live in a house with naked lady ghosts and that was final.
Things worked out for the best, though. Turned out Missy Purdue's house was really a fishin' shack on Lake Perdition that no self-respectin' cockroach would set foot in. She'd got it in the divorce settlement, along with Dillis Purdue's second-best pickup truck and a year's supply of frozen bait. Lulu was pert near in Seventh Heaven and skipping on Cloud Nine, 'cause the fishing shack we had on Dead Mule Pond was a heap sight better. It even had a flush toilet, while Missy's didn't boast nothing but a hole in the ground and an old Monkey Wards catalog.
You know, sometimes I wonder if I didn't bring something back with me from Hell-no House. On dark and moonless nights, when the bug zapper's working overtime and I'm on my fifth longneck of the evening, I can almost catch a glimpse of sequins out of the corner of my eye, and I swear I hear a voice calling, "Yoo hoo!"
And that's as true as grits is groceries, my son.