Magnolia Blossoms

By: Rhonda Dennis

Chapter One

You know that guy on the TV commercials—the rotund, obnoxious attorney who fervently strokes his long gray beard while sporting a seersucker suit and browline glasses? The one who promises to “get you the money you deserve faster than green grass through a goose?” Well, he’s my father, Big Daddy. And the middle-aged woman whom people love gossiping about—the one with super long, curly blonde hair, the body of someone half her age, and offers the majority of her art classes while nude—that’s my mother, Sunny.

What results when these larger than life personalities procreate? An overwhelmingly beautiful and outspoken extrovert? Nope. Instead, you get me, Magnolia Picasso Berrybush. Imagine going through elementary school with parents like mine AND the last name of Berrybush. The kids weren’t very kind, so my self-preservation plan included blending into the background as much as possible. It’s a plan that I still use to this day.

I should also mention that I’m incredibly thin, so thin that I’ve been told I have to stand up twice to make a shadow. A la beaver style, my oversized front teeth protrude well past my lower lip. My overbite was supposed to be fixed via orthodontia when I turned ten, but Jimmy Jenkins told me I’d never be able to leave the house when it rained because I’d attract lightning. It was a chance I wasn’t willing to take; it rains a lot in South Louisiana. Of course I now know that he was being a jerk, but twenty-two years have gone by, and I’m still sporting buckteeth. Damn Jimmy Jenkins and his stupid lies.

My long, mousy brown hair is always in a tight bun directly on top of my head, and all I ever wear are turtlenecks, ankle length argyle skirts, and one of the three pairs of boots I own: one black, one brown, and one yellow rubber for the rainy days. It doesn’t matter that the majority of our days are scorchers. That’s all I wear.

Freckles dot my face, and I rarely shave my legs or armpits, not because I’m trying to make a statement, but simply because I’m lazy and I don’t care. What’s the point? I have no life. Never had a boyfriend—ever. I haven’t a single friend either, but I’m okay with that. No one ever understands me, and I gave up trying figure out people a long time ago. I’m just fine living life with me, myself, and I.

I lace the strap of my overstuffed messenger bag between my nearly non-existent breasts then shut the door to my little apartment that sits over my parents’ garage. With a white-knuckled grip on the handrail, I gingerly ease my way down the steep stairs. One foot down, next foot, together. One foot down, next foot, together. I always repeat that mantra whenever I descend stairs. Grateful for yet another successful voyage down my Mt. Everest, I smile as my heart rate returns to normal.

My parents’ house is a huge turn-of –the-century home with a wraparound porch. The pillars are white, the siding is garishly yellow, and the trim is French Quarter green, another amalgamation of Sunny’s and Big Daddy’s distinct, yet dissimilar preferences. I enter their house through a side entrance, and I’m instantly greeted with bright, lemon yellow walls. Voices echo down the hall, so I assume Sunny is in the middle of an art lesson. Yep, the sunroom is filled with easels, canvases, saggy balls, and droopy boobies. It’s a sight that I’ve unfortunately acclimated to, so I don’t even blink as I pass the glassed-in room to make my way to the kitchen.

“Hello Magnolia, darlin’. What brilliant adventure does this day have in store for you?” Big Daddy roars. He never turns it off. He’s always in full theatrical mode.

“Work,” I softly answer, my back turned to him while filling my travel mug with coffee.

“That’s nice. I’m off to court. Tell Sunny that I’ll likely run late today. My client was charged with—murder.” He draws his fist closed, and after shutting his eyes, he plants his forehead on top of it. He sighs heavily. “I foresee quite a long and incredibly draining day.” He snaps out of his “woe is me” routine and cheerily asks, “Magnolia, is Big Daddy’s tie straight?”

“Yes, sir,” I say, barely glancing his way.

“Excellent. Did you need anything before I go?” he asks, sliding file folders into his leather briefcase.