May 11, 2006

The Fifteenth

Chester DuBois Chester the Fourteenth was the angriest man who ever walked the fair streets of Cedartown Georgia, until, that is, he returned from the second World War with a Purple Heart. Then he rolled the fair streets of Cedartown, even more hateful, kussing up a storm at anyone who offered him the briefest bit of attention.

And although a right sinister novel could easily be written about Ole Cripple Chester, this ain’t it, exactly. This story is about his three daughters, and the contest to determine which lucky grandson would be heir to his very name.

That Damned Name.

In 1516, the original Chester DuBois Chester was accused of being a French spy in the court of King Henry the VIII. He was executed two years later for treason. His son, Chester DuBois Chester the Second was exiled to Paris with his mother. In 1541, at the age of 28, he met John Calvin. Many years later, following his friend’s death, he returned to Britain as one of the first preachers of Calvinism.

In 1628, Chester DuBois Chester the Fourth, a royal scientist, helped discover how blood circulated in the human body. A hygienic man, he lived to a then unheard of 90 years of age and bore six children, including the Fifth Chester DuBois Chester who became a lawyer.

In 1732, the Sixth Chester DuBois Chester sailed aboard the first ship from England when Oglethorpe founded Georgia on the sandy shores of Savannah. Ole Cripple Chester was always quick to point out that his ancestor was a naval officer, not a debtor. In 1780, Chester DuBois Chester the Eighth led a band of Creek Indians against the British during the Battle of Augusta. He died of syphilis.

Chester DuBois Chester the Tenth, was a successful Dahlonega miner who in 1828 discovered the richest vein of gold in Georgia’s history. It was during this time the family settled permanently in the north Georgia area. In 1865, the twelfth named Chester DuBois Chester was present at Appomattox Court House when General Lee surrendered during the War of Northern Aggression.

His son, the Thirteenth Chester DuBois Chester, moved to the Cedartown area and established the town’s first gun store in 1899 where once there existed a Cherokee Indian pow-wow site.

War Hero.

In 1921, our Chester DuBois Chester was born. They say he was so mean he bit the doctor and spanked the nurse. Chester was drafted to fight the Japanese in 1941. Six months later he received a hero’s welcome home. A Purple Heart was awarded for his injuries received during battle. A parade was thrown in honor of the valiant soldier who sacrificed his legs killing three hundred Japanese deep in the heart of enemy territory.

The Chester DuBois Chester name had lived up to its proud history.

Until two months later, when the truth was revealed (over a contentious game of bingo at the Veteran’s Hall) that in fact hero Chester lost his limbs not from storming Emperor Hirohito’s private bunker, but when a comrade accidentally dropped a grenade on him. Chester DuBois Chester had never seen combat. He had never so much as even picked up a rifle.

This was when Ole Cripple Chester got his nickname, and his sour mood turned rotten as a September pear left for deer to eat.

Save for the Grace of God, his childhood sweetheart, Mrs. Bethanny Atkins-Chester, had the soul of a saint and the patience of a mountain. She cared for him and loved him more than any person on the planet could.

Mrs. Bethanny would joke, “Well, some gals prefer flowers. I guess I don’t mind hugging on a cactus. Even a cactus has flowers if you get close enough.”

Mrs. Bethanny bore a tremendous burden at the expense of Ole Cripple’s temper. More than anything Mister Chester wanted a son to carry on his proud name, his family’s fourteen generation legacy. Bereft of his legs, with no joy in his life, that heavy name was all the poor, pitiful man had. Unfortunately, no boys would be born, only girls.

The Daughters.

In 1948 Bethanny and Chester had their first baby girl. They named her Cookie in honor of Bethanny’s widow aunt. Perhaps they should have considered a name like celery or carrot.

Cookie was born a skinny baby, but soon became a rather plump girl. She grew and grew. As the size of her stature expanded, so did the size of her personality. Cookie was the friendliest gal you ever could have met. The society ladies of the Women's Club always commented on "what a pretty face" she had.

Cedartown hardly believed such an out-going young woman came from the loins of such a bitter old coot. And that old coot sure loved Cookie. Her demonic daddy doted on his sweet-cream dollop of a daughter, even as he openly told the entire town how he regretted the fact that she wasn’t born a boy.

Mrs. Bethanny gave it another try (with the help of Chester) six years later. Marjory Chester popped from her oven. A baby sister delighted Cookie (she relished eating her pureed veggies) but infuriated Chester. Still no boy.

Marjory was a pretty enough gal, but soon proved to be the dullest young lady ever born in Polk County, Georgia, ever. Some folk privately questioned if she was a bit touched. She often sat alone. If ever a society lady asked young Margery how her day was going, she would stare blankly in the sky.

It was quickly assumed that portly Cookie had gobbled up all the family personality, leaving Miss Marjory starved of any womanly charm.

Chester formerly declared he would have as many babies as it took to get himself a son!

Shortly following, Mister Chester DuBois Chester was diagnosed as sterile. His job mopping at Cedartown’s chemical plant had exposed him to gases which rendered his soldiers “unfit for duty”. That was as dark a day as any he’d seen; darker even than that terrible night at bingo when the truth of his war deeds came to be exposed.

Chester DuBois Chester the Fourteenth was defeated. Many a night their gloomy home rattled with the sounds of his sobbing; mother and daughters quietly knitting downstairs as depressed daddy drank himself into a stupor.

By this point, Chester had given up hope of even a grandson to carry on his legacy. As mentioned, Cookie was a bit on the heavy side. Sure she knew how to cook and keep a neat house, but despite her sense of humor, was absolutely tongue-tied when speaking to boys. And poor Marjory, except for school and the briefest of appearances at the family dinner table, spent her entire young life in her bedroom tending to her collection of ceramic kittens.

Eventually Cookie went to beauty school and opened her own salon on Broad Street called Cookie’s Broadway Hair. Marjory went to nursing school and ended up working at Polk County General Hospital, suitably enough as an anesthesiologist’s assistant.Despite their successful careers, the two ladies continued to live with their parents in that sunken home on College Street well into their late twenties.

It was in 1978 that an unexpected spark ignited the old kindling boards of that dismal house. At the age of fifty-three, Mrs. Bethanny Louise Atkins-Chester was having a third baby! Like the Sons of the Confederacy, Mister Chester’s soldiers had never given up the fight. Chester DuBois Chester wheeled himself up and down Main Street crowing like a rooster. He bought a case of cigars in anticipation of the birth.

The cigars would never be smoked. In October of 1978, another daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Chester. Turns out Chester the Fourteenth’s “soldiers” were actually Amazons.

Mister Chester DuBois Chester would have tossed himself off the Rockmart Highway Bridge if he’d been able to roll himself to the top. People waved from their cars that rainy Tuesday morning as he sat in his government issued wheelchair, crying pitifully. For the first year of Caitlyn’s life, her elderly daddy refused to acknowledge her very existence.

Father’s opinion began to change as Caitlyn grew into a stunning young lady. She possessed the women of the family’s trademark blonde curls (except Marjory who always wore her dull flaxen hair in a severe bun). Caitlyn was funny too, some said funnier than big sister Cookie. And above all else, Caitlyn had a string of young, able-bodied boys snaked out the door eager for a date to the balcony of the Cedartown Cinema.

Daddy finally had a chance for a grandson and an heir to his vaulted name.

To be continued...

2 comments:

MEK the Bear said...

"Turns out Chester the Fourteenth’s “soldiers” were actually Amazons."

Two things, first, this literally made me snort out loud at work, not pretty, and thank you for that.

And second, perhaps Caitlyn should have been named Diana Prince Chester?

Aaron said...

Neil, have you ever thought of writing for "All My Children?" I think that you could seriously enlived their storytelling.