One Genuine Imitation
Pearly Thornbottom sat next to me in the back seat of the car as we drove through town. I was about to find out what a treat it was going to be, meeting this strange woman.
"Oh, look!" She turned to me, eyes dancing. "A funeral parlor!" She couldn't say "funeral" very well, what with her lips sucked in over her gums.
"I'd like to live nextht door to one...it would give a body tschuch tschecurity." The words "such security" didn't come through too smoothly, either. Her eyes crinkled around the edges as she smiled, smacking her lips for emphasis, I guess. I had to smile, too. I couldn't help myself. In fact, all of us in the car erupted laughing.
You see, Pearly was not the toothless old woman she appeared to be. Pearly was actually my fourteen-year-old "baby" sister, Naomi. Wherever she came up with this alter ego persona is a mystery to me. I was home on vacation when the funeral-parlor experience became our introduction.
Out of the blue, Pearly would just appear. She had mastered the look. With her lips sucked in to cover her teeth, along with the "old lady" mannerisms, Naomi transformed herself in an instant. All the nieces and nephews in the extended family loved to be in her presence when she happened to show up. She had everyone's undivided attention. Their little eyes sparkled with anticipation just waiting for the punch line so they could explode in laughter.
One day Naomi and I were with two of our brothers, Joel and Pete. I discovered Pearly had more to her story. Apparently Joel played the part of Pearly's husband, "Art'ur," in this mini melodrama. Even though Arthur and Pearly had fourteen children, he still had a roving eye, the scamp. Pete's character was their eldest son, Herman. Unfortunately, the children inherited Pearly's poor teeth. But, the family was too poor to afford dentures for everyone. So, come Saturday night, Herman didn't ask to borrow the car keys. He asked if he could borrow the sole set of dentures.
Now, on this occasion, Pearly had to console Herman. One of the other children had already laid claim to the dentures for Saturday night. "It's okay, Herman. You'll be fine. In fact, it's better for the pucker."
Another time, pulling out of the parking lot at Sears, Joel in the driver's seat did a double take at a couple pretty girls close by. Immediately Pearly appeared. Sitting behind him, she reached forward and rapped Joel on the shoulder with the tips of her fingers.
"I thaw that, Art'ur!" The "t"s whistled off the tip of her tongue. "If you don't behave yourthelf, you'll have to go to bed without any thupper!"
"Art'ur" looked back over his shoulder, a twinkle in his eyes. "Well, that's okay, Pearly, as long as you come to bed, too!"
Pearly got the strangest, most perplexed look on her "old" face. She turned to me. "Did I thay that right?"
Sad to report, Pearly died when Naomi met her husband-to-be. She had another more glamorous image to maintain with him in her presence. As much as we might coax her, young and old alike, Naomi refuses to bring Pearly out of mothballs for our entertainment.
We mourn the loss of our beloved Pearly. But, we console ourselves, trying to do our own poor imitations of this funny baby sister, by re-telling her stories. In fact, we embellish them, adding characters to the drama. Let's see, there's Franny Plump, the love of Herman's life. And he has a rival for her affections, one of the Chance brothers: Fat Chance.
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