A new mattress was delivered to my home yesterday. This should have been a non-event, because whatever excitement that happens around a mattress should happen when it’s on the bed, if you know what I mean, and not while it’s still in the box.
This mattress apparently thought otherwise. First, a bolt on the spring thingee that keeps the storm door open popped off, and the door slammed against one of the mattress guys, and he stumbled and knocked over a plant on my porch.
Inside, when I asked them to lean the box against the foyer wall, a decorative plate fell off the opposite wall. One guy began to apologize, but I assured him it wasn’t his fault. That wall hanger was too small, and the plate was nothing special, anyway. Had it been a family heirloom, I would have been upset, but there is too much boy traffic in my house for heirlooms hanging in the foyer. The plate was pretty, but I think it came from TJ Maxx. No loss to replace.
But as I was reassuring mattress guy #1, mattress guy #2 said, “I think this mattress is jinxed.”
I’d have laughed, but he looked like he meant it. In fact, he was backing away from the box like it had a social disease. After they left, I regarded it suspiciously, too. Fallen plant, busted door, smashed plate—not good omens for an item meant to provide restful sleep.
While I swept up the plate remains, I kept an eye on that mattress, just in case it was planning more damage. I checked on the other decorative plates, too. These, for instance, were a housewarming gift from my grandmother. Had one of them fallen, it would have been a calamity.
And a message: Throw out the mattress. It is snakebit.
When my husband came home, I told him about the afternoon fiasco. I joked that someone had put a hex on the dad-gum mattress, but at least we were spared a shattered housewarming plate. That would have left me wretched.
Calamity. Snakebit. Hex. Dad-gum. Wretched. When you grew up in the South, as I did, describing even a small drama like mattress moving with boring terms like jinx or bad luck just won’t do. The whole point of drama is to be dramatic, right?
My people don’t have arguments–they have brouhahas. They don’t yell–they holler or caterwaul. A problem is a tribulation or a cross to bear or, in Louisiana, a travail. Trouble leads to misadventures at best or a debacle at worst, or stepping in a cow pie if things get really ugly. Boys do misdeeds because they are bone-headed. Stubborn is one thing, but contraieuse is stubborn to a fault. A fool is guilty of falderal, and he blathers and prattles because he is full of horse feathers.
And then there are fights. I come from a peace-loving French Catholic family, but I can scare up more descriptive words for physical combat than you can shake a stick at: brawl, fracas, set-to, melee, wrassle, licking, tune up, roughhousing, workout, work over, confab, whomping, whooping, fixing to kick your butt.
These terms are not limited to the South, of course, but the strong oral history tradition there leans toward colorful language. If I had described the mattress moving as: “Outside, the spring on the door broke and a plant fell over, and then in the foyer, the mattress banged the wall and a plate fell down,” it would have been accurate. But boring. Not a misadventure or even a jinx. Or a calamity, that’s for sure.
We moved the mattress upstairs and set it on the bed. It’s one of those newfangled kinds of mattresses that has to breathe for a few days before you cover it with some nice quality resort-grade linens and a pillow covered with a heavy cotton case with hand-embroidered edges, and finally top that with a Flying Geese quilt or, if you’re a whippersnapper from the North, a down comforter.
The mattress is still expanding, however, so it must remain bare for another day or two. This seems unnatural. Suspicious, even. A bare bed is just not proper.
I checked on it a couple of times in the evening. Lying there. Looking as sweet as tea. Innocent as a baby’s behind. Finally, at bedtime, I went in for a final check. I squinted, backed out of the door, and pointed my finger at it before I walked away.
“You behave yourself, you hear?” I warned. “No more ruckus out of you. No hijinks, either. Or tomfoolery. Or shenanigans. Or…”
I could have stayed up all night, warning that mattress to act like it was brought up right. This morning, it’s still there, so cool and calm and sedate, it’s alarming. But don’t worry, y’all. I am not fooled a bit. I’ve got a voodoo doll all set to go if that mattress starts to act up again.
In your world and heritage, what words are used to describe drama or conflict?