Velva's Broken Collarbone by Allen Rolf Hmmmm ..... well, last time I told you about the mad dog that came down our street after the government man made us move into the shot gun in the city. The story brings to mind Velva Shurmpnik and her broken collarbone. Velva and her husband, Johnny, and their two kids lived in a shot gun next door. Ma claimed that Velva was white trash, not because of the way she and Johnny drank, but because of the way she killed her chickens. Ma would take her chicken and carefully lay its head on a block and whack it off with a double edge axe. Ma was very careful about this, since it was the only proper way to decapitate a chicken or member of French royalty. Velva would do it different. She would take the chicken by the head and wind it several times around her head until the body came loose and flopped across the yard. The method drove Ma crazy. Ma would stand at the back door watching. "White trash," she would growl, "nothin' but white trash." Me and my sister Margaret were partial to Velva's method. Much more exciting, and we always wondered if the poor chicken would make it across the yard without its head. Margaret and I did not realize it at the time, but we were fortunate to live in a neighborhood completely devoid of alcoholism ...... most of the people in our neighborhood just couldn't hold their liquor, and since it was the middle of World War II, they drank every weekend just pass the time. Velva and Johnny were star performers. But Johnny had a problem when he couldn't hold no more liquor. Johnny liked to beat up on Velva and each weekend was Saturday night at the fights. Now in those days, the Marriage Counselor had not been invented yet and the role was delegated (along with Baptism, Penance, and Extreme Unction,and other sacraments) to the local parish priest. So it is not surprising that good Father Lawrence was a frequent early week visitor to the Shurmknic household, particularly after Velva showed up at Sunday Mass with her kids and two black eyes. Because it was war time and gasoline was in ration, Father Lawrence would arrive, cassock hitched up around his waist, on his Schwinn Bike that had been given to him by his parishioners for long and dedicated service. When Father Lawrence came down the street on his bike, everyone knew that Johnny had had trouble holding his liquor again. On one particular night after consuming a pint of Early Times, Johnny had a particularly bad bout with the liquor and instead of blackening Velva's eyes, he hurled her bodily out the back door. (Sure enough, my Ma was standing in our back door and guess what she said?) Velva flopped across the backyard like a headless chicken for a full minute with Johnny in close pursuit. Luckily, Velva got away and ran down the alley. Later some neighbors caught Velva four blocks away and hauled her off to the hospital where the good doctors determined that she had only suffered a broken collarbone. Needless, Johnny woke up the next day with a terrible hangover. As certain as rain in November, Father Lawrence visited the following Monday on his bike. He took a stern exception to Johnny having drank so much liquor the previous Saturday that broken bones resulted. The marital adjustment took place, as always in those times, at the Shurmpnic kitchen table. On one side sat a repentant Johnny and on the other a crying Velva nursing her broken collarbone. Between sat the good Father Lawrence. "Johnny," said Father, "I want you to be better to your wife Velva, and Velva I want you to be careful and not upset Johnny so much when he's drinking." Johnny gave the sign of the cross and mumbled, "O.K. Father." Velva let out a giant sob. No one to this day knows if she ever figured out what she said to Johnny to get him upset enough to throw her out the back door. Father Lawrence gave them his blessing and departed on his bike. There was peace in the neighborhood once more. 30 1999 Allen Rolf
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