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Marilynn M. Wilkins

Wardrobe Malfunction




                    Marilynn M. Wilkins                    



In the summer of 1956, my Grandma Tellulah got a standing ovation at the fourth of July parade. Her giant watermelon won Best of Show at the fair.                                                                                                                


We were proud of her. So proud that we helped prepare for her ride in the parade by hitching the flatbed trailer to dad’s Ford pick-up, decorating it with red bandanas, hoisting three bales of hay up on the trailer and taking Grandma to Lola’s Cut and Curl to get her hair done. Lola coaches the contestants in the Miss Azalea contest every year. She knows make-up and hair-do’s.


She ratted and smoothed Grandmas’ hair into a fancy coiffure and lacquered it down so stiff a Texas tornado could not budge it. Grandma didn’t look too good in blue eye shadow; a vast wrinkled palate of robin-egg blue spread from lash to eyebrow but we never let on.      


That night, she slept in the recliner in the livingroom, hair wrapped in toilet paper, nylon head scarf laid gently across her face. She was still snoring when the rest of the family went out to load the one-hundred two pound Blue Diamond melon the next morning.                                                                                                                     


The trick was to get the melon and Grandma loaded so that dad could drive downtown by eight-thirty for the parade line-up. We gave them a family send-off, my brother Beau,(short for Beauregard),tossed Grandmas’ bottle of nitroclycerine tablets, left behind on the kitchen table, onto the hay as they pulled away from the curb.  


We watched until they rounded the corner at the end of our block, our body’s leaning, lips pursed tight. Then Beau covered both eyes with his hands muttering, “Oh, NO!"


Dad turned the corner way too short about the time they passed Mrs. Handover’s yard, the trailer teetering on two wheels and with Grandma sitting like a stone statue in her green lawn chair, unaware of how close they were to toppling over.


They lined up Dad and Grandma behind the Hope Plumbing Company float. It was really just an old pick-up with a hot water heater secured with rope in the bed and signs advertising Hope Plumbing taped to the doors. Guess you can’t be too picky when it comes to the line-up as long as you get to ride. Thank God the horse poop dropped on the street courtesy of the Sidewinder Trail Riders, was behind Grandma and not in front.  


Me, Momma and Beau dressed really fast, grabbed our little American flags, the picnic basket and headed for town. We got really good seats on the bleachers pretty close to the mayor and his wife.


The Mayor's wife inquired about the special watermelon seeds we ordered from Texas A and M. We gave her all of the info about how to order, like she was really gonna put her hands in dirt or somethin! She gets queasy when a fly buzzes around her straw hat, much less when a long worm squiggles out of the loamy soil as your punching those seeds down to just the right depth for a champion melon.                                                                                       


 I thought then and there that this was OUR DAY, the day our family would make up for all those side-ways glances from the locals because our family never had anything to brag about. 


Then came Grandma! We spotted her tall grey hairdo a long way off. Just at the right time, the high school band broke out in a snappy rendition of Deep in the Heart of Texas. The sun at the ten o’clock position beat down on our sweaty brows as our necks stretched as far as we could stretch looking for our float. Momma elbowed us in the ribs as she came into sight.                                                                                   


And then . . . Grandma Tellulah stood up and waved with all of her strength, unaware that she had worn her old worn out panties with no elastic. Her Fruit of the LoomsTM were down around her ankles.


Dad jammed on the brakes, got out, walked back and spoke a few words no one could make-out. She stepped out of her underwear and handed them to dad. He thrust them into the pocket of his overalls and hastily crawled back into the cab.   


As he took off, the trailer jerked so hard Grandma slammed back into her lawn chair, still smiling and waving at the crowd. The crowd rose up and cheered, waving their flags.


God Bless America, nineteen fifty-six.                                                                                                                           




MARILYNN M. WILKINS lives and writes in San Antonio, Texas. You can read some of her archived work  at Bewildering Stories, Laura Hird, Skive Magazine, Word Riot, Thieves Jargon and Long Story Short.


"Wardrobe Malfunction was inspired by a true story about a local senior citizen who lost her underwear while taking her seat in church on Sunday morning. Her two daughters happened to be Marilynn’s friends and thus the vision of embarrassing moments with Grandmas around the country became the seed of many stories, including one entitled,  What To Do About Momma. "