My mother-in-law says she don’t know what anybody is talking about no more.

I ask if she is having a problem with her hearing aids, but she says no, that that ain’t what she means. 

“Nobody talks in words no more, Modine,” Ms. Larda says to me. “They just use initials.”

“My own sons say they are going to the W.C., instead the terlit. Or the P.O. for Post Office. Or they smirk and say CYA for ‘Cover your (ahem).’ Sometimes the initials take longer to say than the actual words they stand for. 

“The air conditioner – excuse me, A/C – repair guy came out and started jabbering about PWR and KWs and finally I had to get  rid of him and call up somebody who spoke Chalmettian.

“And if it ain’t initials, it is bad words. Even when they ain’t mad about nothing, people just sprinkle them in whatever they say, like hot pepper. Even when they mean to give compliments. ‘That was funny as BAD WORD!’ ‘She is so BAD WORD gorgeous.’ It don’t make no sense to me.”

“And texting…I don’t want to talk about texting.” But she goes ahead and talks about texting. “Ty; lol; smh – What is that?  You know what I do? I just make something up and type it in. ‘Glzyk!’ Let THEM figure it out.”

I dunno. Glyzk might actually mean something dirty. I notice most weird-sounding words do. But before I can warn her about that, her phone rings, and it is Gloriosa, my sister in-law. She got a flat tire and needs Ms. Larda to rush off and pick up her little daughter Flambeau from pre-school.

Now, the teachers at this preschool have been making an art project out of the COVID-19 masks. They pass out the child-size  disposable kind and tell the kids to draw the bottom halves of  scary faces for Halloween. One day they got monster mouths, the next, Dracula fangs, the next, witchy noses and like that. Then the teachers paint their eyes to match, with washable makeup.

When Ms. Larda pulls up in the schools’ pick-up lane, Ms. Noonie, the teacher, is outside waiting with kids swirling around her – today they are all wearing orange pumpkin smiles and triangle noses and triangles around their eyes. Most also have knit caps because it’s a little chilly. Ms. Larda asks for Flambeau, and Ms. Noonie lifts the little redhead into the car seat and straps her in. 

After a half-block, Ms. Larda looks over and says, “Looka you! I bet you’re the only little girl in your class with a Batman cap!”

“Girl? I ain’t no girl!” the child announces, and pulls off the cap.

It’s true. This ain’t no girl. It also ain’t Flambeau. Ms. Larda suddenly realizes she is kidnapping somebody else’s redheaded child. 

She automatically stomps the brake and almost gets hit by a lady behind her, who stomps her brake, and everybody behind that lady stomps their brakes and honks and shouts  bad words (not meaning them for a compliment), and Ms. Larda starts to shout them too,  before she realizes she would be setting a bad example for whoever this kid is.

So she just snarls and wheels around and drives back to the school, where another redhead – this one wearing a Disney Princess Merida cap – is squalling to some man and everybody else  that Ms. Noonie put the wrong  kid into her grandma’s car, while Ms. Noonie, wearing her own pumpkin mask and triangle eyes, is wringing  her hands, and a lot of little kids in their own versions of pumpkin masks, stand around watching the show.

“That’s my daddy,” yowls the redhead in the car, pointing at the man, so Ms. Larda gets out the car and hands him over to his daddy. Ms. Noonie apologizes about 20 times, and starts to apologize for the 21st time, when Ms. Larda interrupts and, says to the daddy “BTW, I’m Larda Gunch and this is Flambeau.” 

The daddy says, “I’m A.J.  and this is J.D.”

“Of course,” Ms. Larda says “SMH,” and drives away with her own redhead.