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Diamonds are Forever: Section One

       Last updated: Thursday, March 25, 2004 02:41 EST



1. Calling Mamma

    "You're getting MARRIED?!"

    I had to pull the receiver away from my ear. Father always said if Mamma was in full voice she could break window glass over in the next county. "Yes, Mamma. I asked Jodi yesterday and she accepted."

    "Well, that's WONDERFUL!" Another ear-saving reaction. Her voice shifted to No Nonsense mode. "Now you've put this off long enough, Clinton Jefferson Slade. You're bringin' that girl home to meet your family this very week, you hear? I know you can take that time off iff'n you try, in that big fancy job that you're so important at."

    When Mamma uses your whole name, there isn't anything for it but you'd better do as you're told. "Yes, Mamma. It's just... Mamma, she's city."

    "Well, now, I know that, boy. What other kind of girl would you be meeting in New York? We're not complete uneducated out here, you know."

    I lowered my voice. "Mamma, I'll come. I'll bring her, okay. But... is everything okay there?"

    "Well, of COURSE it..." Mamma cut off short, then sighed. "Oh. Yes, Clinton, ain't been none of that in quite a while. Daddy Zeke said you might be tryin' to hide that from this girl and that was why we hadn't met her."

    "From anyone, Mamma, not just Jodi. Family's never told anyone, and I didn't aim to change that." I was slightly embarrassed to hear the Kentucky accent getting stronger; it always did when I talked to family. Not that I was really embarrassed about my family, not really, but... sometimes they were so weird. "So everything is okay?"

    "Just FINE, dear. Now, we'll be expecting you when?"

    I did a quick calculation in my head. "Say, Monday evening? We'll be driving and I'll have to make some arrangements before we go."

    "That will be just fine, Clint dear." I was back to Clint now, so that was good. I hadn't been at all sure how they'd take me marrying a city girl, even though they really thought I was more than half city myself now. "We'll do you proud, boy, because we really are all proud of you, first Slade to finish college this century and all, and you done so well."

    I blushed, and I know darn well Mamma could tell, even over the phone. "Aw, Mamma, ain't any big deal, really. Anyone in the family coulda done it."

    "Don't you go selling yourself short, Clint dear. Even Evangeline knows perfectly well you're the genius in our family, and she's no dummy herself. Take care, and the whole family will be looking for you!"

    We exchanged kisses over the phone, silly though that sounds, and I hung up.

    "So," Jodi said, coming over, "were those bellows of fury, or was she happy to hear about it?"

    "You could hear her?"

    "Oy vey, Clint," she said, smiling. "Thought she'd break your eardrums with a couple of those."

    Jodi was something of an anachronism. Her grandparents were immigrants who still spoke more Yiddish than English and had maintained an intimidatingly firm emphasis on the link between the old and new traditions. Linguistic traditions, anyway, if not religious ones. Jodi's grandfather had been active in the needle trade unions, a follower of Max Shachtman's brand of socialism. He had no use for religions of any kind, but that hadn't stopped him from maintaining a number of Jewish habits and customs. Jodi's family was almost a time capsule of clichés from the '40s and '50s, and Jodi had inherited enough to sound like a near-parody of the New York "Jewish American Princess." So why did I find her Yiddish, of all things, endearing? Especially when spoken with that New York accent that reminded me of nails on a chalkboard?

    Probably just the blindness of love, I had to admit. I'd known Jodi Goldman for four years, though, so hopefully the blindness (or, in this case, deafness) would last for many years yet. "She was ecstatic," I said, answering her question. "I guess I should have more faith in my family, but they are still, well..."

    "About as rustic backwoods as you were when you first showed up?"

    I laughed. "Worse, sweetheart. I'd gone through college before that, remember. First Slade-"

    "-this century, yes, I know, my fave nebbish. You mentioned it a time or two, probably because your whole family mentions it every time you go home, yes?"

    "And on the phone. Look, I sorta committed us to go visit. You don't argue with Mamma."

    "Yeah, sounds like my mother. When are we supposed to get there, so they can get a good look at what a horse you're bringing home?"

    Jodi's sensitive about her height-she's taller than me by two inches or so, and I'm almost six feet tall. This doesn't bother me, but when she's nervous she tends to fret about it. As well as her weight, which for her height is just fine. "Don't you worry about that, Jodi. When they get a look at you, Father'll be tellin' me how lucky I am, and I'll have to watch so Adam doesn't try to steal you. Next week."

    "What? Are you totally meshugg? What about work?"

    "Mamma knows I can take the time off. What about you?"

    She made a sort of growling noise in her throat, and then hummed several bars of a Streisand tune-a sign she was both thinking and calming herself down. "Okay, yeah, I think I can do that. They won't be thrilled, but if we want to make your Mamma happy, I can live with it. Oy, I have packing to do! Do you have electricity where you live?"

    I managed to keep from laughing. "Yes. We have our own generators, actually. Every month Father or Adam trucks in to town to buy the fuel. Had to have the phone line run in special; these days I suppose we'd have done something like get a satellite link, but not back when the family first decided to get one."

    Jodi blinked. "Running out a phone line just for you? That's pretty pricey, Clint."

    "I said we was backwoods," I drawled, emphasizing my Kentucky accent. "Didn't say we was poor backwoods. If the Slades ain't the richest family in Crittenden County, it's only 'cause we've spent a lot of it the last few decades."

    "I never knew, Clint." Jodi looked at me with surprise. "How'd your family get rich?"

    I realized my big mouth had me dangerously close to the secret. Time to follow the honorable Slade tradition of ducking the truth. "One of my ancestors, Winston Slade, made a ton of money mining, and brought it with him to the homestead when he settled down." That was, as one of my online friends would put it, "telling the truth like a Jedi"-it was true "from a certain point of view." If I'd done the casual voice right, though, she'd never suspect a thing. Once we were married, we'd be living near New York and just visit the family homestead once in a while, so the chances were she'd never have to know.

    "Well, that'll be a relief for my more cynical relatives," Jodi said, throwing back her long black hair. "They were kinda worried about just what your background was, especially with your nickname."

    I wasn't very surprised. "I suppose 'Crowbar' Slade does sound either like a real honest-to-god Good Ole Boy, or like a wannabe wrestler." Truth was, I'd gotten the nickname in college because my roommates noticed I had a crowbar in my baggage when I moved in, and that I had that particular bag with me most of the time.

    "Look," Jodi said, "if we're leaving to get there Monday like I think I heard you say, I gotta get moving. We just got tomorrow to get ready. And like I didn't already have a busy schedule tomorrow? You know what sort of planning I have to do for the wedding, and now we have to schlep all the way to Kentucky." She leaned slightly down and we both shut up for a while for the good-bye kiss, which lasted for several kisses as usual before she finally got out the door.

    I sighed and grinned. Hey, maybe this would be fun.

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