Saturday, July 14, 2012
By Al Gray
The first time anyone met Alice Babe it was unforgettable. Alice was gruff. Alice was tall. Alice had big arms – with tattoos in a time in which you just didn’t see women with tattoos, especially a contracts payable clerk in a Fortune 50 corporate accounting setting.
Alice was a biker chick in an outlaw motorcycle club, who spent her weekends riding from Winston Salem over to Wrightsville or Myrtle Beaches, generally in the company of her husband, Butch, and a crowd of others who were most certainly not accounting types. Every Monday she would come in with her eyes looking like red-rimmed slits of malevolence. The woman had me intimidated so badly that I avoided her until Tuesdays.
The tattoo on Alice Babe’s arm was of a fierce Amazon warrioress astride a stallion clutching a bow. She muttered something about being of Cherokee descent on one of the rare instances she did more than grunt or issue profanities. Maybe it was from working with contractors, who knows. At any rate the tattoo, her size, and her bouffant hairdo were really domineering.
If you had to pick which one of the apparel group accounting clerks who would have really turned outlaw, it would have been Alice Babe, but that dubious honor went to her friend, Windy Hawley. Windy set up a dummy bank account in the name of one of the company’s vendors. She then would take accounts payable checks to deposit into the fake account. This rocked on pretty well for Windy, until one day she encountered a replacement bank teller who knew that the company, payee to the checks, did business with Wachovia, not First Union. After a few visits from the company Certified Fraud Examiners, guys who fittingly always seemed to have 5 o’clock shadows and were from New York, the story came out that Windy had stolen $775,000 and had a very large boat docked in Fort Lauderdale. Alice stormed, “You mean that witch had a yacht down in Florida and didn’t invite me once? I hope she rots!”
Windy went to prison. Alice was aghast, only because she was wondering, “Why haven’t I had the nerve to try that?”
Strangely, we got to be friends. She and Butch lived around the corner off of Reynolda Blvd. in a white, wood-framed house with an enormous garage full of Harley motorbikes. I didn’t visit much, because they were gone nearly every weekend and I was on one of three mega project sites during the week.
Alice reveled in her tough woman persona. I was actually intimidated by her and Butch. After one weekend war, Butch came home all sliced and bruised up, without part of his left ear, lending credence to their braggadocio about being outlaws.
All of that intimidation vanished in a flash. Late one Sunday night in May 1993, my phone rang. It was Alice. She was screaming in anguish, hysteria, and genuine fear. “HELP!!!!!!” she yelled, “there is some horrible MONSTER in our house!!!! You are a woodsman guy, right?” I admitted to being prone to visit the woods now and then. “COME OVER AND DO SOMETHING with this AWFUL ANIMAL!” Alice squalled.
I threw on some clothes and took off for the Babe house. When I got there, Alice and Butch were quivering in the yard. She prompted me to enter the house. I said, “Where is this creature?” She said, “In the bathroom.” I had a big stick, but really didn’t now what to expect, for surely anything fierce enough to turn Butch and Alice into tubs of jelly was something to be respected.
When I saw what it was, I started laughing.
The monster in Alice’s bathroom was a possum! I used to catch possums in my rabbit boxes as a kid, so I knew to grab him by the tail, but be wary that he would turn up on his tail and bite me if I let him. I threw the critter into a corrugated box, so I could release him over at Wake Forest University across the way, where wildlife fits right in. (‘Demon Deacons’ is right!)
Out in the yard, Butch and Alice were visibly relieved.
Something got lost, though, and it was my sense of intimidation from those two.
Turning to face them, putting my hands on my hips, I looked and started laughing. “Just look at y’all,” I said. “You had me fooled into thinking that you were tough people who could hurt me just as soon as look at me. Now THIS! Y’all were afraid of a lil ole possum? You, the fierce outlaws?” I laughed all the way to the car. I am pretty sure Mr. Possum was grinning, too.
Warrior Queen Alice existed no more in my eyes. Her frizzled hair wasn’t that way of of being deliberately unkempt, it was that way because of fear. The possum magically reduced her from an Amazon woman to the point that she was seen as a squalling basket case. Squaw Alice of the Hawg Rider clan she came to be for me. I never dreamed a possum could have that much power. Hoping for a reprise, though, I turned Mr. Possum loose at the trash chute of a girls’ dorm.
It never hurts to try to prolong one’s fun.***