THE DAY MY COUSIN GOT TRENCH MOUTH
There was no way of not knowing that my uncle liked to drink on the weekends. I’d been around him enough as young girl to notice that: He was married to my mom’s sister. And I spent a lot of time at their house in St. Albans for my parents and I lived there as well and our house was pretty close to theirs.
I knew my parents knew that he drank; they even knew that his brothers did as well. But he never drank on a work day or evening—he saved drinking for the weekend.
My aunt and uncle had a son and a daughter: I was two years older than their son and four years older than their daughter. For some reason on a hot summer Saturday I was in my uncle’s car: Two of his brothers were in the front seat and my male cousin and I were in the back. I was nine and he was seven: He kept pinching me and I kept telling him to stop it but it did no good; even my uncle knew that his son was doing that and hollered at him to quit. Didn’t work.
The day was as hot as all get out and at that time no car had air conditioning—you just suffered and prayed that the car windows were rolled down. And they were.
My uncle pulled up in front of a bar that was near a movie theater that I knew really well: I had seen that bar but certainly had never been in it that is until that moment. He parked the car, I watched his brothers get out, my cousin get out and so I followed them all inside. It was almost pitch dark inside with a few lights scattered here; the long bar had a lot of lights behind it and bar stools were in front of it. My uncle and his brothers sat down on stools as did my cousin so I figured I’d better do the same.
They ordered cold beer and Cokes for my cousin and me. That cold Coke was wonderful to drink and most of mine was gone; I looked over and he was not drinking his Coke but was drinking some leftover beer out of a bottle that had been left by someone on the counter. I heard my uncle scream at him but it didn’t do any good for my cousin kept drinking out of someone else’s beer bottle. Seemed about an hour or so that we were in there and luckily it wasn’t far from my aunt and uncle’s house. Of course my uncle and his brothers had glass beer bottles in the front seat and were drinking out of them.
How was I supposed to know that was illegal? But it wasn’t illegal to take kids in a bar at that time: I’m not sure if I ever told my parents that day what had happened but the next day I would have to tell them because that was the day that my cousin got trench mouth. My aunt called my mom and told her that his lips were so big that they were turned inside out! She went into hysterics, called the local doctor and jerked him into the car so my mom told me and he was given some kind of medicine.
It wasn’t nice to think but I thought that it served him right for pinching me all the way to that bar and not minding his dad. I’d never seen anyone with trench mouth until I saw him that Sunday evening. His mouth was so big that it went up to his nose and seemed to stretch across his entire face.
As he was prone to do, he had a crying fit and although I’m sure his mouth hurt, I reasoned that he should never have drunk from someone else’s half empty beer bottle. Both of my cousins [as well as me] had been taught to never drink from someone else’s bottle or glass and seeing him made me realize why we had been taught that lesson.
And I had to explain to my parents how he got it and where we were which did not go over well for let’s just say that was the first and last time that my uncle ever took me into a bar with his brothers and with his son.
And trust me, I was terrified of getting trench mouth for seeing my cousin with it was a horrid sight but don’t blame me when I didn’t feel sorry for him—he did it to himself I reasoned as much as a nine year old could. And he didn’t listen to his dad. Of course my uncle could have gotten off his bar stool and taken that bottle away from him but he was pretty far gone beer-wise and was more interested in his own drinking.
Maybe my cousin wanted to be like him and his uncles. Who knows? His mom was furious at my uncle for taking us there in the first place and even more furious at her son. All I know is that he had a horrid case of trench mouth and that was the first and last time I ever witnessed it for I never saw another person get it --other than my cousin.
©Sherry Hill 2016
All Rights Reserved