Fried Green Tomatoes

Last weekend’s Pay Less Books sale saw me scavenging for cheap reads. In less than an hour, I’d rounded up 7 books. The first to be devoured was Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. My verdict: I love it! It’s funny, lovable and you feel an affinity for the characters. Here’s one of the funniest chapters, regarding a character called Evelyn, a woman facing menopause:

September 1, 1986

Ed Couch came home Thursday night and said that he was having trouble with a woman down at the office who was a “real ball breaker,” and that none of the men wanted to work with her because of it.

The next day, Evelyn went out to the mall to shop for a bed jacket for Big Momma and while she was having lunch at the Pioneer Cafeteria, a thought popped into her head, unannounced:

What is a ball breaker?

She’d heard Ed use the term a lot, along with She’s out to get my balls and I had to hold on to my balls for dear life.

Why was Ed so scared that someone was out to get his balls? What were they, anyway? Just little pouches that carried sperm; but the way men carried on about them, you’d think they were the most important thing in the world. My God, Ed had just about died when one of their son’s hadn’t dropped properly. The doctor said that it wouldn’t affect his ability to have children, but Ed had acted like it was a tragedy and wanted to send him to a psychiatrist, so he wouldn’t feel less of a man. She remembered thinking at the time, how silly… her breasts had never developed, and nobody ever sent her for help.

But Ed won out, because he told her she didn’t understand about being a man and what it meant. Ed had even pitched a fit when she wanted to have their cat, Valentine, who had impregnated the thoroughbred Siamese cat across the street, fixed.

He said, “If you’re gonna cut his balls off, you might as well just go on and put him to sleep!”

No doubt about it, he was peculiar where balls were concerned.

She remembered how Ed had once complimented that same woman at the office when she had stood up to the boss. He had bragged on her, saying what a ballsy dame she was.

But now that she thought about it, she wondered: What did that woman’s strength have to do with Ed’s anatomy? He hadn’t said, “Boy, she’s got some ovaries”; he had definitely said what balls she had. Ovaries have eggs in them, she thought: Shouldn’t they be as important as sperm?

And when had that woman stepped over the line of having just enough balls to having too much?

That poor woman. She would have to spend her whole life balancing imaginary balls if she wanted to get along. Balance was everything. But what about size? she wondered. She never heard Ed mention size before. It was the other thing’s size they were so concerned about, so she guessed it didn’t matter all that much. All that mattered in this world was the fact that you had balls. Then all at once, the simple and pure truth of that conclusion hit her. She felt as if someone had run a pencil up her spine and dotted an i on her head. She sat up straight in her chair, shocked that she, Evelyn Couch, of Birmingham, Alabama, had stumbled on the answer. She suddenly knew what Edison must have felt like when he discovered electricity. Of course! That was it… having balls was the most important thing in this world. No wonder she had always felt like a car in traffic without a horn.

It was true. Those two little balls opened the door to everything. They were the credit cards she needed to get ahead, to be listened to, to be taken seriously. No wonder Ed had wanted a boy.

Then another truth occurred to her. Another sad, irrevocable truth: She had no balls and never would or could have balls. She was doomed. Ball-less forever. Unless, she thought, if maybe the balls in your immediate family counted. There were four in hers… Ed’s and Tommy’s… No, wait… six, if she counted the cat. No, wait just another minute, if Ed loved her so much, why couldn’t he give her one of his? A ball transplant… That’s right. Or, maybe she could get two from an anonymous donor. That’s it, she’d buy some off a dead man and she could put them in a box and take them to important meetings and bang them on the table to get her way. Maybe she’d buy four…

No wonder Christianity had been such a big hit. Think of Jesus and the Apostles… And if you counted John the Baptist, why that was 14 pairs and 28 singles, right there!

Oh, it was all so simple to her now. How had she been so blind and not seen it before?

Yes, by heavens, she’d done it. She’d hit upon the secret that women have been searching for through the centuries…

THIS WAS THE ANSWER…

Hadn’t Lucille Ball been the biggest star on television?

She banged her iced tea on the table in triumph and shouted, “YES! THAT’S IT!”

Everyone in the cafeteria turned and looked at her.

Evelyn quietly finished her lunch and thought, Lucille Ball? Ed might be right. I probably am going crazy.

– Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

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