Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Bo Peep lights another Tareyton, then continues with the interview:
"Those goddam sheep," she says, staring balefully at a six months old People magazine on the side table.
"I'm seventy-six years old. I've been married four times. I've lived in sixteen different states and also Puerto Rico, and all anyone ever remembers,
All anybody ever wants to talk about,
Is those sheep!"
Her rheumy eyes suddenly seem to blaze.
"Now Mizz Peep, don't go gettin' youseff in a lather about dem ole sheep now," chides the nurse, who has been looming nearby, a gargantuan, if benign, presence.
Bo Peep waves a liver-spotted claw and growls, in a smoker's voice deeper than a man's, "Oh stuff a sock in it, Marie Laveau. Now listen,
I was fifteen years old. I got farmed out to Green Acres or wherever it was as an alternative to juvie. They told me, 'tend these sheep', and so I did.
What did I know from sheep? What did I know from anything? It was nineteen fifty fucking five. They hadn't even had Woodstock yet. Cinderella was still sweeping floors. Those melvins at that farm handed me a crook and off I went."
Bo Peep pauses. The television is tuned to Murder, She Wrote with the sound off.
She takes a drag, squints, shrugs, and goes on:
"One afternoon, along comes Johnny Appleseed. Or somebody. A boy, anyway. And a little while later I was missing my top and some sheep.
'Leave them alone, and they'll come home,' he says with that smirk they always get, after, like they really pulled something off. Well, he had, but I got dressed again, you know. I wasn't just some chippie."
For a moment, Bo Peep seems to lose the thread of her story. Her nurse turns her wheelchair toward the window. Outside, the sun is shining. Some people are having a picnic on the lawn.
"I was just fifteen," she repeats herself, stubbing out the last in a long line of unfiltereds.
"You'd think those sheep were all I ever did. I have five kids. I owned a design company. I've been to Paris and Tokyo."
"You tired, Mizz Peep?"
She nods. Her nurse smiles at this reporter and then wheels her famous charge away to her room down the hall where she helps her into bed.
It is mid-afternoon.
The room is cheerily wallpapered.
The pattern is from a Grandma Moses painting...
Sheep grazing peacefully in a green pasture near a barn.