Beyond Words

By Marshall Chapman

Papa Cloud

In my family, it was often said that the Chapmans on my father’s side had character, while the Clouds on my mother’s
side were characters. As a child, I loved both sets of grandparents, but visiting my unpredictable Cloud grandparents was always an adventure.

Mama Cloud and Papa Cloud lived out in the country next to a sand and gravel quarry near Lilesville, North Carolina. By the time I knew them, they no longer slept in the same bedroom. Mama Cloud slept upstairs at one end of the house, while Papa Cloud slept downstairs in his quarters on the other side of the kitchen. Papa Cloud smoked and Mama Cloud didn’t like that. That’s how this separation was explained to me by my mother, but I always imagined there was more to it than that.

One time when I was about eight or nine, I walked into Papa Cloud’s bedroom to find him sitting up in bed smoking a Pall Mall while
reading a Playboy magazine.

I was taken aback.”Papa Cloud!” I blurted out. “Why are you reading that Playboy?”

Without batting an eye, he replied, “So I can remember what your grandmother used to look like.”

Another time, I was in the kitchen with sister Mary, who was putting a head of lettuce in the refrigerator, when I heard Papa Cloud in the doorway.

“Mary!” he whispered conspiratorially.

“What?” she whispered back.
“That’s not how you put lettuce in the refrigerator.”

“Well, how do you?” Mary stammered.

With that he took the head of lettuce out of my sister’s hand and, with the refrigerator door wide open, stepped back five paces and drop-kickedthe lettuce into the refrigerator. I watched in amazement as the lettuce flew miraculously between two shelves before crashing and coming to a rest. He then closed the refrigerator door with great flourish.

That’s how you put the lettuce in the refrigerator,” he said, winking, as he walked out of the kitchen.