How Can You Tell If Your Buttermilk is Spoiled? (And other unanswerable questions) by Dawn DeBraal

Sally Knaak, (the “k” is silent, why?) had so many questions about life, about boys, about adults, about sex, about the life cycle of a cicada. No one seemed to have solid answers to questions, especially the one she asked about the most, “How can you tell if your buttermilk is spoiled?” No seemed to have or want to have the answers to her questions. Grandpa “bubby” used to answer all these questions for her when he was alive. She never realized until much later in life that he had been pulling her leg. (How did that saying get started anyway?) Grandpa would tell her tall tales, some of them she was still disseminating as an adult. One day in the middle of her statement Sally stopped short. It hit her like a brick in the face. That couldn’t be true. How could she have believed that all her life?  She was going to share, her knees were cracked with a friend! When she asked “bubby” why she couldn’t run as fast as the other kids in her class, he told her because she had cracked knees. She accepted this as gospel. She told people it was why she couldn’t move fast. No one questioned it growing up, but when she started telling her friend this story she stopped, mid-sentence. 

“Oh, dear God!” The realization that her wonderful “bubby” led her to believe such a preposterous thing was ridiculous. And yet, when he told her about those cracked knees, she felt vindicated, and she felt accepted. She had a legitimate reason for not being able to run fast, darn it! Her knees were cracked! How could they not understand that? Sally started to wonder about the other things she believed all her life that she learned from “bubby” and other people she trusted. How would she ever know what came out of her mouth was real or made up by the people who loved her the most? Everything she said had to be checked on the world wide web before she could stand behind it. Were there right and left male socks? Was that true or a big pile of bull? Did chewing gum stay in your stomach for seven years? If someone touched you while making a face would it freeze like that? Could she go swimming after eating a big lunch, had she stayed lake side all of these years waiting, for NOTHING? Did God watch her every move? Sally felt used. She asked her mother about her bubby.

“Did he ever tell the truth? Are his genes in me, and I will be the same, always making up stories to tell?” Her mother looked at her.

“You don’t know, do you?” Mother looked a little sheepish. 

“What don’t I know?” Sally demanded. 

“Bubby wasn’t really your bubby. He was grandma Claire’s second husband.” Sally saw red. Another mistruth uncovered.

“You mean to tell me I named my son after someone I wasn’t even related to?” she sputtered.

Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, two rat terriers and a cat. Recently retired, she has discovered her love of telling a good story can be written. Her work has been published in several online magazines. 

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