29 November 2013

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Melly Marvel wasn't actually her name, as I've mentioned. She came by the name on accident. Her full name was Hope Melanie Marvel Sprawling.

Phelan and Marietta hadn't meant for the Marvel- the part that would ultimately make Melly Marvel so very irrepressibly much herself- to happen. The hospital attendant in charge of the newly born infant's documentation had misheard 'Marvelliefielles ', in honor of Marietta's family, as 'Marvel'- which was purely Marietta's fault, Phelan would contest, because she'd let Williamson Allen Marvelliefielles, whose drawl was INTENSE, relay the name to the nurse, who heard it as 'Marvel', not surprisingly as half the letters were silent.

And so Marietta and Phelan's child was a Marvel rather than a Marvelliefielles. Quite quickly Hope went the way of Marvelliefielles too, for what parent could saddle such a child- with those hard green eyes and dark tufts of hair and the lip that curled up into a sneer when she was hungry- with such a name?

After an hour in her infant's company, Marietta turned to Phelan, sitting by her bed in a bubble gum pink chair with a plastic cover that made farting noises every time he uncrossed his legs, and said, 'I don't know if I can call this child Hope.'

She had the face of a wizened old man. She was so obviously a cynic.

They called her Melly instead.

When Melly Marvel was three and three-quarters, Avril told her the story of her naming, of how she was almost Melly Marvelliefielles. Immediately the child announced to the room: 'I'm Melly Marvel and nobody else.'

The Marvelliefielles fancied themselves Southern royalty when, in fact, they had come down in the world. Over the years, their great Plantation had been reduced to a lone field, rented out for city folks to board their horses on. They were, thus, kings and queens of an empire of horse shit.

The deep closely guarded family secret was that Marietta Marvelliefielles had married a man from New York. Yes, this southern belle had run off with a Yankee, a fact Melly Marvel relished, proclaiming herself to everyone as 'Melly Marvel, Yankee Brat.'

She took in identities like a sponge, constantly adding and refining the details of her own biography, her own existence, ruthlessly building her sense of who she was.

 An even darker closely guarded family secret was that Phelan Sprawling was born in Texas. Melly Marvel, Yankee Brat, didn't even exist.

Melly Marvel, however, did.

This business of names was typical in the south then. Every fall, Melly Marvel would come home and rattle on to Marietta the names of all the kids in her class.

'There's Ashley Edward Abernathy (she's a boy), Tabitha Tarleton Tvedt, Abercrombie Allen Anderson Eaton...'

It was a time when parents packed in as many names as possible and, barring that, they just named kids nicknames and then gave them other nicknames. And so Sue was called Susie 'for short.' And Bill was Billy. And Roxanne was Dough.

Melly Marvel was glad she wasn't Dough. Or Biscuit. Or Junior.She was glad she was Melly Marvel. She didn't want to be anyone else.  (Though she might have liked to be Gala.)

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