Before I was a real writer, I was almost a real nurse.
Two years of nursing school at the University of Georgia and giving enemas to every constipated senior on my hospital floor convinced me there had to be a better way.
And so I entered journalism school. It was nothing out of the norm. I’d been writing since I was 13, and Mama gave me a bright red journal to chronicle the thoughts of a nerdy, angst-filled teen.
“Jennifer McTaggart can kiss my ass for saying my ears are big,” I wrote in big dopey letters. That first entry felt like the French doors of freedom had swung open and blew hope up my skirt. This journal was my secret weapon, the writings bullets to rip open the alligator skins of my meaner, foamy-mouthed peers.
I continued journaling, even during enema days, and afterward, when I gave up my stethoscope and bedpans to become a reporter for newspapers. This is where my career took off, and my quirky nature led to an editor giving me a column three times a week.
This is every reporter’s dream. To get off the beat and write about whatever whims and stories you find delighting and entertaining. Or just plain weird.
I remember once penning a piece on a band of midget prostitutes living beneath an old lady’s singlewide. Back then you could say “midget.”
Then there was the woman who flagged down my car and asked for help. It was 108 degrees that day in LaGrange, Ga., where I grew up, and she was 2 inches from a heat stroke.
“It’s my eye,” she cried. “My eye’s on fire.”
I opened the car door. “Give me some water, please and hurry,” she said. “My eye’s killing me.”
I only had juice boxes. I handed her one. She ripped open the top, forgetting this business about sticking a straw down a little hole. Then she leaned over and with a mighty blink, popped out her left eye and plopped it in the grape juice.
“Whew,” she said. “I couldn’t have stood it another minute.”
That made for an interesting column. And over time, one crazy encounter led to another, especially those among my colorful and zany family members.
“You need to write a book,” a co-worker said. “You can use some of these stories and stretch ‘em out longer.”
Years ago I’d written a novel that almost sold. Almost isn’t good enough. What the heck? I’d try humorous non-fiction along the lines of Celia and Sedaris. Add to that the fact I was in dire need of a boob job. Mine original models had turned to dead eels after nursing a second child way past the time a proper Southerner breastfeeds.
“If they are old enough to ask for it,” my elegant aunt said, “then it’s long overdue to cut them off.”
“What if they ask for chicken on the side?” I said, secretly nursing for another two months.
The dead eels were motivation ’cause my then husband, an evil man with a nose that could cut shrubs, wouldn’t pay for new titties.
And thus was born my first book, “Not Tonight Honey Wait Til I’m a Size 6,” which was quickly followed by “Don’t Sleep with a Bubba,” and “Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin,” all books of wild and outrageous humor, with a few poignant tales thrown in so I’d look more Christiany.
My current project is a quirky novel, “Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle,” in which my favorite character is a 104-year-old barfly who loves to drive in circles and go for jogs in her tan knee-high stockings. I’m hoping to find a publisher soon.
Meanwhile, besides raising a teen and a ‘tween, my passions lean toward circus stunts. I’m the only lady pushing 50 who can ride a unicycle and pull off a few high-flying trapeze stunts.
Check out my stunts and another passion, impersonating Sarah Palin, at www.susanreinhardt.com
Hope you enjoy them.