I know it’s going to sound strange, but I had two — count ’em two — Uncle Claude and Uncle Claude. There was Uncle Claude Fant, brother to my dad and Clarence Fant, and Uncle Claude Reese, who was not actually a blood relative, but very much a part of the Fant family.
It’s Uncle Claude Reese that has kept us entertained for decades. He taught me all about alcohol abuse, for one thing. And how to successfully “sit drunk”, defend himself in court, and drive for decades without benefit of driver’s license.
The alcohol abuse lesson came because Claude’s wife (he called her “The Widow”, because she had been married before and her mate passed away). “She was also dead-set against me taking an occasional sip of an alcoholic beverage.” This was a direct quote from Uncle Claude Reese.
When he talked about an “occasional sip” he was talking about hitting the bottle every hour. To maintain this schedule, Uncle Claude would buy his beverage not in one big bottle, but in about a dozen of the little bottles he could get away with hiding in a pocket — about half-pint size. And he kept them hid all over the house, just in case he got thirsty while he was in the den, or the bedroom, or the kitchen, or even on the back porch.
One day Uncle Claude had made his semi-daily run to the liquor store, and was quietly spreading out his bottles into their accustomed hiding places, when his The Widow showed up at home entirely too early. Uncle Claude had hidden all but one bottle, and he was in the kitchen when she arrived, so he snatched open the oven door and slid in his last bottle.
He was feeling good about getting them all hid when, much to his surprise, The Widow came into the kitchen and turned on the oven. She was pre-heating getting ready to cook supper, and Uncle Claude was sitting right there ready to grab his hidden bottle first chance he got. He even held a dish cloth, ready to grab the bottle. But she never left the kitchen.
And then came the aroma. The Widow kept sniffing, smelling something, trying to figure out what she smelled; whilst Uncle Claude just sat quietly, waiting, knowing his window of opportunity was dwindling fast.
Sure enough, she opened the oven door and found the bottle Claude had stuck in there. The heat had started to melt the plastic top, and the booze was dripping onto the oven’s lower coils.
Without saying a word, The Widow grabbed a pot holder, snatched out the hot bottle and threw it in the sink. Then, since the top had melted enough, she just held it upside down over the drain.
Claude just sat quietly and watched.
When all of the liquid had drained away, she threw the empty bottle in the trash, looked over at Uncle Claude, and asked, “Well, what do you think about that?”
His answer came with him still sitting quietly, looking at the floor.
He said, “I am not positive, but I am pretty sure that was alcohol abuse.”