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Plotless: Sugartits

Taylor P.Comment

When I was a kid, Pappy always called me “Sugartits.”

In fact, he called all five of us “Sugartits.” It didn’t matter if we were male or female, and it didn’t matter if we were in public or in private. I’m sure he meant it as a term of endearment, but my siblings and I never really understood the relevance of it, which has become a source of constant skepticism and speculation throughout our lives.

I don’t really remember when he started calling me Sugartits. I just remember him picking me up from elementary school every Wednesday in his beat-up old ‘78 El Camino with the crooked headlight, with his scraggly handlebar mustache and unfashionably hip lime green leisure suit,  yelling, “Hey! Sugartits! Get yer ass over here, son!” As a kid, this was common nature and I didn’t think anything of it. When I was on the high school football team, this became a source of scorn for all of its obvious derogatory reasons. When I scored the winning touchdown, Pappy would yell, “YEAH! Go, Sugartits!! Beat their asses, boy!” much to my own chagrin.

As we got older, there had to be some differentiation between each of us, via our middle names.  This was apparently some weird rite of passage for us. We were dubbed different names one night over mac ‘n’ cheese at the dinner table before watching reruns of the Wheel of Fortune.  Martin was dubbed “Sugartits Ernest.” Karen was “Sugartits Lee.” Sara was “Sugartits Anne.” Jared was “Sugar tits Cole.” And I was “Sugartits Samuel (‘The Impaler’, like Vlad the Impaler, because I thought he was a badass during my brief obsession with vampires in the 8th grade).”

Each of us had our own interpretation of the nickname. Growing up, I always thought it sounded like some type of small, furry animal (later, I realized that I had it confused with sugar babies.) Martin thought it sounded like the name of a stripper. Karen surmised that Pappy’s own Pappy had started the ritual, and it was some sort of lame family tradition that would hopefully die out with our regime. Sara talked about it as little as possible, but then again she never talked all that much to begin with. When I went back east to Raleigh, Jared (the most introspective of all the “Sugartits” Clarks) admitted after a few beers that he thought it was some way Pappy meant to intimidate us to keep the family in check although he later changed this to, “Well, maybe he met some woman in Vietnam who went by that.” And two hours (and 3 white russians later), “HEY! I know now! We are actually part of an ancient alien race that goes by the ‘Sugar tits.’ Do you think we have, like, crazy superpowers and shit? Think I can move that table over there with my mind-powers?” None of us really knew why he did it, but it was a sort of treasure hunt-- we always hoped to discover the meaning behind the name. Maybe he didn’t know what it entailed and simply liked the sound of the word. Or maybe he did and was simple a sadistic old coot. Regardless of the reason, I still like to think of it having to do with small, furry animals.

The truth is, we never asked him why. I don’t know if it was out of respect for him, or simply because it was more fun not knowing. How disappointed we would have been to find out he just did it on a whim or liked the word or something! About ten years back, we all made a pact-- none of us would nickname our kids OR grandkids “Sugar tits.” None. It wasn’t that the name was just that horrible, but at the end of the day, it just didn’t seem like a good idea to continue the traditions of an old gentleman with a drinking problem.

When Pappy died at the ripe old age of eighty-one, we wondered if the secret would die with him alone.  I would guess all five of us expected him, on his death bed, to lift a shaking hand and say, “I called you all Sugartits...because...” and then dramatically shut his eyes and breathe the one last breath of life on Earth, leaving us to eternally wonder why the hell he called us that. In the end, all of us were suspicious of one another. We all just knew that one of our siblings had asked him and was harboring the answer for the tell-all memoirs they would later try to publish only to fail miserably. When we had the tombstone made, “Sugartits Pappy” was carved legibly into the polished granite. A great enigma, we never knew his real middle name, but I like to think it was something like “Pussylips” or something equally derogatory that his Pappy might have called him when he was a little boy. Either way, he was a fucking weird old coot.