Advice Column: Ask Charlene (The Small-Town Snoop And Fount of All Wisdom)

Dear Charlene:

You’ve got to help me! I think my husband is having an affair.

I work all day in Chattanooga, while he operates a small business right here in our little town; yet he often gets home later than I do. He always just says he’s working late but I drove by his office twice and it was locked. Then I began finding pink lipstick stains on his white shirts and several times a faint but unmistakable odor of Chanel in his car. He denies everything, but I am vaguely suspicious of the secretary at his office or possibly one of the tellers at the bank.

But I’m not sure and these days when I sit in church and hear giggling behind me I think everybody in town knows what he’s up to but me.

Help! I want to keep this completely anonymous so I’ll just sign myself …

—Lovelorn on Lookout

I wondered when you was going to ask, Shirley.

(I reckoned when you said Lookout you might be Wanda East because her Charlie’s been rolling around with the girl at the grocery store for years now. But Charlie runs the feed-and-seed so when you said that about the shirts and the office I knowed at once you must be the accountant’s wife. Them white shirts sure is ironed nice, hon. He don’t deserve you.)

No, he ain’t sleeping with the secretary, which you should have figured out yourself from the pink lipstick. You ever seen that slut in anything but Oh-Take-Me-Now red? Nor any of the bank tellers though I could tell you a thing or two about some of them and I ain’t talking about lipstick.

No, it’s that new little teacher at the elementary school who always wears the tight jeans and the push-up bras that make her look like she’s fixin’ to launch them things at Russia. They started up around Christmas when you went to see your sister in Florida and they been at it ever since, usually in the cemetery at lunchtime but you’re right, I seen them in the car twicet.

Good luck with the divorce, honey, and hold your head high. Nobody’s laughing at you in church. What they’re laughing at is the preacher’s wife and that Smith boy, who just come home from the Air Force with his uniform and the nice tan.

Dear Charlene:

I am a teen with a very sensitive problem. I’m asking you because I don’t want anybody else to know about it.

Though I just graduated high school and will turn 18 next month, I still wet the bed like I did when I was 5! I am predicting this will be a problem in dormitory life, but my family life has been so unhappy I’m yearning to leave home and go away to college.

Don’t tell me to “seek professional counseling.” My father is a rough man, an auto mechanic, who doesn’t believe in psychotherapy.

—Soggy on Sand Mountain

I ain’t fixin’ to tell you nothing of the kind. It’s Dear Abby who is always telling folks that so you wonder why anybody keeps bothering to ask her anything. Reckon she would cotton on to the fact she is talking herself out of a job sooner or later but some folks is just dense. Anyway I don’t believe in psychedelics myself.

As for your problem, Soggy—or can I just call you Nick? I thought at first you was one of the Haynes boys because of your daddy being a mechanic but none of them Hayneses is smart enough for college and anyway when you said it was a unhappy family I remembered Buggy Sims who used to fix my tires at the Chevron. He’s got a nasty temper and of course he drinks. I was fixin’ to call you Jimmy at first but that’s the oldest boy, isn’t it, who’s always in jail?

Nick, I used to tell your mama when you was peeing yourself in first grade that she ought to have beat it out of you when you was a baby but it was too late by then. And now it is way too late but here’s what I would do if it was me:

First, stop drinking them Mountain Dews I see you with all the time. That’ll help a lot, and if it ain’t enough you can go down to the CVS and pick you some Depends. You can always say they’re for your father. That’s what Jimmy says when he buys his beer.

And later if it’s still a problem, why don’t you get you a waterbed, and let on it leaks?

Dear Charlene:

I have a terrible terrible secret and I must tell someone. I won’t tell you who I am or where I live for fear of the law but I just shot my best friend in cold blood!

—Guilty in the Gulch Don’t fret now, Earl. Everybody knows he had it coming. Them Purvises is all trash.


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