Daughter Jess, about 6 years old at the time, shook her head, all confused. “Daddy,” she said, rolling her eyes, “there's a woman on the phone who talks really country, and she says she wants to talk to somebody named Bubba!”“Well, sweetheart,” I nodded as I reached for the phone, “I'm Bubba. And that's Aunt Ann on the phone.”Jess locked eyes with me and silently mouthed the words, “You're Bubba?”Yes I am. Every other Saturday, when my sister Ann calls from South Carolina, I'm Bubba. Specifically, I’m Little Bubba. We used to have a Big Bubba—our half-brother Geames—but he died in 1969. These days, if Ann wants to talk to blood kin, I'm her only option.It's not easy talking to Ann. She says the same things over and over again. Our mother used to say that Ann never was quite right after she got a high fever with the measles. Ann had to repeat the first grade. And all the way through junior high and high school, she had to retake courses in the summer.Not long after Ann graduated from high school, her brain really turned on her. At age 22, on the very night our mother died, Ann went full-out, hearing-voices-seeing-Jesus schizophrenic. She had to go to a mental hospital, and she had to stay at least a month. We knew it was time for Ann to come home from the hospital when she stopped trading clothes with the other patients and started wearing her own clothes, in the right order—underwear underneath, pants and shirt on top of that and a sweater or jacket on top of that.When Ann came out of the mental hospital, she came out chain-smoking.Four years before her schizophrenic break, straight out of high school, Ann married her husband, Vann. Vann was—and still is—an uncomplicated fellow. He dressed neatly but not what you'd call sharp. He worked at Clearwater Finishing Plant, one of the local cotton mills. He drove a spanking-new 1963 red-and-white Chevy Impala, for which he'd paid cash. Vann, having spent his youth laboring on his family’s farm and making very little money at it, saved as much money as he could and carried no debt. Everything Ann and Vann had, including their house, Vann bought with cash.Vann married a plain, simple, sweet-hearted girl. He didn't bargain for a delusional, paranoid, chain-smoking woman who couldn't manage to get her makeup on straight after the first round of electroshock treatments. He didn't bargain for the expense of the doctors, the medicine, the hospitals or the traded-away clothing. He didn't figure on buying two or three packs of cigarettes every day, then putting up with the smell of them and the coughing and sickness that they brought on. He didn't figure on the cotton mill closing and leaving him without a job.Nobody would've blamed Vann if he'd just gotten in his car one day and headed for parts unknown. There are plenty of men who'd leave a woman over the makeup errors alone.But Vann didn't leave. When he found himself unemployed, he bought the house next door to his, fixed it up and rented it out. Then he bought a piece of land on Highway 25 and set up a little store there. He stocked the place with fireworks, refurbished lawn mowers, tricycles and bicycles. His big seller was concrete yard art, which Ann calls their “sea-mint.” It's mostly birdbaths and flowerpots, with a few gnomes, dogs and deer thrown in. For his old-fashioned customers, Vann keeps a little stock of lawn jockeys, whose faces he paints a very light brown, about the color of your average booth-tanned high school cheerleader.Vann calls his roadside store Vann’s Place. During the winter, Vann tends to the store himself. Ann stays home, because she prefers the central heat at the house to the kerosene heater at the store. Every evening, Vann goes home, and takes Ann out to dinner. He still sees Ann as the simple, sweet-hearted girl he married, and he still enjoys her company.Every other Saturday morning, I call Ann, and we pretty much follow a script. “What's new and exciting in Trenton?” I ask her.“Same old thing, Bubba,” she answers. “We've got a routine we go by, and we stick to it.”“What are you going to do this evening?”“We’re going out to eat with our friends at Bush’s,” Ann intones the words the same way every time, like a child singing “Happy Birthday.”“How's business at the store?” I ask.“Well, Bubba,” Ann said, “Vann's selling a lot of cement angels right now. They're girl angels, with the wings folded up in the back, not all spread out. He's got big ones and little ones. You want one?”“How big? How little?” I asked.Ann ignored my question, and reverted back to the old script. “I'm still quitting smoking,” she said.“How quit are you?”“I just smoke some of the time.”And so it goes. Every Saturday, Ann and I run through the script once or twice more, then she'll say, “We've been talking too long. Say hey to Brenda and Jess for me. Love y’all. Bye-bye.”I like knowing there are angels at the store and plenty of them. There ought to be some hint, some little recognition, that heaven has a representative on Highway 25 in Trenton, South Carolina. Unlike the cement girls with the folded wings, brother-in-law Vann is the living, breathing genuine article.