|By Alias ||
Posted 06-01-2004 at 05:09:23
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Here's another installment for your reading enjoyment, HA. Well, maybe you'll enjoy it.
At one point, I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying out in pain. I had squarely planted my right knee on an upturned thorn. The piece of limb to which it was attached was covered with leaves and the thorn had aged and hardened and was extremely sharp. I managed to stifle an outcry but I was not able to stop the flow of tears that swelled in my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I immediately reached down and with both hands squeezed my knee in an effort to push out the agony. Thinking I may have been heard, I remained in that position until the tears subsided and listened intently to determine whether or not they were aware of my presence.
As I sat there drying my eyes with the back of my wrist, I listened keenly to what was being said. They were talking in guarded, hushed tones but, still, I could tell by the changes in pitch that this was not a friendly conversation. It was still hard to make out more than a word, now and again, so, I moved closer to the voices. When I finally stopped, I could see their legs and nothing more. And, the only way they could have seen me was to get down to my level and peer under the tree limbs. At that point, I felt a shudder run through my body. Not from fear of being discovered, mind you. But, from the knowledge that I was eavesdropping on an adult conversation. And, according to all that I had been taught, this was unacceptable. Realizing this, I was about to retreat into the thicket and give up my play role as detective. But, at that moment the woman spoke and I recognized her voice. It was that of old Tomís daughter, and John Mackís mother, Gertrude.
She quietly, but forcibly said, ďI donít care what you think! You....leave....that....boy...
....alone. He means nothing to you and you sure as hell donít mean anything to him. But, The man said, a man aught to know his own son. To which she responded, Iíll tell you what you need to know! You need to know is, that if you make any mention to this to anybody, Iíll cut your sorry throat. And, make no mistake about it. So, you just go on up the hill to your wife and Boodlem and Toodlem and leave my family alone. Youíve got a good wife there if you had any sense youíd know it. Now you get out of here. The less I see of youíre ugly face, the better I like it, she concluded. At that, the man started to offer another comment. He said, But, Gertie. And, thatís when she cut him off. No Buts! Do you hear me? I donít want to hear any buts! Itís too late for that. You go your way and me and my family will go our way. And, donít you be forgetting what my daddy told you a long time ago, if he ever catch you hanging around here he going to rip you apart, limb from limb, she said in a proud, spiteful tone. Oh, dat ole man donít bother me none, the man said, he old and feeble and he couldnít whup a cat in a sack. Listen to me, she said, you ainít nevah gonna be man enough to stand up to old Tom. Even with one hand tied behind his back, he could whip you all the way to beartown and back again. No sir, donĎt you ever get it into your head that youĎre as good a man as old Tom. Cause, he gots something you donít know a thing about. He gots more heart than anybody I knows. And, thatís something you just ainít got. So, youíd do well to get on up that hill and donít show your face down here no mo.
After the twinís father and Gertrude went their separate ways, I just sat there trying to get it straight in my mind what it was that they were talking about. What had she meant when she instructed the man to ďLeave that boy aloneĒ? And, what did he mean about ďA man aught to know his own sonĒ? As I sat there puzzling over what Iíd heard, trying to fit the pieces together, none of it made sense. For, like any kid my age, my world was filled with dogs and frogs and bluebird eggs and other wonders of nature, and, I knew very little about the things of adults. But, I knew whenever people speak in harsh tones, however quiet they may be, They are expressing a degree of hatred. And, judging by the words spoken, there was very little love lost between the two of them.
There was no one that I could talk to about what Iíd overheard. I couldnít confide in Tom, because it involved his daughter. The twins were out because of their father. I dare not mention it to Dad cause he would tan my hide if he knew I was eavesdropping. Likewise, I couldnít speak to my mother because she had her hands full with little brother Sherman and sister Sally. Not that I feared she would tan me but I didnít want to run the risk of her disapproval. For, one disapproving look from her was worse than any tanning from dad. So, there I was, a witness to a tongue fight and there wasnít a soul I could discuss it with. So, I decided to bide my time and see what transpired. By the time I went in to dinner that evening, I had all but forgotten about the incident.
The next day was Saturday and my Aunt Dotch came to watch the little kids while mother went shopping in town. Because I had been such a good boy, and hadnít given her any trouble, she took me along. Once there she gave me 9 cents for the movie and another dime for candy and told me to meet her outside the Grand Theatre in one and a half hour. With money to burn, I ran like crazy to the movie house. When I arrived, they were just opening the doors and several kids had formed a line and one by one, stepped to the kiosk and but down their money. It was a thrill for me to go to the movies. That day was no exception in that they showed a cowboy film every Saturday. It was usually followed by an episode of a serial. And, always, the hero or the leading lady of the serial would be blown to bits or fall from a cliff at a fraction of a second before the screen went blank signaling the end.
When the movie , serial, previews and cartoon were over, I still had a few minutes before I was to meet mother. so, I waited outside hoping sheíd be early. When she came, we walked to the Super Market and from there, we took a cab back home. The driver of the cab was very courteous. When we arrived at the house he quickly got out and opened the door for mom. She paid him the 10 or 15 cent fare and gave him an extra nickel. For that, he opened the trunk and brought the bags of groceries to the porch around back. Before he left, he removed his hat and said thank you to mom. And, I make mention of this only to show the difference in the way people were treated then as compared to now.
That evening, the sun had made itís decent behind the mountains to the west and daylight was fast turning to dark. It was a pleasant evening and I was sitting on the top step to Old Tomís front porch counting lightening bugs. Tom was sitting in his wicker rocker and together, we were talking in the sounds of the night. Tom, I said, howís about me and you going on down to the shoals tomorrow? Canít tomorrow, he said, tomorrowís Sunday. Got to go to church tomorrow. Then, I promised Rev. Baker Iíd go wif him to see old lady brumfield. She been feeling poorly here to late. After that, Iíll just come on back here and finish out the day doing what the good Lawd said. I just be akeepin it holy.
About that time Peahead Gilliam came walking down the street and up to Tomís porch. After they exchanged hellos and how are yous, peahead said, Tom theys a certain feller we know whos been drinking and shooting dice down behind the Ice Plant. Now, dish feller say he goina go on up dere to Beartown and get some thangs straight with a certain lady. Da likker in em making he talk a lot of brag, and he was swinging dat ole razor all around. So, I rush on up here cause I figger you want to know. If you hurry you can make it afore he gits up dere, he concluded. Well, thankee Peahead fer coming by. Maybe Iíll jest wander on up there mysef. After the two men shook hands, peahead left and Old tom told me that maybe I had better head on home too. When I asked why, he simply stated that he had some business to take care of. I was in our yard when he came out of the house wearing a suit coat with his bib overall. For, in Tomís way of thinking, it was a sign of disrespect to be seen walking around without a coat. I waved goodby to him as he went down to the corner and turned left heading in the direction of Beartown.
To be continued...................................................................................................................