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The Differences Between Men & Women

 

Well, people, Dr. Matlock is giving marital advice again. 

But in this case, the gal aint married yet!

Hmmmm….

Do I help a damsel in distress, or, do I help a man avoid the spider web that is euphemistically called “marriage?

 

Let’s see……

 

 

 

Dear Dr. Matlock:

 

My boyfriend and I have been together for about 6 months. We get along fine, but I can’t get him to commit to a deeper relationship. I want to get married, but he’s says he’s happy the way things are now. My mother and my girlfriends all give me advice, and I’m confused. Help!

Single and Sad,

Scott, LA

 

Dear Single,

Part of your problem lies in the fact that you are getting your information about men from women. Most women have no idea what makes men tick, because what they know about men came from other women. You’ve finally come to the right place for understanding the male species, because it takes a man to understand a man, I don’t care what your girlfriends say. Ready for a good dose of reality? Okay, here goes….

 

As far as men are concerned, there are two types of women. 1—Women You Play With, and 2—Women You Stay With.

You are in one of these two categories, get it?

Don’t fool yourself!

As far as he’s concerned, you are either a Sleeper……….or a Keeper. Let me give you a description of Women You Play With, and Women You Stay With, then you can decide which one you are in his life. The nice thing about it is, you decide which category you will choose to remain in!

Just understand, in order to change category, you might have to change men.

 

Women You Play With, (aka “babes”, “tricks”, “hoes”, plus any number of less complimentary names), are like pool sticks or baseball bats. They’re designed for fun and games, depending on their quality. Since they are designed for fun and games, the best place to meet them are in local playgrounds (night clubs). The idea is, when you want to play baseball, you pick up a glove and bat, because, that’s what they’re designed for. Tennis? Pick up a racquet. Billiards? Pick up a pool stick. Want to play good time date and hot sex? Pick up a good time girl. Get it?

Then, when you’re finished, you put them down, or up, depending on how attached you are to them. If they’re for your own personal use, you put them up in their case for safekeeping. If not, you put them in the rack on the wall for the next man to use.

Same thing with Good Time Girl. If she’s of low quality, put her in your cell, and call her when you feel like playing again.

If she’s of high quality, give her a space in your life,  and call her your girlfriend. Now, she’s available for fun 24/7.

 

But what about marriage, you ask? The answer is simple: What the heck for?

 

You don’t marry a Play Girl, you play with her. That is her function, nothing more, nothing less. Guys don’t marry their tennis racquets, do they? Geez! Stop asking silly questions!

 

Women You Stay With (aka “Keepers“) are a totally different breed of cat. Because they demand dignity and respect, they get it. Because they don’t tolerate being taken for granted, a good man won’t do that. Because a Keeper loves herself, and has a plan for her life, and a schedule to get there, (did you get that?), a good man will make whatever adjustments he needs to get and keep this woman in his life. He nails her down with a firm commitment, and works quickly to incorporate her in his life.

Aint no mountain high enough, aint no valley low enough, aint no river wide enough, to keep me from youuuuuu…….”

That’s the mindset of a man who’s made a decision about his woman.

 

I need to backtrack a bit. You see, you’re the product of your female upbringing. When you were a girl, you were brought up playing a whole different set of games than little boys played. You played dolls, and house, and Barbie and tea parties, etc, etc. Your games were the cooperative, let’s-play-together type games.

Hopscotch.

Jump rope.

Baby dolls, with tea sets and teddy bears and stuffed animals as guests. Sweet, aint it?

That’s all well and good, but you better understand that boy’s games were different.

 

Vastly different.

 

When boys play games, they keep score.

Football? Touchdowns, field goals, safeties, extra points!

Basketball? Two points! Three points! Slam Dunk!

Baseball? First base, double, triple! Home run! Yaaaaay!

Boy’s games require scoring to be fun.

They also require clearly defined rules. Out of bounds! Double dribble! Clipping! Foul ball!

Scoring, and rules, that’s what boy’s games are all about, Boo.

 

So what does that mean for you?

Well, it’s simple, actually. You are in his life to the extent he sees you as either One To Play With, or One To Stay With.

A Keeper or a Sleeper. Which are you? Here’s how you know:

Keepers are treated differently from Sleepers, because the rules are different.

Sleepers are called when an itch needs to be scratched.

Keepers are called in and considered when a life decision needs to be made.

Sleepers are not called on during their time of the month. Who needs cramps and mood swings?

Keepers are kept close, no matter what day of the month, because he doesn’t want any other man to have access to the Keeper.

 

So what does he consider you to be?

Remember, men play by rules, and Rule # 1 is: Men identify what is theirs.

What does he refer to you as? When he introduces you to people who are important to him, what does he say you are?

Don’t get all girly here. Don’t try to examine and parse every syllable for a clue to what’s in his head. You don’t need a clue!

What he thinks about you will come directly out of his mouth!

If you’re “a friend of mine” or ‘my ‘ol girl”, then you’d better take a serious look at what you are to him, ‘cause he aint all that into you. When a man is casual about how he refers to you, you’re a Play Girl.

 

You said he’s satisfied with the way things are now? If you’re happy being his #1 Play Girl, fine. Don’t do anything different. Enjoy the dinner and dancing, and the sex. Just know that if/when he runs into a Woman You Stay With, you get kicked to the curb. Slowly, perhaps, but for kissing some concrete, smooch-smooch, Baby, smooch-smooch!

Don’t get mad, it’s what you settled for.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game. You’re a nice little pool stick, hang on the rack awhile, another man will pick you up.

Hopefully.

 

If you’re not happy, now is the time to make your move out of Playhood into Stayhood. The key word is “”availability.”

Playgirls are always available.

Always.

When you give off that “I’ll always be here for you” vibe, guess what? That’s the rule he’ll play by.

(Honey, stop watching the LifetimeChannel. That schit aint real. Trust me.)

StayGirls operate their lives on a schedule, and they aint hanging around waiting on a man to call them. You have to let him know what you want, and your timeframe for getting it, and, if he’s not on board with that, this train’s pulling out of the station. Choo-choo, baby, chooooo-chooooo!

 

The second thing you do to get out of Playland:

Close your legs.

Somebody wrote an excellent book on relationships called If You Want Closure, Start With Your Legs.

Good book. Read it!

 

As long as he’s getting sex anytime he wants it, you’re playing by his rules.

 

If you make yourself available to him 24/7, why in the world does he have to marry you?

Here’s a concept: Become unavailable. Close your legs. Turn off the tap.

What that does is flush him out, as far as his intentions are concerned. If he loves you, and wants to transfer you to Stayville, (good news! you can be transferred! Yaaaaaaaay! But, work quick. The clock is ticking!), he’ll do  whatever it takes to get you there. If he just wants to play, he’ll say whatever he thinks you want to hear to keep you playing, but his behavior will stay the same. Don’t pay attention to what he says, pay attention to what he does. Remember,  a man who is committed to a woman will not let the grass grow under his feet, because a Keeper is too much in demand to stay on the market any length of time.

 

So, mamacita, it’s up to you!

 

Do what you gotta do, to be what you wanna to be!

Matlock Bitness College!!!

I, Matlock 61, am now offering a new service to you White People!

Yaay!

 

What is it, you may ask?

 

Matlock Bitness College—Earn your Master of Bitness Administration, so you can handle your bitness!!!

 

You see, “handlin’ yo’ bitness” is an important part of Black Culture, and I would be remiss in my duties as HNIC if I didn’t teach you this essential piece.

We are offering a series of classes that will help move you swiftly towards your MBA, such as:

Basic Ebonics–What the Heck Are They Saying? (Mandatory Prerequisite)

American Subcultures Culture 101: Black Wimmen, White Wimmen, White Mens, & Brothers–Why We Do The Thangs We Do.

Finance 101: Proper Techniques in Operating Without Proper Licensure 

 

Finance 102: Identifying Various Begging Techniques/Handling a Beggar With Minimal Liability

Tuition be free.

 

Attendance be mandatory.

(see why Ebonics is a prerequisite?)

 

No tuition? You’re puzzled and confused. The classes are free, but the After Parties following each class gonna cost you somethin’, trust me. You see, “handlin’ yo’ bitness” means to know which end of the cow the milk comes from.

And, of course, knowing how to extract said milk from the aforementioned cow. As Grandpa Matlock used to say, “If ya gonna milk a cow, make sho’ yo’ hands be warm!”

 

Anyway, in local news…

Sister Brown got something on Rev. Kimble!

 

Shhh!

 

She got……..pictures.

See, not too many people know about this, but Rev used to be a tomcat, running around with his tail hanging out, if you know what I mean. There was this high-yellow gal that joined church about 2 years ago, and Rev. was kinda sweet on her from day one. You could tell by the way he took a long time to join her up, patting her hand, and praying an extra-long prayer for her soul, but everybody knew it wasn’t her soul he was concerned with, it was them size 44 DD’s she had hanging out of her sweater.

 

Huh? Where was his wife?

 

Oh, she had joined sometime in between his 3rd and 4th wife.

 

Rev move quick.

Don’t interrupt.

Anyway, I don’t know why Rev. didn’t check around, he would’a found out this gal had a thing for preachers; some daddy issues she aint never worked out, and everywhere she go, she end up with the pastor. So, anyway, this girl is Sister Brown’s nieces, and she let it slip that her and Rev. was gonna hook up at the motel. Sister Brown, she one of those that always gotta see for herself, and, she carry her cell phone with her to snap pics.

She need to take a couple’s selfies, ’cause she fool around with Deacon Whitlock’s nephew Jo-Bee, and she think Jo-Bee keep it to hisself, but the boy stay on Facebook, and he keep a webcam on his nightstand. Sister Brown  don’t know, but she gonna make her FB debut next week. Jo-Bee says he might burn a few DVDs, make him some money!

 

Back to my story. Sister Brown went with her niece to the Crispy Sheet Motel, set herself in the closet and wait for ol’ Rev. ‘Bout fifteen, twenny minutes later there was a tap at the door, and in walk in Rev. Accordin’ to Sister Brown, “…he didn’t even say hello, he just started strippin’ off his clothes! He started strippin’, an’ I started snappin’!”

 

I aint gonna say what else she said, because it just aint fittin’ in polite company, if you know what I mean. Sister Brown says she gonna have a loooong talk with Rev, after Sunday’s sermon, dependin’ on what he preach about. She better hurry, ’cause Jo-Bee gonna put her bitness on the street in a minute. Between her, Rev, and Jo-Bee, in about a week or so, Sweet Home Full Gospel Baptist Church of the Nazarene Holiness Temple of Praise and Deliverance A.M.E Methodist African Episcopalian gonna be a mess!

Huh?

 

That aint the same name I said last week?

 

Child, they change the name of that church like Rev. Kimble change his drawers. Maybe more often….

 

Ha!

Luther’s Barber Shop

I gotta quit going to Luther’s.

 

Not Luther’s BBQ, I’m talking about Luther’s Barber Shop.

 

Luther got a bad habit of watching old wrestling re-runs while he cut hair. Lose a few customers every time Dusty Rhodes put the Sleeper Hold on somebody. Luther start digging those clippers in, whoopin’ and hollerin’  and, well, it makes a mess. I gotta ask him what channel that comes on. Wrestling re-runs?

 

Like, it’s already fake to begin with, and you gotta watch the re-runs?

 

There’s another Luther in town, y’know. Luther Caldwell owns the Rib Shack next to the pool hall…well his wife actually owns it, you know, cuz you can’t get a liquor license if you’re a convicted felon. I’m gonna quit going to that Luther’s, too.

 

Why?

 

I aint sure if those ribs of his actually was cut off of a pig, you feel me? Luther trying to compete with that new Chinese buffet, but I think Luther and Johnny Ling got the same supply truck rolling up to their place. I gotta tell Luther, sometimes cheaper aint better. Besides, Johnny Ling’s sauce got Luther’s beat by a mile. They say his wife Ding, she spit in the sauce, but…

 

Huh?

 

Hey, I aint tryin’ to make fun of Chinese people! That’s her name, Ding Ling!

 

Well, that’s what everybody calls her, and she answer the phone to it.

 

“Ling Chinee prace, Ding speakin’! Bes’ wing in town!”

 

That’s what she says, so don’t get mad with me.

Anyway, they say she spit in the sauce, to give it that real Asian flavor, but I aint seen that, myself. I’m still trying to figure out where they get them ribs from…

 

You know Johnny and his family joined the Baptist church last week, don’t ya?

Humph.

 

Johnny Ling aint foolin’ nobody. Johnny got his eye on that Sunday lunch crowd. You can tell them Lings aint really Baptist. Big fat Buddha eyeballin’ you as soon as you walk in. I wonder if somebody told Johnny he gonna get baptized next month? I’m gonna tell him to bring some soap…that oughta’ be worth the price of the offering…

 

Can you imagine, a whole family of Asians getting’ baptized by Rev, Kimball? I aint tryin’ to make fun, but that’s gonna be a mess! Rev is already kinda nervous to begin with, and he gotta put 5 Asians in some water, and dunk ‘em under? And you know, sometime Rev forget he got somebody underwater, and he go to talkin’ ‘bout how …”Jordan River be chilly and cold, chill my body, but not my soul,” and he lie like a sidewalk, that water be freezing! But freezing aint the problem, Rev, you fixin’ to drown somebody in here!

 

When Rev. Kimble hold Ding Ling underwater for 5 minutes, it’s gonna be some schit in Sweet Home Baptist Church of the Nazarene Pentecostal Holiness Church, trust me!

 

Yeah, I know. That’s a funny name for a church. Somebody need to get their doctrine straight.

 

But you know Black people. All we care about is whether or not the choir can sing, and can Reverend Wimble preach good or not. We get baptized when we six years old, get that outta the way early. Johnny and Ding in their twenties, their kids 14, 12, and 3.

I wonder if he gonna try to put ‘em all in the pool at the same time?

Ping, that’s the 3-year old, he don’t lissen to nobody. Rev might, just might, wanna hold him under for awhile, on purpose. Best way to get the devil out is to drown his azz, y’know. Rev. Kimble might end up with a lungful of water hisself, he aint careful.

 

I ought’a warn him, but he was throwin’ slams in the pulpit, talkin’ about, “Some o’ you young wimmens wear yo’ dresses too short! Couple ‘yall wear yo’ skirt one mo’ inch higher, y’all gonna need lipstick! Nasty heifers…”

 

Made my wife mad. She says, “Why Rev be looking at those young women, anyway? He need to be watching Sister Kimble, with her ashy feet! 2 inches of crust on her ankles! Look like she been dipping her legs in cornmeal! All she’s missing is some hot grease, we can have a fish fry up in here! Speaking of fish, she need to wash them old nasty stocking she done wore for the past 3 weeks! Humph! Fish net stockings, that’s exactly what they smell like, fish!”

 

I’m leaving that alone…

 

Ha!

 

Aunt Mae Makes Cornbread

“Okay, Mom,” Aunt Mae said, “show me how to make cornbread.”

 

I bit my lip. Muh had been gatherin’ up the fixins for a gumbo, and my job was to catch the chickens and wring their necks. Then we dipped them in a pot of hot water to make pluckin’ ’em easy. After we plucked ’em, we took the guts out, and put the soft eggs in a bowl, for later. Soft eggs is the ones the chicken aint laid yet, and there aint nothin’ better tastin’ than them, trust me. Well, maybe turtle eggs, cuz it got that seafood flavor built in.

Anyhow, we singed the chickens to get rid of the pinfeathers. I had to be careful, cuz Muh didn’t like stains on her new gas stove. Now in the middle of alla this, Aunt Mae had come over, askin’ Muh to show her how to make cornbread. “Alfred been after me all week to get you to show me how,” she said. “Aint nothin’ wrong with my cornbread, I do it just like they say on the box.”

“Box?” Muh asked, “What box?”

“The Wonder Muffin box,” Aunt Mae answered.

Muh sighed, and rubbed her temples. “You mean to tell me,” she said, slow-like, “that you make box cornbread?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she said, “but Alfred don’t like it. He say it don’t taste right. He threw out my last batch, right offa the front po’ch. Hit the cat inna haid with it, flipped po’ Fluffy twice.”

“Well hoo-ray for Alfred,” Muh muttered. She looked at Aunt Mae. “Baby, I tell you what. I’m right in the middle o’ fixin’ some gumbo. Once we get it to cookin’, I’ll show you how to make cornbread.” She looked over her glasses. “The right way.”

 

“But, hol’ yo hosses,” Muh told her. I still had two chickens left to cut, and Muh had sat down to drink some coffee while she waited. The big iron kettle was on the stove, sizzlin’ the onions, pars’ly, garlic, an’ bell pepper, real slow, so it didn’t scorch. “Stir that, Mae, whilst I sip my coffee,” she said. 

I stopped, an’ looked at Muh. “You feelin’ okay?” I asked.

“I’m feelin’ fine, son,” she answered, “You cut the chickin’, and Mae stir my seasonin’.” She chuckled. “I got me two hosses to pull my wagon.”

I wanted to tell her that one of her hosses had a bum leg, but I kept my mouth shut.

 

You see, Aunt Mae caint cook. Aint no nice way to put it, other than that. Aunt Mae aint had no bitness near nobody’s stove. One time, she tried to make baked chicken with rice dressin’, and for some reason, don’t ask me why, she thought it was a good idea to pack the rice in the chicken.

Raw rice.

I aint lyin’, raw rice!

Uncle Alfred told us later, “I kept hearin’ her open the oven do’r, and sayin’, ‘What’s takin’ this rice so long?’ Afterwhile, I was gettin’ ready to pass out, so’s I went to see what’s keepin’ dinner. I op’ de oven, an’ all I see is half-cook rice an’ burnt chickin! I holler, ‘Mae! What the hell you doin’?’ She come runnin’ from the back room, whoopin’ an’ hollerin’, ‘Get outta my stove! Get outta my stove!’ I was nice about it, Nephew, the cops had already been to the house day befo’ yestiddy, so I didn’t want ta start nothin’ fresh, y’know? I grabs my hat, an’ tells Mae, ‘I be back, I’m goin’ for a paper.’ You know she had the nerve to tell me to get back inna half an hour, so my dinner won’t get cold? Shee-it, if I’da had time to pack some drawers, I’d still be gone!”

I asked him, ‘Well, how did it taste?”

He just looked at me for a minute, and he says, ‘It’s still in the icebox, if ya wants some.”

I says, “But Unc, that was about a year ago, wasn’t it?”

He says, “And?”

 

Well, Mae commence to stirrin, an’ I gets to cuttin’, but I kept my eye on Mae. Muh did, too, but she wasn’t too obvious about it. She wasn’t foolin’ me none, though. Company was comin’, and gumbo was gumbo, and Muh wasn’t about to let some triflin’ woman like Aunt Mae ruin her reputation for cookin’, no sir.

Mae stirrin’ an’ stirrin’ like she really doin’ something, but it’s just onions and garlic, nothing special. Then she gets to humming while she stirring, and I knew that wouldn’t last too long, cuz Mae like them rotgut blues, fellas like Sugar Shank and Lowdown Sam, you know, them nasty niggas. She start humming, and then, sure enough, she start singing, under her breath, on the first. Them bell pepper fumes must’a rized in her head, cuz the song started to get good to her, and she started dippin’ and swayin’ like she was in the club. She sang:

 

“I’m comin’ like a freight train, can you hear my whistle blow?

I’m comin’ like a freight train, baby, can you hear my whistle blow?”

Red light mean stop! (chank, chank, changggg!) Green light mean go, baby go!”

 

I didn’t say nothin, but I snuck a look at Muh. She opened her mouth to say something, but then she press her lips tight, and she hang on, I guess she want to see if Mae realize where she was. She didn’t, of course, just kept on singing:

 

“Wear yo’ black drawers, baby…yo’ daddy comin’ to call..(hey!)

Wear yo’ black drawers, baby…yo’ daddy comin’ to call…

Black drawers is all-right! (chank, chank, changggg!) Soon be none a-tall…”

 

“MAE!”  Muh hollered. “What is wrong wit’ you? Singin’ the blues all under the people’s clothes! In front of the chile, at dat! Loose here, devil! Satan, the Lawd rebuke ya! Gimmie my spoon, gal, have my gumbo all full of the debbil! Move, gal! Can’t even drink a cuppa coffee in peace, without ol’ slewfoot! Move, I say!”

Mae looked at me under-eyed, like she was tryin’ to figger a way of makin’ it my fault. I was doing my best not to laugh, cuz I saw that one comin’ a mile off, just like that train. I put my eyes on my chicken, cuz if I was to look at either Muh or Mae right now, the jig was up. Mae slouched down in the chair and folded her arms like she was mad, but she kept quiet. Muh was still grumbling about the devil, and Mae knew if somebody flipped Muh a nickel, she’d a’noint Mae with some oil inna Name of Jesus, and then the fur would fly. Besides, she still didn’t know how to make cornbread, and between Alfred and Fluffy, she wouldn’t have no peace in her house until she did.

 

“The very i-dea,” Muh muttered, as I handed her the last of the chicken. “Get me the skillet,” she commanded, and as I bent over into the cabinet to retrieve it, I could see Aunt Mae’s bony fingers digging in her purse, kinda sly-like. I knew what it was. Mae was a cigarette fiend.

Pall Mall, unfiltered. Yep, them’s the one.

I began to grin. If Aunt Mae thought Muh was gonna let her cook AND smoke in her kitchen, she had another thought coming.

“Where’s that skillet, chile? What’s takin’ you–” she stopped in mid-sentence. I straightened up. Muh was staring at Mae, who had stuck that Pall Mall in the corner of her mouth. She had a habit of dangling it while she talked, and I always wanted to ask he just how did she do that, but not today. Not now, anyway.

 

“Mae,” Muh said quietly, “you kin learn how to make cornbread here, or you kin smoke at yo’ house. Which one you want?” 

Mae plucked the cigarette out of her mouth, and stuck it behind her ear. Muh sighed, a real deep one. “Hand me the greeze, baby, so we kin get this chicken browned and in the pot. You payin’ ‘tention, Mae?”

All of a sudden, the phone rang, and Muh picked it up.

“Hello? Oh, hi, Abie. I’m fine, I suppose…yo’ sister-in-law in here, and I’m showin’ her how to make cornbread…what ‘cha mean, ‘who’? How many sister-in laws you got? Yes, Mae! Huh? No, I will not wait ’til you gits here… What? You’ll be here in five minutes? Uh-huh…all right, then, bye.” She looked at me. “Yo’ momma on her way,” she said.

 I got to thinkin, then. Momma was comin’ over to watch the show, and I didn’t blame her. I could’a sold tickets to this ‘un, but there was a problem. Aunt Mae needed a cigarette, and a way to smoke one, otherwise she was gonna get all jittery and snappish, and that wouldn’t do, not a-tall. Between Muh and Momma, Aunt Mae didn’t stand a chance without a smoke in the next few minutes. I looked outta the window, and bless my soul, Uncle Alfred was sittin’ on his front porch, readin’ a newspaper. I said, “You might want to go see what Uncle Alfred wants.”

She answered me, real short-like, “I ain’t studyin’ bout Alfred. He want somethin’ he get it for hisself.”

I looked at her. I had half a mind to keep quiet and let the monkey swing, but I felt kinda sorry for Aunt Mae. I says, real slow this time, “Aunt Mae, you might want to go outside, and see what Uncle Alfred want, and then come back and make yo’ cornbread.”

She opened her mouth to answer me, smart-like, then the light bulb came on. She gathered up her purse and got up quick and headed toward the door. “I’ll be back inna minute, Mom!” Didn’t even say thank you, but I didn’t ‘spect her to. She done figgered it was her idea by now, that’s just how she was.

I watched out of the window as she clattered across the street towards her house, a cloud of smoke billowing around her head. Muh said, “Baby, Alfred married that gal whilst he was livin’ in Texas. Time I met her, it was too late to warn ‘im.” She pointed her finger at me. “Boy, you know Grandmomma love you. But if you evah bring home a triflin’ woman like dat one…” she paused, “I’ll beat ya so bad, there be nothin’ left to ya but the greeze spot, y’hear?”

 

 

“Okay, Mom,” Aunt Mae said, “Show me how to make cornbread.” I was leaning on the cabinet by the kitchen sink. Momma had done made her way in, and made her perch in the rockin’ chair near the door, and tryin’ her best to keep a straight face. Muh was sittin’ next to the table, right by the stove, and Aunt Mae was standin’ up at the table.

Muh said, “First thing you gonna need is some flour and cornmeal.”

Mae looked at me, and do you know that old sow had the nerve to say, “You heard her, boy, you need some flour and cornmeal.”

I opened my mouth to answer her, but Momma beat me to the punch. “Mae,” she said, “He aint the one Muh was talkin’ to.”

Mae answered, “Mebbe not, but he need to learn dis, too.”

Momma replied, “He already know how, Mae.”

Good. Mae had a bad habit of tryin’ to order people around, but she was pickin’ figs offa the wrong tree today, trust me…

 

Well, bless my soul, twenny minutes later, we was all sweatin’ bricks. Aunt Mae had poked a hole in the sifter, broke three wood spoons, and spilled a half-pan of cornbread batter in the bottom of the oven.

Yes, ma’am, Muh’s brand-new gas oven.

Good thing Muh had put some tinfoil on the bottom, or she’d be facin’ a murder rap.  As it was, Muh had to take a dose of her pressure medicine, yellin’ at Mae and Momma at the same time: “Go outside and smoke! Go!, I said! Go smoke a cig’rette! Go-smoke-a-cig’rette! And Abie, if you don’t stop laughin’, I’m gonna sen’ you out with her! Raise the window, let the smoke outta here! Tomorra’s Sunday, y’all all goin’ on the altar!”

Finally, Aunt Mae came back in, Momma stopped laughin’, and the pan of batter was in the oven, with a new sheet of tinfoil, of course. Muh glared at us. “Who’s idea was this, anyway?” she asked. Aunt Mae look up at the ceiling, like she didn’t know, then the lid on the gumbo pot clattered a bit, and Mae popped up, like she was gonna fiddle with it. Muh picked up the flyswatter. “I dare ya,” she said.

Supper was good that night. The gumbo was rich and thick, and fulla yardbird, homemade sausage, shrimp and oysters. ‘Round about my third bowl, Uncle Alfred and Aunt Mae came in. “Hidy, folks,” Uncle Alfred said, “I could smell it outside. Pass me a bowl.”

“Go wash yo’ hands, Alfred.” Muh hadn’t quite cooled off. 

“Yas, ma’am,” he answered, and he had a glint in his eye that usually meant he was gonna start some mess. “Boy,” he said to me, “I hear there was some cookin’ goin’ on ‘round these parts. That so?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Yeah, I heard ‘bout it, ‘deed I did,” he said with a wink at me. “Mom, I hear you had a lil’ mis-hap with yo’ new stove. Mae tried to stop ya, but you went and spilt the co’nbread daid in de fire. Messin’ up yo’ new stove like dat, Mom, don’t make no sense. Just don’t make no sense. Good thing Mae was here, could’a been a lot worse. ” He began to chuckle. “Yas-suh, could’a been a whole lot worse!”

Muh got up, real slow-like, and went to stirrin’ in the trash can. “What’cha doin’, Mom?” Alfred asked, still laughing.

Muh came back to the table and sat, holding the broken forks in her hand. She arranged ‘em in a straight line, then sat back, a grim look on her face. “I’m givin’ you somethin’ to think about, when you layin’ in yo’ coffin,” she said. The table grew quiet. Muh got up, a look of satisfaction on her face. “I’m goin’ to bed,” she said, “But befo’ I go, let me tell you sump’tin. Next time you sen’ dat simple-minded heifer back to my house for a cookin’ lesson, I’m gonna break both yo’ necks, y’heah?”

She walked off, and Momma began to giggle. Alfred looked at Mae. “Now, Alfred,” she began, “You know—“

“Hush!” he said, reaching for his pipe, “You done yo’ share of lyin’ for today.” He looked at Momma, who had tears comin’ out of her eyes, she was laughin’ so hard. “Aint no need’a askin’ you, take you five hours to tell the story,” he said. Then he turned to me. “Nephew, I saw you killin’ the chickens, so I knows you were here,” he said, “Now tell me what happened, an’ don’t pull no punches,” he said, with a look at Aunt Mae, who had done started diggin’ in her purse.

“You sure?” I asked.

He sighed, and lit his pipe. “I never ast a question I’se skeert to hear the answer to,” he replied, “And she done already lied to me, so nothin’ you say gonna make it worse,” he said, glaring at Mae, “so tell me.”

I started to tell him, but Momma kept bustin’ out laughin’, so it took awhile. When I told him about how Aunt Mae stuck the fork through the sifter, he held up a hand. “Stop,” he said, “Just stop for a minute. Abie, will you please be quiet? Why in the hell would somebody stick a fork in a sifter? And why did Mom let her do that?”

“Muh was in the bathroom,” I answered, “and Aunt Mae was workin’ the sifter, an’ all of a sudden, she say, ‘These holes too doggone small,’ and ‘fo I could stop her, she grab the fork, and stuck ‘er in.”

“Them holes was too dam small,” Aunt Mae grumbled, “Take all dam day to sift two cuppa flour. An’ why the hell you gotta sif’ it to begin wit’? Don’t the bag say pre-sifted? You think I’ma set here with all yo’ people and let ‘em run me down, and I ain’t gonna defen’ myself?”

Uncle Alfred answer her, he says, “Aint no need-a you defendin’ yoself in here, aint nobody fightin’ with ya.” He puffed on his pipe. “Nope, aint no fightin’ goin’ on in here. Cross the street, now, thassa different story. We goin’ to Mad’son Square Garden inna few minutes, act like Sonny Liston an’ Floyd Patterson, yessir, Sonny an’ Floyd, Floyd an’ Sonny, bang, bang, boom, boom!” He puffed on his pipe, calm as could be.

“Mae, you gonna take that?” Aunt Leese said. Aunt Leese was my momma’s oldest sister. She had been married the longest, got married when she was fourteen, don’t ask me why. Back then, courthouse didn’t ask for birth certif’cates or nothin’, if you looked kinda’ young, they made yo’ momma or daddy sign, an’ that was that. She was kinda like one of them pioneer wimmen, she raise chickens and ducks, plant big garden, vegatables an’ such, did wimmens hair with a flat iron an’ hot comb, an’ between that and her husband drivin’ a cab, they did pretty good.

Anyways, she was pushin’ the fire, mostly to get Aunt Mae stirred up. We all knew Uncle Alfred wouldn’t actually hit Aunt Mae, not ‘less she hit him first, an’ even then he’d just slap her to get her offa him. “I wouldn’t let no man tell me I couldn’t go to my house,” she said, foldin’ her arms. “I’d buss him one in the chops, see how he like dat.”

“Don’t tell him nothin’,” Aunt Mae said, slouchin’ in her seat. I was a bit puzzled, cuz Aunt Leese wasn’t talkin’ to him, she was talkin’ to her, but you know how that is. “Don’t tell him schit. He talkin’ bout Sonny and Floyd, he gonna need Sonny and Floyd to pull me offa him. Nigga thank I’ma let him beat me up behind some cornbread, he done loss his mind!”

“Mae, you aint gonna do nothin’,” Aunt Lezlie said. Yes, Leese and Lezlie, two different people. Don’t ask me how they kept it straight growin’ up, I wasn’t there. “You gonna sit there while Alfred cuss you out fo’ lyin’, and all you gonna do is bust out cryin’. That’s it.”

Aunt Do was chewin’ on a piece of sausage. She was the youngest of Muh’s children, and at the time, she was single. Later on, she married a preacher, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. She stop chewin’ for a minute, and says, “Leese and Lezlie, y’all both need to stop that. Pushin’ a husban’ and wife to fightin’ aint right, an’ you both know it.”

“Aint nobody ask you,” Aunt Lezlie said, “Aint nobody ask you nothin’. When dollar roll, penny stay flat. So set there, an’ eat yo’ gumbo. Now, where was we?” Aunt Do looked at Lezlie, then flicked her sausage offa her spoon, and hit her in the ear.

“Hey!” Aunt Lezlie hollered, “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothin’, now,” Do answered.

Uncle Alfred looked around and made a rude noise. “If I aint surrounded by the craziest wimmen God ever made,” he said, “I’m a man inna moon.”

“You too black to be in the moon,” Aunt Leese said, “They don’t ‘low niggas on the moon, you knows that. They barely ‘low yo’ black azz in ‘Cadia Parish, they aint bout to fly yo’ azz to the moon.” We all laughed.

“I wish they would fly me to the moon,” he countered, “Den mebbe I find me a woman can cook me some cornbread.” He looked at Mae, and shook his head. “All I want me is a little cornbread, e’ry now and den.”

“I cooks cornbred, Alfred!” she hollered, “I cooks, but yo azz ain’ never satisfied! Never!” She banged the table with her fist, then got up. “I’m goin’ to my house,” she yelled, “an’ I dare you to come home an’ start somethin’! I—jest—dare—you!” She snatched her purse, and walked out, her high heels clickin’ a mile a minute. She always had high heels on, I don’t know why.

Well, we just sat there for a minute, waitin’ to see which way the frog was gonna jump. Finally, Aunt Leese says, “Alfred, what you gonna do?”

Alfred smile a bit, then said, “Aint no need ‘a me goin’ over there, aint nothin’ there but a trip to the jailhouse. Besides, I done et. Now, I’se thirsty. Comin’, Nephew?”

“Yes, sir!” I answered, jumpin’ up quick. 

Momma said, “Boy, sit down. Any place you kin get into done been closed. Alfred, what you got press in that pipe of yours?”

Alfred stood up and stretched. “Yeah, mebbe she right, Neph. I aint gonna be back ‘fo sunrise, mebbe noon. I’se gonna have to fight ol’ Sonny anyhow, might as well tank up befo’ Round One.” He ambled out, slow as usual.

“Y’all know where he goin’, don’t y’all?” Momma asked.

“Yep,” they said in unison. “Straight to the Blue Diamond!”

Aunt Lezlie said, “Let’s give him a half-hour, then drop Mae off in there see what happen.” She began to giggle.

Aunt Do reached for the toothpicks, and pulled a few out, then broke one. “Short stick get to drive,” she said.

They looked at her. “Oh, really, peacemaker?” Aunt Leese asked.

“Yep,” Do answered, “Aint no need ‘a us fightin’ over it.”

“Can I come?” I asked. They just looked at me.

“Dollars ‘bout to roll,” Momma said, pointing at me. Penny, stay flat!”

 

 

Proper Behavior Around White Folks

Guess what? 

White people didn’t know we had an Official Handbook. 

I aint lyin’!

 I think I’ve found the source of our problem between the races.

 

 White people don’t know that we have Standard Operating Procedure.

 

How they missed it, I have no idea. But, you know White people, unless we’re singing, dancing or otherwise acting the fool, they don’t pay any attention to us.

 

Why do you think they were so shocked when Obama won? Both times?

Remember, back in ’07, when Hillary was prancing around like she was Queen For A Day, smiling and grinning for the cameras like a chimp on crack? She just knew she had the nomination sewed up. Then here comes this big-eared junior Senator from Chicago, just one state away from Dan Quayle…

 

By the way, where is that sumbit, anyway? Probably in a library somewhere, looking up just who in the hell was John Kennedy!

 

Ha! 

 

But, as is the case so often in these pages, I digress. What was I talking about, anyway, Autumn?

 

Huh?

 

That’s right, Standard Operating Procedure. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. White girls have trouble focusing, y’know. And, BTW, why is it that all the romance novels have pictures of White guys on the cover? Y’all know doggone good and well when you’re sitting at home, looking all misty-eyed, you got a brother on your mind.

 

Love’s Tender Fury, yeah right.

 

Brother’s Outta Kool-Aid, Get to Steppin’ is more like it…

 

 

Standard Operating Procedure.

We call it “sop” for short.

 

One of the beautiful things about BlackSpeak is that we shorten everything.

I don’t understand how in the world White people didn’t know about sop. We are always asking for and aware of any updates and changes to Standing Operating Procedure.

 

Let me explain: When two White people greet each other, they say, “How do you do?”

 

Not us.

 

When two Black people greet each other, the first thing we want to know is “Has there been any major changes in Standing Operating Procedure?’ But, that’s way too many syllables, so we just say, “Whassop?”

And, the usual response is, “Nothin’”, or any of the (at last count) 1,345 derivatives, such as, “Aint nothin’, man”, or, “You got it, Bro.,” or, one of the Old School responses, “Everythang is everythang,” all of which simply means, “Standard Operating Procedure is unchanged as of this moment, but be alert.”

 

You see, White people, Standard Operating Procedures are taught to Black children at an early age. While you were teaching your kids which fork to use, and how to separate the paper from the plastic, we were teaching them what was “sop”. For example, after church @ Sunday dinner, we’d say: “That Reverend Kimble, he think he slick! Nigga done raised the main offering, now he trying to raise one ‘for the po’ chirren in Haiti.’ Humph! Po’ chirren in Haiti, my foot! He done started foolin’ around wit’ Sister Brown’s gal, you know, the one with the watermelon azz! She be swishin’ ’round chu’ch in that too-tight usher uniform with the print of her drawers showin’, azz so big, she be swattin’ flies with it! Then, then, she always got to hand him some note, or a fan, or somethin’, bendin’ that big ass over right in the deacons’ face! Deacon Bellard, po’ thing, his wife died last year, he be watchin’ her, head be bobbin’ like a bulldog on a dashboard, then he caint stand up straight to pray! Well, anyway, Rev. just bought hisself a new car, and somebody gotta pay the note, but I be damn if it’s us! Chirren, when they pass that basket the second time, keep yo’ money in yo’ pocket, y’ hear? Haiti chirren that hungry, they can come over here to eat!”

 

Like I said, we teach our children “whassop.”

 

Ha!

Uncle Hime, Part 3

…cont…

See, I had known him all my life, as a T&T drinkin’, walk-around-town drunk. Never seen him with no woman, and I aint heard of no woman tryin’ to be with him. So for him to tell me about a wife, well, that was somethin’ I aint never heard of. I wiped my chin while he just looked at me.

He said, “What’s wrong with you? You don’t think I had no wife? Didn’t y-y-you hear me t-tell you ‘bout all them wimmen I knowed?”

Well, he had a point.

I said, “I’m sorry, Unc, just nobody never told me you was married, that’s all. Tell me ‘bout it, was she good-lookin’? Was she fine?”

He leaned back, meal finished, and started with his pipe again.

“One last smoke, then I’m gonna send you to the sto’.”

He puffed, and he says, “Pretty? Fine? Boy, lemme tell you, d-d-dat woman had the biggest set of titties you ever wanna see! You know ol’ man Bradford wife? Think her titties big?”

He spat on the ground, an’ say, “Sheee-it, boy, Bradford wife packin’ p-p-peanuts. Peanuts! My wife had big ol’ titties! Man, my wife’s titties so big, she sent ‘em out on errands! One at a time! She named ‘em, y’know. The left one was, le’ssee, Sally, yeah, that’s it, an’ the right one was, uh, Betty! She talk to ‘em too, just like chirren. ‘Betty, move out the way, you pinchin’ Sally!’ Boy, boy, boy….I used to love it when she strap ‘em up, y’know, make ‘em stand up like so’jers, yes, indeed! She had that little tee-tiny li’l waistline….I used to wonder how her food pass down. But then—“ he started movin’ his hands out—“she had them hips….man, them what they called breedin’ hips, them good shakin’ hips. And don’t talk about her azz! What!?! Her azz so big, it cast its own shadow! When I put her on the Greyhoun’ bus, I had to buy two tickets! Big ol’ marshmeller azz!

He look at me e’ry now an’ then, just to see how I was takin’ it. I know he addin’ on some, but that’s just how storytellin’ go. I mean, I knowed aint no wimmen titties bigger than ol’ man Bradford wife. Lessen she work for the circus.

You wimmen gets mad when we men talk about the way y’all is made. I don’t know why, it’s the way God made you.

Read yo’ Bible, in the book of Genesees, God had made all the animals with a mate. Fido, he had Fee-Fee;  Elmo the bull, he had El-see the cow; Billygoat, he had Nannygoat; y’know, e’rybody had somebody, well, e’rybody but po’ Adam. Adam sittin’ there with all the fruit trees around him, apple, pear, banana, persimmon, mango, I mean he got it made! He lookin’ ‘round, e’rybody got somebody to play with but him. E’rybody all coupled up, an’ Adam, he sittin’ there like a fifth wheel. God look down at him, an’ He shook His head, cuz that aint right. Adam sit there too long, he get to singin’ the blues. Caint be singin’ the blues if you in Paradise.

So God, He fix a big glass o’ wine, handed it to Adam.

Huh?

What you mean, the Bible don’t say that?
It say God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. It didn’t say how He done it!

Okay, let’s see…okay, God slip him a Mickey, an’ knock him plum cold…

You happy now?

Where you come from?

Yeah? Well, you need to go back. Go on, let grown folks talk.

Anyhow, God put him to sleep, cut his rib out, and took it to his studio, started moldin’ an’ craftin’, stuffin’ here and there, you know, puttin’ the cushion where it go. So when God finish, He take what He made down to Paradise, see how Adam like it. Adam wake up, rub the sleep outta his eyes, and he notice what God got standin’ there nekkid in front of him.

What!?!
A big ol’ fine, sexy thang, 38-24-36, nekkid, with a bowl o’ fruit in her hand! Brown-skinned, long, curly black hair, with a big ole smile on her face.

Well, Adam got so excited, he started preachin’! He say, “For this cause…uh-huh….. shall a man leave…….well, well….. his daddy and his momma, yessir…..and the two…….shall become one…can I get a witness?”

That’s preachin’, cuz what Adam know about a momma and daddy? Adam aint had no momma nor daddy!
So he took a good look at that fine Black woman, sprung out a good foot or so, and he say “the two shall become one.” Shee-it, Adam was ready to do his thang!

So don’t get mad when we talk about the way you made. Use what God give you. Be proud of yo so’jers, make ‘em stand up. Walk like yo’ caboose is loose.

We men likes that.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, Hime look at me, to see how I was takin’ it. I’m noddin’ my head, goin’ with the story. I know good an’ well her titties aint that big, she fall over when she walk if they was.

He says, “And boy, was she pretty! She had that look, you know, like she know she was the p-prettiest woman in the room, but she warn’t payin’ it n-n-no mind. She smile, an’ the room j-j-just light up. I fell in love with her, dint take long, neither.”

He puffed on his pipe, and I wonder how much tobacco left inside. If he send me to the store, I was gonna tie him to the step, don’t ask me how. But I was gonna hear the end of this.

“Now, Neph, this was the time when I was drivin’ trucks, hustlin’, makin’ good money. Y’know, when you haulin’ cross-country, not e’rything in yo’ rig belong to the m-m-man on yo’ paper. I’m runnin’ to Miami with a load, my return load might have a coupl’a pound of smoke an’ powder, y’know? Oh, boy, back in dem days, I made mo’ money mulin’ than truckin’. Never got stopped, neither.” He nodded his head, thinkin’ about it. “But, you gotta remember, boy, that was back when it was okay, long as you dint try to stiff nobody, just haul an’ hand off to the man, an’ he pay you, give you a little taste fo’ yoself.

So, I’m makin’ good money, got a fine, pretty woman, life be good. I sets her up, buy her a nice little house, buys it, paid cash money fo ’it, put it in her name, cuz I’m on the road alla time, somethin’ happen to me, it be hers already.”

He stopped, an’ pointed his pipe at me. He says, “Boy, don’t ever do that. Always have you a place to lay yo’ head where nobody kin put you out. Stay with yo’ momma, momma get mad wit’ ya, she kin put you out. See? Buy yo’ house, make sho’ yo’ name on it somewhere.” He clench his jaw aroun’ his pipe, and for a second I thought he would snap it plum through. I could tell he was getting’ mad, just thinkin’ about it.

He says, “We livin’ good, bill paid on time, I mean we doin’ fine! An’ me, I’m happy, got this pretty, fine woman, shoot, when I’m home, I drop it on her twice a day, I’m happy, she happy…or so I thought.”

He looked up, and I followed his look. I had been listenin’ so hard, I hadn’t heard the sound of the engine. Momma had done drove up. Oh, doggone! Now I wouldn’t get to hear the rest of it, f’shure.

Momma slam her car door, come out with a paper bag in her hand. She walk down toward the porch, then, lo an’ behold, she peep our way, and start walkin’ towards the barn!

Hime snorted, then he say, “Now what in the worl’ she huntin’? Aint nothin’ but Zora done give her a call, cuz she don’ know w-w-what we talkin’ about. Well, let’s send this chicken to the n-n-nest.”

Momma came up quick, but the sight of a sober Hime kinda slowed her up. Took her tongue, too.  She stood there for a second, then she says, “Aint nobody gonna speak?”

Uncle Hime say, “We sittin’ here. Y-y-you the one come up. How you doin’?”

Momma look at me, and says, “Boy, what you doin’ here?”

I says, real respectable, “Talkin’ with my uncle. Got somethin’ good in the bag?”

She answer, “Just a thimble and coupl’a spools o’ thread.” She hesitated, then she ask, “What y’all talkin’ bout?”

Hime look at her, then he kinda growl at her,”What you say?”

Well, she look like she would druther eat soap, but she was stuck with it. She say, “W-what ya’ll talkin’ bout?” She try to stick her chin out when she say it, but she wouldn’a skeered a puppy.

Hime pointed his pipe at her, an’ say, “I-I’ma tell you like I tole yer Ma. Go inna house, the boy be ‘long directly. Go!”

Momma look at me quick, but I just shrug. She knowed better than that, anyway.

Hime spat, then stuck his pipe back in. “Wimmen. Now she goin’ in there, an’ her an’ Zora gonna cluck their tongue, prolly call Mary to try an’ shake ya loose. Anyway, one day, I’m in N-n-new Orlin, haulin’ dry ice from M-m-m-memphis. I thought I was gonna turnaround to Mobile, but the company c-cancel. I had told the ol’ girl,  Charlene her name, I was gonna be home Monday, but since my t-turnaround c-c-ancel, I figger I supp-rize her.

Well, Neph, the supp-rize was on me. It was about one o’clock inna mornin’, I never forget. I walk in, tippy-toe, gonna flip the light, jump in, y’know. Good thing I flip the light, cuz if fin I wouldn’t, I’da landed on two people! Yep, she all wrapped up wit’ a nigger, I dint know who he was! I could tell the way she was clownin’ dat he warn’t forcin’ hisself on her, naw, if anythin’ she was killin’ him! I says, I says…naw, never mind what I says, it’s what I done! I reach in my pocket, an’ pull out my pistol. She scream, but it don’t matter none, she can scream all she want, scream don’t stop no .38. I was always good with a pistol, shootin’ rabbits an’ s-s-such. I put two in her, swung it on him, dropped one daid in the nuts. ‘Now,’ I tole him, ‘that’ll learn ya.”

He tapped the pipe, then dropped it on the step. “Law came, they put me inna jug. But one o’ those jailhouse lawyers tole me to plea not guilty, lessee how he said it, heat o’ passion. He warn’t lyin, there was plenny heat. Went befo’ the jedge, jedge lissen to the po-lice man tell what he saw, jedge tap his gavel, an’ off I go.”

He laugh, kinda bitter this time.

“Nigger woman daid, don’ make him no never mind. Be a Whi’ woman, come All Saint’s Day, you be buyin’ whitewash.”

He handed me a dollar. “I try to forget, e’ry whichaway I kin. No matter what I do, I caint get Charlene outta my mind. All t-t-t-that blood…..”

He put his head in his hands and start to cry. He raise up, an’ he say, “I pray, an’ I pray, ast the Good Lawd to f’give me. An, y’know what? I b’leve He done did it.”

He stopped, tears just runnin’ down his face.

Mine, too.

 

“But, me….I jes’ caint f’give myself…”

I left the dollar there.

Man ought’a get a free bag o’ tobbacca once in his life, don’t’cha think?

 

 

 

Uncle Hime, Part 2

Cont…..

 

 

Muh said, “That’s enough weedin’ fo’ today, baby. I’m’a go on in the house an’ make some cornbread. Sound good?” She pointed to the pile. “While I make lunch, get rid o’ that, please?”

I says, “Yes, ma’am,” and I look around for a couple of old rice sacks to put ‘em in. Muh lived two, three blocks from the rice mill, right across the tracks, so we always had some sacks around to put stuff in.

About halfway through, and I hear some familiar footsteps. Sure ‘nuff, it was Uncle Hime, coming home after a morning jaunt. I figger he gonna close the door and climb in bed, but he fooled me. He just set on the barn steps and cross his legs.

Well, since he come up and set, an’ he was my uncle, I spoke to him. Where I come from, you speaks to people, especially if they older than you. Just good manners, is all. And, when you speak, put a handle on they name, Uncle or Auntie, or Cousin, or somethin’.

Kids nowadays wanna call old folks by they first name, like they shot hookey with ‘em. White kids, ‘specially, be callin’ they momma an’ daddy Sally an’ Bobby… an’ the parents answer! They do that in front’a me, make me wanna slap em’!

 Ill-mannered bastards.

I says, “Good mornin’, Uncle Hime, how you doing?”

He look up at me, and says, “M-mornin, nephew.” He kinda squint at me, and says, “Y-you-you’s Abbie’s boy, aint-aint ‘cha?”

I says, “Yes, sir. The youngest one.”

He nodded, then he started filling his pipe. I go back to pickin’ wine bottles, but I got my eye on him, cuz it aint too often I see him like that, y’know? He fish around in his pockets, then he point at me. “Boy-boy, you got a match?”

Well of course I didn’t, I hadn’t tried to start smoking just yet. Muh kept matches in the house, you know, to light the stove and the heaters, in wintertime.

I answered, “No, sir, but I’ll go get you some in the house. Hold on, I be back.”

I went in the house, and Muh had a skillet on the stove, and she had poured the first batch of cornbread batter in. It was just starting to sizzle and bubble, and, in about fifteen minutes or so, she’d have that first one ready. Man! I hated to go back outside, cuz there was nothing like watching hot cornbread come out of the skillet, but I was on an errand, and the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d eat.

I said, “Muh, Uncle Hime asked for a pack of matches.”

She pointed at the cabinet, then she looked at me. “Hime’s back, huh? What he doin’? He’s drunk?”

I says, “No, ma’am, he’s sittin’ on the steps, fixin’ his pipe. He ask me if I’m Helen’s boy, so he aint drunk.”

Muh look at me, kinda in surprise. “He talkin? With sense?”

I nodded.

She sat down, an’ put her head in her hands. “Lawd, please remember Hime. Give him his good mind back. Please.” She stood up, and started stirrin’ the bowl for a minute, kinda hummin’ a church hymn to herself. Then she look at me, an’ says, “Go bring him the matches, ‘fo he takes off. But whiles you out there…” she paused a bit, “Talk to him, please. Just…talk to him.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, grabbing the box, and walking to the door. I looked at her before I walked outside, stirrin’ the bowl of batter, and singin’.

Precious Lord……take my hand

Lead me on…….an’ let me stand

I…I’m tired……I am weak

I…..am worn

Through…through the storm

Through….through the night

Lead me on

To the light

Take……take my hand

Precious Lord

And lead….lead me on

 

 

I handed Uncle Hime the matches, and walked back to the last few bottles. “Thank-thank ya, Nephew,” he said, surprising me a little. Not that he didn’t have good manners, Uncle Hime was one of the most well-mannered men I knew. Even when he was on top ‘o his wine, he’d still tip his hat at the wimmen folk. It was just that he didn’t just nod his head when I handed him the box, which is what he’d normally do.

 

I turned around and said, “You welcome,” and just kinda looked at him. He fished a match out of the box, and struck it, and lit his pipe, just as smooth an’ calm as you please. No, he wasn’t drunk, not at all. He puffed, and blue smoke billowed around his head. He leaned back on the door frame, just a-puffin’, and you’d swear he was Governor Rockefeller, the way he looked, all calm and dignified. He says, “Nephew, when-when you fin-fin-finish with that, I nee-nee-need you to run t-t-to the store to pic-pick me up some t’bac-bacca.” He held up the package. “I-I’m run-run-runnin’ low.”

 

I nodded my head. “Soon as I finish this, and eat lunch, I’ll go to Benoit’s and get you some.”

 

It was his turn to nod now. He took a deep puff on his pipe, and said, “Zo-Zorah cookin’ some co-co-cornbread, aint she?” It was more of a statement than a question, cuz he said right then, “I-I-I can smel-smel-smell it.” You know how people who stammer talk. It’s like the words is kinda bobbin’ and weavin’ in they mind, then it come out all of a sudden an’ surprise ‘em, like… Bam! and it come outta their mouth. But don’t make fun of ‘em. They can’t help it.

 

I looked at him. He was really talking, and with good sense. Now how in the world he could smell that cornbread with all that Virginia Extract pipe smoke comin’ outta his mouth and nostrils, you, me, and the Three Wise Men will never figger out. But, he said it, so–?

He pointed at the four sacks I had filled. He said, “Zo-Zora got you pic-pic-pickin’ up all’a my dead-dead friends, aint she?”

 

“Yes, sir,” I answered.

 

He laughed, a wide one, where I could see all in his mouth. I don’t mean no harm, but I could tell my uncle aint had no close fellowship with a toothbrush in a long, long time, no sir. Black and yellow, and most of ‘em broke off.

 

“How-how l-l-long them b-been down there?” he asked.

 

I looked around at the sacks, trying to hide my surprise. Uncle Hime an’ me aint never held a conversation this long before. I don’t know, I guess we aint never had nothing to talk about, ‘fo this time. Usually, when I picked up his friends, he wouldn’t be nowhere around. “Week-and-a-half, two weeks, maybe,” I answered.

 

I got kinda bold, since we was talkin’ and all, and, since he knew who I was, and, more important, since I had been spending the last half-hour bending my back in two picking up somethin’ I didn’t get a taste of, I felt like askin’ a question.

 

“Uncle Hime?”

 

He looked up. “What?”

 

I hesitated a bit. I wasn’t that bold. After all, he was more than just my uncle, he was my great-uncle, Muh’s last living brother, at that. I had to make sure I asked my question right.

 

“Uncle Hime…why you drink…all of that?” I pointed to the sacks.

 

He looked at me kinda sideways, and I leaned toward the house, ready to make a run for it. Fists or a switchin’, I didn’t know what was comin’ next. 

But, he surprised me. He crossed his legs back the other way, and re-leaned on the frame of the door. “Tha-tha-thass a goo-ood question,” he answered, bobbing his pipe in his mouth. He patted the step beside him. “Sit d-d-down, an’ I t-t-tell ya,”

 

 

 

Whaat?