Posts Tagged ‘Uncle Hime’

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?

 

 

 

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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?

 

 

Uncle Hime, Part One

Uncle Hime, Part One

 

 

“Look at all them bottles. That’s a sin and a shame,” my grandmother said sadly. We were outside, diggin’ weeds and pluckin’ worms in Muh’s tomato patch. Well, to be more precise, we were in the tomato section of Muh’s garden patch, if a hundred foot long and wide could be rightly called a “patch.” That’s what she called it, so take it up with her, when you get to Heaven. And, if you don’t make it that high, I guess it really don’t matter then, will it?

 

Anyway, we were diggin’ and pluckin’, the weeds went into a trash bag, and the worms went into a jar, ‘specially the green cutworms. Made real good bait for sac-a-lait and sheephead that ran in the creek nearby. Between the garden and the fishin’, not to mention the local cattle and pigs the farmers raised, we ate pretty good. We raised tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, okra and corn, chickens, too, and the neighbors raised root crops and such, and everybody traded one with another and sold the surplus. We went to the grocery store for what we didn’t raise or trade, stuff like sugar, flour, you know, what they call “staples.” Life was simpler back then, and I don’t have the foggiest idea how we got to where we are now.

 

Anyway, we had taken a break, kinda stretched our backs, and Muh had cast her eye on a pile of wine bottles on the side of the barn my Uncle Hime had gotten rid of.

I guess I have to explain about my Uncle Hime.

I say “my” Uncle Hime, cuz I claim him, he’s my blood and kin. Muh’s baby brother, he was disabled and Muh got a check every month to help take care of him. I don’t know if it was the VA or Social Security, I just know that Muh took care of him the best she knew how. It was kind of hard on her, because he had a bad drinkin’ habit. You know how some people drink social-like, sittin’ around a table chattin’, playin’ dominoes or some such, with a beer, or a fifth amongst friends?

 

Well, no, Uncle Hime wasn’t a social drinker, no sir. And he didn’t waste time with beer. Nope, Uncle Hime was a T&T man, and he didn’t believe in sharing the bottle. When he made a purchase, that bottle of White Port was his, and his alone.

He’d sit on the barn step and read the label, don’t ask me why. It wasn’t as if T&T made something a con-no-seer would be interested in. But he’d read it, then he’d hold the neck of the bottle in one hand, and turn it upside-down. Then he’d take the palm of the other hand and give the bottle a good smack! Then he’d turn it over and twist the cap of in one motion, snnicck! He’d throw the cap as far as he could, like he knew he wouldn’t be needin’ it no mo’, not in this lifetime, no sir!

Then he’d take that first cold sip, and then, real quick, he’d read the label again, like the clerk had sold him the wrong brand. Then, he’d sip again, a good long one this time. Aahhh! Yep, he bought the right one, baby.

After that, it was all over but the shoutin’. He’d lean back and get to pullin’ on that wine, and before the sweat done dried off the bottle, he done drained it dry. Yes sir, and you could be sittin’ right next to him, he wouldn’t offer you a drop. Not one drop. He’d throw the bottle in the pile, and lean back and scratch his belly, like he waitin’ on that wine to settle in. Then, he’d snatch his hat and take off. He’d walk all over town, just rubbin’ hisself and mumblin’, aint talkin’ to nobody, just rubbin’ and mumblin’, till that first bottle wear off, then he’d make his way to the nearest likker store, and buy him a refill. Sometimes he’d get to walkin’, and he end up in Church Point, or Jennings, and he can’t find his way back. No problem, he’d just sit on somebody’s porch steps, they call the cops, and, since they all knew him, they’d call Muh to send somebody to pick him up. Time they drop him off, he’d go into the barn and sleep it off. Next day, Muh would have something good for him to eat, and she’d offer him a bath. Nine time outta ten he turn it down, but sometime she get outdone with him an’ make him get in the tub. I’d try to hang aroun’ for that, make sure he didn’t get too out the way with her, cuz when he had that wine on his mind, a bath was just one mountain he had to move outta the way, if you know what I mean.

Once, we was having our Fourth of July bobbycue, and Daddy and my older cousins and uncles was playin’ dominoes around the brick pit. The wimmens was inside, makin’ custard for the homemade ice cream an’ frying fish. I was around 12 or so, so I hung around the menfolk, fetchin’ beer and ice, you know, while they pretended not to see me sneak a quick sip before I handed it to ‘em. They had a fifth of Johnny Walker on the back side of the pit, so’s if Momma or one of my aunties came outside, they wouldn’t see ol’ Johnnie.  Anyway, Uncle Hime was sittin’ on his step, with a fresh bottle of T&T, mindin’ his own bitness. Cousin Fetch said, “Watch this, Uncle Matt. Hey, Uncle Hime!”

Daddy said, “Leave Hime alone, man.”

Fetch said, “Hush, Uncle Matt,” and started laughing.

Daddy said, “Alright, smartazz, I aint tellin’ you nothin’. Hime aint botherin’ you none, why don’t you let him drink his wine in peace?”

Fetch had a few beers in him, cuz normally he would’a listened, but you know how Budweiser do, it put a plug in your ears, so nothin nobody says make sense. Fetch got up, and walked over to where Uncle Hime was, and tapped him on the arm and said, “Uncle Hime, why don’t you sit with us? We got some cold beer, an’ a fifth of Johnnie Walker Red, you welcome to drink as much as you want.”

Uncle Hime looked at him. We all got quiet, cuz we didn’t know how he was gonna take it. Uncle Hime was always a kind that kept to himself, didn’t bother nobody, y’know?

Hime looked at him, and Fetch told him agin’, “Come on, sit with us, and drink all you want.”

Hime picked up his T&T and put it to his mouth, and I’ll be dogged if he didn’t drain it dry. I mean dry, didn’t leave nothin’ behind! Then he threw the bottle on the pile, stood up, and said, “W-w-where-where at?” Uncle Hime kinda stammered when he talk, y’know.

Fetch led him over to where we were, set him down in a chair, and said, “Now we is actin’ like kinfolks, we all sittin’ together,” and he give Daddy a wink.

Daddy say, “Yo’ head too hard for yo own good.” Fetch just laughed, and slapped Uncle Hime on the shoulder, and he asked him, “You wanna play a round with us, Unc?”

Uncle Hime looked at him and say, “P-pas-pass me th-that-that bottle.”

Daddy snorted, and Fetch said, “What?”

Uncle Hime pointed at Johnny and said, “P-p-p-pass me that bottle.”

Well, now Fetch was in a fix, seein’ he was the one who invited Uncle Hime over in the first place, specially when Hime wasn’t askin’ to come over. Fetch looked around the menfolk, but he wasn’t getting no help.

Daddy said, “You the one brought him over here, now give him what he want.”

Fetch reached over to pick up the bottle, kinda slow, cuz him and Johnnie was real good friends, if you know what I mean. He picked it up, and hand it to Uncle Hime. Hime took it, and looked at the label.

Daddy reached in his pocket, quick-like, pulled out a ten-spot, and dropped it on the table. “Bet’cha he kill it ‘fo he put it on the ground,” Daddy said.

The two other guys, Homer and Cousin Billy, pulled out a few bills, but the tenner had some room left.

“What you say, Cuz? Want what’s left over?” Daddy asked Fetch, kinda laughin’ at him. Hime was still staring at the label, I dunno why, maybe cuz it wasn’t sayin’ what it usually say. Your guess is good as mine.

Fetch dropped a bill and some change. “Aint no way he could kill that. Not that much. He a wine drinker, not a Scotch drinker. He might hit some, but Johnnie gonna kick his azz ‘fo he finish.” Daddy looked at Hime, who was still reading the label. Daddy reach in his back pocket, pull out his wallet, and fished out a twenty, and he says, “How much o’ that you want, nigga? Hime gonna drain Johnny dry.”

My eyes popped, and I wasn’t the only one. Homer made a motion at his back pocket, but Billy reach over and grab his arm and says, “Don’t be a fool, man. Anybody that can drink as much’a that Scotch in one sittin’, it be Hime.”

Daddy says, “Hurry up and drop yo money, ‘fo he starts drinkin’ Once he unscrew that cap, all bets is off.”

Fetch rubbed his chin, tryin’ to decide. Uncle Hime was sittin’ calm, just lookin’ at that label, like he didn’t have a care in the world. Fetch reached in his back pocket, pull out a ten-spot, and says, “If I lose twenny, I have to shoot you and Uncle Hime,” and drop the ten on the table.

Daddy say to me, “Want some o’ this, son?”

I says, real quick, “Hell, no!” I wasn’t crazy, I had seen Uncle Hime in action. T&T or Johnny, brown likker or white, didn’t make no difference to him.

Daddy handed Fetch a five off the table. Fetch took it, and stuck it in his pocket. We all looked at Uncle Hime, who had braced the bottle on his knee. He scratched his head, just as slow and calm as you please. We watched, and the tension started to build up. Daddy was leanin’ back in his chair, just waiting to see what Uncle Hime would do. Daddy had told me once, “Son, once you put yo’ money on the table, jes’ pretend it aint yours. That way, if you win, great, and if you lose, it don’t matter none, it wasn’t yours anyway.”

Time passed a bit, and Fetch was just a-sweatin’. It started gettin’ to him, you could tell.

He said, “Come on, Uncle Hime, you can’t hold the bottle all day. Hit it, an’ pass it.” Hime never give him a glance. He bounced the bottle on his knee, an’ you could hear Johnny, just a-splashin’. Finally, it just got too much for Fetch, and he says, “Damn, Uncle Hime! Shit, or get off the pot!”

Daddy started laughing at him, Fetch, I mean. It was kinda funny, I guess, specially since I didn’t have no money on the table to worry about. Anyway, Hime reads the bottle again, then he reach for the cap, an’ I holds my breath while he twist it off. Sure ‘nuff, he throw it away. Daddy lean forward, but he didn’t say nothing. Uncle Hime took a sip, and look at the label with a surprised look on his face.

Fetch started laughin’, an says, “Ya see? He aint used to nothin’ like that.”

I says, “He do the same thing with his T&T,” and Daddy says “Hush, son, don’t give the play away.”

Uncle Hime took a second pull, longer this time.

Fetch says, “That got to knock ‘im down,” but Hime didn’t even blink. He took another draw on it, and he says, “Aaaahhh!” like he was drinkin’ a cold bottle of Coke. He smacked his lips an’ belch, then he swirled the bottle around a bit. Then he leaned the bottle back, and started puttin’ some heavy hittin’ on po’ Johnny. Gulp, gulp, gulp, glug-glug-glugg, and that was it. He held it up for a few more seconds to catch the dregs, then stood up and threw it in the pile.

Fetch said, “Damn!” Billy and Homer just shook their heads while Daddy pulled in the money.

Uncle Hime turned to Daddy, and he hold out his hand an’ says, “Five.”

Daddy said, “What?”

Hime says, “Giv-giv-gimmie five!”

Daddy didn’t say nothin’, just hand Uncle Hime a five-spot. Hime took it, and pointed at the BBQ pit. “You-you-gonna bu-bu-burn the chicken, you ain-ain-aint careful,” and he walked off, straight as a razor.

 

You know Uncle Hime. He stammer a bit…..

 

White Preacher Come to Town, Part 3

 

 

Momma walked over to Sister Agnes, who was sitting with a worried expression on her face. “Mom Zora said she gonna be a little bit late,” she said, “Go ‘head and start service, she’ll be along in awhile.”

 

“Okay, baby,” Sister Agnes answered. She nodded at my Aunty Dee, who sat patiently at the piano. She found middle C, then, her E-flat chords. She grimaced a bit, there was always one or two keys that would stick on her. She jiggled the sticky key loose, satisfied, she struck up a tune:

“Made a vow to the Lawd…and I won’t go back!”

Made a vow to the Lawd…”

 

“And I won’t go back!” the congregation roared in answer.

 

“On my knees, I made a vow…!”

“And I won’t go back!”

 

The song, an old call-and-response number, was a COGIC classic….

 

I’m sorry, what you said?

 

COGIC? Church of God In Christ, an OG Black denomination, hardcore as they come. Born in the early 1900’s by Bishop Charles Harris Mason, who was put outta the Baptis’ Chu’ch after he came from the Azusa Street Revival speakin’ in tongues. Yeah, they put him out, said speakin’ in tongues was of the debbil. Well, they put him out, but he founded his own chu’ch, and been doin well ever since.

 

Like I say, COGIC was hard-core: no drinkin’ or smokin’, dippin’ nor cussin’. The women wore long dresses, and little to no makeup, cuz Jezebel the harlot wore heavy makeup an’ lean out the window to temp’ Jayhoo. Jayhoo looked up an’ saw her, and tole the yew-nocks to pitch Jezzie out. I don’t know fo’ sho’, but mebbe the yew-nocks was chasin’ after the same thing Jezebel was chasin’ after, but anyhow, they flex they arm, and out she fly. Splat! The dogs was happy, tho, all that Jezebel juice made for good lappin’. Look it up in the Bible, if you don’t believe me.

The congregation was up, clappin’ and singin’, you know, not High Chu’ch just yet, but well on the way. Besides, there was a bit o’ special sump’tin in the air, cuz it warn’t often a White man preach in Cane Creek COGIC, no sir.

Plus, er’body had heard ‘bout the goin’s-on in Mom Zora’s barn, and I mean er’body, so chu’ch was packed, wantin’ to see this White man, an’ his two hoes. Plus, they wanted to see what Mom Zora was gonna do ‘bout that White man eatin’ up all her food and doin’ the double-butt shuffle in her barn. I mean her rep’tation was at stake, aint no way she could let ol’ Thibodeaux get away with that, and then preach in her chu’ch? No, sir, God didn’t sleep, and Mom Zora was wide awake, layin’ dead onna side.

 

After while, Thibodeaux walk in, him and his two wimmen, they fannin’ an’ fussin’ over him, like he Elvis Pressley or the Big Bopper. He was wearin’ a white robe, with three racin’ stripes on his sleeve. Daddy said later that them stripes s’pozed to mean that Thibodeaux had gone to college and got his doctor degree, but all them stripes was good for was for Rev to wipe his azz wit, cuz they warn’t worth schit. That’s what Daddy said, and I agreed.

 

He sot down, in Elder Wimble’s seat, which was highly nervy of him. You don’t sit in no pastor’s seat, ‘lessen the pastor hisself invite you to. If the pastor warn’t there, you sat in the side chair, but Thibodeaux, he just plop his big rump in the big soft chair like it was his’n. Sister Agnes got up to correct him, but Momma was quicker, and went whisper somethin’ in her ear. Sister Agnes look surprised fo’ a moment, then she broke out in a big grin, and turn back around and commenced to pick up singin’ where she left off. Yes, Lawd, sump’tin was up, cuz Sister Agnes didn’t grin too often.

 

The two wimmen, they come down, and one of them go to where my Aunt

Dee was on the piano, and cross her arm, like she was waitin’ for Aunty Dee to get up. Dee pointed at herself, an’ that yaller mouf heifer nodded her head, and made a jerkin’ motion, like she was tellin’ Dee to hurry up. Dee humped her shoulders, and got up, which kinda put the kibosh on “Made A Vow.” Sister Agnes waited a moment, cause usually right here, she’d start the prayer.

 

Yaller Mouf looked at Sis Agnes, who close her eyes and started up Prayer Chant #1, “Yassss….Yasssssss…”

 

The congregation picked it up: “YASSSSSSS!…….YASSSSSS! 

It’s the oldest meter in COGIC history, six bars in a slow blues rhythm. Bishop Mason said that the best thing you could tell the Lawd was “Yes” and “Thank you.” So, they made it their prayer meter, an’ they sprinkle it all through the service, kinda like black pepper.

 

Sister Agnes bein’ the prayer leader fo’ tonight, she picked the lyric, and the congregation repeated it for five bars. When she decided enuf was enuf, she’d broke off the meter, and begin to pray in earnest:

 

“Here tiz’ me once agin’…yo’ mos’ hum’lest servant….I thanks you Lawd, cuz you touch de button o’ Nature…and my eyes sprang open…my bed was not my coolin’ bo’rd…kivver not my windin’ sheet…tung not gloo to the roof ‘a my mouf….my eyes not closed….with the blue curtain of Death…”

 

Spooky, aint it? Make you scared to go to sleep at night, first time you hear it. I won’t give you the whole thing, take too long. She pray real good, tho’, she’d get happy, right towards the middle, make a good whoop…

 

Huh?

 

What’s a whoop? Po’ thing, where you from? You must be one of them Pressbeeterians, don’t know what a whoop is. It’s kinda like a rockin’ beat you use, when you preachin’ or prayin’, almost like singing, but not quite. E’ry now an’ then, a White boy come along, tries preachin’ that style, but you needs rhythm to pull it off. Now, not all Negro preachers kin whoop neither, and long as they don’t try, it’s okay. Nothin worse than a Negro preacher whoop when he don’t know how.

 

Martin Luther King didn’t whoop, but he string them words together like a college boy, made it sound good.  Now, you want to hear a good whoopin’ preacher? Reverend C.L. Franklin, or Leo Daniels, them’s the whoopers. Look ‘em up, you’ll see what I mean…anyway, hush, and let me talk!

 

She finished prayin’, and stood up. She got the offerin’ basket, and said, “Now we shall lift up our church offerin’. We gonna raise an offerin’ later for the preacher, but this offerin’ go to the chu’ch. She look aroun’, and er’body with good sense got the gis’ of what she was sayin’. I look to see how Ol’ Thib was takin’ it, but he sat there with his eyes closed.

 

Good.

 

Them 2 wimmen was Negroes, but I guess they been away from Negroes fo’ too long to know what was up.

Daddy leaned over to me an’ whispered, “Dat White boy aint gonna see a penny of dat collection, watch an’ see. Here, go put this in the basket,” and hand me a ten-spot.

Me, I was proud as punch, made sure everbody saw that ten, plus the one I added. Held it high, like I was offerin’ it to the Lawd. Elder Wimble taught us that.

Had a good bit of money in there, like I said, the place was packed, and most ‘a them folks had good sense to know where the first offerin’ was goin’.

 

When we finished puttin’, Sister Agnes blessed the offerin. She says, “We thanks you, Lawd, fo’ this offerin’, bless those who give, bless those who desire to give, but didn’t have it, bless them to have it next time. Let this offerin’ be use to the glory of God, in Jesus name, Amen!”

 

The congregation said “AMEN!” while Sister Agnes took her long pocketbook out of her bosom, and stuck the money in it, then put the pocketbook back in her bosom, and that was that. Daddy leaned over and said, “Lockdown in Fort Knox,” and started chuckling to hisself. Momma gave us the eye, but Daddy didn’t pay her no mind.

 

Sister Agnes struck up a song to open Testifyin’ Service, and I have to give  Yallow-Mouf credit, she could play the piano pretty good. Sister Agnes was singin’ “Don’t Let the Debbil Ride,” a old standard. Sister Agnes had a reedy, kinda’ thin voice, but she was loud enuf to make up for it. She sang:

 

“Don’t….let the debbil ride….

I said, do-ooon’t……let the debbil ride…

Cuz if you let him ride….he gonna wanna drive…don’t let him ride…”

 

She open her mouf to sing the second verse, an’ lo an’ behol’, that rotten mouf woman took her song!

 

I aint lyin’!

 

Rotten-Mouf took Sister Agnes song!

 

My eyes popped, cuz you didn’t take nobody’s song, specially Sister Agnes!

 

Let me ‘splain it to you, cuz you look like you don’t understand.  Takin’ somebody’s song means you tellin’ the person you aint singin’ the song right, sit yo’ azz down, an’ let me sing it for you. It take nerve to take a song, an’ it’s a good way to make an enemy, specially somebody like Sister Agnes. She had a long memory, and once you made her schit-list, that was it. Keep an eye on yo’ back, ‘cause fo’ getting’ you, yo’ azz was got.

 

Rotten-Mouf took it, tho’, and I can’t lie, she had a real pretty voice, but you had to close yo’ eyes tight to enjoy it. Them teeth was just too rotten to look at. When she open her mouf wide to hit the high notes, you could see nothin’ but black. Look like she been chewin’ raisins. Nasty, jes’ nasty! Daddy whispered somethin’ to Momma, and she hit him on the arm with her fan, and bent over, jus’ a-laughin’. I knowed fo’sho’ something was up, then. Momma didn’t laugh in church, no sir.

 

Sister Agnes sat down, real mad. Well, that’s all she could do, after Rotten-Mouf took her song, either that, or look like a fool. Sister Agnes sot down, and fold her arms, as if to say “You conduct Testifyin’ Service, then.” So, Rotten-Mouf walked over an’ stood behin’ the offerin’ table an’ conduct. She sang a few verses of the song, then finished with:

 

“Doooo-n’t…let him sleep in yo’ bed

I say, doooo-n’t…let him sleep in yo’ bed….

If he sleep in yo’ bed…..you’ll wake up dead…don’t let him riiiiide…”

 

I was puzzled. I leaned over, and asked Daddy, “How you wake up, if you dead?”

 

His shoulders shook a bit, then he said, “Hush, son, just sit there and enjoy the show.”

 

 

Yallow-Mouf an’ Rotten-Mouf sang a duet. You could tell they been singin’ together a long time, cuz they sing in harmony, not in unison, like most folks roun’ here do. They sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and they did a nice job, a couple of folks in the middle row even got happy.

They must-a been from outta town, cuz nobody in Cane Creek was gonna shout over nothin’ them two was gonna do. I don’t care if an angel swoop down ‘roun they head, they could forget it. Hoes is hoes, an’ after that stunt

they pulled in Mom Zora’s barn with that White man? No, baby, it wasn’t happenin’, trust me.

 

I looked around. Something wasn’t quite right.

 

Then it hit me, Muh hadn’t come in yet.

 

Hmmmm….

 

I leaned to look at Momma, who had her arms folded, then it hit me again, Momma hadn’t gotten happy yet. Shoot, by now, Momma be done got on the floor and cut her a rug or two. Momma liked church, she said it was better than the club. That’s what she say, me, I didn’t know. But she’s sittin’ there with her arms folded, but she wasn’t mad, I could tell. Matter o’ fact, she looked like she was on the verge of bustin’ out in a laugh, but she was holdin’ it. I looked at her, and bless my soul, she wink at me! You don’t know Momma, but she don’t never wink! Somewhere in the Bible, in Proverbs, it talk about how a winkin’ eye aint no good. Well, sumpin was up, an’ Momma was in on it, that’s fo’ sho’…

 

They finished singin, and then they begin to sing Amazin’ Grace, an’ erybody know the preacher comin’ up next. Yallow Mouf introduced the preacher, real long and flowery, but I noticed that when she got to talkin’, Momma got up and tipped outside. A minute later, she came back in, and sat down with a smug look on her face. I leaned over to ask her ‘bout it, but Daddy hunch me with his elbow, so I sat back.

 

Thibodeaux got up, an’ commence to preachin’. Well, what pass fo’ preachin’ in some parts. He start off in the book of Genesis, how Adam an’ Eve was White people, an’ the Garden of Eden was in Switza’lan’ somewheres…I hope I don’t have to explain how much a’ humbug this was? Anyway, he says that Eve was tempted with the fruit, not by the debbil, but by her Negro servant. Now, that foolishness got on my nerve, but what really sot me on fire was a couple of Negroes in the back said “Amen!” Daddy said later some people never lef’ the cotton field. I believe he was right, fo’ sho’.

 

But, anyway, right in the middle of Rev’s sermon, the door creak open, an’ Muh walked in with somebody, which wasn’t too unusual in an’ of itself, cuz Muh was always bringin’ somebody to chu’ch. But what was strange

was who she had with her. Uncle Hime walked in, an’ my eyes popped open wide, I mean wide. Uncle Hime aint never come to chu’ch, not in my lifetime.  I lean over, Momma an’ Daddy both fightin’ a grin. I lean over the other way, my brother an’ sister eyes popped open bigger than mine. Erybody looked as he walked in an’ sat down, right in front.

 

I gotta ‘splain this to you. Uncle Hime was Muh’s baby brother, ‘bout ten years or so. He was one of several town drunks in Cane Creek, an’ if you ask me, he was the best one of the bunch. He drank T&T White Port, and every so often, Muh would pay us to pick up the scores of bottles Uncle Hime had pitched behin’ the barn. He was harmless as they come, but he was allergic to bathin’ and shavin’, as well as changin’ clothes. He’d walk all over town, hummin’ and singin’ to hisself, and sometimes, he make his way outta town, and end up in Church Point or Jennings, somebody who knowed him would call Muh, an’ she’d get Uncle Pacon to go an’ pick him up.

 

Like I said, Uncle Hime was harmless as a fly, he jus’ looked ferocious. Momma had tole us one time that Uncle Hime was a prizefighter, back in the old days, an’ he fought undercard to Jack Johnson, once or twice. But he got hit a few times in the head, well, quite a few times in the head, you know how it was back then, warn’t no three-minute rounds, you fought ‘til somebody got knocked down, count less than ten, fight some ‘mo, ‘til somebody out cold. He drove 18-wheelers after that, drove all over the country, ‘til he too old. Muh took care of him, made sure he had sumpin t’eat an’ such. I got another story about him, maybe I’ll tell you that one next.

 

Well, he sot down on the front bench, an’ cross his legs, jus’ like a deacon. Muh sot next to him, reached up, took off his hat, and put it on the bench.  Uncle Hime took his hat, and put it back on his head. Muh didn’t bother with it, there was more important things afoot. She cross her legs, so’s they look like a pair of bookends. Ol’ Thib just  kept on a-preachin’, he never notice how the crowd shift when them two walked in. He say:

 

“…an the Lawd sent me here, to heal the sick, an’ to cast out debbils! Debbils, I say, who make you sick! Debbils, I say, who wreck yo’ home! Debbils, I said, debbils, who enter into men an’ turn em’ into wild beasts! The Lawd sent me here, to lay hands on the sick! The lame! The afflicted! The blind, the crippled! The Lawd sent me here, an’ brudders an’ sisters, I ain’t leavin’ until I done cast out every debbil in Cane Creek!”

 

That’s when Muh stood up. Thib was sweatin’ an’ spittin’ an’ wavin’ his hands, man, he was jus’ a-goin’! He was all excited when Muh stood up, I guess he thought she was gonna get everybody more whipped up than they was, but he was wrong. He says, “Testify, Mother! Tell us what the Lawd has done for you! Tell us, TELL US!!!”

 

Muh said, “You want me to tell er’body what the Lawd has done for me? He kept me–”

 

“He kept you, Mother?” Thibodeaux  interrupted. She was calm, tho.

 

She said, “He kept me from shootin’ you an’ them two hoes you brung to my house. An’ as far as leavin, you an’ them two nasty wimmens gittin’ outta here tonight. An’ I don’t mean outta my house, I mean outta town!

 

Well, that’s when the diaper hit the fan. Thib turned red as a beet, an’ made a sign at them two wimmen, an’ they come up, lookin’ to pug it out. Rotten Mouf was the closest, an’ she made a step  towards Muh. But, she forgot she had stolen Sister Agnes’ song, so Sister Agnes called it to her ‘collec’shun.

 

What she did? Jus’ grabbed her by the arm an’ whipped her in the pew, real hard. Knock the wind plum’ out ‘a her, then, jes’ in case she had a breff left, she sot on her! Oh, I forgot to tell you, Sister Agnes weigh nigh close to fo’ hunnert pounds. Yeah, now you get it. Rotten Mouf should’a never took Sister Agnes’ song, no sir.

 

Yallow Mouf, po’ thing, she never stood a chance. She stepped up towards Muh, an’ Muh said, “Put yo’ hands up, heifer!”

 

Well, she didn’t.

 

Muh said, “I warned ya,” and put up her fists like Joe Louis.

 

I aint lyin’!

 

She started bobbin’ an’ weavin’ her haid, and Daddy hollered, “Jab!  Jab!”

 

He didn’t have to coach her, tho’. Muh hit her with two stiff ones, daid in the fo’head, rocked her straight back! Then, she dropped her shoulder, an’ swung a uppercut, knocked her square in the jaw!

 

Clip!

 

She fell with a thunk to the floor, out like a light, I mean o-u-t!

 

Ol’ Thib was sweatin’ buckshot by now. Both of his wimmens was M.I.A., an’ he warn’t too shure ‘bout hisself.

 

Muh walked up to the altar table, an’ pointed at him, and says, “Next time the Lawd tell you to come to Cane Creek, you tell Him Zora says ‘No!’”

 

He says, “Now, look-a-heah, girl, you don’t tell me what to do!”

 

Muh didn’t answer him, she just reach over, an’ rang the Sunday School bell….Ding!…..Ding!

 

Uncle Hime jump straight up. Somebody screamed, I guess they thought he was about to get saved or somethin’, I don’t know. He took his hat off, an’ throwed it on the pew, an spit in his hands…

 

Huh?

 

I aint lyin’, I’m tellin’ you what happened!

 

He spit in his hands, an’ rubbed ‘em together, then sot hisself like Jack Johnson, I mean he went way back! He rolled his head a couple of times to the left, then to the right again, then he shuffle his feet, and went skippin’ towards Muh.

 

“Where he at, Zora?” he asked.

 

Muh pointed at Thibodeaux. “Sic ‘im, Hime,” she said.

 

Well, it wasn’t pretty. Uncle Hime leaped up in the pulpit, just a bobbin’ an’ weavin’. Daddy say Hime fight just like Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Me, I say Sugar Ray, but that’s me.

It don’t matter none, cuz Thib was a preacher, not a fighter.

Not at all.

 

Hime bob an’ weave, while Thib tryin’ to cas’ the debbil outta him! What he should’a done was put up his hands an’ try to block some of them blows Hime was getting’ ready to throw on ‘im. Hime hit him with about five or six shots to the belly. Thib’s belly was kinda big, but Hime bend ‘im over pretty quick.

He bent over, an’ Hime stepped in for the kill. Hime put his lef’ hand on top of Thib’s head, an whipped his right hand roun’ an’ roun’.

 

Jock said, “Bolo punch him, Uncle Hime!” an’ that’s just what he done.

 

Wham!

 

Revund’ Thibodaux’s haid jerk back, an’ he fell in a heap! Muh rang the bell, an’ Uncle Hime came bobbin’ an’ weavin’ back to his seat, then sat down, crossed his legs, and put his hat back on his head.

 

Rotten Mouf took a deep breath, Lawd knows how. Sister Agnes said, “You wanna sing, you black toof skanch?” got up, and sat down again.

 

Whoosh!

 

Rotten Mouf said “Oooffff…!” and started turnin’ colors.

 

Muh said, “Get offa her, Agnes, ‘fo you smother her!”

 

Sister Agnes smacked her lips an’ said, “I wanna hear her steal another one’a my songs!” She started bouncing in Rotten’s lap. “Come on, sing, heifer, sing!” she said, Rotten going “Oof!” with every bounce.

 

Took Muh ten minutes to talk Agnes offa that woman.

 

The deacons drag Thib outside, and throwed him into Uncle Pacon’s cab. The two wimmen staggered in there, too, and off they go.

 

Well, after all that, they had to dismiss chu’ch. Erybody shook Muh’s hand, tellin’ her how wonderful the revival was.

 

“Yes, praise the Lawd,” Muh kept tellin ‘em, “Praise His Holy Name!”

 

Uncle Hime stood up, and walked over to Muh. He put his hand out, and Muh put a ten-spot in it. He stuck it in his pocket, tipped his hat, an’ said, “Praise the Lawd!” an’ walked out.

 

Well, that was too much for Momma. She had knowed the whole set-up, an’ had to hol’ on to it until it unfold. She bust out laughin’, and I mean she jus’ fell out!

 

Muh just looked at her for a minute, then she shook her haid an’ said, “Stop laughin, Abbie, that aint funny!”

 

Tales From Cane Creek is an upcoming book written under the pseudonym Nat Hime.

 

White Preacher, Part 2

Muh had said she could tolerate it ‘til the revival was over, but I warn’t sure. Rev would say stuff that I knew was raisin’ her hackles, and I was bracin’ myself for when she’d get mad enuf to blow. Not that I’da tried to stop her or nothin’, hell, I’da stole a coupla’ licks on him myself.

 

She held her tongue, tho’ but it was mighty, mighty close when he said, “You know, Sister Zora, it don’t make no sense for your pastor to only come twice a month. If he was a real pastor, he’d be here every Sunday, pastor y’all nigras right! You nigras needs somebody to look after y’all, make sure y’all do the right thing. Nigra left to hisself is just trouble lookin’ for a place to happen.”

 

She was cuttin’ okra when he said that, with her favorite okra knife, a nice 6-inch foldin’ blade with a buckhorn handle my Cousin Shug had give her from the Army, or so he told her. Shug aint never spent a day in Uncle Sam’s Army, but that’s a whole nother story.

 

Well when Rev. said that, I tense up, cuz I know Muh was gonna let go a’ that okra, and commence to cuttin’ her a slice ‘a redneck! Between him talkin’ bad about Elder Wimble, and Black folk in particular, he was skatin’ on thin ice, an’ bout to fall plum through. She stopped cuttin’, and she cocked her head a bit, and said, “You think so, Reverend?”

 

I had my eye on her knife, just a’waitin’ for her to slice ‘im up, but she just looked at ‘im, started whistlin’ real soft, an’ went back to cuttin’ okra, an’ let him continue talkin’.

 

Hmmm…..

 

When Muh whistled, things was real bad. Usually, when she worried, or grievin’, she’d pray. When she was happy, she’d sing. But whistle? The old people had a sayin’, Whistlin’ woman, or a crowin’ hen, aint no good to God nor men. Rev didn’t know it just yet, but he was messin’ with the wrong woman, trust me.

 

I tol’ Daddy about it, ‘cause I was mad. I was just learnin’ how to cuss, and I nearly let a few ripe ones out, but Momma was nearby, and she was already on edge because of Rev and all, and the last thing I needed was for her to let off a little steam on me.

 

Y’see, Momma’s cure for cussin’ depended on where in the house she heard you. If she was near the kitchen, red pepper; if she was near the bathroom, castor oil, so either way, you bridle your tongue around her.

 

Daddy says, “Son, man like that, that’s the way he think.  You could be in a room with a hundred Black people, man like that, he walk in, he figger he in charge.”

 

“Don’t worry, son,” he chuckled, “I been knowin’ yo’ grandmother a mighty long time. She done seed ‘em come, an’ seed ‘em go. Mostly, they go. This one aint no different. The fun is gonna be how she get him to git up an’ go. She started whistlin’, you say?” He looked at me, and winked. “Son, I b’leve I’m goin’ to church this week.”

 

I opened my mouth, then closed it. Daddy only went to Momma’s church on special occasions, or when the Masons was on program. If Daddy was goin’ to this revival, I warn’t gonna miss it, no sir…

 

 

“Abbie, I’m not sho’ I kin takes much mo’ of this,” Muh was on the phone with Momma. “That White man eatin’ me outta house and home, and them ugly gals is just plain nasty! When they takes a bath….yes, you heard me, when they takes a bath….Abbie…. baby….you should see the rang they leave behind!”

 

“Stop laughing, Abbie, that aint funny! Hol’ on, I aint tole you the killin’ part yet…..I caint prove it, they moves too quick, when one leave out the bathroom, the other jumps right in, but I b’lieve… they uses the same water! Cuz ain’ no way a bathroom rang be that color behin’ one person usin’ it!”

 

“What you talkin’ bout? Yes, I said color! Abbie, I been on this earth over seb’nty years, an’ I aint never seed a rang that color! What color it be? Green! You heard me! G-r-e-e-n! What you mean, how I know? Cuz they leave it for me to clean! Yes, ma’am! I’s the little cullud gurl that they got to clean up behin’ ‘em, I s’poze. Towel layin’ on the floor….well, I’ll be dogged, it jus’ hit me….they usin’ the same towel! They must be, baby, unless they eatin’ the other ones they use? All right, then! Nasty, just nasty! Uh, huh…uh-huh…they huddles up in my barn durin’ the day, in between meal times….yes, baby, three meals a day, plus snacks in between!”

“Fo him, breakfast, lessee…fo’ eggs, ten slice o’ bacon, he like it half cooked, grits with a slice a’ cheese on top, orange juice an’ coffee. Oh, wait, I forgot the pancakes…I aint lyin! Them wimmen don’t eat much, they is watchin’ they figger…if they ask me, I tell ‘em, take a look behin’ you, you find yo’ figger! But he eat pancakes on top a’ all that, chile…an’ he don’t stop ‘til he done et ten, sometime twelve! Then fo’ lunch, it’s double helpin’s o’ whatever I cook, chicken, po’k chop, gravy steak, whatever, plus a heapin’ plate o’ rice an gravy, an’ chile, he aint never met a vegable he didn’t like! An’ that’s just’ round one! Yes, ma’am, he be lookin’ fo’ seconds!”

“Then they goes into the barn fo awhile, I lissen once, they be havin’ church up in there, so’s I leave ‘em alone, I be glad for the break! In between time, he send one of them ugly gals in here…my little bird Sweeney can’t stand ‘em, he fuss an’ squawl long as they in here, the only way to stop him is to cover his cage wit’ a towel, so’s he caint see ‘em! They come in here, says, ‘Rev need a glass ‘a milk,’ or ‘Rev need some crackers,’ or ‘Rev was wonderin’ do you have any muffins?’ all prim an’ proper, like it’s my job to make sho’ I got somethin sweet whenever he ask!”

She nodded her head a couple of times and kept talkin’, “Well, baby, I been puttin up wit’ dis since Sunday, an’ tonight is his day-bew, like that ugly gal with the rotten mouf like to say when she drankin’ coffee. Baby, ‘twix you an’ me and the tree, I done made a point to mark the coffee cup she use! Oh yes, I make sho she gits the same cup, an’ I promise you, when they leave, dat cup gonna fly daid in the trash can! Yellow teef is one thing, but a rotten mouf like that? I ain’t got enuf disinfect to clean no cup she done used. Minute she gone, I’m gonna take the hammer to it, ‘fo I pitch it, make sho’ nobody drink behin’ it, never, no mo’ in dis worl’!  Stop laughin’ Abbie, that aint funny!”

 

Later that day, we kids was playin baseball out near the barn. Well, what we was really doin’ was tryin’ to get a lissen on what was goin’ on up in there with Rev an’ them two wimmen, but if we would’a just huddled around the barn, Muh would’a runned us off. It was me and my brother Jock, plus our cousins Bobby, Tojo, and Charlie, plus eight or nine of the neighborhood kids, Peanut an’ ‘nem, you know, the ones who lived on Garbage Alley, where the trashman made his round.

Anyway, we playin’ baseball, but we got our ear out on the barn. Sho, nuff, Rev and them wimmen havin’ church, singin’ and praisin’ the Lawd, carryin’ on, havin’ theyself a good time. They must’a been ‘Postollick or Cogic, cuz they cuttin’ up! Just three of ‘em, but they soun’ like twenny. They sang awhile, then they commence to prayin, an Lawd, did they make some noise!

 

I was playin’ first base, an Bobby was pitching to Jock. Jock hit a grounder to Peanut, and he threw it low, and ‘bout the time I scoop it up, Jock was safe. We listen in, and Rev an’ them wimmen just prayin’ up a storm! Jock grinned at me, and said, “You think we ought’a bust up in there?”

I said, “An’ do what once we get inside? Pray with ‘em?” His face fell, he hadn’t thought’a that. That’s how he was, he always come up with some devilment, but never think it through.

 

We kept on listening, and they was just a-prayin, you could hear them jus’ as clear as a bell, “Yes, Lawd! Thank ya, Jesus! Yaaaaasss! Praise the Lawd, Halleyloooyah, Halleyloooyah! Glory! Glooooraaaayyy!” I mean, just cuttin’ up! We just a listenin’ and laughin’ at ‘em, cuz we know they aint no good, but then, the sound kinda changed. That White man said, “Yes, sister, take it off! Take it all off for Jesus!”

We looked at each other, cuz we aint never heard nobody say that, not in no church we ever been to, an’ we been to plenty church, trust me. He says it again, “Take it off, Sister, take it off to Jesus!”

I said, “Take what off?”

Jock said, “Hush!” He waved Bobby over to take a lissen, an’ by the time he got there, she must’a had done took it off, cuz he says, “Yes, Lawd, nekkid I come into this worl’, an nekkid I shall leave! Praise the Lawd, Sister, we are nekkid befo’ the Lawd!” Then they started makin’ some funny noise for a minute, an’ Rev said, Yes, Sister! Yes, Lawd! Don’t stop, Sister! Praise the Lawd!”

Bobby said, “Ooo-wee! If that’s how they have church, I wanna join!”

I said, “What you mean?”

He waved me quiet. “If you got to ask, you too young to know,” and he started grinnin’. “Yeah, Ol Rev havin chu’ch up in there, heh, heh, heh! Praise de Lawd!”

 

The rest of them had crowded around by now, and Charlie said, “Wha—wha…what dey do-do-doin up in there?” He stammer a bit, you know.

Tojo said, “What you think they is doin’?”

“Well—well…if I—I knowed what—what—they doin’, I—I—I wouldn’a ask you!” he answered. We listened for another minute, and then the sound changed, sound like both them wimmen done gone crazy, gruntin’ an’ groanin, hollerin’ “Ooohh, Jesus! Jesus, sweet Jeeezus!”

Charlie’s eyes got big an’ roun’ like gingersnaps. He turned ‘round quick, and said, “I’m goin’ tell!” He ran off before we could stop him.

A minute later, Muh strode grimly towards us, Charlie in one hand, Matilda in the other. We stepped back from the door, as she asked, “What in the worl’ goin’ on here?” Bobby pointed to the barn. “Rev and them wimmen havin’ chu’ch,” he answered with a straight face.

Muh cocked her ear towards the barn. “Je-je-je-je-jeeee-zus! Jeeeeee-zus! Ohhh, Lawwwd!”

She raised her shotgun, then looked around. Charlie put his hands to his ears, Matilda being the next best thing to a cannon. Muh looked around, hesitated a bit, then lowered Matilda to half-mast. “Charlie, Jock, and Buck, y’all go in the house. The rest of y’all, go home! Bobby, when you get home, tell Pacon to come pick me up, y’hear? “

 

“Nasty, jes’ plain nasty! Yes, Abbie, they still in there! No, I didn’t bus’ up in there, them chirren was right there wit’ me! Oh, I had a mind to let a little double-ought fly around in there, but I’da have to pay to get the roof fixed….oh, but wait, baby, jes’ wait fo’ tonight! I’se gonna fix Revum’ Thibodeaux’s lil’ red wagon….Stop laughin’, Abbie, that aint funny!”

 

End Part 2