Tuesday, August 26, 2003

life of buddy don, chaptur 42:
eli tries to start over


ifn yer payin close tenchun to everthang up to now, then you probly dun figgered out that susannah wuz the 'jew gurl' eli mentshuned in chaptur 40 whenever he tole me i wuz a'gone be in the jungle till after virgil n myra jane moved here n i met her. so ye mite could thank he wuz really moren jes crazy n mayhap thar wuz sumthin to his spirtchul powers. n thay wuz plenty times ye wood thank jes that. n the way i tole bout him gittin his disabilty up frum 10 per cent to 30 n then to 100, well, i couldnt blame ye ifn ye thought twuz the wurk of a afternoon.


but life wernt all that simple fer eli, never wuz, n thay wuz plenty times he seemed to fit brew's judgmint that he wuz a dud. he once quit his job at shoneys big boy restrunt on a counta bad treatmint, witch the thang wuz, bad treatmint wuz part of the job n everbidy knew it, but he gut to whar he couldnt stand it no more n walked off.


nex day, he called n ast wood i cum over n go fer a ride with him, witch that mint wood i git him hi, so i tole him i dint have nuthin jes then, n he sed dint matter nun, he had jes quit his job n needed to talk. i knew twuz seryus then on a counta nobidy never lacked gittin hi bettern eli.


so whenever i gut up on the nex evenin, witch twuz a thursdy, we tuck a ride n he tole me he had dun made up his mind to move to a new place n git him a new start. i ast had he dun pickt a place, n he sed he had, n twuz greenvul south carolina. so corse i had to ast him why he pickt greenvul n he sed he lacked the name. i knew bettern to ast him bout that on a counta he wood be brangin in his misticull will n all, so i ast him wuz he a'gone wait till he scored him sum of theevil weed befor he lef, n he sed he wuznt on a counta he wonted to make a new start.


even so, nex day, he tuck all his sticks n stems n converted em into powder usin mamas blender n packt him a small suitcase of cloze n dads duffl filled with books, witch twuz the same duffl i had tuck to californy with me all them years ago, n mama n me traded cars fer the trip n we loaded up mamas car n tuck off. he sold me all his records fer $100, witch i dint really wont em on a counta we dint have the same taste, but he needed the money n i could git it frum the k25 credit union, so thats whut i dun.


we drove purty slow to our furst stop, witch that wood be ashvul north carolina. we wuz a'talkin the hole way bout eli's future n whut he planned on a'doin. n he wuz splainin how he dint half to wurry over whuther he wuz a'gone make it on a counta god wuz takin care of him. we stopped in ashville n he bought him a paper to check out the wont-ads on a counta ifn thar wuz the rite job thar, he mite half to cum back n git it on a counta mayhap god dint wont him in greenvul. he had him a favert bookstore frum whenever he wuz a'wurkin in skyland n then thar wuz a hamburger stand whar he wonted to eat, so we did.


ye mite could thank he wood be a'gittin wurried bout findin a job whenever thay wuznt nuthin in ashvul fer him, but twuz jes the opposit. he wuz moren more optimistick all the time n he wuz a'sayin thangs lack he wood jes half to make it, even ifn it mint he wuz a'gone half to beg to git by.


we gut back on the rode n thar ahed of us wuz the biggest blackest storm ye ever did see, so black it looked lack we wuz a drivin frum day strate into nite. eli gut to comparin the storm to the unknowns in his future, the possbull hardships a'waitin fer him. but as we drove down out of the moutains, that storm kep to our left n purty soon we could see we wuz a'gone miss it cumpleetly. twuz a purty site n eli tole me twuz a sign frum god bout how even ifn thangs looked real bad ye had to keep faith n mayhap the storm that seems to threaten ye at ever turn is jes a'gone pass ye by.


whenever we gut to greenvul, twuz near nitefall so we drove round town n looked at everthang n twuz plane that thay wuznt much in the way of white folk livin thar n ye could see that wernt sumthin eli had calculated in advants, so he sed lets check out easly south carolina on a counta he felt lack it mite be better to git his new start in a smaller town. so thats whar we drove n seem lack rite away we run into a hotel that looked lack twood fit eli's needs to a 't' on a counta twuz deserted lookin n thar wuznt no cars parked nowhar n nobidy wuz a'sittin round on the porch nor nuthin.


i let eli out n went to park the car. he found a old lady who wuz a'sittin in a car out frunt of the place n she claimed to be the owner. the two of em wuz a'hittin it off purty good whenever i cum round to help out. at that time, eli kep his hair cut close to his scalp n he wuznt wearin no beerd. mayhap ifn i wuz a'doin the same thang, this lil story mite coulda cum out differnt. but at that time i wuz a'wearin long hair n a thick black beerd, n soons i cum up, the old lady cummenced to splainin she dint have no vacancies n that ifn she ever did, twood cost $22 a week n that all rents wuz to be paid in advants. i tride smilin at her to show i wuz harmless, but ever time i did, she wood grab a'holt of her purse a lil titer n tell eli bout whut else wuz rong bout him trine to live thar. so eli tole her he had been a'plannin on payin a munth up frunt but he dint lack to live with mean spirts n hard harts n so he couldnt verr well live in her hotel. n he sed lets go n we did, a'leevin her thar to say, 'but, but.'


so we drove back to greenvul n parked the car. by then twuz dark so we tuck out lookin fer a bar or sumthin whar young folks lacks to hang out, but as we wuz a'walkin twuz purty obveeus that the main thang folks dun in that town fer fun wuz to drive round the three main streets. n everbidy jes went rite on bein black n ye could see how that wuz makin eli nervus as could be. n we dint find no bar we lacked neethur.


while we wuz a'wonderin whut to do, we herd a couple of young guys a'talkin n one wuz a'sayin tuthern, 'i'll drink some more beer but i'm going to leave that whiskey alone.' n that made me laff n the guy sed it laffed, too. his friend cum up to us n sed dint look lack we wuz frum round thar n we add mitted we wuz new in town. n he points to me n asts did i cum frum heaven on a counta he thought i looked jes lack jesus christ n that made me n eli laff, n then i ast him wuz he the devil n he lafft even more n then he showed me how he had been branded with the devils number 666 n eli sed lets go but befor we did the guy grabbed elis shirt in such a gentle way that eli let him. n the guys sed sumthin to eli lack ye know that everbidy wuz jes dust collekted together fer a few years as a man, thats all, jes a few years, n after that, nuthin, jes plane nuthin, on a counta nothin frum nothin leeves nuthin. then a car cum up with a lode of gurls innit n thay beeped thar horn n the two guys gut into the car with em.


n eli wuz shuck up over meetin the devil, witch he sed twuz the devil hisself on a counta the devil could take inny form he wonted n he wuz a trine to brang us down n make us hopeless till we wonted to kill ourself n far as he, elias muir duncan, jr., wuz concernt, the devil dun made his point. lawsy day, but he wuz down. we walked back to our car n he wuznt sayin nuthin n ye could almost feel his fear and sadness.


then we cum to a lil convenyunts store thar n i ast did he wont a beer n suddenly he smiled n sed we should git us a six pack, so we did n went to find a hotel room fer the nite. but he wuznt the least bit happy n could barely keep his face frum fallin to the floor. he'd been hopin to find a cheep place to live while he wuz a'lookin fer a job n twuz purty clear he wuznt a'gone find one. n he had a hedache frum smokin the stems, witch i had one too but dint wonta brang that up. i had been awake fer over 24 hours by then, so i drank two of the beers n he drank four n we wuz too tired to eat. he sed next day we should move on to charleston south carolina n that wood be better.


he woke up bout 5 am n he woke me even tho i wuz feelin near ded. but he needed to talk so i gut up n he ast me how could it be that he wuz havin truble bleevin in god now even tho he wuz so shure bout him jes a lil while ago. n i tole him i often felt the same way, but he wuznt intrested in whut i wuz a'feelin on a counta i hadnt had my doors of perceptshun opened in the furst place so whut differnts could it make whut i thought? n i sed wuznt we all gods chilren n he sed we wuz ifn thar wuz a god n that wuz the point of his a'gittin me up. he sed it takes a bleef in god to make it so a bidy could have confidents bout the future n it makes the present easier to take.


then he sed twuz the devils fault n i ast did he mean the black guy frum the nite befor n he acted lack twuz a stoopid question on a counta when else had we seen the devil? n i sed wuznt it in the bibl whar frum dust ye wuz made n to dust ye shall go but that thay wuz a sole that wuz apart frum all that? n dint he have the misticull will to git it to cum in rite agin? n ifn he did, woodnt he feel rite bout thar bein a god n all? n i sed shure twuz absurd to thank thar wuz a god in a worl of such cruelty n sadness n evil, but wuznt that part of the test god gives everbidy? as ye kin see, i wuz makin stuff up bout as quick as i could talk, but twuz wurkin. he sed mayhap my doors of perceptshun wuz open n he wuz a'feelin better bout everthang.


so we went back to sleep n then gut up bout 10 n drove to columbia whar we ate. eli dint say three wurds the hole time, n twuz hard to tell ifn he wuz feelin scart or hopeful.


purty soon, we wuz in one of the purtiest towns in the worl, witch that wood be charleston. tiz a old city with sum streets of cobblestones n buildins that looked to be over a hunnert years old n the smell of the sea. thang wuz, most of the folks thar wuz black folk as well n that led him to startin to chant the same thang overn over agin: 'why oh why did i half to be taught them fears? why oh why did i half to be taught them fears?' corse, he mint fears of black folk.


we walked round fer bout three hours n twuz clear frum the instunt we gut out that thar wuznt no way he wood be a'stayin thar. then he kep sayin that the only sensibull act left him wuz suicide. i tride to remind him that he dint need to brang the end on early, that twood cum in the good time god give it, but he dint wonta here innythang bout that. he had him a situwayshun that he kinda lacked to hate havin. he couldnt stay in no town we had seen so far n he dint thank he could go back to oak ridge neethur. i could see how he felt n couldnt thank of nuthin else to say.


so i sed why dont we git us sum beer n start drivin back in the direckshun of tennessee n he agreed, mainly on a counta he really lacked beer.


so we started a'drivin back n he kep a'sayin how foolish the hole egsperients had made him feel. n i sed twuz ruff all rite but wuznt it wurth it on a counta all he wuz a'larnin? he had met the devil n cum away with his faith challenged but sill livin. n he lacked that n gut into talkin bout whut he'd sed to that devil n how the devil had seen i had the spirt of jesus in me n i sed twuz only the beerd n long hair, but he sed thar wuz sumthin that kep that devils hand frum him n that had to be it.


on the way back, we stopped in spartanburg south carolina to git a fish sandwitch frum macdonalds. we furst stopped at a gas stayshun n the attendant wuz a kindly ole man who tole us thay wuz plenty of jobs round town n cheep housin to boot. thang wuz, we had dun quit lookin, n here we cum upon jes whut we wuz a lookin fer. we drove twards macdonalds n on the way we passed a motel that wonted jes $10 a week.


then at macdonalds eli met one of the gurls thar n seemed lack she wuz sweet on him rite away n they talked while eli ate his fish sandwich n i drank my coffee. she tole him bout the town, how thay wuz three collidges n plenty of wurk n how most the folks wuz white. fack is, twuz a lot lack oak ridge. we checked that thar hotel, but they dint have no $10 rooms left. they did have one fer $18.75 a week, but eli thought that wuz too steep. then he deecided he wood save him up $200 n cum back.


corse, he never dun it. sted, we drove strate to shoneys big boy restrunt whar he sed he wonted to eat but furst thang he dun wuz apologize to the manjer n gut his job back. n he wuz trine to ack lack thangs had cum out jes lack they wuz spozed to, but i could see twernt so. he tride to smile, even to laff, but ye could see ifn ye had eyes that he wuz beat. n wurse than that, he knew it.

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