Thursday, September 11, 2003

life of buddy don, chaptur 53:
my furst time on the block

one of the thangs ye finely git to unnerstan bout life is how lil thangs that dont seem lack they wood make much of a differnts turn out to change everthang. one of the numrus thangs ye'll larn bout me ifn ye kin stand to read this to the end is how i cum to spend lots of my life in situwayshuns whar i wuz the only white person thar, n by that i mean all tutherns wuz black or negro or colored or afro murkin or africun murkin or whutever ye wont to call the deesendints of the slaves that wuz brought over to this cuntry in the 17th n 18th n 19th centuries.

n thars a reason i dint jes call em 'nigger' lack mos everbidy i knew bout dun n why i dint stay away frum em or even why i could git along jes fine with mos of em i ever met, n that goes way back to the furst worl war. my granddaddy tj duncan fought in thatn n he gut him a laig injury overn europ sumwhar n they tuck him to a hospital n thar he met a nuther injured soljer who wuz a negro. they made friends n granddaddy tj never let nobidy bad mouth black folk in his presents n he never let em use the wurd 'nigger' neethur. n that stuck with my daddy n uncle jeff, but uncle buster used the wurd bout ever sentence lack lots of folk i met cumin up.

whenever we wuz lil n livin up in morgan county, mama had her a maid name of ethyl who she wood git n have her clean up the house n sumtimes she wood leeve us with her only never overnite on a counta thay wuz folks in morgan county proud to claim that neethur black nor jew nor cathlick wuz a gone let the sun set on thar back. twuz a poplar noshun in them days. i member a sine on the edge of gatlinburg that sed simply 'dont let the sun set on yer back,' n even tho it dint say who twuz fer, everbidy kindly knew who twuz mint by it.

i larnt how my daddy felt bout the wurd when i gut in a fite one time durin a football game n i tackled a guy n it made him mad n he cum at me lack he wonted to fite n i gut in a lucky punch that knocked out three of his teeth, witch they wuz baby teeth on a counta he wuz only bout six or seven, n he flew maddern ever n called me n our hole fambly nuthin but nigger luvers. n lack ye do whenever sumbidy calls ye sumthin in anger, i figgerd twuz a insult, so i ast my daddy wuz we nigger luvers, n after he slapped me good, he splained i woodnt never be usin that wurd in or outta his presents n did i unnerstan?

i tole him i wuz trine to unnerstan n that i woodnt ever use the wurd agin, but i had to ast why wuz it a insult to be callt a nigger luver, n he sed twuz usin a wurd that lowerd a person frum person to thang that wuznt rite n he sed thay wuz other wurds i wuznt spoze to use lack spick n kike n wetback n gypsy n crout n frog n limey n so on till i couldnt member em all. he sed twuz a trick used in wars sos folks could kill with clear conshunts, whar ye wood git a name that turnt a person to a thang n then twernt nuthin to shoot at a thang n destroy it, lack shootin a can or sumthin.

n much later in life i larnt bout granddaddy havin that friend n how it changed his life till he wood even do lawyern fer black folk ifn they gut in truble in morgan county, witch that dint happen much on a counta thar wernt inny of em livin thar.

so i never lacked it much whenever folks wood git into the nigger this n nigger that kinda talk n i wuz called nigger luver a many a time, n whenever i mite cumplain bout it to daddy, he sed twuz a sine of the pure ignernts of the one a'callin me by that name n tiz only a small man that takes a insult frum a ignernt person serious. n that rite thar, as much as innythang, gut me to thankin i wuz sumhow differnt frum lots of folks, speshly whenever i wood say, 'thankee' to sumbidy a'callin me a nigger luver.

so when randy fox n me cum back frum chicago with mos of that ten lbs of theevil weed lef to be sold, he cum up with the idee of sellin it in the valley, witch twuz easy fer him to do on a counta he figgerd i wuz thonly one had the guts to doot n i wuz too scairt of his thankin i wuz scairt to say i wuz scairt, but fack wuz, i wuz scairt of goin over in thar.

ifn ye bin studyin murkin histry, then ye know twuz in the 50s n 60s that they started on integrayshun n thays a passel of folk thanks everthang is all fine now n that ifn thars a black person cumplainin tiz due to laziness or greed or sum other insult that they still wonta put on em, but once i ever gut across the line to whar twuz mostly black folk, i gut to seein that thangs wuz not all that differnt after integrayshun than twuz befor it.

ye kin test it by takin a drive to oak ridge n lookin round at folks. ye gone see both kinds here'n thar n thays sum black folk a'livin in nayborhoods that wuz white fer the longest, but ifn ye take a turn over into scarboro, witch thats the real name of the valley, then ye aint a'gone see five white folk in a week n thats on a counta integrayshun wuz only a one way street fer a few black folk who gut to move into white nayborhoods n thar wernt no white folk wantin or even willin to move into a black nayborhood.

n the weerdes thang bout that is black folk knows white folk purty good but white folk dont hardly know nuthin bout black folk n how they really live, n bein yer typicull white man, i wuz purty much the same as all em other white folks ceptn i woodnt use the wurd nigger to talk bout folks.

twuz long in thar i gut off of strate graveyards n begun wurkin frum 1 to 9 pm sos i could still attend skool in the mornins but be round fer the meetins in the afternoon. n since twuz so cheap n good, i gut in the habit of eatin at the k25 cafeterya.

i add mitt i wuz a lil on the scairt side of the valley, but i had no truble makin a frien frum thar at k25, witch he wuz wurkin in the cafeterya n jes as black as everbidy else a'wurkin thar, n furst thang that cummenced to makin us friends wuz i ast him how thangs wuz goin n that sprized him on a counta mos folks dint talk to the servers lack they wuz folks.

his name wuz sumthin lack jerome williams or robinson or sumthin, bes i recall, but everbidy callt him king tut. i ast him one day did he lack to git hi, n fack is, that thars whut made us friens. n once we had crossed that bridge, twuz easy to fine out ifn he wonted a deal on sum of theevil weed, n whenever i tole him i wood sell him a quarter fer $110, he sed he dint bleev it but ifn twuz true, when could i git it n wood i frunt it to him n ifn i wood, he wood brang the money the verr nex day.

n thats jes whut happent only randy wuz mad i had made the price so low. i ast him whut did he mean low on a counta we wuz gittin the lbs fer $100 each n thars 4 quarters in a pound n he sed he knew all that but that nig -- n he had to kindly stop hisself rite thar on a counta he knew i woodnt tolerate him usin that wurd bout folk -- so he sed in sted that black folk wuz crazy bout thar smoke n wood pay mos innythang to git it n i ast how wuz that differnt frum white folk n sides that, ifn he wonted to charge more, i could make him a map sos he could go to the valley his own self, n that made him laff n after that he dint say no more bout the price.

n shore nuff, the nex day after i brung king tut his quarter, he brung me $110 n wunderd could i git inny more. so we went thru a week of that n that brung us to near half whut we owed whitey, n we wuz a'gone half to do sumthin soon n that mint thar could be truble n guns n such, so randy sed whut wuz we a'gone do n whut he mint wuz whut wuz i a'gone do on a counta he wuznt about to go in to no valley.

so i ast king tut did he thank he could sell more'n a quarter a day n he sed he could set it up n i ast him whut did he mean n he sed he mint i wood half to cum to the valley on a saturdy n brang whutever quanty i wonted to sell. so randy n me gut to talkin bout it n i sed king tut had tole me we could sell all we had lef only randy sed twuz a trap n wuz i a'gone brang a gun fer perteckshu n i sed he knew i dint bleev in carryin guns but since he lacked em so much, did he wonta cum along n brang one of his?

'shoot the devil, bud, aint ye gut no fear of nuthin?' wuz the only anser he could fine, so i sed i wood go in my beetle n take all we had n he sed thar warnt no way we wuz a'gone have all our supply stole by no bunch of nig-- black folk, so he kep back 3 lbs n i tuck 3, witch we had sole bout a quarter in chicago on a counta givin his friens fat bags n we had frunted the farm n mos the folks that hung round thar a nuther lb n we had probly smoked half a lb our ownself, n that mint we wuz down to 6 lbs n a bill fer $1,000 overdue to whitey n we hadnt gut but the $440 frum king tut to pay fer it. n randy wonted to make a profit so he sed i shouldnt let nuthin go fer lessn $300 a lb.

so the nex saturdy twuz a sunny day n not too cold n i loaded up my vw n tole randy agin that i woodnt take no gun n he tride so hard to git me to till i wuz really gittin scairt my ownself, but i figgerd everbidys gut to die sumday n lack as not the wurst that could happen wuz they wood steal all theevil weed i had with me, n thats why randy wuz so strong on keepin half of it jes in case.

once ye git into the valley, ye git into a nuther worl in sum ways. black folk wuz put thar back in the manhattan projeck n frum the start thar houses wuznt made as good as them in the white side of town, n time had tuck its toll. the block wuz a set of white brick buildins with a cuple of picnick tables n benches nearby n a big ole assfault lot in frunt n a mosly dirt field nearby. king tut wuz thar a'waitin fer me to show at 10 am lack i sed i wood, n i wuz rite on time.

he cum over to the car n give me a big handshake, witch twuz a complex set of hand movmints n he showed me how i should do em, n i gut out n he sed i should brang the stuff on over thar n i ast whar n he pointed to one of the tables. i ast him did he mean rite out in the open n he ast whut did i mean n i sed whut about the po-leece n he lafft n sed wuznt no po-leece a'gone cum to the valley lessn sumbidy killt sumbidy.

so i tuck out a bag with a lb in it n he whistled loud n here cum five uther guys n one verr fat woman. i cant member thar names ceptn a cuple of em lack ike n too short n corse the fat woman name of flab. i opened up one of the bags, witch twuz in a plastic bag inside of a brown paper bag, n they one by one stuck thar heds down in it n sed how it smelt nice. n then they tuck to rollin sevrull joints n talkin bout wuz this the slow actin jamaican n king tut tole em twuz n they wuz rite glad bout that since they had dun herd how hi it gits ye once it takes a feck.

n the hole time they wuz makin them joints n smokin em in that slow way whar each person wood smoke bout half the joint befor passin it n i could see why they made em five of em at once. corse i smoked rite long with em n kep my mouth shut the hole time on a counta i wuz wunderin wuz they trine to trick me the way they wuz usin the wurd nigger bout each other more'n i'd ever herd the wurst white man do. could they be seein ifn i wood call em by that name?

then whenever flab passed me the joint n i tuck to tokin on it rite away, king tut sed, 'see whut i tole ye? my man here aint lack mos white folk.' n flab sed, 'he be all rite.' n purty soon they wuz a callin me thar nigger, as in they wood say, 'here ya go, my nigger, why dontcha finish it off?'

the bes thang bout smokin it so slow wuz we wuz all gittin good n stoned by time they lit the last joint. n they ast me how much did i wont n i ast wuz the payin up frunt or wuz i fruntin em? n they sed wuz the price the same eethur way, n i had the sense to say no, i wood half to have $250 fer a lb up frunt or $350 ifn i frunted em.

now rite here ye mite wunder had i lost my mind? wuz i thankin bout fruntin sum folks i had jes barly met hunnerts of dollers of theevil weed when i dint even know whar a one of em lived?

n shore nuff, flab ast me wuz i serious or jes crazy. n i tole her whut i had larnt so far in my lil time of deelin, n that wuz that i had frunted quarters to king tut n ever time he paid me the nex day, but i had frunted ounces to both my bruthers n near all my friends, but i wuznt able to colleck frum a one of em.

n they lafft n ike sed, 'tut, my man, your boy here do be learnin, dont he?' n king tut ansered, 'i sed he wuz a reglar nigger, didnt i?' n by then, it seemed lack a complimint to be called a nigger. so flab pulled out 5 hunnert doller bills n sed she wood take two n tut sed wood i frunt him tuthern n i sed i wood n ike sed he wonted one n too short wonted a half. i sed i only had the 3 lbs with me, but i could git more n he wonted to know when n i sed i could be back that evenin.

everbidy gut quite fer a bit, n then tut sed, 'see? i dun told you he wuz a good nigger. he aint afraid of nuthin.'

n too short sed, 'you askin me to believe this white boy gonna cum out to the valley at night,' n tut sed 'damn betcha.'

n thang wuz, the hole thang wuz dun in full daylite n i gut to whar i felt jes bout as cumfterbull as i wood out on the farm. n we dint see a sangle po-leece in the valley ever. but i half to add mitt i hadnt figgered on goin to the valley at nite.

but i drove out to the farm n thar wuz randy sittin in the livin room of the big house, burnin a number with virgil n brew n gretchen. n they clapped whenever i walked in n randy ast how much had they tuck frum me n i sed i had sold 2 n frunted 1, n that led to a fuss n fite till he wonted to stop me frum a'goin back but i tole him i had dun promissed n i figgered i could sell all the res that evenin, only he figgered i wuz gittin setup agin, so i tuck jes whut i needed.

n whenever i gut back to the block at 9 pm lack i sed i wood, thar wuz ike n too short n a skinny gurl with a tiny lil voice n a lite brown face peekin outta huge parka. i ast whar wuz tut n they sed he couldnt make it, n that wurried me a lil, but i let on lack twuz natcherull. n they tuck whut they sed they wood take n they paid up frunt fer it.

i went back to my car n the skinny gurl follerd n ast could she ride with me, n soons she sed it, ike ast could i give him a ride too. he tole the gurl to git in the back h he gut in the frunt seat before i could say innythang n i drove him whar he tole me to go n whenever we gut thar, he gut out, but the skinny gurl sed to me, 'i ridin wit chew.'

ike gut out n cum roun to the drivers side n leaned in n sed 'dont be messin with no hoes frum the valley. they dont be nuthin but truble.' n it sorta seemed lack a threat only i couldnt be shore if twuz or not, but the gurl gut into the frunt seat n ast could we git hi n we did n then i ast her whar she wonted to go n she sed whar wuz i a'goin n i sed i wuz goin home n she sed well n i sed well whut. n she put her hand on my laig n ast did i wonta cum home with her, n i tole her i reckoned we dint know each other a nuff fer that n she ast if thar wuz a better way of gittin to know sumbidy, n i sed i had dun known more'n my shar n twuz trublesum.

so she ast me wood i take her back to the block n i did.

n on my furst day on the block, we had dun made back all the money whitey needed.

randy wuz amazed.

'shoot the damn devil, but, i cant bleev whut ye dun.' n i sed sumbidy had to doot or else we wood half to deal with whitey. n that made randy laff, so i ast whut wuz he a laffin at.

he sed, 'fer one, whitey aint a'gone do nuthin to me no how no way on a counta i got the heat i need fer perteckshun. n two, i aint sprized ye sold all that reefer in the valley on a counta nig --'

i interrupted him n sed in a sing song voice to let him know he wuz full of shit, '-- on a counta black folk lacks thar smoke as much as white folk' n i paused a secunt befor sayin, 'n they pay fer it'

n he sed that warnt it. 'whut gits me is how ye turnt down that free black ass.'

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