Tuesday, December 30, 2003

life of buddy don, chaptur 84:
town n cuntry in marshall county

one of the thangs ye gut to cunsidder whenever ye take up with a woman is whuther yer willin to mix with thar relatives n home folk. ifn ye never go home with em, then the relayshunship is only gut limited potentchul.

fer emily thay wuz this assumpshun frum the verr cummencement of our knowin each uther abut how i wuz a'gone leave her sooner or later. twuz a odd thang to say n i wuz put into a tuff spot now n then to cunvints her twuznt nessarly so, witch i had to add mitt twuz one of the three possibilties.

i tride splainin sam coens flossofy, witch hes the jew fer jesus i dun writ about in chaptur 37, n how relayshunships has only three possibull ways to end: eethur (1) he gits tired of her or (2) she gits tired of him or (3) sumthin else gits in the way, lack death, disease, prison, war, yew name it. so no matter how ye cunsidder the situwayshun, my bein the one to leave emily wood half to be one of the three possibilties. but all my splainayshun prooved to her wuz that whut she claimed wuz a'gone happen wuz one of the two possibilties, witch she claimed thar wuz only two since thay wuz no way she wood be the one doin the leavin.

so when it cum to the questchun bout whuther i wood visit n mingle with her folk, thay wuznt no other choice but to go n doot since twood proov her point not to go n i still wonted to proov thangs wuznt the way she sed they wuz even ifn they could turn out thataway. n that meant i gut to know a passel of folks frum the flatlands of middle tennessee.

ifn ye aint frum tennessee, ye might never have noticed how the state is cut up into three parts by the tennessee river, witch folks calls em east, middle n west tennessee, lack ye mite speck.

way daddy always told it, east tennessee wuz differnt frum tuther two in a cuple of main ways. fer one, twuz the mountains n wuznt the kinda land whar ye could git ye a plantayshun goin. in sted, ye had yer hunters n trappers n coal miners n small time farmers n such. down in knoxvull thay wuz a lil industry a growin up. twuznt the kinda place whar ownin slaves wooda paid off, so thay wuznt minny of em thar. in sted, thay wuz free peeple of color livin in knoxvull. n partly on a counta that, east tennessee wuz publican n follerd lincoln n the north in the war.

twernt the same story in middle n west tennessee. thar ye could have yer plantayshuns n ownin slaves wuz common. ye had more commerce in west tennessee on a counta the mississippi n memphis, n ye had the gummint of the state in nashvull, tho twernt always so. so whenever the war cum, they wuz staunch rebels n afterds, thay wuz part of the solid south demcrats, witch twuz thataway till nixons southern strategy.

i had been told all this overn over agin durin dinner, but it hadnt meant all that much till me n emily gut to visitin bout ever three munths or so. rite away, i saw sum differntses, lease in the way the town folk acted.

i say town folk since thay wuz two distink sets of folks we wood visit ever time. her mama n her nanny lived in looseburg proper or at lease in the suburb part of it, witch emily called one grandmother 'nanny' n tuther jes 'grandmother.' tuther group wuz whar grandmother lived, way out on a farm that dint even have a paved rode goin toot.

tipicull visit wood start with us gittin to her mamas house n findin nobidy home. emilys mama lived in a split-level brick house with the garage below n the house proper above. we wood git thar, park in the driveway but leave room fer maureen, witch her mama wuz named maureen, to git to the garage. then we wood go in n put our stuff in her room. she had her room still setup with all the furnitchur she had whenever she wuz a'groin up. everthang wuz all in pink, witch i had always ast her to dress up in pink now n then, but she woodnt hardly doot. i reckon she gut sick of it at home.

odd thang bout that house wuz how thay wuznt hardly no books to read ceptin fer readers digest cundensed books. emily splained that she had tuck all the books to the liberry to trade em fer differnt books n she had the books she kep in our apartmint, witch we had bout 2,000 books when we put our colleckshuns together. ye wood thank my mixin my books in with hers wooda cunvintsed her to quit wurryin bout me leavin, but twuz a featchur of her personalty to wurry bout thangs lack that. no doubt that themes a'gonna cum back round.

innywho, we woodnt be thar longer than a nuff time to git her sum ice tea made n the cards found n a cigarette lited till here cum maureen hamilton smith. she wood generly have a carton of marlboro cigarettes fer emily n she wood give me a $20 bill so i could afford to have sum of my 'wacky tuhbacky,' witch she dint mind if i smoked theevil weed rite thar in frunt of her.

maureen wuz one of the mos effishunt folk i ever met, quite differnt frum her daughter in sum ways. she wuz neat as a pin, fer one thang, n she wuz a grate cook, tho she wuznt much comparrd to her mama, nanny. she lacked to take a drank or two or three of a evenin, as she wood put it, n while we wuz sittin thar, me a'shufflin the cards, emily smokin n pullin on her hair, maureen wood manage to change cloze n make her a drank n git set up at the counter so we could do the main thang we dun while twuz jes the three of us, witch we wood play rummy fer hours. tiz a good three handed game, n it give us a good chants to talk.

lack lots of the folk in looseburg, maureen wurked at the venus pencil cumpny. she wuz in accountin, but i never gut a clear idee of whut she dun. twernt sumthin they discussed much roun looseburg. her ex husband, pete smith, still wurked thar n he still cum by, fer that matter. often as not, he wood git thar round the time maureen did since they both gut out the same time. he wuz in purchasin n that meant he had a huge supply of likker the folks give im fer christmus. aint nobidy more poplar than a purchasin agent.

he wuz a quote stone cold alkahallic unquote accordin to emily n frum whut i seen, he could drank moren innbidy this side of uncle buster, rest his sole. thang wuz, lack lots of drankers, he could down a fifth of jack daniels without showin it much. so twuz clear he wuz drankin mos all the time, but twuznt clear he wuz gittin drunk. thang wuz, till he gut cleaned up, i hadnt never seen im sober, so i dint know whut he wuz lack.

whenever he cum in, we wood stop playin long a nuff fer him to have a wurd or two with emily n me, n then we wood git rite back toot n he wood sit watchin us n drankin n joinin in on the small talk. round the time the shadows wuz gittin long, he wood leave.

twuz almos always a fridy nite whenever we showed up n twuz a eggscuse fer folk to git together to drank. we wood go to the elks to eat n thar we wood run into sum tutherns that wood be cumin by later, witch that wood be milton mansfield n his wife jackelin n thar lil gurl savanah. thay wuz a stream of otherns that cum by, but milton n his fambly wuz the mane ones. fack is, emily counted milton among her bes friens.

i wuz rite srpized to meet sumbidy lack milton mansfield on a counta that book name of crap notes i wuz a'ritin. i had a care ackter in thar name of dick january n thang wuz, he wuz a hard dranker n had im a glass eye n used the term 'goddam' bout ever thurd wurd. thang bout milton mansfield wuz how he wuz a hard dranker n had im a glass eye n used the term 'goddam' bout ever forth wurd. he had im a nuther wurd he used way too much fer my taste, witch ima gone splain thatn direckly.

we wuz friens frum the instunt i splained bout my novel. bout thonly thang milton seemed capabull of doin when he herd it wuz to say 'i be goddam' bout a hunnert times in a row. then he tuck a drank n popped his eye out n looked at it lack he wood do fer a joke n then put it into his drank n say, 'i be goddam.'

tiz a fack that the parts of tennessee wuz also settled by differnt folk. them frum the east part of the state wuz scots n irish n germun n sum english, but in the middle part of the state, they wuz mosly english. i wood study bout that in germuny a lil later on, but at the time the main thang i noticed wuz how they sed a few thangs differnt. i wont take ye thru all of em, but thays three that give me sumthin to thank bout.

furstn wuz how they wood say, 'could ye carry me to town,' whenever they meant they wonted ye to give em a ride. furst time i herd it, i comminted on how twuz a odd thang to say n wuz i ever sprized to hear milton cum rite back n say, 'tiz a goddam mistry to me why inny goddam bidy wood drive sumbidy to town. sounds lack thay aint nuthin but goddam cattle.'

the nextn wuz how they lacked to use the term goddam so much. i hadnt never herd the lack of it in my life, n seemed to me lack a bad habit to git into. i couldnt hep membern how i had screamed out goddam whenever i wuz havin my acksident. thanks goodness god dint listen!

but the thang that gut me mos bout them folk wuz how they used the wurd 'nigger' all the time. twuz nigger this n nigger that the hole time. n taint as if they wuz inny more racist than the folk in east tennessee. far as i could tell, they wuz jes as lackly to be friens, mayhap a lil more so, but the way they wood use that wurd!

maureen wuz takin off her shoes one time. she looked down at how the strap had cut into her heel n furst thang outta her mouth wuz, 'i need to quit wearin these shoes. im gittin nigger feet.' milton wuz talkin bout how he had fixed thar commode by nigger riggin it. savanah wood git to whar she wuz whinin bout how she wonted to go home on a counta twuz past midnite n her mama wood say she wuz gittin her lips swole up lack a nigger.

i had herd bout folk talkin lack that n daddy had made it sumthin we unnerstood wuz 'jes not dun, son.' but twuz dun n by folk who seemed lack they wuz normal in mos other ways. i wunderd whut daddy wood say, but twernt sumthin i wood thank on much once i gut home.

we wood generly spend fridy nite till near saturdy mornin drankin n listnin to elvis presly records, witch twuz thonly musick maureen wood listen to. ye mite git tard, but dint matter to milton nun. i member one time twuz gittin verr late. emily had been drankin a lil n she wuz gittin urges, witch seem lack she wuz always horny quick as she gut home. so she ast me to slip away back into her bedroom with her n i dun it.

we hadnt gut three buttons undone before the door opened, the lite cum on, n milton sed, 'i be goddam. whut ye doin?' so emily splained how we hadnt had a chants to do nuthin n we wuz bof in need. dint take more of a splainayshun than that n off went milton, sayin, 'buddy, i wont ye to goddam fuck this liln here n give it to her lack a nigger wood. i be back in fifteen -- ' but emily snorted, so he sed, ' -- make that half hour. buddy? ye here me? i wont her thoroughly goddam fucked.' with that, he slammed the door.

n shore a nuff, thar he cum in half a hour n twuz one of the hardes thangs i ever dun to git up, but i did n the party went on till four am.

twuz a verr differnt matter in the cuntry. thar we wood visit grandmother n the rest of pete smiths fambly, witch the strange thang bout that is how i never once knew of pete smith to visit his own mama. she lived with petes lil sister, witch they jes called her sister, n her fambly, witch she had marrd a fine man name of terry mccallister, n the two of em had four kids. they raised tobackuh n cotton n barly made a livin, but they wuz the happiest folk i ever met.

them kids wuz always playin with sum animull or other. they had rabbits n doves n chickens n turtles n pigs n horses n a pet raccoon n cows n i cant member whut all. i wood ride horses with the kids, witch emily wuz real impressed by that, but thay wuznt no way she wuz gittin up on a horse.

emily lacked to visit her grandmother durin the week when the stories wuz on, witch they always called soap opers 'the stories,' n emily wuz addickted as could be to em. twuz a mistry to me how sumbidy with her grate taste in literchur n knowledge of the western intelleckshewall tradishun could sit still fer such junk, but she could n she lacked me to cum. n we wood sit thar in that livin room with the breeze blowin thru till they had watched thar way thru three hours of stories.

in the cuntry, ye never herd the wurds 'nigger' or 'goddam.' when they made fried chicken, they killed the chicken furst n fer seasonin, they dint use nuthin but flour. the children wuz eggcited by the furst new taters in sprang or findin blackberries in the summer. they wuz happy bout new rabbits bein born. nobidy ever tuck a drank out thar.

on the way home one time, i ast emily bout witch of the two places she lacked better. she smoked fer a bit while she cunsidderd her anser. then she sed she wood die if she wuz stuck out on the farm with nuthin but nature. but she gut sick of all the smoke n likker n late nites in town. she sed one balanced out tuthern, n i reckon twuz so.

it splained lots bout the mistry of emily dickinsen smith, how she wood wonta be so prim n proper bout sum thangs, but as wicked as could be bout otherns.

then she ast me the same questchun, n i thought fer a mint before i cum to the realizayshun that i wuznt able to be part of neethur one of em. i wuz a outsider, watchin, recordin how thangs went, but not a part of it all. twuznt a new thought, but twood becum more importunt as time went on.

'well?' emily sed when i hadnt sed nuthin fer a few miles. 'witch place do yew lack better?'

i thought fer a secunt longer befor sayin, 'eethur one, longs im with yew.'

the facks wuz much more complex, but twuz the anser she wonted to here n i knew it.

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