Wednesday, March 24, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
story writ not long after me n emily gut back frum west germany

aint gut much time this mornin, so heres sumthin frum over 20 years ago. tiz a story writ not long after the last events deescribed in chaptur 110: hurtin them ye luv of the novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly. odd thang bout this story is how whenever i red it to 'the group,' witch yer a'gonna here plenty bout 'the group' by n by, everbidy wuz laffin lack twuz the funniest thang they ever herd. then later on when sum folk red it on thar own, they calld me up to say twuz one of the saddest thangs they had ever red.

Scattered Afternoon Showers

Jack Adams, Jr., had always loved the feel of sweat dripping from his face onto his chest.  He loved it because it meant he’d been working hard and staying in shape.  Jack was a robust thirty-eight year old father of two who preferred mowing his three-quarter acre yard to all other methods of getting the blood and sweat to flow.  He enjoyed the hard pounding of his heart and the sense of fatigue that came from pushing himself to his limit.  Other men might sit around watching kids play games on TV and drinking beer, but not Jack—no, Jack would not let himself go fat in the belly, frail in the leg, and flabby under the chin.  He would be a fine, well preserved, handsome man, whose dark good looks and broad-shouldered, sturdy physique would only be enhanced by the good, honest sweat of physical exertion.  He pictured himself as a distinguished, sixty-year old, with a dignified mane of white hair to set off the brown, healthy look of his seemingly young, athletic body.  He guessed he would be even more attractive to women then than he was now.  He would play tennis rather than golf, mow his own yard, and in every way live up to the sterling example left him by his father, who had suffered an aneurism when Jack was ten and who had impressed everyone with his good looking, brown-skinned, silver-headed corpse.  Jack would live out the vigorous years his father had been robbed of so unjustly.  And to insure his success, he would work hard, eat right, see his doctor annually, keep his wife totally satisfied in bed, coach his sons’ little league team, drink moderately, smoke not at all, and both “take a dump” and break a sweat every single day.

Thus it had come as no surprise to his wife, the former Rose McGhee of St. Louis, Missouri, a slightly faded beauty whose best features were her new penny colored eyes, prominent high cheekbones, and long, slender brown legs—no, it was no surprise to her that her husband Jack should choose to spend almost four hours of his thirty-eighth birthday mowing and raking the yard.  She couldn’t help smiling when the rain began falling before Jack had finished raking the grass, forcing him to bring his soaked body into the house for protection.  She knew that even the sudden afternoon shower would not have slowed him down had it not been for the distant booming of thunder.  Before she suggested he go ahead and get his shower out of the way, she let him lean over from the waist to kiss her on the cheek—his moustache, like his shirt and shorts, was soaked.

“I worry about you working so hard in the hot sun and muggy air,” she said as she handed him his towel and wash cloth.  “It must be ninety degrees out there—pretty hot even for June, Jack.”

It was, indeed, a very hot, very humid, very tropical, East Tennessee June day.  The sun had been bright in the morning and the clover lawn was alive with honeybees and June bugs.  The humid waves of heat hovered over the lawn, causing the trees and the back of the lot to waver and dance.  Rose felt like fainting just watching her husband making his steady, even rounds of the yard, spraying up bits of grass and raining sweat from his brow onto his chest.  She whispered a little prayer of thanksgiving when she noticed a broad, black bank of thunder clouds marching slowly from the West toward their well-tended tract of houses.  She watched anxiously as the black clouds began rumbling, causing her husband to speed up his raking.  He had nearly finished when the rain began falling.  When the gloom of the late afternoon was suddenly shocked by a bright flash of lightning and a quick explosion of thunder, Jack pushed the lawn mower onto the carport, put away his rake, and came inside.

Jack saw his wife’s concern for him in her eyes, and he smiled to himself, very satisfied.  He would not be one to die unexpectedly before his time by tempting a bolt of lightning.  His corpse was by no means ready yet.

“Why don’t you talk to me while I take my shower?” Jack asked as soon as he’d finished his second glass of Gatorade.  He took his towel and wash cloth into the bathroom.

“Where are the boys?” he asked.

“I took them by your mother’s this morning.”

“So you and I could be alone?  How thoughtful.  Of course, it is my birthday.  We gonna celebrate at Mom’s later?”

Jack unzipped his pants, flushed the toilet, and began pissing into the vortex of the rushing water.

“Why do you do that?”


“Flush before you pee.”

“I don’t know.  I never really thought about it.”

“Did your father do that?”

Jack didn’t answer.  He squeezed the last two or three spurts of urine from his bladder and was just before shaking his penis off when Rose cried out for him to wait.  He started to shake anyway, but she slapped his hand.

“Let me do it.”

“Oh Rose,” he said in mock protest as he let her take his penis in her hand and shake it.  In fact, he loved his wife’s childish and inexhaustible curiosity about his body.  He stood up, put his arms behind his head and stretched.  He felt hard and strong and powerful, the stoic counterpart to his wife’s soft body and moody emotional nature.

Rose finished shaking droplets of urine all over the bathroom floor and walls and then dropped Jack’s penis against his zipper.

“Ouch!” he said as he ran his fingers along its length mechanically to squeeze out any urine that might still be left.  “Somebody ought to teach to to be careful, Baby.”

“Oh yeah?”

“And I think I know just the man for the job.”

“His name wouldn’t be Jack, would it?”

“Might be,” Jack said as he let his shorts and underwear fall to his ankles and, feeling both proud and sure of himself, pulled his shirt up over his head very slowly, letting his wife feed her eyes the sight of his remarkably well preserved physique.  He was, therefore, quite disappointed when he finally freed his head from the fabric and saw that Rose had stepped into the hall to get something out of the linnen closet.  He kicked his shorts from his ankles, removed his shoes and socks, and stepped into the shower.

After pulling the shower curtain behind him, Jack began adjusting the water.  His was a combination shower and bath, so he always adjusted the temperature before he flipped the lever from tub to shower.  Unfortunately, the temperature was very difficult to get just right.  First Jack turned the hot handle.  When the water became hot, he turned on the cold.  Three revolutions of the handle did not cool the steaming hot water.

“Damn this stupid thing.”

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“Oh, this water.  You can never get it just right.”

“If you didn’t have to take a shower, you’d have no trouble.”

“You told me to take a shower yourself,” Jack said as he began twisting the hot water knob to lessen its flow.  “Ouch!  This damned thing!  You turn it down and it gets hotter.”

“You wouldn’t have that problem if you’d take a bath.”

“I can’t stand baths.  I mean, how can anyone stand soaking in their own dirt?  I want to be washed clean by a clean, hot shower.  Nothing makes me feel better.”

“Aren’t you ever tempted to soak in a hot tub?  You might like it.  No better way to relax.”

“I don’t really want to relax.  I don’t like to feel rested.  I like to feel clean and vigorous.”

“Yes, yes, the healthy vigor of hard work.  You can have it.  Give me a little comfort.”

Jack didn’t answer, having finally found the right temperature.  He flipped the lever to shower and stood with his head only inches away from the nozzle.  He let the hot water soak his dark brown hair—hadn’t turned the least bit grey yet!—and spill onto his face and shoulders and chest.  He then drenched his wash cloth and rubbed it over his face three times, just as he had done since he began taking showers at the age of thirteen, when his mother had moved him and his two older sisters from Oklahoma City to Knoxville, where they had a shower for the first time.

“Rose?  Can you get me—”

“Some soap?  Here, I just opened a new one.”


Jack began his shower routine—lathered the cloth, lathered his crotch, washed his butt with his left hand, rinsed his left hand, washed his left hand, lathered his arm pits, rubbed the cloth against his back and chest as roughly as he could stand it, washed his ears, first outside, then inside, and finally, washed his face.  He then picked up his left foot, rubbed soap onto it and scraped it clean with the nails of his right hand.  He repeated this with his right foot.  Then he washed his hands, squeezed out a green glob of shampoo, closed his eyes, and began working the goo into his scalp.  When he’d finished lathering and massaging his head, he stuck it under the nozzle and rinsed it.  Finally he checked his ears, hair, and crotch for soap.  Finding none, he turned off the water and began shaking himself.  As he did so, he used his fingers to squeeze his hair dry.  He wore his hair just long enough to grab with his fists, which made it easy to squeeze out the last of the water.

“Need a towel?” his wife asked, pulling the shower curtain open.

Jack extended his hands towards her with his eyes still closed.

“Your hair sure is coming out!” she said.

Jack wiped the water from his eyes with the backs of his hands.  He then looked at his palms.  There he saw maybe fifty or sixty limp brown hairs.  He shook his hands over the toilet, but the hairs were wet and stuck to his hands.

“It isn’t raining rain you know,” his wife sang teasingly,  “it’s raining Jack’s brown hair.”

“Give me my towel,” Jack answered, jerking the thick green towel from his wife’s hands.  He very lightly began drying his hair.  He couldn’t believe he’d seen so much hair coming from his own head.  He felt the crown of his head with his right index finger.  It felt smooth, but then, his hair was wet and therefore very likely to leave a spot that felt a little like a bald spot.  Surely he, the son of the distinguished grey-haired Jack Adams, Sr —surely he could not possibly go bald.  He would go grey.  Bald was for fat men, grey for trim, athletic types.

“Honey?” he called.

“Yes, dear.”

“Have you ever looked at my head very carefully?”

“Now and then.  Why?”

“Well, if I ask you something, will you promise to tell the truth?”

“Of course.”

“Well, it feels to me like I’ve got a little bitty bald spot on the crown of my head.  I’d say it’s about the size of a dime.”

Jack paused, feeling the place carefully.

“Yes, dear?  What about it?”

“Well, do you think it means I’m sick or what?”  Jack feared a disabling illness more than anything else, but he could think of no other reasonable explanation for the sudden appearance of a hairless patch on his head.

“Only if age is a sickness,” Rose said.

“What do you mean?”

“Jack,” Rose said in her most matter-of-fact-let’s-not-mince-words voice, “surely you don’t mean to say you just now noticed that men grow bald with age.”

“I didn’t say that.  But my father was silver-headed.”

“So?  Some go grey, others—and you might as well face it, honey, you are in this second category—others go bald.”

“But, I don’t understand.  Why would my hair suddenly start to fall out all at once like this?”

“What do you mean, ‘suddenly all at once’?  You’ve had that bald spot for three years.  At least three years. And it’s certainly much larger than a dime.  I’d say it’s more like a silver dollar.  Maybe even bigger.”

Rose took the towel from her husband and began drying his hair with it.

“Not so hard!”

“Relax, honey.”  She pulled his head down and began picking up small clumps of his hair and dropping it, running her fingers through it.

“See how thin it is?  Surely you’ve noticed, Jack!  Everyone else has.”

“What!?” Jack jerked the towel from his wife’s hands and began drying his back.  “Who’s noticed?”

“Well, honey, I don’t know exactly.”  She was impatient.  “But you’ve been getting thin on top for years.  You probably will be bald, say by the time you’re, I don’t know, maybe forty.”

Jack felt his eyes ache as they had not ached in years.  They were hot.  They were wet.  He felt as if hot rain was falling inside his body—he felt the warmth against his skin, he felt the tingling flush in his muscles, and he feared that the thick cloud in his throat would burst into a thunderous sob.  How could Rose be so cruel, so unfeeling, so insensitive?  He remembered the terrifying, sinking feeling he’d felt as a teenager when one of his worst pimples burst and emptied itself, leaving a visible scar.  He’d stared at the scar in the mirror, tears rolling down his face, his knees buckling before the absolute terror he felt to think that his body would be scarred for life.  Now he felt the same sinking fear, the same trembling helplessness before the finality of his physical fate.  He would be a bald, pockmarked, fat man, he thought, blinking violently.

He looked at Rose, after using the towel to dry his eyes.  She sat on the closed lid of the toilet, watching her feet.  He, too, looked at them.  He’d always hated them.  The first and last toes were too long, almost twice the length of the little ones in the middle.

“I think bald men are terribly sexy,” she said.

“I suppose,” he answered, but he watched her toes carefully.

“They say that bald headedness is a sign of virility.”

“Where’d you hear that?”

“Read it in a magazine.  Cosmopolitan, I think.”

“Did it say anything about feet?” he asked.

“No, why?”

“Nothing.  I love your feet, by the way.”

He padded out of the bathroom into the bedroom.

“Thank you.  They are rather unique.”

“How can anything be rather unique?  That doesn’t make sense.  Either they’re unique or they’re not.”

Rose followed him into the bedroom.

“You don’t like them, do you?”

“I just told you I loved them.”

“You’re lying.”

Jack looked down at her feet.  They were truly ugly.  Then he looked into her eyes.  He felt himself blush.  She was crying.

“Oh, baby, what’s wrong?”

“You hate my feet.”

“No, no, I don’t.  I love them.”

And suddenly he did love them because, ugly or not, they were Rose McGhee Adams as much as anything could be Rose McGhee Adams.  And Rose McGhee Adams loved him, Jack Adams, Jr., a bald, pockmarked, fat man.  He fell to his knees and began kissing Rose’s toes.

“Oh baby, I love you so.

She bent at the waist, stroked his head.  Three short hairs came loose in her hand, and a sharp pain caused a sudden sob to burst from her mouth, but when he looked up at her, she smiled.

Looking up into her eyes, he felt as if he were a child again.

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