Saturday, April 09, 2005

life of buddy don, chaptur 133: gittin a new job

by august emily wuz a'gittin wurried bout whut wuz we a'gone do to keep from goin broke, witch i hated to thank lack that n sed i figured twuz good i had the one freshmun english class n i could probly git lots of hours fer ritin lab n tuterin n such n we woodnt go hungry but ye couldnt satisfy her.

fer years we playd cards once a week with billy n lauren stewart, generly at our place on a counta how we dint have no car, but sumtimes billy wood pick us up. i saw lots of billy on a counta we played racketball ever nown then, so ye mite could say we wuz friends. he tole me i orta cunsidder a'wurkin whar he dun, witch i wood start with a lil salary n git more based on cummishun. corse ifn i couldnt sell i probly woodnt git to keep the job. twuz a temptayshun n i wuz thankful to have sum prospecks. i even held it out now n agin to emily as a way to proov we could make it.

truth wuz, i dint wont that job fer nuthin n dint wont no other job ceptn teachin n deep inside i figgerd we wood make it n mayhap i could git sumthin published n git a lot writ on a new novel. so i wuznt sayin yes n wuznt sayin no to billy n he unnerstood how i felt.

innywho, we had us a plan fer cards on a fridy n emily tole me she had ast lauren to see could billy git me a applicayshun fer that job n set up a innerview. she even sed i had deecided to take the job. i flew mad n i tole her i dint lack her a'doin that kinda thang behind my back n that twuz privut but she sed lauren alreddy knew everthang bout it innywho n she wuz jes trine to hep. she wuz near to tears, witch that could git me ever now n then but not ever time. ye git tired of them tears after a while n she could cry easy so twernt hardly fair since ye couldnt be shore ifn they wuz real or not. innywho, seemed to me lack they wuz real this time so i tuck my chair n patted my lap n she crawled up in toot n cried while i held her. she couldnt hep bein a skeerd thataway even ifn i couldnt git skeerd with her n that seemed lack the biggest insult i could give her. so i dint say nuthin but jes held her.

but my mind wuz blazin. mayhap she wuz rite. mayahp i wuznt takin thangs all that serius. i hadnt dun no lookin n hadnt even made shore i could work in the ritin lab nor ifn i could tutor neether. i dint thank nuthin bad wuz a'gone happen but i couldnt count on ever gittin a penny fer ritin so i had to be realistick. i felt lack i wuz late gittin started on a paper or sumthin. so i promissd her i wood go over that afternoon n get it set up. she wuz so touched that one thang led to a nuther till she wuz down to her flannel shirt n knee socks n a'astin me why dint i wate till the nex day.

nex day i made the rounds. turnt out i had to git docter walthers approoval fer wurkin in ritin lab n he give it but not till he give me a lil lectchur bout how twood be a waste of my talent n how i orta be teachin. i laffed n tole him he hadnt give me but the one class. he sed twuz the policy on a counta near ever graduwait student ends up trine to git a job at the last mint n whar else could they go? so they give as minny of em classes as they could. sum of em made it, sum of em dint. twuz verr lackly i wood make it n i could git a full lode -- four classes -- fer winter quarter. he leaned ford as ifn he had to keep it secret even tho twernt nobidy else thar n whisperd how he wood make shore i gut a full lode ifn he could. i whisperd a thankee n tole im i hoped to git it.

nex stop wuz the black cultchural center whar i found anthony n ast im did he thank i could tutor even ifn i wuznt a stoodent no more. he laffed n sed he hoped i woodnt fergit how n i laffed. then he sed he dint have nobidy a'needin it n woodnt know how minny he mite have till a few weeks into the quarter. but he wood call me whenever he gut one. i reckun he could see disappointment in my face or sumthin or mayhap he jes knew i woodnt be astin ifn i dint need wurk, so he ast me why i dint apply over to knoxvull collidge. i dint wonta add mitt how i dint even ritely know whut knoxvull collidge wuz. i had it confused with knoxvull bizness collidge n had tride a'goin thar fer a cuple weeks one time n knew twernt fer me. but to be plite i ast im did he have inny contacks thar. he smiled n tole me he had been a'hopin i wood cunsidder it n even planned to ast me bout it on a counta he knew they needed sumbidy. he give me a card with the name n number of a man name of gene streeter n tole me to call im fer a innerview. i stuck the card in my pocket n tole im i hoped to here frum im soon. we talked fer a bit bout whuther thay wood be a basketball team that year n sed we hoped so n he wood call me ifn thay wuz.

whenever i gut home i found emily in bed takin a nap, witch i knew that ment she had probly cride her eyes out. i knew ifn i wuz to wake her up n dint have real good news, twood be a evenin of holdin her while she wuz deepressed over how bad thangs wuz n that wood lead us rite to fussin n fitin on a counta how i dint thank thangs wuz that bad. if it hadnta been fer that, i doubt ifn i wooda called docter gene streeter, but i pulled the bedroom door closed n went out into the livin room n called im. he sed he could see me rite then n i ast im to give me a lil time to git reddy. ackshly, i had dun tuck a shower n gut reddy whenever i went over to campus. i dint have but the one suit n twuz the same one i had gut marrd in the furst time back in 1970. but the problem wuz figgern out whar twuz.

i give johnny mayhew a call n ast im did he know. he tole me he had herd of it but hadnt never been thar. mayhap twuz a bizness collidge downtown? i tole im i dint know fer sartin but thanked im jes the same.

then i called jake dawes n ast im ifn he knew n he tole me he dint wonta know. i ast im why n he laffed. 'You've *got* to be kidding me, doctor! Surely you are aware that it's just across the freeway ... in the black section of town?' i hadnt known it but dint add mitt it. in sted i ast im did he know eggzackly whar n he ast me why n i tole im i had a innerview n he laffed n tole me ifn i follerd 17th street under the freeway n dint git lost, i wood find it..

while i wuz wunderin whuther to call bud rankin the fone rang n twuz billy stewart astin did i wonta play racket ball. i tole im i wished it could but i had that innerview n dint even know whar the place wuz. i shoulda real eyesed how billy knew everplace thay wuz. he ast me could he give me a ride n i tole im i needed to git thar in twenty mints, witch he wuz out at a customer site in alcoa whenever he called so thay warnt no way he could git me thar in time. but he give me the die reckshuns n i rote em down.

then i called bud n ast im could he give me a ride n he sed, 'it would be my pleasure, doctor, and after you get the job, we can burn one to celebrate.' i ast im to meet me in frunt of the bildin n he wuz thar in fifteen mints n we gut to the collidge only a few mints late. twuz strate up 17th street to the end. then ye take a lil rite on ailer n a lef on college street n foller it up the hill till ye see the the white plaster of the gates to knoxvull collidge. we drove thru em n up the hill n tole the guard who we wuz n why we wuz thar n he tole us to foller the circle round to the colstun center fer the performin arts n we wood fine docter streeters offus in thar.

we tuck the slow ride round n wuz sprized at how small the place wuz. thay wuz a grass meadow lack area a lil smallern a football field circled by the rode with dorm bildins lined up long tuther side of the rode n the colstun center n more dorms. at the top of the yard wuz the student center n the 'caff' as everbidy called the cafetwria. i wood larn how the hole campus wuz called 'the yard' n ifn ye wuz on campus ye wuz 'on the yard.' everbidy me n bud seen wuz black n they stared at us till by time we gut parked n i wuz bout to git out, bud sed, 'you sure ye want to do this, doctor?

i laffed n sed twernt nuthin but fack is, i wuz a lil skeerd. i caint splain it but tiz true a nuff. i mite swell add mitt rite here that i cum to the yard loded with rong idees n prejudiss i dint know i had. my ignorunts of the black communty, as i wood cum to call it, wuz deepern i could mayshur. amung other thangs, lack i jes add mitted, i wuz afraid of black folk. taint lack inny of em had ever dun a thang to me, but i wuz a'skeerd jes the same. mayhap frum reedin histry n such i speckted ever black persun to be mad at ever white persun. i figgerd ifn i wuz born black, i mite could be mad my ownself whenever i red bout slavery n such.

taint lack i hadnt tride to git reddy, whuther on purpuss or not. last quarter of skool i needed one more class n seen that thay wuz a english class on the topick of black autobiogruffys. i figgerd twood eggspoze me to sumthin a lil differnt n kindly lack i had tuck classes in islam n hinduism n bhuddism n all, i figgerd i wood see ifn i couldnt git a lil dab of black cultchur with my degree. corse my choice met with sum resistunts on the staff. dint seem lack they give the perfesser, doctor greene, much respeck n he seemed lack he wuz angry all the time n mayhap he wuz. innywho, he tuck up fer me when i sed i wonted to take the class n even ast how could i go thru the canon n not know nuthin bout black murkin riters? so i gut the class n we red thangs lack The Autobiography of Frederick Douglas n The Big Sea n Richard Wright's Black Boy n The Autobiography of Malcolm X n The Narrative of Sojourner Truth n The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois n The Autobiography of Booker T. Washington n sevrul otherns. he had im a grate reckommended readin list with lots of black authors i hadnt never herd much about lack zora neal hurston n james weldon johnson n minny a nuthern.

thay wuz luck atop that on a counta how the campus bookstore had em a used book sale out behind the student center with lodes of books fer a dime or a quarter. emily wuz drawn toot lack a bee ot a flower. she had dun noticed how i wuz a'readin all them black autobiogruffys n she figgerd i wood wont them books. so she gut a big ole box full of em n called me to cum hep her git em home. even tho i wuz mad bout her spendin money without astin me when she woodnt let me spend nun without astin her, i did wont the books so i went down n we hauled em back up n gut to goin thru em. i dint know then how handy they wuz a'gone be so i tuck em with a lil reluctunts but i dint say nuthin.

corse i had dun had me sum eggsperients in scarbro in oak ridge, witch i rote bout that back in chaptur 53: my furst time on the block. so twernt lack i hadnt never been amung black folk but i still had my lil fears n whenever bud stopped me n ast me the way he dun, i nearly dint go in. but then i laffed n sed i figgerd twood be all rite but ifn i dint cum out in three days to tell emily to send in the cavalry.

doctor streeter wuz a verr short man with gray hair n skin lack paper that looked lack it bruzed easy or mayhap twuz jes splotchy but ye could thank he had tuck a few licks round the hed n sholders. he paced back n forth whenever he started the innerview, a'tellin me that thangs wuznt a'gone grate with the skool. he wuz puffin on a pipe the hole time. walk, puff. talk. thay wuz questchuns bout whuther we wood git paid by the munth or after the quarter. walk, puff. but then he sed i woodnt half to wurry bout that nohow on a counta ifn i gut the possishun i woodnt git paid till the end of the quarter since only full time folks had a chants at the munthly check. walk, puff.

i jes stood thar, a lil in shock. wuz he trine to talk me out of the job? i hadnt red nuthin bout knoxvull collidge in the knoxvull news sentinull nor the journal neethur n even tho the collidges 'plite' wuz in the papers twuz on the back pages n i hadnt never noticed it.

walk, puff. he noticed the look on my face n sed he dint wonta kid me, thangs wuz grim. walk, puff. twer possibull that at the end of the quarter thay woodnt be no money n i had to know how twuz. walk, puff. 'in 1980 we had an enrollment of nearly 700. two years later, we're down to 300.' he could see thay wuz a questchun on my face n that made im laff. he ast me did i foller pall ticks? i add mitted i dint pay em much tentchun.

i finely ast im whuther they still wonted sumbidy fer the job n that musta reminded im that i wuz wontin to git innerviewed n fine out ifn i wuz a'gone git the job. he looked over my resume fer a lil n sed twuz impressive but why had i ever quit such a good job lack i had at union carbide? twernt easy to splain since he wuz verr wurried bout money, but after we talked fer bout a hour bout whut folks duz with thar lives, he ast me could i take two classes, freshman comp 101 n 102.

i tole im i wood be honord to have em n he laffed n sed, 'if you can get the 101 students to get their subjects and verbs to match, you can pass them. the 102s are a little more difficult since they have to do some research and even use footnotes,' witch that made im laff. walk, puff. silence.

i wunderd ifn the innerview wuz over but he wuz litin his pipe so i waited till he had dun it n ast im could i ast more of my students than matchin thar subjecks n verbs?

'depends on how minny times ye wonta see im a'takin the same class.' he laffed. walk, puff. he came up closer and said, 'don't mind me. i'm feeling cynical at the moment because of the news. you can push these kids just as hard as you would like. the harder, the better. but you should be realistic.' corse, i hadnt never been verr good bout bein realistick, but i dint tell im that.

me n bud drove back over to campus to park his car. we walked down to tysons park n found our spot n burnt one n talked bout the futchur. bud had im a job at swans sunbeam bakery n he figgerd it could be verr innerestin n mite give im a lotta grist fer the mill. we laffed. then we talked bout how thangs wuz a'gone with ginny, witch they wuznt a'gone nowhar at the moment on a counta her bein up in newport news virginny a'visitin her folks n fack is, she wuz on a leave of absents frum the tennessee department of soshul services n had sorta kindly moved back home.

once i gut home i woke up emily n tole her the news, witch i speckted her to be happy but she wudnt. she dint thank two classes wuz a nuff. she hated the idee of not gittin paid till januwairy, witch i had lied n tole her that wuz 100% assured long as the world dont end or a ack of god happen or sumthin. but she wuz still upset on a counta johnny had called to say he thought he could git me on at tva. i tole her i preciated it but i wuznt a'gone wurk at no tva ifn i could wurk teachin. that made her mad on a counta she figgerd i wuz trine to settle fer three quarters of a lode n how wuz we spozed to pay bills till the quarter wuz over? whut about christmus? woodnt i at lease find out whut the tva job wuz a'payin?

jes then the fone rung n twuz dr streeter. he wonted to know could it take a nuther class n i ast whut twuz it n he sed basick grammer. 'and i mean basic, as in recognizing the verb, recognizing the subject and working your way up from there.' by this time, emily had dun sussed out whut i wuz bein ast n deespite herself, she wuz a lil eggcited. mayhap thangs wood wurk out after all. i tole docter streeter i wood take the grammer class but that i wood have to have it on mundys windsdys n fridys lack my other classes on a counta teachin a tuesdy thursdy at utk. he tole me i had it.

fer a mint she wuz happy n we kissed n made up n walked down tords laurel avenue market to git sum steaks to celebrate. but befor we gut home, she had her a new wurry: how wuz i a'gone git back n forth to skool? we dint have no money fer no car. i had a moment whenever i wuz so tired of havin to try to justify why i could bleeve thangs wuz a'gone wurk out that i wuz tempted to say she could pick out a job fer me to take or inny other thang she wonted ifn she could jes stop a'wurryin. i wood do whutever. in sted she jes stopped whar she wuz. i could see the tears a'gathrin, so i set the grossries down n tuck her in my arms n putt her hed no my sholders n used the soothin voice of a mama n sed, 'thar, thar, dont ye wurry nun. i dun figgerd out how to git to wurk: ima gone walk. twill be good fer me.' i kissed her hed. 'n i wood walk to georgy n back fer ye, so dont ye wurry nun. taint that far.'

but that set her off agin on a counta twernt the distunts she wuz wurried bout. i tole her she shouldnt let her prejudices blind her, as ifn mine wernt a'blindin me! but i wuz too mad to thank bout my own incunsistencies. in sted i picked up them grossries n walked off. i never looked back once to see did she foller me.

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