Saturday, December 10, 2005

life of buddy don, chapter 141: thonly white man in heaven

dr streeter wuz as good as his wurd bout gittin me sum pay. twuznt whut i wuz spozed to git ifn i wuznt temporairy full time, witch i wuz gittin 30 cents on the dollar, so i swore i wood do whutever it tuck to git on the reglar full time payroll. my method wuz to volunteer, but twuznt only fer the skool of hard knox theatricull players. i vounteerd fer servul other thangs besides that.

furst thangs furst, tho, n that wood be that thar drama club. furst time we met wuz on a saturdy afternoon, witch twuz a bit of a sprize to walk thru that nayborhood in the middle of the day n see how nice everthang looked. i generly cum by so early in the mornin that i couldnt hardly see nuthin but twuz a sunny cold day n seem lack them projects wuz jes shinin, everthang as clean as could be.

even tho twuz cold, by time i had walked halfway to skool, i wuz generly too hot to keep my coat buttond or my scarf rapped round my neck. that wuz sumthin i went thru everday, gittin all bundled up n steppin out onto 17th street n findin myself near shivern, but i wood be brakin out in sweat by time i gut to skool.

the meetin wuz fer 2 pm, so i deecided to git thar a lil early n mark a few papers whilst i wuz a'waitin fer the meetin to cummence. i half to add mitt i wuz a lil nervus bout it fer reasons i caint ritely splain. whenever thay wuz class to teach, thay wudnt nuthin to be nervus bout since i wuz the perfesser n gut to say how thangs wuz a'gone be. but this time i wuz jes one of the folks cummin to the meetin. i knew i dint hardly know nuthin bout drama, lease not doin it on stage tho i had red a minny a play n seen a few. but thang wuz, sum of them students probly knew lots more bout theeater than i dun.

two o'clock cum n went without nobidy showin up. i deecided to check tuther rooms, a'wundern did i git the place rong. then i wunderd wuz it the time. but long bout 2:30, here cum a feller name of william wilson, witch he wuz a senyer that i had dun herd of but never met. folks calld im willy will n made jokes playin with his name, mayhap on a counta him bein such a serious feller. he had run fer skool presdent n lost. sharon worth had splaind to me how he dint have no chants on a counta bein a alpha n wuznt no way no alpha wood beat a q. i ast her to splain but she jes laffd n tole everbidy i dint even know whut a q wuz.

innywho, willy cum rite up to me n shuck my hand n sed, 'william wilson.' i anserd back, 'buddy don duncan.' he sed he had herd bout me but i couldnt tell ifn that wuz a good thang or a bad. seem lack he wuz a lil angry bout sumthin, witch i cum to find out later on that wuz jes his way. i ast whar wuz everbidy? n he laffed n sed they wuz runnin on cee pee time. i tole im hadnt never herd of that time zone n could he splain it? he splaind bout cee pee time bein colord people time. i sed, 'colord people time?' n he sed, 'yeah. thats whatever time we shuffle on in.'

lack i sed, he had a angry look to im n i figgerd i had made im a lil angry to whar i wonted to pall gize. seem lack he wuz playin on whut he speckted my prejudgments to be. i had gut my mouth open with sorry wurds in it but befor i could let one out, here cum wanda joyce frum the addministrayshun. 'hey willy,' she sed with her hand in the air, witch he slapped it. twuz bout the time when hi fivin wuz brakin out all over but that wuz the furst time i seen innybidy doot.

while they wuz a'doin that, i tuck a quick look at my watch, witch wanda caught me a'doon it n splaind that the meetin wuz fer two but twood be run on cee pee time. i looked at willy, witch he smiled n sed, 'we just hope everyone shows up. no point watching the clock.'

that seemd to be the flossofy n i wuz sprized by how warm a thang twuz. by 3 o'clock thay wuz a roomfull n then in cum a cuple older folks, witch turnt out they wuz the guest die-recktors. one of em wuz a short feller with verr dark skin. he cum rite up to me as ifn i wuz in charge, stuck out his hand fer me to shake n sed, 'augustus trent. call me gus.' i anserd, 'buddy don duncan.' befor i could say much else sum feller called out, 'we call him mr d.' i looked roun to see who twuz but even tho that room wuz a'gittin warm frum all the kids that wuz thar, i dint see nary a one of my students. the woman wuz a lil taller n verr purty. gus innerduced her as janine toney.

seem lack dint nobidy know who wuz in charge whenever wanda ast me did i wonta say a few wurds to git us a'goin? i dint, but i figgerd twernt no time to cumplain, so i sed how twuz grate we had such a fine turnout n how we had us sum good local talent cum in to die-reck the play, witch rite thar wanda tuck the floor n splaind how thay wood be two plays, douglas turner ward's day of absence n a nuthern name of profiles in black.

soons she dun that, everbidy gut to findin seats or standin round, leavin wanda n gus n janine standin in the center of the circle. i had tuck a seat my ownself on a counta havin no idee whut we wuz a'gone do. but wanda had it all under cuntrol n gut rite to wurk splainin bout them two plays, witch quick as she dun it, she wuz innerupted by gus. i figgerd he wuz a'gone be the leader by then, but quick as he splaind his idee fer profiles in black, he turnd to janine n splaind how she wuz a'gone die reck a grate play frum one of amurkas bes playwrights, witch i wuz a lil sprized on a counta i hadnt never herd of no douglas turner ward befor.

not knowin nobidy or even knowin bout that grate playwright or bout much of nuthin havin to do with the thee-ater lef me wundern whut i wuz a'doon thar. i kindly wishd i hadnt cum out n wunderd whut could i do when i felt sumbidy tuggin on my sleeve n astin wood i move over on the bench to whar she could git a seat.

i turnt n wuz sprized to see cassandra worthy. we hadnt spoke atall since i made her mad by tellin her how emily wonted to meet her, so twuz nice that she wuz bein friendly. turnt out she dint know nobidy verr well ceptn me.

gus n janine tuck turns splainin thar plays. janine wonted to know ifn innybidy could git sum copyin dun since we wood need copies of the play. i menchuned how i had a friend that sold copiers n i wood ast him ifn he could do us the favor, witch that wuz billy stewart n that verr nex fridy at when the group met, we all made n bound copies a nuff fer everbidy includin wanda n me. i dint need nobidy to tell me thay wuznt no place on campus to make them copies.

then gus gut to splainin his. turnt out the play he wonted to do wuznt all made up yet. he needed folks to do a lil research, to find sum speeches by grate black amurkins, witch the idee wuz we wood have twelve of em n each one wood say a bit of a speech n we wood end by sangin. nary a student volunteerd to do no research, so i sed i wood brang sum books by them grate amurkins we wuz a'gone be preesentin, witch i had dun been a'usin em in my class fer dicktayshun. fer sum reason, my offer seemd to rile im a lil. i hadnt barely gut the wurds out till he talked rite on top of me, witch i shut up to listn.

'we will present our speakers with the dignity they deserve,' gus sed, 'then we will gather together to sign young, gifted n black n lift every voice.' why dont we close by sangin it now. then iris chambers started to hum n everbidy but me n cassandra worthy started hummin the same note n then all stood up n held hands with thar naybors n tuck to sangin a beeyootiful song i hadnt never herd befor, witch twuz lift every voice and sing, also known as the negro nashunull anthem. corse, i had cassandra in one hand n a feller name of rufus boudreau in tuther. i dint know a sangle wurd of that song n felt a lil shamed, but i noticed how cassandra dint sang neethur n that made me feel a lil better.

soon as that song wuz over, wanda tuck over n sed thay wood be reehearsals ever nite nex week ceptn fridy even if all we could do wuz sang till we gut our scripts. then she thanked us all fer cummin. everbidy but wanda, gus, janine n me disappeard. then gus n wanda tuck time to tell me how nice it wuz that i wood cum out, witch i could tell whut they ment wuz how i wuz white n why wood i be a'doin this? they gut to pall gizin bout cee pee time n tole me i had better larn to set my watch by it, witch they laffd n i laffd along with em.

then wanda looked at me as ifn thay wuz sumthin on my face n ast me did i feel nervus. i allowed as how i did, lease a lil bit, but only on a counta bein with a bunch of folks i dint know verr well n not bein a eggspurt in drama n not knowin the wurds to lift every voice n fer that matter not even knowin thay wuz such a thang as a negro nashunull anthem. but she meant did i feel nervus bout bein thonly white man in a bunch of black folk. i jes laffd n sed i had dun gut over that fall quarter. besides, twuz a verr warm bunch of folk.

once it gut home, i started lookin thru my books. i needed speeches frum the followin folks:
  1. Harriet Tubman
  2. Frederick Douglass
  3. Sojourner Truth
  4. W.E.B. Dubois
  5. Mary McLeod Bethune
  6. Marcus Garvey
  7. Paul Robeson
  8. Fannie Lou Hamer
  9. Malcolm X
  10. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  11. Lorraine Hansberry
  12. Angela Davis
i gut all my books together n had speeches frum near everbidy but martin luther king, jr, witch that seemed lack a sprize since his 'i have a dream' speech wuz easy to find. emily lacked studyin in the graduwait liberry, so we went over thar n i gut to studyin up on how to git the speeches i wonted. i gut mlks speech purty quick n then tuck to lookin into sum of them otherns, trine to see ifn i could find better thangs. they had em a speech frum angela davis that i wuz havin truble findin, but turnt out to be a speech whar she wuz quotin a feller name of martin niemoller. but they deecided to use thatn innyhow.

i wuz so cawt up in it that i dint notice how twuz late sundy afternoon. i ast emily whuther she wuz reddy to go, witch she wuz past bein reddy, but i hadnt noticed. i needed to grade a slew of papers, so i figgerd once we gut home, thats jes whut i wood do. but emily ast me did i wonta go back into the bedroom fer a lil sparkin, witch thats a offer i dint never refuse, so purty soon thar wuz a trail of emilys cloze -- all but the flannel shirt n knee socks -- leadin to the bed whar she wuz a'lyin on her back with that look on her face. i give her a lil kiss or two, but jes as thangs wuz a'gittin a'goin, the fone rung.

mayhap i shouldnta paid it no mind, but twudnt sumthin i could do that easy so i tuck it n wuz sprized whenever twuz dr morgans wife a'callin me back. emily wonted to know who twuz n whenever i tole her, she gut to twitchin lack she wuz half mad. but that call wuz importunt n kep me distracted. miz morgan -- 'call me ophelia' -- wuz agreein to cum over to knoxvull collidge to do sum deebates we wuz holdin fer black histry munth. i had volunteerd to git sum folks frum utk to cum over fer that eevent n nex thang ye know, i wuz spozed to moderate the deebate.

i gut offn that fone feelin grate. twuz a big releaf to git speakers fer my panel. i had been wurried how i wuz a'gone git everthang dun, but once i had my panel, it all fell rite into place. i went to git my notebook n make a few notes fer the week a'cummin up. mayhap i gut a lil carrd away on a counta how i fergut all bout emily till i herd her cum out of the shower.

'what did miz morgan want?' she ast.

i dint real eyes till then how i hadnt sed a wurd bout it to emily n how could she know i jes happend by luck to run into miz morgan or ophelia that is when i wuz a'lookin to find dr green? so i had ast her could she participate n she wuz deelited but had to check her skedule n git back to me. turnt out she could make it bof nites we wuz havin them deebates. i couldnt hep bein a lil eggcited n i half wonted to thank her fer havin dr morgan fer her major perfessor, but she had them wurry lines on her face. i wunderd whut wuz rong? she sed ifn i dint know, thay wudnt no point in a'tellin me. tiz the wurst possbull anser to that questchun on a counta why wood i ast ifn i dun alreddy knew?

i dint wonta fuss n fite over it, so i went to bed. that nex week wuz so busy i dint hardly see emily even once. but i half to add mitt i dint miss her much. i wuz too busy. besides, seem lack ever other day sumbidy wuz treatin me lack i wuz a lil prince on a counta i wuz willin to cum out after dark on the black side of town. willy will insisted on givin me a ride near everwhar. them deebates went well n i larnt a lot. we reehearsed ever nite n i had duble duty them nites we had them deebates.

on thursdy we had us a dress reehearsal n a lil celebrayshun. they had it over at austin east hi skool i wuz ridin with willy n a carfull of kids n we wuz a lil late. as we wuz a'walkin in to the basketball arena, a feller name of clayton edwards ast me why i wuz thar. he sed it lack he couldnt figger whut wuz in it fer me. i dint hardly know whut to say. i splaind how i had made a commitment n had to keep up with it, how i wuz larnin more frum my job than i had dun frum graduwait skool. he sed he knew that, but i coulda stayd home that last nite.

i wuz bout to say sumthin bout how i wonted to be thar when i wuz sprized to here cassandra tellin clayton to leave me alone. when he ast her why, she splaind how i wuz a'gone be thonly white man in heaven. i hadnt give much thought to whuther i wonted to be thar or not befor that. fack is, i wuz jes trine to git on dr streeters good side. but whenever i herd cassandra say i wuz thonly white man in heaven, i felt lack i wuz eggzackly that. i real eyesed then that however much i mite thank i wuz doin good fer the sake of doin good, twuz as much vanity as innythang.

fack is, i wudnt livin nowhar but rite on earth, witch that verr nex sundy, i gut a reeminder when emily wonted me to putt down a pile of papers i wuz gradin sos we could go back into the bedroom. she had dun shagged her cloze by the time i gut back thar, but this time thay woodnt be no sparkin. she wonted to talk. about us.

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