Wednesday, May 15, 2013
“Alabama Tales of Old Josh”
If you have read “The Cotton Belt,” and “Colored and White”
And liked it, you’ll enjoy:
Tales of Old Josh” Alabama
) Ozark, Alabama
To old Josh, the loudness of the gun shot started in his inners, and passed on through his chest, shoulders, neck, head and hammered inside his eardrums—blew wind like echoes from ear to ear, then it came back down to his shoulder bone, shocked his sense to a near frenzy, frozen state, the smoke from the barrow, tasted like sulfur, it had dissolved into his tongue, whirled into his lungs, he coughed twice to let it out, clashing against the empty spaces in his heart, or so it appeared. The shot had stunned him—!
Silas, old Josh’s boy couldn’t run, he hadn’t expected that, it had just happened, he told himself: consequently he too was staggered. He had shot the shotgun, at a rabbit, killed it, shredded it; the shot was right next to his father’s ear, which just occurred to him after the fact.
“Youall done hit a rabbit, git on down dhere and clean it up boy!” Shouted Josh, unknowing just how loud he was talking, shouting—now closing his eyes to regain his equilibrium: counting slowly as not to lose his temper, “Wes out shooting quall not rabbit boy,” he exclaimed.
Silas laid the shotgun down in the tall weeds on a log by a bush—his father still shaking, the echo domed inside his brain and eardrums, as Silas placed the dead rabbit (what was left of it) into a sack to be burnt later on, according to his father’s wishes.
It was a quiet meadow, little used for hunting anything, and never for sport. A shortcut for the most part between the three plantations: the Hightower’s, the Stanley’s and the Barchans, and across the Old Ozark Road, was another plantation, once owned by the Abernathy family, now moved onto North Carolina. Several miles away were Old Shantytown, a Civil War town-let, and seventeen miles away was Ozark, township:
was a hop-skip-and-jump from the
Barchans. Goose Creek
Josh Washington Jefferson near sixty, lived in a shanty on the Hightower plantation, with his two sons the elder one being Silas by two years, and the younger being Jordon; it was mid-afternoon when Josh and Silas reached their shanty. He drew water from the outside well, washed his face and hands. They both had more soot and soil than usual; Silas went into barn and cleaned the shotgun carefully.
Why Old Josh wanted the rabbit burnt could not have been said, at that time, or even guessed, I suppose, but immediate afterwards he built a fire outside, he picked up what was left of the hide of the rabbit, carried it to the faire, blood still dripping, and dropped it in. He had firewood in the back of the shanty—used that.
Inside the shanty, Josh had put a log into the hearth, built a fire, cooked the few quails he had shot, before Silas had charred his brain, and cooked supper. Jordon was down in the city proper of Ozark, where he worked part-time, for Mr. Hobby, who owned a store of goods, an assortment of just about everything, everybody might need in town or on the nearby plantations. He often slept there overnight, in the back room on a wooden pallet, with a blanket, if not, the floor.
It was dark; Josh noticed the fire went out, burnt out completely, outside where the rabbit had been thrown into; the rabbit burnt to smithereens, all but dust and charcoal like debris. He stood in the darkness. His mind was empty for the most part; save the moment of the shotgun blast was still fresh. He just stood there, Silas asleep in the shanty. From afar, he could hear the wolves howling, in the woods. A pack of wolves running alongside its edge: perhaps cat-hunting, or coon-hunting, or human-hunting, or just making sure no one was who they didn’t want on their turf, was on their turf: who’s to say? ‘They be havin’ nothin’ else to do in dheir lives, it be heredity so they do what day do best, hunting…” so he told his sons more than once.
He actually knew the voices of he wolves, by sound. He once told Silas: “…it be no different after sixty-years of listening to wolves, I reckon you gits to know them like you gits to know a horses voice.” Inseparable, old Josh was: inseparable with his surroundings, nature, especially with the lean savagery of his day.
“You kill to eat, not to mangle or sport,” he talked to God, told God, as if he was not proud of what his son had done. As if he needed vindication. It had to do with a senseless death, and all things are cleanse by blood and fire. So he believed.
He did not believe God moved in long, irrevocable distances from man. To the contrary, he believed God could be at an approachable distance to man at a moments notice—; so he stood there listening to the wind, and it came at unmeasured intervals, as if God was whistling, happy in the
timorous night. Hence, he stood with a sad heart, save he was at peace: all
over a single rabbit. Alabama
Now in the silence, he could hear the grunts of frogs in the meadow grasses, a few might have made their way he figured from Goose Creek all the way down here, to the Hightower plantation, leaving their slime and creepy mud-hole, for a treacherous journey, apparently to seek out the cool Alabama darkness, --for some odd reason, wanting earth more than water: if only he could catch a few in the morning, he’d have his lunch made, he presupposed: no more than a fleeting thought. He recalled: the many times during his youth, he was ankle-deep in mud, in
, frog hunting. Goose Creek
He dare not stand too long outside, he pondered, lest the wolves get his scent, and he, himself, get the dim phosphorescent glare of their eyes, that would never vanish, until his death.
He whipped his hands on his pants, buttoned up his shirt some, walked back into the shanty, dragging his large feet, like two big logs. His muscle’s knotted a bit from his long stressful day. He was a large black man, full of bulk, moved slow, found his bed, tumbled his body onto the two boards held up by two hollow stumps, a feathered pillow at one end, a blanket at the other, rolled up. He slipped the blanket tight around his body, feeling around to make sure there were no obstructions, where upon he fell suddenly beneath all dreams, down into darkness as if dangling on a rope, dead. His large nostrils wide and deep, sucking in the air to keep his heart pumping; he was no longer aware of the crackling sounds of the old shanty. He hung one hand over the edge, his fingers touching the wooden floor.
Outside eyes glaring at the sky, the moon, the shanty; the eyes sat there for a long while—yellowish; then leaned against the window of the shanty, where beyond that, was old Josh sleeping, he had never been so tired. If only he could have seen those eyes, but he went on sleeping. Eyes that searched the whole of the square window, sniffed his scent, smelt the blood of the rabbit that was left on the ground. Perhaps instinct telling him, wait, he’ll be comfortable, and have to use the outhouse sooner or later. Thus, the sly wolf waited and waited and waited: despondently, timorous, profound, hopeful.
The Watermelon Picker
Old Josh walked right through the living room without stopping. Emma, Mrs. Hightower’s daughter, only daughter, says, “Pa’s in the dinning room, ef-in you are looking for him, Josh Jefferson!” But old Josh was so mad he didn’t stop, nor had he knocked on the door, like slaves were commanded to do, and come in through the back kitchen door. Charles Hightower was talking to Mr. Hobby about renting out Jordon, for the summer, complete, for his twenty-percent discount at the Hobby Store down in Ozark.
“How much notice do you need before planting and picking?” Mr. Hobby said to Charles, and before he could answer, Josh came in.
“I’m quitting,” he said. “Will one hour be good enough notice?”
Charles Hightower looked at Josh, frog-eyed, amazed at his gumption, but then Josh had been with old man Hightower since he was ten-years old, a slave per near all his life.
“Isn’t our plantation good enough for you anymore?” said Charles Hightower (knowing good and well, when Old Josh, some fifteen-years younger than Charles, when something got is goat, well it had to come out at the tail end—the sooner the better, like it or not. Mr. Hobby was always surprised with the patience, Charles had with Josh).
“Charles,” said Mr. Hobby, “Youall goin’ to let a nigger talks to you like that.”
He had his hand on the long wooden table, put back the long cigar back into his mouth, puffing away; he had a large gold ring on his finger that sparkled when he moved it, a red stone in the middle of it.
“You’ve been with us a long time Josh, what’s on you’re mind and show some respect!” said Charles. Old Josh, didn’t know how to apologize, he simply nodded his head up and down without moving his neck on iota.
“Not long enough,” said Mr. Hobby, looking hot-eyed at Josh as if he wanted to whip him good, “I means, long enough to learn what a nigger’s door is in the back, where the kitchen is, not the front.”
“Well, actually Mr. Hobby, Josh is been pretty good, he’s kept his temper down going on three weeks now, and that’s turning out to be a record,” they both laughed. Usually Mr. Hobby would shake hands, but he’d not with Josh, although his son Jordon was a good worker, and he didn’t want to arouse Charles, thus he sat there without moving.
The trouble was, Old Josh for going on fifty-years had hardly ever left the Hightower plantation, and he had never learned how to be polite with white folk or black folks, and Charles knew that. He knew how it was in the old days, with the town full of blacks, now it was full of Union uniforms, and Confederate uniforms—black and whites walking on the same side of the street, the Civil War had been going on for three years now, and help was scarce, as was everything else. As far as plantation life went, life was pretty dull in appearance, nothing to do but lay around and lie your head at night on the grass when planting time or picking time was over, play poker, pick ticks out of your navel or hair, plunge into bed, that was Old Josh’s life anyhow, nowadays.
There was a fellow named Preb Peck (a watermelon picker by trade), from down deep in the thickets of North Carolina, up visiting the Ghost, the old man that lived in the last Shanty behind the carrel, which was behind Old Josh’s shanty, which was behind Charles’ mansion; he was a second cousin, or something on that order to the Ghost. He had been visiting the Ghost going on three weeks now, living in a covered wagon, daily asking for this and that from Old Josh, or his son Silas, and to be frank he wasn’t in any rush to move on. He even bothered the cook, Granny Mae Walsh, made fun of those big floppy ears of her, and called her the winner of the Blue Ribbon at the Shantytown fair for the biggest ears in
. Then he’d be
quiet and ask for some watermelon and threaded her if she’d not get and give it
to him, he’s tell everyone in Shantytown those ears of hers, that they’ve grown
even bigger since last they seen her, and they’d all want to search her head to
see the phenomenon. And lo and behold he’d get the biggest piece of watermelon
any stomach could hold. Alabama
“I had done gotten tired to talk to him to leave,” said Josh to Charles, “but he be insisting he stay, what’s the use?”
Charles had Granny Mae go fetch Preb Peck.
“When are you going to be moving on Mr. Peck?” asked Charles, Mr. Hobby amazed on how he was diplomatically handling things, yet he knew the Civil War would be over someday, soon perhaps, and the blacks would be getting their freedoms, perchance he was smart in this manner.
“I heard dat ole nigger talking ‘bout me way down in my wagon, when I be sleeping, he ant but a rat” Preb told old Mr. Hightower.
“You didn’t answer the question Preb,” said Charles.
“But my cousin he been backing here on this plantation in de ole fields doing your daddy’s work. De Ghost, he says he was walkin’ long tendin’ to your-all business for some fifty-years, when he come out of de swamps, crawling out with your daddy’s help, and work for ole Shep Hightower tell you be born.”
“Well that beats me,” said Mr. Hobby, “a nigger complaining, wanting someone else’s rights…” but said no more, lest the percentage would be against him, and he lose Jordon for three months work. But old Josh was insisting he be thrown off the plantation.
Preb Peck was a free black man with papers, and in a way Josh envied him. He was one of those quiet-looking birds—until you let him nest in your backyard, then he was a bothersome rooster. Mr. Hightower got thinking of this matter. Knowing old Granny Mae was single, and older than Josh by ten-years, and perhaps older than Peck by fifteen, said: “Marry Granny Mae, and you can stay on the plantation the rest of your life, you know she’s passionate for you, a good-looking woman, and she’s a good catch, especially during these hard times.”
Well, Granny Mae was not any of that, but she was passionate, and her shape wasn’t all that bad for an old duck, but such expectation was way to high for Preb or perhaps for anyone on the plantation, or even the four plantations in the area, he had thrown a long dark snake into the pot, figuratively speaking, and Preb stood there like a plucked ostrich.
“I’d rather be with the wolf out yonder there than with Mae, sho’ ‘nough with de wolf… I ain’ partic’lar ‘bout women but, Mae and those ears, hell, I be leaving in the morning, ef-in you dont mind…”
And he walked out of the back door talking to his self.
Now Josh looked at Mr. Hightower with that wide, dumb, blank, innocent look.
“You satisfied, Josh?” questioned Charles.
“I hope he dont git de-date wrong?” answered Josh, and Charles just smile, as Josh walked out the front door the way he came in, simply to annoy Mr. Hobby.
Legend of the Gold
P ick Ritt, Owner of the Ozark National Bank, Ozark
For a hundred years or more the road from Shantytown to Ozark had been marked by wheels and weeds and roots and hoofs, that now the old groves could withstand rain and snow, wind and hale and whatever weather God gave
even darkened somewhat, hard as iron. The old bridge between Shantytown and the
old Ozark Road was covered now with shaggy hedgerow—bushes with needles long as
an index finger, in some spots thick as a beehive; it all lead into the
thickets beyond the bridge, where the cedars and old skeletons were left from
the Revolutionary War days, and the War of 1812, Charles T. Hightower’s war;
old foundations of houses, with no roofs were broken down to their topless
chimneys. Nameless people lived here, some buried in the Alabama
nearby, unrecorded names, only dates on the headstones. It was here where the
Confederates ran when being chased by the Union Soldiers of the now Civil War. Shantytown Cemetery
Anyhow, that was all that was left of them until God’s judgment day, when soul and body would be resurrected as the Good Book reads, but there remained still the “Legend of the Gold,” which some old Revolutionary band of soldiers in 1775, were said to have buried, somewhere, someplace in the thickets. Hence, for near going on eighty-years: generation after generation, of sons and grandsons and cousins and nephews, aunts and uncles, were all looking, larking, searching like hound dogs through the undergrowth, digging out and up and around old foundations, even some digging up old graves, quietly digging up old graves in the middle of the night, with only moon and stars for light, and more of than not, in the pitch darkness, adjusting their eyes as need be—barefoot, time and again, trying to find that gold, supposedly weighed more than Pick Ritt himself, the Banker in Ozark, son to old Albert Ritt, long gone.
The only one that never took noticed, or better put, paid any attention to the on going gossip of the legend was Albert Ritt, and for the most part, his son, Pick.
The old Ghost, whom they say was one-hundred and three years old, had told Josh, who told Mr. Hightower, and perhaps Hightower told his old drinking friends down at Mr. Hobby’s store, or perhaps it was in Mr. Yancy Yankcavick’s stables, who’s to say where the hearsay came from, although we know it came from Josh to Hightower, “Da Ghost one day done told me he say he saw Albert Ritt in the thickets, digging here and there,” said Old Josh, “digging alone. Spading the earth by da ole dilapidated ruins where da ole Norwegians lived. He be digging with flagging fury, he done told me, and even gave da old Ghost a gold piece, big as a silver dollar. He say: ‘You-all keep quiet in what you-all see, lest I bury you out here, by and by, with da rest of the trash.’ But he didn’t see anything, he just hear da harsh whisper, of Albert ef-in you knows what I mean. And he gives him a gold piece, and then came overnight da Ozark Bank, and da town folks thinkin’ little among themselves of it, as ef-in he borrowed the money from a rich relative down Birmingham way.”
Josh reached home. He was tired. He had been down at
all morning and afternoon fishing, in his so
called secret place. He had concealed it with bushes, branches and just old
plain long grass. He reached the Hightower plantation only an hour before
“Josh,” called Charles Hightower, “come a little closer to the light,” he added standing on the back steps that lead into the kitchen, Granny Mae Walsh behind him—pulling her hair over her long ears as if pretending to be grooming herself.
“I can hear you from here, Mr. Hightower,” he was by the carrel—Charles approached Josh, who had been working those same fields going on fifty-years—take or give one or two, although the last ten he hadn’t done all that much, his boy Silas, that really wasn’t a boy anymore, was doing his father’s share, plus his.
Josh didn’t do, not that he couldn’t do, he just didn’t care to do anymore plantation work, anymore than he had to; anything more than fishing was too much work for him, and drinking Granny Mae’s homemade corn whiskey, was his second best pastime.
“Didn’t I ask you to repair the fence last week? Charles asked, “and fix the toilet seat in our outhouse a day or two ago?”
“Yesum, you sure did, but Silas he be gittin’ to it shortly,” commented Josh, “he been whar you told him to be, messin’ round up in de hayloft, gittn’ whatever you done told him to git, or do, he be shortly plantin’ too, soon, fo’ youall.”
But it wasn’t that, that annoyed Hightower, it was Josh’s laziness that was unbecoming.
“Josh,” said Hightower, with a stern voice, “You don’t pay no taxes, you don’t even repair fences, nor fertilize or dig ditches anymore, how can you let Silas and Jordon do all the work for you?” trying to shame him into working.
“You knows, Mr. Hightower,” Josh went on to say with his impenetrable voice, “You aint the man you used to be either, and I aint the Nigger which I used to be, but nigger or not—” and he stopped to catch his breath, stumbling, motionless in the now half-dark, with a stupid look on his face, he said: in a voice next to flat, emotionless, “Your boy be frighten in the war against the Union, like you fought in that 1812 War.”
“What?” said Hightower, his temper rising.
“You got better sense to go fight a war at your age, because you know good and well, what it do to you.”
Now Josh started backing a little, he could imagine the violent grind of Hightower’s teeth. “Yes,” said Charles. Josh waited until he was finished to move, “I reckon you don’t need me anymore than I need you anymore,” he said, “Go on to bed Josh, I know Silas and Jordon will be planting by next week, that’s good enough I guess, as long as the work gets done.”
He knew Josh would be back tomorrow at his secret fishing spot, like an old hunting dog, sniffing for his fish. He also knew he’d be looking for his jug he hid under his shanty’s wooden steps, in about ten-minutes. Maybe he’d even join him for a sip: so he pondered walking towards the shanty, it helped take the edge and the chill of the war, out of his bones.
The Antebellum South (1840s & 1850s)
Charles Hightower’s Story Telling
(The 1812 War)
Charles T. Hightower in 1812
This one evening, as often He did, old man Charles Hightower started telling his son and daughter, Emma, a hardship story of his soldiering days, during the War of 1812. It just happen to be Josh was in the kitchen with Granny Mae Walsh, chewing on some hard biscuits, and drinking some moonshine, overhearing the story, not that he hadn’t heard it a dozen times before, but it was just getting to him this one dark evening, it went something like this: those were rough days, unshaven days, with a group of men, eating coarse food and drinking sour corn whiskey, sleeping on dirt floors, before long fires, cold eyed, and cold boned, even our tongues were cold as icicles at times. Our hair got matted with this and that, mud and straw we fed the horses with, and insects, yes sir, we were a rough looking bunch, some with beards.
Josh knew he was a Major in the Army in those far-off days, and had told him time and again how his men were befuddled with heavy drink, and the idiocy of it all, and this night when Ella, his wife went on to bed, he added the a new step to the story, Emma and her brother being of an understanding age: we had these cussing women, Charles said: that would follow in a caravan beyond us, behind our campsites and camp but a hop-skip-and-jump from our camp, night after night, prostitutes.
That was long ago of course, thought Josh, forty-years ago or so. Josh’s eyes cold looking, sitting on the kitchen stool alongside Granny Mae. Who’s to say why the story bothered him more this evening than other evenings, it just did.
He got thinking about Amos, who was told he’d be getting his freedom papers soon from Mr. Stanley, he was old as the pyramids, so why not give it to him, thought Josh, and why doesn’t Charles Hightower do the same, he was per near as old as Stanley. And now Amos lived in a shack in shantytown, no longer on the plantation, with Toby, or Tod, or the rest of the slaves. And here he was a slave from ten-years old on up to his present. When Hightower went off to his war of 1812, he was just twelve years old. Hence, he knew those stories by heart; actually he could tell them better than Hightower, because Hightower had forgotten this and that.
Granny Mae opened the window; the sounds of the night came in, in measured internals, drawing out Charles’ story some.
“Yes,” granny said, “what is it with you Josh, what’ troublin’ you this evening?”
“Hush your mouth woman, I can’t hear what Hightower’s saying, it don’t bother you because you got those elephant ears, you can hear his devilish heart beating,” then he got up, stood up straight, banged the window shut.
The house went silent. The kitchen door opened, it was Mr. Hightower, he stood there in the arch of the doorway looking at Josh, and Mae got nervous, stood up, stepped back away, back by the backdoor, “Hello Mae, Josh, are we talking too loud for you folks?” there was a bit of witticism to his voice.
“I can tell you some old slave stories ef-in you-all wants to hear,” said Josh: with his heavy hoarse voice, wild-eyed, drooling a little out of his mouth, from the corn whiskey.
“Yes sir, I can tell you ‘bout a single room, twelve-feet square some slaves lived in for forty-five years, Niger slaves that has three beds, a table, two chairs, and an oil stove. I can tells you all ‘bout that fo’ sure, ef-in you-all wants to hear—hardship, and dat be some story to tell your kids?”
“That’ll be enough, Josh,” said Hightower, with the tolerance of per near, a sober judge, then slammed the door shut behind him as he left.
Amos: “I want to get drunk”
Amos Jackson waited by the long fence that separated the Stanley and Hightower plantations—per near all afternoon waiting for his long time friend, Josh to either go or come back from fishing, out at Goose Creek. Amos was Josh’s boyhood friend, who now lived in Shantytown and worked odd jobs when called upon, the war between the states hadn’t yet started, but there was talk about it, and old man Stanley had given him his freedom papers, knowing he have to give them to him sooner or later anyhow.
He was leaning against the old wooden fence, elbows on the higher tier, his head cocked rakishly, looking to and fro far-off in the distance for Josh, seeing only crows, and a hot blazing sun covered somewhat by the clouds.
When Josh did showed up, and was about to cross threw the fence, he saw Amos, “Howdy,” he stopped to say, and before he could say another word, Amos said: “I been waiting hours fo’ ya, I wants to get drunk.”
“Say that again,” Josh asked.
“I wants to get drunk, cant you hear straight?” said Amos.
“Eyes mean, in dollars and cents!” Josh said.
“I know you got that jug under your steps,” said Amos, “let’s go tap it, right good!”
“You mean if there is any left!” Josh rebuked.
“I knows there be some left, why you not invitin’ me fo’ a drink?” said Amos, “aint we friends?”
“Because had I given you my jug in the past every time when you come beggin’ you wants to git jus’ one drink or two, there’d be nothin’ fer me left to have an evenin’ gulp or swig!”
For a moment that contended Amos. Or rather, made him think harder, “I don’t recall ever beggin’ you-all fo’ a drink Josh!”
“That be the problem Amos, such things vanish from your recollection faster than I can swat a fly off the rump of old Dan the horse.”
And so Josh just slipped on through the fence with his sack of bullheads and went on to his shanty, without another word said, nor turning about to see Amos’ feverish face.
Old Josh’s Jug
Sweet-pea ((Rebecca Boston) (1840s))
“Is youall seen anything like a jug down here.” Said Josh to his wife, Sweet-pea (Mrs. Rebecca Boston) pointing his finger to the whole on the side of the stairway up to his shanty.
“What Jug?” Asked Sweet-pea.
“The one I put there last week.” Josh said, “I lost it somewhere down there, I cant find it, cant reach it.”
Evening was coming on, and he didn’t want to go to bed dry mouthed, “It must be your fault, you must have kicked it deeper into the back of the steps.” Josh told Sweet-pea.
“Yes, tis my fault, always my fault…how can I kick something under the steps from the top of the steps.” Josh knew better but he needed to blame somebody.
“Hush now,” said Josh, “goes on and look fer it!”
“Where’d you get money for da corn whiskey jug?” questioned Sweet-pea, stretching her thin body into the opening under the steps.
“I find a dollar in da wooden floor down at Hobby’s store in Ozark, while they aint looking, or maybe it was Yancy’s Stables, I done forgot.”
“And you done bought the jug from Granny Mae Walsh I supposein’.”
“You is suppose right, I supposein’.”
“It be plenty full, ef-in only you can find it. Is you found it yet woman?”
“Come on down here and help me look fer it,” said Sweep-pea, annoyingly, crawling under the roof of the staircase inch by ince, which was only a feet high above her head, but as thin as she was it wasn’t a problem.
“I cant bend none, my knees got da rheumatism…” said Josh.
“Oh be quiet, don’t talk to ne, I is lookin’ fer it, all I see is rat droppings, and it stinks.”
“What it matter to you, youall gits to feed Hightower’s pigs, aint no worse than that.”
“I dont care, it be as bad and dark as hell down under here.”
“By the time I git down to help you wife, I be too tired to lift the jug once you finds it.”
“I bet not, lazy husband” and they both laughed. Josh was a big man, broad and wide, over six foot tall, perhaps two-hundred pounds, about the only thing of his body that would fit under those low steps would have been his long arm.
“I bet you be right down on top of the jug, cork flying to North Carolina, once I done find it and gives it to youall,” said Sweet-pea, “you means you found one silver dollar?”
“Yessum, thats what I means, nigger’s money be as good as white folks, I reckon.”
“What youall got against white foks Josh?”
“Aint got one darn thing against white folks, ef-in they let me go my way, when they go their way, but that aint going to happen.”
“Got it Josh, way in da back area here, almost under da shanty, behind de rat hole,” said Sweet-pea.
“Let’s drink it up,” said Josh, “git on out from under there, the rats must have been smellin’ it and pushed it back some.”
#996 (May 9 & 10, 2013)
Old Shep’s Bowl of Soup
The bowl steamed up to Shep’s face into his nostrils, and Charles’ hand pulled it away, Shep rubbed his nose, it tickled him some.
“I don’t want anymore.” Shep said, nauseated from the heat.
“Of course,” Ella replied, looking at Charles, “he’s so sick.”
Granny Mae Walsh dipped a spoon in the soup, paused and fed it to Shep like a baby, after it cooled some.
“I can bring it up stairs,” said Mae, “ef-in you-all dont mind bringing your paw up to his room Mr. Hightower. With all that there rheumatism he’s got, eyes got to feed him a bit, he aint got no way to feed himself without shakin’ that hot soup on his lap, les it cools down some.”
Emma was crying, she was just a baby, “What she crying fer?” asked Shep, “don’t bring her upstairs, pester me to death Mae,” said Shep.
“We best hurry on up Mr. Hightower,” Mae questioned, “eyes got to git supper fo’ all you folks down here soon as you brings your paw up stairs.”
“Cry baby,” said Shep, looking at Emma, and then his son Charles, Charles lifting him from his chair, his shoulder under his pa’s armpit, and taking him step by step up the staircase, Mae behind him with the hot bowl of soup, cooling some.
“I declare,” said Mae, walking behind Shep, “aint no luck in you-all goin’ any faster is there, my food be a cookin’ in the kitchen, faster than we is walkin’, it all goin’ to be burnt.”
“Fat as you are Mae, funny you can even climb the steps,” said Shep, giggling.
“Fat as I is, Mr. Shep Hightower, I be losing weight in da Lawd’s good own time so dont you be worryin’ ‘bout me none.”
“Shhhhh!” said Charles, now on the last step of the staircase, “When he’s done with the soup Mae, fetch pa a sarsaparilla.” Shep’s eyes widened when he heard that.
They walked into Shep’s bedroom, sat old Shep down on the edge of the bed, pulled a little wooden table over to him, and Mae put down the soup and the spoon, expecting him to wait until it cooled, and she’d help him with the first few spoonfuls, until it cooled.
“Old skuzzier,” mumbled Mae, as Charles left the room, facing away from Shep so he’d not hear, and when she turned about, Shep said, “I’ll take that Sarsaparilla now,” he had drank the soup down bowl to mouth, never minded the spoon, it was still as dry as a parched summer day.