The Kinsley Report VIII – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – Today was only a half-lazy day. I actually beat the sun before it got twelve o’clock high by two hours. Uncle Ben went outside and worked in the yard. Aunt Kay always checks on him because he walks funny and sometimes walks into trees or falls down. We watched him through a window as he pruned a couple of trees. He kept leaping into the air and cutting off limbs with his lopper. We were amazed. Sometimes he would reach a height of six or seven inches. When he finally came back in we asked him why he was jumping up and lopping limbs he said he was too lazy to go get a ladder. He looked a little pained and I heard him tell Aunt Kay he thinks he further fractured several vertebrae. Now he walks even funnier and falls down more.
I curled Aunt Kay’s hair. I put an upward and outward curl on her hair and Uncle Ben said her hair looks like the hat on The Flying Nun or she looks like a middle-aged Pippi Longstocking with dark hair and her pigtails half gone. Aunt Kay gave Uncle Ben one of those “now or later” looks, meaning “you’ll shut up now if you want something to eat later.”
Aunt Kay made vegetable soup and used a hambone for seasoning. She fried that cornbread just like Daddy loves and I would have eaten my seventeenth piece but Uncle Ben still has pretty good strength in his left hand and I thought I was going to lose my right arm at the shoulder if I didn’t pull it back pretty quick. He’s fast for an old man when he’s hungry.
He asked me if I had ever heard the “Hambone” and when I said no, he stood up from the table and started slapping his leg back and forth with his hand and yelling “Hambone, Hambone have you heard, Papa’s gone buy me a mocking bird. And if dat mocking bird don’t sing, Papa’s gone buy me a diamond ring.” At the end of each line he would pop his lips with his hand and it sounded like a cork popping out of a wine bottle. I think there were more verses to the “Hambone” but I saw Aunt Kay picking up his cornbread from the table so he immediately shut up and sat back down.
He said when he was about ten or eleven he would watch football practice at Hugh Mills Memorial Stadium and small black boys would do the “Hambone for the varsity high school football players. The players would pay the boys for performing. They would get a couple of nickels or sometimes even a quarter but they would not do the “Hambone” for Don Braswell because one time instead of paying them, Don took his glass eye out of its socket and chased them all over the field. He said his brother, Billy, who played on the team with Don said that sometimes they would have to stop football practice, and even one time they had to stop a regulation football game, so everybody could search for Don’s eye when it popped out after he took a good lick. Uncle Ben waited until I had finished my soup and cornbread before he told the story about the glass eye.
He told me Billy dated a beautiful girl named Lillian Lackland and her mother used to come around to the grammar schools to teach them how to speak clearly and correctly. He said everybody loved her but it must have been impossible for her to get the redneck out of them because after she moved on to the next school they all continued to talk a southern drawl that would put kids with a double dose of ADHD to sleep in about two minutes. He says that’s why we didn’t have ADHD in Albany before all those military brats came to town and everybody started trying to out talk them.
He said he loved Mrs. Lackland but he couldn’t say the same for Mrs. Perry. She was some kind of musical advisor for the school system. She came around to Broad Avenue School one morning and had each first grader stand by her piano and sound the note she struck on the piano. When it was Uncle Ben’s turn and, as he says, canaries would have killed for a note like the one he sang but Mrs. Perry stifled a belly laugh, looked sadly at Mrs. Brim and slowly shook her head. Uncle Ben says that was crushing to him. It happened almost 65 years ago and he still doesn’t care much for Mrs. Perry.
Tomorrow if we get up before noon, Uncle Ben says we need to go to auctions or antique stores or regular old yard sales and test my youthful ability to use ESP to identify valuable objects we can buy for pennies and then sell for great fortunes on E-Bay or Amazon. He’s had me practicing on handling objects and relating any flashes of precognitive details that might occur to me. I think that’s a great idea but I think he should have started out with something more interesting than a pair of his old socks concealed in a plastic shopping bag from Wal-Mart.