The Kensley Report XIV – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – I guess if you come to pick me up today this will be my last report to you from Camp Kay. I think Uncle Ben is just getting older. We could not get some of our projects off the ground like we did in past summers and I just heard him tell somebody that he only wears a sock on his right foot because his left foot doesn’t like socks. The sock he wears on his right foot is always the same sock and it is a pretty old sock. He said it is a lot older than I am. He also told the guy that he thinks he dislocated his shoulder this afternoon trying to get that old sock off his right foot.
The jewelry marketing scheme fell flat because Uncle Ben says the people at Etsy may be more mentally challenged than he is. Our jewelry pictures look like slides of rabid bacteria fried in bacon fat. He said he’s going to fire Etsy because if they propose to have a national or international presence they are absolutely going to have to teach their computers to talk Southern. We couldn’t understand their website instructions and he was afraid to call them because he gets tired of talking to people in India who get confused when they answer his call and he yells “Hey.” He always yells, “Hey” when he calls somebody and it really scares and confuses people in India. Anyhow, I am packing up the “jewry” as he calls it to bring home with me.
One of our projects is still pretty much a secret but we will continue to work on it as soon as Uncle Ben can explain it to Paul. Paul knows how to talk to people in India. Paul does not yell “Hey” when they answer the phone. We were going to make wind chimes from bamboo today but Aunt Kay made Uncle Ben mow the lawn because she got lost in a patch of tall weeds yesterday when we came home from town. She stepped too far out of the car. I never before noticed how short she is.
Uncle Ben did go check some bamboo growing out back but he hurried back in and said we shouldn’t go out there because he saw a green mamba crawling in the bamboo. He said they are a highly venomous snake and you can die from the bite. I said green mambas do not live in Southeast Georgia. They live in East Africa. He said, “I just saw one in Southeast Georgia.” So I said, “Let’s go out there and let me look at him.” After we looked around we saw the snake in the bamboo and I said, “Uncle Ben, that is a grass snake and he is harmless. He’s probably too scared to bite you and his mouth is so small he can’t bite you.” Uncle Ben just looked at me and said, You know Ken Ken, I liked you a lot more before you became both a teen-ager and a Googler.” I think Uncle Ben is not only feeling his age, he can’t handle the heat anymore. It makes him dizzy.
We watched “Four Weddings” on TV and Uncle Ben loves to comment on the wedding gowns. Yesterday we watched this extremely large girl in a sleeveless wedding gown and Uncle Ben said, “She should not wear a sleeveless gown because her arms look like the hams on a #1 Yorkshire sow. She should be listed in the National Swine Registry.” I said, “Uncle Ben, you are being ugly. She might not be able to control her weight.” Uncle Ben said, “You are absolutely right, Ken Ken, however, a woman with arms that large should fork out another thousand dollars and get some more fabric to cover up all that flesh. She could save a fortune by buying a used parachute for material.”
Then I asked Aunt Kay what kind of wedding dress did she have and Aunt Kay showed me their wedding album. My Daddy was the ring bearer and he had curly blonde hair combed over his ears. He was so cute. Uncle Ben and Aunt Kay looked young and pretty. Aunt Kay changed into a dress to travel in and I’ve got to tell you, it barely covered her bottom. Aunt Kay said girls wore miniskirts and mini dresses in those days and when I exclaimed, “Wow!” Uncle Ben said “Yes, yes wasn’t it wonderful?”
They told me that they had been married for about five years when, one evening, both families were together enjoying a bird supper, Aunt Kay’s mother (Granny) and Uncle Ben’s Mother (Mama Ro) discovered, in conversation, that they both descended from Henry Crawford Tucker who was a Colquitt County pioneer and whose claim to fame was he fathered 32 children by three wives. Mama Ro descended from one of Tucker’s first children by his first wife and Granny descended from one of his youngest children by his third wife. This means that Aunt Kay and Mama Ro had the same Great Great Grandfather Uncle Ben and Aunt Kay were speechless for a while and decided they were about fourth cousins, or so, and that it really didn’t matter at this point because they had been married for over five years. But then Paul came along and this meant that Henry Crawford Tucker is Paul’s third and fourth Great Grandfather. Uncle Ben said they worried for a while when Paul was born and just a baby because it looked like his eyes were sot to close together but after he got a little older, his head got bigger and now his eyes and his head seem to match up okay.
The Kensley Report XIII – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – Today was the laziest day yet. Uncle Ben had a home appraiser come by to appraise the house. The appraiser was out in the wet grass in tennis shoes and then when he came in with dirty shoes, Uncle Ben said, “I’ll go ahead and hold that clipboard for you while my wife whips you for coming in here with those dirty shoes. She whips me even when she professes to love me so I know she’s going to give you a bad beating because she don’t even know you.” The guy looked kind of embarrassed but Uncle Ben told him, “Go ahead and take your shoes off because we have an elderly lady who lives one house over and I don’t want her to be scared by that ambulance coming out here to pick you up.”
Uncle Ben showed me pictures of a Great Blue Heron, he and the neighbor’s son, Andy, captured. The bird had a broken wing caused by an attack from dogs. The four year old girl named Addison who lives one house over said “what’s the bird’s name?” Uncle Ben said, “His name is Charley.” Addison said, “Charley is a girl.” Uncle Ben said, “Oh.” Uncle Ben and Andy took Charlie blindfolded in a big box about 70 miles toward Dublin to a woman who rescues animals but Charlie could not be saved because the wing bones are so thin and delicate they often will not mend after being broken. Addison calls him Umple Ben because that’s how she learned to say uncle when she was real small. She has a real uncle that she calls uncle but she still calls Uncle Ben, Umple.
The air conditioning people came out to service the air conditioning units. When they went up in the attic, Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben told me to get in an area of the house that was not under the section where the a/c guys were in case one of them fell through the ceiling. I thought they were kidding but Uncle Ben says he has a neighbor whose wife went upstairs and stepped in the wrong place and her whole leg came through the ceiling. She was a large woman and when she went to yelling and hollering that she was stuck, her husband and Uncle Ben were outside and in a panic they ran in the house and upstairs and her husband went crazy and was trying to yank her loose from the ceiling. Uncle Ben said, “Hold on, don’t let her go,” and he ran downstairs and grabbed a big pair of vice grip pliers and went down under her and stood on a chair. He said he clamped down on her big toe with those vice-grip pliers and he yelled upstairs, “She’s coming out, grab her!”
Uncle Ben said she snatched her leg out of that hole like a snake had her and her husband broke three of his ribs and her right arm trying to hold her down to keep her from going through the roof. He said they never did find these the pliers again.
We watched “The Patriot” on TV this afternoon. I told Uncle Ben it makes me nervous when you see those scenes where somebody gets shot or stuck in the throat with a knife and I want to twist my head or jump to one side so they can’t get to me. Uncle Ben said he was the same way and when he was a teenager, it got so bad for him that he would start jerking backwards and jumping around in his seat or sliding way down to dodge a bullet, then popping back up to watch the next scene that before the movie even got started good, the usher would come down the aisle with a flashlight and walk him outside and tell him to go home. He was banned from the Albany Theater until he was 21. He said it was all 3-D to him long before they ever invented 3-D. Uncle Ben has a nice way of making you comfortable with your imaginary fears.
The Kensley Report XII – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – Today I worked our regular shift in the gift shop at Easy Georgia Regional Hospital with Aunt Kay. Aunt Kay’s Statesboro mothers, Miss Edith and Miss Moena, worked the information desk this morning too. They are right around the corner from the gift shop. The gift shop has a display case located in the Women’s Pavilion that is used for displaying baby clothes (because that’s where the babies are born). I mean in the Women’s Pavilion, not the display case. Anyhow Aunt Kay and I took some sale signs down there to put on the display case and as we were passing this one door, Aunt Kay pointed to the sign on the door and said, “Do you know what that means?” I looked at the sign that read “Morgue.” And I answered, “No Ma’am” and she said “That’s where they keep the dearly departed.” It took me a minute to figure out what she meant but it took her about two or three minutes to catch up with me after I understood. I could hear her footsteps running behind me and I could hear her gasping, “Slow down, slow down, they won’t hurt you!”
We ate in the cafeteria. Miss Edith said she wasn’t sure she wanted to walk down there with Uncle Ben because he made fun of how slow they walked. She said Miss Moena was the one slowing everybody down because she recently broke her hip and now she uses a cane with all kinds of psychedelic colors on it and when she looks down at her cane, she gets dizzy. Then we have to stop for a minute until Miss Moena’s head clears.
I was in line with Mr. Darell who is the head of the volunteer services and Uncle Ben. When they served my plate, I got rice and spaghetti and Mr. Darell kept staring at my plate and he said, “Kensley, you’re not going to get the meat sauce that goes on the spaghetti?” and Uncle Ben said, “Kensley is a weird eater. She is a carboholic. She eats rice and potatoes and pasta and bread on bread. Last night she ate five super-sized scoops of chocolate ice cream with about four ounces of chocolate syrup poured all over it and a half cup of chocolate chip morsels sprinkled all around. It took me a while to find a bowl big enough to hold it all.” We talked about buying groceries because Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben usually buy groceries after Tuesday lunch in the hospital. They see Miss Edith in the grocery store a lot of times and she always looks at their shopping cart and shakes her head and says, “You have entirely too much food in that buggy!” Sometimes they will run when they see her because they know she will scold them for being such pigs.
Uncle Ben regretted bringing up the subject of women reading all the labels on the products in the grocery store because he thought Mr. Darell was going to back him up. Mr. Darell said, “I can’t help you with that argument because I’m the one in my family who reads all the labels. He does a lot of the cooking in his house. So then Uncle Ben had to back track by saying “I guess that’s right. Today’s woman does not cook.” Then I said, “You’re right about that. I’ve got an aunt who has lived in her house for six years and she has never used her stove.” Aunt Kay said “Shhhhh, don’t be telling all your family secrets.”
Uncle Ben once asked Miss Moena about her name because it is unusual. It’s pronounced “Mo-wee-na.” She said she was named for a famous Georgian named Moina Michael but her mother spelled it with an “e” instead of an “i.” Miss Moena did not know much about Moina Michael but Uncle Ben Googled her name and printed her story for Miss Moena. Uncle Ben said every girl and woman should read Moina Michael’s story because she was a strong, caring, enduring example of what women can do. Anyhow Miss Moina Michael was instrumental in beginning the national tradition of selling red poppies on Veterans’ Day each year. In World War One, she left her home and job at the State Normal School to go to Washington, DC to help in the war effort. She was too old to go overseas so she remained in Washington where she worked at the National YMCA helping with the war effort. She read the poem “In Flanders Fields” and was so moved by the poem that when the occasion arose she took the opportunity to campaign for the selling of red poppies as a fundraiser for helping disabled war veterans. Today hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to help veterans in need and she is known as the “Poppy Lady.” Moina Michael is a Georgian. The State Normal School she left when she went to Washington is today known as the University of Georgia. She came back to the UGA to continue to teach. She wrote a poem, “We shall Keep the Faith,” in answer to “In Flanders Fields.” She was honored as one of Georgia’s most famous women, a U.S. Postage Stamp was printed in her honor. A bust of Moina Michael is in the rotunda of the Georgia state capitol and a Liberty Ship was named for her after her death in 1944 during World War Two.
Uncle Ben said we probably never would have known about Moina Michael if we had never met Miss Moena.
After we got home Uncle Ben told me I should always listen carefully to older people because they didn’t get to be that old by being dumb. He said that although a lot of older people might seem slow to me, they have lived a lot longer and they have a lot more experience in getting through life and almost everything we can learn from them is really valuable. Then he said, “Just look at Aunt Kay. She didn’t know that much when I married her but now she’s a lot smarter than I am.”
The Kensley Report XI – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – Today was a great day for volunteering. I worked five hours helping Miss Christina, the gift shop manager, mark down the prices on lots of merchandise and doing an inventory of some of the items. They are going to reduce the inventory and some of the price mark-downs I did were as much as 75% off the original price. I heard the ladies in the gift shop mention the inventory needed to be reduced, so to help them out more, I went ahead and marked down everything I could get my hands on. Miss Christina is going to be so happy and proud of me for helping her to empty the place.
Uncle Ben said he could have helped by going around the hospital and giving the stuffed animals and teddy bears to the nurses. Aunt Kay said we were being too helpful and maybe it would be a good idea if I didn’t mention to Miss Christina that I got carried away marking everything down.
They have Jim Shore and Willow Tree merchandise in the shop. Uncle Ben wanted to know what Willow Tree manufactured and Aunt Kay and I told him they make lovely little figurines of angels and people in different situations and the figurines had no faces. He said it was bad luck to make little statues with no faces. He said,” I just don’t get a true sense of fulfillment if the thing has no face. It reminds me of when I was in high school and I never could get a date. The girls I asked to go out would always give me blank looks” He also said there is no way to tell if a figurine is lovely if it has no face. The little gal statuette might have a pretty good figure but she could look like a walrus in the face, if she had one you could see.
Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben left me in the gift shop and went grocery shopping. He hates it because he says most men can walk right in, buy what they want and go on home but a woman has to read every word on every label of every item she sees. He asked Aunt Kay if the wording had changed on any of those labels since last week and if it had he would speak to the manager about it for her if that would speed up the process any.
She said he is a real pain to go shopping with. He talks to everybody about any subject in the world. He saw a woman on her knees today trying to get a can off the bottom shelf and when she finally managed to stand up again he complimented her on her ability to get vertical without screaming. He said, ”Hey, that was great. I would still be down there tomorrow if I had to do that. I did hear your knees and hips popping a little bit but you made it!” Aunt Kay said the woman gave him a very cold smile.
Uncle Ben loves the little white dog in the Travelers Insurance TV commercials and he will start singing “Trouble” in the aisles of the grocery store. He sings really loud if he is in an aisle by himself and when he rounds the corner into another aisle with people in it, he acts as if nothing has happened and he was not the person making that racket. Aunt Kay tries to control him but he will sometimes stand at the end of one aisle and yell to her, “Kay! You want some more of that Tube Rose snuff this week? You’re about out of it.” Now his dog is in another commercial and the dog has got Uncle Ben walking around singing to Aunt Kay, “Oh, I’ve been good, I’ve been good, I’ve been good to you!”
Tomorrow, Aunt Kay and I work our regular shift in the gift shop and I get to see Aunt Kay’s Statesboro mothers, Miss Edith and Miss Moena. They volunteer at the front desk and they are very active. I say that because Miss Edith is 89 and Miss Moena is 90. Although they have a little age on them Uncle Ben doesn’t cut them any slack. Sometimes after our morning shift ends and we are all walking to the cafeteria, Uncle Ben, will say, “You girls are going to have to pick up the pace a little, I have to be home by Thursday“ or he’ll say, “You ladies need to slow down a bit before I have to get the fire hose out to keep y’all from burning up this floor.”
The Kensley Report X – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – I almost beat Uncle Ben out of bed this morning. He did not get up until eleven o’clock and I slept past noon. Actually he said he got up about 4:00 AM and did a wild goat dance beneath the pine trees in the cul-de-sac in front of the house. According to him it’s sort of a celebration of life for real old guys but it took its toll on his ability to remain awake past six o’clock so he went back to bed to replenish his energy. He talks funny sometimes. He says he usually only does the wild goat dance on a Friday night during a full moon but something inspired him to dance early this morning. He said a voice told him to dance. I told him that was probably a stray thought and you don’t have to act on every stray thought you have. He said, “Oh.” Apparently he has never had a real thought before.
I watched “Storage Hunters” all day. It was hour after hour of “Storage Hunters.” Uncle Ben said, I can’t believe you’re watching that rubbish. It’s all mindless junk and increases the “Dumbing Down of America” factor tenfold. He said none of the so-called reality shows are real and every little crisis is staged for idiots with a ten second attention span so they won’t switch channels. So I said, “Okay Uncle Ben, lets watch “Victorious” or “Good Time Charlie’s” and Uncle Ben looked stunned for a minute and then said, “Nah, lets watch a couple of more hours of “Storage Hunters.” I’ve got about five or six brain cells left and I need to salvage something out of this deal.”
We ate at The Olive Garden. Aunt Kay said, “Look, I’ve got a coupon worth ten bucks at the Olive Garden!” Uncle Ben says, “Well, why don’t we go there for dinner?” Then he says, “You know this is quite a challenge for me and Kensley and you are really putting us to the test because I’m sort of quasi-retired and Kensley is out of school for the summer and we don’t take lightly to having to just up and take a bath and clean up all of a sudden for nothing more than going downtown in Statesboro, Georgia. Besides, I’ve got a three layers of dirt on my feet that have kept them warm since Wednesday and Kensley took a bath last Tuesday.”
Aunt Kay said we were bathing and we were not going to talk about it anymore. Uncle Ben left the room because, as he says, since he has gotten older and he is not too sure that he can whip her in a fair fight anymore, he has chosen to become more obedient. He cleans up pretty well. Aunt Kay cut his hair and shined up the bald spots on his head until it looked as bright as a 1953 Hudson Hornet hubcap. I was going to watch her cut his hair but he had to remind us that he likes to get his hair cut while wearing a pair of old briefs and it would not be proper for me to stand around gawking at him in his unmentionables (whatever that means) and besides, he says, “This ain’t no spectator sport.”
When we got seated at The Olive Garden, Uncle Ben discovered a dead fly on our table. He said he was going to handle the problem discretely but when he brushed the fly away with his napkin, the fly stuck to the napkin and since it was a cloth napkin, I could see he was becoming a bit annoyed. He tried to control himself but when the hostess came over he said in a pretty good sized voice, “I’m not sure I can eat at the same table where this poor fly just fell over dead. You know, I think the fly was here first and it would be the right thing for us to do if y’all just gave us another table and that would give you time to properly dispose of his poor little body.” The girl looked really embarrassed and after they moved us way back to a table right next to the restroom I noticed our service became much smoother and quicker. I could see people poking their heads from inside the waitress’ station to take a look at us. I think they were hoping it wouldn’t take us long to eat.
I said, “Uncle Ben you were pretty hard on her weren’t you?” He said, “Not nearly as hard as I was on that gal in the new restaurant out on the Dawson Road who brought me an empty soup bowl to the table so I could get some soup from the buffet line and then she said, “Can I get you anything else?” I said to her, “Yes Ma’am, you can bring me another soup bowl and, this time, don’t put your thumb in it. Ken Ken, sometimes if it ain’t right you have to tell ‘em. I know you and I are not put here on this earth to educate every dumb jackass that comes down the pike but sometimes you have to let them know they are wrong.
Unfortunately, it took us a pretty good while to eat. I could see the wait staff was getting more and more nervous because Uncle Ben takes naps at odd times and his head kept bobbing over and bouncing off the table from time to time and I was praying he would not get his face stuck in his seafood brodette bowl. Finally Aunt Kay and I finished up by dividing a Triple Chocolate Strata dessert and Uncle Ben paid the tab. I could hear him muttering, “My gosh, how in the world can two little short women like that eat that much doggoned food?” As we were about to leave, Aunt Kay exclaims “Oh no, I didn’t use my ten dollar coupon!” Then we had to sit there on that bench near the cash register while the manager, the hostess, the waiter and two dishwashers tried to figure how to give us back our ten dollars. Uncle Ben began to make strange noises from somewhere deep in his body and I saw the waiter jerk his head in our direction and I could tell he was very alarmed because his eyes were getting bigger than the brodette bowls. He ran over to us and snatched a ten dollar bill out of his pocket, and said, “This ain’t going to be hard to figure out because you paid us in cash so just take this ten dollars and we won’t be holding y’all up any further.
Uncle Ben took the ten said, “Thank you my man,” and we walked right out the front door as Uncle Ben explained to me again, “Sometimes you just gotta let ‘em know if things ain’t right.
The Kensley Report IX – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – I think today was a repeat of yesterday. I woke up about ten o’clock and Uncle Ben put me to work recovering pictures and documents he has secreted in all kinds of weird places on his computer. He doesn’t understand how to name files. He says that for many years when he was working, folders always went into files and now, on computers, the files go into folders. He says computer geeks do things like that to give old people anxiety attacks. He has some files with names like Dragonseed which was a book he read when he was about ten. He has no idea what is in the file or why he named it that or why he saved it. He has about ten folders named “Kay’s Camera.” He says that’s easy to remember and if someone wants a copy of a picture, he says, “Look on my computer under Kay’s Camera.” He says that keeps nosy people busy for a while. He has no memory of any password, ever. He says nobody can rip off his password because he has to use a new one every time he goes onto a protected website.
We talked about favorite colors. Mine is blue. Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben favor green. Uncle Ben says that over 40% of people in many of the countries in the world like the color blue best. He said he cannot remember when he did not use a green toothbrush. When I asked why he said one of the first things he notices in the mornings is the toothbrush in his hand and he loves the color green so a green toothbrush makes him happy in the mornings. He said the only time a green toothbrush failed to make him happy was when Paul played soccer and he was with Aunt Kay and a bunch of soccer parents in a motel in Macon. Uncle Ben had bought a new green electric toothbrush. While brushing his teeth that next morning, he fell asleep at the lavatory. The toothbrush jumped out of his mouth, loosened a tooth, ripped his lip, left a furrow across his cheek and wound up attached to his right ear lobe. When he finally got himself straightened out and in the lobby with Aunt Kay and the other soccer parents, Aunt Kay leaned over and whispered, “You’ve got soap in your ear.” Uncle Ben said, “that’s not soap.” Aunt Kay said, “Then what is it.” Uncle Ben said, “It’s toothpaste.” Aunt Kay told me this story and she said she didn’t say another word to him. She left the room for a while because she was determined that she was not going to ask him how he got toothpaste in his ear in front of all those people. She was afraid to hear the answer.
Uncle Ben worked in the yard today. One time I saw him pushing a small mower and it was hard to tell if he was pushing it or using it to keep from falling down. I never saw anybody use a lawnmower as a crutch before. He was going to grill some burgers but we couldn’t get him to turn loose of the mower so Aunt Kay grilled them inside on a little George Foreman grill. Uncle Ben said George Foremen has eight sons and they are all named George. He says George Foreman either lacks imagination, has an extremely short memory or is really lazy. He says you can’t mention any of this to Mr. Foreman because he is a very large man who can drive your entire head deep into your chest cavity by just patting it.
Uncle Ben says names are really important and people should take care when naming pets and children. For example, he said, Uncle Geoffrey Gray had a dog he named “No No.” Paul wanted to know how you disciplined a dog named No No. Paul had a good point. When No No was sent to obedience school, every time the trainers would try to stop one of No No’s bad habits she thought they were calling her to lunch. That’s right, No No was a girl. No No was kicked out of obedience school. The trainers said she had insurmountable psychological problems. Uncle Ben says that is my lesson for the day. “Watch what you name pets and children!”
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.
The Kensley Report VII – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken –Today we had the nit-picker come by but he was a pretty cool guy so Uncle Ben didn’t have to run him over with the lawn mower. Besides he was young and big and strong so Uncle Ben told me he would give the guy a pass on having to rough him up a bit. Aunt Kay and I went to get her hair cut and Uncle Ben said before the guy left he told Uncle Ben that he had two loose shingles. I think Uncle Ben was mad. I heard him mumbling something about “you don’t just walk into a stranger’s house and start telling him he’s got loose shingles. That’s just rude! I started to tell him I may have two loose shingles but you are ugly as hell and I can get those shingles fixed tomorrow.” Then the guy told Uncle Ben that he also was a roofer. Uncle Ben said, “I’ll bet that guy finds loose shingles on every house he inspects. I should have run over him with the lawn mower.”
There was an empty beautician’s chair at the salon so I got in it and spun around, and spun around and spun around and then stood up and then fell over and hit my mouth on the sink they wash hair in and broke the enamel off the sink. My teeth don’t look too bad. Aunt Kay and Miss Charlene wired them back in for me using some old rusty pliers Miss Charlene found in her husband’s tackle box in a car he abandoned in the back parking lot in 1957. Aunt Kay said it’s a good thing Miss Anna can work miracles with crooked and cracked teeth.
We met Uncle Ben at Moe’s for lunch. Uncle Ben had never eaten at a Moe’s before. He said it’s very likely he will never eat at Moe’s again. He says after over 60 years of a misspent youth, his stomach does better on apple sauce and Gerber baby foods. He kept asking the staff if they had ever heard Louis Jordan sing “Five Guys Named Moe.” None of them had even though he asked each one about three or four times. Then Aunt Kay and I had to listen to him name about a thousand things named Moe. He started off with Little Moe and Big Moe and Four-Eyed Moe and Cross-Eyed Moe and on to No Moe and Plenty Moe. Then came short Moe and Tall Moe and when he ran out of guys named Moe he started in on Moe descriptions like Moe Bettah and Moe Worser. He went on into Mogrits Moe and Motea Moe and finally Aunt Kay stared him down with a fierce glare and said “No mo Moe or I will strangle you in slow mo.” He finally shut up. We left with heartburn and I think Moe’s staff will be really happy if Uncle Ben never eats there again.
The battery in Aunt Kay’s remote control key for her Toyota died. She told Uncle Ben that her user’s manual said to be very careful when handling the battery. Uncle Ben said, “That’s just Toyota’s way of gypping you out of your money. I’ll bet they charge you forty bucks to put a new battery in that remote control!” So he went to five places trying to find the right battery for the control. He finally found one for $6.41 at Radio Shack and he gleefully bragged to me that he found one for $6.41 and probably saved about $35.00 by not getting one from Toyota. When he got home, he even called Toyota and asked them how much they charged for the battery. The guy told him “four bucks. “Uncle Ben said, “What??” The guy said, “Four bucks!” Uncle Ben said, “How much do you charge for installing it in the remote?” The guy said, “Nothing, we just open it up and pop it in for free.” Uncle Ben has not mentioned the battery any more.
We think Etsy is a big flop for us. We spent hours trying to get the photos of the jewelry bright and clear and they turned out looking like slides of anemic amoebae from the Center for Disease Control. The pictures are about the size of postage stamps and you can’t really tell what’s in the pictures. Apparently you cannot enlarge them. It took so long to finally get them on the website because every time Uncle Ben would confirm his e-mail address, Etsy would send another message asking him to confirm his e-mail address. Uncle Ben says the people who designed the website are not mentally well and if he could arrange a meeting with them and break some kneecaps, we might get better results, but probably not. He says he’s going to buy me one of those suitcases that folds out into a display and has legs on it so I can sell my jewelry on street corners in big cities and just to keep me safe he’s going to send a trained gorilla (not a jungle warfare fighter but a very large monkey) with a machete and a box of hand grenades with me.
· The Kensley Report VI – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – We’ve had to put our latest projects under top-secret wraps. Uncle Ben says if our plans are revealed, the Chinese will be on our doorstep in the morning and they will kidnap us and whisk us away to some God-forsaken place in outer Mongolia and we’ll be imprisoned in a sweat box of a work shop to produce our latest invention so they can steal more of our American ideas so they can produce products to sell back to Americans in order to eventually own us body and soul. He put black-out curtains on all the windows and had us whispering in the dark. He also made Aunt Kay fry the pork chops under a beach towel so their eavesdropping devices would be confused. Just in case we’re captured he made me practice eating fried okra with chop sticks.
Our secret plans went temporarily awry when we were in Wally World waiting in line in one of their most popular departments. There was a big country guy in front of us who, despite his large size, looked like a family with six children had moved out of the seat of his pants. Naturally this resulted in our being subjected to an unobstructed view of his bare behind every time he leaned forward. Uncle Ben said “quick, quick, get your camera out. Utube is paying small fortunes for shots of Wal-Mart people with plumber’s butt.” I started laughing and couldn’t get my camera so Uncle Ben got his camera and was snapping away and wrote Utube to see how much they were paying for pictures of over sized farm boys showing a good five inches of gaping buttocks. He was really disappointed when they sent back a note that there were over three million people on Utube trying to sell similar snapshots taken in Wal-Mart. You should have seen his face fall. I started laughing even harder. The big man turned around with a snarl and said “what’s so funny?”
Uncle Ben looked up at him and said “Don’t worry. She’ll be okay. She gets silly and giddy every time she eats fried okra with chop sticks.
Tomorrow the people who want to buy the house are sending over a nit-picker (according to Uncle Ben) to inspect the house. Uncle Ben says the guy might become aggravating. If he does, Uncle Ben says he will run over the guy with his riding mower to distract him a little bit. He thinks the ambulance and the EMT’s trying to put the guy’s leg back on him will be a pretty good distraction.
The Kensley Report V – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken. Today was a great day for me as one of America’s indefatigable volunteers. Aunt Kay and I took the gift shop at East Georgia Regional hospital by storm. We had the keyboard on the cash register so hot they had to call in a triage team to water it down. Uncle Ben had warned me about eating all the candy in the shop so I just concentrated on the job at hand and waited until lunch time before I cleaned the cafeteria out of fried chicken and Dr. Pepper. I had on my sharp new khaki long legged britches, a red youth volunteer knit shirt (they gave me, I think) and an official badge (they gave me, I know, because it has my picture on it) to show folks I was on top of things.
We had to stock the cooler with a shipment of flowers that came in and I got my head stuck in the sliding glass door but Aunt Kay was quick and she put her foot up on the cooler for leverage and snatched me out by my legs. My head got scratched up a little bit, my hair was all tangled and I still have about five pounds of pollen up my nose but I’m okay.
Aunt Kay had told me that sometimes strange people come in the gift shop and share weird stories about their lives with her and often they tell her a lot more than she wants to know. She wanted to be sure I didn’t get scared so I was pretty cool for a while but it did shock me more than a little bit when an old woman came in. She said she had a collie with fourteen puppies and the mama dog didn’t have but 13 teats. I didn’t know what to say so i just eased around the counter and high-tailed it to the back room. Aunt Kay sold her 14 Auburn binkies for the price of a dozen just to get rid of her.
Later when I told Uncle Ben about her, he said “any damned fool knows a dog doesn’t have that many nipples and if she’s too dumb to count them she shouldn’t be breeding dogs.