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“I know the color blue when I see it, and the flavor of a pear when I taste it; I know an inch when I move my finger through it; a second of time, when I feel it pass; an effort of attention when I make it; a difference between two things when I notice it; but about the inner nature of these facts or what makes them what they are, I can say nothing at all. I cannot impart acquaintance with them to anyone who has not already made it himself. I cannot describe them, make a blind man guess what blueWhy try. Fellow holds his peace long enough til one day well maybe you think he growed accustomed. Telling dont help. Folks believe most anything or some will. But then dying creeps up and so here I go again writing it down dont ask me why. Wrote it once. Words cant never be the same as what it was.
It was back when I was working for mister Eugene Doggitt of Crystal Branch Alabama. Now he was a good one. We had a government contract for surveying spaniards hell but not all of it. We didnt want none of that no sir. Not further than the loggers already drove. We were finding witness trees and section corners. I was pulling chain. Now I am thinking I was 21. It was pretty wild back then.
We used to pass 2 weeks in the swamp. Sometimes 3. Mister Doggitt would pack in salt meat. We all carried water. But mostly we trusted to what we did find. It wasnt hardly ever bad. Liked rattlesnake meat best and they was plenty. Folks say they cant eat it but thats just prejudice. Tastes sweet. Gator dont taste much. Possums greasy. Coons good too. Fat ones. Mostly we shot dinner while working. Like I said it was pretty wild back then. Sometimes we had to hunt. For water you trusted to springs. Looked for it clear and fast moving. You feel it cold you know it was a spring.
This one time it was bad. We wasnt lost but we was pretty far in. I am thinking they was 4 of us but cant remember only 3. Johnny Hatten what died in the fertilizer company fire up in Dothan was the other one. He was older then me. So how it came about I dont recall but we got parched. Johnny and me kept up pulling chain thinking we would find us a palm to suck or something until then we all stopped and started looking in real earnest. Seems now the swamp wasnt dry but the water tasted brackish. Or foul maybe. Leastways we couldnt drink it. I dont know how long we looked for. Then it got bad. Mister Doggitt you could see he was worried for Johnny. So we turned round and started back but everybody knowed how things was. Man cant go without water.
Mister Doggitt he says this settlement Little Sink what aint there now but was then 4 or 5 houses and a dry goods store was no more then a days hike. I figured it was wrong but never said so. We started off northerly. Inland water runs clear northerly. Just fore midnight we come up on this what looks like old loggers road or maybe was made by bear hunters and started following it. Cant make no time in a swamp after dark. Gators run from a man in daylight but dont come up on one after dark. Then bout day break we see this sorghum patch and this colored lady I know later was Mehetabel and indian not colored but at the time it was like I say. I remember thinking she looked old. Not old like my great grandma more like 60 therebout or thats how I recollect now. Well we set in to hollerin. I think Johnny who wasnt saying much even give a whoop. We figured we was saved. Sun just nearly bout up. But be damned she tells us she aint got nothin fit to drink. I cant recollect how it was but ground water must of been contamnated I reckon.
She says a man in a wagon is coming fore sundown will take us back to town so we settled down to wait but ever body knows its bad. Johnny is staring way off like with his eyes all shiny and his mouth hanging open. Mister Doggitt looks at me real sad and I recollect thinking how I am never gone forget that look. Like saying what a sorry mess and how bad he knowed we was all feeling when aint nothing any man alive can do. I didn’t say much. It was commencing to scorch.
Now here comes what is the hard part. Mehetabel she isnt paying us much mind and I am thinking she has gone off to manure the sorghum or work this sorry piece of collard patch right behind where us 3 is but then I hear her voice or maybe not hear it exactly. Maybe its like I was sitting there and start to listen like you do to a fellow whistling a ways off and your listening without never really listening cause its not like when your being spoke to. But then I start to feel different. And I keep on listening but not really. Like I said its the hard part. And soon I remember I am stretched on the ground in this shade and commencing to get easy and days turning off right peaceful and then in no time that wagon is come and we are riding down to the main road and nearly to this old colored fellows farm outside Little Sink and Johnny dont say much but I can tell it aint bad no more and wasnt till later I recollect how all hopeless we was feeling and parched.
That was 19 and 33 about.
Now Johnny cant get around for some days but then he is alright and mister Doggitt he says we might should wait til the weather breaks it being so dry and us needing provisions so we get a ride on a mail truck far as Meander where the train comes through. Took me awhile to speak what I am thinking. Mister Doggitt I seen was keeping to hisself. I figure Johnny dont recollect much. So finally I says to mister Doggitt dont he think how its peculiar. And mister Doggitt lets on nothing but asks what do I mean peculiar and I says how I think something happened with that Mehetabel whose name we are now knowing and mister Doggitt he looks at me and I remember my words coming fast and getting all crossed til finally mister Doggitt give out how he must of gone to sleep and that was a end. But I knowed it werent right. They got on the train next day and I am forgetting what reason I give but I stayed. When next mail truck comes I am back to Little Sink.
What it was was listening to Mehetabel I tasted it. Water I mean. I know there werent none but tasting it is later how I recalled.
Folks in Little Sink was friendly enough but still a stranger got to watch hisself. Fore I was there a week though I learn how it aint no secret. It was one afternoon and there was these 4 fellows out front of the general store and this one commences to tell how Mehetabel is near to ruining his wife. Other 3 nods. Has her wanting him to know what it is to birth a baby he says. Tall fellow with half a leg says maybe if shes so all fired anxious to tell folks something she ought to tell his wife bout the war. Which makes the first one laugh. This other one puts in how its hard on women birthing babies. Not nothing a man wants to learn. But then maybe Mehetabel dont know much bout the war half a leg says getting kinda peckish and the first one he pipes up that maybe Mehetabel dont have to know much to tell it and I see ever body nodding at that. So how is that I say and they all turn and look at me. I mean how is that she dont have to know much to tell folks. And this old fellow what aint said nothing says a man cant never know how much he dont know sooner then Mehetabel starts to talking. And then he commences to tell about this stout Swede what come down with the railroad. Fellow what could tote a tie by hisself and he marries this gal from Pensacola. Its the old one now talking. I knowed sure as shooting that gals people hasnt never been no more than ten mile from anywheres he says but no sooner then Mehetabel starts in and bless pat that gal thinks shes born in Parry France. Other 3 commence to shaking there heads real solemn. After that I felt right sorry for that Swede old fellow says. Man never knowed peace again. He was a mean cuss though puts in number 4. Thats true first one agrees but still man has troubles enough without Mehetabel making more. Half a leg says she still dont know nothing bout the war.
So I tell em bout Johnny and me and the water and I be damned but they aint even surprised. They nod like aint that just the way and then turns out they can tell it all chapter and verse. They commence to explaining how Mehetabel is one of the Ocheesee what is a indian people lived south of Little Sink before anything. And ever one of them was powerful talkers but of course they never talked English back then maybe never talked no language a tall that old fellow says and I see nobody aint diputing him. Anyway seems Mehetabel what isnt full blooded has got the gift. And all 4 start in with particulars they has seen there own self or heard about how she kept a young fellow quiet two days what had his arm pulled clean off in a threshing machine until doctor from over in Limestone come or else how she made it so Luther Powell this mean drunk from Natchez couldnt butcher his own chickens no more for starting to know what a sorry cuss he looks like coming after em. All manner of such.
It was hard at the time not suspicioning folks was putting me on what with me being a stranger and all but then I recollected lying underneath that shade tree by Mehetabel’s collard patch and how her talking at her self worked its way inside to me and well I cant say I believed every tale those fellows told but then I dont say no neither.
While I was in Little Sink I stayed with this family had some land and a place to sleep behind the hay barn and needed some help with the cows. They was a mother and her boy 9 or 10 and his sister what I think now couldnt of been no more then 15 and this old fellow what the mother called Pap and he was blind. They was a strange lot specially the children. I learnt pretty early Mehetabel aint no name a man wants to be calling on in this house or not around the mother leastways. So I never brung up what I am always thinking but one day long about dusk Pap shows up steering hisself with a stick and calling out for me. I holler back and he wonders as how I might like to sit a spell and watch the sun set. Now nothing peculiar in that cause I am figuring he is wanting company and I am the one doing all the watching. In Little Sink aint much more to do of a evening.
So he leads us to this spot where they has built what looks like a deer blind but aint only a platform bout as high as your chest and nothing but sawgrass on all sides so all they is in a salt marsh to see any man with eyes can see. Theres a split pine log wide enough for folks to set on. Well I am getting comfortable when he commence to say how the sky turns peach pinkish going southerly to gold this time a year and violet where the clouds come near the cypress tops and is it so tonight. Now I dont say much for a while but then I allows as how its melon colored but bottoms of the thunder heads is a little darker. Then he wants to know is it darker like plums or like persimmons them thunder heads. I am feeling sort of peculiar now but I offer as its more like persimmons. But ripe. Not red I say like you sometimes see scuppernongs. And soon as I has finished speaking he kind of catches his breath and grins real broad and settles back. Its a bleeder he give out. And then dont say nothing else.
Well hes sure right its a bleeder. Or I dont mean I ever knowed what a bleeder was when he said it but fore night I seen how the darkish color starts to spread not in patches or little lines or like cobwebs but more like milk spreads after a bucket gets kicked only now its not just turning things wet but like staining everything it come near so there you are watching and the clouds and treetops is kind of peculiar and rosey when all of sudden its like a mans whole skin done give way and his heart spilt out. Well I am not saying a word. Maybe I recollect once he asks me is there a line of purple still left at the top of those pines north of the sand basin or later has it started coming out the old trappers cut but mostly we both is quiet and I plane forgot he aint seeing what I am. I cant say how long it lasted.
Anyway making our way back I figure us being acquainted now maybe I could just ask him what I am feeling in a pretty tight place to know. So I beg his pardon and say I am wondering how long it is since he done lost his sight. Well he laughs at that and allows as how he cant rightly say since he dont never recall having none. Now I think he has misheard me and so I ask again but no sir he tells me he come out of his mammy as dark as moonless December. And I just keep walking cause I am pretty sure he has got to know what I am needing to ask next but he dont offer nothing and so after while I beg his pardon again and ask how it is with him never seeing nothing he come to know so much about them sunsets. And he says Mehetabel told me.
Its a spell fore I can get my thinking and his saying to meet up just right. I mean I can feel this big piece of something missing but I aint yet where I can name what it is. Anyhow Pap allows as how what folks in Little Sink know for there own self and what they know cause Mehetabel done told them aint always two things like a fellow might suppose. And then he tells me how back fore folks stopped letting there children listen at her they would all come home talking about mister catfish hunting water fleas underneath the pond lillies or snow stinging your nose on the mountain top or the smell of cegars and ever body just figured it was a ignorant indian talking and never payed much mind. But then one day this boy come home all excited bout fruits what aint never growed in Little Sink and wont eat his mommas pear pie no more and like to pitch a fit bout how sweet and syrupy them other fruits is and its pretty quick folks thinking start to change.
Now you know how sometimes you get a speck of nothing in your eye and right off dont more then hardly blink but keep on doing what your doing just worrying it a little now and again till fore long its growed bigger then a bristle hog and aint no help for it but to stop the whole blamed world and dig that devil out. Use a Jim Bowie knife if need. Well thats how I was commencing to feel standing there listening to old Pap carry on about younguns imaginings. I kept quiet long as he talked but no sooner then he quits its like I cant stand it. But that aint no more than just notions I figure I must of shouted at him. Already I am thinking it aint what I mean to say.
Old Pap looks surprised. For a minute he dont say nothing. Then he turns them wobbly eyes of his up at me and asks hasnt I noted that girl. And no use acting like I dont know what he means. Its her I said already was 15 and am telling you now folks called Forsythia. And Pap is meaning how she dont never laugh nor do whats regular for a girl but just is wandering round the barnyard all day and humming somewhat and acting afar off. I allowed as I had noted it. Cant no body tell how Mehetabel done it Pap says nor what it is exactly for a child to know but Mehetabel done told her and now that girl knows she is born to die.
I was 21 back then and a fool. Even fellow blind as Pap could of told that child was peculiar but werent no mount of peculiar could scare me away. Fore I was round that place a week I was up to nonsense with her and by the time Pap had his say I had seen enough to know he wasnt just fibbing. Danged unsettlingest creature I ever met. I seen her one morning standing in her mommas sunflowers and I come up all pleasant like and spoke some foolishness and she just peers up at me for such a spell I commence to suspicion she is simple but then she smiles this smile what is hardly big enough to say is a smile but soothed me all the same and says kindness is a blessing and how she is grateful for it. Well I dont say nothing to that. Her voice dont sound like no girls voice nor like no ladys neither but is real quiet and steady without hardly a quiver or no liveliness and I reckon one a us needs to keep on talking but she dont give no sign its gone be her so I am hunting up some smart remark but aint finding airy a word till fore long I am just standing there like I am simple too. We look at each other then and she dont so much as blink a eye and I dont mind telling you I started to feel plumb scared. Like as if one of us dont commence to talking soon we gone be there till doomsday.
Well I got outer there some ways but aint no time til I start waking up at night thinking bout her. I would hear that voice and get to worrying bout her laying right there in that house not 50 feet further then I was laying and it like to start my legs to bouncing. Being scared just made it worser. I told you I was a fool. Anyway soon as old Pap done said that bout her and Mehetabel you can believe I got curiouser. I asked him how folks come to learn of it and he recollects back when she was a little thing how she kept after Mehetabel to tell her bout heaven where her momma done said her daddy was living and her momma never seen much harm in that. But then one afternoon she aint home at suppertime and when she turns up real late her steps on the porch is heavy like a body whats drunk. Pap allows as how his daughter as I told you was momma to Forsythia never done told him all of it but he was there when the child come home and heard her talking bout her daddy werent gone to heaven after all. It was her words. My daddy aint just nothing now. Seems that happened 6 years or better fore the time I am now telling about and Pap said the child aint been regular since.
You might of think after hearing so much queer talk I am bout to tell you I done forgot that Mehetabel business and high taled it home but you can think again. Part of it was getting a taste of something what if you dont drink your fill of it aint never gone give you no peace and part of it was that gals voice. I recollect now as how it sounded old not like Pap was old but old like cypress knees and then fresh as a tiger lily too. Anyways werent no use in trying to forget it. So all I can think of soon as Pap done finished is how now I got me that smart remark I was needing before to keep talking to that Forsythia. And sure enough wasnt no more then the next day I find her lolly gagging underneath this big laurel oak what is still standing behind the Holiness church in Altha and I walked over real quiet though I can see she werent doing nothing and she dont look up for a minute and then she do but slow and easy like she werent a little surprised and give that smile what aint hardly a smile and I offers as me and her grandaddy done seen the sun go down the other night. Well durned if she dont say she never seen it till then neither. It takes me a minute fore I can straighten out how what I am meaning is its peculiar seeing a sunset with a blind man and what she is meaning is peculiar some other way. But starting over dont help. Her eyes commence to stare off and I thinks uh oh doomsday coming again and so I offers as how its real good we both done seen that same sky. And thank you Jesus that starts her talking. Tells me how she never knowed it were flat what with its innards all outside and the purple not just on things underbelly but plumb through so as ever thing for a body to see is right there waiting. Well that was a tight place. I am commencing to feel scared but I says to my self no sir you gone too far to turn a yellow coward now. So I nod and allow how I would like to see it like she has said too. And be durned if morning dont break out in that girls face. She grabs holt of my hand and next I know she done dragged me off.
And that was how I come to witness Mehetabels talking for my own self. Or tried. I dont mean as to how I hadnt witness it before cause I suppose some folks call witnessing what happened there to me and Johnny Hatten and mister Doggitt beside that collard patch but I never recollected it as witnessing but only as something come over me. Like I said its the hard part. Anyhow I follow that girl up to this cabin which I am knowing later is where Mehetabel lives with her pack a worthless dogs what is too shiftless to even lift a head at you but the cabin is nice with windows and a new tin roof. I dont go up to the porch cause I am still a might uneasy but that girl do and pretty soon Mehetabel come out and they commence to talking as regular as you please. Aint neither one saying no more then just what ever body says. Bout the seasons changing and swamp fixing to come up. Anyhow I remember Mehetabel telling how the rain that morning brung the smell of jasmine through her window strong enough to stir the taters and that girl listening at her real close and then well I dont recollect nothing else. Not Mehetabels talking no ways. Makes a fellow want to give up this writing business for good. One minute I am making sure not to miss a word and hearing nothing to mention and then next minute I am noting this freshness what come off a myrtle bush when a fellow shakes it and smells like new cut pine only dryer and seeing not more then 6 inches from my face this little milk colored flower that cant be no different from them I been seeing my whole life but has a raggedy edge on one side with a yellow line snaking between its 2 halfs and over at the end a 4 corner patch of black rods with this long dangly
I am stopping right there fore you are thinking I has gone crazy too. But that flower was its own self and I dont mind saying so. Anyhow I figure I must of studied it more then a hour cause when I look up that girl is gone and the sky is dark and there I am still standing not 40 feet from Mehetabels cabin and aint nothing but a lamp burning inside and the woods is as quiet as I dont believe they has ever been since. I will leave out about getting back home that night but next day when I seen that girl I mean to say she come right up to me like your favorite coon dog and dont speak nor nothing but just stand there staring off and not giving a sign she is ever fixing to say boo nor leave neither and I think now that I am telling it that what must of scared me more then even what scared me before was there I was standing next to that gal and staring off and saying nothing and not feeling scared a tall.
I am living in Little Sink better then 5 months.
No man cant tell whats in his heart leastways not without it surprising him. After all the strangeness I been through I felt right uneasy and wasnt long fore I started to thinking. Not when that Forsythia was round. Could of stood to do a sight more thinking then. But when I was by my own self I started to thinking maybe what with Pap and them sunsets and me and Johnny Hatten and seeing Mehetabel and that girl talking how I couldnt never just go back to living regular again. Not like I up and said as much but you understand it was worrying me. What if I was to turn as peculiar as that boy stopped eating his mommas pear pie or that fellow couldnt butcher his chickens. Well you can believe I wanted to get to the bottom of that Ocheesee business then. So I come up with a plan. I thinks since that Forsythia is now more then anything else twixt me and the regular way I was always being if I could just fix it up so she were back regular too it would make a end of ever thing. You are likely think I was a bigger fool then I has allowed and I aint disputing it. But seemed to me at the time as how folks in Little Sink werent no more then ordinary but under this kinder spell or something and if a man was only to say the right word or give them a shake they would go back to acting natural as you please. I am now supposing it was all wrong but didnt seem wrong then especially that part bout folks being ordinary.
So I try to tell that girl how what Mehetabel told her aint no more then just words and it is real sad and all bout her daddy but Mehetabel dont know no more then her momma nor her own self where her daddy done gone and dont mean her daddy aint in heaven or some wheres but only how folks aint got no business going on about what a body cant know. And a whole lot more. But danged if she aint got the first notion what I am saying. She says she dont recollect Mehetabel talking bout her daddy nor heaven nor her own self ever thinking more then what she is thinking at that minute which dont seem like much. Leastways she cant tell me none of it. Bless me if I aint even sure that girl knows what words like dying and heaven means. Well I keep at her a while but aint long fore she is staring off to doomsday again and I has to give it up. She smiles that itty bitty smile then and things start to turn rosey and fore I know it I has clean forgot bout that plan. I see then how it aint no use talking to her. Talking is all whats the matter in the first place.
That should of been my first warning but werent. Seems like it wasnt no time fore I am figuring how if I cant wake up folks in Little Sink that aint cause they aint under no spell but is cause only her what has made them that way knows the words to use. So I decided to pay a visit to Mehetabel. Now I dont mind telling you it werent nothing I was hankering to do. I mean I done felt for my own self how her talking makes a man forget ever thing and what am I gone do I wonder if she commence to cast a spell on me. Fellow might not even know. But soon as I would get to worrying I would recollect that Forsythia smiling and werent no help for me but to keep my thinking on a short rein and stay outer my own way. So I follows that path she done showed me and come up on that little cabin where is those shiftless dogs lying on the porch but aint no body home. Which was kinder a relief. Leastways until I turn round and see coming down the path this body bent double neath a gunny sack.
Now I knowed Mehetabel was just a old indian lady what lived alone and didnt have folks to do for her but I aint somehow been thinking bout her toting groceries. So I am just standing there and she is getting closer and she looks up and I look back and we still aint so much as said howdy when she give out this long sigh and allows how its a marvel. I say whats a marvel. And she says bout how babies where I come from being born without mommas. And I says my momma was a Bascom from Vidalia. And she says she dont know bout that but she knows cant be no womans son will stand there while a old lady breaks her back. Well that gets me to moving. I help her off with that gunny sack and ease it down in the pantry and still them dogs aint so much as fidgit and after we has sit and fanned a spell I work round to what I come to say. Well sir she listens at ever thing bout how that girls heart is broke what with her daddy passing and her thinking dying aint more than just nothing and how it would be a sight better if Mehetabel told her aint no knowing bout heaven or such so she could get back to being a girl again and a mess of other stuff I cant recollect now. Well when I finish I am near outer breath but I can see something aint right. Mehetabel is sitting there with her mouth hanging open saying nary a word. So I thinks maybe they is something she dont understand and am fixing to start over when she give her head a shake and lets out this whistle. Boy she says you gone plum crazy.
Now I aint ready for that. It takes me a minute to figure how she means she aint never done with that Forsythia more then just act friendly to a child whats lonesome since her daddy died. She dont let on to knowing no more bout heaven nor what dying is then that Forsythia let on to knowing when I asked her before and I aint sure as how I just believe her but cant see nothing in how she is acting thats like a old indian putting a fellow on neither. Well seems like more was said. I remember some business bout that gal what think she come from Parry France. But nothing is getting us no closer so finally I up and asks Mehetabel to talk to that Forsythia for me.
And what you want said she says.
What ever gone straighten out that confoundedness keeps her from acting regular I says.
Bout dying and all she says.
And at first I aint sure what to answer but then I say not just bout dying but bout how aint nothing in living what wont let a body get past it. Aint right I say for a girl to be never talking or just standing there all the time thinking how folks is all gone leave and nothing pleasurable lasts when ever body knows there is more suns to be setting than just this one.
And Mehetabel looks up real serious and asks is it a fact.
Is what a fact I say back.
Bout them sunsets.
How it aint more then just this one I ask.
And she give a nod.
And so I say hasnt she heard folks say sure as the sun gone rise tomorrow and such.
And she allows she has heard it.
Well then I say.
And Mehetabel done sit there the longest time not moving and with this deep look like she is weighing ever word. Then she hauls her self up and says in a tired way. Aint no helping you boy. You in love.
Well its a lot later I learn from Pap how the reason Mehetabel aint admitting ever thing is cause when she wasnt hardly more then a girl her own self she done talked her way out of a husband and she is likely not wanting to do the same for that Forsythia. He told me as how this fellow Zedekiah folks called Zed took a fancy to Mehetabel but she scared him off talking bout the mischief come of him marrying a indian. They was heaps of folks but mostly women blamed her for it since aint no way to catch a husband telling him the badness first. But Pap reckoned as how maybe Mehetabel hoped Zed would stay on irregardless. Werent in him though. Any way it was later Pap told me it and seemed at the time how that explained alot. I mean werent like Mehetabel could of talked up heaven and Parry France and drinking water then soon as I asked her plum forgot.
Now its getting on toward fall and I am knowing folks in Little Sink better and still working a little for that girls momma and helping ever body out with there harvesting and even triangulating a field or 2 best I could without regular chains or transit and near bout ever minute I aint working I am hanging round that Forsythia. It is a peculiar way to be. Seems now we never did nothing more then just stand all close and stare off at what later I couldnt much remember. Sometimes I ask myself has I gone clean out of my head. But a fellow can keep his thinking in one direction and travel a pretty far distance in the other fore he ever wonders is that stranger there off yonder his self. Anyways by now I knowed Mehetabel aint gone say no words for me what will wake that girl and aint much hope of her turning regular no ways else. So I think and I think but it is a long time for I hit on what to do next.
You wouldnt guess it now but I was once not much in the writing way. I could print my letters alright and cipher but back then werent much use for handwriting proper. What folks call curse it. Man did his business face to face. Why I seen cattle farms bought and sold and never more then a nod and a shake but thats another story. Anyway one day I am in the dry goods store and I come across a box full of them yellow pencils like mister Doggitt scribbled down his figures with. It give me a idea. Well I bought 2 and ordered a hard back tablet what took 3 weeks to come but then I had ever thing and commenced to work. It was hard going. I would spend all morning back of that barn making words what had there letters strung together like washed shirts on a line. Werent that much to hooking up a m or a l. Just loops an such. But that b or q didnt give a man much quarter. I took to practicing writing what folks said not ever word you understand but enough. So I could recollect later. Had a few letters what done the work of 4 or 5 and breviations. It seemed a queer way to do never lifting up you pencil. Like swimming with your head down. But real fast. After while I got so I was writing quick as a city feller talked. Nearly.
So one afternoon I am out front of the sundries and this shorty name of Rob Robbin cant recollect now but folks called him JT. Well he is full of this bad turn a chicken farmer done him and this other boy name of Clarence what was a chicken farmer his self keeps putting in how chickens is particular and fellers what dont know bout it best not talk. Rest of us got our work cut out just trying to keep clear. Seems they was me and a couple more.
Anyways that shorty JT turns his self up a notch saying how the man what thinks JT Rob Robber somewhat dont know nothing bout chickens better not say it out loud and that Clarence holler back how maybe he aint saying so but maybe he aint not saying so neither. Which commences that JT to swearing. Seems aint gone be no end to them 2 making folks uncomfortable and the rest of us is getting hopeful of a tornader or something when outer no place Mehetabel come up. Sounds peculiar but werent. Anyway JT is damning and hellfiring and Mehetabel just crooks her head and wonders does any body recollect how thunder heads is at night specially when a fellers little and watches ever thing outer his window and some times you can tell they is clouds but other times your just seeing stars wink and so know between you and ever thing they is this bigness blowing so its really all your seeing whenever folks ask what your seeing but you dont say your seeing thunder heads you just say sky.
Dont no body move. Even that shorty JT aint hardly mumbling. Me I edge off to one side and get out my writing tools.
Now if I had of kept that tablet I could tell you today ever word exactly like Mehetabel spoke it but as you will hear I aint got it no more and what is besides that were the only time nothing happened when Mehetabel spoke so really werent much to forget nohow. Well she kept going on bout being 8 or 9 and your feet slapping the dirt then hopping right back up again each time you run and the air passing under your arms and how your body aint no bigger then a acorn hardly so that sometimes you get a good speed up you aint sure but at the edge of things maybe you will just lift off. And more bout lightenings and magnolia leaves and the smell of cornstalks in a drought. I recall a sight better now then I thought but still they is alot I am forgetting.
So I am stringing my ts and ws together thinking how later I can point at the words caused all the mischief and show that Forsythia how Mehetabel done it when bless me if I dont look up and see them other fellows gawking in the peculiarest way. Even that ornery JT. I mean there eyes is big and there jaws is hanging open like they is seeing right through whats in front of them. Now here comes the hard part. I am quick starting back to write so as not to miss a word when real gradual I feel my loop dee loops getting harder to make and my hand commencing to stiff up and that pencil stopping and there I am just listening like any body and well right then I knowed it aint no spell folks has been under. No sir. It is just a old half indian woman going on bout the smell of sassafras tree root and spring water on your ankle and the way a deer will stand and look you in the eye or the sound a branch makes snapping in the woods like this world is a big place full of no man cant tell what and your alone in it for feels like a long time then feels like a short one. Like I says its coming back. But no matter cause its only Mehetabel talking now not some magic lady and she aint saying more then what anybody aint born witless cant know and here these fellows is all big eyed and hang jawed like they never heard such. It plum made me sick. Well right then I put down that tablet and left it setting beside that store where I reckon some stranger found it and couldnt make head nor tale of all them breviations.
After that wasnt nothing ever the same in Little Sink. Leastways not for me. Folks overnight stopped being ordinary and commence to seem plum loco. Couldnt hardly stand to be round them. Even that mother of Forsythia what got in such a dither bout Mehetabel ruining her children. I felt like hollering at her hell aint no more then just jabber. But by then I knowed it werent no use. If theres one thing I feel bad about its that girl. I should of been man enough to tell her I was going but werent no way to explain. I mean feller couldnt live regular round folks like that and that girl werent gone be different no wheres else. All the same I should of told her. She probably wouldnt of payed no mind. Just stared off.
Anyhow soon as I was packed which werent hardly a minute since when I come to Little Sink I didnt have no more then I could tote and all I added since was them pencils I went looking for old Pap. I found him in a pecan grove standing by hisself with his head tilt back and them wobbly eyes open like if it were a seeing fellow you would of said he was studying the weather. Well I commence to tell him good by and he dont let on to hear. Just keeps his head tilt back and I suspicion hes bitter bout that girl but then he asks me is the sky turn fall blue yet. Well I know it were wrong but something bout him asking me that brung up a hardness in my chest and I answer back what does that matter to a old blind man.
Now Pap he seems kinder surprised at that. He give me this look what werent no look I can describe cause of his eyes going ever which a way and says how it matters cause fall blue is more peaceful then summer blue like any body can tell you.
I cant explain it but them words were gasoline on a grass fire. Like I done been preached at by one of them talking magpies I seen at the farm show in Albany what dont know more then this here typing machine what it says. So I stick my jaw out and asks is that a fact and he allows how it is and I say well him being such a expert may be he can help me.
He perks up at that.
Aint no secret that sky is blue I say and I reckon ever body knows that ocean is the same. And of course no man cant see no ocean in Little Sink even if he got 4 eyes in his head but Pap give a nod. And I reckon we both know how that
And here I felt kinder queer but gone on.
how that Forsythias eyes is blue too. And he nods again but dont give out like neither of us is thinking nothing about it. Well I figure its easy telling folks bout that sky and all I say. But hows a feller gone tell folks bout them eyes.
Now he give a queer little laugh and allows it aint no easy task and just how am I meaning to do it. But I am ready for that and say right back how I has asked his help and is he gone begrudge me. Well he give out that laugh again then dont say nothing for a minute and I am feeling pretty smart and figuring he is gone cry uncle when he asks do I recall in July a hour before sun up when the air feels so near to cool a good sneeze like to scare it off.
And I say so.
Well he says you know how if you walk out then and set on the porch never rocking and the cypress trees are stillest they gone get and yonder by the barn the wrens starting up that teakettle teakettle and you smell whats nearly one whiff of jasmine but your feeling so fresh you aint sure it aint just imagining and there like that not hardly breathing you think aint nothing gone change.
Well he stops and I wait a minute and then I see its a question. So I say yep I know bout it not sure I do but not wanting to sound ignorant neither.
And Pap give his head a nod and said well sir its what the blue of that sky is like. And he dont wait a instant to argue or nothing but pitches in bout how during a long dry time in the middle of the heat under a grandaddy oak what has branches grow out wider then tall and bent back down to the ground on all sides so when the sky gets dark and a storm come up and rain drops as bigger then a mans fist is splattering the dirt and thunders coming through your feet and lightening sparking in them branches its just like something down under you has climb up inside you and your wanting to run but aint no getting loose and you might just feel plum terrorfied if you werent wild happy and come to think of it you dont know what you are.
And he paused again and I seed I was to answer and so must of said something cause he done smile and says its like them blue eyes.
Now Pap is finished talking and for a minute neither of us says nothing. It felt peculiar. I mean aint more then a lot of nonsense anybody could of spoke but not just ever day you hear a feller speak it. Its another of them hard parts I reckon. Anyways I am standing there trying to recollect myself and watching Paps eyes swimming round in his head when I starts to feel like it has happen again. I been bewitched. Aint sure how nothing is or where I am in the middle of it and cant hardly remember its only blind Pap there in front of me. So I heft my sack real quick and give out a laugh and say that bout rising early and getting rained on and such aint more then just words. Blue is something else.
And old Pap he dont miss a lick. He just looks kinder puzzled and asks what is that.
What is what I say.
Something else he says back.
And I point at that sky and say its that right there.
What he asks again.
And I must of been getting pretty hot cause I remember my voice were loud. It kinder embarrassed me. Blue I say.
Blue he says.
I am pointing at it I holler.
And he dont say nothing then and I am commencing to feel rotten for acting all rude to a poor creature what never done me no bad turn. What cause I got. But feller with a idea in his head is like a locomotive on a downhill track. So I tell Pap how all I was ever meaning was how blue is what folks are seeing when they point at that sky and aint no telling a body what caint see what its like but folks as can see know.
Blue he says real soft.
And I says thats all the something else I ever meant.
And he looks real thoughtful a minute and then he says I see.
Happened just like that. As natural as you please. I see. Well it were the end of talking. Never even said good by. Last I recollect he were still standing in that pecan grove his head tilt back and wobbly eyes open for all the world just like you or me or any body.
I never set foot in Little Sink again and I come to decide that Mehetabel werent likely much different from moving pictures or tv. May be if ever thing what happened happened over wouldnt none of it happen the same. But some times I get to thinking bout that Johnnie Hatten business and I dont know. I mean we was goners. Parched throat cant drink only words. Done told myself it were dreaming but cant forget. And then you what hasnt never seed that Forsythia commence to reading bout them eyes just like you knowed too. And them sunsets and pear pie and smell of myrtle and ever thing. There it goes getting all mixed up again.
Like I said. Writing dont help.