Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Story Poem

Here's story poem by Louie Clay, founder of Integrity, a writer and teacher from Alabama, who I've had the privilege to meet on several occasions.
Read the story. It's about youth, fathers and sons, mentoring, tolerance, and respect. But mostly it's about Respect. I still think America's best writers are from the South. Louie's story has a Southern Feel, in the vein of Eudora Welty's short stories and Truman Capote's stories of his youth. Please read it.

 Going Fishing

"Mister Crier wants to take you fishing,"
Dad said, but I knew better than to say I'd go.
"He's living with a woman and they're not married,
and he swears a lot," I pouted.
As a Baptist 8-year-old in Alabama in 1944
I guessed those facts would carry weight for deacon Dad.

Dad said only, "You've been listening to gossips, son."

Actually on my own I'd heard Mister Crier
laughing and swearing when he and other house painters
loaded the new paint cans, brushes, and turpentine
into their old rattle-traps parked
in the alley behind Dad's hardware store.

True, I learned about the woman,
--who was really no woman, but a 16-year-old girl--
when I eavesdropped on women playing Canasta with Mother.
"And Crier's at least 40!" they'd hissed.
"Jim Crier is a good man," Dad said,
"and he puts on no airs.
When a poor widow's roof needs fixing,
Jim Crier fixes it for free,
and when he's fixed all he can afford,
he goes to other house painters and carpenters
and tells them 'It's your turn.'

"Mister Crier is a good friend to me,
I can't be a good friend back
if I insist that he try to be like me.

"He wants to be nice to you, son, and
I hope you will go fishing with him.
You will enjoy it."

I wanted to complain some more,
"Mister Crier has a beat-up old Dodge!" or
"Mister Crier lives in the last house
on the good side of town!"
but I realized I'd used up my bigger thunder,
and it had gotten me nowhere.
As a proper little sissy boy in the making,
I wondered what to do.

And I went.

Not whole-heartedly, but I went.

I liked Mister Crier's beat-up old Dodge.
It had a radio in it and ours didn't.
Mister Crier brought a huge thermos of hot chocolate,
some deviled eggs, and several kinds of sandwiches.
Maybe his girlfriend made them. I didn't ask.
I didn't really want to know.

He took me to a lake I had never seen, in a state park.
I caught several bream, and he cheered me each time.

Mister Crier didn't say much about himself
but seemed interested in what I had to say.
I probably talked forever,
especially about school and the war.

I remember little else, except Dad.
He knew that he could show me a much bigger world
without having to leave the county.

— Louie Clay

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