I went to a side show at the county fair. It was housed in a small trailer with a South Sea Island scene painted on the side. “Paradise on Earth,” the sign proclaimed. So I paid my quarter and went into a bare room with a table in the middle. On the table was a pair of playing dice in a quart Mason jar of dirt. I looked at the man standing behind the table. He shrugged his shoulders. His face was blank.


She was the new gal at the cafe that had only two waitresses in its long history. Her table-waiting routine was so refined and theatrical, she was an immediate hit. Her act was, “Taking your order sir, is the most pleasant thing that has happened to me my entire life.” She came to the table with the menu and said, “Oooooooo, and how are you this fine evening, sir?” She was plump, middle-aged, had stringy hair, and looked like a man in the face. Her bulk shifted from side to side as she walked; but she tried to carry herself like a ballerina. She used perfect disk jockey diction. After each sentence, she pursed her lips, rolled her eyeballs back, and fluttered her lashes. When she returned with a grizzly platter of steak and eggs, she squealed, “Oooooooo, what a fine cut of meat, sir. I hope you enjoy yourself very much.” She curtsied, floated across the room, flopped down at a booth across the way, and said, “Hey, Mable, gimme a goddamned cigarette” in a syrupy South Carolina drawl. Everyone left her huge tips.


Grandpaw and I were rocking on his front porch. A mockingbird was feasting on the mulberries in the tree at the corner of the house. Grandpaw got up, without saying a word, and went inside. Returning with his .22 rifle, he sat back down. The bird was jumping from one limb to another devouring the ripe berries. Grandpaw put the gun to his shoulder and took careful aim. The mockingbird flew away just as the old man pulled the trigger. He walked to the edge of the porch and looked off into the woods. Passing through the house and out the back door, he exchanged the .22 for a 12-gauge shotgun. The bird was chattering on a fence post by the barn. Grandpaw strolled down the path with the shotgun over his shoulder. As the bird flew, he blasted it in mid-sentence.


I dug a hole for a bumper post at the loading dock of a grocery store. The hole had to be chest deep and a yard square. The boss said I could hang interior trim with the other irascible carpenter on our crew; but I begged to dig the hole instead. First, I had to jack hammer through a layer of asphalt about the thickness of Webster’s Third Unabridged. It was as if the hole was bleeding yellow blood when I broke through the fill dirt into the South Carolina clay. Between the fill dirt and the clay was a black layer of decayed roots. And after I reached the required depth, after I smoothed the sides with a sharpshooter and trimmed the corners with an ax, I scraped the loose dirt off the floor with my hands. I talked to myself as I knelt in the bottom of that hole; and the sound was perfectly modulated. Everything was perfect when I reached the bottom of the hole.