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message 1: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
This folder is for writers to post poems, stories, book chapters, drabbles, etc for people to read.

Please post your writing as a separate topic, with a short introduction as to who you are and what you are posting.


message 2: by Preston (new)

Preston Page | 2 comments About 3400 words

Uncle John's Toothache

by

Preston Page





The outhouse door opened, and then pulled back by an oversized well rusted industrial spring slammed shut with its usual ear splitting bang. Dad liked to say we had one of the best outhouses in the Edinburgh County, maybe in Eastern North Carolina, and he built it. We had two inside toilets, but why tear down such a well-built outhouse? Especially when it cause such ranting and raving at the County Health Department we just couldn't think of any reason that was good enough to go to all the trouble of tearing down such a well-built outhouse.
After Uncle John stepped out of the outhouse he zipped up his pants with one hand, held his jaw with the other and said, "Sparkie, Sparkie you got to get me to a dentist. I can't stand this toothache."
Dad looked up from under the hood of our six-year-old, but still shinny '60 Rambler Ambassador. I had driven it; the same day I got real drivers’ license not just a learner's permit, to my cousin Sherwood's house. I was going to take him for a spin around Brown's Barbecue, and other points of interest in Selma. If we were lucky, we might even get to talk to a few girls.
Luck wasn't with us. Smoke started coming from under the dash board when I parked the car in front of Sherwood's house. I guess I would have just sat there and watched it burn if Sherwood hadn't jumped out of the car and yelled for his Dad.
So there my Dad was, with his head under the hood. We had to rewire the whole car. Taking a break, I was just getting interested in, "Second Foundation" and hoping to keep at it a while longer. Mom yelled, "Buck, I need two chickens for dinner. We're going to have company so get a couple of big ones. Get John to pluck them for you."
After reading for as long as I figured I could get away with, I carefully put down my book after saving my place with the book mark I had gotten free from the Science Fiction Book Club. Still standing on the porch I looked out the back yard and saw two big hens standing together near the old well. Seemed to me I remembered both of them having become more than a little troublesome lately. I stepped down from the porch and walked over toward them. I pretended to be throwing chicken feed on the ground. The two chickens I had picked walked toward me, already pecking at the ground for food.
I caught them by the neck, one in each hand. With a quick snap I broke their necks and spun them around until they flew away in separate directions, their heads still in my hands. Headless the chickens jumped around the yard. A couple of the dogs eyed them hungrily.
My part of fixing dinner over, I walked back to the porch, laid down in the swing and returned to my book. In Uncle John’s direction I yelled, "Chickens are ready to pluck."
Still complaining about his toothache he went over and grabbed the two chickens from the jaws of the two dogs that were circling them and barking to build up their courage to take a bite. Uncle John made a face at the dogs stuck his tongue out at them and spat off a long description of the dogs eating habits and their mother's dating habits.
Then he walked up the porch and dropped the chickens in boiling hot water. Holding them by their feet he twisted them around in the basin for just a few seconds, and then he tossed them into the cold water.
He rubbed his jaw again, said something about a damn toothache, squatted down, and pulled one of the chickens from the cold water and started plucking feathers.
With expressions of pain etched on his face Uncle John jumped back to his feet, dropping the chicken back into the water. He grabbed his jaw smearing feathers and blood all over his face as he almost ran to Dad's old workbench. Still holding his jaw with one hand, he picked up a grease stained white plastic milk jug that use to be filled with moonshine. He placed the spout to his lips and bent his head back; he held the container upside down.
His Adam’s apple seemed to crawl up and down his throat as he gulped down the remaining drops of shine. Uncle John's skin seemed to have turned the same bright red as his hair. He shook his head several times and wiped his lips with his sleeve. He looked into the bottle, shook it, frowned and threw it to the ground.
Uncle John yelled in Dad's direction, "Damn, I think that's the last of it." Uncle John walked over to our two tone Green Rambler and poked Dad on the shoulder. "Sparkie," he asked, "got any more of that shine."
Dad looked up from the hood and answered, "Not if you just finished off that bottle on the workbench."
"Hell far," said Uncle John, "if I don't get something else to drink, this damn toothache is going to kill me."
"I could use another drink myself," said Dad. "Pluck them chickens and we'll get Buck to drive us over to Blossom's and get some more."
Whoa, I couldn't believe it. I figured it would be months before I got to drive again. I kept reading, figured if I said anything he might change his mind.

Uncle John came up to the porch held one of the chains holding up the porch swing causing it to stop swinging on one end and swing out of control on the other end. Then he put his hand over the book I was reading so all I could see was his calloused hand with its middle finger cut off at the knuckle. He said, "Buck my boy; this is going be the fastest plucking job you ever saw. You best read fast."
He threw one of the two chickens into a cardboard box and then squatted down by the old 5 gallon tin basin. He picked up the old metal pitcher and poured some of the scalding water over the chicken he held by its legs in the other hand. Then he sat down the pitcher and started pulling feathers, shaking his hands every now and then to throw off the hot water. Feathers began flying across the porch like a Christmas snow storm at the North Pole.
Half way across the universe, but only a few pages later, I looked up and saw that he was starting on the second chicken. By the end of the chapter he was in the kitchen handing both chickens to Debbie, my sister. Her job was to cut up the chickens. I laughed, that was a lot more work than ringing necks.
Uncle John walked by me and out of the side of his mouth said, "Get ready to go."
He picked up the basin full of water and feathers walked over to the fire barrel and dumped them in. Then he went over to get Dad's attention.

Dad straightened up and told me to get ready as he walked over to his work bench; he wiped his hands clean and then washed them in GO-JO. He looked at me and winked as he wiped his hands with what was left of an old pair of pants I had worn out last summer. We both knew what really happened to those pants, I had worked hard for two weekends in a row to convince Dad that is was best not to tell Mom. He just seemed to love showing them to me and smirk. When he did, it made me want to yell sometimes, sometimes it made me want to hug him. This time I felt like a hug.


message 3: by Preston (new)

Preston Page | 2 comments part 2 Uncle Johns Toothache

I was sitting in the driver's seat when Dad and Uncle John got in Dad's old International Truck. Uncle John slid into the middle and Dad sat by the window. Dad handed me the keys. Then he smiled rubbed his thinning short cropped hair that didn't even pretend to cover his head, smiled and said, "Try not to burn this one up before we get that shine." He laughed again and hit my shoulder with his fist.
I didn't need to ask where we were going. I had been the driver on this little errand before. After about a twenty-five minute drive I pulled up to the gas pumps at Blossom's Store, and we all got out. Blossoms didn't look like much. Except for a few splotches of new paint and all the people coming and going, it could have been abandoned. Two fuel oil trucks were parked in front of the store. It was more or less common knowledge in the area that for the last year or two the old truck was actually used to haul fuel oil. It couldn't be trusted to make a delivery of moonshine without breaking down.
Uncle John went to the bathroom. Dad and I went inside. Dad went directly to the counter. I went and looked at the paperback books. The old metal rack they keep the books in squeaked and bobbed up and down as I turned it. Most of the books were romances or westerns, there were even a few adults' only books with plain brown wrappers covering the pictures on them but allowing the luring titles to shine out. There were almost always one or two new science fiction books there.
Dad came up to me and asked if I'd like a drink and maybe a book. I told him they've had a Heinlein I didn't have. He handed be a couple dollars and said, "Keep the change son."
"Thanks Pop," I told him.
I walked over to the drink box, the old kind, the ones that circulated cold water inside the box to keep the drinks cold. This particular box was pretty famous because it was set cold enough to have little pieces of ice floating in the water and stuck to the bottles. I had known people who would drive miles out of their way to get a drink from this box, even if they weren't buying moonshine.
There was the usual crowd of men standing around it looking at the big map of the United States hung on the wall. They were holding their coke's upside down examining the bottoms. Two of them had a ruler measuring the string that was attacked to the map pretty near where the location of the store was supposed to be. A pile of dollar bills lay on the small table in front of the ice box.
I picked out an ice-covered coke, one of those new sixteen ouncers, and carefully removed all to the ice and water cause I didn't want to get my new book wet. I opened the Coke took a big drink and walked toward the counter as I read and sipped on the Coke.
I put the drink down on the counter, and continued to read, as I showed the woman operating the register, the cover of the book. I pointed to the price without ever losing my place. She picked up the bills pushed some buttons on the register put my money in and handed me back a goodly amount of change. I heard a garbled, "thanks kid," as I quickly pocketed the change.
When I stepped outside, I saw Dad and Uncle John sitting inside the truck rubbing their hands and wiping their mouths with their sleeves. I glanced at the back of the truck as I went around getting to the driver's seat. Two bottles of shine were sitting in the truck. When I sat down Dad said, "Put this thing in overdrive boy, you got a couple of thirsty men sitting beside you."
Dinner was ready when we got home. Linda, my cousin, and her husband Herbert and their kids were there. Mom congratulated me on picking out such big chickens cause everybody was so hungry. We talked burped and joked till dark.
After I finished supper, I went outside to escape from the noise of conversation. A little while later Dad came out and walked over to me and began complaining about neighbors. "Neighbors so gole'damn close you could stand and see their house being built; what's more they ain't even related to us. You know that all this land used to be ours, further than the eyes could see." Then he kicked in that extra heavy Southern twang he liked to use when he was talking to Yankees or other people in town who thought their britches were extra-large, "That was, for de war though. What's this country coming to when such a sorry state of affairs happens right here in Edinburgh County North Carolina." He laughed and rung his hands and put his arms around my shoulders.
Then he got serious and asked me, "Think you're up to barbequing this pig by yourself tonight? I don't think I can make it after working on that Rambler all day. I'm sore from bending over, sore from stretching, and mad with sore ears from hearing your Uncle John complaining about his toothache.”
"Sure Dad, it'll be fun. I'll get to finish the book I've been reading today and start reading that book I got at Blossom's today. I've helped you with the Barbecue lot's a times. Besides I am sure to get some help from Herbert. Granny will be here soon, and I am sure she will tell just how it's done."
"No doubt son, no doubt."
When Granny first came over she went directly inside and talked to Mom, Debbie, Linda, and Dad. When somebody told her I was doing the Barbecue by myself, she dropped what she was doing finished the beer she was drinking grabbed another one and came outside to supervise the barbequing.
She sat on one of the old benches we had pulled out of that old church Dad, Uncle John, and I pulled down last summer. Granny put her purse on the ground, took a big swallow of beer and picked up her purse. She took out an extra-large can of Tube Rose Snuff, wrapped the top with the white handkerchief she always keep in her left hand, so the thin metal top wouldn't cut her hand. She puckered out her bottom lip shook the can from side to side and tapped the bottom of the can. Granny put the can back in her purse, and wiped her mouth with the snuff-stained handkerchief.
For about the thousandth time she told me how one of her boyfriend’s shot her back in 'seventeen, just a few miles from where we were sitting. Then she told me how I had been named after the first son she and Granpa had, and he was named after her uncle's father who had been killed in the Great War. Then she began to cry when she told me how he died the same day he was born. I always doubted my own future when I heard that story. She wiped her tears and yelled for someone to bring her another beer. Uncle John brought it to her, still complaining about his tooth.
I guess she kept talking, but I had barbecue, the Mule, and Hari Seldon on my mind. When it got so cold you could see your breath Granny went inside, after of course, reviewing the family recipe for fixing barbecue. Then she told me to tell her what I was going to do, so she would know I knew what I was doing it right. Truth was that a couple years ago I realized I knew the recipe better than she did. I didn't have to be told that there was no reason to point that out to her.
A Large orange moon was shrinking and turning bright white as it rose in the sky over the tobacco field. A fiery tailed meteor flew across the sky. I thought of the stars, and the planets that circled them. I looked for my book.
Alone, me, a barbequing pig, and Isaac Asimov, I flew across the galaxy at twice the speed of light.
I smelled the meat getting too hot. So I put down my book and soaked the pig with barbecue sauce and turned it. Then I went back to reading till again it was time to turn and douse the pig with sauce again, so went the night, cooking, reading, and dreaming.
When dawn came, I had near finished the book and almost barbecued the pig. Mom came outside with a plate of pancakes covered with her homemade syrup, bacon, and an extra-large glass of milk. She talked, standing down wind and far enough away from me to not be overwhelmed by the smell of burning wood and barbecue sauce. When I handed her back the plate, she pinched her nose and told me to take a shower in the old house before I came in, then she went back into the trailer.
A little later Dad, Eddie, and Herbert came outside. When they got close to me, they grabbed their noses, in what seemed an all to a well-planned manner, and said, "Pew, you smell worse than Catch-Me-Eye when it got blown up back in 42." We took the pig off the rack still laughing at that joke. With the four of us chopping away it didn’t take long for the pig to turn into real Edinburgh County barbecue.
People began arriving for the reunion, aunt this and uncle that and lots and lots of cousins, first, second, third and more than a few half this and that's. They all looked well slept and freshly washed. I was sleepy and still smelled of burning hickory and barbecue sauce.
Tables were being set and food laid out to eat in the old house. I sat down in an old recliner, hoping someone would fix me a plate. Waking up was the next thing I remember. The place had been cleaned and no one else was there. Only the smell of food remained.
I walked back to the trailers. The world seemed unreal under the influence of rest and a hungry stomach. Mom had fixed that plate for me; she said I had fallen asleep just as she was handing it to me. I got it out of the refrigerator warmed it up and sat down at the table beside the big plate glass window in the end of trailer. I looked out the window and saw Dad working on the Rambler he turned on the outside lights as the reddening sunlight became too dim to see by. Uncle John was sitting on the steps still complaining about his toothache.
Dad got out of the front seat of the car, where he had been laying upside down, so he could work under the dash to make the last connections in our rewiring job.
"John, I am sick to death with this damn complain," yelled Dad.
He went over to his work bench and sifted through the greasy tools and car parts that completely covered the home made table. He fumbled for a while and came up with an old pair of rusted grease covered vice-grips. Dad wiped them on his pants and looked at them. He wiped them again. He didn't bother looking at them a second time.
Dad yelled out to Mom, "get John a tall drink of that shine; he's going to need it." Then he walked over to John and told him to open his mouth. He said, "Which tooth hurts?"
Shaking a bit John pointed inside his mouth, his eyes held open wider than a man who had drank half as much moonshine as Uncle John could possibly hold them. Dad put the pliers inside Uncle John's mouth closed and then locked them shut. Then he rocked them back and forth. He pulled out the tooth and showed it to John. Shaking nearly as bad as John, his is voice trembling Dad yelled, "Get two really tall drinks, I need one to."



End


message 4: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
It is a great piece of writing, Preston, very enjoyable. But it might get more views if you posted it as a topic in the Reading Nook folder, instead of here in the comment section.


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