Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ol' Bama

This Being The Further Adventures of
Tom Sawyer
Chapter XXXVI 
Aunt Polly was fit to be tied. Here it was, the end of the book, and the board fence surrounding her home, thirty yards long and nine feet high, was in dire need of another whitewashing. It was almost as if her nephew, Tom Sawyer, didn't whitewash the fence at all, but a dozen or so of his worthless friends.
     "I don't care how rich you are, young man," she had told Tom, of course referring to Injun Joe's treasure. "I don't want to see hide nor hair of you until you're done whitewashing the fence. Now go do a good job this time."
     "Yes'm," Tom Sawyer answered his aunt.
     "And remember, a lazy man does the same job twice."
     "A stitch in time saves nine, Tom. A stitch in time saves nine."
     Yeah, Tom thought to himself, but what's gonna save me from an old bag of wind who doesn't know when to close her pie-hole? 
     And so, armed with a bucket of whitewash and a long handled brush, he surveyed the fence that stood before him. It looked to him what he imagined the Great Wall of China must look like, and he figured that it would probably take the entire two days of the weekend to complete the task. The thought weighed down on Tom's spirit, for he had been hoping to sneak off and catch pretty Becky Thatcher somewhere where her father, the Judge, wasn't, and steal a kiss.
     Tom couldn't understand how his heart could ache with both pleasure and with pain at the thought of Becky Thatcher. She had even promised to bake him an apple pie today, as a reward for his saving her life, and Tom wondered if her kisses would be as sweet.
      In the distance he could hear Ol' Bama sauntering his way, singing the old spiritual "I'm So In Love With You," by the town Reverend, Al Green. When, all of a sudden, Tom got himself a virtual inspiration of an idea. What he would do when Ol' Bama arrived was to pretend to be having so much fun whitewashing the fence that the dumb old neighborhood watch organizer would beg him to the point of tears to whitewash the fence for him. Heck, it already worked once. Then Tom could sit himself down in some shaded part of the yard and just enjoy his idleness. And perhaps even sneak off to "accidentally" bump into Becky Thatcher, whom he already considered to be his girlfriend, even though he had yet to tell her about it.
     Ol' Bama turned the corner, and saw Tom hard at work whitewashing the fence. He stopped, his eyes grew wide, and he stared openly at the sight. Tom Sawyer do work? It was hard to even imagine, but there he was.
     "My! Don't that beat all," Ol' Bama said in astonishment.
     "What? Oh, hi," Tom Sawyer pretended to be surprised. "I was so busy playing that I didn't see you come along."
     "Now, Tom, what you're doing isn't playing, it's work. I know, because I've been careful to avoid it all my life."
     Tom was bent over, enthusiastically pretending to be enjoying himself. Ol' Bama came closer, and with a move quicker than lightning, snatched poor ol' Tom's wallet, which was sticking out of his back pocket a mite.
     "Hey!" Tom yelped as he saw Ol' Bama rifling through his personals.
     "Now, don't you mind me none," Ol' Bama said, as he emptied the wallet of any cash it contained. "You're a rich man now, Tom. You should be happy to share your good fortune with others."
     Tom wasn't so sure just how happy he felt.
     "Why," Ol' Bama said, spying a plate of food covered with a small dishrag, "is that your lunch? Did your Aunt Polly make you that? Why, your Aunt Polly's just about the best cook in the county. The only thing better'n your aunt Polly's cooking would be one of Becky Thatcher's pies, yessiree." Ol' Bama uncovered Tom's lunch. "My, oh my. That sure does look good. Why, you wouldn't mind none if I helped myself to your lunch, would you Tom?"
     Before Tom could answer, Ol' Bama sat himself down, and began to eat enthusiastically.
     "Of course, you wouldn't," Ol' Bama said between mouthfuls. "Why, not with you having so much, and so many having so little. You should be happy to share your bounty with others."
     Again, Tom wasn't so sure. And neither was the rumbling in his belly.
     Aunt Polly came out with another plate of food right then.
     "Why, hello Mr. Bama," she told him. "Well, ain't it nice that Tom was kind enough to share his lunch with you. Here, Tom. I brought you out another plate since you were so generous, and some apple pie for the two of you."
     Ol' Bama took the plates from her.
     "Thank you kindly, Miss Polly," he said, and set the plates down. Aunt Polly turned and began walking back to the house. Before she was even through the door, Ol' Bama was done eating the 2nd plate of food. Tom could only look on in astonishment at the speed with which Ol' Bama could shovel down someone else's food. Done, Ol' Bama picked up the first piece of apple pie.
     Tom Sawyer's old friend, Huckleberry Finn was turning the corner to Tom's house, just as Ol' Bama was finishing up the pie, and licking the plate clean for good measure.
     "Why, hi, Huck," Ol' Bama greeted him with enthusiasm. "You're just in time for dessert."
     "I am?" Huck said, not believing his good fortune.
     "Oh no you ain't," Tom said, as Ol' Bama handed Huck the apple pie.
     "Now, Tom," Ol' Bama chastised. "You don't want to begrudge your best friend a piece of your Aunt Polly's apple pie, now, do you? Not when you have so much, and poor Huck here has so little. He's so poor he can't even afford to change his mind."
     Tom Sawyer felt a bit ashamed of himself, and kept quiet.
     One by one Tom's friends showed up to make fun him, and stayed for all the free stuff Ol' Bama was handing out. There was "Skinny" Mulligan, "Fats" Domino, "One-Eyed" Willie, "Crackhead" Bob, and the Petey brothers: "Little" Petey, "Big" Petey, "Regular" Petey, "Irregular" Petey, "Ortho" Petey, and the one who always said everything twice, "Re" Petey. They weren't really brothers, they just happened to all have been named Petey. And one by one Ol' Bama gave them all of Tom's belongings. Tom could only look on googly-eyed.
     "Thanks, Ol' Bama," "Re" Petey said, and all the others agreed. "You're the best. The best!"
     By the end of the day, Ol' Bama had given away twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, the glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar--but no dog--the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange peel, and a dilapidated old window-sash.
     Tom sulked, but Ol' Bama told him, "Don't you be sulking now, Tom. You should be happy to have your fair share taken from you, so that it can be given to the less fortunate. It's the American way, Tom. The American way."
     Tom wasn't so sure, but since he never paid attention in school, he couldn't be sure if it was or it wasn't. Once all of his belongings were given away, he asked Ol' Bama: "Now will you help me whitewash the fence?"
     "Sorry, Tom," Ol' Bama said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, "but I'm on my way to eat my fair share of Becky Thatcher's pie."
American Chimpanzee

*a tip of the hat to the original Petey brother, Dom Irrera

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