Monday, July 4, 1994

Correspondence: December 29, 1993

December 29, 1993
Carthage, TN

My situation has changed somewhat. I’m in Carthage for awhile taking care of the old folks. My grandmother suffered a stroke on December 12, which was, ironically, just before my father’s vacation, and he had planned to come up here anyway.

My father’s sister has been up here looking after the grandparents since August, so she was on hand to call 911 and get Grandma to the hospital. Grandpa checked into the hospital on the same day so my aunt could keep an eye on both of them.

After a week or so, Grandma was moved to a rehab center in a nearby town. She had several setbacks (which I should save for a later story) and is now in a hospital in Lebanon, while Grandpa is still in the hospital in Carthage. My father, my aunt and I have labored to provide each with round-the-clock care. (That’s three people for four shifts in two cities.)

I was able to get down to Atlanta on Tuesday and planned to return today (Thursday), but my cousin drowned and my aunt had to get back to Georgia and I had to drive all night Wednesday in order to sit here in the hospital all day today.

So that’s the deal. I bought a laptop [486 w/200 meg HD and internal modem] while I was in Atlanta, so I have a way to compute, but I haven’t worked out a reliable way to get on the Internet. I’m waiting for Grandpa’s Valium to hit, and then I will see if I can utilize the phone jack here in the hospital room.

I don’t know if I will be able to check my e-mail on any regular basis. If you don’t hear from me for a while, rest assured that I will document the events of this bittersweet comedy as they unfold, and I will try to get them onto the net as often as possible.

January 17, 1994

Carthage, TN

We are still dealing with the aftermath of Grandma’s demise. Grandpa has improved some since he came home from the hospital — his memory seems to work better here. I don’t remember when I last spoke to you, but Grandpa and I didn’t go to the funeral. The weather was bad, so we kept him in the hospital. We didn’t know if he would be able to handle it, anyway. Pop took him to the funeral home the day before the funeral, and I heard that he took it pretty hard.

I sat with him on the day of the funeral. (I never saw Grandma after she died. I learned my lesson with Bob and Reba.) He was confused all that morning. He’d say, “When’s the funeral?”

“11:00!” I’d say. Mind you, I had to yell loud enough for him to hear.

“Who are they burying?”
“Your Grandma?”
“My wife?”
“Well, who’d they bury yesterday?”
“Nobody! You went to see her at the funeral home yesterday!”
“When’s the funeral?”
“I can’t go.”
“No, the weather’s too bad! We’re going to stay here!”
“Who died?”

And so on, all morning long.

Now he tells his story to everyone (usually two or three times in rapid succession), and he adjusts the facts to suit him.

“I only saw her twice after she got sick.” (He actually saw her quite a few times in the hospital, but only for short periods of time because she couldn’t talk well, and he got choked up.) “I saw her once in Lebanon” (I don’t know where he got that), “and I went to see her when she was a corpse. I didn’t even get to go to the fun’ral!”

Grandpa and BK
March, 1994


July 4, 1994

Carthage, TN

... I am still in Carthage where it is deucedly inconvenient and expensive to get on the Internet. Not only is everything a long distance call from here, but the grand-parental home has a rotary dial phone with one of those old kind of lines that goes right into the wall where wires are twisted around little screws, or some damn thing. There is no jack to plug the computer into even if we had touchtone service. Stone knives and bearskins! What I have been doing is going to Atlanta every month or so and downloading a month’s worth of mail at a time. It takes me a while to plow through all of it. ...

It has been unbearably hot so far this summer. My experience of this exquisite heat has been enhanced by living with an 86 year old man. (“Turn that damn air off — I’m freezing!”) Just about everyone has set their tobacco, and the earliest batches are just about to blossom. Many peoples’ corn is beginning to show tassels. I don’t see how these people can plow in this heat. I reel on the edge of consciousness just from shutting the bathroom off from the air conditioning in the rest of the house long enough to make use of its services. As hot and as humid as it gets in there, using the bathroom becomes almost like a Native American vision-quest without the peyote. A bowel movement becomes a religious experience. (I just touched the face of God! Somebody bring me some paper!)

I have been exploring different ways to combat boredom. This whole county is like a big sensory deprivation tank; I have to provide my own stimuli. I joined a science book club, and have read several intriguing books about quantum physics and hyperspace, etc. And, in the time-honored tradition of prisoners everywhere, I am learning to play the harmonica.

Wednesday, June 29, 1994

Polyester Pearl

It wasn’t many years ago in my travels ’round the worl’
That I wandered into Tennessee and met Polyester Pearl.
I was shoppin’ in a Wal-Mart near the Coke and tater chips
When I espied that wonder cloth stretched across those mighty hips.
Suddenly, my mouth went dry, my pulse was doin’ ninety,
As, sneaky-like, my eyes caressed her polyester hiney.
My breath, it came in little pants as my gaze danced ’cross her thighs;
I marveled at her lips and chins, and then I saw those eyes.
Those eyes! Whose haunting beauty my heart with lust did fill;
How one it darted to and fro and the other one stood still.

Oh, they called her Polly Esther for her mama’s fav’rite aunts,
But now when people call her name they mean her stretchy pants.
She’s five feet tall and three feet wide; she is a hunk of girl.
Wouldn’t have it any other way, she’s Polly Esther Pearl.

She was a thing of beauty, a girl of poise and grace,
With that spindly cigarette of hers in a Moon Pie-looking face.
I knew beyond a doubt that, as I stood there like a fool,
I must become acquainted with this Appalachian jewel.
With that end in mind, I took aim and launched my shopping cart
At the comely derriere of the girl who stole my heart.
“Ah-ooo!” she cried and spun around a howlin’ and a-roarin’.
“Mister, I think your buggy’s wheel just rolled across my corn!”
Her chalky arms were flailing like the wings upon a dove!
Her voice was so melodious; my meadowlark of love!

Oh, they call her Polly Esther for the clothesline in her yard
And she earned the name of Pearl because she’s round and hard.
With eyes as black as asphalt and blond peroxide curl,
An angel walking on the Earth: that was Polly Esther Pearl.

Then I watched in delight as this vision from my dreams
Bent down to nurse her tender toe, pants straining at the seams.
“Oh!” I said, “I’m sorry!” all innocent and good;
I made my eyes real Bambi-wide — looked as earnest as I could.
Beads of sweat clung to her mustache crownin’ that lovely mouth beneath.
Then she wrapped a sultry smile around her missing teeth.
She said, “Oh, I’ll be all right, now don’t you worry none.
But I’d be obliged if you would rub it,” and I knew her heart I’d won.
I gently took her dainty foot, I knew nothing could go wrong:
I cast aside her Dr. Scholl’s and saw she wore her toenails long.

Oh, they called her Polly Esther, how her looks they could beguile.
If I squinched my eyes up, I could see us two walking down the aisle.
She’d be walkin’ slow and solemn-like, eyes demurely lookin’ down
Above those big ol’ blushin’ bride-cheeks in her polyester wedding gown.

We walked out to her pickup truck, a one with rusted doors,
A tailgate held with baling wire, and a muffler, one that roars.
We drove on out to her place, a yard with lots of dirt and rocks,
And two or three old Chevys a-settin’ up on blocks.
“I bet you must be wonderin’ how I can pay my rent.”
She said, “I’m splittin’ my expenses with the government.”
My heart ’uz wallerin’ with joy when she told me, “Come inside.”
And we went into that house which, like my Pearl, was double wide.
Then we sat down close together, I was all eat up with lust.
And I knew beyond a doubt that I must have Pearl or bust.

Oh, they call her Polly Esther ’cause that’s what she dresses in.
And they say the Pearl part comes from her white, translucent skin.
She shucks boiled peanuts with the deftness of a squirrel,
And she eats them by the bushel, that’s Polly Esther Pearl.

I reached out so that I could touch her lovely, satin skin;
And, gently, I began to stroke the stubble on her chin.
“Pearl,” I said, “you look right nice. I love you, every ounce.
You make me feel all wiggly-like inside where it counts.”
“I’ll bet you say that to all the girls,” she said, kind of playing coy.
But she shed that skin of polyester; I could scarce hold back my joy!
As she peeled that polyester, that elastic and those straps
Left big red lines of latitude between her fleshy flaps.
Then a madman with a shotgun threw back the door and in he came.
He said, “I’m this lady’s husband; I don’t believe I caught your name.”

Oh, my dear sweet Polly Esther, I didn’t know you were a wife!
Or that if I risked my heart on you I’d also risk my life!
How I wished you were a widow and that gun back on the rack,
But I looked at you and realized you’d look like a cannonball in black.

Her husband stood before us, his eyes were fierce and feral.
He aimed his shotgun, there I was a-lookin’ down the barrel.
What claim had he to my girl? I won her, she was mine!
I thought, I’d sooner die than cast my Pearl before this swine!
I said, “I ain’t afraid to die, if you’ve a mind to shoot, go on!
’Cause if you should shoot me dead right now, I’ll know I’ve gnawed life to the bone.”
He slowly pulled the trigger, then he pulled again and cussed it.
Said, “The dad-blame thing!” and tried again, “The firing pin is rusted!”
Now, if I live a hundred years I won’t know if that hammer ever fell.
For I politely tipped my hat and turned, and then I ran like Hell!

Oh, they called her Polly Esther; mister, mark the name.
Her husband’s trigger happy, you’d best hunt diff’rent game.
But, if you don’t believe me and you must give her a whirl,
Just you go on down to Wal-Mart and ask for Polly Esther Pearl.

* * * * * *
Now, as a special reward for reading to the end of the poem,
I present the original introduction which was sent to a friend in New York.
* * * * * *

June 29,1994
Carthage, TN

I’m sending you my poem because I said I would,
So I wrote this introduction as quickly as I could.
It’s my All-But-Final-Version, and, since you may find that distressing,
Let me put your mind at ease; all that’s left is “ballad dressing.”
Now, it seems, after all these nights of rhyming ’til I drop,
I’ve finished up my poem, and I find I cannot stop.
You’d think that, after all these lines, I’d be running out of juice.
But, instead, everything I say sounds like a poor man’s Dr. Seuss.
I’ve always heard them say, “the pen is mightier than the sword,”
And when I find a thing that works, it seems I go overboard.
Well, then, if my little pen is as mighty as it seems,
I could take on old D’Artagnan ’cause I’ve written reams and reams.

I know you must be eager to read my little verse,
But you surely won’t begrudge me a few observations first.
First of all, I must point out these are not angry words.
There’s not just one Polyester Pearl, in fact there are whole herds.
When I go into town I see, as the girls bare more in June,
That young ladies here in Tennessee don’t just blossom — they balloon!
You can tell that spring has flown and the summer has come back;
The fat chicks shed their skins at Wal-Mart and left ’em hangin’ on the rack.
(How can those legs be so white when their necks are oh, so red?
And I’ve never seen butts quite that big outside of quadrupeds!)
Finally, in closing, (you’re far away, what can I lose?)
Here’s the Polyester verse I found too gross to use:

I saw she’d bought Preparation H, and I hoped that she was willing,
’Cause I have a taste for pastry — I love a tart with creamy filling.
(I knew right then that this girl was quite a catch,
For I, too, know frustration of an itch you cannot scratch.)