David “Straight” and Adelaide

DELTA SHORTS:

 

David “Straight” and Adelaide

By WILLIAM PRENTISS

WARNING: See end of post!

Photo by The Delta Bohemian

Photo by The Delta Bohemian

David was always a good boy and now was a fine man. The self-effacing farmer/historian was an anomaly among modern Delta planters. He only took one drink before dinner, and that more out of habit; he didn’t hunt or fish, but allowed others to do so on his land. He didn’t give a damn about Ole Miss or Mississippi State football–all three social “no-nos” in the agribusiness world that was the socio-economic backbone of the Mississippi Delta.

David majored in history before earning an MBA at Vanderbilt. He loved history and was a prolific reader. His father, Big David, had raised him with a Scotsman’s work ethic and a sense of economy allowing for few frivolous purchases or pursuits. During high school, when all his classmates were hunting or going to football games on the weekends, David was working on the farm.

He played football, and was damn good at it, but it brought him little pleasure. He would have enjoyed hunting and attending college games during his teen years, but working six days a week and resting on Sunday was part of his routine now. David had always been grown, or so it appeared.

If David gave his word he would do something, then it would be done on time, correctly, and with no fanfare. He did not derive great pleasure from doing the right thing; it was just never a question as to whether he would do the right thing or not. He always did. David was golden; he just didn’t know it.

David’s nickname was Straight, because he was. He didn’t mind the name; he just never really thought about it, even when he heard it. David was a philosopher by nature, but he was not weighed down with the great societal conundrums of the day. Being “straight” didn’t require much from someone who “was” straight. He just did the right thing. Straight was straight, always.

He was named David by his mother, Adelaide, which meant “nobility” in German. She was Greenway Johnson’s older sister. Adelaide respected King David’s love for the Lord as evidenced in several Old Testament books. She believed given names had meaning.

She wanted a David. Her David was undoubtedly a man given to rectitude, who never failed due to passion or weakness. She loved this about her son, but she also wished he had a little more fire in his belly, even if it meant the occasional small sin.

King David made mistakes, often, but he always got straight with God in the end. She didn’t want her boy to experience some of the pain King David felt when he made poor decisions, but she was sorry that her son didn’t get to experience some of the highs that the King of Israel felt on his way to ignominy and success.

Her David had been a sad child, similar to his father, but always a good man, if not a great one. Adelaide came from a prominent Southern family. She had three sisters, all of them a handful in their own way. She was the calmest of the trio, and it could be because she drank, often. She knew of no other way of dealing with her “darkness”–her word for depression. Depression was still not acknowledged by most Southerners as being real. Most Southerners dealt with depression; it was just not referred to as such.

Folks among the Greendale blueblood set could be a “little depressed” or blue from time to time, but never would they admit to having depression. What with the weather, the old family home, a slower paced lifestyle than the city, and the loss of her only daughter in a car accident, it was no wonder she drank gin all day. It helped with her nerves.

Adelaide loved her remaining child with all her heart and she longed for him to be happy, not just successful. At times she wished he would do something stupid, just so he could “feel” more, but she knew thankfulness was the order of the day. She had one of the finest sons the South could produce, but still…

David thought little of other’s excesses, though he recognized them for what they were. His mom drank too much; his wife drank too much; his sister died while driving and drinking too much, and now he feared his son was on the same, descending path.

He never liked his Aunt Greenway very much. David didn’t dislike her, but he found her spending habits, reported infidelities, and elitism more than slightly disturbing. Plus, he felt like she contributed greatly to his mother’s “gin” problem.

It would be unthinkable for him to miss the Ides of March party on Sun Lake. He had a clubhouse next door to his Aunt’s, more like a shed compared to the palatial Johnson estate.

He would escort his mother to the party; his wife, Linda, was going to attend a mother/daughter sorority party at Ole Miss that weekend. She lived vicariously through her daughter, Katie. Linda was a good wife for him, and it didn’t hurt that she had a fulltime cook, driver, yardman, and maid. These little “assistances” as she called them were a small price for David to pay for her to be able to function without calling him on his two-way radio all day long.

Linda knew about cell phones, but few folks in the early-to-mid nineties had them in the Mississippi Delta. David didn’t want one; he had little anonymity left as it was, so he didn’t want to be reached when going to the restroom or reading a history book at the end of a turn row. But, he had the two-way farm radio, and Miss Linda could light that thing up when she was “not happy.” David kept her happy!

David was a wise and frugal farmer, though he paid his workers a little above the local average for farm labor. He treated them well, and expected them to perform accordingly. David demanded a lot, but he gave a lot and he would and could do any tasks that his laborers could do.

Few folks knew it, but David ensured that every farm worker–white, black, or Hispanic–could read and write. He would tutor them in his office after the workday ended.   If anyone working for him read a book and gave him a book report, then he would give them an extra $25 in their paycheck that week.

He had few takers, but when the cupboard got bare during the off-season, some of them would read two books a week. David reckoned it was money well spent: an educated, thinking worker made for a valuable worker. Everybody should be able to read and write, he thought.

David, aware that he was bright but deficient in “matters of the heart,” had been trying his hand at poetry lately. His grandmother loved writing and reading poetry aloud. He never understood poetry, but in his prolific readings he had come to appreciate that poetry mattered to people he respected. Adelaide even encouraged him to write poetry. She felt it would open up his treasure chest of feelings; feelings never felt, but latently expectant. He began:

I was not a happy child
Though nothing apparent was wrong
My mother always encouraged me
To express myself in song.

But, she is not a happy mom
She seems to be so sad.
Maybe she doesn’t sing enough
Maybe poetry would make her glad.

Poems and songs are similar
One complements the next
Poems should be sing-songy
And songs should rhyme like texts.

I wish my wife would stop
Reconsider all her delights.
Maybe with a little less
Our love could re-ignite

Water all around me
Alcohol galore
I’m a part of a culture
Always seeking more.

More of all the good things
More of things that shine
More of all the objects
Used to foster the sublime.

The sublime doesn’t prosper here,
Never enough to spread around
Only alcohol and food
Keep us from staying down.

Mom says God’s never finished
Perfecting and making us whole
If that is the case
Then God will bless my soul

I know I should do better
Loving children, mom and wife
But I’ll be damn; they’re needy
And about to ruin my life!

My family seems so shallow
So many lack what’s deep
Maybe my lack of passion
Is lulling them to sleep.

The Ides of March are coming,
Riding on a Sirocco wind
Blowing hard and dry.
Pitting friend on friend.

What might the Ides of March hold
For friend and foe alike
Something is a brewing
Something I doubt I’ll like.

I thought I saw him last night
Hiding by the barn
A shadow’s shadowy shadow
Full of venom and harm.

I’ve heard tales of the Greasy Man
Since I was just a kid
The Greasy Man is real
He’s just been off the grid.

Rumor has him back
And looking for some prey
The Ides of March might be
Not just another day.

Hard times are coming
How to prepare my kin
The Greasy Man is back
Much to my chagrin.

I feel his heavy presence,
Though I know him not at all
But plenty folks are stirring
Waiting on his call.

The whole Delta is jumping
Feeling things amiss
The Greasy Man is back
And looking for what is his!

David read back over his poetry and was not pleased. Too many things didn’t seem to fit, but maybe in the writing of it he would become more open. Maybe, just maybe, he would find the voice his mother said was hidden but waiting to be revealed. He knew something was being atmospherically aroused. The farmer always felt dark stirrings first, and something was stirring. David knew the Ides of March were more than just a party this year and the Greasy Man was more than an erstwhile apparition. People were gonna die and the Delta was going to change.

WE HIGHLY ENCOURAGE COMMENTS!!

This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to people or places, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

WARNING: This story, though ultimately shrouded in redemption, does portray some characters in their basest state, including coarse language, non-gratuitous graphic sexuality, and internal dialogue and behaviors, which include obvious incidents of racism, sexism, and behaviors unbecoming those seen in a moral and polite society.

Please read no malicious intent into the author’s purpose for developing these flawed characters other than to present to the reader believable Delta characters–always fodder for a tale told by an idiot, signifying very little, other than just a Delta tale worth telling.

William Prentiss, with the assistance of his able and noble bride of mythical proportions, a fine meta-muse named Madge Marley Howell, has begun thinking about the “Great Southern Novel.” He will be describing characters rooted deeply in the Delta psyche.

He knows no more about them than does the reader. They reveal themselves line-by-line and serif-by-serif. William is likely more expectant than the reader to find out how his developing characters will behave.

At what point will plot be made manifest? It depends. In describing the characters and an incident or two from their past and present, Mr. Prentiss believes the story line will become clearer as the morning sun burns away the dross like dew on Saint Augustine.

All characters are fictional, but how could a Delta writer not use real-life folks and genuine incidents as the skeletons awaiting the meat and sinew of prose and verse? For a better understanding of this character, read Carlene, Father Percy and Milky Steve, Grinnel, Genevieve, Eddie, and Blue – all under DELTA SHORTS.


Friends of the Delta Bohemian®

  • Quapaw Canoe Company - Schedule your adventure on the Mississippi River with the Mighty Quapaws in Clarksdale or Helena
  • Advertise Here

Comments

  1. Marvelous!!!

  2. This is magnificent writing!

  3. No doubt Madge! William has “IT”, whatever “IT” is. The boy can flat out write. Wish I had half his talent for writting.

  4. Cragin Boyle says:

    Loved it!

  5. Sandy Gammon says:

    Will be waiting with baited breath (whatever that means) for that novel!

  6. You just hit a home run William! I really liked it! I can really identify with this character. It spoke to me.

  7. I couldn’t help but thinking that somebody gonna shoot you down there. Literature is taken kinda serious.

    Keep em coming. Truth telling is a dying art.

  8. This is amazing. I love it. I can identify this character. Keep on posting.

  9. Alex Lundy says:

    “The Greasy Man!” Hell yeah!

Speak Your Mind

*