Academic journal article African American Review

Uncle Beasley's Courtship

Academic journal article African American Review

Uncle Beasley's Courtship

Article excerpt

We were sitting in Momma's den waiting for Thanksgiving dinner when Daddy, against Momma's express orders, offered Uncle Beasley a highball. The next thing I knew (only took two downs on the TV screen) Uncle Beasley had gotten up from the Lay-Z-Boy , opened the cabinet, and was making himself another one. He didn't do much mixing either, just poured some gin right over the ice and waddled back to his chair. He slapped down in the chair, slid forward a little, and turned toward me. His gray face was heavily wrinkled, and he pressed his chin into his neck and looked at me with his bulging eyes. "Boy," he said in a rough voice, "ain't you got nothing better'n me to look at." I nodded, and turned back to the TV. "When you been through what all I have," he said, and I looked around to see him rubbing his palm across his kinky, smoke-colored hair," you deserve a drink or two."

"What you been through?" I asked.

"You don' wanna know. You couldn't appreaciate it." He drank the gin like it was water and smacked his lips afterwards. The sweet odor floated over to me, mixed with the smell of the turkey and bread coming up from the kitchen. I laid on my stomach, leaned on my elbows, and looked up at him. "How can I appreciate it if you don' tell me what it is. If you tell me ..."

He fumbled inside his ratty cardigan and took out a package of Camels. He put the glass on the coffee table, and I thought I ought to get a coaster from the table drawer, but didn't move. I watched him slowly shake a cigarette from the package and with a slight tremble in his hand place it on the edge of his lips. He searched himself again, and then asked for matches.

"Momma don' like smoking in the house," I said.

He asked again for matches.

"Momma don' |low smoking."

"You know what is your trouble, boy?"

"Ain't got one."

"Ain't knowed you got one."

"What is it then?"

He got up with the glass and went to the cabinet again. "You' momma. You' a momma's boy. Momma's boy ain't a man. Momma's boy a punk, and a punk don't get no poontang.If you don't get no poontang then you can't appreciate a man like me."

I started to ask what poontang was when he look up from pouring and gave me a crafty, twinkling look that I knew he was waiting for me to ask.

"I get poontang when I want it," I said.

He was half grinning and waddled on back to the chair, stepping on the cuffs of his pants because they were falling off his hips. "That's how much you know. Poontang ain't no it. It's a she." He held the cigarette between his fingers like he was smoking it.

"What about her?"

As he swallowed the gin, his eyes looked like they were about to spin and it was just the sheer force of his grimace that held them still. "Ain't none of your business," he said. "Ain't nobody's business but my own."

Momma came into the den undoing her apron and folding it up. Then she stopped and sniffed the air. "Uncle Beasley. Lord, Uncle Beasley, who let you into the liquor cabinet?"

Uncle Beasley smushed his chin up against his neck and looked over at me. He acted like he didn't hear Momma and Momma looked to me for an answer.

"Daddy told him."

"Bill," Momma called over her shoulder and fussed over Uncle Beasley, trying to make him sit up straight. "Lord, Lord. Why didn't you wear that new sweater I gave you last Christmas, Uncle Beasley. Why do you let yourself go like this?" She was picking at his sweater and pushing his tie back into a knot. "Used to be you wouldn't be caught dead looking like this. Where's the Uncle I used to know and love? Where's your pride, Uncle Beasley? Your pride?"

Uncle Beasley pushed Momma's hand away, and sat up and started like he was straightening himself up. "I got my pride, girl, if I ain't got nothin' else."

Momma stood back and put her hand on her hips. "Well, you should look like it. …

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