Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Tuesday, October 20, 1942, around 11:30 a.m., I sat in Mrs. Sharp’s first-grade class at East Lake Grammar School in Atlanta, Georgia, with my head buried in my arms splayed akimbo on the varnished children’s table in front of me. In my dark brown, corduroy knickers squished between the oak chair and my posterior, there resided a substantial accumulation of reeking poop.

I was two weeks into my sixth year of life on this earth. Across from me sat Beverly Ann Taylor, with whom I was madly in love. She sat there with her blue eyes, light-brown hair cut into a cute page-boy, sniffing the air. Bunky Allen sat next to me on my left. Suddenly Beverly Ann Taylor’s hand shot up into the air. “Miz Sha-arp? Miz Sha-arp?” intoning a musical Southern drawl.

“Yes, honey?”

“Miz Sharp, sump’n smells awful ‘roun here.” I was bowliskied!

Beverly Ann Taylor, the love of my life, had, without shame, shucked me f’sho! Miz Sharp, dressed in her flower-print teacher’s coat, came ambling over to our table – on my side – sniffing! She stopped right behind me and sniffed. I didn’t move a muscle, head buried in my arms on the table. She leaned over. I imagined her coiffed, brown-red hair and spectacles perched on her nose, looking at me, and then she sniffed again. Right there, hanging over my reeking rear-end, she sniffed.

“David?” Pause. I didn’t stir. I ain’t sayin’ nuthin.

“David, honey pot? Is that you?” Well, that’s it. The jig is up. I’m busted. No way I’m gonna get outta this.

“Yes’ m.” I heard Miz Sharp muffle a snigger.

“Well, honey pot," sez she, "What did you do?”

The tears came. “I went to the bathroom in my britches,” I wailed. Bunky started to snigger and held his nose. I almos’ pol’ axed ‘im right there in front of ev'r-body.

“Well, sweetie,” she said in a sweet-holding-back-her-side-splitting-laughter kind of voice, “what do ya’ll wawn't t’ do?”

I wiped the snot, which was considerable by this time, onto my sleeve and tried to speak, “I-I don’t know whut t’ do, ma’am.”

“Do you want to go to the bathroom down the hall?”

“No’ma’am!” said I with finality.

“Well, why not, David? You have to clean yourself up.”

“The big boys are in the bathroom. They’ll laugh and beat me up.”

Miz Sharp considered.

“Hmmm. Well, honey pot, you wawn't me to send you home?” Amazingly smart woman. How did she know that very thing was a'buzzin' in my noggin?

“Yes’m.” I whimpered.

“Kin’ I go wid’ im?” from Bunky. I looked at Bunky, grinning from ear to ear. Bunky had the face of a rodent. I swear -- brown, beady eyes close-set, a button of a nose with a tiny brown mole on it, and lips; look lak’ he been suckin’ on a crabapple all day long, at which, with that chasm between his two front teeth, he was no doubt the bestest in the whol’ wide worl.’

“You want Bunky to walk home with you?”

Nodding my head which was back buried in my arms on the varnished first-grade table, “Yes’m.”

“I ‘spose it might oughta' be aw-right,” said she. And with that, Bunk scraped back his chair on the asphalt-tile floor, and Miz Sharp pulled mine back as I stood up, wet condensation on the little wooden chair; damp, dark spot on the bottom of my brown corduroy knickers.

* * *

The walk home was four-blocks long. I turned to Bunky who was a lot shorter than me and said, “I think the dookey is a-slidin’ outta my drawers.”

“Oh no!” cried Bunky. “Is it dropped all the way down?”

“No, not yet.” I realized, of course, that since the knickers ended mid-calf with elastic holding them tight against my leg, that it just might slide all the way down, git stuck at the bottom -- my leg a'sloggin' it back and forth as I walked. I was so mad and embarrassed, I could spit green blood. We reached the gravel road that wound into the cemetery. Three mo’ blocks to go.

Bunky asked again, “Is it dropped yet?”

“It’s a slidin,’ Bunky, it's a slidin,' an' it feels bodacious slimy.”

“It stinks bodacious awful, too,” laughed Bunky. I balled up my fist and smacked him on the arm.

“Hey, that hurts,” he yelled.

“I’m gonna whup yo' ass, you laugh agin!” I threatened. We came to the familiar corner of Boulevard Drive and Fourth Avenue, where the patrol-boy usually stood. There was no patrol-boy because school wasn’t out yet. Later, when I got to fifth grade, me and Billy Rocker became patrol-boys at that very corner. By then, I had forgotten this dreadful day.

“Is it dropped yet?” asked Bunky again.

“Yeah, it’s sho ‘nuff dropped. It’s slid down on my leg now.”

“Where is it”?

“Right there.” I pointed to the soft bulge in the lower reaches of my knickers.

Two mo’ blocks of painful mis’ry. Half-way up what seem’ lak’ a hundred-mile trip on Boulevard Drive, between Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue, there was that dawg. He warn’t a big dawg. Jes’ a little ‘ol dawg. I remember when I tried to pick him up and got bit right on my cheek. They put the po’ dawg in sumpthin’ called “quarantine,” tel’ they figgered out if it had rabies. He was a yappy little dawg. As we passed his yard, I could see’im laying up on th’ front step. He jes’ eye-ballin' me. He ain't come out yappin’ his fool head off lak’ he always does. Sometimes I think dawgs jes’ know when to leave a body alone.

In what seem’ lak’ several years, we drag’ ourselves through the las’ block and finally arrive at my house at 32, 3rd Avenue. We walked past the magnolia, crabapple and sweet-gum trees in the front yard kicking at the cockle-burs and the fallen magnolia leaves. Past the big front porch with the swinging settee on it, and on up the steps of the smaller porch to the front door on my side of the house.

Lizzie Mae met us at the door. The school had already called her. She swung the screen door open and said, “You come on in here Mr. Davitt, (David is my middle name. Folks call' me that when I was a chile.) honey-chile, an’ les git you cleaned up.”

“Kin’ I come in, too?” asked Bunky.

“You git on home now, boy. I got enough to scratch here wid’out botherin’ wid’ you.”

Bunky Allen could not possibly have known whut was a goin’ on in my head. I could not have felt more embarrassed or ashamed. I reeked more of humiliation than anything else. Pooped in my pants, right there in front of Beverly Ann Taylor an’ all. Walk’ all the way home with that stuff a slidin’ down my leg. When I saw that sweet black face of Lizzie Mae, the tears erupted again.

Bunk knew better’n t’cross Lizzie Mae, so he back’ away and disappeared. Lizzie Mae took me into the house, sat down on a chair and began to unbuckle the military-web-belt holdin’ up my knickers. When they fell to the floor, there was a brown streak down the inside of my left leg. “Whooo Boy! You is a sho’ nuff mess!” said she. I just bawled.

Then something wonderful happened! Something that took away all the pain and humiliation and made me stop crying in an instant. Lizzie Mae took my six-year-old tear-streaked face in her brown hands, with my poop-stinkin’ to high heaven, and said to me, “You be proud, boy. You ain’t done nuthin’ wrong, jus’ a little accident, thas’ all. You be proud an’ you’ll grow into a real man.”

I don’t know if I ever made it into what Lizzie Mae or anyone else, might call a real man, but she made me feel like one, from that day until this. I’m grown up now. Well, maybe not. In any case, I often still feel that lump of smelly stuff a-slidin’ down my leg. I look at the corduroy knickers of my life and I don’t see much difference between what I see, and that smelly lump. But when these humiliating and self-abusing thoughts assault my brain, I try to see Lizzie Mae’s beautiful black face. And when I do, I think I catch a tiny glimpse of
. . . the Face of God.

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