It's all a matter of perspective.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Jimmie Lee Herringbone woke up with the distinct knowledge that his alarm clock had been going off for a long time. He woke up, but he did not open his eyes. If he were to open his eyes then he would see the clock on the nightstand at eye level and he was not ready to know how late he was for work just yet. He was already disappointed in himself. He knew that the alarm had been going off for a while; indeed he suspected that he might have hit the snooze button a time or two. There was enough light making it through his eyelids that it had to be well into the morning. Perhaps it would be best to slip into this a little easier, one clue at a time. With that, Jimmie Lee decided to roll over and open his eyes facing the other direction, to let them get used to the light without having to start the inevitable morning rush.

Suddenly Jimmie Lee realized that the alarm clock was still offering the shrill, rhythmic tri-tone, and he had most definitely been asleep since he rolled over to face away from it. He blinked his eyes open into the sunlit and quickly warming room to see that the ice was not completely melted in the lead crystal tumbler he had brought back to bed with him last night. This was a very bad sign - he had stayed up way too late and had not gotten much sleep. Or was it a good sign? Perhaps he would still be able to make it to work.

I am supposed to be there by 7:30, but no one will notice if I get there by 7:40 or so. I have to have a shower, because I smell like booze-sweat. That will take five minutes. I will have to have something on my stomach to settle it – a hunk of that cornbread with some butter and a cup of milk will do. I can eat that in the truck. Ten minutes to drive to work . . . if it is no later than about 7:15, then I can make it.

With that he rose, turned, and open-hand-slapped the alarm clock silent. It was 7:50.

Jimmie Lee has a hard time going to sleep when Betsy and the boy are out of town. Scratch that, he has a hard time making himself go to bed. Every Tuesday Betsy takes the Boy to see her momma down in Subtle County, about an hour away. They stay that night and are back home by the time Jimmie Lee gets home from work on Wednesday. Tuesday nights might not seem like a good night for a working man to stay up late and have a little too much to drink, but Tuesday nights are the only night each week that Jimmie is without a family, without responsibility.

If he had his druthers, Jimmie Lee would prefer that Betsy and the Boy stay around home every night. He likes it best when they all stay home and he and Betsy collaborate on dinner while the Boy watches his shows on TV. On those nights they all sit around the table and join hands and pray. They smile and wink at each other while they eat their meals. Jimmie Lee knows how to put a good scald on some meat over a fire, and Betsy is coming along in the kitchen. The dinner is always quite fit to eat.

Afterwards one of them will bathe the Boy and put him down. The other one will clean the kitchen. They finish the night off with him in his chair, her on the couch, trading off the remote control. She picks reruns of a sitcom or some decorating show. He goes with cable news or baseball. As far a Jimmie Lee is concerned, that is the way the rich folks live.

But Betsy likes to take the boy to see his granny, and Jimmie understands that. He knows that she needs the help one day a week. He works himself silly down at the sawmill, but he would not trade for her job at home with the boy (and the dishes and the laundry) for anything. So he takes his Tuesday nights for what they are and tries to play that up. A night alone. A night with no family, no real responsibilities. A night to act like he is young and single, living the highlife.

Yesterday he left work and went straight to the grocery store where he bought a twelve pack of cheap beer and a hunk of salt pork. The Lakeview Grocery by his house rents videos too, so he swung through the Action aisle (Betsy hates guy movies and would leave the room if he put one on while she was around, so he saves them for Tuesdays) and picked up the latest shoot ‘em up.

Back home, he changed into some shorts and a t-shirt and went out to the garden. He picked a basket full of mustard greens and collards while he slammed back the first two beers. Then he went in to the kitchen and stirred up a pone of cornbread, threw it in the oven, and cooked up the greens with the salt pork. After dinner was ready, he put on the movie and ate in front of the TV.

At some point he got tired of the beer and dug a bottle of green label Evan Williams out from under the sink. The last thing he can remember is sitting in under the covers in his bed, totally nude and half asleep, with the lights off, a glass rattling in his hand and Fox News way too loud on the bedroom TV. He said out loud, “What possible reason could there possibly be for me to still need to be awake, possibly?” He put the glass on the nightstand, smacked the remote control, and closed his eyes.

Jimmie Lee figures this would be the highlife for a single workingman

No comments: