Niches, from Barbara King

I don’t even know how to say this word.  Is it nitches or neeches?  I know it means a small space used to cram or display something.  My sense of this word is that it implies a snug, sometimes hidden, space where just one more thing can be inserted, or fit in.  I guess that’s the cramming part of the word, isn’t it?  There is quite a bit of difference between cramming and displaying, it seems to me.

          Saints and icons of religious figures in general fit into niches in the wall, spaces designed for just such a purpose.  Those niches are for display.  Got it?

          Besides a literal niche, there are figurative niches, some to fit into, some to fill.  We find them and make them.  Metaphorically. 

          People venturing out into the world to seek their fortune are sometimes advised to find their own niche.  I like that idea.  Instead of setting off, willy nilly, in search of easy money and seductive fame, you simply look for a small piece of turf to call your own, in the world’s kaleidoscope of colorful possibilities, its cacophony of vibrant life being lived, its rapidly unfurling tapestry of pattern and

 . . . but wait.  Perhaps the niche you seek is neither colorful nor romantic, suppose your desired niche is a one-car-length break in the traffic as you are waiting to merge, to get into the flow of things, to join the break-neck, six-lane race to – somewhere. 

          This is too industrial an image for me to pursue.  Rather, I prefer to think of a hermit crab, recently grown so that his shell is constrictive and he must abandon it, searching blindly, in all of his nakedness, for a new shell, a larger shell to inhabit.  This is the way of hermit crabs.  They come together in colonies so that they may trade up when the need arises, never minding that when they leave their old shell to search out a new one, a larger niche, they are, for those brief moments between shells, naked and vulnerable, in competition with other seeking crabs for the most desirable shell, prey to any predator who may be flying or casting overhead.  Their world, as we watch from the side of the tidal pool or plain, is sand and little gullies and shallow basins of water.  They do not see the larger world with its other creatures, its myriad possibilities, and like us, they scrabble for survival, frantic to find a safe niche in which to rest, and grow, and search again, if they are fortunate enough to do so.

          This niche hunting is serious business.  You have to have some sense of self, some idea as to your relative size and how much of a risk you are willing to take, meandering about, looking for a new home, for a niche that fits you.

          Before you go tearing off to cram yourself into the first niche you find, it seems to me that you should sit quietly and contemplate what race you want to enter, what destination you want to find, and most of all, what talents and proclivities you possess that will make your journey to your own space a good one, with a chance of success.  For instance, assuming you are not a hermit crab, are you a musician who would like to make music for a living?  Your chances are slim to slimmer of attaining that goal, I understand from career counselors.  Even symphony tuba players at the top of their game must have a day job to sustain their music habit.  But just because someone has told you that your journey, the race you want to enter, is a difficult one, that is no reason to quit before you’ve even begun.  Be advised, however, you may have chosen to find a niche that is already filled, or one that is too high in the niche pile for you to reach.  Many are daunted at this point, and give up their search for their own niche.  But what if you don’t merely want to make music, but rather, you must make music?

          Some people don’t get to choose their race; some inner sense of who they are, their own personal gyroscope, defines their choices.  They were born to make music and that is the only form of self expression they can contemplate.  While I can admire the single-minded dimension of their choice, I do not resonate to their particular tuning fork.  I am more comfortable with compromise; if you cannot make enough money playing your violin in the subway, your donation basket at your feet, then you must get a job, perhaps find a career, and then play your music for friends, for your own enjoyment, but no one is suggesting you don’t make music.  You simply make music when you can.  What I am admitting here is that not every person gets to make a living at what he does best, but that doesn’t mean he has to give up his passion: it must simply become an avocation rather than a vocation.  Most of us must learn to compromise.  Experience and necessity have taught us.

          In this same vein, career counselors tell aspiring candidates in the niche race to find a career, a vocation, and save their non-productive inclinations for a hobby niche.  They tell them what they want to do is untried, unknown, unadvisable.  Perhaps they tell aspirants that the road they have chosen is too difficult, that very few succeed.  These counselors, parents, friends, are all trying to be kind.  They know, probably from reading statistics on the subject, that few high school songstresses become Broadway stars, only a few gridiron heroes go on to play for the NFL.  They are trying to do the advisees a favor, to let them in on one’s of life’s truisms, that many are called, few are chosen.  Their version of reality also plants doubts and encourages defeatism, what we call giving up on your dreams before you’ve even begun.  How fortunate we are that Leonardo de Vinci did not listen to his career counselor, that Abraham Lincoln did not go into haberdashery at his first political defeat. 

          It seems to me if you can crawl, you should go for the most desirable vacant shell. 

          We tell people to find a niche, to fill a niche, but there is another phrase that signifies here.  How about the people who go out and make a niche for themselves?  This forceful mental image implies that there is little room in the scheme of things for one more space to be created, that all of the known niches are filled and this person must elbow and shove and somehow make room for himself in life’s patchwork quilt, start a new niche.  Invent a job no one has ever heard of.  See a need and fill it.  Listen to your inner voice of possibilities.  Don’t listen to the career counselors too avidly.

          There are people who do not live in colonies, who do not drive on the freeway of life, who do not care to find a niche that someone else has already shaped and decorated and defined.  These people literally make a space where there was none.  They follow some inner compass, taking clues from around them and reassembling them in a unique way.  About them we sometimes say, after they’ve done the hard work, paid their dues, become successful, “why didn’t I think of that?”

          And they are, those who invent and create and march to their own drummer, from what I can ascertain, not in the slightest concerned with how they are perceived.  They seem to shake off the myriad voices of reason and discouragement and forge onward, making a path where one has not yet been.  They are the people who are forever pulling us onward further into civilization or technology or art, or well, just onward.  And they do not seem to be the sort of people who display their accomplishments in a niche on their wall (we are discussing the other shade of meaning of “niche” now, pay attention).

          What courage it must take to strike out into unchartered territory, daring to invest all of one’s time and even money into an idea (others may call a scheme, thus lending it a slightly shady aura), risking ridicule, defying odds, courting disaster and believing in one’s self so completely that the risk seems miniscule.   Do these people realize the potential for disaster?  Are they willing to pay the price when their schemes come to naught?  Do they whine as the rest of us would do, if failure should ensue, that life is unfair, that they were bilked?  Are they different than you and me?  Is that why they surpass us?

          You know of someone on this short list of super achievers.  An entrepreneur, an author, a CEO, the list is long.  Phil Knight.  Justin Bieber.  Thomas Edison.  Jonas Salk.  JK Rowling.  Oprah Winfrey.  Not all super achievers are prominent, so fame and its inducements are not necessarily a defining factor in identifying them. 

          It seems to me that the niche creators work hard, without exception.  They must practice and hone and try and fail and correct and try again.  What looks easy to us, is most likely not.  They learn.  While we are all capable of learning, niche makers most likely readily learn from their own mistakes, and the mistakes of others.  They analyze; what went wrong, what went right, don’t they?  Perhaps they compile data, internal and external, and they use it to chart a course.  Surely they perform these analytical tasks.  Or else they are just driven.  Or else there is something else.

          Ahh, I see it.  They are not a part of the herd.  The reason they had to “make” a niche is because they were in uncharted territory; there were no niches there and it was incidental, their making a niche at all.  They were unafraid to go out, naked, as it were, into the world, into the unknown.

          In answer to the question, are the superstars in life different from you and me?  Smarter?  Wiser?  Luckier?  I don’t think so. 

          Another difference between the rock stars and the front row audience might be that they, those mysterious “thems,” seem never to arrive.  They may collect statuettes and place them in a niche to honor the achievement, but they didn’t perform or work or invent or create in order to win prizes, for the most part, and they don’t stop doing those things once they have earned recognition.  They are constantly rearranging their living room furniture, so to speak, while you and I might find a pleasing floor plan for our stuff and there it sits, year after year.  We don’t like change, take risks, as much as those who are our role models and our heroes evidently do.  Maybe we are more easily satisfied while our counterparts are always reaching, perfecting, growing.

          Most of all, niche creators have an inner confidence.  Sometimes it appears to be false confidence, more bravado, but these nichies would rather fail than settle for someone’s else’s version of success, for someone else’s niche.

          We’ve been looking at niches cosmically, but anyone who was born into a family with at least one sibling knows that the niche concept works when talking about the family pecking order, too.  If the first born is a hellion, the second and subsequent siblings may, finding the hellion niche filled, turn to the student or the peacemaker or some other well-defined niche to fill.  Conversely, if the first born is perfect, the following issue may raise Cain with impunity, as “perfection” leaves quite a few niches available.  Well, it’s not all this simple, but you get the idea.

          There must be books and pamphlets and documentaries about nichery, how to get to yours, how to furnish it, how to get an agent to handle your business so you can continue to just, well, fill your niche.

          Ultimately, it’s not the niche itself that interests me, or at least primarily, but the acceptance of the concept that there even are niches and that talented, prepared, purposeful people will succeed in finding theirs.  I envision somehow a bee hive’s insides, little chambers, all alike, filled with honey, a Hilton Hotel with an inside glass elevator, so that you can see all of the niches as you ascend or descend, everyone knowing, just born knowing how to do his or her assigned task, and coming together at the end of the day to your own little hexagonal cubicle – but this image is flawed, for as soon as the cubicle in the hive is filled, it is sealed and the bees continue to toil to make more honey, more chambers, more, more, more.  Surely we humans are smarter than that; we surely pause to savor our accomplishments, to high five with the other bees. 

          Most of us are bees.  I am a bee, not the most industrious in the hive, but I do my fair share of buzzing and nectar gathering.  I believe in the concept of the welfare of the hive and I follow the bee rules, mostly.  Sometimes I buzz my own little tune, and once in a while I make a design on the cubicle wall I’m building, but mostly, I just fill my niche and feel pretty darn happy to be productive and among people a lot like me.  I have a purpose and a product.  I’m not entirely clear in my mind about how I got here, but I have found a comfortable niche and I can rest for a while.

          If we are communal creatures, like bees, we are also individuals and we, many of us, give lip service aplenty to “doing our own thing.”  Whatever that may be.

          The more I think about it, the more I equate the word “niche” with the word “home.”  I realize you may think “rut” instead.  But then, I’ve thought about the subject so hard that my head aches; I am not a niche-buster, after all.  I admire the people in life who get off the freeway, invent a new game so that they can make up the rules, and stand outside of the “shoulds” and the “oughts” and well, do their own thing.  While I visit that territory, I do not live there; I’m not one of them.  My rebellions are modest and my aspirations are, too.  As the world rages on around me, I am content to have my family, a few precious friends, and a sense of structure in my life, ephemeral though it may be. This is my niche. 

          By the way, if you live in Peoria, you say “nitch,” but if you live in Paree, you say “neesh.”

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Uncle Charlie

The Little George Series, No. 7


            Uncle Charlie didn’t take to that little kid like his wife Leaitis did.  He seen Little George sneak those biscuits and that ham and he seen him do another thing or two that weren’t so ‘sweet’.  Leaitis thought he was just a nice little boy who missed his Momma.  Uncle Charlie thought Little George might just like having no mother around and everyone to feel sorry for him.  Oh no, he waren’t a rascal nor anything that was so easy to catch.  That boy, he was always ahead of the game.  Uncle Charlie saw him watching him, too, and he knew that Little George knew about his stash of liquor.   But he hadn’t told Leaitis about it.  Which be more worrying than if he had a done.  Never could tell when that boy going to just up and blab out something that would get him in big trouble with the Missus.   Uncle Charlie sure did like to see that boy go off inta that there swamp.  Maybe a big ol’ gator’ed get em, and then he would be shut of him. 

            Course Leaitis would cry and fuss and probably blame him.  Darn that sister-in-law of his for getting left by the no-good husband of hers.  Uncle Charlie had kind of liked the man, afore he up and disappeared.  Who knows about these things, anyway?  Who knows if Little George isn’t going to grow up just like his Daddy.  

            Little George is a cagy sort of boy.  The sort of boy who il’ stand back, quiet like, and wait to see what the big folks was talkin’ before he would say a word.  Always a calculatin’.  And then he would open up them big blue eyes and smile and be so sweet he would charm the ladies.  They would want to hug the little fellow and give him a sandwich, or some cake.  Uncle Charlie’d watch him and see that Little George would catch his eye, for just a second, and it was a sure thing that chile was acting his theater part, like some traveling salesman, selling that snake oil.   But the ladies never did catch on to his shenanigans.   He was just like that, a snake oil salesman, Uncle Charlie thought, on account of he always got them ladies to fawn over him.

            Durn kid was too smart for his own britches, too.  Always coming up with some fancy answer or big question about something. 

            Well, we would just see how smart he was.  Playing down in the swamp with all them snakes and gators and his little black friend Dime, it weren’t likely he would outwit those critters for long.  Maybe for a while, do tell, but not for ever.   

            Uncle Charlie slipped his bottle back down behind the work bench and pushed the leaning  shed door to closed.  Some day he was going to get around to cleaning up that rusty lock, but for now, this’ed be just fine.   Where was that boy this morning?  He thought he would rock a bit on the back porch and see if he could spy him coming around.  It was a right fine morning for porch rocking.

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Grampa Jones

Little George Series, No. 6

            Lord have mercy, I cain’t believe it.  Poor chile had to walk home in that terrible storm.  I feel so sorry for him.

            Ain’t real sorry for Daddy, however, being as he been living the life of a drunken coot since Momma gone an’ died.  Still and all, it is a sadness, with him alone in that cabin and Little George just staying there with him for a few days.  Poor Daddy.  And poor Little George.  If’n he hadn’t had the new pony it would of been Little Jimmie there instead of George.  Jimmie almost a man, now, but Little George, he still such a tender age.  

            I got to find him and settle him down now.  Maybe Pastor can have a talk with him and help him with the troubles.  Boy has had so many troubles, with his Momma and all, and his Daddy running off and leaving them so poor.  Please have some mercy, Lord.  How much you ‘spect one little boy to take?

            Reading his note just breaks my heart.  I’m going to give him a quarter for writin’ out such a good letter.  I wish I could give him more.

 Der Aunt Leaitis:

          Sorry that I missed you.  Elmer in the barn said you had gone to see Pastor Jones but I had to sleep so I am leavin’ this here note.

          Grampa died last night in his sleep.  I come right to tell you, like I promised I would, but I had a lot of trouble.  There was a giant storm, which I ‘spect you already know,  and my pony Belle was so scared I almost had to drag her instead of ride her.  That 9 miles took a couple’ a hours at least, which is why I didn’t get here ‘afore you left.  The creek got so filled up with storm water that the footbridge was covered over and even tho’ the lightening had mostly passed, Belle was afraid to cross the bridge.  The water was half way up her legs. I knew my way real good, you know, so after a little while me made out OK.

          Grampa was awful quiet these last couple ‘a days. I would dip him some fresh water and put it up to his lips with a big spoon but a while ago he stopped wantin’ to take a drink.  When the thunder woke me up I saw he was staring out at the rafters and that is when I saw that he weren’t breathing a’ tall.  Cousin Jimmy is supposed to come in a few days and I was going to stay, but I figured I should come tell you right away.

          I covered Grampa up mostly with the afghan Gramma made for him and put an old quilt over his legs, too.  I left his beard out over the afghan like he always did when he was sleeping and his head is on the middle of a real good pillow.

          After me and Belle started I run back because maybe I was wrong about it all, but when I saw him laying there I knew I wasn’t. 

          The front door is barred from the inside like you said, so go around to the back through the screen porch.  I took the Winchester with me ’cause of snakes but I am leaving it with Elmer to give you.

          I’m  plum tired now and gotta get me some sleep.  After Belle has some hay I’ll put her in the pasture, like I promised, and go on up to the attic so as not to bother anyone. 

          I am sorry this is in pencil, but I still cain’t write so good with a pen.

                 Your nephew, George

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Aunt B

The Little George Series, No. 5

             He ain’t never been on a train.  It will be an a’venture.  Aunt Leaitis says he’s goin’ to like it lots.

            He’s goin’ take a train to meet his Momma.  Aunt Leaitis ‘ll take him to the station, and he will get off in Edison. Aunt B’s gonna meet him and take him to her house.  Her and Uncle Joel’s house.  Little George went there once, a long time ago, with his Momma.  But that was when he was just a little kid.

            Aunt B and Uncle Joel are giants.  Aunt B is a whole lot taller than any woman he has ever laid eyes on.  And Uncle Joel is even taller.  And he’s big, too.  Too bad he’s so mean.  Little George heard him from the bedroom yelling at his Momma, telling her she was a bad woman.   Little George didn’t like to hear that at all.  He doesn’t feel too good about seeing Uncle Joel, but he surely does want to see his Momma. 

            Uncle Joel has a fake leg.  It’s got metal strips around it and leather on the top.  Little George had seen it once when he peaked into their the bedroom when Aunt B and Uncle Joel was sleepin’.  His Momma was sleeping away it that guest bedroom up front and he couldn’t sleep no more, so he figured he’d do a little scouting around.  He scouted him up the door to the back stairs, which went down to the cellar.  Weren’t nothin’ exciting down there.  Then he scouted him up the cabinet in back of the closet where they had all them guns.  Took him a long time to get that lock open, but he put it back.  Didn’t take a gun, neither.

            But he couldn’t help himself about the leg.  He knew Uncle Joel had a war injury and had got himself a new leg, and he surely did want to see it.  Now Uncle Joel was not the kind of man a boy could ask to see such a thing, so Little George just had to peek in on his own.   He pushed the door open a tiny bit, and it didn’t even squeak, and there it was, a giant old wooden thing taller than Little George himself.  Laying right across the chair over from the bed where Uncle Joel was snoring.  He sorely wanted to tiptoe in and just touch it.  He would like to take it away somewhere – the cellar? – but his Momma would have killed him dead if he did that.  Besides, he was still a very young boy then and used to cause a lot of trouble. He had grown out o’ that now.  He was much better on being good now.    

            Aunt B is waiting at the station with a basket of sandwiches. She doesn’t have any kids, so he figures he’ll be real sweet to her and maybe she will treat him real special. Maybe she would let him have a quarter to take to the Five and Dime store here in town.  He remembers that store.  His Momma didn’t have a quarter when they visited before, but she allowed they could walk around in it anyway. There weren’t no Five and Dime back home, and he would surely like to have a quarter and go in there.

            Little George smiled up at Aunt B and said “You’re sure looking pretty today, Ma’am.  Right pretty, indeed.”  He smiled his biggest widest-eyed smile.  Aunt B smiled back at him and patted him on the head.

            “You’re OK, there, Little George.  You’re OK.”

            “Thank ee, Ma’am, for saying so.”

            “Have a sandwich, now, ya hear?  You need to put a little fat on those skinny bones of yours.”

            “Yes’m, I surely do.  Thank ee, Ma’am.  This looks mighty tasty!”

            Aunt Leaitis had given him two apples for the trip, which she said was a couple of hours, but he had et em right away.  He was grateful for the sandwich.  It was pineapple and tomato on white bread.  Delicious and sweet. 

            He hoped he didn’t have to see Uncle Joel much.  If’n he just saw Aunt B he was sure he would get that quarter by and by.  Then when his Momma came he would have her a present.

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Little George Series No. 4

             The attic dormer window had been left open.  Or rather, it was open just a crack at the bottom, as if a person had started to close it in a hurry and didn’t finish.  From the moist sill you could see over the tree tops to where the land fell away into the swampland below where the old farm house sat.  Just above the ever-smaller tree shapes there was a deep blue band of clouds, flickering with flashes of light.

            The moistness on the sill was not rain or mist or fog but a heavy sheen of damp air, hovering over it and clinging like warm lotion to the wood of the window, the cracked glass, the shingles on the old roof, and the wires that ran over it towards the chimney.   There was a soft rumbling sound over the swamp, and though it was aways away, the house beneath the window trembled only the tiniest bit, as though in anticipation of the excitement it felt coming.  Beneath the window, beneath the roof, beneath the stories, the old hand-built structure seemed to awake and tense a little:  it, too, knew what was coming soon.

            One fat soft drop hit the sill.  Another now on the old dirty glass.  A little breath of wind rustled the air, stirring away the closeness.  The birds, who had been singing in the tree tops, stopped.  The crickets and other bugs followed along as a hush of waiting enfolded the old home.  It had not been washed clean for many a month and as the royal purple clouds rose overhead and the drops turned into hundreds, now thousands, if you were listening very carefully you would have heard a soft sigh as the lightening danced and churned around in the billows of blue.

            In the morning there was a pool of rain water on the attic floor, just behind and below the dormer window.  When the little boy who sometimes lived here came up to look out at the forest, he found a tiny green frog sitting almost exactly in the middle of that puddle.

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Aunt Leaitis

Little George Series No. 3

             I suppose it is in my blood to hate that place.  I won’t go down in there.

            But Little George is my blood, so how come he loves that horrible swamp so much?  Momma used to let us go along the edge of the forest, Cabby and me, but land sakes we would have had our backsides tanned if we’ed gone down into that place.  There always been stories of terrible things hiding out in that swamp – horrid bad things that you cain’t even see a comin’.  One of Daddy’s farm hands come a runnin’ out of there one afternoon, shouting that he see’d a Will o the Whisp a chasin’ after him. He was so scared he a left the fish he had just caught on the bank and hightailed it back up to our barn.  Daddy gave him some of Momma’s chicken for his dinner and told him never to go back, ya hear?

            I did go part way in there once, even though I know Momma would a killed me dead.  I went with little Jeb Logan, but we didn’t get too far cause it was too scary.  Smelly and misty and all kinds of little sounds echoing around those trees sitting in that murky water.  I was sure I seen that hanging moss move all by itself, and I know I heard snakes.  They was all around us, everywhere, and we couldn’t see a one.  I made Jeb take me out of there, now.  I said it just like that – “Now!”

            So how is it that Little George goes in there every chance he gets?  Says he loves it and it ain’t scary or nothin.  Brings back fat long eared rabbits for the dinner pot and squirrels and even a big ol’ possum to simmer up for Brunswick Stew.   He brings fish, too.  Says it’s nice down in there.   But I think I know what he really likes about that place, besides catching those snakes so he and his friend Dime can skin em up and sell em.  He likes to get away from Uncle Charlie.  I know it, I know it.  But what can I do?

            Probably high time for me to send the little fellow over to Aunt Cabby’s for a while.  Sit that durn husband of mine down and tell him he gots to mend his ways.  My sweet little sister Susie would be so sad if she were to hear tell of the shenanigans Charlie been up to lately.  Lord knows Susie had enough problems without that.

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Aunt Cabby’s in the Kitchen

The Little George Series, No. 2

            Sometimes Little George lived with Aunt Cabby.  He never knew when he would be told to get his things and be plopped up in the wagon and driven to her house.   Aunt Leaitis did not give him a reason.  She would only say that it was about time for him to go see his other Aunt.  Little George had an idea it was a cause he’d been eating too much food and Aunt Leaitis had found out.  But sometimes he had been real good, only taking his served-up portions and not sneaking down at night to steal a bite of ham or a cold potato.  So it didn’t make sense.  When he was grown up he was going to be sure that things made sense.

            Aunt Cabby’s house was all the way over to Larson, so it took more than half the day to get there in the wagon.  Uncle Charlie would stop to give the horses some water in Social Circle and they would have some lunch in the Inn.  It was really a tavern, but Uncle Charlie said to call it an Inn.  He would have enough whiskey so as to not want to get down from the wagon when they finally got to Aunt Cabby’s.   He thought that she couldn’t tell he’d been drinking.   Little George was sure happy to get down, though.  That wagon had almost gone into the ditch too many times with Uncle Charlie driving.

            He never had time to tell Dime he would be goin’.  He didn’t have a friend like Dime over to Aunt Cabby’s.  Oh, there were some kids around, but they were mamby pamby kids  and didn’t like to go too much into the forest.  Once he talked little Leroy into going with him and hunting rabbits, but Leroy told his mother that Little George was a dare devil.  Aunt Cabby had to make him stay in his room for a whole day for a punishment.  Little George knew he wasn’t a dare devil, cause that Leroy was afeared of just about everything.   And Aunt Cabby liked it when he brought home rabbits for dinner, and so she let him out early on the day of his punishment.  She told him to go out and get some dinner for us now.  Little George tried, like the good boy he truly was, but it was best to hunt for rabbits early in the day, so he came back with his old flour bag empty.  

            Aunt Cabby was a terrible cook.  But sometimes she let Uncle Legree come into the kitchen and then the food was pretty good.   He had a speciality that he only served up for holidays and big dinners, like when their son, Major, would come with his wife to visit.  They lived all the way down to Jacksonville, which was a city.   Little George asked if he could go with them someday, to see a city, but they said it was too far a piece.  Uncle Legree would catch him a o’possum and put him in a cage on the kitchen porch, and feed him up to fat for a couple of months.  Then he would cook him up in a gravy sauce with rice from Big Daddy’s old abandoned rice field.  It was wonderful tasty food, and he even made biscuits to eat with the gravy.  Aunt Cabby’s biscuits, when she made ’em,  were hard as rocks, but Uncle Legree’s were soft as pillows.  Little George wished that Uncle Legree did all the cooking, but Aunt Cabby said it was women’s work to be in the kitchen. 

            His Momma was going to come and visit, Aunt Cabby said one morning.  She would come sometime in the next week.  Little George better wash up and get his things all neat so she would be proud of him.   Little George couldn’t sleep for waiting.  He would tiptoe outside on the kitchen porch in the middle of the night and look up at the stars and wonder if his Momma was seeing those same stars.   She’ed been gone a long time, he knew, but he didn’t know exactly how long.  Aunt Leaitis had said she wasn’t sick or nothin, so he was not to worry.  She was alright and she would come back some day. 

            But his Momma didn’t come after all.  Aunt Cabby told him that she had sent a letter to say she had to stay where she was working and could not get the time off.   Off of what, Little George had asked.  Off of work, Aunt Cabby had said.  But what is she working on that she has to get herself off of it?  But Aunt Cabby said to go on, now, and stop asking silly questions.  Little George was sad she wasn’t coming, but he understood.  He didn’t want his Momma to get into trouble with her work boss, so he just nodded and did not cry like a baby boy.  He was a very good boy, after all, and didn’t give his Aunts any trouble at all.

            Any time now, real soon he felt sure, he would be going back to Aunt Leaitis’ and get to see Dime again.  He sure did miss having a friend to play with.

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