Alablawg

Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Weekend in Tupelo

I'm sitting on the front porch, paying little attention to the conversation around me. There's a couple of big ol' red headed woodpeckers flying around. They attack a utility pole in a field across the road, then disappear into the weeds. They take off and fly past me over the house and maybe end up somewhere by the pond in back.

When I lose the birds, I turn my mind to the puppy asleep on my lap. She can't be more than a month old, a boxer - who looks like a bobble head doll - snoozing soundly to the rythm of my breath. I don't know her name, not that it matters. This dog will be long gone by the next time I am here. She was the runt of the litter, and already has some issues with worms, or something similar. You can count her ribs.

It's not that her owner is cruel, or even neglectful. The dog will get plenty of food and affection. She will sleep, and spend most of her time, indoors. But the idea of taking a dog to a 'doctor' is foreign here. Shots, spaying, neutering, flee baths, these are unknown. Nature will just take its course. This dog is not strong, she will not survive.

Now I hear the conversation.

"So what are you and Julie fighting about now? I mean, every time I call, I have to figure out who is not talking to who."

"Well I told her that she and Amber could stay here, but I couldn't have no thief in my house."

"Huh?"

"Ricky done stole my pain pills, and I know it 'cause Momma told me. I may be lots of things, but I ain't no thief, and I'm not havin' none in my house."

"So why does that mean you and Julie have to fight?"

"It don't. She's the one got all mad about it. I told her she could stay here."

"Right. Anyway, I like your new place."

"I'm hoping maybe to try to buy it one day, but I got to get my stuff together for now. It's got that pond out back, lots of bass in there. And two hundred acres besides. The owner don't care if we go back there either. I'm gonna borry me some money an get a pool this summer. After that I need to save so I can buy a car. Andrew done totalled mine."

"Where do the kids go to school out here?"

"Andrew don't. I'm trying to get him to get his GED. Lisa stays with her grandma in town."

Now I hear something, so I look up. It's the neighbors, across the street, loading up for church. Mom and three kids, all in Sunday clothes, piling into the Expedition. They leave, and dad appears. No shirt, belly hanging over his belt, he fires up the grill. Never too soon to start the barbeque, I guess.

I finish my coffee. The temperature is in the mid-eighties. The breeze is dying, the shade disappearing. We all agree it's time to go inside. The oven broke, so finding a hot breakfast becomes the polite reason for leaving.

We get into our car. Nothing fancy, but it cranks right up, and has no cigarette burns on the seats or food rotting on the floor. We exchange sighs as we back down the gravel and grass driveway. No one ever seems happy, but nothing ever changes.

Then again, I don't know what they say about us. Perhaps the subject is how we live in some little house in some big crime-ridden city. Or maybe they call us uppity, what with that beer I drink costing eight dollars a six pack. My fear? They could discuss how we have jobs that leave us no time to visit family.

I don't know. I never do. All I can say is that at the same time I look forward to getting home I feel guilty for leaving Mississippi.