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March 13, 1997 - Image 24

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-03-13

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48 - The Michigan Dail iterary Magazine - Thursda iarch 13, 1997
ShortS &oy

The Al igan Daily Lterar v Magnin

TILLIE
Continued from Page 13B

nf
a
U

Uncle Cholly s Pot

David stopped growing, and graduated
from medical school. Tillie met. Joe
Abrams, and from then on there was
only one man in Chicago, and he wrote
poetry and sang songs and enlisted in
the army. *
Joe left for Europe right after the
baby was born, and the baby only
weighed four pounds, and didn't have
any hair, and Joe only got to see the
baby because she was born a month
before she was due. Tillie lived in
Chicago with the baby, and Joe wrote
letters to her and told her how beauti-
ful Switzerland was, and how he stole
old war medals from a German castle.
And Tillie would read Joe's letters to
the baby and point to his picture and
say that he was the handsomest man in
Chicago, and sing. Hi-lily, hi-lily, hi-
lo, hi-lo, hi-lily, hi-lily, hi-lo. And then
she would put the baby to bed, and lie
down on the couch and drink red wine
while she cried. but Joe didn't come
home for four years. The baby grew
blond curls and stopped looking like a
baby and started looking like Shirley
Temple, and Tillie sent pictures to Joe
in Europe. But Joe still didn't come
home from Europe, and Tillie stopped
reading certain parts of his letters to
her daughter, and by now there weren't
any men in Chicago, and Tillie still
cried every
night.
One day Joe The babyI
came home from b
Europe, and his blond cur
daughter's hairh
daggerbrtstopped I
turned brown,St p e
and she stopped like
looking like
Shirley Temple,s t d
and started look-
ing like my moth- Shirley T ,
er. And Joe said
that she was the Tillie sent
prettiest little girl
in Chicago, and' to Joe in
he wrote poetry
and sang songs.
My mother used to warn me never to
wake up Grandma Tillie in the morn-
ing, so I'd always tiptoe downstairs
first, and open the door a crack and
check to see if she was sleeping. But
she'd be sitting up, in bed, with a book
if she was at our house, or a newspaper
if we were in Sarasota, and she'd insist
that I hadn't woken her up. Then she'd
tell stories about her youngest daugh-
ter, who used to wake her up on
Mother's Day to bring her "breakfast"
- a piece of bread with a single raisin
smushed in the middle. And then she'd
let me watch while she put on her Oil
of Olay, and curled her eye-lashes, and
puffed pink powder on her cheeks, and
explained which color lipstick she
wore on which day. And then she let
me try on her perfume, and I asked her
what it smelled like, andshesaid it
was Lily of the Valley, her favorite
flower. So Lily of the Valley became
my favorite flower, too. And we sat

At the same time my Uncle Cholly
was looping a nylon rope over a beam
in the kitchen, kicking aside the books
and ornaments that he had strewn
throughout his rented cottage, Mr.

Feebes noticed something shining
among the stems of wheat. Mr. Feebes
farmed the Ladybridge Estate and,
according to what he told me later, it
was while he was perched on his com-

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bine harvester, that he spotted the shiny
object. Immediately, he switched off the
machine and got down to look.
It might be a Roman artifact, he
thought, forgetting that something so
old would have acquired a patina the
color of soil. He remembered only that
the farmers down South, in Devon, were
forever turning over Roman short
swords and bags of gold coins.
Naturally, the reporters from the BBC
would want to interview him and they'd
probably run his story at the end of the
ten o'clock news, in the spot that was
reserved for heartwarming items of
human interest. Of course, he would
first notify the British Museum, whose
curator would shake his hand gratefully,
right before handing over a reward
check for the priceless whatever-it-may-
be. Mr. Feebes waded through the
wheat, with his arms swinging, to where
he thought he had seen his golden prize.
Meanwhile, my Uncle Cholly, whose
garden ended thirty feet from the edge of
the field in which Mr. Feebes rummaged,
apparently had been trying to remember

how to tie a non-slip knot. Among his
things, we later found a handful of tat-
tered Boy Scout badges, along with a
swimming medal. At perhaps the time he
most needed it, my Uncle Cholly's
knowledge of knots had deserted him; he
had secured the noose with a tennis ball
sized mass of granny knots which
seemed to grow and multiply like the

retire. "You reeker' is what Mr. Feebes
later told me he had said upon seeing the
pot handle glinting in front of him. He
could tell as soon as he saw the pot that it
was not old, but it was heavy and he knew
quality when he saw it. He thought his
wife had a set very similar to that hang-
ing on her kitchen wall, though they
weren't as deep as this one; the copper
was not as thick.
This was a superior

9
'Is
p4
E

there, on her bed, smelling like a rose
garden, and played "Go Fish" and
"Casino" with her deck of cards with
white daisies on them. When she shuf-
fled, the daisies ran together and the
cards looked like the white train of a
wedding gown, blowing like willow
branches.
I was only five years old when my
Grandpa Joe died, and so I hardly knew
him. My mother flew to Sarasota when
he was in a coma, and my father and I
found a little green lizard in the house
the day she left. My father said that the
lizard would die if we let it go outside in
the winter, so we found a big aquarium
for the lizard and fed it anything my
father said it would eat. But then the
lizard stopped eating, and it turned grey,
and I asked my father if the lizard had
cancer like Grandpa Joe. He didn't
answer. I pictured the doctors pulling on
big leafy vines of cancer that clung to
Grandpa Joe's lung like sticky green
licorice ropes stuck inside a curly-q
drinking straw.
When we heard the news. I don't
know if I was more upset because
Grandpa Joe died or because our lizard
died. But we cleaned out the lizard tank
and put it in the basement before my
mother came home, and we never told
her about the lizard.
One night after Grandpa Joe died I
came downstairs crying, and my father
gave me some root beer and I asked if
Grandma Tillie was sad, too, and my
mother said that
Grandma Tillie
;rew was very sad, and
that she cried, too.
s and And then I cried
harder because I
Pokingknew Grandma
Tillie was crying.
V aAnd then my
oking like mother started
singing, Hi-lily,
mple, andhi-lily, hi-lo, hi-lo,
hi-lily, hi-lily, hi-
pictures lo. And then I felt
better.
'urope. Later that year,
Grandma Tillie
came to visit, and
I asked her at the dinner table if she still
cried every night, and my mother
gasped and my father growled at me for
being inconsiderate and asking inappro-
priate questions, and I looked down at
my squash and said, I'm sorry,
Grandma, and she said it was okay.
Later that night, she came up to tuck me
in, and she sang to me, A song of love is
a sad song, Hi-lily, hi-lily, hi-lo, and I
asked her why such a pretty song had
sad words, and she kept singing, A song
of love is a song of woe; Don't ask me
how I know ... and while I fell asleep
she said that even a sad song can make
you feel better.
Grandma Tillie always said I would
grow to be five-six like she was, but I
was only five-one when I left for col-
lege, and when I came home after first
semester, I was still only five-one. And
my fingers never grew to be as long
and graceful as Grandma Tillie's, and I
can hardly reach a ninth on the piano.

And I paint nail strengthener on imy
fingernails, but I have to cut them
every day so that I can practice, so they
don't look as elegant as Grandma
Tillie's. But when I play, I look down at
my hands on the keys, and Grandma
Tillie's fingers are playing, and the
chords drop down on the key bed like
little lily-pads, as thin as matzo, falling
onto a still pond and making ripples in
the music. And I want to tell Grandma
Tillie that I listened to all the music in

the world, and I thought it was better
than money, and so I decided to
become a pianist. And I want to tell
Grandma Tillie that I live in Ann Arbor
now, and there aren't any fire ants here,
and it's too cold to wear sandals, any-
way; and I don't iron my sheets before
I make my bed; I don't even fold them;
and I can't drink red wine and cry on
the couch because the couch has a beer
stain and we don't have any wine in our
apartment, and everyone is too conside

GIVE YOUR

PA

ONE MORE Rl
TO LOVE Y'
Go To SCHOOL TH I

mass of cells the
doctor had told
me comprised
Uncle Cholly's
tumor.
The back of
Uncle Cholly's
cottage had a
view of the
Cheviot Hills
and if Uncle
Cholly, wearing

He had secured
a,
the noose, with a
tennis ball sized
mass of granny
knots .,,

pot. What a pleas-
ant surprise she
would get when h,
set it on her butch-
er's. If nothing
else, the story of
the pot, when
rightfully embell-
ished, would hold
his friends in sus-

ol

the yellow sweater we later found him in,
had taken one last look at the hills from
his back bedroom window, he would
have seen Mr. Feebes pulling aside the
wheat stalks, like curtains that might
reveal the fortune on which he could

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pense and might earn him a free pint of
beer one thirsty night at the Trapper's Inn.
Mr. Feebes looked up at the vacant,
black windows of Uncle Cholly's cot-
tage and wondered momentarily if he
should not inquire there, to make sure
that the pot did not belong to Cholly.
"But even if it did," began a series of
thoughts Mr. Feebes swears he will
regret for the rest of his life, "it serves
him right; he should take better care of
his things. Just for the risk of damage to
my combine alone, I deserve this pot."
Those were the words that Mr. Feebes
had come to confess, when he shambled
into my living room, head bowed, the day
after we buried Uncle Cholly.
Paul Barron is a creative writing sub-
concentrator Originally from England,
he has been a featured reader at the
UEA Reading Series.

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