June 05, 2003

Childy Vangelism

ASSIGNMENT: Write a piece based on this week's reading. I chose to write this tale based oh-so-loosely on a poem, Brier Sermon, by Jim Wayne Miller, which is about a street evangelist. Here are my true lies from memory... a time seen through the eyes of a ten year old boy in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950's and told in his voice.

I like my accordion. It's new and smells like new shoes. My momma let me get the one with blue sparkles in the sharps and flat keys when I was ten years old. And when they hear me playing it out on the sidewalk and come around, the kids from the project always want mostly to push on the sparkly keys. I pull the bellows back and forth to make some air come out, cause if I don't they wont be able to hear the notes. I don't like it that their hands are dirty. My momma makes me come here. On Thursdays we pick up Miss Sharp. She comes with us and she smells like a room full of roses. Our car smells like her on Friday. She dudn't have a car or any kids. When I play and the kids come, it's like they belong to her. She seems happy to be here.

While Miss Sharp sets up the easel, momma says to me "Play Way Down Upon the Suwanee River". It's really hot and the accordion makes me sweat and itch. When the kids come, it's dusty 'cause they wore off all the grass. I don't want to play loud cause I feel silly; but momma tells me "Play louder". The first time, not many of them came. Now, they know 'bout us. I put down a jelly samwich one time and watched the big black ants come to it. When I play "Pop Goes the Weasel" the kids come from all around and I think they look like ants. First they bunch up and mash the keys on my accordion. Then they sit down in a circle, except it's not a jelly sandwich they come for. It's Miss Sharp. She's nice to them and tells stories.

This iddn't a nice place. Momma says the people who live here are 'less fortunate than ourselves'. That means they fight a lot and make noise in their houses, all in lots of long buildings that have fans in the windows. There is broken glass and we have to be careful. I have shoes but some of the kids who come got no shoes. After I'm done playin', we get in a sort of circle and sing "If you're happy and you know it" and sometimes "There's within my heart a melody". Miss Sharp's throat goes up and down when she sings and she throws her head way back like a chicken. Momma says we shouldn't be ashamed of our faith. Miss Sharp iddn't ashamed. She's in Childy Vangelism.

I get to play with the flannel pieces in the back seat when momma drives us over to Elyton Village. One time Miss Sharp brought David and Goliath. It sure took a big piece of flannel to make Goliath. There are some other people in the story made of flannel, soft and bright, but I don't know who they are. And there is a sword. And David's sling. I don't know rightly what a sling is. When we're sitting in the dust in a circle with the broken glass and the fans going in the windows and the people inside yelling and the insects making noise and Miss Sharp smiling and talking to us kids, I listen to the part in the story about the sling. She says it is made of string and a pouch thing. You can throw a rock hard and kill a giant with a sling. I like throwing rocks. When we're done with the story, we sing "The B I B L E, yes that's the book for me". We take Miss Sharp and her flannel board home. And it smells nice in the car. I am real glad to get home. We have grass and it's quiet there.

When I got home, I wanted to make me a sling to throw rocks. I got me some string from the kitchen drawer and a blue jeans patch from the round tin of sewing stuff in the hall closet. I made me a sling. It looked like the little piece of flannel in the story. I didn't know how to make it work. I couldn't wait to ask my Sunday School teacher and he told me how. I went home and spun a rock round and round and let go! But it didn't go where I wanted it went backwards and hit the house. My momma came outside to see what happened, and she saw my sling. She said "Where did you get that!" and I told her Miss Sharp told me how to make it and Mr. Eisel my Sunday School teacher told me how to use it. She said the devil had got hold of my ears and I should hear the Christian parts of the stories.

When us kids went back to school in the fall, we stopped going to the projects. I was glad 'cause I was running out of songs to play. And it didn't look like Miss Sharp was gonna tell us about any other neat smoting stories about spears and stuff. A few years later, I made a sling out of leather. I could make a rock go where I wanted, twice as far as the other boys could thow. Pretty soon the colored boys was making slings too. And me and some boys that lived on my block had rock fights with the nigra boys on the power company land that summer. It was 1963 and the growed-up white folk and the colored in Birmingham were unhappy with each other about something. But us kids, we were just having a friendly rock fight using our slings, just like the one in the flannel board stories.

You know, I think Miss Sharp'd be happy if she knew how much I'd learned from her that summer. But Momma says I shouldn't say nothing about it.

Posted by fred1st at June 5, 2003 10:49 AM | TrackBack

I like how vivid this piece is--the voice of the speaker, blue sparkles, bellows, dirty hands, and the ants in the jelly. I'd come running at Pop Goes the Weasel too.

Posted by: Wendy at June 5, 2003 02:35 PM

She said the devil had got hold of my ears and I should hear the Christian parts of the stories.

I LOVE this story. It's wonderful!! This particular quote is priceless. The kind of thing "moms" used to say. :) Thank you for making my morning.

Posted by: Lisa at June 6, 2003 11:11 AM

...And now dear Ms. Sharp's message will be passed down through the generations---as soon as you teach me how to make the perfect sling... Thanks, dad. Another story that begged a telling.

Posted by: nathan at June 7, 2003 10:54 AM

The best part was the feel of the piece... memories flooded in while you were telling the story. I was ten in 1954 and rural California wasn't like Alabama...but I am sure much was the same.


Posted by: feste at June 7, 2003 11:56 PM

Thanks for letting me know you posted the rest of the story. I have enjoyed reading it. Your felt took me right back to Sunday School in West Virginia. I haven't been to Sunday School in some time, but I bet most churches don't use felt anymore. I'm sure they get along fine without it, but the felt was so tactile. I loved moving it around the boards.

Posted by: Wendy at June 11, 2003 10:09 AM

Very beautiful prose. You painted a perfect story with simple words.

Posted by: Tiger at June 11, 2003 10:44 PM

Found your site through Carnival of the Vanities. Best story I've read in quite awhile.

Posted by: K. duPre' at June 12, 2003 08:19 PM

actually my name is childy.what is the meaning of my name?

Posted by: childy m. piquero at August 4, 2003 03:38 AM

It is so very beutiful story. Can this have it's 2nd part?

Posted by: Childy m. Piquero at August 4, 2003 03:41 AM

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