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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
SPRING - CHAPTER 10
This chapter is headed by the portion of the Dick and Jane primer which describes a big and strong smiling father.
When Cholly was four days old his mother abandoned him on a junk heap by the railroad. His great Aunt Jimmy rescued him and would never let his mother touch him after that. His mother disappeared shortly after this incident and was never heard from again. His Aunt would tell him stories of his rescue, but he did not learn much about his mother. Cholly was grateful for having been saved, but sometimes, living with Aunt Jimmy, he had his doubts, wishing he had been able to die under that Georgia sky.
He was in school for four years before he got up the nerve to ask who his father was. Aunt Jimmy recalled vaguely that it was "that Fuller boy." She guessed further that his name was Samson. When Cholly inquired why they did not name him Samson, Aunt Jimmy told him there was no reason to do so since Samson was gone by the time he was born and his mother never named him before she threw him on the junk heap nine days after he was born. Aunt Jimmy herself had named him after her dead brother Charles, who had been a good man. In her opinion, no Samson had ever come to any good.
Two years later, Cholly quit school and took a job as a gopher at Tyson’s Feed and Grain Store. He would ride with a nice old man, Blue Jack, the drayman for the feed store and Blue Jack would tell him stories of Emancipation, ghost stories of white people, women he had been with, fights he had been in, and of his escape from a lynching while others had not escaped. Cholly loved Blue and thought of him often when he was a man. Once, on July fourth at a church picnic, Cholly had watched as the father of a family had lifted a watermelon over his head to break it open on a rock. As he was lifting the melon, Cholly felt goose pimples. He wondered if God looked like this man, but then realized that God looked like a nice old white man. Then he wondered if the devil looked like that--"holding the world in his hands, ready to dash it to the ground and spill the red guts so niggers could eat the sweet, warm insides." Cholly preferred the devil. In the distance, Cholly heard somebody playing the mouth organ. The sound mixed with the scent of the pine trees.
When the man swung the melon and crushed it on the rock, the break was a bad one. The melon was jagged and hunks of rind and red fruit were scattered all over the ground. Blue cried out about how sad it was to see the heart of the melon gone. The heart had rolled a little ways from Blue’s feet. He picked it up and the father laughed and told him to go ahead and eat it. Blue shared it with Cholly, "the nasty-sweet guts of the earth."
In the spring of one year, Aunt Jimmy died of peach cobbler. She got sick from going to a camp meeting and felt bad for four or five days. Everyone gave her plenty of advice, but she only listened to her friend, Miss Alice, reading the Bible to her. Still, she stayed ill. It was decided that she should consult M’Dear, a woman who lived in the woods and served the community as a midwife and a diagnostician. Cholly was surprised to see that M’Dear was very tall, over six feet. She carried a hickory stick, but did not seem to need it for help with walking, but for communication. She tapped it on the floor as she carried on her examination of Aunt Jimmy. She examined Aunt Jimmy’s scalp, listened to her heart and stomach, examined her excrement, and finally said she had a cold in her womb. She advised Aunt Jimmy to drink only pot liquor and then she would be fine.
Everyone in the community contributed their pot liquor. It came from black-eyed peas, cabbage, mustards, kale, collards, turnips, even the juice from a boiling hog jowl. After two nights, Aunt Jimmy felt much stronger. Miss Alice and Mrs. Gaines visited her and noticed how much better she was. They all sat and talked over Aunt Jimmy’s condition and then their history of ailments and cures. Once these women had been young. As they had grown up, "everyone in the world was in a position to give them orders," white women, white men, black men, all except black children. As they grew old, they gained freedom. They could walk out in the fields and roads and not be bothered. Cholly listened to the women talk into the night. As he slept, he dreamed his penis turned into a long hickory stick and M’Dear was caressing it.
On a Saturday night, Aunt Jimmy felt strong again and Essie Foster brought her some peach cobbler. Aunt Jimmy ate a piece and the next morning Cholly found her dead. Her funeral was the first Cholly had ever attended. Since he was the closest relative and had found her, Cholly found himself the recipient of care and kindness. He listened as people discussed how his aunt had died. Everyone agreed it was the cobbler that killed her. Cholly heard the others talk about the fact that his aunt had nothing to leave in the way of material wealth. Her house was owned by white people in another town. Her insurance, which she had been paying for her entire life, paid only eighty-five dollars, not even enough to pay for her funeral. People presume that Cholly will be taken in by her brother, O.V.
After the burial, the community held a banquet, which carried a sort of carnival spirit. Cholly ate a good deal and felt good enough to try to get to know his cousins. He went outside, he saw a boy cousin, Jake, standing there. The two of them decided to check out the girls and to Cholly’s surprise, the girls did not rebuff their advances, but instead readily joined them for a walk. Jake was joined by a girl named Suky and Cholly by a girl named Darlene. The four of them walked to a field close by and ate grapes and then playfully threw grapes at each other.
Suddenly, Cholly sees that Jake and Suky have disappeared. He and Darlene rest on the grass. She says her mother will whip her for getting her dress stained. He feels sorry for her and tries to fix her hair ribbon for her. As he does, she runs her hands under his shirt and rubs his skin. She tickles him and they begin sexual play. After a time, they begin to make love. Just before he has an orgasm, he feels her stiffen and look over his shoulder with great fear. When he turns around, he sees two white men with guns standing over them. They train a flashlight on the two teenagers and tell Cholly to keep having sex with her. He hears their rifle click and begins to fake having sex with Darlene.
The white men urge him on and tell him to go faster. As he does, he looks at Darlene. He hates her. She has her head turned and her hand over her face. Her fingers look like baby claws in the light of the flashlight. Finally, some dogs howl nearby and the white men leave. Cholly gets up and gets dressed. Darlene doesn’t move. He wants to strangle her, but he touches her with his foot and tells her to get up so they can get back. She reaches for her clothes and gets dressed slowly like an old woman.
When they get back, everyone is so sated with the food and talk that no one notices their disheveled state of dress. The guests start to leave. Cholly sees that three children are sleeping in his bed. He does not know where to go, so he sleeps on the floor. The next day was a day for cleaning out the house and settling accounts. Cholly cannot stop thinking of the flashlight, the muscadine grapes and Darlene’s hands. He began to hate Darlene. He never considered hating the white men. That would have been too much for him because the white men were all powerful and he was totally helpless before them. He wishes he could talk to someone, but Blue is always drunk and he always told Cholly stories of his prowess with women.