Jims mother cooked and cleaned for the uncles. When she said it was too much, the uncles hired a woman to help her. Uncle Coran ran the feed store and cotton gin. Uncle Al managed the farms. Uncle Zeno farmed with Uncle Al and operated the gristmill on Saturday mornings. As the head of the family he kept an eye on everyone else. Occasionally the uncles grew cross with each other, and, for a few days, Uncle Al and Uncle Coran would retire to their houses immediately after supper. There they sat by their own fires, or on their own porches, and kept their own counsel until their anger passed. In general, however, everyone in the family got along well with everyone else; to Jim, the sound of harsh words would always strike his ear as oddly as a hymn played in the wrong key.
Jim patted his stomach. "That ought to hold me till dinner," he said.
"You ate a right smart," Uncle Coran said.
"Well," said Jim, "I am ten years old now."
"My, my," said Uncle Al.
"Ive been thinking its about time for me to go to work with yall," Jim said.
"Hmm," said Uncle Zeno.
"I thought maybe you could use some help hoeing that corn."
"We can usually put a good hand to work," Uncle Zeno said. "You a good hand?"
"Yes, sir," said Jim.
"You aint afraid to work?"
"What do you say, boys?" Uncle Zeno said.
Uncle Al and Uncle Coran looked at each other. Uncle Coran winked.
"Hell do, I guess," said Uncle Al.
"Lets get at it, then," said Uncle Zeno.
Copyright © 2000 by Tony Earley. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the publisher, Little Brown & Co.
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