Uncle Pug

Posted on: July 16, 2015

When walking, Uncle Pug’s crutches went huff-plat, huff-plat, telling us he was coming. Two loud crutches made up for one dead leg. Tee cut and stapled all his pants at the right knee so his stub didn’t get cold, except in the summertime, when it stuck out the bottom of his shorts like a turtle head.

“What good?” he said, screen door sizzling shut.

“Ain’t nothing,” Tee answered from the kitchen. I didn’t say anything. I stayed out of grown-folks business.

I got off the couch so he could sit. Tee said he hollered when I didn’t get up from the couch because the crutches hurt his armpits like feet walked too long. But Pug fussed like an old lady, that’s just what he did. Whooped like one too -- stung, didn’t really hurt hurt, except when that crutch whapped your forehead.

Like I knew he would, he flipped the TV channels and stopped on the Golden Girls. He only walked up the path to our house to watch TV and eat. Otherwise he stayed in his house out back. But he’d walk that path every day to catch his woman. He loved him some Blanche.

“Ach,” he sucked his teeth. “Get it,” he said when she sashayed.

“Dorothy, sit yo ugly ass down,” he said when Dorothy came on the screen, dismissing her with a flinging of his wrist.

“Mind me of Sophia,” and then he’d say, “not that old Sophia. My Sophia.” And then he’d wait for the air to breathe the questions he teased up. By thirteen, I didn’t care any more. I’d played hide and go get it, let a white girl touch my thing, felt Keisha Frye’s titties at the movie theatre. What’d I care about some old wrinkly broads on the television and a man with no leg? He never talked about the nasty stuff anyway. Bet he never seen a coochie up close. But Raynard dumb tail goaded him every time, making me miss all the jokes.

“Who Sophia? Some white girl?” Raynard, Tee’s man, sipped wide from a Steel Reserve, eyes leaky red.

“Oh, can’t say.” Pug teased, waiting for someone to beg.

And Raynard gave Pug what he wanted. “Aw man, you don’t said something now.”

I sat on the floor leaning against the couch. Pug’s full leg stretched out no further than my thigh. He had the family look -- Tee called him “petite,” raisin-brown with cool Indian hair cut low, but long enough so you can tell it curled up. Pug was old and lived in a shack, but he never left the house without a crisp ironed shirt, one shined shoe, and his hair slicked back.

“Sophia’s legs -- creamy white like drumsticks covered in buttermilk, long and lean, my boy.” Pug smacked his thigh.

“What you say!”

“Don’t get him riled up, Raynard! I ain’t trying to take his old ass to the hospital cause he done caught wood up in here.” Tee yelled laughing.

“Aw Girl, hush up now. Let me tell this boy how a real man does it,” Pug said.

It was the episode where Blanche goes on the date with her gym instructor, a much younger man.

“Sophia was in France. French women love black men.”

Blanche sat at the dinner table, trying hard to connect to the hot young thing across from her.

“Saw me in my uni-form. Can’t no woman resist a Mitchie man in uni-form.”

Blanche laughed, desperate.

“Well, how you get with her Pug? Back then and all? She was white right?” Raynard asked, disbelieving the tall tale.

“This was France, young man. I was a soldier, young man. That’s the only excuse I need. But we hung out in secret clubs. Won’t nobody in there to bother us cause they were all doing the same thing.” Pug’s back straightened, taking a plate from Tee.

Blanche’s young man said she reminds him of his mama, and dignity flees her face. Pug dribbled green collard juice down his crisp plaid collar.

“She was a queen.” He stared at his hands, “We went together. Then I lost my leg. Then I came home,” he said.

“Well damn? Some French white woman…” Raynard looked like he wanted to say more, but Tee shook her head. Let it go.

Blanche rose from the table, purse in hand, chest high, head high, and marched back home to her girls. She wasn’t lonely, never lonely, she had her friends. Thank you for being a friend, she said.

Uncle Pug just had us. No kids, never married, no women except the ones on TV.

One time I went in Pug’s house. His piss-and-shit pot, one of them portable stands from the hospital with a white bucket underneath, had not been changed and Tee told me go down there and put it outside the house. Said when she walked by, she couldn’t breathe right from holding her breath, didn’t want the ghost of that smell getting in her. She made me put on a doctor’s mask because she didn’t want the ghost in me neither. I went in his house while he sat on our couch, watching his Blanche. I held the cold handles out, trying not to look down into the swishing brown mess, praying I didn’t trip on a pulled up sticker-board tile Raynard help put down when the plywood rotted. Made sure all four corners of that stand set solid in the grass behind the shack before footing out there fast. Ripped off my mask once up the path and breathed, breathed, breathed.

That was the stench he took in every day when he left our couch and huff-plat, huff-plat back home in the darkness. Sugar took his leg, you know, not some damn war. But, who was I to tell an old man about lies.

Written by: Tyrese L. Coleman
Photograph by: Garrett Carroll

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