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January 5

“I believe I have injured an organ,” said the grandmother, pressing her side, but no one answered her.

—“A Good Man is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor


Dear Dixie,

Today we’re taking the kids to the Carter Center and if you think I’m going to march into a presidential museum and ask if Jimmy or Rosalyn are available to shake our hands and have their picture taken with us then you know me pretty good by now. 

I march right up to the guy at the gift shop cash register and ask him if Jimmy and Rosalyn are around and could they come and shake our hands if they are.

He laughs real loud ... right at me.

I told the fellow to make sure to tell them hello for us and that we came by.

The fellow laughed again.

I bought a mug.

So the first thing they want you to do is watch a film about President Carter and then go through the museum, but we go through the museum first and then watch the film and then go back into the gift shop where the kids touched everything they could and if what they touched could play a song or make a noise or buzz or click or clack then they kept their paws on whatever it was until the level of embarrassment was face reddening for two teacher chaperones.  You’d be surprised how many things in a gift shop of a presidential museum make irritating noises.

I’d have to say the fifteen minute film about the life of Jimmy Carter was pretty good.  In it the former president said his father had a tough mind and a tender heart.  Then Andrew Young was interviewed and he said that his good friend Jimmy Carter had a tough mind and a tender heart, too.  That was a nice sentiment to have in mind for what happened about an hour later.

On the way southbound down Spring Street toward our next destination, Oakland Cemetery, and after lunch at the Varsity which is regarded by me as the greatest restaurant in the world, with Dexter riding shotgun in my truck and Hoover in the back with that seventh grader named Mink, it seemed that ahead of us in the far right lane of the three lane, one-way street we were on a flatbed tow truck all of a sudden decided to swerve over to the left in order to make an exit ramp in the last second but the tow truck driver didn’t see a real whale of a car in the far left lane and that car and that tow truck met real fast at an odd angle.  The noise their meeting made was like nothing I’ve ever heard in my life and I’ve been to a few NASCAR races.

There was an amount of holy shits spoken from the back seat by two teenagers.  Dexter doesn’t cuss.

The car rode up on the left side of the tow truck for a good while and then it detached from the tow truck still on just its left two wheels for another good while.  When the car came back to Earth it limped along for a few yards and sort of collapsed.  The noise the car made when it came back to Earth was something, too, and I’ve also been to a few pro wrestling matches.

The tow truck kept swerving to the left and slammed into the curb.

Car and tow truck parts and plastic and glass had flown everywhere.

The teacher and his three students pulled in front of the tow truck … and the teacher, with a newly inspired tough mind and a tender heart, told the boys to stay put and to stay calm and to be cool in a tone of voice they instantly obeyed, and that was comforting, because Mink and Hoover had been hyper and loud and nearly unmanageable earlier in the morning in the nice, quiet presidential museum of Jimmy Carter.  I put the flashers on and got out went to the aid of the car driver who was not anywhere in site.  I figured he was dead, unconscious, or really, really mad … or all three … but he wasn’t anywhere in site.

The tow truck driver was walking along the sidewalk and he seemed like he wanted to be somewhere else real bad.

I gave him a look of disapproval.

I opened the car door and there the driver was … of a smashed up, ancient, maroon, LTD Crown Victoria … laying in the front seat holding his head with both hands.

A nice lady driving one of those MARTA vans for old folks pulled up and showed me she was dialing for the police.

I said above the smoke and steam that we’re going to need an ambulance, too.

Twenty minutes later, when I got back into the truck, the looks on the face of my three Georgia history field trippers seemed to say they were pretty amazed at today’s activities, too.  Totally stunned would also be a good word to use at this juncture.

One of them said holy shit again … but I agreed.  I said as far as field trips go, boys … this one’s already been a doozie and it ain’t half over yet.  I put the truck in drive and said, Let’s go see a cemetery.

They asked me would the guy be okay.

I said his name is James … and I really don’t know.  It wasn’t pretty.  I took a deep breath.

No one said anything for a long time.

We get to historic Oakland Cemetery where seventy-thousand souls are resting, but my heart’s much alive and still beating fast.  I take a deep breath of real cold air.  The cemetery’s blanket is a sunny blue sky.  I’m figuring James is in the emergency room by now.  I look in the visitor’s brochure and start reading the section titled, What Oakland Has to Offer.  The brochure says that Oakland is a place that’s much more for the living than the dead.

Holy shit I hope so.



Next Entry ... January 6: A Football For Coach Richt