Do you remember Doodums Delahunt? asked Mama. Haven’t thought of him in years.
I remember the name, of course, and his face. As a child, I thought he looked like a sad, clever little dog. A basset hound, perhaps, who kept scraps of cloth under a porch. He sometimes brought penny candies for me – peppermint sticks mostly, but sometimes licorice. He brought Mama copies of the Saturday Evening Post. They were sometimes two or three months old, but she did enjoy looking at them. She kept them on the coffee table until they were needed to swat flies. Doodums approved. He had such a clever face, and a widow’s peak, and big hands. He and Mama would sit on the porch and talk about worldly things, like the price of pork, and exotic breeds of chickens. He fancied her.
Oh, he did not, Charlotte. He was a lonely man who couldn’t find his way. He was a widower, you know that. And you know, I once saw him talking to himself. That year we lost all those tomatoes. He blamed himself, even apologized, though I don’t know why. And he liked you, said you were very polite, and that candy wasn’t sweet enough for you.
“I always brought him water,” I said. “He was always thirsty. I remember he sometimes stood in the front yard, staring at the road. He would scuff the dust with his big brown boots and stare. Once I saw him crying.”
I doubt he was crying, said Mama. There was a lot of dust that year. That was the first dusty year, remember? Before it started to roll and cover everything. Doodums was a sickly man, I recall, always coughing from the dust.
And then he was gone. He didn’t show up again. And it was a long time before I remembered he wasn’t there. I missed the licorice, mostly, but also the peppermints.
He lost his place. It was the other side of Garland’s, two miles past. That’s gone, too. It’s all gone. Those years were hard.
Oh Lord, it’s hot.