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Lutwidge Finch
Swann in Love Again/ The Lesbian Arabian nights
Orchard Street Style Slam
Suntan Cycle
the lates from the art world





When we learnt of Jim's bein' free and all we was all happy as pigs in mud. And didn't we go about gettin' him up to a free state just as soon as we could. Now old Huck here will admit to havin' some conflictin' feelins about settin' him free back when they was on the river together, but to see my friend Jim so darn happy now he knows he's a free man made me wish I could be set free all the time. Miss Watson said I could have that feelin' all the time if I spent considerable energy in prayin' to the Lord, but ain't that a bit like beein' a slave in itself, I asked?


Miss Watson weren't too happy with my observation about that and related to me the story of God's people beein' set free in Egypt, which I reckon is considerable far from here. Tom suggested it was even farther down the river than New Orleans, which is itself quite a way's away. Tom said we should go, but me and Jim weren't up to it. besides we were all rather tired from horsin' around these last few days, and Tom's leg weren't allowin' him to go nowheres without our help. I later told that same story about the Egyptians to Jim who seemed mighty pleased we never did stop in Cairo for he said, "Dey had slaves deah once, an ol' Jim ain't gonna find out if dey evuh gonna have sum again." I tried to explain to him it was otherwise, but you can't give some people a lick of learnin' without 'em havin' all kinds of fanciful notions of what you're talkin' about.


In any event, an as I said before, we didn't waste no time gettin' Jim up north so as he could get to workin' and buy his wife and kids out of slavery, but me and Tom were concerned how he was gonna get work, never havin' had experience of no sort (except workin' around a farm); so we set out thinkin' of a mighty plan that would get Jim back his family as soon as he could. First thing we thought of was how Jim was aluz good at tellin stories, as you'll remember him tellin' about the witches that brought him about the world, and all the black folks that came to hear him tell about it. But you cannot make the type of money Jim was lookin' for tellin stories cause once you tell the story to one nigger, he'll go about and tell it to all t'others as if it happened to him free of charge so that you won't be able to tell you own story no more. 'Sides, don't nobody take stock in a Nigger's story 'cept another nigger. Hell, I betchu wouldn't a believed a lick of old Jim's story neither if it weren't for a white man tellin it, and thats the truth.


And wouldn't you believe that all the way up the river not one idea of mine or Jim's was settled on. Tom had some wild ideas about Jim's bein' a pirate and other such foolishness so we shut Tom up in a room downstairs in the bottom of the boat where he couldn't get out and ruin poor Jim's plan. Tom was complainin' he was mighty lonely down there and complained of rats and bugs and lack of sunlight, but we figured he'd get out of it if there were any real kind of trouble. Besides, we told him it was an adventure, him bein' unable to walk cause of his leg and bein' all locked up in the basement of that ship. Tom didn't see it as much of an adventure, but we told him we were workin hard on a plan to bust him outta there, which we never done till we arrived up-river and let him out simply by openin' the door.


One thing we did settle on in all our discussin' is that Jim should sell somethin', although we could never think of what since he didn't own anything worth spittin' on. So we left Jim off with the promise of returning after we visited with folks back home. Me and Tom was all the rage amongst the boys and girls of the region for I guess some news of my beein' alive and our other adventures got up river pretty quick. Beein' back home was funny, I guess. Everyone looked somehow older: one girl Rachel even ventured to give me a kiss and tell me how she was happy I wasn't dead and all. Now normally I wouldn't take that sort of slobberin' from no one, but it was alright when Rachel done it. Her legs weren't so twiggy as I remember 'em, an her dress was fittin' different, an her eyes were shinin' brighter than some o them stars I'd gaze at when floaten down the river at night.

The Boys from the gang looked older too and asked all about what its like beein' shot and Tom left them all with a burnin' desire to have it done to them just the same. They talked for some time 'bout where the best place on a person's body was to get shot, but Tom said there ain't a better spot in the world to be shot then right where he got it in the leg. There were some who reckoned there was a better place to get shot than in the leg, but after I told the boys what it was like beein dead for a time and how dreadful lonely it was, they didn't want to get shot at no more, much to Tom's dismay.


After a short time, me and Tom decided we best keep our promise to good old Jim and with the permission of Miss Watson, didn't we set out to go and find him. We didn't have much time, but as we were searchin' we came across a weekend bazaar. The smell of vegetables and fruits and flowers was something tremendous cause it was all mixed in with the smell of hogs and pigs and horses. We were awful hungry so Tom decided this would be a good place to stop and get some food. I went straight up to the sausage booth and got a big helpin' of bacon, sausage, and other victuals. When I went to pay, the girl in the booth didn't make me 'cause she thought I was right handsome. She had a freckled face and long hair that came down the front of her, an' I took her hand makin' sure not to spill my breakfast. Then I had to go cause Tom was pokin' fun and sayin' I was gettin' all sweet on her, and we didn't have time for that. I told him she had a pretty smile, but he said it was on crooked.


You know its funny how when people start payin' attention to you like that you loose all sense of yourself and practically become someone else. Heck, only a few months earlier, I'd a thought nothin' a puttin' a snake in her shoe for havin' the nerve to look at me like that. I hate to say it, but beein' looked at by a nice girl like that makes a body wanna grow up and be respectable like the widow says. But I ain't got time for that now `cause as soon as we was about to continue our journey, who did we turn around the corner and see but Jim surrounded by what must a been a hundred of boxes with a crowd around him like you never seen before.


We never really got a good look at him cause of all the grown gentleman with hats and ladies in the way, but I expect Jim spied us pretty quick `cause he leapt out of his booth and fell a cryin' and touchin' our faces like he hadn't seen us in years. Tom, who never looses sight of makin' some loot, said "enough of this Jim, you're loosin' customers" and jumped up into the booth without knowin' what he was selling. "Step right up!" said Tom screamin' and hollerin' and swayin' like the preacher in the widow's church. "There's just enough here for everybody, but come and get yours quick so as you can get the best deal goin.'"


Turns out that just that day Jim had come to the bazaar Žcause he couldn't find work elsewhere. But the problem was, once he got his booth, he didn't have nothin' to sell and was just standin' there watchin' people go buy. Jim later told us that just before me and Tom arrived, a man come up to Jim to ask what he was sellin' and Jim said "Nothin', but I sho am mighty proud o this booth I got goin' heah." The man burst out laughin' and explained to Jim that he couldn't sell anything without a sign, so he made a sign for Jim sayin', "NOTHING: 5 CENTS OR A NICKEL." I knew from my travellin' that the secret to sellin' a crowd on somethin' was makin' everybody wanna be just like you, so when Tom and Jim began shoutin' about "Nothing" in their booth, I made like I didn't know them, went to the front of the crowd and yelled out, "How much nothin' do I get for five cents?"

"Alla nuthin' you wont," cried Jim loud enough for the entire crowd to hear.

"But each time you want another piece of nothin, you gotta pay up another five cents," said Tom whose voice cracked slightly from yellin' at the top of his lungs.


"That's the best darn deal I ever heard of," I shouted, "gimme two of the biggest pieces of nothin' you got," and slapped down two nickels on the counter. Tom went and opened up two empty boxes, and Jim mimed like he was puttin' in the nothin'. I was right impressed at how gently he handled it, like it was the most delicate object you ever seen. The crowd was equally impressed at how Jim craddled the armful of nothin' in his arms. He made it look right heavy. Soon as the crowd got a look at the smile on my face walkin' away with my boxes o nothin', the biddin' began. People wanted nothin' in all shapes and sizes. Some of the lady folk convinced the men that the smaller pieces of nothin' would eventually be more valuable and began competing with the other ladies on who could get the smallest bit of it, almost to the point that you wondered if it could even exist beein' so small. They placed the bit of nothing carefully in their pocketbooks and went home as happy as you can imagine.


The farmers in particular wanted the biggest helpings of nothing, and would bring their carts around and get several men to help them load up. Both the farmers and the horses were surprised at how easily they were able to cart the load home, despite the vast quantity on board. Never before did you see such commotion. Tom was takin' orders from the people quicker than Jim could load Žem up. They worked away together like this with grins on their faces for hours on end. The more wealthy gentlemen in the audience began biddin' on specific pieces of nothin. "Heah go my nices one right heah,' said Jim pointing his finger up in the air. The gentlemen began their bids with 7 and 8 cent offers, but the presence of the ladies whom they knew were watchin' made the final bid on a particular nice piece go for upward of 50 cents.

The audience was gapin' at the mouth watchin' Jim ascend this ladder Tom went and got for effect. Jim took the nothin' out of the air like he was takin' a picture from off a wall, but he needed two hands to carry it. This made comin' down the ladder especially hard. I could tell Jim learnt alot from them actors 'cause at one point Jim made like he was gonna fall, and all the audience cried out together. Sure enough, Jim caught his balance, but the sweat on his forehead was real enough, as he handed the nothin' down gently to Tom, who handled this piece with special care. Once the nothin' became so popular, the five cent charge was increased to whatever the party would pay. There was heavy nothin', and nothin' so light it could float away if a body wasn't careful to keep an eye on it.


At the end of that first day, Jim had made more money than he had ever seen in his life. "At dis rate, I'ma buy da missus anda kids in no time flat," he said with a grin on his face, and we all busted out laughin'. Jim was right. After only three hours of work, he'd made a bundle. Tom's eyes brightened up, and he suggested we take the business on the road. "We cain't stay anywhere too long" said Tom, because people might get wise to what we're doin', but we'll be safe travellin' around cause people won't admit that they bought some of this nothin."


Jim seemed to like the idea, but I got to missin' things back home. Turns out, that's what we did. I headed home Žcause I was hopin' for another kiss from Rachel, and every so often I get a letter from Tom tellin' me how grand things are goin' on the road and how nothin' has increased in value. He says that Jim will be able to afford to buy his whole family all at once by the end of next summer. I have half a mind to go and join up with Žem for a while, but to tell you the truth, me and Rachel's been gettin' awful close so that even Miss Watson said somethin' about it. I cain't begin to tell you how happy all of this makes me now that all the loneliness is gone.


James Marvel

Knoxville, Tennesee