This is My Living Room

It ain't big but big enough for me and my family—
my wife Rosie setting over there reading recipes in the
Birmingham News and my two girls Ellen Jean and
Martha Kay watching the TV. I am setting here holding
Life magazine in my lap. I get Life, the News, and Chris-
tian Living. I read a lots, the newspaper everyday from
cover to cover. I don't just look at the pictures in Life.
I read what's under them and the stories. I consider
myself a smart man and I ain't bragging. A man can learn
a lots from just watching the TV, if he knows what to
watch for and if he listens close. I do. There ain't many
that can say that and be truthful. Maybe nobody else in
this whole town which is Pine Springs.

Yonder in the corner, to the other side of the Coca-
Cola calendar, is my 12 guage. When I go in to bed, I
take it with me, set it against the wall, loaded, ready to
use, so I can use it if I need to. I've used it before and
maybe will again. The only one to protect you is yourself
and if you don't you're a fool. I got me a pistol and a .22
locked up in the back room. I could use them too. Rosie
can shoot, I taught her how, but she's afraid. The noise
scares her. She said, Don't make me shoot that thing one
more time. We was in the forest. The girls was waiting
for us in the car. Don't make me shoot that thing again,
she said, and started to cry. I slapped her face and told
her to shoot the rifle. She did. Then I took it and told
her to go back to the car with the girls. She started to cry
again, but I stayed a long time— till it was dark— and shot
the rifle and pistol and shot gun.

You can't tell what people are going to do in a
town like this. They want your money and they're jealous
of you. They talk about you in front of the court house
and plan up schemes. You can't trust the police or sheriff.
You got to watch out for yourself.


are 14 and 16 year old. Both of them want to go on
dates but I won't let them. I know what the boys will do,
what they want to get out of a girl.

Ellen Jean, the oldest, is a right good-looking girl
but sassy and you can't hardly do anything with her. She
started to paint her face at school, so I took her out. I've
got her working at my store.

I see her passing notes to Elbert. I seen her get out
of his car one night. She said she was going to the pic-
ture show by herself. She's a born liar and sassy. Like as
not he's had her. Like as not she's got a baby starting in
her belly right now. She's a sassy bitch-girl and don't
take after her ma or me. Sometimes I wonder if she's

Martha Kay is like her ma. She cries all the time,
minds good. I let her stay in high school and will keep
on letting her as long as she can act right. The first time
I see lipstick, out she comes. She can work at the store
too. I could use her to dust and sweep up. You can al-
ways use somebody to keep things clean.

I ask Martha Kay, Why're you late gettin in from
school? Where you been? Off in the woods with some
boy? She starts to cry. She's like her ma.

Martha Kay helps at the store on Saturdays but can't
add up figures good.

Ellen Jean is watching that man on TV make a fool
of hisself and she's laughing. She'll end up a Birmingham
whore. Her sister is laughing too and they look like a
bunch of fools.


in this town are like they are in any other town on
earth. I was in the World War I and seen a good many
places. Since then I've stayed here most of the time.
What's the good of moving? People are as mean one place
as they are another and they're always out to get you.
They won't get me because I won't let them.

Take Sam Coates who owed me $20 for that fencing.
Sam wouldn't pay. I said to him pay up by first of the
month or I'll make you pay. He says how will I make
him. Sue him for $20? Won't no lawyer in town take it
anyway, he says, because they're all looking out for
election. You pay, I told him.

When first of the month come I got in my car and
rode out in the country to his front door. Where is your
husband? I said to his wife. Milking, she said, and I went
around to the barn with my .22, stuck it in his face, and
told him to pay me or I'd blow the hell out of him. Sam
turned as white as that bucket of milk. Him and his wife
counted me out the money.

There ain't a one on earth that wouldn't try to cheat
you if they could.

I use to think that women was worse than men but
now I think just the opposite. Women are easier to
handle. About the worst they can do is talk and what
does that matter?

Niggers are better than anybody because you can
handle them. They don't hardly ever give you any
trouble. Except that one time with Ezmo. I didn't have
no trouble handling him.


is about the best thing I know of. It seems like a
human being sometimes except a lots better because you
can trust it.

I've got as much business as I need and make more
profit than some people I know of. Maybe they've got
better houses and ride in finer cars, but maybe they
didn't make all their money like I did. Honest. I ain't
earned a cent crooked. I didn't inherit my money. I
worked for it.

Country folks and niggers is my customers. Saturday
is my big day. Ellen Jean helps me all through the week
and Martha Kay helps out on Saturday. They're not
much help. Don't take the right kind of interest.

I like the smell of my store from the time I open it
up at 7 in the morning till the time Ellen Jean throws
oil sand on the floor when it's time to sweep up. I like
everything about that store.

I sell canned goods, fresh meat, bread and crackers,
flour, fencing, nails, hammers, guns. I sell all the things
a body could need.

Not like at Admore's where it's just women's hats
and dresses, or Taylor's where it's just for younguns.

I want to know what the world is coming to.

If Rosie ever dies and the girls go off I'll sell this
house and sleep in my store. I'll put up a cot, take my
guns and my clothes and that's all. Maybe the TV.

What do I care about this house.


ain't no part of my body or my mind. The lace on
the mantel-piece, what's it for? That nigger youngun
wetting on a commode with Mobile wrote on it, what's
it for? Them pictures of movie stars in silver frames. This
light-colored linoleum you can't step on without it leav-
ing a mark from your heel. Them silky-laced curtains.

One time I took my hand across the mantel and
knocked off Rosie's big clock and a vase full of flowers.
Rosie set in here and cried half the night— till I got up
and told her to get in bed with her husband where she


your own flesh and blood, will try to run over you,
stomp you, steal from you, kill you if they can.

Take the law. A body would think— if he wasn't very
smart— that a man of law was a good man. It ain't so.
90 per cent of the time it ain't so. A body says then, if
the law ain't good, who is? Nobody.

Sheriff Claine is a good example. He use to be
always poking around my store, making hints. Standing
outside the front window part of the time. One evening
late I got in my car and followed the Sheriff Claine—
down the highway towards Brushwood, then off down
the country road towards Glory Church, and then he
stopped. I stopped a good piece behind him and followed
him through a pine thicket to a liquor still. A whole big
wild-cat set-up. Sheriff Claine was the ringleader of the

Next time he come to my store, I said, Sheriff, find-
ing much wild-cat whiskey? He grunted and pulled up
his belt and let on like business was slow. Somebody said,
and I eased it to him, they's a big still down towards
Glory Church, off in a pine thicket.

Sheriff Claine couldn't talk for a minute and
squinted his eyes. I'll have a look, he said.

Oh, probably ain't nothing to it, I told him. I ain't
gonna mention it to nobody, nosir, not to a soul.

The police is just like him. They hide out at night
and sleep when they're suppose to be patroling. I've
caught them at it.

Sheriff Claine didn't give me no trouble about Ezmo.
He listened to what I said here at the house and that was


was what you'd call a low class of nigger. He'd come
into the store and say, Give me a pound of sugar and I'll
pay you Saturday evening. I wouldn't do it. I'd say, You
give me the money. I give you the best prices in town.
You give me the money.

One time Ellen Jean let him have a loaf of bread on
credit. I smacked her for it and told her she was a fool,
which she is. On Saturday Ezmo come in and wanted
some side meat for cooking greens. Pay me off, I told him,
for that loaf of bread. What loaf? he wanted to know.

Ellen Jean, didn't you charge this nigger a loaf of
bread? She said yes and he said she didn't. You ain't
calling my girl a liar, are you? Naw, he said, but he didn't
get no loaf of bread. Somebody's a liar, I told him, and it
ain't my girl.

He said he wouldn't pay me. You're a crooked, low-
down nigger, I told him, and they ain't nothing much
worse than that. You ain't fit for making side meat out of.
I told him if he had any younguns he better watch out.
I didn't want lots of black bastards like him growing up
in my town. You get out of here right now.

That night I was setting in this chair where I am
right now— this same chair. The girls was watching TV.
Rosie was shelling peas.

I heard somebody outdoors and I knew right off
who it was. I got better ears than most people. Any time
somebody sets foot in this yard, I know it. Even if I'm

That's Ezmo, I said to myself. I got up, picked up
my 12 gauge over in the corner and said I was gonna
clean it, went through the house without turning any
lights on, then eased out the back door.

There wasn't much moon but I spotted Ezmo right
off, standing behind some hedge bushes over by my bed-
room window. I got just this side of him without him
hearing. EZMO! I hollered, and up he come with a
knife about 8 inches long. I was ready for him. I trig-
gered my 12 gauge and got him square in the face.

Rosie and the girls come running to the back door.
Get me a flashlight, I told them. I never seen such a
blowed-up face. The girls started getting sick and Rosie
started crying. I want you to take a good look, I told
Rosie, and see what this world is coming to. You see that
knife he had. I held Rosie's arm and made her stand
there till Ellen Jean could get Sheriff Claine.


ain't exactly good-looking. She's got to be dried-up
but once was on the fat side. She makes a good wife. I've
been married to her for going on 30 year. Sometimes
I get fed up with her and go to my woman in South
Town. I take her a couple of cans of beans and some
hose or a pair of bloomers. There ain't nothing much a
woman won't do for food or clothes.

Rosie knows about her, all about her. I talk about
it sometimes when we're in bed. I wouldn't trade Rosie
for her but Rosie don't know that.

Tomorrow's Saturday and I got to get some sleep.

"Turn off the TV, girls. Get in yonder to bed.
Tomorrow's Saturday."

I stand in front of Rosie. "Go in yonder and get in
bed." She starts to cry and that's all right. It wouldn't
be a bit like her if she didn't.