TV Tea Bags
This one was also inspired by current events. Mr. Henry, as usual, seemed to have a different perspective on current events.
Mid February 2003.
It's been cold the last few weeks, at least cold by our standards around here. Mr. Henry has been hole'd up in his room most of the time, spending just a little time outside cleaning up the yard and making sure the house is in order. He takes his new responsibilities pretty serious, and when Miss Lula comes around to clean inside the house every week, he follows her around to supervise.
Well, at least he used to. About the third week she had had enough, and told him if he was so damn interested, she'd put a mop in his hand and get some good out of him. He wisely decided to busy himself outdoors after that.
This Saturday, though, Spring arrived for at least a short visit. I know discussing Spring in mid February may offend some of ya'll, but I can't be held responsible for your choice of domicile. Anyway, I had been wanting to talk to Mr. Henry for a couple of weeks, so I headed down to his special place.
Sure enough, he was there, puttering around and seeing
which bulbs were trying to sprout. I'd brought some tea and some leftover
Valentine's candy, and that got him in a talkative mood. We sat down and he
started in on the candy.
I started out, "Mr. Henry, I've got some things I'd like to talk to you about."
"Ask me anything!" he said. "I been watchin' TV for a solid month, and I know everything!
"For example, it seems Michael Jackson's runnin' for President, based on how much he's on TV. An' it seems the only way a man can get a wife these days is to have a million bucks and put the whole deal out for bid! Course, everybody else on TV is just hoppin' from bed to bed, so why bother?"
"Mr. Henry," I said, "There's a lot more on TV than trashy reality shows and sitcoms. Don't you watch the news shows? Haven't you been following the stuff on the new war?"
"Just a bunch of fools what never been shot at runnin' their mouths from fancy offices in Washington. They got some kinda personal problem with this Saddam fella. I bet 'Invade Iraq' was listed on the program at the Inaugural Ball, right after 'cut cake' and 'release balloons'. They just keep changin' the reason, that's all. It's personal."
"But Mr. Henry," I said, "These are high ranking government officials! They all have graduate degrees and long resumes and lots of published papers. They must know what they're doing! We ordinary people can't expect to understand it all."
"They think we can't understand ," he said. "So they talk to us like we're fifth graders. They break it down to silly phrases: 'He's a bad guy. He gassed his own people. He invaded another country'"
"But when he gassed his own people, these same geniuses thought he was a good guy, or at least an OK guy, since he had invaded another country which was an even badder guy. But when he became a bad guy then it turns out he shouldn't have gassed those people after all back then, so now he's a real bad guy after all for doin' what we thought was OK at the time."
I was getting a little confused. "Mr. Henry, that doesn't sound like it makes much sense."
"It don't have to," he said, "It's personal. They'll just keep tryin' out reasons till one sticks. It don't make no nevermind in the end. It's personal."
I could see I was getting nowhere, so I tried to change the subject. "But back to TV, don't you watch the documentaries, shows about World War II? I thought you'd like those."
"Well, yes," he replied, 'It was good to finally see what happened."
He noticed my questioning look and explained. "I didn't see much other than the mud in my face most of the time. I weren't 'face to face' with the enemy, it was more like 'bullet to butt'. I must have done some advancin', but what I 'member most is hidin'."
He slipped into what I call his time travel mode, talking
like it didn't matter if anybody heard him or not.
"I fired thousands of rounds at shadows, at trees, and generally 'to whom it may concern'. I almost never saw an enemy soldier.
"In fact, I only remember seein' one real clear. I had taken a patrol up close to the German lines, and we was a bit late getting back, an' the sun started to come up. We was heading back when a movement in a clearing caught my eye, and I stopped and hid to check it out. This guy musta' been a company clerk or something, he looked older than most and a little fat. He set up a little field desk, and set out a couple of pictures on it, and what looked like a Bible or a diary. Then he went over to the tree line and took a leak, and came back and looked at the pictures again. After a while he opened up a bag and took out a tooth brush and did his teeth, and then he hung a mirror on a tree and started to shave."
"That must have been interesting," I said. "Maybe you'll wind up meeting him some day, at some commemoration or something."
"Could happen," I replied. "I see that kind of stuff on TV a lot, like when they go looking for sunken ships from famous battles in the war."
"Ain't likely," Said Mr. Henry flatly, "Once he finished shavin', I shot him."
He hadn't finished the candy, but he put it down and went back to his garden. He turned around after a while and said, "That's what a war is. It ain't no damn TV show."
I knew that the discussion was over, and to tell the truth I didn't want to talk about it any more myself. I just stayed in the chair and finished my tea.
After I while I got up to go. Mr. Henry was back to his usual cheerful self. He came back to the chairs and said, "But what was it you wanted to talk about?"
"Nothin' much, just to talk about my son."
Mr. Henry brightened a bit. "Your son? I ain't seen him since he came home on leave after Basic! How's he doin'? Where's he at?"
"He couldn't tell me exactly when he called," I said, "But I've got a pretty good idea where he's headed."
Mr. Henry looked at me for a while. "Well," he said, "I guess for you it's getting' right personal too."