Today’s Teases come from The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older.
“You know any more rich people?”
“No,” I said. I was beginning to feel depressed.
“That’s where you’re dead wrong,” he said quietly. “You know two rich people. You and me. We’re both rich, right now. Richer than them Willies-off-the-pickle-boat. Richer than any of them cotton people. Stinkin’, filthy rich you are, and so am I.”
“What’s rich, then?”
“Rich,” the Old Man said dreamily, “is not baying after what you can’t have. Rich is having the time to do what you want to do. Rich is a little whisky to drink and some food to eat and a roof over your head and a fish pole and a boat and a gun and a dollar for a box of shells. Rich is not owing any money to anybody, and not spending what you haven’t got.”
We had a difference of opinion, as I recall, my people and I, and I determined to run away and embark on a life of piracy, rapine, and highway robbery. I was a red-hot six years old, and the Irish was showing. The whole world was wrong, and you could have called me Parnell. “Good-bye, cruel world,” I said, more or less, and departed for a life of shame. I must say that the Old Man took it in stride when I announced my intention to trek.
“You sure you going to give us all up and run off to live with the Injuns?” he said gently. “I mean, we don’t get no chance to mend our ways and maybe keep you with us until you get out of the sixth grade?” The Old Man had a dirty twinkle, but this was dirtier than usual, and made me even madder.
“You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” I said. “There won’t be nobody around the place to fetch the firewood and run the errands and clean the fish. You’ll be sorry, all right.” The Old Man heaved a sigh.
“That’s what I was afeard of,” he said. “Without I got you, they”—he gestured in the general direction of Miss Lottie and the other grownups—”they’ll be making me do your work. Maybe I could run away with you?”
“No sir.” I was very firm. I figured even at my tender age that running away was something a boy had to do all by himself or it didn’t count.