Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Appalachian Antics

What do a box of X-rated videos, a Baptist minister, and man with cerebral palsy have in common? Sounds like the set-up to a bad joke. They are actually the key components of a day in the life of my new friend, John.

I only just met John, but I suspect he is perpetually underestimated. He exudes Appalachian good-ole-boy charm. His unassuming manner, the cadence of his speech, his turn of phrase are straight out of the mountains. Some folks out there equate those attributes with a lack of sophistication and, dare I say, intelligence. Woe to them that make those assumptions about John.

The man is wicked smart. Linda called him the smartest person she knows, and that's saying something. He has a bigwig job at the University of Kentucky, but you wouldn't know it to look at him. The man is a chameleon.

John possesses another wonderful Appalachian quality. He is a great storyteller. Oral storytelling is an enduring tradition in eastern Kentucky. I once had an Appalachian storyteller visit my classroom. She told a Civil War ghost story that scared the bejeebers out of a group of jaded high school students in the middle of the day. But I digress. My retelling is a pale imitation of John's original, but here goes.

John had a friend back in eastern Kentucky with cerebral palsy. The man was a well-known, well-liked fixture in their small town. Apparently, he not only refereed high-school basketball games, he was the radio color commentator for the high school football games. John's friend struggled with small motor function. Sorting out called fouls made for high drama in close basketball games.

John's friend also had a penchant for porn. To hear John tell it, he amassed quite a collection over the years. But porn is a cold companion, and they were lonely years. Then he met the girl of his dreams. They fell in love, and she accepted his proposal of marriage. John's friend only had one problem. What to do with his porn? Being a man who believed in giving back to the community, John's friend decided to donate it to the local video store so anyone could come in and pick up a nudie flick or two.

John's friend needed help moving his video library from his house to the video store, so John came over to box it up and drive it across town. Did I mention he had a large collection? The oversized box was overflowing and heavy, and it took both of them to lift it. They managed to get out the front door and onto the porch. John stepped his end off the porch, and then it was his friend's turn to step down. Sometimes John's friend struggled with large motor function. Carrying a big, heavy box, that step was just more than he could navigate.

When he missed the porch step, all hell broke loose. His feet flew out from under him, and VHS tapes exploded like an obscene bomb all over the front yard. John's friend landed on his back, and he was stuck there like a turtle, unable to roll over and regain his feet. Meanwhile, his next door neighbor came outside just in time to see the accident. Unfortunately for both John and his friend, the next door neighbor was also the local Baptist preacher. Being a Christian man, he rushed across the yard to help.

John was yellin' like a lunatic, "It's okay Reverend! I got it! I got it!" all the while, ignoring his friend rolling back and forth like a bug on it's back, shoveling porn as fast as he could into that box. He actually managed to get most of out of sight. The preacher focused his energy on getting John's friend back on his feet, bewildered as to why John would ignore him in favor of the box.

I suppose all's well that ends well. John and his friend transferred the collection to the video store where it remained for three months. When the new bride filed for divorce, John's friend happily reunited with his movies, and they've stayed together ever since.

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