To Chew or Not to Chew (Letters from Kalien)

Warning: These letters are unexpurgated.

Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I heard that a lot growing up in the Appalachians. A little boy, all innocence and fluff—sitting around an ancient coal stove with men who could remember when it (and they) was new—both human and utility spewing, ruminating and smelling like chicory and moldy tobacco. I never really knew what they were talking about, but it sounded very masculine and important. “Im-po′-tant” they would say.

But now I know.

It took over fifty years of doing what other people said was im-po′-tant before I finally combusted—much like the wood in that old coal stove—and finally got around to what this man needed to do. In the hood, I suppose they would say the catnip made me flippy.

And isn’t it ironic—bittersweet—that it had nothing to do with doing at all.

So I suppose if I ever find myself sitting around a ragged checker board in an old country store smelling like chicory and tobacco—which is a strong possibility, moving back up home and all—now a wrinkled, grizzled veteran in my own right, I just might take a minute to spit out a chaw of tabaccer, slowly look up, squint and say, “you know, sometimes a man’s gotta be who a man’s gotta be.”

Next: Walking The Perimeter
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