“Man, I know what you need, sitting out there in that shack in that cotton field.”
I thought he was going to start talking about looking for women. Or liquor. But I was wrong about that. “You need a dog," he said. "That’s what you need, man. A dog. A hound. A man’s best friend.”
“I like dogs, but do you think it’s a good idea? I mean, with all of this going on. Some people are really crazy, upset, and they’re making threats. Talking ugly.”
He shrugged. He looked at the sky. He thought about it. “Come out to the house and have a look. I’ll give you one. I’ve got two pups that are ready to go; three already been taken.”
I went. I am such a sucker. The puppy smells were delicious. And I liked how this one looked, all spotted and brown and white and black and gangly. And feisty. And, of course, the price was right. So I ended up with “Lester,” and I took him home with me.
"Lester" could have been named for Lester Young, because of his melodious bark, but no, he was named for Lester Maddox, a huge segregationist, because he was a dog. Just like his namesake.
A few weeks later, the landlord, Mr. Tony, showed up with his stogie clenched in his mouth to collect the month’s rent, $30.00. No, the decimal point is not misplaced here. That's how it was. “So you got a new dog, hunh?” he said. He immediately bent over and unceremoniously picked Lester up by the scruff of his neck. The pup squealed sharply. Mr. Tony put him down. “This dog isn’t worth nothing,” he announced. “Not going to amount to nothing. Skin’s not loose enough. Got to be able to lift a coon dog by the neck. Good dog don’t mind that. Not at all... And there’s no need to look at me like that. It didn’t hurt.”