As a college town Athens has plenty of rental homes, so we always have folks coming and going in our neighborhood. One day our next door neighbor Carey hopped out of his pickup and yelled at us as he walked toward our house. “Hey Charlie. Hey Nancy. I’ve been working out in the country tearing down a barn. The man said I can have anything in there that was left behind and I got a bunch of old letters. I know y’all are writers and you do art things and thought you might want to see them sometime. They’re in my truck.”
I looked up at the threatening sky and said “Well, we better do it now before they get ruined in the rain.”
Carey looked at me funny when I said that. He said “Well if you’ve got the time, come on over. We walked to his truck and I realized why he wasn’t worried about the letters getting wet. I was expecting old correspondence. What he had was OLD LETTERS.
The truck bed was full of beautiful red metal letters from a defunct neon sign. The S was the largest one.
Cary said “There’s a artist woman’ll take everyone of ’em if y’all don’t. She does metal art and can make ’em into something else—you know, like furniture or whatnot.”
We live in Pulaski Heights, and I thought Maybe I can piece together a sign——-
“Okay Carey. Have you got a P?”
“Yep. I remember it.”
He pulled out a P and tossed it onto the grass.
“How bout a U?
The P was joined by the U, followed by L A S K —–and then we ran into trouble.
“What letter you need now Charlie?” said Carey.
“I—I need me an I.”
“Well. Let’s see. Nope. No I. Tell you what. Here’s a L. Lemme get my hacksaw and I’ll make it into a i right quick.”
“No, that’s all right Carey. How about an E? You got any of those?”
“Plenty. How many you want?”
The rain was starting to fall. It was a hot summer evening and the mosquitoes were eating us up, but we didn’t care.
I grabbed the letters and moved them around on his lawn:
“How’s that?” I said.
“Charlie,” said Carey. “It’s really no trouble for me to cut down a L and make you a i from it with a dot on top so you can spell the street right.”
“No,” I said. “No thanks, Carey. I like it just fine with the EEs.”
“Well, what about your K? It’s all pretzeled up from where the truck run over it and I’m not going to let you have it until me and Phyllis straighten it out a bit. Honey, grab that four by four in the carport and get me my sledge.”
Phyllis held the four by four steady and Carey hammered the K flat against the ground.
We carried the letters to the house and after the rain was done I got busy.