Forrest Gump Chapter Twenty-Six
We got off the bus at savannah, where it was rainin to beat the band. Sue an me went in the depot an I got a cup of coffee an took it out under the eaves an tried to figger out what we gonna do nex.
I ain’t got no plan, really, so after I finish my coffee I took out my harmonica an begun to play. I played a couple of songs, an lo an behole, a feller that was walkin by, he thowed a quarter in my coffee cup. I played a couple of more songs, an after a wile the coffee cup is bout haf full of change.
It done quit rainin so Sue an me walked on off an in a little bit come to a park in the middle of town. I set down on a bench an played some more an sure enough, people begun to drop quarters an dimes an nickels in the coffee cup. Then ole Sue, he caught on, an when folks would pass by, he’d take the coffee cup an go up to them with it. At the end of the day, I’d got nearly five dollars.
We slep in the park that night on a bench an it was a fine, clear night an the stars an moon was out. In the mornin we got some breakfast an I begun to play the harmonica again as folks started showin up for work. We made eight bucks that day an nine the nex, an by the end of the week we had done pretty good, considerin. After the weekend, I foun a little music shop an went in there to see if I could find another harmonica in the key of G on account of playing in C all the time was gettin monotonous. Over in a corner I seen that the feller had a used keyboard for sale. It look pretty much like the one ole George used to play with The Cracked Eggs an that he had taught me a few chords on.
I axed how much he wanted for it, an the feller say two hundrit dollars, but he will make me a deal. So I bought the keyboard an the feller even rigged up a stand on it so’s I could play my harmonica too. It definately improved our popularity with the people. By the end of the nex week we was makin almost ten bucks a day, so I gone on back to the music shop an bought a set of used drums. After a few days practice, I got to where I could play them drums pretty good too. I chucked out the ole Styrofoam coffee cup an got a nice tin cup for Sue to pass aroun an we was doin pretty good for ourselfs. I was playin everthing from “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down” to “Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot,” and I had also foun a roomin house that let ole Sue stay there, an served breakfast an supper too.
One morning Sue an me is going to the park when it started to rain again. One thing about Savannah – it rains buckets ever other day there, or so it seems. We was walking down the street in front of a office building when suddenly I seen something that looked vaguely familiar.
There is a man in a business suit standing on the sidewalk with a unbrella an he is standin right in front of a big plastic garbage bag. Somebody is under the garbage bag, keepin out of the rain, an all you can see is a pair of hands reachin out from under the bag, shinin the shoes of the man in the suit. I gone acrost the street and looked closer, an lo and behol, I can just make out the little wheels of one of them dolly-wagons stickin out from under the bag too. I was so happy I could of just about bust, an I went up an thowed the garbage bag off an sure enough, it was ole Dan hissef, shinin shoes for a livin!
“Gimme that bag back you big oaf,” Dan say, “I’m gettin soakin wet out here.” Then he saw Sue. “So you finally got married, huh?” Dan say.
“It’s a he,” I tole him. “You remember – from when I went to space.”
“You gonna shine my shoes, or what?” say the feller in the suit.
“Fuck off,” Dan says, “before I chew your soles in half.” The feller, he walked away.
“What you doin here, Dan?” I axed.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” he say. “I’ve become a Communist.”
“You mean like them we was fightin in the war?” I axed.
“Nah,” says he, “them was gook Communists. I’m a real Communist – Marx, Lennin, Trotsky – all that bullshit.”
“Then what you shinin shoes for?” I say.
“To shame the imperialist lackeys,” he answers. “The way I got it figured, nobody with shined shoes is worth a shit, so the more shoes I shine, the more I’ll send to hell in a handbasket.”
“Well, if you say so,” I says, an then Dan thowed down his rag an wheel himself back under the awnin to git outta the rain.
“Awe hell, Forrest, I ain’t no damned Communist,” he say. “They wouldn’t want nobody like me anyhow, way I am.”
“Sure they would, Dan,” I says. “You always tole me I could be anythin I wanted to be an do anythin I want to do – an so can you.”
“You still believin that shit?” he axed.
“I got to see Raquel Welch butt neckit,” I says.
“Really?” Dan say, “what was it like?”
Well, after that, Dan an Sue an me kinda teamed up. Dan didn’t want to stay in the boardin house, so he slep outside at night under his garbage bag. “Builds character,” was how he put it. He tole bout what he’d been doin since he left Indianapolis. First, he’d lost all the money from the rasslin business at the dog track an what was lef he drank up. Then he got a job at a auto shop working under cars cause it was easy for him with the little dolly-wagon an all, but he said he got tired of oil an grease bein dripped on him all the time. “I may be a no-legged, no-good, drunken bum,” he say, “but I ain’t never been no greaseball.”
Nex, he gone back to Washington where they’s havin a big dedication for some monument for us what went to the Vietnam War, an when they seen him, an foun out who he was, they axed him to make a speech. But he got good an drunk at some reception, an forgot what he was gonna say. So he stole a Bible from the hotel they put him up in, an when it come his time to speak, he read them the entire book of Genesis an was fixin to do some excerpts from Numbers when they turned off his mike an hauled his ass away. After that, he tried beggin for a wile, but quit because it was “undignified.”
I tole him about playin chess with Mister Tribble an about the srimp bidness bein so successful an all, an about runnin for the United States Senate, but he seemed more interested in Raquel Welch.
“You think them tits of hers are real?” he axed.
We had been in Savannah about a month, I guess, an was doin pretty good. I done my one-man band act an Sue collected the money an Dan shined people’s shoes in the crowd. One day a guy come from the newspaper an took our pitchers an ran them on the front page.
“Derelicts Loitering in Public Park,” says the caption.
One afternoon I’m settin there playin an thinkin maybe we outta go on up to Charleston when I notice a little boy standin right in front of the drums, jus starin at me.
I was playin “Ridin on the City of New Orleans,” but the little feller kep lookin at me, not smilin or nothin, but they was somethin in his eyes that kinda shined an glowed an in a wierd way reminded me of somethin. An then I look up, an standin there at the edge of the crowd was a lady, an when I saw her, I like to fainted.
Lo an behole, it was Jenny Curran.
She done got her hair up in rollers an she looked a bit older, too, an sort of tired, but it is Jenny all right. I am so surprised, I blowed a sour note on my harmonica by mistake, but I finished the song, an Jenny come up an take the little boy by the han.
Her eyes was beamin, an she say, “Oh, Forrest, I knew it was you when I heard the harmonica. Nobody plays the harmonica like you do.”
“What you doin here?” I axed.
“We live here now,” she say. “Donald is assistant sales manager with some people make roofin tiles. We been here bout three years now.”
Cause I quit playin, the crowd done drifted off an Jenny set down on the bench nex to me. The little boy be foolin aroun with Sue, an Sue, he done started turnin cartwheels so’s the boy would laugh.
“How come you playin in a one-man band?” Jenny axed. “Mama wrote me you had started a great big ole srimp bidness down at Bayou La Batre an was a millionaire.”
“It’s a long story,” I says.
“You didn’t get in trouble again, did you, Forrest?” she say.
“Nope, not this time,” I says. “How bout you? You doin okay?”
“Oh, I reckon I am,” she say. “I spose I got what I wanted.”
“That your little boy?” I axed.
“Yep,” she say, “ain’t he cute?”
“Shore is – what you call him?”
“Forrest?” I say. “You name him after me?”
“I ought to,” she say sort of quietly. “After all, he’s haf yours.”
“He’s your son, Forrest.”
“Your son. Little Forrest.” I looked over an there he was, gigglin an clappin cause Sue was now doin han-stands.
“I guess I should of tole you,” Jenny say, “but when I lef Indianapolis, you see, I was pregnant. I didn’t want to say anything, I don’t know just why. I felt like, well, there you was, callin yourself ‘The Dunce’ an all, an I was gonna have this baby. An I was worried, sort of, bout how he’d turn out.”
“You mean, was he gonna be a idiot?”
“Yeah, sort of,” she say. “But look, Forrest, can’t you see! He ain’t no idiot at all! He’s smart as a whip – gonna go into second grade this year. He made all ‘A’s’ last year. Can you believe it!”
“You sure he’s mine?” I axed.
“Ain’t no question of it,” she say. “He wants to be a football player when he grows up – or a astronaut.”
I look over at the little feller again an he is a strong, fine-lookin boy. His eyes is clear an he don’t look like he afraid of nothin. Him an Sue is playin tic-tac-toe in the dirt.
“Well,” I says, “now what about, ah, your…”
“Donald?” Jenny says. “Well, he don’t know bout you. You see, I met him just after I left Indianapolis. An I was bout to start showin an all, an I didn’t know what to do. He’s a nice, kind man. He takes good care of me an little Forrest. We got us a house an two cars an ever Saturday he takes us someplace like the beach or out in the country. We go to church on Sunday, an Donald is savin up to send little Forrest to college an all.”
“Coud I see him – I mean, jus for a minute or two?” I axed.
“Sure,” Jenny say, an she call the little feller over.
“Forrest,” she says, “I want you to meet another Forrest. He’s a ole friend of mine – an he is who you are named after.”
The little guy come an set down by me an say, “What a funny monkey you got.”
“That is a orangutang,” I say. “His name is Sue.”
“How come you call him Sue, if it’s a he? “
I knowed right then that I didn’t have no idiot for a son. “Your mama say you want to grow up to be a football player, or a astronaut,” I says.
“I sure would,” he say. “You know anything about football or astronauts?”
“Yep,” I say, “a little bit, but maybe you ought to axe your daddy bout that. I’m sure he knows a lot more than me.”
Then he give me a hug. It weren’t a big hug, but it was enough. “I want to play with Sue some more,” he say, an jump down from the bench, an ole Sue, he done organized a game where little Forrest could thow a coin into the tin cup an Sue would catch it in the air.
Jenny come over an set nex to me an sighed, an she pat me on the leg.
“I can’t believe it sometimes,” she say. “We’ve knowed each other nearly thirty years now – ever since first grade.”
The sun is shinin thru the trees, right on Jenny’s face, an they might of been a tear in her eyes, but it never come, an yet they is somethin there, a heartbeat maybe, but I really couldn’t say what it was, even tho I knowed it was there.
“I just can’t believe it, that’s all,” she say, an then she lean over an kiss me on the forehead.
“What’s that?” I axed.
“Idiots,” Jenny says, an her lips is tremblin. “Who ain’t a idiot?” An then she is gone. She got up an fetched little Forrest an took him by the han an they walked on off.
Sue come over an set down in front of me an drawed a tic-tac-toe thing in the dirt at my feet. I put a X to the upper right corner, an Sue put a O in the middle, an I knowed right then an there ain’t nobody gonna win.
Well, after that, I done a couple of things. First, I called Mister Tribble an tole him that anything I got comin in the srimp bidness, to give ten percent of my share to my mama an ten percent to Bubba’s daddy, an the rest, send it all to Jenny for little Forrest.
After supper, I set up all night thinkin, altho that is not somethin I am sposed to be particularly good at. But what I was thinkin was this: here I have done foun Jenny again after all this time. An she have got our son, an maybe, somehow, we can fix things up.
But the more I think about this, the more I finally understan it cannot work. And also, I cannot rightly blame it on my bein a idiot – tho that would be nice. Nope, it is jus one of them things. Jus the way it is sometimes, an besides, when all is said an done, I figger the little boy be better off with Jenny an her husband to give him a good home an raise him right so’s he won’t have no peabrain for a daddy.
Well, a few days later, I gone on off with ole Sue an Dan. We went to Charleston an then Richmond an then Atlanta an then Chattanooga an then Memphis an then Nashville an finally down to New Orleans.
Now they don’t give a shit what you do in New Orleans, an the three of us is havin the time of our lifes, playin ever day in Jackson Square an watchin the other fruitcakes do they thing.
I done bought a bicycle with two little sidecars for Sue an Dan to ride in, an ever Sunday we peddle down to the river an set on the bank an go catfishin. Jenny writes me once ever month or so, an sends me pictures of Little Forrest. Last one I got showed him dressed up in a tinymight football suit. They is a girl here that works as a waitress in one of the strip joints an ever once in a wile we get together an ass aroun. Wanda is her name. A lot of times, me an ole Sue an Dan jus cruise aroun the French Quarter an see the sights, an believe me, they is some odd-lookin people there besides us – look like they might be lef over from the Russian Revolution or somethin.
A guy from the local newspaper come by one day an say he want to do a story on me, cause I am the “best one-man band” he ever heard. The feller begun axin me a lot of questions bout my life, an so I begun to tell him the whole story. But even before I got haf thru, he done walked off; say he can’t print nothin like that cause nobody would’n ever believe it.
But let me tell you this: sometimes at night, when I look up at the stars, an see the whole sky jus laid out there, don’t you think I ain’t rememberin it all. I still got dreams like anybody else, an ever so often, I am thinkin about how things might of been. An then, all of a sudden, I’m forty, fifty, sixty years ole, you know?
Well, so what? I may be a idiot, but most of the time, anyway, I tried to do the right thing – an dreams is jus dreams, ain’t they? So whatever else has happened, I am figgerin this: I can always look back an say, at least I ain’t led no hum-drum life.
You know what I mean?