Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal


Henry F. Tonn

“Throw me the ball! Throw the ball here! Here! Throw me the ball! Aw, man, you should have thrown me the ball!”

He spies his mother approaching from the corner of his eye. He pretends not to notice her.

“Henry, it’s time for your nap.”

He turns toward her and grimaces and shakes his head. “I don’t need a nap. I feel fine.”

“It’s one o’clock and time for your nap,” she says firmly.

“But I don’t need a nap, Mom. I feel fine. I don’t need a nap.”

“Come on. You get cranky when you don’t have your nap. You need a nap.”

“I’ll get cranky anyway, Mom. I don’t need a nap.”

“Come on.”

She guides him into the house and up the stairs to the second floor and into the bedroom. “Take off your clothes.”

“I don’t need to take all my clothes off, Mom. I can sleep in my clothes.”

“Take off all your clothes, Henry,” she says firmly.

“Aw, mom…” He does her bidding and climbs into the bed. “How long do I have to stay here?”

“An hour.”

“How many minutes is that?”

“Never mind. I’ll call you when you’ve had your nap.”

“I won’t sleep.”

“Then lay there and rest. It’s good for you.”

“Aw, mom…”

She closes the door. He lays on his back and stares at the ceiling. He begins practicing his numbers in a whisper.100,99,98,97,96,95,94,93,92,91,90, ... He climbs down out of the bed and wanders over to the window. He parts the curtains and peers outside. He softly sings a little song that has been playing around in his head. He sings it three more times. He begins to breathe heavily on the window pane. He makes a grunting sound, then makes the grunting sound while breathing on the window pane. The grunting sound moves into a progressively higher pitch until it sounds something like the cry of a chimpanzee. He spins around and leaps up and down with his arms flapping around, making the soft “whoo, whoo” sound of a chimpanzee. He scratches his sides and cocks his head back and forth and opens his eyes widely and stretches his face in an exaggerated manner. He sits on the floor and the “whoo, whoo” sound dies down. He studies his feet, then slowly leans down and touches his big right toe with his nose, then his left toe. He crawls on the floor to the old armoire in the corner and peers intently behind it. He removes a strand of dust and studies it momentarily. He stands up and lifts the strand of dust over his head and walks around in a circle staring at it and whispering to himself. He then deposits it carefully into the wastepaper basket and walks over to the door and listens carefully at the crack. He turns around and picks up his clothes from the chair and places them on the bed and begins to dress himself. He opens the bedroom door quietly and tiptoes into the hallway. He stops at his mother’s bedroom and presses his ear against the crack, listening. Nodding slightly, he tiptoes quietly down the stairs and lets himself out the front door, closing it quietly behind him. He walks slowly down the steps, and then breaks into a full run into the street.

“Throw me the ball! Here! Throw me the ball! I’m ready to play!”

Several minutes pass and he hears his mother calling. “Henry!”

He turns to see her standing on the front porch, arms folded with displeasure, her hair slightly disheveled from resting on the pillow. She has a stern expression on her face.


“Come here.”

He wanders in her direction slowly. “I didn’t need a nap, Mom. I couldn’t sleep.”

“Come in the house.”

“I don’t need a nap today. I’m fine.”

“Come in the house.”

She leads him back upstairs and into the bedroom.

“Clothes off.”

He obeys, and climbs into the bed. “How did you know I was down there?”

“I heard you screaming.

“All the way up here?”

“All the way up here.”

“I didn’t think I was screaming loud.”

“You always scream loud. Now, stay in the bed till I call you. Don’t get out of the bed again.”

“When will you call?”

“In an hour.”

“How many minutes is that?”

She leaves.

He lies on his back again and stares at the ceiling. He sings the song in his head again in a whisper, then lets his mind wander to the movie he saw with his grandmother last week, with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, then remembers the one with Gene Autry he saw the week before, then thinks about stagecoaches he has seen racing wildly across the plains with a man riding shotgun, and Indians sending smoke signals on high bluffs, and the circus coming to town with its clowns that crawl out of little cars and boot each other in the behind and of the candied apples and the ice cream and cotton candy and of Elmer the huckster who says “vegetables, vegetables” down on the street and of the airplanes that write messages in the sky and big fat dirigibles that hover in the sky and of Carolyn up the street who likes him and has already kissed him once and probably will kiss him again. He practices his numbers again and sings that song in his head two more times and he is getting ready to sing it a third time, in a whisper, of course, but suddenly he hears something…

He climbs down from the bed and goes to the bedroom door and listens carefully. Then he breaks out into a happy smile and runs over to the chair and throws on his clothes and yanks open the door and hurls himself down the steps and races into the kitchen.

“Hi, Mom. I slept.”

His mother gives him that little frown that he has come to know so well. “No, you didn’t.”

He breaks into wild laughter and jumps up and down. “No, I didn’t! I didn’t! I didn’t sleep at all! I didn’t sleep!”

“You never do,” she says without expression.


He whirls around and tears across the living room to the front door and wrenches it open and slips quickly outside and slams it shut behind him and streaks down the steps and runs down the street at full bore.

“Hey! Throw me the ball! Throw it! I’m ready now! I’ve had my nap!”


Henry F. Tonn is a psychologist whose fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literary reviews have appeared in such publications as the Gettysburg Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Bewildering Stories, and He is a product of the North Carolina educational system, having attended High Point University, Duke, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. He presently resides on the coast and is writing a memoir of his forty years in the mental health field. The present work is semi-autobiographical since the author is not blessed with an imagination.

© Henry F. Tonn

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012