The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock


By —— Bio and Archives--September 18, 2017

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In T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the narrator, Prufrock himself, deals with a number of problems aging men face, and toward the end of the poem, ponders two of them.

Speculating on ways to disguise the fact that his plumage is thinning, he asks, “Shall I part my hair behind?” And because his bowels — no longer young and supple, but rebellious toward any foods less milder than corn flakes, asks, “Do I dare to eat a peach?”

A geriatric myself, I understand Prufrock’s fading confidence, especially when eating fruit. I love all the fruits that God gave His children to enjoy, but cannot be certain about the gastronomical consequences of eating them. Nowadays, if I ate a green plum, I’d immediately contract what my mother referred to as the “green plum quickstep.”

But that wasn’t the case when my best pal Dean and I were students in Mrs. Webb’s class. Bless her heart, she was so tall and skinny that a child’s drawing of a stick woman would accurately portray her. Among us students she was known as “Spider Webb.”

However, a nobler, kinder lady never lived, as Dean and I found out when her plum tree began loading up with huge, juicy, green plums, which we called “green-uns.”

Spider’s home was across the street from school, and during recess, Dean and I would sneak around back to her garden, climb the tree, and stuff our pockets with pillaged plums.

To this day, I remember how clusters of green leaves camouflaged the plums. Finding them was a feat in itself, and therefore made feasting on them more enjoyable. In the remainder of the day’s classes, we’d sit in back, ignore the teacher, and pass the shaker back and forth, savoring the salty sourness.

As thieves are wont to do, we became careless after several successful stealing sorties. One day Mrs. Webb spied us slipping into her backyard, and informed the school principal and the police chief. Spider’s web had snared us.

Like two treed raccoons looking down from our arboreal perches, we knew the three angry faces below meant no escape. The chief and the principal decided we should be suspended from school, but the owner of the plum tree chose to make our misdeed a learning experience.

“Gentlemen,” she said, “I will attend to this matter in my own way.”

Confident that Dean and I would never raid her plum tree again, she offered us two punishment options: We must confess to our parents what we had done, or we must stay in the classroom during recess every day and study. In a heartbeat, we chose the latter.

On the final day of school before summer break, Mrs. Webb called Dean and me to her desk, handed each one of us a jar of her prize-winning plum jam, gave us a hug, and dismissed us.

The lesson she taught us would last a lifetime: Dean and I never stole anything again — especially green-uns.

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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.

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Jimmy’s latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.

His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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