Sunday, April 06, 2008


I was in the Deer Camp (TDC) bathroom studiously engaged in currycombing my (rapidly-spreading) pelt of chest hair with Dad’s favorite brush and, generally, I don’t appreciate being interrupted during this important evening man ritual. However, mid-way through the process I heard raucous laughter pealing out across the adjoining bedroom and, as there are few things I dislike more than missing the joke, I opened the door and stuck my head into the bunk room.

The door swung open to reveal Tommy Statham, clad only in his aging Fruit of the Looms, flopping, stranded, across the highest bar of a top bunk; just a smidge shy of making it into bed; George and Thomas Benton, literally, rolling on the floor in merriment.

Tommy, looking for all the world like a giant naked turtle, with big hound dog eyes soulfully locked in mine, bravely announced, “Jimmy you know I got cerebral palsy! I cain’t get up into this top bunk,” and immediately slid off onto the floor in a blinding flash of white, hairy, Statham.

What could I do? I said, “TOMMY! YOU BETTER GET YOUR BUTT UP THERE!!” and collapsed in an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

I haven’t laughed that hard in two years. Tommy howled so hard he cried, Thomas fell out of bed, and George convulsed for so long he had to brush his teeth again.

We gave Tommy the double bed.


Mom always said there are few things in this world worth more than a great friend. I say there are even fewer things in this world worth more than a great friend with a handicap sticker, which I’ve often told Tommy is the main reason we’re great friends: good parking.

He laughs.

Which, to me, is another reason we’re great friends: he thinks I’m funny; a sentiment often not shared by various members of the female set, a whole host of state troopers, and on, on occasion, Emily Jones after I’ve tripped her in public (which is funny, I don’t care what she says).

Tommy , my friend, weighed 2.2lbs at birth – that’s less than a “keeper” bass. Trust me – I know, because I’ve never caught a “keeper” bass in a tournament. He spent the first three months of a life hard-clung-to in an incubator at Grady Hospital. Typically he reminds me of that birth weight figure when there’s some question of sleeping arrangement (one bed, one couch), who drives (he doesn’t want to), or what time we meet for church (he likes the 11AM, I prefer the 6PM). It’s one of the few times in life when my high birth weight ( 8.11lbs) doesn’t stand me in good stead, but I’ve taken to suggesting that maybe when his Mom said “incubator” at “Grady Hospital” she really meant a “shoebox” in an “oven” set on “warm” for a few days.

It worked for Simon Birch.

Tommy does not appreciate that line of argument so, generally, I end up driving him to the 6PM and he sleeps in my bed while I take the couch.

As I write this Tommy is seated next to me on the couch in my Uncle John’s “little cabin” (mansion) overlooking Sky Valley, Georgia, as the fog rolls in on a cool April night. He’s sleeping in the master bedroom; I’m staying in the maid’s quarters downstairs.

Tommy is staring with rapt attention at some nameless basketball game on television. I don’t even know the score, but you could run a freight train through the living room and he’d just lean in a little closer to the neon glow. He likes that basketball stuff; so does Stewart Grace who is asleep in the adjoining brown leather chair and has been, off and on, since Friday afternoon.

Good times.

I see people on a daily basis that I would bet don’t have great friends like Tommy Statham. I feel very sorry for them. Well, sort of sorry. Mostly I just wish they’d get on through the drive-up window so Tommy and I can get our Krystal hamburgers (onions, pickle, mustard).

My favorite Tommy story goes something like this:

One day Tommy was in New York City. He hailed a cab and was approaching the vehicle when a spry young lady with two children sprung out of nowhere, slung her children into the backseat, turned to Tommy and triumphantly crowed “HA!!! I BEAT YOU!!!”

Tommy leaned back, smiled, and said, “That’s no big deal. I’m crippled.”

Tommy Wins Again!


Stewart said...

Tommy is the man - except when he runs over bunny rabbits with his car.

I'll also have you know that I've never met a comfortable leather chair that I didn't like.

Anonymous said...

I only wear Polo boxers No fruit of the Loom here.