mykel d. myles
poet, short story writer and essayist mykel d. myles is a native
clevelander. he is the winner of the 1999 dogwood tales magazine
humor fiction award; lakeland community college poetry award
for 2000; and the paul lawrence dunbar poetry award from the
detroit black writers guild. he is the former editor-in-chief
of cleveland's own african town crier.
"There he is! Hey, how you doin', my buddy?" Stone
said, laying his cigar in the ash tray on the bar, and reaching
to shake my hand.
"Pretty good, Stone," I said, seating myself on the
stool next to him. "How are you today?"
"Oh, pretty fair for an old man, Danny, pretty fair.""Age
is all in the head, Stone."
"Not no more. Most of it is in my back these days."
"The usual, Lucy," I said to the bar maid. "How
about you, Stone, can I treat you to a beer?"
"Make it two, Lucy," I called, heading for the cigarette
"Ain't no Kool Milds in there," Lucy said. "That
cigarette man didn't come again today. I don't know what's wrong
with that man. I told the boss, though. I'm sorry." She
wiped the bar in front of us, and poured our beers.
"Oh, that's all right," I said, and she treated me
to a glimpse of her dimpled smile, before heading back to the
opposite end of the bar to watch her soap operas.
"I probably smoke too much anyway," I said.
"Here," Stone said, pulling a long cigar from his shirt
pocket. "Have one of these, buddy. Come all the way from
"Cuba?" I said, as he sipped the head off of his beer.
"How did you get cigars from Cuba? America does no trading
with Cuba these days," I said, accepting the offer.
"Got 'em 'cause my brother sent 'em to me," he said,
and took a puff from his cigar, adding, "Cuba's my home."
"Cuba is your home?" I said. "Stone, I thought
you said you were from Alabama?"
"Am. Ain't come up here 'til after the war."
"Well," I said, "If you are from Alabama, how
could your brother send you cigars from home in Cuba if home
is really in Alabama?"
"'Cause my home is in Cuba," he said, and took another
sip of his beer before adding, "Cuba, Alabama that is -
Sumpter County, d'rec'ly 'cross the border from Toomsuba."
He looked at me with his head tilted knowingly to one side, and
squinted his eyes from the smoke rising from the cigar that dangled
casually from the corner of his mouth.
"Toomsuba?" I asked. "Come on, Stone, what the
heck's a Toomsuba?"
He nodded. "That's where I worked as a young man,"
he said, placing his cigar in the ash tray. "Toomsuba, Mississippi.
Then I got changed over to a farm a little way down from there
in Whynot." He sipped some beer. "That's when I left,
and joint the army. After Whynot."
"Whynot what, Stone?" I asked incredulously.
"Mississippi," he said, matter-of-factly.
"Whynot, Mississippi?" I asked.
And he answered, with the smile of a trickster, "'Cause
I ain't like it there."