It wus one a them days when they wusn’ a cloud in th’ sky, an’ that there sky wus thet deep blue, wi’ th’ sun shinin’ like a big ol’ ball a fire. Which it wus o’ course. Abner an’ Buford wus lyin’ in th’ shade of a tree, tryin’ t’ keep cool, but it din’ he’p none.
Buford, he wus squintin’ up at thet there sun, an’ he said t’ Anber. ‘Y’know whut I cain’t unnerstan’?’
Abner looked at him, sideways like. ‘Whut?’
‘Thet there sun, looks t’ be ‘bout th’ size of a basketball…’ he done he’d up his han’ ‘…I know it’s much bigger’n thet: I ain’t dumb! But how in tarnation did it git so hot?’
Abner shooken his haid. ‘Uh uh, you ain’t catchin’ me agin. Ever’time I tell you sumpin’, you tell Hiram an’ he makes me look like a goshdarned fool!’
Buford shooken his haid, ‘Nope. Cross my heart an’ hope t’ die. I ain’t gonna ask Hiram: I jes’ wanna know why it’s so hot.’
Well, Abner, he squinched his eyes an’ looked at Buford real hard, then nodded, sorta like t’ hisse’f.
‘Okay, lookee up there, but squinch yore eyes real hard, or th’ sun’s gonna give you sunburn on yore eyeballs.’ Buford done whut he said, then looked down agin, his eyes hurtin’ sumpin’ fierce. ‘Now, how big dya thank th’ sun is?’
‘Maybe bigger’n a basketball?’
‘A basketball?! Why, thet there sun is bigger’n Texas!’ Buford’s eyes wus a’ready big, but now they wus bigger’n dinner plates!
‘Why dya a’ways josh wi’ me? I asked y’all a serious question an’ yore pullin’ my laig!’
‘I ain’t joshin’ ya none, Bu,’ said Abner. ‘Thet there is th’ Gospel truth, cross my heart an’ swear t’ die.’
Buford he looked up agin, squinchin’ his eyes real hard. ‘Bigger’n Texas? How in tarnation kin thet be? It don’ look no bigger’n a basketball!’
‘Bu, thet there sun is thousan’s a miles away, thet’s why it looks so small,’ Abner explained patiently.
‘Thet cain’t be!’ said Buford, sorta plaintive like. ‘Ifn it wus so far away, why in tarnation is it so hot?’
‘Cus it’s made outa fire, Buford. It’s a b’ilin’ ball o’ gas thet jes’ burns an’ burns an’ burns.’
Buford shooken his haid. ‘Now yore joshin’ me Abner, yore joshin’ me fer shore.’ He had hisse’f a big ol’ smile on his face. He knowed Abner wus pullin’ his laig. ‘How in tarnation can it burn so long without somebody puttin’ in gas?’
Abner, he throwed up his hands. ‘I cain’t talk t’you, cus you cain’t see no sense! Not gasoline! Gas, like when y’all light a fart? Thet kinda gas, but thet there sun’s got so much gas, cus it’s as big as Texas. An’ at night, when it goes down, God jes’ fills her up agin, so the sun’s bin burnin’ like thet fer thousan’s a years.’
‘Then why ain’t the moon hot?’
‘Cus th’ moon ain’t got no gas. Th’ moon is like a lamp; it’s got light inside, like it’s made a some kinda glass or sumpin’. But y’ kin see early in th’ evenin’, when the moon’s all big an’ yeller, thet’s cus the sun is still shinin’ on the moon. Ifn ya git close t’ th’ moon, it’s hot enuff t’ burn, but the sun, it’ll burn you up when yore still hunnerds a miles away, thet’s how hot the sun is.’
He continued. ‘Ifn y’all look at a kerosene lamp at night, you kin see the light, but you cain’t feel the heat, unless yore real close. Right?’ Buford nodded. ‘The moon’s like thet. Ifn y’all put yore han’ on the lamp glass, you’ll burn yore han’, but you cain’t feel it f’um th’ other side a the room. Thet’s why, when them asternauts landed on the moon, they had thet heavy clothes on, otherwise they woulda got theirse’ves burnt.’
‘Dya thank it’s true, them landin’ on th’ moon? Cus some folks’re sayin’ it’s fake.’
‘Some a thesyere big city folk don’ know nuthin!’ said Abner. ‘Why, I done seen photos an’ pitchers on the TV an ever’thang. Where in tarnation y’all thank they got them f’um?!’
Buford hel’ up his han’. ‘Sorry, I din’ mean t’ rile ya.’
Abner shooken his haid. ‘It ain’t you whut riles me, it’s them folk whut riles me! The guvmint said them fellers wus up there, an y’ kin ask Hiram, an he’ll tell y’all the same thang.’
They sat their fer a while, not sayin’ nothin’, jes’ thankin’ ‘bout thangs, when Buford said. ‘You shore ya ain’t joshin me?’
‘I tell you whut. You kin ask Hiram ifn ya want. He’ll tell you the same thang. Ya trust Hiram, doncha?’
Buford nodded. ‘Yep, but I trsut you as well, it’s on’y when y’all tell me things like the Cambrian ‘Splosion an’ y’all git it wrong, thet’s when I git confused. But you got book larnin’, I gotta han’ it to ya. An’ y’all musta larned ‘bout the sun an’ th’ moon at school. Right?’
Abner nodded. ‘Some.’
‘An’ ya wusn’ joshin me ‘bout how big them meetyers is?’
Abner done shooken his haid. ‘Nope.’
‘Then how big is stars? Cus meetyers is fallin’ stars, right?’ Buford done looked at him, inquisitive like.
‘Now y’ see, thet’s where ya got it wrong. Meetyers is shootin’ stars. When stars, whut’s really the same as the sun, shoot off pieces, they come down here, an’ them’s shootin’ stars.’ He looked at Buford’s face an’ that slow smile a his an’ said. ‘I ain’t joshin ya!’
‘Ya shore?’ asked Buford.
‘Look, stars is all th’ same as th’ sun, but thems even further away than th’ sun, thet’ why they look so small.’ He could see Buford din’ believe him, so he said. ‘Lookee up there at thet big ol’ tree up there on th’ hill. How big dya thank she is?’
‘I know how big she is!’ said Buford. ‘I done clumb thet tree plenty!’
‘Yeah? Well, hol’ up yore han’ in front of thet tree.’
Buford looked at him like he wus crazy. ‘Ifn I do thet, I won’ be able t’ see the tree no more.’
‘So yore sayin yore han’s bigger than th’ tree?’
Buford shooken his haid. ‘No way! I a’ready tol’ you I clumb thet tree.’
‘But b’cus it’s far away, it looks small, right?’ Buford nodded slowly, beginnin’ t’unnerstan’. ‘So stars is even further than th’ sun, maybe millions a miles away, thet’s why they look so small.’
Well, Buford shooken his haid in wonder, an’ said. ‘Y’know Abner. You shoulda gone t’ college, cus they ain’t no arguin’ thet yore smart enuff.’
Abner leaned back agin’ thet ol’ tree an’ said, ‘I thunk ‘bout it fer a while, but I don’ b’long in thet there big city.’
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