The Sunny South

Damon Runyon

Miami, Florida,

December 16.

DEAR SIR that lumbago that Johnny Walker the traveling fellow had did not get better so my boss ses Joe you better go down to Miami and see those customers of Johnnys and be easy on the expenses and when I told my wife Ethel she ses Joe honestly I did not hold a thought that Johnnys lumbago would not get better but I have bought the cutest bathing suit you ever saw in your life.

So I got out the old can and when we was only over in New Jersey Ethel ses Joe you tell me when we are in the sunny south. I ses well after we leave Washington we will be there so when we left Washington and had gone quite a ways she ses are we in the sunny south now?

I ses yes I guess we are and when I stopped at a gas station I heard her tell the gas fellow good moanin and I ses Ethel what is the idea of talking that way to people? She ses why Joe that is my southern accent like Bette Davis in those southern pictures.

I ses look Ethel dont be talking that way or these guys down here will think you are trying to kid somebody. She ses why Joe they will think I belong in the sunny south the same as them. I ses yes they will in a pigs eye with a New York license plate on our car. I ses suppose you was running a gas station in Brooklyn and somebody from down here with a southern license on their car asked you for some erl?

Ethel ses well what if they did? I would just go and get them some erl. What is wrong about that Joe? I ses why Ethel they would only be trying to kid you about the way Brooklyn people talk because down south they call erl oil and in Brooklyn oil is a fellows name. I ses you spell that oil E-A-R-L.

Ethel ses O pooh Joe I know that but it is only the way some of the people in Brooklyn talk. You know very well I do not talk that way except when I forget and neither do you much. When my Moms ses erl I know she means oil and when my Pops ses oil I know he means Earl Clanahan the fellow who is a bartender at Schultzes. My Moms and my Pops got in the habit of talking that way along time ago and never stopped.

I ses well then that is the way it is down south. I ses everybody does not talk like you did to that gas station fellow. She ses all right Joe I was only trying to be friendly in the sunny south. Joe if this is the sunny south where are the darky persons picking cotton and twanging on their banjos and singing sad songs? I ses well Ethel maybe there is no cotton for them to pick and maybe they are not sad and do not feel like twanging on their banjos and singing sad songs.

She ses why Joe that is silly. In the movies all darky persons are always twanging on their banjos and singing sad songs especially when old massa dies. I ses Ethel you will have to stop figuring the sunny south is like the movies. I ses that was a long time ago and everything is different now and she ses well I guess it is but I hope Paulette Goddard gets to play Scarlett O’Hara. She looks beautiful and cold and mean enough.

I ses who does? Ethel ses Paulette Goddard does. She would make a wonderful Scarlett O’Hara. I ses what has Paulette Goddard or Scarlett O’Hara got to do with this trip? Ethel ses O that is going to be a picture about the sunny south the way it is in the movies. Joe I see some darky persons over there by that house but they are not doing anything but setting still.

I ses well maybe it is too warm for them to move around and she ses Joe are you really sure you did not take the wrong road? Are you sure we are in the sunny south? I ses Ethel you can go and bet on it. She ses well I am certainly disappointed in those darky persons. They do not even have banjos. Joe you would think they would have darky persons with banjos everywhere in the sunny south so people like me from Brooklyn would not be disappointed. I ses Ethel I will speak to the Chamber of Commerce about it.

We was four days getting down here and we stopped in trailer camps at night and Ethel got acquainted with everybody in those camps and she ses Joe I am having a fine time in the sunny south. Do you know what Joe? I ses no what? She ses why I have been speaking my Bette Davis southern accent to them like I did to that gas station fellow and they think I am really from the sunny south myself. Isnt that wonderful Joe? They do not think I am trying to kid somebody like you ses they would.

I ses I do not see what is the idea of putting yourself away as a southerner. I ses are you ashamed of Brooklyn? She ses of course not Joe but the sunny south sounds more romantic to be from and attracts more attention. A good looking fellow in that camp we stopped in last night asked me what part of the south I was from and I told him Massachusetts. It was the first place I could think of and he laughed and talked to me a lot Joe. If I had told him Brooklyn he would not have noticed me. He was from Louisiana himself.

I ses well all right Ethel but here We are away down in Florida and Ethel ses O Joe look at the beautiful yellow light bulbs on those trees. I wish we could stay and see them turn them on. I ses Ethel those are not light bulbs. I ses those are oranges growing on those trees.

Yours truly