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The Return of Simple

The Return of Simple

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The Return of Simple

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295 pages
5 hours
Apr 1, 2011


Jesse B. Simple, Simple to his fans, made weekly appearances beginning in 1943 in Langston Hughes' column in the Chicago Defender. Simple may have shared his readers feelings of loss and dispossession, but he also cheered them on with his wonderful wit and passion for life.

Apr 1, 2011

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Langston Hughes (1902-67) was born in Joplin, Missouri, was educated at Lincoln University, and lived for most of his life in New York City. He is best known as a poet, but he also wrote novels, biography, history, plays, and children's books. Among his works are two volumes of memoirs, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, and two collections of Simple stories, The Best of Simple and The Return of Simple.

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The Return of Simple - Langston Hughes





THE first time I was in love, said Simple, I was in love stone-dead-bad—because I had it, and it had me, and it was the most! Love! When I look back on it now, that girl couldn’t have been good-looking. When I look back on it now, she couldn’t have been straight. And when I look back on it now, I must have been simple—which I were. But then I did not know what I know today. At that time I had not been beat, betrayed, misled, and bled by womens. I thought then, if I just had that girl for mine and she had me for hers, heaven on earth would be.

Why do you choose to recall all that tonight in this bar? I asked.

Because I am thinking on my youthhood, said Simple.

How old exactly are you?

I am going into my something-or-other year, said Simple. Tonight is nearly my birthday, and if you are my friend, you will buy me a drink.

I have bought you so many drinks on nights which were not your birthday before! Anyhow, what’ll it be—beer?

Same old thing, said Simple. I do not want to go home to Joyce with whiskey on my breath. Gimme beer. Joyce is my wife, my life, my one and all, my first to last, and the last woman I intend to clasp! But sometimes I still think about that first little old girl I were really in love with down in Virginia when I were nothing but a boy. She were older than me, that girl, but only by a year. She were darker than me, too, if that be possible. And she were sweeter than a berry on the vine. My Aunt Lucy did not approve of her because her mama had been put out of church on account of sin. But I loved that girl! I’ll tell the world I did!

I gather your romance came to naught, I said.

Our romance came to naught, but she weights two hundred and ten pounds now, so I have heard, and has been married twice, said Simple. "But she were the first person except Aunt Lucy who made me feel like somebody wanted me in this world, relatives included. Everybody else was always telling me, ‘I am your mother, but your father went off and left you on my hands!’ Or else, ‘I am your father, but your mother ain’t no good!’ Or, ‘Your poor old aunt loves you, Jesse, but your papa nor mama ain’t sent a dime here to feed you since last March.’

"But this girl ain’t never said nothing like that. She just said, ‘Jesse B., you was meant for

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