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The young man and the two young women looked at me with surprise. Mr. Clack was less easily impressed. He crossed his legs, studied something on the tip of his shoe. "I hear that most of them kids in high school in California can't read no better than the third-grade level," he said. "Is that so?"
I'm a displaced Easterner, but now I had to defend the California public schools. "That's only partially true," I said. "Quite a few do graduate reading below the 12th-grade level, but it's that way all over the country, not just in California. In Georgia, too, I imagine."
"That's a shame, too," my uncle cut in. "Now when I...."
The door to James Venable's office opened and a man with a briefcase came out and left. "Y'all can go on in now, sir," the young man told my uncle.
"Now you know how Jimmy is, Yella Hamma!" Mr. Clack called after us. "Don't you keep him in there talking all day. I got some urgent business to take care of!"
James Venable's office overlooked a side street that ran into the courthouse walk. It was small, just spacious enough to accommodate his desk and a visitor's chair. He was a calm, dignified man who looked every bit the "scion of a distinguished Peach State Klan family." Apparently, he had been quite handsome in his day. He wore a well-tailored, light-blue suit, a matching shirt, and a fashionable, dark-blue tie. His hair was silky white and parted in the middle, his complexion pale and smooth. Bright, bluish eyes sparkled from behind his spectacles. His manner was gracious. His accent was soft and mellow. He seemed pleased to see my uncle.
They shook hands. "Well, well, Yella Hamma. How you been? Good to see you."
"Fine, Mr. Venable. I'm getting along well."
"This is my nephew, he's visiting me from California. He teaches school out there."