12 Days of Significance (24)

By: James Hannaham
January 5, 2017

One in a holiday-season series of posts that will reprint stories written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors — for the 2009–2010 SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS project. (In 2012–2013, we reprinted 12 stories by HILOBROW contributors that were also to be found in the Fantagraphics-published collection Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things.)

The following story is by James Hannaham. Enjoy!




June 6, 2010

Mr. R.S. Pennyback
Shady Acres Estate
Houndsville, AL 35808

Dear Mr. Pennyback:

It has recently come to my attention that certain practices of your establishment, hereafter known as “Shady Acres,” have affected my client, whom you know as Bethuna, in an extremely negative fashion. We have therefore decided to take legal action against “Shady Acres” on multiple charges, including fraud, discrimination in hiring, forced labor, and sexual assault. Ms. Bethuna is seeking damages, including retroactive wages owed as well as compensation for psychological and physical distress caused by “Shady Acres,” its associates, and their relations.

In a sworn deposition which she gave to me on May 19-21, 2010, Bethuna stated that her tenure with “Shady Acres” began at her birth, on September 14, 1855. Yourself and the previous proprietors of “Shady Acres” (see Appendix A) required my client to operate as a culinary, housekeeping, gardening, landscaping, and childcare professional. During the ensuing one hundred and fifty-five (155) years, my client prepared an estimated 168,987 meals, including 121 Christmas and 107 Thanksgiving dinners, made 15 beds a total of 56,206 times, dusted 18 rooms over the course of her life, and nursed a total of 54 children, 33 of whom were not her own—including yourself—and the balance of whom were the issue of herself and various proprietors and associates of “Shady Acres.”

While initially these practices were not punishable by law in the state of Alabama, my client contends that the owners of “Shady Acres” conspired to conceal the change in her legal status indefinitely, thereby preventing her from discovering and curtailing the criminal activity of “Shady Acres” to the extent that this required keeping her from acquiring any skill in the reading and writing of the English language, and prohibiting contact with any persons, organizations, news outlets, or other publications which may have informed her of the change in her legal status.

My client also maintains that during her tenure at “Shady Acres,” she suffered frequent and unrelenting physical and sexual abuse, culminating in the removal of a circular portion of her lower abdomen, through which the owners of “Shady Acres” then threaded a string attached to a piece of paper intended to advertise a sum of money for which her services would be rendered to similar local organizations at no compensation to herself. The whereabouts of, and/or the purpose to which the removed cylinder was put by “Shady Acres” were not divulged to my client. In addition to back wages, the monetary equivalent of benefits, legal fees, and other damages, my client’s lawsuit also requires that the abdominal subdivision in question be returned to Ms. Bethuna’s possession and repaired to the extent that medical science may accomplish such a reparation.


Ms. Minerva Lee Battle, Esq.


SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018). 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE . ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators