Saturday, April 10, 2004

ole stories of buddy don:
story writ to git the group to stop laffin


heres a nuther story writ fer the group, witch the splainayshun of the group is cummin up in that novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly.


 


Big Wheels Roll


"Whose side are you on anyway?" Janie Duncan asked her brother, Donnie Whitlow, just after he'd suggested going after another six pack.


"Aah, I'm just trying to shut up Fatso there," Donnie replied, indicating with a wave of his roach clip B. B. Brown, his friend and next door neighbor. B. B., a very fat man who'd married probably the skinniest woman in Clinton, Tennessee, had been explaining once again his design for a perfect transmission, something involving little wheels spinning inside of a big wheel, transferring power, keeping things turning, moving the car. He was boring everybody with his use of terms like "virtual perpetual motion," "clean and efficient transfer of power," "power drive," "axle of the vehicle," and his favorite, "infinite gear ratio transmission."


"The only perpetual motion he really knows anything about is that mouth of his," Donnie added, laughing and slapping B. B. on his knee.


"I'm serious, man, you could run something for just about ever using the right transfer of power from its source to its object."


"Say what? How's about you getting some power out of your butt and transferring it to your car — or is that too complicated? Let's get another six pack."


"Forget it!" Janie screamed, placing her hands against her ears and ducking a little. The cigarette she held between the fingers of her right hand dropped ashes onto her shoulder. Donnie reached over to brush it off, but Janie jumped and slapped his hand the instant he touched her.


"Hey, Janie, what's up?"


"Sorry, Bro, I thought it was a bug or something."


"We gotta go anyway." Florence Brown announced, slapping her husband B. B. on the knee and standing up to stretch and yawn.


"Yeah, we need to take off, too, Donnie," Janie said. "Eric's drunk enough already." She scratched a blue place on her nose.


"Does it itch?" Donnie's wife Lily asked.


"Oh!" Janie blushed and turned away. She walked over to the living room mirror and scratched it gently, inspecting the slight green hint leftover from what had been a nasty bruise.


"It must be healing," she said. When she was little Donnie had nicknamed her "Shrink," short for Shrinking Violet, for she had always had a bad habit of hunching her shoulders and "looking like a scared rabbit." This did not stop her mother from praising her "good features," especially her "eyes more violet than Elizabeth Taylor's," and her "chestnut brown hair." Donnie once cracked that Mother must have meant the horse not the rider from National Velvet, drawing tears from Janie and a slap from his mother that made his nose bleed. Now her chestnut hair was not a problem, having been cut short in a pixie style — her husband Eric did not approve — and streaked with blond. And her eyes were as often as not covered with sun glasses, which, defiantly enough, she even wore indoors at night now and then. "Isn't that what it means when it itches? That it's getting well?"


"Well, it must have been a pretty nasty fall," Lily said, patting Janie on the hand.


"She's always been clumsy," her brother said. He was feeling good. He was a tall man, with a strong jaw, curly brown hair, green eyes, and a perfect moustache. He'd always had a good build, and he improved it by working out at the YMCA in Knoxville three times a week. He had to admit he had everything a person could want — a good job as a construction foreman at TVA, a nice little twenty acre spread, his best friend Eric Duncan (who'd even married his sister on his advice), a sharp looking wife, and steady renters in B. B. and Florence Brown. He even got Florence to come in twice a week to clean up and do the laundry so his wife could say she had a maid. And he had a good feeling about it since the Browns needed the break he gave them on their rent.


It had been another successful Friday evening get together for the three couples, an evening of drinking and music, smoking Florence's home grown pot and laughing at B. B.'s continual ravings about infinite gear ratios. Funny how you get a little alcohol in that guy's system and he never shuts up. Yes, Donnie couldn't call the evening anything but a good time, an unqualified success. He'd reached the proper level of altered perception using his favorite drugs, beer and marijuana. The girls had behaved themselves. Eric was good and drunk, hiding in the bathroom with the latest edition of Playboy. Janie, as usual, was smoking and pacing the floor like a tiger in the zoo. And B. B. was fighting off sleep, slinking down further into the maroon couch that separated the living room from the dining room, still chattering away about keeping something going forever using the right arrangement of wheels within wheels. Florence slapped his leg again.


"Come on, Baby. Time to go beddie bye."


"I thought we was gettin' some more beer," he said, hiding a yawn by sticking the back of his fat hand into his mouth.


"That's the last thing you need, Honey. You're about to pass out now."


"Yeah. No more beer, Donnie, please?" Janie said, smashing a partially smoked cigarette into the ashtray and pacing beside the wood stove.


Florence gave her husband another slap, this one on the shoulder.


"Come on."


"That's it, Flo baby," Donnie said. "Beat him to death."


"Shut up, Donnie," Lily said.


"I suppose you think you're man enough to make me?"


"Oh God, Donnie, leave her alone," Janie said. She sat down again and crossed her arms. Then, after lighting another cigarette, she stood up, walked over to the wood stove, opened the grate and checked the fire. "What's taking Eric so long?"


"Must've fallen in," Donnie said, laughing loudly.


"Well, we can't leave without saying goodbye to Eric, Flo, so why don't you sit down and relax?" Florence walked around the couch and came up behind B. B. She leaned over him, her long brown hair shielding her face, and kissed him.


"Let's get ready anyway," she said. "I got things to do tomorrow. I want to get to the flea market early."


Bill grabbed her arms and pulled her into his lap.


"How'd you like me to spank your bottom, huh?"


Florence kicked free and stood up, straightening her blue wool sweater.


"I mean it, Fatso, let's go," she said, snaring a fistful of his hair. "Do I have to make you?"


"You and whose army?" B. B. replied, seizing her hand and standing up with a rude grunt. He was shaky for a moment and nearly fell back into his seat. "I guess I did get drunk after all."


"Aah, your just dizzy from all those wheels," Donnie laughed.


"Don't listen to him, honey. You're drunk," Florence said, pinching his cheek.


Everyone talked at once, saying goodbye and planning the trip to the flea market. Donnie had Florence flip on the overhead light.


"What a mess," Lily said. Red and white beer cans, most of them crumpled in the middle by big strong men, were crowded onto the coffee table and the arms of the couch and matching chair. A few had found the floor. A bag of very green pot sat open on the coffee table next to an ashtray, some rolling papers, a meerschaum pipe, a pair of hemostats, a record cover, a set of keys. The floor was littered with old newspapers and wood chips. Next to the upright wood stove was a nearly empty wood box.


"Looks like you need to go split some more wood, Janie," Donnie said, rocking forward in his brown Boston rocker to pull out another rolling paper.


"What do you mean, me?" Janie asked, standing back up to pace over to the bathroom door, listen with her ear against it, shake her head, and return to the wood stove to warm her hands.


"I'll take that pot," Florence said, coming around the couch to grab it from Donnie.


"Let me just roll one to wake up on."


"OK, but I'm about smoked out tonight."


"We're all too wasted," Janie added.


"Who asked you?" Donnie said.


The room became silent as Donnie rolled his joint. Just as he began to lick it, a voice could be heard coming from the bathroom. At first it sounded like a drunk moaning. Then it became a melody.


"Oh God," Janie said.


"Shh!" Donnie said. Everyone listened.


"Janie Duncan's just a girl, just like any other in the world; Janie Duncan's just a girl, just like any other in the world! Janie Duncan's just a girl, just like any other in the world."


"Eric: the fifth Beatle," Donnie said. Florence and Lily laughed. B. B. coughed.


"He sounds like one of the Stranglers to me," B. B. said, laughing alone at his joke.


"Wow, B. B. made a joke!" Donnie said.


"I guess Eric finally managed to take his dump," Janie said, scratching her nose again.


"How can you tell?"


"Shh! Here he comes," Janie answered.


Eric emerged, a tall man with rosy, beardless cheeks, limp brown hair, and a crooked, cynical mouth. He hadn't changed from his Exterminator's uniform, and he smelled of insecticide. He was still singing when he noticed that everyone was watching him. He raised his hands as if to quiet an unruly crowd, mumbling something about not clapping, just throwing money. Then he stumbled against the bathroom door, pushed his hair back from his eyes, and walked over to B. B..


"Where you going, Henpeck?" he said, punching his friend's paunch. "Has old fartface Florence made up her mind you're going home?"


"It's already two A. M., Honey," Janie said.


"'It's already two A. M., Honey.' What a nag! Janie Duncan's just a girl, just like any other in the world," he began singing again. Donnie joined in, and both of them got louder, almost shouting the refrain. Janie covered her ears and walked to the door. After the fourth refrain she screamed.


"Shut up!"


The room became very quiet while everyone watched Janie light another cigarette.


"Donnie, we need to get to bed," Lily said, tugging at her husband's arm. He shook her off, pushing her away.


"Leave me alone, Woman."


"Let's go, Bill," Florence said, opening the door and pushing B. B. out.


"Let me get my coat," he said.


"I've got it already."


"Well give it to me. It's cold out there."


"You've got your fat to keep you warm, Blubberbod," Eric said. "You look like a damned Polar bear."


Florence moved to within two inches of Eric, bumping him slightly. She held up her fist.


"See this? How'd you like to have it in your eye?"


Eric snatched her hand, swallowing it in his. He squeezed.


"Don't, Eric, you'll hurt her," Janie said. Florence showed no signs of pain.


"You drunken asshole," she said. "You can't make me give in. Now leave my man alone."


"Henpeck? You want me to leave old Henpeck alone?" Eric asked, squeezing even harder. Janie began pulling at his arm, shouting his name.


"Get over there and defend your woman, B. B.," Lily said.


"She's defending me," B. B. answered. The men laughed, even Donnie.


"Let her go, Eric. I'm warning you," Janie said, jerking violently at his arm.


Eric suddenly let go and turned to Janie.


"You're warning me, are you?" He made a grab for her hair, but she ducked out of his reach and ran across the room. Eric glared at her, his lip trembling.


"Let's go, Billy," Florence said.


"Yeah, I guess we better. Good night, good night, had a wonderful time."


"Yeah, Donnie, we'll do it again next week," Florence said, pushing B. B. out and slamming the door behind herself.


"We better go too, Honey," Janie said, gathering her cigarette case and lighter into her purse.


"Oh," said Eric. "Janie's ready to go. Janie's making the rules. Janie thinks Eric is ready to go."


"It is pretty late, Pal," Donnie said.


"We've gotta get up early tomorrow, anyway," Lily added.


"Besides, Eric," Janie said, "you gotta be at work at seven thirty tomorrow. You're gonna have a bad enough hangover as it is with only four hours  "


"Shut up, Bitch."


"Well, it's true, Honey. You know how you'll feel tomorrow. Every week you ask me to get you to bed sooner on  "


"I said, 'Shut up, Bitch!"


"Fuck you!"


"That's all you ever think about."


"Oh, shut up, Eric."


"Give her a joint and put the meat to her. That's the only way to get her to shut up."


"Well you won't shut up until you pass out drunk. Every night it's the same thing."


"'Every night it's the same thing.' God, how many times have I had to put up with the same nagging?"


"Lily, Donnie, it's been fun," Janie said.


"And it's still fun," Eric interrupted. "Let's go get another six pack, Donnie. Let the girls hit the sack. Maybe they can get it on together and leave us alone."


"Eric Duncan, you shut your face!"


"Oh, you like that, do you? Maybe that's what you need — a woman. Damn sex maniac. Maybe a woman could keep you quiet."


"Eric," Donnie said, "it is getting late."


"So you're on her side, too?"


"He's not on anyone's side, Honey. It's late. Now let's go. Here's your coat."


Eric slapped the coat to the ground.


"Well, I'm leaving. Sorry Eric has to be such an asshole, Donnie."


"You come back here!" Eric warned.


"Goodnight Lily, Donnie." Janie glared once at Eric before leaving and slamming the door.


"That bitch!" Eric yelled, picking up his coat and rushing after her, leaving the door wide open.


Janie had already reached the driver's side of the orange Superbeetle by the time Eric got to the car.


"So you're driving?"


"Don't you think I'd better?"


"'Don't you think I'd better?' It wouldn't do for Eric to drive. He's too stupid to drive. Good thing Janie's here. She'll take him home, take care of him."


"You son of a bitch! Shut up and get in the car."


"'Shut up and get in the car.'"


"Oh, fuck you!"


"Fuck, fuck, fuck. That's all you ever think about." Eric got in and pulled his seat belt over his shoulder.


"Shit!" Janie said.


"What now?"


"I forgot the keys. Don't move till I get back."


"'Don't move till I get back.'"


Janie got out and began running to the house.


"Janie!"


"What?"


"Close the fucking door, you slut, it's cold."


She slammed the door. Eric's groan could be heard outside. He covered his ears with his hands.


Janie found the front door still open. Lily was gathering beer cans. Donnie was smoking his joint to wake up on.


"I thought I'd let this place air out a little," Lily said. "What'd you forget?"


"Keys."


"They're on the kitchen table, I think," Lily said. "They were earlier."


"I thought I put 'em in my purse," Janie said, shaking her purse again. No keys.


"Here they are," Donnie said.


"Where?"


"On the coffee table. I used them to clean my pipe."


"Thanks, Brother." Janie started to say something else but caught herself in time. Lily called her into the kitchen.


"Is Eric gonna be all right?" she asked.


"He'll sleep it off fine if I can just get him into bed."


"What about you, Janie? Will you be all right?"


"Me? I've handled this kind of thing dozens of times. He's all right. He's just mad 'cause the party's over. He'll be real sweet tomorrow afternoon."


"After he gets off, you mean?"


"After he gets off and gets him a beer or two."


"Well, you be careful."


"Careful? Oh, I'm not that drunk. I can drive fine"


"Well, goodnight."


"Yeah, 'night. 'Night, Donnie."


"Come back when you can't stay so long, Janie," Donnie called.


Janie closed the door firmly behind her. She found the VW key and jangled the others free. When she got back to the car, much as she'd expected, she found Eric asleep. She opened the door quietly and got in, closing it as carefully as she could. When she started the car, however, a loud buzzer told her she'd forgotten her seat belt.


"What's that?" Eric asked, sitting up Janie backed the car out of the driveway.


"Just the seat belt buzzer."


"Well turn it off. I'm trying to sleep."


Janie ignored him, put the car into first, and began driving off.


"Can't you turn that fucking buzzer off? Maybe I better drive."


"You can't drive, Honey. You're too drunk."


"'You can't drive, Honey. You're too drunk.' Bullshit. I got my seat belt on at least."


"All right, all right. I'll put my belt on. You just shut up."


Janie brought the car to a halt and pulled on her belt. Eric hopped out immediately. Janie locked her door.


"Get back in the car, you asshole." Her voice was trapped in the car and sounded like a low moan. She rolled her window down and put her arm over the lock.


"Open the door, Janie."


"You just get back in the car. Now everything's all right. Let's go."


"Open the door, Janie!" Eric tried the handle. "Unlock the door, you slut!" Eric tried to push her arm off the lock. They struggled together for a moment. Eric pushed her arm off finally. Janie popped the clutch, causing the car to lurch forward.


"You bitch, get back here!" Eric ran after the car, nearly running into it when Janie slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop. She pushed the lock again and leaned on it.


"Get out, Janie."


"No. You get in."


Eric tried the door handle.


"You fucking little whore. Unlock the door before I break it."


"I'm not gonna do it. You're too drunk to drive."


"'I'm not gonna do it. You're too drunk to drive.'"


"Well, aren't you?" Janie asked. Eric punched Janie's elbow off of the lock and pulled it up again. Again, Janie let out the clutch, let the car jerk forward, slammed the brakes, and locked the door. Eric chased after the car, jumping straight up into the air and slamming the cold ground with both feet.


"Open the fucking door!"


"No."


Eric tried the door handle again.


"I'm not gonna open the door, Eric, so you might as well get in."


"'You might as well get in.'"


"Fuck you!" Janie yelled, leaning out, her lips parted as if she wanted to bite or kiss Eric.


"You little bitch!" Eric answered. Then, striking as swiftly as a snake bites a bird, Eric slammed his fist into Janie's left eye. Blood began pouring from her nose, spilling into her mouth and onto her sweater and coat and purse, splattering the window as she cried and coughed.


"I've had it with you!" she screamed.


"Janie! I'm sorry, God, Janie, I swear I am, please, I never meant — "


Janie drove off. At the corner she turned around, jamming the gears and even causing the tires to squeal when she let out the clutch again. Eric stood in the middle of the road with his arms out. Janie drove straight at him, gaining speed. He closed his eyes and stood motionless. She swerved at the last instant and drove around him. Then she skidded to a halt and stuck her head out of the window. She spat out a red clot of blood.


"You just walk home, Eric. I'll be there in the morning. If you show your face at Donnie's, I'll tell everything. I swear I will." Before Eric could answer, she drove off. She continued driving aimlessly for thirty minutes so that her timing would be right. She told herself out loud she was not upset, that she'd handled this kind of thing dozens of times in the past. She even found herself repeating parts of B.B.'s big wheel theory. This made her laugh, so she told herself she must be all right. Then she returned to Donnie's.


She found her brother's house darkened. She parked and got out anyway. She pounded on the door, leaving little red fist prints on the white painted wood. Lily came finally.


"Janie! What happened?"


"Eric passed out and I ran into the door knob trying to get him into the house. I'm so damned clumsy." She began crying again. "Could you see if I'm all right? He's asleep on the couch, Eric is."


"Come in. Of course."


Lily patched Janie up, washing her face, putting an ice bag on her eye.


"And I'd almost healed,'' Janie said, laughing. Lily did not laugh. She soaked Janie's sweater in the bathroom sink. She wiped the blood from her purse. Finally, she made a bed on the couch.


"You are going to stay the night, aren't you?"


"Oh, Lily, could I?"


"Of course. Anytime." Lily wanted to tell Janie what she suspected. She felt almost certain she knew. But Janie refused to meet her eye.


"Goodnight, Lily. Thanks for everything."


"Goodnight, Janie."


Donnie woke up when Lily crawled back into the bed. He wanted to know what all the fuss was about.


"Janie's hurt."


"Again? God she's clumsy."


"I don't think it was an accident, Honey."


Donnie rolled over to face the wall, groaning.


"Just what do you think?"


"Well..."


"Well? Get on with it. I was sleeping just fine until two minutes ago."


"I think Eric hit her. In fact, I'm almost sure of it. Her nose is broken."


"What are you, a doctor?"


"No."


"Well, how do you know it's broken? Besides, she messed it up once before on a damned coffee table."


"Well now it's more crooked than ever. I don't think she fell last time anyway."


"So you think Eric hit her then, too? Is that what Janie said?"


"No, but I think she's scared."


"I think you should mind your own business. Even if he did hit her, you know she practically begged for it. Look at the way she bitched and nagged at him tonight. I've wanted to hit her a time or two myself."


Donnie curled up into a ball. Within minutes, Lily heard him breathing deeply. He was asleep.

1 comment:

buddy said...

Sad and Senseless, a good comment of life.