Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
a nuther story writ fer the group


it mite seem a lil odd that im puttin all these ole stories in here, but purty soon when the group gits a'goin in that novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly, twill be a bit of a hep to refer back to these here stories. so heres a nuthern. oh, pall gies fer them that gits insulted on a counta how taint whut wood be calld palliticully correck cumpletely, but tiz as true to life as i could make it n still be ritin bout these kinda thangs.


Savage Romance


The greatest Gothic romance ever written in the American language was destroyed before it ever found a publisher. I was working the eleven seven shift at "Gus's Gas and Grab It" when I wrote it.


Gus's is located on the Oliver Springs side of the City of Science, perched at the top of the hill that leads out of town. We at Gus's catered to the vices — the legal ones — of our customers. Since vice is relentless, we remained open and well stocked around the clock.


I hadn't worked there more than three weeks before I learned to read customers every bit as well as Gus could read the cash register shift report. I'd spot a fat girl waddling in and predict without the possibility of mistake that she'd be good for a Mountain Dew and a Nutty Buddy. Or I'd see a thin man with a pot belly wearing greasy blue jeans and a John Deere cap and ring up the price of a can of Skoal and a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. Here'd come a young man sporting a gold chain that nestled in the hair of a chest bared to the button of the belly, and I knew I'd be selling a six pack of Miller Talls and a Cavalier magazine. Black dudes'd stroll in to pick up Kool cigarettes. Mothers with pale skin and pink hair curlers wearing stained white blouses and stretched out stretch pants would be good for a box of Pampers, three small jars of Gerber's and a TV Guide. Kids who couldn't see over the counter would make their dimes last by choosing three pieces of Big Bubble and two Hershey's kisses. What were they doing out so late? Same as everyone else, getting their fix.


Such predictables, of course, are not the stuff of great gothic romance. For that, the author needs inspiration, and for inspiration the author needs something irregular. During the summer I worked at "Gas and Grab It" I met four irregulars. The first of these unpredictables was Red McNeely, a thin boy with a nose that barely stood out against a background of painful looking pimples. I'll never forget the first time he came in. I watched him run his dirty fingers through his long, grease and dirt stiffened red hair, and I said to myself, here's a sure bet for a tube of Clearasil. I was wrong, obviously. To keep a case of pimples like his alive and swollen near to bursting, you've got to feed it something more substantial than medicinal cream. He knew this, of course, and went straight for a Geno's Frozen Pizza with sausage, a Boyer's Smoothie, and a small carton of Sealtest Milk. I watched him cook his pizza in the microwave, which was located at the rear of the store near the beer cooler. Even from the cash register at the other end of the store my nose could tell that he was not yet on speaking terms with soap and water.


After he'd cooked his pizza and scraped it into his mouth with a plastic fork, he paid me with a five spot and asked for his change in quarters. I quickly glanced at his right hand. Sure enough, the middle finger bore the tell tale callous. I could've kicked myself for misjudging him so completely.


"Gonna play some Ms. Pac, huh?"


"Thought I would," he grunted, brushing the quarters into his hand.


"Mind if I watch?"


"It's a free country."


I followed him back to the corner and watched as he cleared eight boards with his first man. I expressed my admiration by saying "Wow!" about ten times.


"It's nothing," he said.


"The way you play, maybe."


"Little practice is all."


After I'd watched him ring up close to two hundred thousand, I decided to get back to the register. As I turned to leave, he asked me if I'd ever played with my eyes closed.


"You must be crazy."


"Bet you five bucks I can clear two boards with my eyes closed."


"Impossible. Besides, I'd have to blindfold you if I was gonna bet."


"Suit yourself."


I ripped open a pack of Handy wipes, tied two together and wrapped them around his head.


"Only thing is, Bud, you got to tell me when to start the second board."


"If you get that far."


He did. I didn't like losing the five, so I delayed about a second after the second board began. Halfway through, I could see his pattern was busted. When he only got three blue men following his second energizer, he let go of the joy stick and slammed the glass with the flat of his hand.


"You cheated."


"No I did not."


"Well, you'll be sorry."


I was. He cleared the board anyway. When he wouldn't take the five in merchandise, I pulled out my last five and paid him.


We were fast friends after that. He showed me how to beat the machine — not only that, he showed me how to turn it on without wasting a quarter — and I treated him to his choice of dinner delights, everything from Campbell's Chunky Chicken to Pet Ritz Cherry Cobbler. It got so he'd hang around half the night, talking cars, stocking the beer cooler, even sweeping the lot.


Once he claimed to have a date and begged me into loaning him my 1969 Plymouth Satellite. I knew he couldn't have had a date, but I let him use the car anyway. He probably just wanted the car to see what it could do. Before he left, I gave him a bottle of Breck New and Improved Oily Hair Formula Shampoo, a carton of Stridex Medicated Pads, a can of Ban Roll on, an unbreakable plastic comb, and a bottle of Musk for Men.


"What's this junk for?"


"You."


"What am I supposed to do with it?"


"Use it."


"What for?"


"Don't you ever watch TV?" I asked, selecting a tube of Ultra brite and an Oral B Hard Bristle Toothbrush.


"No woman's gonna let you get near her nose until you tone down that smell a little. I'm saying it man to man."


He looked like he was gonna cry.


"Look, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. Ain't we friends?"


"Yeah, but . . . "


"Well, I wouldn't give this stuff to just anybody."


"You wouldn't?"


"No."


"Well, what's wrong with me?"


"Nothing that a little grooming won't cure."


"Grooming? You mean, like a horse?"


"Yeah, you got it. Or a car. What'd happen to a car if you never changed the oil?"


"It'd fall apart. You'd have to sell it for junk."


"Exactly. Don't you think it's time you changed your oil?"


"Well . . . "


"Look, man, trust me, I'm an expert on women. I even wrote a book called Slave of Desire where I explained everything there is to know about women and sex, not to mention truth and love. Trust me."


"Well, maybe tomorrow."


But for his sex life, there could be no tomorrow without a bath today. Oh well, you can't tell nobody nothing.


On one of the blackest, wettest nights in July, I met my second irregular, one of the blackest, wettest men I ever saw. I'd just finished stocking the cooler and was carrying out four bright blue plastic milk crates to set next to the ice machine. What a night! If Noah had been there, he'd have set sail before dawn. I was standing next to the ice machine, watching the lightening and sheets of rain — hell, I should say quilts of rain — when I heard what sounded like a pair of dice being shaken. I turned to glimpse the whites of a pair of disembodied eyes blinking above a set of chattering white teeth. Judging from the location of these body parts, I guess their owner to be crouched down in the corner where the ice machine butted up against the wall of the store. A flash of lightening revealed a tight ball of humanity, shivering and soaked as thoroughly as a large mouth bass.


"I be movin' on soon's dis rain stop."


I watched the eyes and teeth rise to the top of the machine.


"Why don't you come in to the store and dry off?"


"I don't got no money."


"That's all right."


I led the shivering skeleton into the store and offered him a seat on top of a display of Kendall Thirty-weight. When he sat down, I noticed that his left leg was a thin as a broom handle. He wore a pair of grey work pants, a black dress shirt, and a pair of green tennis shoes. The right tennis shoe pointed straight forward, but the left was almost completely turned around, facing the motor oil. I made a point not to stare at it.


"Polio," he said.


"What's that?"


"I say my foot be crooked 'cause I had de polio."


"Oh, I hadn't noticed."


"Most folks be noticin' somethin' dat obvious."


I went back to the cash register, unloaded some pennies, counted my folding money, dropped all but thirty-five of it in the safe. I loaded the Icee machine and made some pop corn, then restocked the cigarettes. I could feel his eyes crawling all over me like a pair of ticks.


"You must be new here."


"Been here fo' days."


"Where you from?"


"Georgia."


"Georgia. What brings you to the City of Science?"


"Training program."


"Yeah, I once tried to get into that same program."


"I spose you wasn't black enough."


Sarcasm?


"Nope. Found something better."


"I see dat."


"No, I mean, I got on at the Onion. Programmed computers."


"Sho' nuff? You be movin' up, aintcha?"


I went to get a broom and began sweeping the store. I always start at the beer cooler and work my way backwards. I'd reached about the halfway point on aisle B — paper products — when I heard a sharp squish followed by a slow scrape. I paused. There it was again. Squish. Scra a a pe. Squish. Scra a a pe.


I turned around slowly and nearly touched the nose of the skinny man with the deformed leg.


"Do they got any Salvation Army Mission in this town?"


"No. Why?"


"Nothin'."


"You hungry?"


"Ain't eat in fo' days. Don't got no money neither."


"I'm sorry to hear that. I suppose a hungry belly makes a man sarcastic."


"Sho' nuff."


I finished sweeping the aisle, pushing him ahead of me.


"What's your name anyway?"


"George. George Jackson."


"George Washington Jackson?"


"Sho' nuff. You white boys be so smart."


"I wish I could say the same for you, George. Just so happens my granddaddy was named George Washington, too. George Washington Gurley."


"Was he ever hungry?"


"Why don't you just come out and ask?"


"I don' beg from no white mens."


I later found a cat in a Dempster-Dumpster. It wasn't much more than bones and claws and fur. I offered it some milk, and it hissed at me. I named it George.


"Well what do you want me to do, George?"


"I don' beg."


"But you're hungry?"


"Ate fo' days ago just after I go off de bus. Bought me a do nut with chocolate icing with my last forty two cent."


He looked at me, his eyes wide, his mouth relaxed, not the least hint of a wrinkle on his face. He ran his tongue over his thick pink lips and rubbed his flat wide nose with the palm of his hand. Then he squished and scraped his way back to his place on the motor oil.


I finished sweeping, got the mop and bucket, mixed some Spic'n Span with cold water and began mopping.


"You a Christian?" George said, low, almost a mumble.


"I give to them that asks."


"I mop de' flo' fo' five dollar."


I dropped the mop, letting the handle bang against the floor. I stood with my hands on my hips, staring at George, who'd entwined his skinny legs together and who smiled with both his hands on his right knee. He looked straight into my eyes, no expression on his face, licking his lips.


"Will you take the five in merchandise?"


"You mean food?"


"Yeah."


He immediately squished and scraped over to the mop. In fifteen minutes he had the floor whiter than I'd ever seen it."I spose you be wantin' me to wax, too."


"It's part of the job," I lied. Within thirty minutes he was sipping on an RC Cola, eating his third TV dinner, a Swanson's Man-sized Fried Chicken which he dumped onto the cardboard box to cook in the microwave — and the floor looked like a mirror. Once he got some food in his belly, he turned out to be a pretty nice guy. I showed him how to turn on Ms. Pac without wasting a quarter. He played until four-thirty, after which he said he had to leave.


That very same night I met my third irregular customer, a fat white man with a burr hair cut, a tattoo that claimed he had a mother, and a toothpick dangling from his tongue. I'd have guessed a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but we could sell no beer between the hours of three and six. He poured himself a large cup of coffee, ripped open a package of Krispy Kream Do-nuts, swallowed them whole, opened a carton of Farmbest Chocolate Milk, poured it down his throat without stopping for air, noticed a Bob's Quick Cook Cheeseburger, microwaved it, ate it, sipped on his coffee, found a used newspaper, sat down on the Kendall's thirty weight and began reading.


"Uh, excuse me, sir. That'll be four dollars and eighty-three cents."


"Put it on my tab."


"We aren't in the habit of keeping tabs."


"You'd better git into the habit soon, Son."


I picked up the telephone receiver and dialed 911. Before the policewoman who answered got my name, Toothpick walked over, opened a switch-blade knife, and stabbed it into the counter. I hung up.


"Name's Burt Henson," he said, offering his hand. I squeezed it.


"Uh, glad to meet you, Burt."


"All right. Now you got that tab straightened out?"


"Sure. Burt Henson. Four dollars and eighty-three cents."


I busied myself wiping down the counters, cleaning the glass of the pop corn machine, and reloading the soft drink cooler.


"You're new around here, aren't you Sir?"


"You talking to me?"


"Yeah."


"Name's Burt Henson, Son, not Sir."


"You new around here, Burt?"


"Been here four days."


"Oh. You must be here for the training program."


He dropped his paper, looked out the window, then walked over towards me.


"Who you been talking to?"


"Nobody. Everybody in the City of Science knows about the training program."


"Do they now? Well let me ask you something else if you're so smart."


"OK."


"Do you know where a man can go to get away from the nigger in this town?"


"Do what?"


"You heard me."


"No, I don't know any place like that."


He picked up his newspaper.


"Where you from?" I asked in my cheeriest voice.


"Mississippi. What's it to you?"


"Is it hard to get away from the nigger in Mississippi?"


"I'm here, ain't I?"


"So what's the problem?"


"They put me in a dormitory room with a scrawny little nigger. The boy's crippled!"


"Oh."


"But I fixed him. Make him stay out 'til Four-thirty. Always was a early riser."


Of course, you couldn't take the inspiration necessary for a great gothic romance from a bunch of losers like Red McNeely, George Washington Jackson, and Burt Henson. For that I needed my fourth irregular.


I never learned her name. She came in one evening around one-thirty. I had the store to myself. George was breaking down boxes and stuffing then into the dumpster, and Red had been gone almost a week due to a flare up of his Pacman elbow. Who cares where Burt was?


She floated, she strutted, she pranced, oh my God, she danced in wearing a pair of silky green jogging shorts, a man's white tee shirt and a pair of high heeled sandals. She browsed through the magazines while I browsed over her body. She was certainly the most beautiful woman anyone had ever imagined. What can I say about perfection except that she wore a long black shag haircut, no bra, only the barest trace of make up, a man's flimsy tee shirt with no bra, big, black, liquid eyes that would have made Bambi proud, no bra, and a pair of long legs the like of which you only see in magazines that your mother never read. I put my hand into my pocket as she brought a copy of Secret Romance to the register.


"You like romance," I said. She smiled. She winked. She walked out.


I told Red about her. I told George about her. I began using Musk for Men and Brylcreem and Ultra-brite. I watched. I waited. I dreamed wet dreams after each of her return visits.


Finally, after I'd sold her the seventh romance magazine, it hit me. What she wanted was romance. I was inspired. I wrote and wrote and wrote, giving up Ms. Pacman and trading food to get George and Red to do all the real work around the store. At last I had the first three chapters of Savage Romance ready.


As millions of American women know, having boosted the sales of Silhouette romances to obscene proportions, every good romance requires a few basic ingredients. You've got to have a tall, dark, silent strong-man whose muscles ripple and whose proud but sensitive eyes make women weak in the knees. You've got to have an innocent but inwardly strong and aggressive but in-relation-to-the-man-weak woman. They've got to be attracted to one another in spite of themselves. Finally, you've got to have mystery.


Well, I had the basic ingredients close at hand. Gregory Heathcliff, my hero, is the elemental man I knew myself to be deep down inside. Amanda Traum is an innocent young Southern lady who'd been educated at Radcliffe without losing her naivete and who is home to visit her strict and demanding parents. While there she hears a report about a naked man, a savage who's been spotted several times in and around Sunbright, which is where her strict, upright, honest but narrow minded parents live. Amanda pulls on her silky green running shorts, high heeled sandals and father's tee shirt, and goes outside to ponder the meaning of life by sighing at the stars. While there, she is kidnapped by the naked man, who drags her far into the mountains to his cave. There she learns he cannot or will not speak and owns only a knife and a notebook, which he will not let Amanda get near. She hates her woodland paradise at first, but shortly after getting carried away by the smoldering emotions that burn in her breast each time the naked man looks at her with his sky-blue eyes and then seducing him, she begins to forget the awful world she left behind. What a wonderful romance it was. It had Rousseau's noble savage, Shakespeare's Arden, Wordsworth's rude natural, Kant's very ding-an-sich, and Amanda Traum, fictional counterpart of my fourth irregular.


After she finished reading the first three chapters, she spoke to me for the first time. Move over, Mozart! Back down, Beethoven! You have met your musical master, the voice of heaven!


"Got anymore?" the voice asked.


I gave her the next three chapters — the bloodhounds, the chase, the poor crippled black boy who is falsely accused by the ignorant redneck toothpick sucker, the naked man's rescue of the innocent victim who hides in another cave, the discovery of the naked man's cave by the red headed brother of Amanda Traum, Amanda's attempts to read the notebook, her failure to do so, her decision to teach the naked man how to talk. It was only a matter of time before she was mine.


By the way, Red noticed the lady in the green shorts. And George noticed her. And Burt would have, but he didn't get up until four-thirty. George bought himself some fine clothes. Red learned how to use soap and, though it was hopeless, he began to make headway on his pimples. I wrote the final three chapters, putting Gregory and Amanda back in the Garden of Eden, so to speak. I knew I'd be in paradise when she realized I was well on my way to winning the Nobel Prize. Then she'd be sure to make me hers.


Or so I thought.


On the last night of my job, everything came to an end. She'd just come in and was browsing through the romance magazines. I was quickly proofreading the last three chapters.


In preparation for this big night, I'd lent my car to Red, as good a way as any to get him out of my hair. I'd also finally talked George into standing up to the bully and demanding to be allowed to sleep in his own bed at a decent hour. Everything was perfect.


She came over, smiled, took the chapters. I was just about to ask her what she thought when I heard somebody screaming. Out in the parking lot, Burt was chasing George. His knife was out.


"Oh that poor Negro!" she said.


"Ain't it a shame what prejudice does?"


"You've got to do something. Protect us."


"But that redneck has a knife!."


She put her hand on my wrist.


"Oh, Gregory, you must save us!"


Gregory? She knew my name?


I leapt over the counter, dashed to the door, ran out into the parking lot. Burt was slashing the air, trying to catch George, who was using his one good leg like a pogo stick, breaking every record ever made in the special Olympics. I stepped in front of Burt.


"Burt, what are you doing?"


"Killing me a nigger."


"Burt, man, that'll only get you in jail."


"You gonna try and stop me? Huh, niggerlover?"


"What do you mean, niggerlover?"


"Ain't we friends," George said, careful to keep me between him and Burt.


"Yeah, but . . . "


"Hit him!" Amanda said, "Cut the dialogue and beat the crap out of that redneck!"


"You hear that?" I said.


"Out of my way, punk," Burt answered.


The next thing I knew, I was spread out on the ground, bleeding from my nose and mouth. I didn't even try to get up, even though I could hear Amanda screaming for me to be a man and save the Negro. Then I saw her throw my last three chapters into the air.


"Somebody's got to do something!"


Burt had George cornered next to the ice machine. He cut him once, twice.


Suddenly Red came around the side of the building, saw the fight, ran over, took Burt by the collar and threw him to the ground before he could regain his balance. Then he stamped his face with both his greasy black boots. Burt groaned, unable to stand. George hopped over to Red, thanking him again and again.


"You'd better call the police," Red said, picking up Burt's knife and guarding him. Amanda avoided my eyes as I went in and dialed 911. I looked back out into the parking lot. Amanda had her arm looped through Red's. After the police finished asking their questions and drove off with Burt, Red and Amanda walked off together, her head tilted against his shoulder. He turned back to wink at me.


When Gus got in, I told him I was quitting. I didn't bother to pick up the loose sheets of my last three chapters. I'd already lost the first six chapters anyway.

Friday, April 23, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
story the group called a classick


this here story wuz writ to make the group laff, witch i figgerd twuz jus a big joke but they give me a standin ovayshun whenever i red it to em. after ye read it, mayhap ye'll agree bout how ye had to be thar to git the full effeck.


Slave of Desire


I once wrote a pornographic novel. It was an act of pure desperation. I'd spent years trying to capture truth, beauty, and the good with various clever traps of words, but I could find no market for my catch. Great literature such as I was writing simply had no place in the markets of America. I'd made a careful study of the problem by leafing through the stack of the Eye-Browser Bookstore in the City of Science, and my conclusion was inescapable -- the public wants pornography, especially if a little violence can be worked into it. Or is it that they wanted violence, especially if a little sex could be worked into it? That's it. The movies offer further proof.


This was 1974. I was working for Mars Munitions as a computer programmer at the time. This was back in the days when FORTRAN IV with a bit of BASIC and even machine language defined your life. There was no such thing as shelf software. I hated my job. I programmed a computer that monitored a process that made a substance that was combined with other substances to produce a bomb to protect America from an equitable distribution of the wealth, which as everyone knows, the communists are trying to force upon us. I shouldn't complain, though: I made $300 a week, which was big bucks in those days in the City of Science.


Not only was my job boring, however, but I had to share my office with Beverly Pierce, the ugliest woman I have ever known. She was very tall and very white with huge feet. She sweat easily, profusely, continuously. Thus her beak of a nose, from which hung a pair of glasses thicker than those my grandmother wore, often sported a drop of sweat. She carried Kleenex with her wherever she went and could be seen daubing the sweat from her brow constantly. Her huge feet also sweated, and she felt no shame in removing her shoes to air the stinkers.


Of course, true ugliness comes from within, and here Beverly shined: she had the mind of a proud Marine. She'd nailed down a master's degree in mathematics, minor in French, and she knew everything worth knowing. In her case, this meant everything you could do to, with, or about a number (she'd forgotten the French).


Our hatred for one another was, like all great affairs of the heart, instantaneous. It couldn't have been otherwise since she was a member of the Engineering Division and I was a member of Operations, and Mars Munitions, using management techniques perfected by government contractors everywhere, had assigned us to work together programming Max III, our computer. Of course, neither division could place itself under the other, so Beverly and I were "equals," which meant that neither of us would cooperate with the other in any form whatsoever.


To augment the problem, Mars had ordered our computer sans card reader, giving us instead a teletype with which to do our damage to the computer system. This meant that only one person at a time could use the computer. The other person fell back on his or her wits, devising whatever method he or she could invent to appear busy, which of course was the goal at Mars.


So, in desperation, I began writing "Slave of Desire," a piece of porn with purpose. I may as well admit that my desperation went deeper than the boredom of fighting with Beverly for use of the computer. I was desperate for sex myself, having recently separated from my wife in hopes of finding the sexual adventures and satisfaction everyone but me found all over the place. All I could find were tempters and teasers who left my balls aching (the pretty ones) of the occasional one night grease sandwich, which left my pride aching.


I need romance, sexual acrobatics, a woman who did anything a man's little heart could desire: something straight out of a letter to Penthouse magazine, that neither sweat nor leaked nor farted nor said anything about love or the future. I couldn't find her here on earth, so I invented her: Angel d'Hussey, a redhead who willingly wore gartered stockings and high-heeled shoes, painted her nails and lips and face and curled her hair, not to mention mine.


Don't get me wrong. Just because I'd turned to pornography in desperation doesn't mean that I'd given up on truth, beauty, etc. I mean my porn to have punch and to carry with it a message. A brief sketch of the bare bone of its plot will make this clear.


The main character of Slave of Desire, like the main character of most great novels, was my alter-ego. I named him Studs Longbong. The novel opened with Studs lying naked on his back, bound hand and foot and watching Angel d'Hussey doing a striptease. He was then allowed a free right hand with which he could relieve either his aching flesh or his guilty conscience by jerking at either his penis or his pen, respectively. Any of you who sat through the enormous vowel movement known as Private Matter know just what studs did: he grabbed at his pen and began scribbling his sexual autobiography, beginning with Sally Sieg, his sixth grade sweetheart, also a redhead. The trick was that Angel d'Hussey would free him only when he'd completed confessing his long list of carnal crime. The novel consisted of the notes he was making. I intended to arouse the reader and then shame the jerk for making sex cheap and disgusting by reading such filth and jacking off.


But I never got that far. In fact, you might say I got tied up with something else before I finished. I'd scribble my masterpiece as long as I could stand it while Beverly was out of the office trying to figure out how to undo what I had done to the computer so she could replace my system with hers. Then, when I knew that even a sweaty mathematician must be ready for a break or lunch, I'd close and conceal my notebook in my desk below a pile of two month old greenbar. Then I'd go to the computer to check and correct the damage Beverly had wreaked on my system.


This method worked fine for the first thirty pages of Studs Longbong's adventures with perfectly compliant junior high school girls. Then something unexpected happened.


I'd just logged onto the computer and found that, as usual, Beverly had deleted my programs and begun building hers into the system. I easily corrected the problem by halting the computer and replacing the disk memory with a copy of my system. Before rebooting the computer, I began copying my system onto the disk Beverly had nearly ruined. While the copy procedure was taking place, I decided to get a cup of coffee. This brought me back to my office early and unexpected.


My nose noticed immediately that something was wrong. Beverly was sweating more profusely than ever, and her usually red face was literally steaming. I made a cup of instant Maxwell House and, purely on instinct, pretended to be searching through old program listings. Just as I'd expected, my manuscript was missing. Beverly, as usual had not looked up from her work when I entered, and she still sat, chin resting on her hands, studying a program listing as if it contained the secret to life. My notebook peeked at me from below the listing. I grabbed one of the old listings as if it were exactly what I'd been searching for and went back to the computer room to plan my next move.


Actually, in spite of her invading my privacy so blatantly, I was rather pleased to find that Beverly had glands other than those that produce sweat. I even felt pity for her, thinking how far some people will go for sexual excitement. She probably had never seen anything like my book. It, no doubt, was the first bright spot in her long, sweat-stained life. I began immediately to plan my next chapter, Studs Longbong's next adventure. At last, I thought, I'd found an audience.


Thus Beverly and I fell into a curious pattern. I'd write a chapter of increasingly disgusting and violent sex, only to find myself with an aching groin. I'd wrap up the chapter, put the book back into its place and go to the men's room to abuse myself into ecstasy . . . or at least, relief. Then I'd watch carefully from the computer room until I saw Beverly heading for the Ladies' Lounge, which was my signal to return to my office and check my novel for new sweat stains. As careful as Beverly was with her secretions, I could usually smell, if not see and feel, evidence that she'd been into my drawers again.


I tried not to dwell on what a pathetic creature Beverly was. Imagine getting your kicks by reading pornography on the sly! She'd obviously never had a boyfriend, certainly not a lover. She was simply too disgusting. I began to feel almost like her big brother and even began to like her in a big-brotherly, keep-your-distance way. After all, I was introducing her to the real world, where people are more than numbers and obedient employees of Mars Munitions, where people do all kinds of nasty things with all kinds of nasty people while saying all kinds of nasty words.


In my efforts to entertain and shock my innocent little office mate, I invented more and more perverted scenes of lust and loin. Two women? She licked it up. Three men and one woman? Her sweat poured. Rape? Incest? Child molestation? Bestiality? Necrophilia? The pages came back drenched with sweat. Soon I could think of nothing else to write: Studs Longbong had done it to and with anybody and anything, from Jackie Kennedy to the Pope to Miss Piggy, from vacuum cleaners to egg beaters to electrical outlets. It was disgusting to imagine the kind of mind that was attracted to such filth, but there it sat, bathed in sweat and reeking of excitement, as mutely militant as the first day I'd met her.


Yes, we were still enemies. We spoke only about computers, and that we did as rarely as possible. She never once thanked me for introducing her to the X-rated world of healthy adulthood. I never once alluded, even obliquely, to my magnum opus. We ate lunch alone. We programmed the computer taking turns. We didn't even leave the office together at the end of the day.


Finally I decided to teach her a lesson. I introduced a new character into the novel: Beverly Pierce. I put Pierce through all the perverted pastimes I could devise. I made her an abject whore, replacing her tendency to sweat with the tendency to secrete the lubricant of lust. Then, having left Beverly alone with the chapter just long enough to get good and outraged, I returned to the office, slammed the door and demanded an explanation.


She wiped her brow and closed the notebook. I leaned against my desk with my hands in my pockets. She began searching through her purse. Finally she fished out a key, stuffed my manuscript into her desk drawer and locked. It.


"What the fuck do you think—"


"Gregory, let me tell you something," she said, still blushing and breathing with difficulty.


"Yes, Beverly?"


"I've read every word of your filthy little notebook. I can't say it isn't well-written trash. Highly effective, actually."


"Thank you."


"But you were a fool to let me go on reading it for so long. And you were a bigger fool to put me into it. I know of only one honorable thing to do."


"Yes?"


"I simply must take it to the head of operations and show him what you've been doing with your time."


"But! Beverly, I—"


"I'm sure he'll understand then exactly why this project has had such trouble getting on-line."


"But. But."


She began patting her forehead with a Kleenex. When it was saturated, she pulled out a new one and began patting her neck. She undid the top buttons of her blouse and began drying her arm pits, saturating two Kleenex per pit.


"So what are you really going to do?" I asked.


"That's really up to you."


"What do you mean?"


"Meet me at my apartment at eight this evening if you ever hope to see your notebook again."


"What the—"


"You just be there."


She left, obviously agitated, heading no doubt for the Ladies' Lounge. I tried to force her drawer open, but the lock turned out to be one of the few things at Mars Munitions that worked.


I arrived promptly at eight. I'd cleaned and polished and dressed myself to perfection—polyester double-knit three piece and black wing tips. I knew what she had in mind. She wanted the real thing. Well, here I was, ready and curiously willing. After all, I'd been without any myself since I'd started writing Slave of Desire.


She met me at the door, dressed like Angel d'Hussey, wearing a black transparent negligee, black garter belt, crotchless black panties, black silks stockings, and six inch pumps. And carrying a whip.


Do what?


She directed me to the bed, made me strip and bound me hand and foot.


"But Beverly—"


"The name's Angel," she said before she gagged me with a red ball gag. Then she began dancing.


I escaped three weeks later. By then, I'd lost not only my job but my sense of smell as well. I knew I was not prepared to do any real work, so I applied to the graduate program in English. What else could I do? I needed something to do with my time. Besides, I obviously had a lot to learn about the dangers of writing literature.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
story frum a novel that never gut writ


this heres a nuther story that wuz writ fer the group, witch i been sayin fer a while is about to git innerduced into the novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly. whenever me n emily gut back frum west germany, in sted of havin a new novel writ, i had a few notebooks full of thangs i wuz trine to rite. i had a idee fer a novel but i never could git it a'goin. twooda been a novel bout a care acter findin out who he really is, only he wood go down sum blind alleys. so heres one of em. thang bout thisn is how the group gasped whenever i red the last wurd, witch they wuz shocked but emily wuz proud.


A Difficult Departure


Just before the Knoxville flight from Houston got underway, Dennis Scarborough filled his flight sickness bag with the half digested remains of his breakfast.  When the stewardess came, he blushed.


I bet she doesn't see that happen very often.  Still on the ground.  I'm probably the first.


"I'm sorry," he mumbled as he wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.


"It's nothing to worry about, Sir.  It's really very common," she answered, offering a smile he knew had to be put on for his sake — couldn't she smell it? — and taking the bag.


"Thank you.  I really didn't mean to, you know, I just . . .  I feel a little nervous, I guess."


"Many people do, Sir.  If you'll excuse me . . . "


She thinks I've never flown before.


He wiped his mouth again.  He'd come early enough to land a window seat in the non smoker's area.  He took advantage of it to screen the rest of the passengers from his vision by watching the ground shrink as the plane finally began to climb.


How simple: the plane rises; the cars, the buildings, the people shrink.  The further the plane goes, the smaller the people get.  Soon the events will have shrunk as well.  They'll seem like a dream.  The details will blur — the bars, the music, the dancing, the kiss . . .


He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.  Closing his eyes, he leaned back in his chair and tried to relax.  He rubbed his stomach for a minute, hoping he wouldn't have to use another air sickness bag.  He tried to listen to what the two men in the seats in front of him were saying.


" . . . trying to get this thing settled for weeks now . . . everything arranged according to his . . . of course, there were complications, there always are . . . I told him, I says, look, this whole thing is really waiting on you.  You know we can't go anywhere without your signature . . . "


Signature?  Yes, of course, but . . .  When was it?  Three weeks ago?  Three days?  No, three hours.


"I'm going to put my signature on you, Dennis.  I've almost got it ready.  I wonder if you can take it?"


He'd taken it.  Then, the kiss . . .


He sat up, looked around, wiped his mouth and turned again to the window.  He couldn't see the ground anymore.  The plane had risen above the clouds. I'd never been kissed before.  Must I admit it?  Is it my destiny to be what I never chose to be?  Can't I go home to my normal life?


He saw his home in his mind: a pink two story building in Fort Sanders.  He climbed the dusty, wooden stairs to his apartment, unlocked the green door.  Stepping inside and closing the door, he let his eyes wander about the long, narrow living room: the surface of his large wooden desk was cluttered with old newspapers, forgotten pieces of mail, two ash trays filled with used matches, ink pens, a clock and a large vase of cacti; the red chair squatted, as imposing as ever, near one of the two windows; a small table with a lamp stood to its left and a large shelf of books lined the wall separating the kitchen from the living room; a wooden chair had been jammed into the desk and a Boston rocker faced the window near the red chair.


I never meant for my home to turn out this way.  I'd intended a neater place.  No dust on the floor, an empty desk top — I'd always expected I'd have a piano.


The kitchen, the long, narrow twin of the living room — he'd always felt certain that the two rooms were at one time undivided, making, perhaps, a large upstairs bedroom — the kitchen was crammed with the usual necessities: a wooden table placed against the wall with three wooden chairs crowded around it, a gas stove to the right with four burners — two of them worked, and the third could be started with a match — a single sink, a light metal cabinet painted white and turning grey with human oils and coal dust, a refrigerator whose door couldn't be fully opened due to the narrowness of the room, a window, before which hung a wandering Jew in a green vase, and a few shelves made of blue boards and secured to the wall above the stove.  The floor, greasy, once yellow, had long ago turned grey with the coal dust he tracked in after stoking the furnace each morning and evening of the winter months.  All of his dishes stood dirty in the sink, and cock roaches scattered as he approached.  He killed three of them with the dishrag, one of which was an inch long.  Its body broke in half as he smashed it, and the front half ran as far as the crack in the wall that led to safety before he smashed it.


Fucking cock roaches.


Flushing with guilt — he identified it instantly as guilt — he wiped his mouth and glanced at the other passengers.


Aren't we all just cock roaches in the eyes of God?  Scampering about the filthy remains of paradise, coming close enough to snatch the crumbs proceeding from the mouth of the living God, but hiding, always hiding?  I can't believe in God; I can't not believe in God: one faith is as strong as the other, and I am strong enough for neither.


Don't you think you're being a little too melodramatic?  God?  No God?  Why bother your head with questions that can't be answered?  So you kill a few cock roaches: is that a capital crime?


It's the cock roach in me that has me worried.  It's a scared little insect.  No wonder it creeps and hides.


You know, of course, cockroaches are really harmless.  Their only defenses consist of being so damned repulsive looking and so damned quick to breed.  Most people are afraid to touch them.  It's the same way with snakes.  People find snakes repulsive.  They call them slimy.  Snakes are not slimy.  They're very clean animals.  Useful.  Cock roaches could also be useful as a source of protein.  But people think cock roaches are dangerous and carry diseases and are filthy.  Cock roaches don't have to be filthy.  Raised under the right conditions, they could be eaten alive.  But people think cock roaches are slimy.  Like snakes.  But neither cock roaches nor snakes are slimy.  People, though.  People are slimy.


Unfolding his handkerchief, Dennis blew his nose.  Refolding it so that the mucus, which he was relieved to find was neither too green nor too thick, was surrounded by dry handkerchief, he wiped his mouth twice and patted the sweat from his forehead.


Slimy.  I guess that's the best way to describe me.


In fact, ever since taking his first course in German, he'd considered himself slimy.


He felt his heart pounding and tried to swallow.


It's not true.  I don't have to accept the signature.  After all, there is Janie to consider.  Didn't the very thought of her just cause my heart to pound?  Didn't I look forward to every class?  Didn't I admire her knowledge, her walk, her strict discipline?


BUT: Didn't I read that newspaper article?  Wasn't I shocked by the pictures?  Didn't I carefully gather all of the details of the closing of one of Knoxville's most notorious bars?  And there, in the picture accompanying the story, didn't I recognize Janie, her stringy hair and bulging eyes and small chin and smirk of smile?  Janie.  Being led away from such a place by a fat policeman.  No name under the picture — thank goodness! — but the features left no doubt: Janie, her elbow twisted by the grimy grip of the greasy pig, her shoulder jutting forward, her features plainly visible and caught by the camera.  Plainly visible.


Yes, and visibly plain.  No, I can't say Janie proves anything.  It was only a brief infatuation, maybe, based on a chance vocabulary list.  She was a good German teacher and had chosen mucus — der Schleim — purely by chance.  I had nothing to do with it.


Little could have shocked Dennis more than seeing der Schleim included in a list of vocabulary words.  Janie — Mrs. Metzger, as he referred to her at that time — handed out a vocabulary list every day and tested the class on it the following day.  When Dennis, who always sat in the back near the door, saw the word on the list, he felt himself blush furiously.  Herzklopfen.  Mir ist Ubel.  Had she noticed his sinus problem in spite of everything?  Did she have the same problem?  Surely she didn't choose such an unnecessary word by chance.


He'd entertained these thoughts so often that they had taken on an almost impersonal character . . . once they started, they ran on effortlessly.


He'd been aware of the slimy nature of mucus for as long as he'd been aware of anything.  His earliest memory: was he older than two?  Unlikely.  He lay beneath a quilt his grandmother had made him.  It was early in the day.  Birds announced it; soft sunlight proved it.  Must have been spring.  A cool day.  So quiet that the tiny twittering of the birds came straight through the closed window.  The house, like his mother, lay still, awake but not moving, eyes tightly squeezed to deny the light, which filtered in anyway beneath the curtains.


He felt hungry.  He began inspecting the orifices of his body.  Finger scraped this hole and then stuck into mouth.  Sweet the smell, bitter the taste.  Finger plunging, scratching.  Bland taste, sickening smell.  Finger probing.  No smell, salty taste.  He liked it.  Again.  Again.  Then his nose was bleeding.  Then his mother was there — had he cried? — and a wad of toilet paper — wet toilet paper — was jammed up underneath his upper lip.  Wicked, angry noises filled the air:  "Nasty boy, mustn't pick your nose, shoo, nasty, no no, nasty boy."


Poor Mother.  She tried, but she never could break me of the habit.


Dear God, please forgive me for picking my nose.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.


But God didn't forgive you, did he?  First the allergies, then the colds and sore throats and bronchitis, and finally the chronic sinus infection.  The ever present post nasal drip.  The frequent colds.  The fear of other people coming too close, smelling your breath.  And the unconscious nose picking which goes on even to this day and which, though you are very careful and usually — but not always? — very furtive, leads everyone to avoid your company and to see what a repulsive thing you are.


But I can't really blame God for my nose picking.  I should be able to stop.  Surely a person should have that much self control.


"Excuse me, Sir.  Would you like something to drink?"


"Ma'am?"


"Would you like a drink?"


"Why not?  A gin and tonic would be nice."


The stewardess poured the drink and placed it on his tray.


"That'll be one fifty."


When he pulled out his billfold, a note fell from it into his lap.  After giving the woman two dollars and waving her away, he picked it up and unfolded it.


Call me, it read.  555 3137.  Chuck.


He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.  Patted his forehead.  Took a drink.


Which one was Chuck?

Monday, April 12, 2004

ole stories of buddy don:
story writ to play with form


Hooks


"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"


The preacher, a bald man with a deep voice and a red face, swaggered back and forth before the congregation, his black eyes wandering through the pews of his little wooden church like a window shopper wandering the streets of a business neighborhood after closing time.  The members of the congregation sat stiffly upright, as posed and scrubbed as mannequins advertising beautiful clothing.


"And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."  The Preacher's voice became a tiny whisper: "But the end is not yet."  Then the voice began rising to a scream: "No, brothers and sisters, the end it cometh, but it is not yet here.  Repent!"  He shouted; he pounded the podium: "Repent, I say, for the kingdom of God is at hand!"


Again he grew silent.   An old man coughed.  A pair of patent leather shoes scuffed against the wooden floor. Starched clothing rustled.


"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and Pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.


He paused, rubbing his hands together.


"Even now,  brothers and sisters, that Satan incarnate, Hitler, stalks the lands of Europe.  Even now the unsaved Japanese masses prepare to make war and to shed innocent Christian blood.  The signs are upon us, the end is near, and I say we must repent.  Repent and be baptized, for the kingdom of God is at hand!"


Again the Preacher began pacing back and forth, pouring his angry eyes over the congregation, letting his holy wrath burn into their souls like flaming pitch from hell.


Among those afflicted with the burning truth of the preacher's words was Anthony Lewis, ten years old, uncomfortable in a pale blue suit whose pants went only to the knees.  He'd heard the rumors of war.  He'd seen his older brother, James, off at the bus stop over in Knoxville.  He just knew the war would be over before he got a chance to get in on it.


 ***


In a small Kneipe, Zum Steinbock, Anthony and Barbara Lewis sat back in their booth, relaxing after dinner with cigarettes, red wine and talk.  With them were Branimir from Yugoslavia, Richard Taylor from Southampton, Anna Muller from Frankfurt, and Suvi from Finland.  Anthony was certain war was imminent.  He argued that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was only a prelude.  Branimir laughed, slapping Anthony on the back and saying in his richly accented German that all Americans were alike.  Anna did not translate the remark.  Richard smiled also, but he said nothing.  Barbara lifted the decanter of red wine, shook it gently and  poured the last of it into Anna's glass.  Anna finished rolling her cigarette, stuck it into her mouth and bent towards Richard, who struck a wooden match, let the phosphorus burn and then lit the cigarette.  Their eyes met.  She smiled.  He blushed.  Barbara touched her husband's elbow.


"Anthony, enough about war.  We need more wine."


Branimir called for wine.


Anthony recalled himself, realized he'd been talking nonsense, smiled at Barbara, who indicated Richard and Anna with a twist of her head.  Then he suggested the party go dancing after they finished one more bottle of wine.  When his wife went to the ladies' room, he smiled at Suvi, whose Finnish silence attracted him.


 ***


That it was time to say goodbye seemed all too clear to Anthony.  They'd been going together for over a year, it's true, but they were only teenagers after all.  He knew they'd never marry.  They needed to get out, to be with other people, to get rid of their all too human restlessness.  He knew, deep down, in her heart, Barbara Mullins felt much the same way.  Wouldn't it be better to get it over with?


 ***


Barbara Lewis, thirty seven year old mother of three, didn't believe all that garbage about pollution this and pollution that.  Her husband, of course, was all stirred up about it, having read a book that already in 1972 was four years old.  She knew he'd grow out of it soon enough.  Lord knows, the world is the world.  Nature's as big a polluter as any man.  And isn't man a part of nature?


 ***


Anthony's best friend, Tom Jamison, believed war was unavoidable.


"We'll never make 1960," he argued.


He prepared by purchasing gold, weapons, and one of those new bomb shelters that were suddenly so popular.  He read newspapers in three languages that he knew he could only half believe by the time he got his hands on them.  Still, he read very carefully and filled in the missing details with his imagination.  He had his visa ready for entry into Switzerland.


Anthony was unconvinced.  His wife Barbara refused to discuss the matter.


 ***


Many of the members of the First United Methodist Church of Redondo Beach, California, worried about the poor in Africa.  Anthony laughed privately at this, but he didn't let his wife know how he felt.  She liked to point out that conditions in Africa were so backward that the people had to do without toilets and running water.  And now, with the rebellion of Rhodesia, the continent faced an uncertain future filled with war and rebellion.


 ***


No matter how he tried, Anthony could not avoid lusting after other women.  The problem had become especially difficult since his fortieth birthday.  He had a woman in every port of his life, all of them blissfully unaware of the lewd things he was doing with them in the privacy of his own mind.  There was that blonde headed girl, just a child really, certainly no more than twenty five years old.  He saw her everyday as he rode to work on the Kingston Pike bus.  Although he considered her a little too heavy, he found her blue eyes delightful.  Of course, it embarrassed him to be caught staring at her.  And how could he ignore the tall brunette secretary who wore those daringly short dresses  short for 1971 anyway  and ate at the third table from the door in the employee cafeteria?  And how he loved to watch the short but friendly little waitress at the restaurant he and Barbara sometimes went to after church.  And his son Joel's last girlfriend, Frieda, who wore nothing but shorts all summer long.  And at home, starring in one of Barbara's favorite TV shows, that beautiful girl with the huge mouth who sang like a man.  Barbara teased him about her, but she had no idea how he really felt.


 ***


They met at the Smokey Mountains National Park in 1948.  Both loved nature.  He had slipped away from his family as they were hiking Mt. Le Conte.  He found the waterfall that marks where the trail gets steep.  It was early spring and still quite cold.  Few people were about.  Barbara found him staring at the falls and said, "Oh, hello!" before she knew what she was doing.  Anthony blushed so violently that the pink showed through his acne.  And he knew it, but he smiled back at her anyway.  They were astounded to learn not only that both loved Gene Autrey's music, but that they also attended the same high school.  He'd never noticed her before because he didn't fool around with sophomores.


 ***


By the fall of 1981, they'd known of his cancer for over a year.  They knew it was only a matter of time.  Still, Barbara and the three children, Anthony, Jr., Jane, and Joel, were stunned by the news.  Jane flew in from Milwaukee to stay with her mother for as long as necessary.


 ***


Anthony hated dentists, but he knew he had to go.


 ***


And wasn't it amazing, really just amazing, how quickly little Anthony Junior picked things up?  Already walking and only eleven months old!  And his fourth tooth coming in!  And did you hear what he said the other day?  Just priceless!


 ***


They'd waited nearly three years for their 1965 vacation, and now this had to happen.  Who ever heard of a grown woman catching the mumps?  The children would be heartbroken.


 ***


Barbie couldn't believe how quickly the ceremony was over.  The rehearsal had lasted nearly two hours, but she felt sure she'd have missed her own wedding if she'd blinked her eyes.  It's a good thing her father had hired that photographer.


 ***


Joel attended the Harvard Business School and came home for Christmas 1974 predicting another depression.  All of the signs were right — look at the interest rates, inflation, unemployment, housing starts, a disgraced presidency, and the Japanese.  And this one, Joel promised as he passed his father the Christmas turkey, this one will make the last one look like a tea party.  Of course, there's not much you can do about it.  Jane missed the conversation, being occupied with her daughter, Lisa.  Anthony, Jr., rolled his eyes, but Joel's mother was proud of him.  Anthony changed the subject to football.


 ***


Anthony never could understand drinking.  Before taking a drink, he couldn't wait to get started.  After he'd had a couple, he felt great and figured, why not a couple more?  Then he'd hate that sleepy feeling he had, so he'd take another.  Just a short one.  Finally, he'd figure he might as well hit the sack.  Then he'd wake up around one thirty, and he'd have to pee, and he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep.  Then he'd hate himself for ever taking a drink in the first place.  Even so, he'd often get up, moving very carefully to keep from waking Barbie, and check to see if there was anything left to that bottle.  He rarely had to open a new one.


 ***


For two years, two nearly unbearable years for Barbara, Anthony, Jr., belonged to a Christian group whose specialty was counting earthquakes.  They seemed to rejoice each time a new one hit.  And they loved to hear about wars and rumors of wars.  They quoted all of the most knowledgeable pessimists on the environment and the economy.  The worse things got, the happier they got.  They knew whose side God was on.


 ***


Anthony heard from Chester Davis about the new family moving into the neighborhood, but he couldn't make himself believe it at first.  After he'd finally finished paying off his mortgage and put his garden in and built that beautiful pink brick wall and everything.  And with interest rates up in the stratosphere, there'd be no way for him to find another place half as nice.  Some reward for having towed the straight and narrow for twenty five years!  There's no justice in this world, he told Barbara.  He wanted to blame President Johnson, but he was a determined Democrat.


 ***


Anthony and the kids worked the surprise like this, see.  They told her about the party ahead of time, but they let on like it would be on Saturday night.  Well you shoulda seen her face when she got home on Thursday and everybody jumped out and screamed, "Surprise!"  She nearly died of fright.


 ***


The attack was well planned, Anthony was reading in the latest Time magazine, the troops were well trained, highly motivated, and completely equipped with the latest weapons, and the enemy had been lulled into a false sense of security by highly effective propaganda.


 ***


Barbara had his pipe and slippers laid out, greeted her young husband at the door with a kiss and a martini, and told him she loved him.  He could smell his favorite meal cooking in the kitchen — pizza!  Anthony felt so guilty.  He couldn't for the life of him remember what day it was.


 ***


Anthony, Jr., had been praying for that baseball mitt for three months, ever since turning ten years old.  He'd even saved up close to two dollars towards it.  Oh, if only he could talk his dad into it, he knew he'd make the starting team.


 ***


Barbara didn't mind living alone.  She planted a garden each year.  She was a regular at church.  She taught a class in knitting at the night school.  And should she really feel lonely, she could always call her granddaughter.


 ***


Glasses had been bad enough, but braces?  And Jane's father acted as if he were doing her such a big favor, making such a great sacrifice.  Well, she'd show him.


 ***


No one would believe that they wanted to spend their silver anniversary alone.


 ***


Many of Joel's most enlightened friends contended that man was his own worst enemy.  They pointed out his bloody history, his inability to end war, his willingness to create and use uncontrollably dangerous weapons and technologies, and, finally, his inability to understand himself.  They knew it was just a matter of time.


 ***


Like all of the other men, Anthony, Jr., put his faith in his union steward and committeemen.  If the union officials said it was thirteen percent or strike, then, by golly, that's just what it would be.


 ***


At first Anthony tried to ignore the rattle.  Maybe it would go away.  Of course, the car was still  under warranty, but he hated to interrupt his daily business to have the damned thing fixed.


 ***


Anthony's father claims that man's place in the universe is really very small.  He sees no pattern to human history and denies that man has made any significant progress in at least six thousand years.  Human life, he claims, is just a very temporary phenomenon in a universe that doesn't really give a damn about such trivia.


 ***


Jane just had to have that new outfit.  Her whole high school career depended on it.  She'd already talked her mother into it.  Now if her father could only understand.


 ***


Anthony, Jr., didn't see the boy chasing the ball from behind the hedge until it was too late.


 ***


Barbara knew there'd be a regular war at the dinner table if she tried that new liver recipe.  But what's a mother to do?


 ***


Reagan had the crowd stirred up.  Wasn't the enemy using chemical warfare?  Weren't troops massed on the border of an innocent land, poised and ready to snatch those precious raw materials?  Hadn't we let our military capabilities lag far behind theirs?  Anthony, like many other in the audience, was convinced.  He'd vote Republican for the first time in his life.


 ***


Jane turned over onto her stomach, reached back and undid the clasp to her bikini strap.  Then she wriggled into place.  Her husband didn't care if she was thirty years old: she was beautiful.


 ***


Barbara had just about decided to give up television when Anthony surprised her with one of those new color sets.


 ***


They each sponsored the feeding and education of an orphan in Indochina.  Barbara felt it was the least they could do, and Anthony didn't feel like arguing about it.


 ***


It was probably the happiest day of their life.  Little Jane had given birth to their first grandchild, a little girl whose name would be Lisa.  They celebrated by going to church.  The sermon was based on the first verses of John.  "In the beginning was the word."  What word? Anthony thought, avoiding the preacher's eyes.  "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us."  Barbara couldn't help thinking of Lisa when she heard the verse.

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.