Sunday, October 28, 2012

august end of day


the humidity it hangs heavy a velveteen valance weakly holding back separating the crowd from god's main attraction such a fleshy heat weighing one down like fresh tepid meat on a platter wet warm almost wiggling slippery and slithering

smothering

an anaconda of aqueous anxiety that takes one to that trips balls amidst among

that half world between life and death

reflected in this diffused cloud-filtered light staining the single vitreous fenestration across the front of this wood-framed one-room emporium filling in the flaking fading red window paint that spells out in broad mid fifties cursive style

corner grocery

big plate glass window splattered with splotches of butcher paper lettered with black magic marker

mister nixon price controls invoked ham hocks twenty nine cents a pound hot links four for a dollar pork and beans thirty two cents for a sixteen ounce can

it’s nineteen seventy one

but cousin billy’s three ninety six ess ess impala parked out front where he can see it from his perch from behind the register that impala she’s a sixty six

dark blue black vinyl top

a confederate flag folded neatly across the back window bay a bumper sticker declaring the driver american by birth southern by the grace of god

steve and hardrock real name george so steve and hardrock out front sitting on the lip of the foundation of the store cigarettes dangling from fingers or lips in a syncopated motion as if choreographed by june taylor herself

watched from above through some heavenly ceiling cam

an occasional phlegmy cough heaving up some slime from down deep a gathering of goo twixt the gum and cheek a whooshing spit out upon the broken concrete patched with bucket tar and gravel

must be jelly because jam it don’t shake that way

conversation in phrases and short liners questions and declarations of their respective manhoods grins and grimaces

their ambitions as vague and cloudy and weighing on them as the summer sultriness their hunger focused instead on the moment

they are nothing now but

two pairs of eyes watching the young pentecostal lass seemingly ignorant of her blooming womanhood but possessing demonstrating a hormonally driven swish of her ass lifting her long cotton skirt showing off pale calves

long and lean

sporting wispy little hairs that

coupled with budding breasts that not even her loose mennonitish blouse can hide

teasing suspicions that she is near ready to be married off to one of the congregation elders

those legs meant for wrapping around her virile god-fearing man for the purpose of breeding and birthing bunches of babies all sorts of jesus loving babies

steve and hardrock they’ll never be that man but their eyes they don’t know that as they watch her cross the road

on over

to the white church

her white church

that shimmers and winks in some fiery field of sanity in the soggy sorghum of the late late august afternoon early evening settling in setting up shop making its presence known

the dim light

of the late afternoon early evening august sun

who

she he

the sun

that transsexual transylvanian shemale apollo with a cunt soaring home in his her chariot a blaze of fire scorching earth he she plays havoc with the raindrops

tickling and teasing

these liquidous sliquidous tears of a clown still resting uneasily on the blades of grass gathered within its conspiratorial congress cluster fucked and spent on the expansive front and side lawns rain that had fallen quickly softly predictably to ground to earth in its same bat time same bat channel regularly scheduled afternoon appearance

just an hour or so earlier

the pavement already dry

jimmy he comes out of the store as pentecostal peggy crosses the street steve and hardrock they look up and over at him jimmy he nods steve and hardrock they nod hardrock he says

hey what’s up cuz

because every white man is his cuz

jimmy he sits beside them he has three coca colas in the bottle he lets steve and hardrock each pick one they each hold up the bottle check out the bottler location town city state stamped on the bottom

steve he says

i got columbus

hardrock he says

i got birmingham

jimmy he says

i got charleston i win

hardrock he says

you sure birmingham ain’t further away

jimmy he says looking down at the broken concrete on the drive noticing the ants that had gathered about one of the snotty spits laid down before jimmy he says

i’m sure

hardrock he shakes his head he says taking a draw off his cigarette he says

don’t know how you know them things

steve he nudges hardrock in the ribs he says with a laugh

don’t you know his mamma his daddy they went to college

hardrock he says

yeah figures

jimmy watches sweet skirt saunter across the road walking across between a few meandering people doggedly walking they the civilians those non-soldiers of sweet innocence small groups of men getting off work at the pulp mill

the pulp mill right up and around the bend

the bend that follows that consists of a single railroad track and a barely two-lane tar and gravel road

these folks mostly men saunter slowly in one direction while women mostly women in one's two's come up from the other direction all hunched over still feeling the rain perhaps still feeling the work caring for them white folks’ households on the other side of town

jimmy though he don’t know

jimmy he don’t know how they feel what they feel he can only guess he can only reach into his world formed by television and the albany herald and the columbus ledger-enquirer and archie comics and sergeant rock

and and and

living on what he’s been told is the right side of the tracks

he can only reach into this world his world and try to formulate some sort of thirteen year old opinion some worldview some rational framework upon which he can stuff all that he sees

a delicately constructed set of monkey bars built of tinker toys and rubber bands

beneath which lie broken glass and broken promises

and here they come like they do every evening end of day they these wandering jews of africa they pass by a pecan tree that towers above who guards the front corner of the church's side lawn

jesus the sentinel

the father the son the holy ghost

scars in the palms of her branches

and their sweet virgin she skirts around passes by the tree and the few older kids that hang out in the large shadow cast by the long day's close a few kids leaning on the fat trunk cigarettes either dangling from their lips or suspended between thumb and forefinger wrist relaxed forearm resting on uplifted knee most in dirty tee shirts some in overalls some just in jeans some in brogan boots some not some barefooted some with long stringy redneck hair some with that total cracker buzz

jimmy he don't know them didn’t grow up with them don't really know them but he recognizes them from previous summers

they’ll grow up and die just like those before them maybe they’ll move on to some other town maybe they’ll knock up their girlfriend end up marrying it’s the right thing to do it’s what they know to do maybe they’ll sell a little dope a little crank get caught they always get caught

do a little time in jail

maybe they’ll end up driving their car their truck into some ditch into each other into the river the lake maybe they’ll survive

maybe they won’t

but jimmy he’s only here for the summer been here for most summers long as he can remember that's what they do that’s what he and his momma and his brother do they come down here for the summer

jimmy his grandmamma she lives here jimmy his aunts and uncles they live here jimmy his daddy he took jimmy’s mamma and moved them all over up into virginia

now during the summers they come back jimmy and his mamma and his brother they come back down to south georgia to cuthbert and jimmy he works helps out at his uncle rick's store been doing it since he could count change cousin billy four years his senior runs the store been running the store since he could count change

billy he knows these guys billy he knows most everyone in cuthbert most everyone they know billy he doesn't really seem to care about these kids over beneath the pecan tree he don't care if they exist or not

billy he puts on in such ways

and it's thursday sweet skirt she walks up around toward the back of the church around to the church office she disappears into the sandy back lot where the preacher he parks his car surrounds himself with the pines and kudzu that trap their collective souls

there ain’t no services tonight they don't do church on thursday they do church on wednesday they do church on sunday morning on sunday evening on wednesday evening during camp revival time they do church every night for a couple of weeks visiting preachers coming in from all over taking their dinners with the families of various deacons and important folk within the congregation

jimmy he ain't never had a visiting preacher take dinner with them or he ain’t never seen a visiting preacher take with uncle rick or with his grandmamma either

jimmy he knows that during the other months the church choir they practice on thursdays right after dinner usually but they don't practice in august ain't usually nobody around to sing in august during the whole month of august nobody went to the church on thursday evenings

the preacher and the deacons and the important folk within the congregation they usually run these kids off by the time services or choir practice are gonna begin sometimes they call the sheriff who happens to live right up the street not following the bend but around the other way

toward town

usually they just walk up to them ask them if they have accepted jesus into their lives pointedly comparing their loathsome ways and those of satan

and his kind

and his like

and his sort

but this thursday evening in august the preacher the deacons the important folk within the congregation hell most of the congregation themselves they deem it time to be off shelling peas in their aluminum lawn chairs on the front porch in the front lawn on their neighbor's front porch front lawn picking over the last of the watermelons in the field fishing for breakfast bream in the local ponds

maybe even sipping a little bourbon and branch or scuppernong wine

not so much that they’d give in to the devil’s ways just enough to take away the edge that edge of the suffocating heat

the heat that swirls about like the flies and gnats and mosquitos that it breeds infecting pores and glands and causing even the dry dirt and gravel drive leading from the road to the church parking lot to break a sweat

most of the time most of these august evenings they these boys of summer jimmy and hardrock and steve and the other billy rats sit inside the store behind the counter around the counter on the drink box the window unit blowing cool air right across the floor every now and then every once in a while they're joined by some of the folks some of the wandering folks they come traipsing in stand in front of the icy air flow sometimes even lifting their sweat-stained shirts grinning from ear to ear taking away the breeze

not caring

jimmy he don't blame them

billy he blames them

he leans across leans over the counter flyswatter in hand he leans forward cocking his head in just that way he does he says

now mister henry you going to stink up the whole damn place lifting your old smelly shirt that way now get on out of here

or he says

mister charlie if you don't turn away from that damned air conditioner face me and pay your damned grocery bill for this month i'm going to throw your sorry ass out of here

mister charlie mister henry they must be twenty years older than billy it don’t matter they they’re black billy he ain’t

so they mister charlie mister henry they always most always do whatever it is that billy tells them

just the way it is just the way it seems to have always been

that sixties shit it ain’t hit cuthbert georgia yet it’s only seventy one

it ain’t no matter

and they mister charlie mister henry the others it ain’t no matter that they are confused as they often are they are confused as to where billy’s thin but ever-changing line of rules might lie they almost always do what billy tells them they buy something pay a little on their tab make some face-saving remark then leave the store

they leave and another two three take their place the store never rarely ever gets crowded but never rarely ever empties out either

this afternoon evening this thursday dinner time hank he comes in

whiskey and cigarettes precede him by a few seconds as he passes by steve hardrock jimmy he walks past up the steps through the swinging door the door swings open and shut back and forth back and forth swinging open and shut and open in diminishing apertures the humid outside air sucked in through the straw the door settling down settling down settling down closed

hank he comes in a cigarette perched behind his ear poking out from behind his thick black curly hair his white-boy afro that bounces like the slow waves of a water bed during a morning fuck

hank he comes in his sixteen years providing him with a white chocolate body not the normal farm-boy cracker muscle that normally comes covered with a not-so-thin layer of mamma's biscuits eggs ham bacon every morning no hank he's got that field hand thing going on sinewy and thick from long hours of hard hard labor

hank that boy he can swing a pick he can slip a spade into hard clay

hardrock that little fuck of fourteen with the appearance intelligence of someone twelve he gets up and follows him in jimmy he gets up and follows him in

steve he sits outside smoking his cigarette

billy he sits behind the counter chair tilted back on its hind two legs local evening paper the albany herald folded over in his lap he looks up gives a nod looks back down at his paper

hardrock he says he got his country boy pimp swagger down he says

hey cuz where'd you get the whisky

hank he looks down on hardrock little bit of a cracker crumb hank he says

yo momma gave it to me

hardrock he says he gets upset so easily he says

aw now don't be talking about my momma now you know she's sick

hank he grins he leans over the ice cream freezer slides up the glass lid moves things around to get a better look he says

yeah thought she was moving a little slow this time

hardrock he turns red he says

where'd you get the whisky

hank he says

over at eufala the truck stopped off at the aa bee see i got one of the old niggers to buy me a half pint

where those eskimo pies

hardrock he says he sidles up to the counter the ice cream freezer he says

ain’t there any left

hank he says looking over at hardrock with that look that sideways look he says

that's what i'm asking you that's what i want to know where's the eskimo pies

hardrock he says

don’t know fool

any whisky left

hank he looks up grins he says

nope

he says looks back down into the freezer moving some things about he says

nope

took off the top threw it out the window on the ride back we got stuck behind a old nigger church bus coming up off the river on those damned curves took us forever getting home i nearly sucked all the fumes outa the bottle

hardrock he stretches his cheap tee shirt his cheap tee shirt that proclaims attendance at some alice kooper concert up in atlanta he stretches his tee shirt rising up with his skinny arms exposing a large purplish birthmark around his navel

jimmy’s uncle rick billy’s daddy he always says about hardrock he says

shit boy only difference between you and that fucking nigger over there is you white know that boy

hardrock he’ll sniff he he’ll say

yessir mister rick

but this time uncle rick he ain’t there it’s just billy it’s just jimmy it’s just hank

and it’s just hardrock

and the other niggers that come and go

and hardrock he says to hank looking out through the glass doors he says over his shoulder to hank he says

hey hank ain’t that old sorry jerry johnson over there ain’t he still owing you money

hank he says finding his eskimo pie pulling it out shaking the frost off the paper wrapped frozen desert pulling sliding the freezer door back down he says

where

hardrock he says

over yonder hanging under the tree with them other crackers

ain’t that him

hank he squints he leans and squints he slides the freezer lid back open he tosses in the eskimo pie he points at it while he looks at the others a reminder that it’s his for when he returns he slides the lid back shut he turns and strolls out the door

he don’t say nothing

jimmy he turns and looks at his cousin billy his cousin billy lets the chair come back down to the floor he folds the paper taking his time he stands up he walks around the counter

hardrock he follows hank out flinging the door open wide billy he steps outside through the swinging open door timing it on the second swingeroo jimmy he follows billy having to catch the door as it swings back at him

hank he casually strolls across the little corner store drive stepping around the old fashioned gas pumps tall rectangular with a flat round disc decorated embossed on either side against a pearly white background the green dino dinosaur standing beneath a big bold and red sinclair

so sixties transcending shriveling into early seventies

lift the nozzle and hose turn the crank til the numbers click and flip white numbers stamped onto little metal tabs click and flip through back down to zero leaded gas through straight metal pipe right on down into the tank the gurgling gurgling gulp gulp float up fumes float up in a visible haze a couple of fill ups and even a big boy is buzzed

huffer training for future pee cee pee punks

and hank he’s pumped his share of gas he’s strolling strolling on across the tar and gravel road

he’s almost floating in the casualness of his pace hands in his pocket leaning back just a bit leaning back just a bit in that let’s boogie sort of way

steve he stands up drops his cigarette steps on it crushes it out with the toe of his brogan pulls the marlboro red in a box out of his back jeans pocket taps the box three times

and only three times

he takes out a fag does the slow mo movement to the lips as he gazes off across into the distance marlboro man cool watching hank cross the road

and hardrock he walks over to and leans against one of the gas pumps and billy he stops on the steps right outside the door jimmy he stops stands next to billy

looking up at billy who is looking across beyond hank to the group of kids hanging beneath the tree jimmy he looks up at billy he follows his gaze

these kids are standing sitting around smoking a joint passing it around jimmy he can’t hear them he just sees them one of them motioning to the other his hand out waiting for the pass

impatiently

and hank he walks right up with a hey it’s all cool the kids they notice him walking up the kid with the joint he turns he recognizes hank everyone knows hank he makes an offering of the weed

hank he's two years older than these kids he’s just sixteen but he's a man goddamn through and through

works like a man

works over at the pulp mill down the road dropped out of school went to work

he walks right up all all casual like all hey it’s cool walks up past the guy offering walks to the wanting one grabs the guy grabs him by both straps of his overalls hank’s big fucking hands pull the two straps together like they were a collar around the horrified teen throat

hank he holds him up he just hauls off fucking punches him right in the face the guy loses his footing collapses hank he holds the boy up by his newfound collar then lets him drop the boy he falls down holding his nose blood pouring through his fingers

hank he leans over he says in a voice so soft so southern so cracker town wigger he says

you owe me money cocksucker

they jimmy billy steve hardrock all the way across the street they can’t hear him but they know what he’s saying they can read the slow deliberate movement of his lips

hank he reaches into the boy’s pockets he pulls out a bag of weed he tucks the bag into his own pocket he says

you still owe me money asshole

hank picks the boy up by the overall straps again holds him steady hits him again fucking punches him right in the face again drops him lets him fall

fuck

jimmy he looks up at billy he says kind of panic he says 

you gonna do anything

billy he looks down at jimmy he says shaking his head he says

no that's hank's business

jimmy he says

you ain’t gonna do nothing

billy he just shakes his head watches

hank he picks the boy up one more time he says giving him a little shake

you owe me money cocksucker

he hits him again lets him fall turns and walks back across the street past hardrock and the pumps walks over to the store he struts he says looking around at steve and jimmy and billy he says

hey what's up cuz

billy he laughs he looks at jimmy and jimmy he looks over at hank he laughs he’s thirteen billy he's seventeen hank he's sixteen billy he holds out his hand hank he gives him the bag of weed billy he looks at jimmy and jimmy he looks back at billy jimmy he looks over at hank he hank he’s all a’grinnin’ and jimmy he looks over at hardrock who is looking over at the kid rolling on the grass blood all over his face his hands his tee shirt his overalls the grass the other kids just sort of standing around him looking down at him looking back over their shoulders over at hank

making sure hoping he ain’t coming back for more

billy he turns around and goes inside the store hank he follows him on in stops at the ice cream freezer takes out his eskimo pie reaches into his pocket billy he raises his hand he says

nah it’s all right

hank he nods opens the eskimo pie takes a big bite

jimmy he looks in through the still swinging doors fwap fwap fwap slow slower still stop

hot august night and all that

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Randolph Co. Ga... "Cuthbert" is the birthplace of my deceased spouse.Guessing him and Elvis are enjoying a fried peanut butter samich after they twisted up a bigun about now...