Photograph of Marcia Paschal
I come down out of Willstown, Alabama in 1955, couple of years after you was born, wasn’t nothing much out this here Austin Highway, unless you count the constrictor over in Beitel Creek, Moses we used to call him, since every one of us who seen him swore that damned serpent parted the waters. Not that there was ever much water to speak of.
Hell, I wasn’t even out to these parts myself until ’65, when they built my house. Poured the slabs and brought the houses pre-fab in on trucks. Those ten houses and the Stop and Rob we lost in the ’98 flood were a heap better than the shit they put up to replace them, though not putting the Stop and Rob back in business was the best thing ever happened to this neighborhood. Folks wander down out of the apartments up the road, bringing nothing but mischief, well, where the hell they got to go now, Men’s Palace sure ain’t gonna let their scruffy selves in there, they ain’t got the cover charge to boot.
Folks hear I’m out of the north Alabama sticks figure me for a dyed in the wool racist, first class Klansman, they can think whatever the hell they want, I don’t take much to people’s opinions anyway. It don’t take a goddamned rocket scientist from Huntsville to see there’s plenty of Cherokee in my blood, so what the hell do I want to do with hatin’ on the coloreds, got plenty of colored in me. You know anything, you know that Willstown was a Cherokee name, before Van Buren sent in his bastard assassins in ’38. Man by the name of John Payne commanded the troops what built the fort there, Willstown itself gets relocated to the back of my head and anybody else who’s got reason to call DeKalb County home before it stank with the smell of white folks in a hurry to cut down some of the most beautiful stands of virgin trees your heart can imagine. I ain’t calling it Eden, but damn near.
You look on that there Wikipedia, you’ll see a picture of a Cherokee girl name of Marcia Paschal, looks a lot like that Salma Hayek, though even prettier, if you ask me. I just stumbled across the picture myself one day, snooping like I do. It hit me hard, I’d never seen her, but I’d heard about her plenty, great great aunt, notorious for her beauty, slayed many a man, red, black, and white. Slayed me when I seen her, I felt like somethin’ come out of me that wanted cryin’, wanted desire, wanted the rest of who I’ve buried to come on out and live again.
I waited, but I ain’t no Lazarus. What’s dead of me is dead for good. Years I’ve talked of going back, find my forty acres and let it all go back to nature, but I’ll never make it back there now. Twice a week at the physical therapist over on Pat Booker, I might as well be dead as it is. Old Tom gone down the street, Betty Ann, Grace, Bill, and just look across the room there at Rose and see she can’t wait to clean up after I’m gone. Call her hateful all you want, but they’s plenty I’ve done to sour the mix, it ain’t never one and not the other.
I miss old Tom. Sure, I complained like bat shit about his daily visits for coffee and hitting on Rose, but you don’t know what a thing means to you until it’s gone. Never forget the day his own damn Mercury backed over him and those two old boys from the apartments rescued his sorry ass from under it. Very boys he bitched about daily for speeding down his street. Did he see them any different after they saved his sorry ass, hell no, went right on back to bitching every time they drove by going 40 and waved.
Hated Clinton—god, did he hate the man. I could give a shit about any of them, but I bought Willie’s book, just to have it out on the kitchen table when Tom rolled in for his coffee and pinch of Rose. Took one look at the book and stormed out of the house, swore he’d never darken the door again with a bunch of communists. Hell, he was back in thirty minutes. Rose is a mighty dark drink to pass up, I tell you that. Times I used to know it myself.
What do I do with myself these days? The hell else is there to do but yell at Wolf on CNN and steal peeks at Rose in her panties? Oh, and give hell to those three bulldogs across the alley, no Jack, they ain’t pitbulls, they’s bulldogs. Mean as pits, but no pitbull with any self respect would slobber on like those three. Bitch owner of theirs has been put on notice by everyone up and down the alley, though truth be told, most of us would probably just go ahead and take her out than her three asinine canines. So, when she ain’t looking, and hell sometimes even when she is, I sit out in the back and spray ‘em down with the hose. Hose shuts ‘em up better than anything else I ever tried, and the truth of it is, I could never put down a dog, even if it was one deserves it. They’s plenty, Rose counted, who’d probably like to see me down. Those three hounds and I are more alike than not.
I still dream, though, and they’s always in green, always back up in those trees I never seen, sleeping like a baby in a big old cathedral of ‘em, cooing like a baby to my heart’s content.
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