Tuesday, May 29, 2007

paved 2

Maryanne ran up the road toward the river in the chill gray. Charlie’s big, old CPT coat, almost long enough to cover the hem of her housedress, unbuttoned but hugged around her with arms lost in the sleeves, made her look like a child. She brought her hand up to her head to hold her scarf on in the wind as she spun around to the house to shout, “Deborah! Call my sponsor! And bring my cigarettes!” as she turned back, running, one of her house shoes came off. She hesitated, started to leave it, then came back and picked it up. She took off the other one and put them both in the pocket of Charlie’s coat and started running for the river barefoot.

Deborah and I watched her go. As soon as she was out of site, Deborah asked me for a cigarette.

“You got a thigarette?” It was hard to understand Deborah if you didn’t know her. Heavyset and lumbering, with a distinctive speech impediment, she wore her thirty five years like fifty five. She was what we in these parts call retarded.

I fished one out and gave it to her. I lit it and she held it that funny way, between her index and second finger, but at the very tip end. And she never brought it more than a half inch away from her lips. And she hot boxed it until it was gone. Then she asked for another.

“You got a thigarette? You killed Ed? You got any pot?”

“I just gave you a cigarette. I did not kill Ed, he died. You can’t smoke pot. It doesn’t go with your lithium.”

“Nanaw said you kill Ed she call police on you.”

“Nobody killed Ed. He’s been sick for a long time. He just died. No big deal.”

“My daddy died.”

“I know sweety.”

“You got any beer?”


“You smell like beer.”

“I drank some with Ed.”

“Ed dead.”


“My daddy dead.”

“I know sweety.”

“He fell down in his apartment in the hallway between the bathroom and the bedroom and nobody find him for two weeks. He rot and the neighbors complain.”

“I know sweety.”

“They have to take him out with a shovel.”

“I know sweety, I’m the one who had to take him out.”

“That right. You got a thigarette?”

I fished out another one for her and one for myself. She sat next to me on the step as we watched Maryanne run back over the levee. Charlie’s big, old CPT coat open and flapping in the wind. Her braless, sagging breasts flapping back and forth under the house dress in rhythm to her stride. She had this frightened, angry, accusatory look in her eyes and her cheeks puffed and rippled. One of her house shoes flew out of the pocket of the coat but she never even noticed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

paved 1

“How are you feeling?”

“I am dying.”

“What do you mean?”

“I feel that I am dying.”

“You don’t look as though you’re dying.”

“I feel it.”

“It’s natural to die. Maybe it’s the beginning of a new chapter in existence. Either way it’s unavoidable.”

“Yes. Would you like to walk with me?”

“Do you feel that your death is imminent? Where are you walking?”

“All our deaths are imminent, you said yourself that death is unavoidable.”

“I’ll walk with you to the river.”

“Should we pick up some beer?”


“I feel my death will be longer in coming than I had anticipated earlier.”

“Let’s walk.” I said and rose. Taking my coat up from the back of my chair, putting it on, I walked to the door and made ready to exit.

Ed, too, put on his coat and muffler. He turned off the lights, made sure he had his wallet and keys and joined me at the door, “we’ll get a six pack and go sit on the levee and watch the winter go by okay?”

“Sounds good.”

We went through the door, out of the warm fetid trailer, into the cold wet wind. Hands in our pockets and heads down we trudged against the cold gusts to the seven eleven to get a six pack of Falstaff and a pack of Benson and Hedges menthol lights. Then back the other way to the levee that bordered the Brazos River near its mouth. We peaked the grassy mound of dirt and sat on the leeward side of the levee, watching the river eddy into the Gulf of Mexico.

We opened our beers drank them, holding them with icy fingers and smoked cigarette after cigarette under clouds the color of moonstones. Talking about the river and the gulf and the town. How, during hurricane Carla, everything was under water. How there were dead cattle and dead dogs and dead cats floating every where. And about how when the waters receded, the town seemed carpeted in dead animals. How that was a memory he’d take with him everywhere.

“And nobody seemed to care. Like that was the least of their worries. People had lost their homes and loved ones. The animals, who gave a shit about the animals? It just hurt my feelings. That people could care so little.”

“I guess if I had lost my house and stuff, I’d probably feel the same way.”

“Same way as I felt? Or the same way as everybody else felt?”

“Everybody else.”

“I thought you liked pets. I thought you loved animals”

“I do.”

“Then why would you not care?”

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t care, I’m just saying, I might be otherwise preoccupied.”

“Well, that’s just disappointing.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t see the magnitude of it.”

“I’m sure that would have changed my opinion significantly, if it was of great magnitude.”

“Don’t try to mollify me.”

“I’m not.”

“It was of great magnitude! I’m telling you, the streets, the yards were carpeted in dead pets and barnyard creatures!” He was getting agitated.

“I’m not trying to mollify you, Ed. I’m sure that if I had seen it I would agree with you. It must have been terrible.”

“Well it was.”

“I believe you.”

“I just feel bereft about that. I feel bereft that I didn’t see mankind live up to its potential. That its all over and we’ve got all this crap that’s supposed to make life better and we’re supposed to be enlightened and intelligent and we’re no better than when we lived in caves, or when we were drowning people for being heretics. People still drown cats for fun, you know.”

“Well, don’t feel bereft. Maybe people felt so bad about the drowned animals that they acted as though they didn’t care as some sort of psychological self defense.”

“You think?”

“It’s has a certain plausibility. Maybe by convincing others it didn’t matter, they were attempting to convince themselves it didn’t matter, so that they wouldn’t be emotionally burdened.”

“I like it.”

We both looked back out to the river. The wind would blow over the levee behind us, just grazing the top of our hatless heads, and move the tall, tan colored grasses and dead cattail stalks with sharp, hissing thrusts. We watched the muddy water swirl faster and faster as it went downstream and turned into gulf. And we sipped our beers and smoked our cigarettes again in silence.

I could feel Ed’s face turn to me. I turned to meet his eyes. They were glazed. His face had gone from pallid to gray. “I don’t feel so good.”

“Oh shit Ed.” I didn’t move.


“I do.”

“I’m gonna lay down now.”

“Okay.” I looked away from him and back to the river.

“Hold my beer.” He handed me his beer and laid back into the soft dead grass on the old levee that protected Velasco from the Brazos River.

I looked at the river and finished my beer. Then I finished his. When both beers were gone I lit a cigarette. Ed was wheezing there on the grass next to me. I pulled the next to last beer from the bag and opened it.

I heard Ed say, “Thanks, buddy, I love you.”

I never looked over. But I said, “I love you too, man.”

About halfway through that beer he stopped wheezing. I never moved. I just finished my beer and watched the river swirl.

After about half an hour I looked over at where Ed had been. I felt for a pulse. It was long gone. His hands were cold and stiff. I went and hid the last beer in the grass closer to the water and headed back toward town. To Ain’t Maryanne’s house to start the whole round of bullshit.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

happy mothers day

Dottie’s was a shit hole bar, with an oyster shell hillock serving as a parking lot, sitting off a big drainage ditch on highway 35. It was ramshackle and dark and it smelled bad. But it wasn’t filled with people like our parents. It was filled with the guys who didn’t waste any time trying to fool anybody. Guys who had just turned themselves over to alcoholism in their early twenties sat on barstools and ruined their smooth, pink livers. We were there too.

We knew the barmaid and she’d let Tammy bring in her own six-pack of Michelob Light from the seven eleven. They didn’t serve Michelob Light at the bar and ever since Tammy got pregnant it was the only beer she could drink without getting heartburn.

We’d hang out there all night long smoking cigarettes and drinking, me and Tammy and Rhonda Sue and Dottie. Playing songs on the jukebox. Sometimes Billy would hang out with us too. Occasionally the drunks in the bar would listen in and sometimes join in on our conversations. We’d all take turns going back and forth to the seven eleven to get Tammy more six-packs of Michelob Light.

Late at night when we were all shit faced, sometimes, the baby would kick. Tammy would make us all touch her stomach.

We’d laugh and maybe say whoa or something and then light more cigarettes and drink more beers. Maybe we’d put some more quarters in the jukebox.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Todd and Margie

She wiped her ass over and over. Inspecting the paper closely after each wipe. When she could see no more fecal matter she carefully brought the paper to her nose and inhaled. She cocked her head, thought for a moment, then dropped the paper into the toilet bowl and flushed.

“That was disgusting.” A strange voice speaking quietly but echoing off the tile.

She gave a start. Her panties were still around her calves. Frightened. Very frightened. She was also more than a little embarrassed.

“What? Is someone here?” she wanted to scream but her voice caught and her question came out as a croak. She felt short of breath. She fumbled and, somehow, couldn’t get control of her panties and get them up so that she could run.

“You know I’m here Margaret. You make me come in here every day with you. I hate it. It’s disgusting. Your shit smells like you eat cat food. But I do this because it’s my job and I don’t complain or make comments. But this new thing of yours, this scat sniffing thing, is more than I can sit by and watch quietly. Why are you smelling your toilet paper?”

“Who the hell are you?” Her heart was palpitating. She was starting to sweat on her upper lip and armpits. She could feel rivulets of it course down her ribs. Her legs were getting raw from her futile attempts to claw her panties up her lap. Where was she?

“I’m your home healthcare worker Margaret. And stop scratching yourself!”


“I’m the guy who comes over every day at four and makes your dinner and gives you your meds and watches television with you. And who now, unfortunately, has to accompany you to the toilet so you won’t break a hip. Or hit your head. Or drown yourself.”

“I’m ready to wipe now!”

“That’ll be our new drinking game Margaret. Every time you say that I’ll have a drink. You’ve already wiped. May I leave?”

“No! I’ll need you to hold me steady so I don’t fall.”


“Hold me steady!”

She was recovering her senses. She was home. She had her slave or servant or whatever he called himself there to help.

“Hold me steady now!” she felt steady enough to bellow, “I’m not feeling too steady and if I should fall there would be hell to pay for both of us. So hold me steady while I wipe! And tell me your name again.”

“My name is Todd. And you just wiped yourself and you smelled the paper and you flushed and you didn’t fall. So let’s just get you up and get your clothes on you and go in the den and watch Highway to Heaven or Match Game or some other shit and let’s forget I ever saw what I just saw.

“What’s this about a drinking game?”

“Never mind Margaret. I was just being a smart ass.”

“I want a drink!”


“When I was a little girl, during the depression, my daddy used to tell us only one wipe, only one square, we got to be careful with the paper he’d say, that stuff don’t grow on trees you know!”

“Well actually…”

“But now I’m a grown woman and I got my own money and I can wipe my ass all I want. And I can wipe it so goddam many times until it takes off all the stink. And if you don’t like it you can just kiss it you hear me?”

“Yes Margaret I hear you.”

“And you stop calling me Margaret like you think I think I’m Princess Margaret or something. I know you’re being a smartass. I may be old but I ain’t dumb. Now you get me off this throne and get my drawers up and get me a goddam drink. ”

“Yes Ma…”

“Call me Margie honey. I’m drinking scotch.”

He helped her back to her couch. Covered her legs with her old knitted blanket with the doghair still there from a beloved pet dead some few months. She refused to let anyone wash it. She wanted the hair to stay there. And the smell too. She wanted to remember. Smell was one of the few things that could take her where she wanted to go. She could take a big whiff of that rank blanket and see her departed beloved and feel he was there. She remembered so little now. She went in and out of states of mind in which sometimes she knew who and where she was and some in which a great fear overcame her. She would suddenly not know where she was or how she got there. The people around her were strangers. How was she to know if they meant harm? She knew it. She was going. The blanket helped her hold onto something. And she knew the dog hair gave it that power damn it. And it would only be washed over her dead body.

Once settled on the couch, the television on, the remote clicking. Hours going by, cigarettes smoked until the butts overflowed the huge amber glass ashtray purchased at some garage sale. Neither of them speaking. Neither of them thinking.

Each of them knowing that thinking would devolve into a different remembering and that remembering would hurt.

Margie hurt for her lost years and her going mind. For her family, for the world, for her dead dog whom she missed far far more than her dead husband. Mostly she ached from the crushing weight of memory. And the fear of losing her faculties before losing her life.

Every so often she would lift a corner of the blanket and inhale. Remembering hurt. But not remembering was scarier.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


I said I love Burt Lancaster and he dropped his hat. And he asked me who in the hell is Burt Lancaster.

I fucked him anyway.

But the hope was all gone.

Then, when he tried to stab me, and tried to make me stay, I wished I hadn't spent my money on crudetes.