Southern Legitimacy Statement: * here’s how they talk in Somewhere, Texas?
Uncle Dwayne’s Luger
“Sue-Lynn called me hollerin’ an’ bawlin’ over the phone: ‘Oh Uncle Joe, it’s jus’ the awfullest thang!’
‘Whut the hell er ya caterwallerin’ ‘bout, Sue-Lynn?’ I wuz pushin’ like a roothog t’ make my next inspection fer thim ole boys at the bank, an’ my FI-nancin’ deadlines were tighter an’ frog pussy. I really ain’t had no time fer bullslhit.’ [long exhalation into the phone receiver of breath that makes that TV white noise sound to the listener on the other end].
‘Daddy heard f’om Lynn Lynch that Mama had got a boyfriend an’ Daddy tore out f’om ‘eez girlfriend’s house with ‘eez luger an’ a stash of dynamite that Granny keeps fer blastin’ tree stumps outa the field ‘fore plowin’ an’ hole hisself up in our house whar he says he ain’t comin’ out till Mama gits over thar t’ tell ‘eem why.’
‘Huh?’ I shook my head thainkin’: well goddamnit I ain’t got time t’ be watchin’ that crazy somebitch unravel.
‘He woants Mama t’ tell ‘eem why,’ Sue-Lynn kept cryin’.”
Uncle Dwayne’s luger was his dearest keepsake because he had acquired it with conqueror’s pride in the spoils of war; it personified his youth, his virility, his victory, when he’d returned to his own country of Texas as a conqueror with the captured luger bulging where he’d shoved it down the front of his britches. We love us our guns. After leaving Germany but before settling back down on the farm for good he had lived briefly in another exotic foreign land, San Diego. The black-and-white pictures of Uncle Dwayne leaning felinely against palm trees, smiling stretched out on beach sand, might as well have been Hawaii for all we knew. At the time those pictures had been taken nobody else in the family had ever yet left Texas, Daddy’s service not starting till Korea. Perhaps having lived in the outside world, indeed Europe, and having fought in the big war there, had given Uncle Dwayne the courage to roam with a sexual confidence that Daddy didn’t have. Uncle Dwayne cheated on Aunt Eileen regularly. Daddy’s only cheating was working the system to make more money. They were both equally as handsome and heterosexual, but Daddy preferred the company of men, and the seduction of freewheeling business.
From my relaxing perch in a very tall tree several stories up, I had seen Daddy’s truck cross our cattle guard – an unusual occurrence (unless he had a sick cow or some sand-and-gravel business at the gravel pits or something like that); this anomaly signaled some sort of commotion. Even more unusual was that instead of down the hill towards our house he then unexpectedly veered right and and had driven up the hill instead towards my cousins’ house. By the time Sue-Lynn had met him at their cattleguard I had skillfully burnt a long slide down out of the tree and was running up the hill. My basset hound Robby ran alongside me rhythmically bellowing his beautiful bell tenor from excitement and the joy of running. Fortunately, my feet could remain on the soft cushion of dust along that network of beaten paths between all the houses on the farm because, though my feet were heavily calloused and could comfortably run down the road on gravel cooking in the sun, stickers can penetrate any callous, and unlike bullnettle and prickly pear, sticker patches are invisible to the walker’s eye. I approached Daddy and Sue-Lynn to listen silently with barely contained excitement.
“Where’s yer Mama?” “Eatin’ lunch at the Kozmic Kitchen.” “Well walk back down t’ yer Granny’s house an’ call the kitchen.” Daddy delivered each phrase authoritatively in clear, precise sections like he was talking to a child or manual laborer. “tell whoever answers that it’s an emergency, an’ tell thim hippies that Joe Bell said t’ fetch Eileen f’om ‘er table an’ drive ‘er out here cuz ‘er crazy ole husband is ‘bout t’ blow hisself up an’ even more important take the well pumphouse with ‘eem.”
The Kozmic Kitchen was a health-food restaurant (first floor) run by a commune of hippies (second floor) operating in an elegantly dilapidated but sturdy old Victorian house rezoned for mixed use that Daddy owned and rented to the commune. Like most relationships in our world, the lines between business and personal were blurred; our family ate there sometimes, the skinny, hairy, pancake-tittied Tonya babysat us now and then, and Daddy had even shared a few tokes with their guru who lived cloistered on the third floor. Their trendy eccentricities were as much affectations as Daddy’s traits of “being a character” were natural. The hippies went everywhere together as a unit, like the traditional families who’ve just come from Mexico. Whether it was the ashram around the corner (also housed in another sprawling old house in the oldest part of town), at the nature preserve out on route 2 across the road from our farm, or during their retreats down in Hippie Holler on Lake Travis, they did everything together. So they closed the restaurant by hanging a “Gone Fishin’” sign on the door, and Aunt Eileen left her boyfriend (Raymond Robert Elijah Lee Roth, aka Raymond Robert E. Lee Roth, aka most often Ray Bob Roth) in the kitchen parking lot standing next to his truck speechless, aghast and agog, while he watched her climb into the van with the hippies.
Daddy’s first attempt did not do justice to the usual prowess of his rhetoric, probably because he was distracted, still thinking about the construction site he’d just left, and hoping that he could force a quick fix and get back to business. “Now Dwayne, jus’ come oan outa thar!” Daddy’s impatient baritone hollered at the house. Uncle Dwayne’s response flew crashing through the glass of a front window into the flower bed: a framed picture of him and Aunt Eileen dancing the jitterbug. Or the Lindy. The two dances are hard to tell apart in still photos. Sighing and shaking his head Daddy carefully sidled up to open garage and grabbed a fishing pole leaning against the wall in one corner. He took two walkie-talkies from his truck, tied one onto the fishing pole end with a string laying on the garage floor, and slowly extended it to the window, through the broken glass, and into the house. Then he radioed: “Dwayne, speak up in thar. Over.” “You know whar I’m at. Over.”
“Dwayne, whut the heyull? Whut the hell er ya losin’ it over? I know Eileen’s a bitch – we wuz raised together – but whatever yer doin’ ain’t worth that blonde pain in the ass. Over.” “Doan be callin’ ‘er a bitch! Over.” “Well goddamn Dwayne, make up yer fuckin’ mind! Besides, she’s my sister so I kin call ‘er anythang I woana. Plus it’s the truth. Over.” “But that ain’t the fuckin’ point! I woana know why she took up runnin’ ‘round with Ray Bob Roth. Sure, he fries his kosher bloney same as us, but he’s missin’ parts! Over.” (This was a transitional period in our world when all rural goy men were natural, but Dr. Profit was starting to push the goyim to cut. So the natural dick and its owners were starting to feel nervous and insecure). “Whut the hell ‘er ya talkin’ ‘bout, Dwayne?! Over.” She doan woant my dick no more, Joe. She woant fuck me. She doan like my dick. Over.”
While Daddy and Uncle Dwayne were talking the van full of hippies arrived. They debarked with Aunt Eileen who was wearing a leopard unitard because since her midlife crisis had begun it had been dictating all her artistic choices. Daddy strode over to them with an air of taking control. “I didn’ tell y’all t’ brang the whole goddamn commune! Y’all er gonna spook ‘eem!” “The gentleman in the house seems to be upset about circumcision,” blandly observed a blonde youth wearing a dashiki and women’s harem pants. Another blonde with a perm-blown afro flashed her wide perwinkle eyes and declared, “circumcision violates human rights, man.” Daddy looked exasperated and said, “Religion ain’t got nuthin’ t’ do with human rights! Don’t y’all kids know yer bible?” The blonde boy responded, “I’m a jew, sir.” Daddy perked up cheerfully: “That’s even better! Because then son you must surely know that when god made his covenant with Abraham—” I raised my eyebrows and looked askew and askance at Daddy, who didn’t go to church, cussed like a sailor (he’d been a marine), and ignored several of the 10 commandments, but he knew them goddamn scriptures. “—that they all be circumcised to mark them with that sign of his chosen people—” he went on preaching, momentarily having forgotten why he’d come over there. “Are you jewish, sir?” blondie asked. Daddy chuckled, “Aaww, hell naw, I’m 100% natural, my Daddy who begat me oan m’ Mama was natural, ole crazy Dwayne over thar in the house is uncut, my other brother-in-law’s natural, ever’ man who ever begat in my family is natural.” After his voice trailed off a little into all the begats in that weird biblical voice, he snapped back alert about why he’d come over there in the first place. “But like I was sayin,’ y’all er gonna spook ‘eem! Git over there across the road and set oan that guv’mint land so all y’all doan be crowdin’ ‘eem.”
The hippies shifted their swarm across the road, where the edge of the nature preserve was still within earshot and eyeballing of Uncle Dwayne’s front yard, and put up camp with the efficiency of some kind of funky army. Within 20 minutes they were settled down with picnic blankets and grilling vegetarian hotdogs on hibachis and playing backgammon and hackysack and frisbee. The smell of grilling and sandlewood incense and marijuana intertwined
and wafted and then intertwined again with the heavenly cloud radiated by an enormous honeysuckle mound following and mostly enveloping the front yard fence facing the road. .
Then Daddy resumed the conversation with Uncle Dwayne. “Well shit, Dwayne, cain’t ya see the irony here? I mean, bitch er not, goose er gander, maybe Eileen jus’ got fed up an’ woaned t’ try it herself. I’m jus’ sayin’. Over.” “That’s differ’nt! Over.” “Naw it ain’t. Over.” “But my dick broke ‘er cherry! Over.” “Aaaww, fer chrissakes git over it, Dwayne! Yor dick won the goddamn battle of the bulge! An’ yer gonna let this shit kick y’all’s ass?! Over.”
Their talking went on for hours. The party across the road went on for hours. I stayed for hours too, wandering back and forth between the two sides of the road, watching, listening, and smelling, petting the hippies’ ferret, listening to new, strange ideas the hippies. Wide-eyed Periwinkle continued on the topic Daddy had started: “The Yoni and Lingam are sacred, man. It’s not just coincidental that the genital chakra is right in the middle of the length of our bodies. That gateway must be opened before it can be passed by the awakened Kundalini.” “What is cunt weenie?” “Exactly. The Yoni and Lingam.” “No, that other thang, I mean, what is yonie lingy too, but what was that thang you said that sounds like” “Kundalini?” “Yeah.” Periwinkle and Blondie explained the basics about this sacred snake. It all sounded pretty wild to me, but the strangeness was what made it interesting.
Uncle Dwayne finally seemed to run out of steam at the cusp of dusk. As I was walking back on my last return trip back across the road I saw Uncle Dwayne and Daddy standing together, laughing, drinking beer out of the refrigerator in the garage, and taking turns with Uncle Dwayne’s luger, playing target practice with last year’s meat leftovers from the deep freezer when all the steaks and chops are gone, parts like feet and tongue, wrapped in that thick, white, waxy butcher paper. When the bullet hit its target it exploded into a crazy spray of paper, meat, and ice. They hollered and hooted, rolling in hysterical laughter. Daddy’s soothing baritone voice, worth millions in sales, cooed and reassured, “now see thar, it ain’t nuthin’, Dwayne. It’ll be awright.” [BLAM!—SPLATTER–] “Yeah, I reckon so.” [BLAM! – SPLATTER –] “This here’s more fun ‘n gittin’ yerself all riled up over that bitch sister ‘o mine thainkin’ she’s goddamn Hedi Lamar.” [BLAM! –SPLATTER–] [chuckle, snort, laugh] “Hedi Lamar.” [laugh] “Naw, a blonde: fuckin’ Marlene Dietrich” [laugh BLAM!—SPLATTER–].
Ray Bob Roth’s truck pulled up and he got out. Being a city-boy from Dallas, Ray Bob Roth presented differently from Daddy and Uncle Dwayne. He was tall, lanky and trim, his nails were cleaned, filed, and polished, he was polished, his boots and cowboy hat were always immaculate, and he smelled like men’s toiletries and leather. Now that Uncle Dwayne had run out of gas and bullets, it was safe to approach. I sat on the ground still radiating heat from the day and listened, enthralled, to adult conversation which was never censored to “protect” peripheral children. To calm my excitement I had to embrace Robby close up against my chest and stroke his silken ears. Ray Bob subtly dipped his hat brim with a tiny nod for each addressee as he said, “Dwayne” [Dip. Pause]. “Joe” [Dip. Pause]. “Ray Bob” they responded in unison. “That’s a nice luger ya got there, Dwayne.” “Yep.” “How’s the real estate b’ness, Ray Bob?” “Perty good, Joe. I’m holdin’ some commercial an’ light industrial right now that ya might take a shine to.” “I might could.” They observed a few minutes of ritual silence while admiring the beginning of a spectacular sunset. During those minutes it was as if Aunt Eileen, still across the road playing dominoes with the hippies, had not even ever existed as the catalyst for this masculine convergence.
I hadn’t heard Uncle Dwayne’s first comment, but the day’s drama seemed to have reached its denoument to Uncle Dwayne’s unravelling, as Daddy had called it. Ray Bob: “Well Dwayne, maybe years of marriage have made ya fergit that Eileen is a special lady.” Daddy: “that special lady’s a bitch.” Dwayne: “Shut up, Joe.” Ray Bob: “an’ if ya quit thainkin’ ‘bout her needs somebody else will” [one of the bulls brayed 5 short vocal bursts, deep and loud, across the sunsetting field] “thaink about ‘m.” Daddy: “Somebody else done more ‘n thaink about it.” Dwayne: “Shut up, Joe.” Daddy: “Now y’all jus’ quit. Doan be stirrin’ it up agin.”
I gazed at the backs of these three black-haired men, one a lanky thoroughbred and the other two stockier quarterhorses. Slowly the sunset blazing in their faces blackened their backs turned to me, and they became silhouettes with voices, to which the tacky tin cowboy cutouts still sold at novelty stores do not do justice.
You can only feel that excruciating pain called nostalgia about that which is lost. I don’t mean just “gone,” but something taken from you or forever lost, as in lost cause, lost confidence, lost innocence, lost faith, lost fortune. You cannot fully grasp what you had till you have lost it; the memory and mind grasp it only after the thing lost has been ripped from your physical grasp – or perhaps you are ripped from it, by the roots, and left dangling soilless, in this merciless modern air.* Can a plant know the earth or a fish the water? Like a fish oblivious to water, I did not grasp the unique atmosphere in which my memories happened until after I was writhing in agony on this present bleak, polluted shore, littered with used syringes and condoms, slimed with sticky toxins from a water that’s not safe to be swum in, where I languish in despair, disillusioned of principles and devoid of hope for the future, sickened with yearning grief to go back to then, when I never could lose, because at that glorious time I never even knew that I had it.
*John Crowe Ransome “Reconstructed but Unregenerate” I’ll Take my Stand: the South and the agrarian tradition p.6.
*I’ll take my stand reference