Archive for the ‘Short stories’ Category

I’m not here to win any prizes; I’m just here to set the record straight. It was my first year of Jr. High., and Miss Honeycutt’s class sat before me. I held up a Ziploc bag containing a cat turd in one hand, and in the other hand I shook a black rubber snake. I heard a short gasp come from the first few rows before they realized it wasn’t a real snake, but that was the last sound anyone made until the end of my story. I began, “What I did on summer vacation, seven years ago.”

Now ol’ Uncle Jeb liked his Jackie D. and he liked to kiss all the girls in the family right on the mouth – long and wet. There were other things that took place, which I’d rather not say, but those things haven’t happened for a long time. Needless to say all of us kids didn’t much care for any of Uncle Jeb’s ungodly habits, and the consensus among us was that we wished Uncle Jeb would expire like a jug of Dollar Store milk. But the ones you wish would croak always seem to last the longest, so we second best decided to torture him with pranks as long as he stank up the earth, hence, the cat turd.

The said turd, much like this one, came from Skidmark, Uncle Jeb’s old barn cat. The cat’s real name was Shadrach, but Skidmark seemed to fit him better. Jeb’s favorite candy was Tootsie Rolls. Parts of the plan was to wrap up several of Skidmark’s offerings in some old Tootsie Roll wrappers that I’d picked out of the garbage pail, and wait until nightfall when we knew Uncle Jeb would be good and juiced. We were red-faced laughing about our dirty deed to be all day, and the anticipation nearly killed us. At last there he was on the porch swing, half conscious, drooling and muttering to himself just like he always did. “Uncle Jeb!” I yelled right next to his ear. A scratchy “HUMPH!” came from his grease trap mouth as he shook off the fog of his JD coma. “We brought you some Tootsie Rolls, Uncle Jeb.” His jowls vibrated as he spit slurred words out, “Mebbe you little squirrelly bastards ain’t as rotten as ya’ seem – but y’all watch yourselves, some folks just ain’t no good and need to be put down like chicken killin’ dogs.” He smiled that Jack-O-Lantern, rot-toothed smile of his, then unwrapped the first orange and brown roll. We stood in wonder as his lips smacked and he chewed it slow and thorough-like, we nearly peed our pants blue when he said, “These here are good ‘n fresh.” He ate the whole bag full, washed them down with the bottom swig of JD, and passed right out again. We got endless laughs out of this most supreme prank and found it hard to top. But one day it would be topped, and topped good. Hence the rubber snake.

It was a gritty Jue-ly day and Uncle Jeb’s much pitied, but virtuous wife, our dear Auntie Oral was hauling an armload of her prize-winning canned peaches down to the storm cellar. As she yanked open the door, a big black Cottonmouth fell like a limb at her feet. We heard the scream and the crash of the Mason jars in the house and we ran out to the yard to find a winded and panic-stricken Auntie Oral. Uncle Jeb had his rifle loaded before she even finished her story. I noticed that Uncle Jeb’s hands were shaking and I wasn’t sure if it was the D.T.’s or could be he had a fear of snakes? I gradually backed away from the comforting circle around Auntie Oral and followed Uncle Jeb back to the storm cellar unnoticed, to see what was going to be. That snake was long gone and had probably headed for the creek as soon as it hit the ground. Uncle Jeb looked in the direction of the creek, set the rifle down, ripped his flask from his overall’s pocket and took a long gulp. “Goddam’ snakes, Lord you know they goddam’ scare me to death,” he muttered to no one in particular. He shot a few rounds into the trees, stomped back to the house and yelled through the open kitchen window, “I got it good Oral, no need to fret none. That Moccasin won’t be botherin’ ya’ no more, yep I got it.” But I knew he got nothin’. The only thing that ol’ stink bait ever got was drunk.

A week or so later on a trip in to town I saw this black rubber snake with a cherry red mouth and tongue in Kmart. I snuck out ahead of the rest of the family, bought the snake, and hid it under the car seat. I didn’t say one word, and poker-faced it all the way home. The next day while Auntie Oral was at her church meeting, I tiptoed past a head-bobbing Uncle Jeb in the porch swing. I timed my footsteps with each exhaled snore, I knew the screen door squeaked like a vulture so I opened it in slow motion, then I padded up the stairs in stocking feet and skipped over the four stairs that I knew creaked. I got to the bathroom, opened the lid and coiled that black rubber snake in the bowl of the commode; I propped it up just right so the head and its thin red tongue would graze ass cheeks upon lowering. I knew Uncle Jeb would take his clockwork dump that always skanked up the whole house, as soon as he woke up, and for once I couldn’t wait.

Without a word, I gathered up all my cousins, brothers and sisters, and we hid in the bedroom down the hall from the bathroom. From there we had a bird’s eye view of the toilet and Uncle Jeb never closed the door. We huddled at the crack in the bedroom door and waited with hilarious anticipation until we heard Uncle Jeb stir. Listening as he dragged his feet across the front hall and up the steps made us tremble with choked-back laughter. We watched as he unbuckled his baggy, yellow-stitched Dickies before he reached the bathroom, and as his pee stained skivvies fell to his ankles, he pulled up the lid, and without looking, sat down so hard we could feel the vibrations in the floor all the way down the hall.

The next scene always plays like a stop time movie in my head, and I’ve seen it a thousand times by now; Uncle Jeb let out a thunderous explosion of gas and that fart must’ve had so much air behind it that it moved that rubber snakes head just enough to make Uncle Jeb notice. He jumped up off that seat faster than we thought he could ever move, and stumbled back with a half-turd dangling from his ass. It was both shocking and funny to see him stumbling around with his pants around his feet, and to see that turd hit the floor with a thud, but our laughter stopped when he let out a noise that I’d never heard the likes of before, and have never heard the likes of since. With an unearthly, demonic squeal he reeled back, spun around, and fell head first into the toilet bowl. We heard a loud crack and figured he broke the bowl with that hard ugly head of his, but that crack must’ve been Uncle Jeb’s skull, because as it turned out later the toilet bowl was unharmed. We all looked at each other with mouths hung wide and still couldn’t believe what we’d just seen. We slowly opened the door and baby-stepped down the hall in a clump, like cows in a windstorm, and the rest of the kids raced down the stairs and out the front door.
I stopped at the top of the stairs and slowly turned toward the bathroom. All I saw was a small puddle of glistening maroon blood and the blur of dark blue overalls as I reached sideways into the bowl to grab that black rubber snake and yank it out from under Uncle Jeb’s stubbly anvil of a head. I ran out to the woods and buried it, and to this day I remembered the spot. I dug it up just this morning so I could bring it to show and tell.

The coroner said that Uncle Jed died of a massive heart attack, which a lot of people do – like Elvis – when they’re taking a dukey. But I knew the truth and I felt pretty proud about it – like I’d slayed a big horrible, foul-smelling dragon. I never told any of the other kids, but they must’ve known somehow that we weren’t just hiding in Auntie Oral’s bedroom to watch Uncle Jeb’s daily ritual. I read up on the statute of limitations and all, and decided to wait seven years until I set things straight. They say the truth will set you free, but I was set free – along with the rest of us, on that day in Jue-ly when I killed my Uncle Jeb, not really on purpose, but even if it wasn’t that way, I’d do it all over again ‘cause well…some folks just ain’t no good.


Read Full Post »