Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Daddy's Funeral

My name is Kenny Zachary LaRue. Everybody calls me K.Z. though. When I was in school a bunch of stuck-up town kids kept following me around and calling me “krazy, krazy, krazy larue.” They stopped that pretty quick when I cut a couple of ‘em with my KA-BAR pig sticker. The sheriff come by and took me to the county reform school for a couple of months. I weren’t mad at ‘em. They was just stupid. I don’t mind folks calling me K.Z.

Oh, I about forgot. This writer fellow is helping me with my writing and all so if you can make it out you got him to thank for it. I prefer to write like I talk—its more natural you see. I don’t like to write much though. I like to paint picture-paintings like my daddy did.

Yeah, that fancy-pants Yankee magazine up there in New York City wanted me to write about my daddy’s funeral here in Judaculla Rock and the entire goings on. The magazine editor said all them artist and writer folks would be interested since daddy was a famous picture-painter and all. I think them snooty Yankee artist folks are glad that daddy isn’t around no more so that now folks will buy some of their paintings.

Anyway, my daddy, Jackson Lee LaRue (everybody called him J.L.), was one of them Vietnam veterans. He went over there twice, flying in them helicopters and shooting at the gooks. Daddy told me it was the best feeling in the world that when he walked his gun up on one of them V.C. and ‘kapow’, there wouldn’t be no more V.C.! I guess that’s what a fifty caliber machine gun will do to somebody if it hits you just right. Daddy once said it was all about spreading democracy around the world and he’d do it again in a heartbeat. Biggest rifle-gun I ever fired was a 30.06.

Turns out, my momma, Betty Jo, told me that when daddy come back from there he just wasn’t quite right in the head—staying up for days drinking and painting pictures of folks shooting and stabbing each other. Hell, I guess painting pictures of folks shooting at each other is better than actually doing it—though if somebody shoots at me; I’m going to shoot at them.

Them snooty rich folks down in hot-‘lanta found out about my daddy painting what they called “hillbilly modern” and thought his paintings was better than anything they had ever seen before or since. At one of my daddy’s showings I heard one wimpy little guy wearing a dress whisper to his buddy that daddy’s paintings was “outsider master pieces.” Them city-slickers was a coming up here to the mountains of western North Carolina and just a going ga-ga over his paintings—especially them rich divorced women.

Them rich hot ‘lanta women would come up here and practically swoon over daddy and his paintings. Of course it might have helped that daddy would give them some moonshine liquor in an old coffee cup and pretty soon he’d have them in the back room on that cot he keeps back there and you could hear them cot springs just a squeaking to beat the band. Some of them women would holler out “Oh God” like they’d seen the light. I didn’t really pay no attention though. I’d just finish painting what ever daddy was working on ever since he taught me how. And them rich women would just write big checks for his picture-paintings.

My momma stayed around ‘till I was five, six year old maybe. She run off with a traveling salesman driving a big, fancy Cadillac car. Momma left a note saying that she was tired of daddy taking them “rich hot-‘lanta divorced women into the back room of the garage and making them holler even if he was selling the hell out of his paintings.” I guess he hadn’t been paying much attention to momma seeing that he pretty much slept out in the back room in the garage on that cot of his.

Well, back to what I was supposed to tell you about: daddy’s funeral. The day daddy died he was painting in the old garage we live in. I was chopping wood out back. I heard daddy holler out “K.Z. come here.” There was a big crash like somebody busted down a wall or something. I run in there and daddy was a laying on the floor with a bunch of painting canvas on him. I run next door to Cicero’s store and hollered for him to call the ambulance.

They come pretty quick and put daddy in the back of the ambulance and hauled him off to C.J. Brinkley hospital up in Scotsford. Cicero closed up his store and we jumped in his truck, peeled rubber, and followed the ambulance.

When I got to the emergency room a doctor come out directly and told me, “K.Z., I’m sorry your daddy’s gone.” Well I didn’t know much of anything to say so I just set there in that waiting room kind of numb-like staring at Oprah blabbing about something or other ‘till Cicero come in and took me back to his place. Cicero’s wife, Mildred, give me a big hug and fed me and put me up in their guest bed room.

The next morning I woke up and realized, “shit, daddy’s gone; what am I supposed do now?” I went down stairs and Mildred fed me a big breakfast of ham and grits and coffee. She told me Cicero was at the store and to go down there.

When I went down to Cicero’s store he looked kind of gentle at me and said, “K.Z., everything’s been took care of. The viewing’s tonight at Moody’s and all you needs to do is to get yourself cleaned up and put on a clean pair of overalls and a clean shirt. Me and Mildred will take you down there and set with you.”

That evening we went down to Moody’s Funeral parlor and I weren’t even prepared for the parade of folks that come in. It looked like the circus was in town. Sheriff Hooper told me that the only difference between these folks and Barnum & Baileys was these characters didn’t have any lions, tigers or elephants with ‘em—other than that, they was all a bunch of animals.

I seen a whole crowd of them too-much-money-not-enough-brains divorced women that drove up from hot-‘lanta in their Beemers and Mercedes. They was all dressed in black shorty dresses wearing lots of pearls and gold jewelry and smelling like the girls over at Sam Bob’s Cat house in Hog Wallow Cove. They had drug up a bunch of cases of some fancy California wine to get drunk on and they was playing old Bob Seegar songs on a boom box. A couple of them had put up a banner with “Jackson’s Girls” in big red letters painted on it. Lordy!

Just when I thought that maybe we might be able to have daddy’s viewing I heard a sound like a thunder storm coming over Painter knob. A whole pack of them Hells Angels pulled up on their Harley motor-scooters in front of Moody’s. Now I knew that daddy liked to take off ever so often on his old Triumph motor-scooter. Shoot, he sent me a post card from Daytona Beach one time of a girl in a bikini swimming suit (she was just about nekkid) all bent over and straddling a big hog motor scooter and smiling like she was inviting you to take a ride. But daddy never told me how he used to hang out with the Hells Angels motor-scooter men.

The leader motor-scooter rider had a patch on his front pocket that said “Eat More Cooze” and his wings on the patch on the back of his jacket was red. Them motor-scooter men and women (yeah they had their women riding on the p-pads) had a moving truck following them full of kegs of beer. As soon as they all pulled up in front of Moody’s and quit revving their engines they jumped off and man-handled some of them kegs of beer onto the lawn of the funeral parlor and commenced to getting drunk. I guess they was a little thirsty from riding up from Florida and all.

As I was standing on the porch of the funeral parlor and thinking that all this was just about enough for little Judaculla Rock I heard a bunch of horses clop-cloppin’ down the street. Damn if there weren’t a bunch of men dressed in Rebel uniforms marching in from out of town. The general-guy leading the soldiers looked right smart and he had them all dismount and point their swords at me and the funeral parlor. All them rebel-men tied their horses to trees and they proceeded to get drunk with the motor-scooter men.

I heard the sounds of singing and testifying coming down the road before a couple of school buses followed by a van with big loud speakers on top of it pulled up in front of Moody’s. Preacher Lonny Watson, from the Holiness Church over towards Glenville was preaching over them loud speakers about salvation and the book of names St. Peter will open up on the last day. Them buses was packed with men and women singing God’s praises and hollering “Amen” ever time Preacher Watson paused to take a breath. One of them Holiness folks was a playing a portable organ and I started tapping my foot in time with the music. Hallelujah!

About that time Cicero come up to me and said, “K.Z., we better get on in and get ready to thank all these folks for coming.” We went in and only a few of them weird people come though. It was mostly town folks. Everybody said that daddy looked real natural and all. I thought he looked dead.

Cicero and Mildred took me back to their house and a bunch more folks come—mostly daddy’s kin from across the Cowee in Macon County. There was a mess of fried chicken to eat, pinto beans, and lots of ‘tater salad. Somebody was passing around some hard liquor too. I got plenty full and tired and went on up to bed. I could hear the shouts way late into the night of the people singing and whooping and hollering on the other side of town in the field by the cemetery. It sounded like they was having a big festival or something. Sheriff Hooper told me later that he and his boys arrested a bunch of them for drunk and disorderly conduct and something called “crimes against nature”, especially after somebody hung a dog from a tree.

The next morning I woke up when Mildred hollered for me to come right down and eat me some breakfast. I ate good; took me a bath, put on a pair of clean overalls and a white shirt and some clean work boots—then we went down to the Church.

Now daddy never had been much for the Church even though he’d been raised Baptist. But since Cicero and Mildred was my daddy’s kin (first cousins) they wanted him to have a little praying over in the Church before we put him in the ground.

Cicero, Mildred and me went on down to the First Baptist Church of Judaculla Rock and we walked on in to the Church basement. Them Church ladies had fixed up a big spread and there was a whole drove of folks stuffing their faces and talking and telling stories about my daddy. Aunt Mimi was there with her husband Judd and she give me a big hug. I about got smothered by her big tits.

A whole bunch of other women come over and hugged me and told me how sorry they was about my daddy and how wonderful his paintings were. I heard a couple of them whispering about how they thought daddy was still going to Hell even if he had been good to me and the town of Judaculla Rock. Their men-folk just shook my hand and looked kind of mournful—like they’d rather be just about any place but there.

Preacher Bryson run the service and he kept it short and sweet. One of the Shuler girls sang “Amazin’ Grace” and we was ready to take daddy up to the cemetery. As Cicero and some of the Sheriff’s boys was carrying daddy out a couple of the rich divorced women started shrieking and having conniption fits over the coffin.

We finally got daddy loaded in the hearse and Cicero, Mildred and me got in the limousine; the motor-scooter men, the rebel-men, the rich divorced women, the holy rollers, an most of the townspeople got behind us and we started driving real slow out to the cemetery. As we was going past the ballfield of the school, Johnny Blanton and some of the town hooligans set off a bunch of firecrackers that liked to scared to death the rebel-men’s horses. A couple of them reared up and almost bolted. The sheriff made Blanton and his bunch clean up after the horses later on.

We finally made it to the cemetery and got the coffin out of the hearse. Thank goodness it weren’t raining or else trying to haul daddy up a muddy hillside would have been a trick and a half as most of the town’s folks was wearing slick-soled Sunday shoes.

When we got up to the hole that Lester Moody and his boys had dug with a backhoe there was a tent thing over it with some chairs for us to set in. Cicero, Mildred and me and a couple of other of daddy’s kin set down and the rest of the crowd stood off aways. Preacher Bryson gave a short prayer where he prayed for “God to take this poor man’s soul into Heaven despite all his iniquities” and Aunt Mildred and them Church ladies was just a crying a river. Then he let Preacher Watson have a crack at it.

Preacher Watson started in on about how “at the resurrection all men will be judged for their carnal, earthly sins” and you could see most of the town’s men-folk kind of drop their heads and look sideways at each other. Preacher Watson got real worked up about the “lake of fire” and how “a lot of the folks standing here today probably would be taking a little swim in it.” Before you knew it all them Holiness folks was a whooping and a hollering, “Praise Jesus” and screeching about “Heaven’s streets of gold.” About a half dozen of them fell out rolling on the ground; speaking in tongues like to beat the band.

About that time one of Moody’s boys hit the switch on them straps that’re supposed to let the coffin down easy into the grave. The coffin jerked once and the straps busted with a loud ‘pop.’ Daddy’s coffin fell down and landed at the bottom of the hole with a boom like a shotgun going off. Before you could say “Jack and the beanstalk” there was a riot commenced amongst the motor-scooter men, the rebel-men, the hot-‘lanta divorced women, and the Holiness folks. Sheriff Hooper and his boys tried to move in and stop all the rioting but there weren’t no stopping them crazy people. Cicero, Mildred an’ me escaped down the hill and piled in the limousine and the driver tore out of there.

Sheriff Hooper told me later on that he had the Governor call up a company of the Army Guard and they had been waiting on the edge of town just in case the sheriff needed them. Well he needed them because all those crazy people commenced to going nuts and tearing up stuff in downtown Judaculla Rock.

The Holiness folks broke into all the restaurants that served beer and liquor and tore ‘em all up. They threw all the alcohol and such out in the street. The Sheriff told me it was something else to see them Hell’s Angels fellers get down on their bellies and lap up the spilled beer and liquor like dogs.

Them rich divorced women commenced to fighting with the rebel fellers and not a few of the rebel fellers beat a hasty retreat back to the cemetery side of town. Although a couple of them rebel fellers did manage to hog tie a couple of them Atlanta women to their saddles and make off for the woods behind the courthouse.

Before the Army Guard was able to clear all them crazy people out of town, the liquor store and a bunch of other places got looted. Marcy’s Furniture Emporium got burnt to the ground because somebody was going nuts shooting emergency flares all over and making it look like the Fourth of July and Halloween all rolled into one.

The last to leave were them Hell’s Angels. All them motor-scooter men had shaved their heads except for a strip down the middle from front to back, and was painted up like they was on the warpath. Their motor-scooter women weren’t wearing no clothes and they was painted all over—even their private parts.

The Hells Angels had been drag racing their Harley’s up and down main street and riding into stores and terrorizing everybody. At the very end of the riot the last of the motor-scooter men rode out of town dragging a nekkid store manikin he’d looted from Parsons Department Store on a rope behind his Harley. He was hollering that they weren’t done with Judaculla Rock and they’d be back.

Well I guess I guess I done cried enough about my daddy’s funeral here in Judaculla Rock in Jefferson County. If that fancy-pants New York magazine wants to print it, I could care less. It weren’t their funeral. I got to get back to my picture-painting like my daddy taught me. Seems like them snooty hot-‘lanta folks like my paintings too. Lord, I’ll always miss him though. He was a helluva picture-painter and a good daddy too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Taking Them Home

Christmas parades all over the land;
High school bands marching down Main Street.
Baton twirlers leaping towards the sky;
Fire engines with flashing lights and blowing sirens.

Pretty girls waving from convertibles;
Fat, laughing Santas throw candy from the floats.
Little children chase after the tossed treats into the street.
Everyone laughing, all are smiling.

Yet back in the shadows, some watch in silence;
Little girls and boys who didn’t make it to Christmas;
Their lives cut short by horrible abuse.
None wants to remember or even to care.

After the parade,
The noises extinguished,
The bright lights darkened,
Families gone away.

An angel floats up the street
All smiles and love.
Embracing the waiting children;
Taking them Home.

Chuck Connors, December 8, 2009

Gray Missiles

Sleek gray missiles knifing cleanly through the air;
Winging their way through the skies wide and clear;
Thousands of birds borne upon the winds;
Hundreds of squadrons on an ancient mission.

The oldest and strongest lead the flights;
The young and the weak follow behind.
“Honka, honka,” the lead ganders give the cry;
Straight on, fly true, for thousands of miles.

The lead birds slipping back from time-to-time;
Resting in the slipstream of others ahead.
Primitive missiles slipping through the gray fog of clouds;
Flying by the stars—a wing and a prayer.

Up ahead, up ahead, far on the horizon;
A shining sheet of water beckons the birds.
A scout—a mature gander, surveys the sectors;
Reconnoitering the ponds for hidden, deadly dangers.

When the “all clear” signal is given,
The squadrons land flight by flight.
Until all come to rest in blissful cacophony;
Home again—until the great migration—next year.

Chuck Connors, December 1, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Universe

Riding over to Asheville on a chilly wintry day,
Going to the movies at a Sunday matinee.
Will I meet up with my new friend?
Or will I fail to connect again?
Only time will tell about us—
Whether we hit it off or not.
Saw a Sandra Bullock film;
It just might win an Oscar too.
Afterwards, conversation over coffee;
Gazing into her dark eyes;
Diving into another universe.

Chuck Connors, December 6, 2009