Of Jake And Hormones
Daryl Gay's Back Page, September 2018
It’s only about every five years—and yes, I’m thankful for small favors—that Jake The Hermit goes into rut.
I only wish it could be as simple as pawing dirt, licking branches and traipsing around like a schizoid. One question: why me?
Well, it’s because Pap, Daddy and I were the only three folks on the planet Jake ever trusted. And of the three, I was the only one dumb enough to go along with his schemes…
“You know that thar Serlener Sherfield wormern?”
No need to look at a hormone calendar; he was bug-eyed, drooling baccer, and his hocks stunk to the rafters. At least I hope it was his hocks. Yep, that time again. Conjure up a scenario of nuclear facility alarms when the reactor begins melting down. That’s exactly what was in my head.
“I know Miss Salina Sheffield. She’s in Ma’s Sunday School class, and she’s coming to dinner after church Sunday. If Ma ever heard you call Miz Salina’s name or a reasonable facsimile thereof, she’d load every gun in the house and call out the National Guard.”
He was dead in his tracks. Naw, not the guns and Guard; that reasonable facsimile got him though.
“Ah didn’t thank she were married. Factorial Sermolian her husband’s name?”
“She ain’t; just kidding. Go on and tell me the worst. You didn’t propose at first sight, did you?”
“Ain’t met ’er yet. Sunday dinner, eh? Yore house!”
If I’d’a had a cyanide capsule now would have been a perfect time to chomp down hard.
“NO! NO, JAKE! Let’s just talk about this. We can have a reasonable(?) conversation, and you’ll see why showing up at Pap’s on Sunday may be the worst and last idea you ever have.”
Since my reason and Jake’s reason are two different reasons, I went at it first from his angle: history.
“What comes to mind when you think back to the Widow Sapp?”
He swallowed half his chaw and replied: “Single ought.”
“Right. And Pap dug at least a pair of pellets out of your nether regions, I believe.”
“Naw, it was my left cheek, plumb through the Pointer Brand tag on my overhauls pocket. Had to sit right-handed for a month. Just glad the Widder had a sangle barl.”
“How about Miz Chessie Barlow?”
“Oh, them was nines. ‘Member that night me and you was gonna slide some of that honey out of Ol’ Man May’s bee box? I could’a swore bees and wawsts slept when the sun went down… That’s what them nines felt like though.”
“And that’s the time Pap took most a’morning plucking ’em all out of you, too. Said he used a quart of turpentine.”
“And it still stangs when it rains. But the worst part was when yer Ma come at me laying helpless with that straight razor in her hand. Yer Pap is the biggest man I ever seed, and he was a’holdin’ me stiff with just the palm of his hand. I thought Miz Lena Mae’s shot at me had finally come.”
“Was that the last time you got a haircut and shave?”
“Yup. That little grandma of yourn’s got talent, I’ll say that. She was a’clutchin’ her nose with one hand and that blade with the other. Never skint me once.”
Which just goes to show that miracles really do happen…
“Ok, Jake, now one more and I think you’ll get the drift. Hezzie Hardwick’s daughter, Florene.”
(Known to all the little heathens in our cotton mill village as Florene the MOrene.”)
“Uh, er, well… Sheen gun.”
“C’mon Jake, don’t show your ignorance like most of the rest of the world when it comes to an Armalite Rifle. It’s not a machine gun. Hezzie’s AR shoots once per trigger pull like everybody else’s; same as those shotguns you’re always outrunning. Barely though. You’re slowing down in your old age.”
“Well, let’s jes say he’s got a quick trigger fanger. And you wouldn’t have thought I’d lost no steps if you’d seen me cut out through his goat pen. That’s what saved mah life! If Hez hadn’t been so worried about wingin’ one of them nasty critters he’d’a aimed lower. Nannies was a’bleatin’ and a’leapin’, I was a’bleatin’ and a’skiddin’ and rounds was poppin’ off fit to beat the Fourth of July band.
“That big ol’ mean billy went to clamber through the fence and got his horns hung up; I never missed a beat, hoppped on his back and shot right into the trees t’other side…”
He actually started cackling and slapping his knee at the end of that tale, and I had to ask why.
“Well, I might’a had a real chanst with Florene. She were a’beggin’ her pa to cease fire, hollerin’ about how he had run all both her suitors off. Yep, she were probly my best bet; ain’t seen her though since she signed on with that perfessional wrasslin’ outfit and left town.”
Pounding the other bony knee, he mused more.
“I’d done met up with that billy, ‘bout the middle of the night on a turnip trip. Had me a taste for some squirrel and turnips, and Hezzie had a acre garden. Somehow I lost my bearings and wound up ‘mongst them goats. But that hardhead pointed me in the right direction. ‘Bout 10 different times.”
So now for the big question: “How about Sunday dinner?”
“Naw, I got some turnips left over. And it looks like ol’ Other Sapp’s rudybeggers will be ready to pick ‘bout two in the mornin’; may find a stray chicken to go with ‘em…”
Miss Salina has no idea of the debt she owes. One day the story may come out—if I think her heart can stand the strain.
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