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August 1, 2007
Calling All Angels

Hi, folks... this just showed up yesterday so I thought I'd share it. As always, I'm interested in any critiques you'd care to share. 

Calling All Angels

The words hung in the air as heavy as the dew yet to lift from the graveyard sod, oppressive as the bayou heat; lingering and pervasive, inclined to force the most stalwart of souls to reach for a hanky to wipe away the sweat… or the tears. Connie Mack Tavish fidgeted as he stood, his ten years of earthly existence insufficient to teach him the finer points of mourning. Only once before had he stepped foot in the Pittman County Cemetery, and then the occasion had more to do with his wager with Jimmy Cartwright than any official function. Mother’s increasing pressure on her grip of the soft tissue that surrounded his shoulder up close to his neck provided all the incentive he needed to quit daydreaming and listen to Pastor Rick expound upon the virtues of a life well-lived with the hope of eternal rest with the King of Kings. He did, however, regard the prospect of death to be a bit premature with any luck at all, although anything more than a glance into Mother’s veiled eyes would have been dealt with as though it were a mortal sin. 

“So we ask thee, Heavenly Father, to accept our brother into Thy care, to bless him and send Thy angels to escort him as he starts his journey to Thy Heavenly Choir… Amen!”

Connie Mack Tavish listened to the words and tried to imagine how the angels were going to get Beaufort Jackson’s spirit out of that casket once they buried it. Beaufort was a big guy who liked to sit on the porch and shoot off pop-bottle rockets, even when it wasn’t the Fourth of July, especially if he was drunk, which was most of the time. Personally, Connie Mack didn’t give much of a damn one way or the other, but he thought Beaufort would have looked better lying there in that coffin, if he’d have been wearing his sweat-stained off-white undershirt that allowed his coarse gray chest hair to stick out, instead of that gray suit that made him look like a redneck version of a banker. Connie Mack remembered hearing Mother say that Beaufort never amounted to a hill of beans, but Beaufort had taught him to whistle through his teeth and several phrases now emulated by every ten-year-old boy at Calvert School, the pre-eminent one being, ‘Fuckin-A, Dude’, the same phrase that earned Connie a one-day seminar in Ivory 101 when overheard by Mother.  

He’d gone to Sunday school for a while, before Beaufort became ‘Uncle’ Beaufort and moved in, but lately Mother hadn’t insisted upon it. Connie and Uncle Beaufort remained at arm’s length, having made an agreement with him—if Connie didn’t tell Mother about the panties he found in Uncle Beaufort’s glove compartment, then Uncle Beaufort wouldn’t beat the living hell out of Connie Mack and dump him in the creek. For a while the truce held, if only because Mother seemed to like having the jerk around when he wasn’t three-sheets-to-the-wind.  But sure as kudzu grows on telephone poles, it couldn’t last. Beaufort had been Beaufort nearly four times the length of time that Connie Mack spent on earth, and all roads led to his current struggle to fill his lungs on a sunny August morning at the bone yard; so with his divisive efforts to keep the truth contained neatly within his ability to control it, Beaufort held the upper hand, at least in so far as it concerned his new ‘nephew’, Connie Mack.

In fact, every day that passed brought another brick and set it in place, as Uncle Beaufort built a wall that threatened to enclose Mother from Connie Mack. The boy watched in silence as the only woman in his life, a once-vibrant, healthy specimen of Southern womanhood, become a caricature, not that Connie Mack would have had the sophistication to understand the term. He just knew that Mother had changed, and this wasn’t good.

Connie Mack, had, however, learned enough mathematics to know that one divided by two left a resultant with a value less than one, so something had to give. Perhaps if Uncle Beaufort hadn’t spent every evening on the porch drinking rotgut, he might have figured out that even a ten-year-old can use the internet. Then, maybe he would have learned that cyanide in great enough quantity smelled vaguely of almonds… for a little while. 

Bob Church©7/31/07  





posted by Bob Church at 09:38 AM | in:
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