/$$ /$$ /$$
|__/ | $$ | $$
/$$$$$$/$$$$ /$$ /$$$$$$ | $$$$$$$ /$$$$$$ /$$$$$$ /$$$$$$$
| $$_ $$_ $$| $$ /$$__ $$| $$__ $$|_ $$_/ |____ $$ /$$_____/
| $$ \ $$ \ $$| $$| $$ \ $$| $$ \ $$ | $$ /$$$$$$$| $$$$$$
| $$ | $$ | $$| $$| $$ | $$| $$ | $$ | $$ /$$ /$$__ $$ \____ $$
| $$ | $$ | $$| $$| $$$$$$$| $$ | $$ | $$$$/ | $$$$$$$ /$$$$$$$/
|__/ |__/ |__/|__/ \____ $$|__/ |__/ \___/ \_______/|_______/
/$$ \ $$
/$$ /$$ /$$ /$$
| $$| $$ | $$| $$
/$$ /$$ /$$ /$$$$$$ | $$| $$ /$$$$$$$ /$$$$$$ | $$| $$
| $$ | $$ | $$ /$$__ $$| $$| $$ /$$_____/ |____ $$| $$| $$
| $$ | $$ | $$| $$$$$$$$| $$| $$ | $$ /$$$$$$$| $$| $$
| $$ | $$ | $$| $$_____/| $$| $$ | $$ /$$__ $$| $$| $$
| $$$$$/$$$$/| $$$$$$$| $$| $$ | $$$$$$$| $$$$$$$| $$| $$
\_____/\___/ \_______/|__/|__/ \_______/ \_______/|__/|__/
/$$ /$$ /$$ /$$ /$$
|__/ | $$ | $$ | $$| $$
/$$ /$$$$$$ | $$$$$$$ /$$$$$$ | $$| $$
| $$|_ $$_/ | $$__ $$ /$$__ $$| $$| $$
| $$ | $$ | $$ \ $$| $$$$$$$$| $$| $$
| $$ | $$ /$$ | $$ | $$| $$_____/| $$| $$
| $$ | $$$$/ | $$ | $$| $$$$$$$| $$| $$
|__/ \___/ |__/ |__/ \_______/|__/|__/
by Miracle Jones
The first tits I ever squeezed for real were giant, fake, and full of cancer.
It was during the 1992 Summer Olympics, the year Dominique Dawes did a perfect floor routine vs. Japan, the year of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan’s “Dream Team.” The whole world was still pretty much reeling from the fall of the Soviet Union, not sure what to be afraid of yet. Terrifying new candidates like AIDS and ghosts and Satanism were hauled out daily for examination on TV shows like Oprah and Donahue and Montel and Jerry Springer, the most popular shows on daytime television. The format had not yet descended into theatrical chair-swinging parody nor risen yet to tear-jerking book club transcendence; Americans were still learning how to properly gawk at reality.
I was ten years old and staying in Texas City with my Granny, visiting all my aunts and cousins along the Gulf Coast. I was afraid of: jellyfish, hell, serial killers, being possessed by a demon, and growing an extra eyeball in the palm of my hand. I was way into: Spawn comic books and Anne of Green Gables.
Texas City was an Amoco town. Fuck your Royal Dutch Shell. Fuck your Gazprom and your Exxon and your British Petroleum.
All the men around here worked out on the rigs. All the women were nurses, often traveling out to the rigs themselves, everybody doing their bit to drive those hollow nails deep as possible into the ocean floor. The city’s smell was complex and resplendent, a dog’s breakfast of competing riches. The beach, where the dead things of the sea baked into bits of glass. The refineries, where the black blood of the dinosaurs became the world’s most profitable poison. Menthol cigarettes and fried oysters. Light beer, sunscreen, testicle sweat, and live bait. You hated it at first, but then you started to like it, like the funk of a demanding but ugly lover.
We had developed a routine that summer: in the mornings, we would eat a nice big leisurely breakfast composed of “things floating in grease” and people from all over the neighborhood would join us, mainly to swap gossip with my exceedingly deferential and wizened old Granny, who ran the family like a benign but brilliant CEO runs a board of vicious stockholders. She had eight daughters. In turn, these daughters also birthed mostly daughters, resulting in something like forty or fifty great-grandchildren, out of whom I was the oldest.
Several of these various great-grandchildren would be deposited for the afternoon to Hang, usually infants who banged around in their walkers or else lay down in the middle of perfectly clean beds and majestically wet themselves. My great-grandmother had cable television, which we didn’t get back home. Though I had made my peace with the three network channels and PBS that we picked up through rabbit ears on our dusty black-and-white, here I plugged into the thumping cosmos of the American cable for the first time. These sitcom kids had California haircuts. The movies had powerful and creative swearing.
After breakfast, when the nuclear explosion in the sky started to rise, Granny would retire to her den where she would turn on her soap operas. I would sneak off to my Cousin Lonnie’s room to take total control of the other TV, a thing that had never happened before.
Cousin Lonnie rented from Granny so that she would do his laundry. At present, however, Cousin Lonnie was away for six months on an offshore oil rig, plying his trade as an electrician. His room was as clean and comforting as every other room in my great-grandmother’s tiny ranch-style home, though instead of pictures of family, the walls were covered with posters of women wearing thongs made from Budweiser logos reclining on top of Budweiser cars and Budweiser motorcycles.
There was one poster of Mr. Spuds Mackenzie himself, a pit-bull that women in patriotic bikinis seemed fond of.
In one corner of Cousin Lonnie’s room was a massive inflatable plastic Budweiser beer bottle, with a slit in the top. It was meant for collecting loose change. Though it was mostly empty, there were just enough coins in the bottom to keep it standing up straight, and I liked to pretend it was a villain who needed to be punched. It would spring back at you like a heavy bag on a chain. Until it was time for the nightly Olympics coverage on ABC, I would watch cartoons and action movies on HBO – “Die Hard 2” and “Total Recall” and “Predator” – drawing mandalas in the plush shag carpet, punching this giant plastic beer bottle, eating candy, and basically Living Correct.
However, I was just a visitor here in Texas City, a citified Houstonite, whereas all my younger Cousins made this blighted land their permanent residence. They knew secrets.
One morning, my Aunt Jane dropped off my Cousin Roy, a hyperactive little shit named after my dead great-grandfather. He was younger than me and olive skinned: his Daddy worked on the rigs same as everybody else, just another restless skinny dude who knew how to chain smoke and drink and be generally charming while simultaneously cultivating emotional distance like a perfect bonsai tree.
Little Cousin Roy was quiet and sly. He was tinier than me, but much more confident. He had opinions about professional wrestling. We played Frisbee. We played “pretend.” We turned the garden hose on fire ant beds. We played hide and seek, but he called this a baby game: possibly because he was not particularly creative at hiding, nor did he have the patience to stay hidden long enough to make the game challenging.
During one such attempt at hide and seek, while my Granny was on the nod, I found him sitting cross-legged on the floor of my Cousin Lonnie’s room between the foot of Lonnie’s bed and his bookless bookshelves, looking at a magazine.
“I found you,” I said. He grinned at me, slitting his eyes and showing his sharp little teeth.
He was sheepish for some reason. He ran off, laughing, leaving the magazine spread open on the floor.
It was glossy and smelled good, like perfume set on fire. It was well-made: perhaps the most high quality magazine I had ever held, much more substantial than one of the Redbooks or Glamours that my mom bought and kept in a woven basket on the kitchen table. There was a beautiful woman with black hair and massive breasts reclining on a bed, busting out of some kind of pale blue camisole. She was utterly nude. My only point of reference was the Disney version of Snow White. She looked smart and interesting, and I felt the entire bottom drop out of all existence.
“I like to wear blue when I tit fuck, and pink when I suck a cock,” she proclaimed in a lurid pull quote along the side of the page.
I fell to sweating, feeling sort of ill. I flipped the pages. There was another woman here naked except for tennis shoes. She was tan and slender, and her legs and ass were covered in a fine spray of sand, as if she had been bathing in the waves and then rolling around on the beach, doing a “sugar cookie.”
Her skin was bronze and glowing and she seemed so aggressive and confident, especially with those tennis shoes, that I found her terrifying. But here I was holding her in my hands just the same. I read the paragraph next to the pictures of her. It was a first person account of the way that she liked to be fucked and the kind of men that she liked to perform this act (older men who knew what they were doing).
It was strange: the text didn’t seem to go with the woman at all. I knew what women sounded like: I had six aunts and ten great aunts, and all they did was drink, smoke, and talk. They certainly had opinions about love and men, but they were never so blunt nor free of nuance.
I immediately hid the magazine where it came from. In the process, I discovered a stack of many others. No wonder I had missed them: the spines were turned inward so that only the pages were showing and they were interspersed with boring magazines about cars, and car racing, and car part catalogs.
Back in the kitchen, little Cousin Roy was sitting at the table and swinging his legs and eating Oreos from the sleeve. He didn’t say anything and neither did I. Okay. We had a male blood alliance. But he was only visiting for the day, and I was here for weeks and weeks. And I had perfect cover: all I had to do was shut the door and turn the TV up and I could hide in there as long as I wanted. And I knew I needed plenty of time to figure everything out.
I savored the situation, deliberately avoiding the back bedroom and spending the rest of the afternoon sitting with Granny while she watched “Santa Barbara.” Roy ran around like an idiot, leering at me and raiding Granny’s pantry for snacks. I remained haughty and aloof, bifurcated, feeling simultaneously above his undirected delinquent mischief, and also below it, more ravenous, more obsessed by the treasure-trove of secret knowledge that he had discovered than he could ever be, this unfocused creature without true, real curiosity nor higher passions.
When Roy’s mother arrived to take him away for the evening, I was secretly ecstatic. The treasure was mine.
“I’m going to go visit poor Reece over at the Home,” said Granny, “Aunt Alannah is there tonight. I was thinking we’d all just get some Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. Would you like to come or would you rather just stay here?”
The only thing in the world I wanted was to go through each and every page of every single one of those magazines and explore the weird feelings they gave me, the dizzying aggression and mouth-drying hunger. But I knew I had to bide my time and not over-play my hand.
“Aw, of course I’ll go with you,” I said. “I love those KFC mashed potatoes.”
“You don’t have to come,” said Granny. “The Home isn’t much of a place for a kid. And also poor Reece, bless his heart, can be unsettling.”
Whatever the price, I told myself. THERE IS NO PRICE TOO HIGH.
“I’m not scared,” I said.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” said Granny. “He’s family. He’s very sweet. He’s always been sweet.”
I had seen Cousin Reece at weddings and other assorted family gatherings, but I wasn’t really sure what visiting him meant. At gatherings, he mainly sat in his wheelchair in the corner and made smacking noises, staring into space, gumming at the air, contorting his neck while drooling. It was not possible to interact with him in a meaningful way, but my mom always made me hug him goodbye. It was like hugging an old dog. He would smile. He would flutter his eyelids and raise his head to the sky.
The Home was the Nursing Home. Granny knew everyone that worked there from the First Church of God, and also because two of her daughters were registered nurses and it was a very small town.
“Ya’ll just go on back all the way till you hear Alannah,” said the nurse on duty. “You’ll hear her,” she lilted.
Aunt Alannah could project. There was a time when she had wanted to be an actress.
“Are they even BOTHERING to shave you right? Look how many spots they missed! Right here on your chin. Shit, they didn’t get under your jaw here at all. You are getting so damn handsome, you know that? Who’s your latest girlfriend in here? Some of these nurses talk about you; bet you are getting molested in here. But you don’t mind now, do you, honey? Come on now, open up wide.”
Aunt Alannah was in her early fifties. She was tall, with giant blonde hair. I had never noticed before, but today I noticed: she had massive insanely-large porno breasts that poked out from a low-cut black halter top beneath her jean jacket. She was wearing heels and joggling her legs as she spoon-fed her retarded son Reece, simultaneously teasing him and encouraging him to Be a Man And Eat His Applesauce.
Reece was in his late twenties, and he was giant, just like Alannah. Well past six foot six. His hairy knees came up to his elbows in his wheelchair. He was blind; had gone blind from perpetual seizures that he’d been having since he was my age. Alannah remembered him back before the seizures started, of course, but to me he was something ruined, something terrifying. She and Granny talked to him like a human being however, even though he couldn’t talk back.
“This is your little cousin on your momma’s side,” said Aunt Alannah.
My mother and Reece were contemporaries, along with my Cousin Clinton who had a hook for a hand on account of the rigs, and who lived with his ex-wife, her new husband, and their two kids, in an arrangement that made everybody uncomfortable, but which was never explained to me and which was as normal as anything else in a place where you could buy crawfish at the gas station, where it was a hundred and ten degrees every day, where all the water smelled like sulfur.
(“Might as well call it hell,” my Granny used to say about the water. “Reminds you to go to church.”)
“He’s smart like you Reece,” said Aunt Alannah to her son. “Handsome like you, too.”
He shifted his head on his neck, wobbling toward me like an earthworm feeling vibrations in the wet earth. He gummed at me, drooling onto his palsied hands, blinking even though his eyes were rolled all the way back in his head.
“Shake his hand now, let him know you’re here,” said Aunt Alannah.
I screwed up all my courage and grabbed his hand and shook it. He moaned and smiled, kinda.
Aunt Alannah kept feeding him mash, while she and Granny talked about who she was dating these days and her prospects at happiness in general. They were able to tune Reece in and out like a radio broadcasting a ball game. But I couldn’t stop staring, wondering what his life must be like, knowing already that a seizure must be the evil twin of an erection, blood filling your brain like the hurricane tide swelling over a power plant, short-circuiting everything.
“Got this new one been around a little bit,” said Aunt Alannah. “Might bring him to church, maybe. Even brought him around here to see Reece. Reece liked him, but Reece is not, on balance, picky. What I need to find is a doctor to marry, you know? Wouldn’t that solve some problems? Feel like everybody in this whole damn town is either in the ORL BIDNESS, or works in a hospital, or is dying of some TV disease. I mean, it all has to be related, right? It’s like we’re in some kind of big medical quarantine around here to see how much refinery smoke we can suck up and what it does to our bodies. The docs come down here from Houston to try treatments on us and run the data. The lawyers swarm around looking for a good story and a good settlement. Probably the whole planet is gonna be as ugly as Texas City before too long, but they’ll know just what to do on account of dealing with us for so long. We are a goddamn social experiment. We are goddamn pioneers. Ain’t that right, Reece?”
“Bring your new one on up to the church so we can get a look,” said Granny. “Is he sweet natured?”
“He’s got a gentle nature,” said Aunt Alannah. “Lord knows I been through the ringer. People say I got a type, but hell, I can only date the men God makes.”
Aunt Alannah leaned way back in her chair, crossing her legs at the ankle. I was acutely aware that I could see most of the fullness of her décolletage, and on this day, thanks to the magic of periodical print, I was learning how to fill in the rest. It was an uncomfortable and powerful new skill.
“You gotta stay in school and become a doctor,” said Aunt Alannah, sensing that I was staring at her. “You hear? Then you can take care of some bright, big-tittied Texas girl like me in your old age and just have the happiest damn life.”
She plunged more mash into poor Reece’s mouth, scraping the run-off where it squeezed out of the sides. He stared off in the other direction and gummed for a bit.
I stared out the window at the grey asphalt of the parking lot while Granny and Aunt Alannah gossiped, thinking about the women in those magazines while watching plumes of grey smoke billow into the sky across the empty fields of power lines and transfers.
“This is where power comes from,” I thought. “Right here in this town.”
Suddenly, Reece threw his head back and started spazzing out, his useless hands rigid on the arms of his wheelchair. He nearly flipped the thing over.
“Oh Lord,” said Aunt Alannah.
“Help!” shouted Granny.
A nurse rushed in, grabbing his arm and calling for help. Other nurses joined her, and then eventually a doctor came in and took his vitals and pronounced him just fine.
We watched him seize for awhile – Aunt Alannah insisting we finish eating our chicken – and then he seemed to fall unconscious. The nurses came in to slip him into his pajamas and lift his giant frame into his bed.
He was my age when the seizures started. I thought about all the life I had lived up till now; all the life there was left to live.
“He gets excited,” said Aunt Alannah. “When there’s company.”
Eventually, Aunt Alannah and Granny decided we were ready to leave. We said goodbye to the doctor, who kept looking at Aunt Alannah’s chest, just like me. We were dirtbag twins. Neither my Granny nor Alannah seemed to mind. They treated this doctor like royalty. He warmly wished them both well and then we tooled along back home to Granny’s place.
The two of them sat in the living room with the screen door open so Alannah could smoke, and I waited for the right time to excuse myself. Granny turned on the Olympics, and we watched Indonesia win its first ever gold medal in women’s badminton, trying very hard to figure out the rules to this game. My Aunt Alannah proclaimed Susi Susanti, the Indonesian champion, too skinny, which prompted my Granny to call for iced cream.
“Do you want any iced cream?” my Granny asked.
“Nah, think I might go watch something else,” I said.
“What do you want to watch?” asked Aunt Alannah. “We’ll change it. We don’t mind. We just like your company.”
“Ha, that’s okay,” I said. “Maybe some cartoons or something.”
“You don’t even want any iced cream?” she said.
“Nah, that’s okay.”
“Blue Bell! Vanilla Bean!”
“I think I ate too much chicken, you know? Maybe later.”
“Well, alright,” said Aunt Alannah. “Though I can’t say that I approve. You are such a tiny little thing. Of course, so’s your momma.”
I slunk away back to Cousin Lonnie’s room and carefully shut the door. I was acutely conscious that there was no lock, but I knew that if I stayed hidden by the foot of the bed, no one could see me even if they came into the room suddenly and without warning.
I turned on the TV, not even caring which station it was on, and then went over to the magazines, savoring them.
There were Playboys, Hustlers, Gallerys, and Penthouses. The Hustlers were the best. The Penthouses were the worst. The women in them didn’t even look real, and all the photos looked like there were taken in a room filled with hot steam. The women in Hustler looked the most human and did the most for me, but I had to admit that there was something really alluring about the women in Playboy. They were too much for me, though.
The Hustler cartoons made me feel the most weird. They were mean and disgusting and showed actual sex happening. I was starting to piece together the mechanics of this act from the Penthouse letters. The words for all the discrete and various acts were all coded, but I was breaking this code. I figured out what beaver meant. I puzzled over “carpet munching,” but I decided it meant being in such ecstasy of sexual pleasure, that you were actually chewing on carpet, which I found to be delightful.
One pictorial in Gallery was called “The Girl Next Door.” Women were encouraged to send in Polaroids of themselves which were voted on each month by the subscribers of Gallery and then one woman was selected to be The Girl Next Door of the month, meaning that she was singled out for a pictorial of her own. The women’s ages and professions were listed next to these Poloroids. They were usually in cut-offs , usually holding their breasts up like trays of cocktail shrimp and smiling painfully, their hair piled up as high on their heads as possible, permed and frosted; crimped and dyed.
There was a knock on the door, and then it opened up before I could even say “HOLD ON.”
It was Aunt Alannah, peeking in. My head popped up from the foot of the bed and I shoved the magazine I was looking at under a pillow.
“You just in here watching the news?”
I realized that CNN was playing.
“Uh, yeah, I guess so.”
“What are you looking at?” she asked, walking right over to the pillow I was leaning on, lifting it up out from under me.
She saw the magazine and started laughing.
“Oh, okay, busted,” she said. “This is one of Lonnie’s?”
She bent over me, checking me out.
“Your Granny passed out and I was getting lonely,” she said. “I was gonna take off, but not without saying goodbye. Also, Lonnie usually has some whiskey in here, doesn’t he? Figured I’d take a few slugs and leave him a couple bucks. You know, for the ride home.”
She knelt down by his bed and reached underneath it, pulling out a bottle. She sat down on the bed. I remained standing beside her, frozen like a small animal in the clutches of a predator. She opened the magazine.
“Man, used to be just Playboy when I was your age,” she said. “This is elaborate. What’s this one called?”
She flipped pages. She must have known she was torturing me, but she didn’t care. She put the bottle of whiskey on the night table.
“Those are fake as hell, those are fake, those are real, those are real and they are EXCELLENT, those are fake and she should get her goddamn money back, shit look at those stretch marks, she looks like somebody stuffed her tits full of rat fur to go with her rat face. She’s swinging like some tetherballs, ain’t she?”
Aunt Alannah held the magazine up and I nodded, not even really able to look.
“You shy? You embarrassed? Nothing to be shy about.”
She grabbed the bottle of whiskey and unscrewed the cap.
“I got mine done, you know, after Reece. Figured I needed something extra if I was gonna find somebody. I mean, his Daddy split, and I figured it was a nice gesture, you know, to balance things out for some fella. You get Reece, but you also get THESE.”
She took a polite sip, and then a larger swig.
“You want some?” she joked, holding it out to me. “Look at us in here reading skin mags and drinking whiskey.”
She sighed. I still hadn’t moved. I shuffled nervously back and forth. She took another sip and picked up the magazine again.
She cradled her own breasts, looking at the magazine, suddenly seeming very sad.
“They are too big, aren’t they? I wish I’d just had ‘em done up perkier, instead of filling ‘em out so big. The doctor was very convincing, though. Said the higher a man’s testosterone, the more likely he was into big boobs. Seems like bullshit, though, doesn’t it? And anyway, what do I even want with some man all full up with testosterone? Maybe I ought to have them taken out. Shit, if I could afford it.”
Aunt Alannah tossed the magazine on the bed and held the bottle of whiskey out to me again.
“Sit down and drink with me,” she said. “You’re a man in this family. It’s your goddamn duty to comfort the women.”
I sat down on the bed hesitantly, smelling some kind of funky tang in the air, mixed with the whiskey and mall counter perfume.
“This used to be where your Granny and your great-grandfather slept,” said Aunt Alannah. “Did you know that? Your Granny didn’t want to sleep in here anymore after he died. You are a lot like him. All the boys in this family got some of him in them. Even my Reece. Reece was just the sweetest little boy before the seizures hit. Now he’s a man, just like you. Anybody ever tell you about your great-grandaddy?”
“He worked on the rigs, right?” I said.
“Well, hell, everybody worked on the rigs. But your great-grandaddy was a reader. Loved books. Always a goddamn book in his hand. Everybody made fun of him, but he would do their taxes for them and write letters if they needed letters. Back then, the oil companies had unions, you know. And so everybody up and elected your great-grandfather a union leader. He wasn’t much of a leader, but he was an obstinate fucker, you know. Loved all that Communist bullshit. Marx and Stalin and all that. Your Granny would go to church and he would stay home and mow his lawn and drink his beer and read his books.”
“Communism, like Russia?”
“Yeah, like it used to be,” said Aunt Alannah. “Not anymore, though, huh? Anyway, there was that big goddamn explosion round here in 1947. Some fertilizer went up and five hundred people died all at once. Whole city blocks were destroyed. The anchor of this French ship, the Grandcamp, was hurled two miles away and landed in the PanAmerican refinery. Five thousand people were injured. It was the biggest industrial accident in American history, did you know that? Frank Sinatra came to Texas City and did a benefit concert. After that, the workers started getting ideas, like they needed insurance and so on. Your great-grandad signed ‘em all up. There were other fires and so on, but now when somebody died it wasn’t so bad. The families were accounted for. He was kind of a hero, before he fucked everything up. I guess Texas City has always been a place God hits first. Hurricanes, industrial accidents, little boys with brain diseases...shit. It’s just a damn laboratory. A medical experiment.”
She scratched her breasts, adjusting them.
“Sometimes they get a little scaly. Dry skin. Don’t expect you to understand. Just one of those things. Numb around the nipples sometimes. Sometimes they bleed a little.”
She grinned at me.
“You want to see ‘em?” she asked. “They are better than any magazine. Live and in the flesh. If you promise not to tell your mom, I’ll show ‘em to you. Shit, they cost me a small fortune. I damn well better be showing them off to people who might appreciate them. And since you are becoming a connoisseur and all… ”
She unbuttoned her blouse down to her stomach, and flashed me, grinning. I nodded, encouragingly.
“Very nice,” I said meekly.
“You want to touch one? They feel pretty real, I must say. Go on, give one a squeeze.”
I put my hand on her tit and squeezed it, feeling so weird.
“Say, let me ask you something,” she said. “Do they feel peculiar to you? Does this feel like a lump to you?”
She led my hand to the place she was talking about. I tried to feel what she was feeling.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Of course not,” she said. “How would you?”
“Alright now,” she said. “Now you can’t ever tell anyone you didn’t have a good time down in Texas City. Drinking whiskey and squeezing titties. You can tell all your friends at school.”
She buttoned up her blouse again.
“What the hell was I talking about?” she asked me, frowning.
“Grandpa Roy,” I said.
“Oh that’s right! No whiskey and titties for him! Your great-grandad was too serious, too revolutionary. Lord, he could talk! Anyway, he started doing some kind of calculations on all the insurance and so on, and he came to some conclusion that the rigs were actually profiting off dead oil workers, you know, taking out policies on them and so on. Recouping their costs for the loss of skilled labor. He was mad about it, you know, and he started speaking out and organizing all the workers, you know. A real firebrand. Anyway, it was political for him, and he saw it as an excuse to inject a little Red Menace into this here town. He was good at it, you know. Talked so smart. People listened. He started talking about a strike. People got excited. Amoco sent people down here to bust some heads. He got his ribs broke, and they tried to bust his jaw, but they fucked up and they left him still able to speak. They made plans and all, and there was a strike. Boy, this town never forgave him for that.”
She sighed and drank more whiskey.
“Did it work?” I asked.
“Hell no, it didn’t work,” said Aunt Alannah. “This is Texas, honey. Amoco let them strike for a few weeks, let them start to get a little taste of starvation, and then they fired all the organizers, including your great-granddaddy, and hired everyone else back at half-pay. You can’t strike against oil. The government won’t stand by you: especially when they got wars to fight in Vietnam and Kuwait and all that. He went flat broke, going through his savings and all. Who else was going to hire him? He had all them daughters to take care of. But more important, no one would listen to him anymore. He loved it when people listened to him more than anything else. But people around here blamed him for getting fired. Where was he gonna go?”
“But he didn’t do anything wrong,” I said.
“He sure did,” said Aunt Alannah. “He went in your great-granny’s garage there and he pulled the car out and parked it on the street and he took the laundry out and folded it and then he lay down towels all over the floor of the garage and he blew his brains out with your Granny’s shotgun that she won in that church auction. Wasn’t even his gun; he always said he was a pacifist. He left a note, a very beautiful and well-written note in very beautiful handwriting, saying he’d done it for the life insurance money since he couldn’t work anymore. The police found the note and his policy in his pockets and that was that.”
She sighed, picked up a Gallery magazine, stared at it, smiling, and then set it back down.
She looked around the room at all the Budweiser posters and pictures of classic cars. She stood up arching her back.
“Well, now you know,” she said. “But this is it, kid, this is everything! Big titties and cheap whiskey and fast cars. You can’t fight the world. Remember that. You got to do it up right when you can. Let all the evil bastards have their evil plans and their evil dreams; they can’t cheat you out of titties, fast cars, and whiskey. They don’t want them. They can’t appreciate them. More for you. You got smarts and ambitions. That’s plain. But never forget where you come from, you hear? You’re the fucked-up kind of American, like Shannon Miller and Gail Devers and that Larry Bird fellow, needs a haircut.”
She tossed the magazine on the bed and walked to the door.
“You want some privacy?” she asked.
“That’s okay,” I said sheepishly.
“Well, say what you want!”
“You can close the door,” I said.
“Alright, honey,” she said.
(c) Miracle Jones 2015