By Robert Earl Reed
Robert Brock sat in the aluminum yard chair and mulled over the wooden skis he had nailed to the legs of the chair. He carved off a piece of white Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cake with a dingy plastic fork trying not to scrape styrofoam from the bottom of the cake box. The humidity in the hot Hardeman County air made the icing melt around the fork as he dove into the middle and worked his way out. He thought of the chance for snow or the lack thereof any time soon and continued to satiate his only sweet tooth.
July in Hardeman County was a bitch. He was glad that he had donned his walkin shorts that morning in lieu of his overalls. This kind of heat would gall the skin on his old nut sack something terrible and that would be just one more thing he would have to worry about.
He gazed around the pavilion that was his domain and took in the rotting tongue and groove hanging from the mottled grey ceiling of the once opulent dance pavilion and thought about his tattoo. The new one. The one everyone was a askin about. He’d spent the better part of his crazy check and an entire day walking the road to Ripley to have the ink needle buzz between his eyes. The letters seared into his forehead black on the red whelp that passed as his skin. He was none too happy with the result. The letters… “they was too diminutive”… “and he’d a wanted a some a purple mixed round the edges” … but the “artist” in Ripley had paid him no never mind and applied the Word as he so chose … freehand … all caps … in a font that defied nomenclature. Robert guessed that he had no choice but to “hope it worked.”
They laughed. They laughed harder than they normally did at Robert, but he knew that in his way of thinking that he had did right. They was belly crawling respecter of persons anyways. They’d just add this to the blasted lies they told on him. Add to their talk about his walkin shorts. Why …they wore their walkin shorts and no one said nothing. There weren’t no reason for them to castigate him for his choice to forego leggins other than meanness and the Devil. He was their real problem… the Devil. The Devil makes folks talk about others. He makes folks poke fun at those that ain’t like them. He makes respecter of persons.
When Robert died the windswept silence of his Pavilion Home heard no more laughter. Heard no more respecter of persons whispering lies on ole Robert from the shadows in the stands of pine. What relatives he had claimed the few belongings of his from the run down room that was his domain. A pair of spectacles with copper wire strung where the arms used to be… an upright piano that Robert played “Chopsticks” on for the extremely occasional visitor… the porcelain chamber pot that relieved his bowels when the Coconut Cakes were processed and ready to expel…
At his diminutive paupers funeral the attendees filed by the chip board casket that would be his corpse’s eternal domain. They shuffled by and gazed upon his closed blue eyes. They remarked on the Black Suit and Tie that he had never worn in life… and they gazed with wonder at the word written upon his forehead….. G O D.
Robert Earl Reed