Ethelbert

May 27, 2016

You know my secret to a long life? Ciggies, and caffeine, and moonshine. Ciggies’ll hurt you, caffeine bad for you. Propaganda, you ask me. I got some jars a Kentuck moonshine in the kitchen. I don’t tell my docs about moonshine—none of they goddamn business. Well, am I settin’ here? Am I alive?

Old age is a bitch. Ain’t it? I will be ninety in June, still farmin’, still drivin’—hell, still livin’! I have had five heart attacks the last three months. I died three times. How many times y’all done died? Me—three. They told me prepare for my maker, I wasn’t going to make it. I had two pneumonies. I think the pneumonies was the worst.

The eyes are goin,’ though. Aw hell, they want to operate on my eyeballs. Say they have to wait until six months after my pacemaker settles in. Hell, I ain’t scared. Scratch them eyeballs! I won’t need eyes in heaven.

Or hell.

I got nice neighbors across the road. Man and woman. Oh, they give me barbeque, lottsa other things, cookies. Ever’ evenin’, I walk out on the road and stare at they house. And somebody always come out and talk to old Ethelbert. I figured out: They alternate. Wife-husband-wife again. They don’t mind, but they shore do take turns.

My kids say, Pop, you are a loud talker sumbitch. Don’t swear, do not scratch yerself in front a yer grandkids. Hide that moonshine. Ast you, how else a kid get they education?

Shee-it, I can stop a party in its tracks with my stories. I have died three times, trucked bootleg hooch and ciggies from Chicago to Alton in the Depression, me a kid in the back of the truck, carryin’ a pistol and brandishin’ it more than once. I had to sap a guy with the pistol near Joliet, once. He got curious and peeped in the back, and I conked him with my Colt.

I shoulda been a writer.

There is a price to pay for bein’ named Ethelbert. Drop the ‘bert,’ and what you got? ‘Ethel honey, won’t you hold my hand?’ ‘Ethel, you play jump rope with the rest of the gals.’ I had to beat down some boys back in the day. My daddy taught me to fight. He bar-fought regular.

This here century too tame for me. I git along but I don’t like it much. Now I wear a collar around my neck, walk on a leash like a dog, my daughter walks me. One these days, I am gone take a piss on a fire hydrant. See how she like that. Shee-it, I just eat and sleep and excrete. I am harmless.

Well, if a pretty gal’d just set on my lap, I wouldn’t say no. Hell’s bells, if a ugly gal sat on my lap, I wouldn’t say no.

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