Last Friday
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

(originally published in The Zodiac Review.)

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I knew I had him layin' there, some old stump of a man, traded three times by now to the Fancies off his hectic yammerin’, saying, do this, and do that, and I got your momma in a Bank Niner, like he would know what to do with her if he had her.

Don't reckon there's much about a man underneath you you need to be told about, but I can commit my body to the ground just like anyone else, whether you let me or no.  I carry my governmentally issued cyanide pill just like everyone else does in this county, and that is all I have to say.

Wasn't what I thought though.  He was still dyin'.  He was still dyin' like granddad did, under the stones we'd raised in his name.  But this here was only the man's shack, it weren't holy, so I dragged him out, to see if his kin had raised any but there weren't none.

I admit to likin' the drunks, and yeah, it's what brought me, but there's only so much you can do to raise consciousness in these parts.

"Sylvia!"

"Yeah!"

"This one's near dead!"

"Well hold on!"

You believe in the holy spirit?  I do, myself, though atheism is something I understand too.  Me, I figure the holy spirit might actually believe in atheism.  It's alive like we are.  You don't need no God for the holy spirit, not really.  Some people it’s always “the Lord God this, and the Lord God that” like there are really Lords around here or something.  This here is still America, goddamn it, and we do not have kings.  Those are men we kill, you try to put a crown on your head.  George Washington did not put on that crown, though folks wanted him too, you can understand that, it was all they had known.  But he didn't do it.  He let Adams take over.

And another thing:  Did George Washington say he was God?  Did he say, God has put me here to rule over you and to interpret His will?  No.

We do a fair amount of steam engineering here and so sometimes I do get to thinking it's the 18th Century all over except we're stupider is the main thing.  So much stupider.  All these stupid little Fancy kings declarin’ for themselves over the mountains.

"Jesus, he is dyin!" said Sylvia.

"Say a prayer over him, honey, go on."

And he spoke then, this old drunk, like I knew he would, and he said:

"What's your name?  Got a name on you?" Real raspy.

"He's still transmitting, Sylvia, just say a prayer now!  I don’t care if they hear that much."

"Land, you under our feet, we ride your ways and so does this man . . ."

"What's your Co, ord, in, ates?"  he whispers.  Fucker's actually smilin’.

" . . . fire rise and fall, so too to the raptors and fishes, dust in the wind.  Amen."

And I put a bullet in his head.  I hate to waste bullets, but I think you can see why I had to.  I never saw how someone could consent to putting a big old slug of iron and silicon in their head.  All so they can plug into a Bank in those new cities.  That nonsense terrifies me.

 

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I don't even know why I'm writin' this down.  I guess it's because it's something my grandma did, late at night.  We had good electricity then but she liked kerosene still, and I kinda liked the smell of that lamp, watchin’ her write there on her papers.  She wrote all kinds of things down.  Deaths and births and marriages, myths, rumors, pancake recipes.  She made the best pancakes.

I taught Sylvia to read.  She don't like to do it much, but I know she's proud I taught her that.  Makes a person feel ignorant not to read. 

I do believe I'll have a son, even now I believe that.  So this is to my son: 

Son, your Daddy got the drink off him.  That's how you'll be too.  We keep close to our stones and so will you.  The holy spirit makes broad and wide over this patch of earth, always threatening to turn dust bowl, but you make good with it and it'll do the same with you.

Stories are all we got.  Even when someone tells you they don't want to hear them, you find a way to tell 'em.  That's what I've found drunks are best for.  They'll listen.  And you tell ‘em right, the recordings they make, the people over the mountains who listen, they won't even care.  Not right by their law, they say, they say they’re unholy lies, but there's spiritual law, boy, the law of your blood, an’ that’s how narrative is, it sticks in your ribs and it makes you go.

One day you're goan come, boy, and that'll make me so happy.


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