This writing is part of the sometimes insane and infuriating ordeal of finding a story’s tone, or what perspective it should be told from, or even what it’s about. I started a story called THE KING OF BOONE COUNTY, and I’m still toying with it. So this writing is an exercise in perspective. The main character in BOONE is named Waylon Lippincott; here he is, twenty years in the past, as a teenager growing up in a town called Halcyon.
*None of what I’ve written will make sense out of context. Just know, Waylon and Ben Ben are fourteen years old. They live in a very small town, rural, tucked in the wooded land at the base of three enormous mountains. Also, there has been a rumor floating around of Waylon and a goat.
Waylon’s father had that knife with him wherever he went. It had a handle made of rough-hewn wood, carved, apparently, by governor Sespedis three generations ago, into the shape of a naked woman. The woman’s head was at the bottom of the handle, her legs spreading up toward the blade. It looked like the blade was either going in her or coming out of her. Somewhere along the way the woman had lost her head. Now she was a headless pair of breasts and a body writhing in either pain or ecstasy, at this point it was hard to tell. But that headlessness was Waylon’s father’s favorite part of the knife. I can imagine she’s anyone, he’d say. He would hold the knife up for Waylon to see, gleaming in the sun, reflecting Waylon back to himself in the metal of the blade, which was kept always smooth and clean. Look, his father’d say. Imagine this is your mother. And then he’d laugh. She didn’t look too different than that when I met her. She never looked this good, but she was somewhere close.
“I like to think of my father as a pie,” Waylon said. “I think of him cut up into eight slices, like any old pie would be. But I only understand one of those slices. I can see all the slices. But there’s just one that sort of calls my name. But even that one slice is confusing. I don’t know what the filling is. Also, it seems a little burnt on the outside. And I also have no way of serving it to myself, so I just got to look at it and smell it and it don’t look nice or smell nice neither.”
He was talking Ben Ben, who was not listening. They were at Silver Creek, trying to hit ducks with small rocks.
“Well,” Ben Ben said. “That’s the way it goes.”
“I suppose it is,” Waylon said. “But I also suppose it don’t have to be. Why do I keep staring at that pie, especially if I don’t want to eat it?”
“Pie?” Ben Ben said.
“Yeah,” Waylon said. “Why am I staring at it if I don’t want it?”
“Why would anyone stare at a pie?”
They each had collected a handful of rocks. Waylon missed on his first three tries, and all the ducks fled except for one, who was dumber than the rocks being thrown at it, apparently. It just sort of sat on the water and stared at the world in bafflement.
“You done foolin?” Ben Ben said.
He cocked his arm and threw a rock the size of a golf ball at the bird’s head. It hit the duck and killed it. The animal died with cry that sounded like a defunct horn on a bicycle, and then it flipped over, belly-up, its webbed feet still glistening wet.
“I’m hungry,” Ben Ben said. “And I’d like to get drunk before the streets get busy.”
They walked into town around noon. The road was paved but the sidewalks were still dirt. This was downtown Halcyon.
A vista of stores faced them, their fronts nearly identical though they were unique from each other, similar only in that the buildings had remained virtually untouched for a hundred thirty years and so they all looked old, and some had different awnings, and on either side of the paved road, which was newly paved black from which no light escaped, cars sat idle as if sunbathing. Waylon and Ben Ben were the only humans outside.
They stopped outside THE LATIGO KID. “Wait,” Ben Ben said. He took a cigarette from his pocket and smoked it, as if he were born to do such a thing, on such a day, in the exact place he was standing.
“Bwaynos Diez,” Marshall Polk said, as the boys entered his restaurant, signaled by a bell above the door.
Polk was thoroughly unMexican. Except he had hair the color of a tortilla chip, and his ex-wife was Venezuelan, which he considered the same thing, so he always introduced her as his exotic Mexican. She left him (after one of Polk’s mythic tequila-fueled nights, which can’t be recounted here but is worth telling at some point regardless) and backed out of their driveway so fast she either did not see Polk’s dog, or she did not care, and ran the dog over, twice, technically, and sped away as Polk remained in tears, kneeling by the dog’s body and debating if the right thing to do would be to fit its entrails back inside its torso, or to leave it there and call Sheriff Robertson to come down and take a look. But he didn’t want to get his wife in trouble. There was, after all, a chance, just as there is a chance that anything can happen, that his wife would return to him. So he disposed of whatever entrails he could in the woods near his house, and then buried the dog in his backyard, and wept.
“How’s it?” Ben Ben said.
“Bwyeno Bwyeno,” Polk said. “What can I get you boys?”
They ate. Polk sat down with them. Midway through the meal Ben Ben convinced Polk to give them tequila.
“Isn’t it a school day?” Polk said.
“No,” Ben Ben said.
“Hm,” Polk said. “Alright. Just don’t tell your parents.”
It was a Tuesday. And on some level Polk knew it was a Tuesday because he always had a Taco Tuesday special, which had the entire menu discounted at thirty percent.
But the way his brain worked was that it didn’t. He forgot most things. Or he smothered them under an ever-growing reserve of useless and inane information, most of it just sounds. For example, he watched Spanish news channels, convinced that if he listened to them all day he’d learn conversational Spanish in six months, which he could then impress his ex-wife with. He was going on three years of this now and he couldn’t even figure out where one word stopped and the other began when the Spanish newspeople were speaking.
But Polk also had the fascinating ability to recall random information. It was as if every sensory experience he had day-to-day would orbit in the form of a particle around his head, and sometimes, randomly, one of those particles would zip into his ear, into his brain, and he’d exclaim things like, “Waylon! I heard something about you the other day.”
“Me?” Waylon said.
“Yeah,” Polk said. “Something about you and a goat.”