Sunday, March 05, 2006

Brothers Grim

There’s a mother’s wish as each child is born.
"It’s more than a wish, it’s a prayer," Mama once said. “As my boys grow up Lord, please make everything all right.”

”Mo” Maurice, 1915-1956

“Mother said there was something special about being a Texan—something rich. She was right—I made good. I followed my aviator dreams, soldier-of-fortune-style. I made more money in one month flying airplanes in Burma and Indonesia than most people made in a year. My cable address was "Tailwind"—so named for my adventurous spirit.
I made my circle of intrigue complete when I married Annie, a Chinese airline stewardess I met over a 12-hour joust with vodka gimlets. We were quite the stir when we returned to East Texas on visits.
One Sunday Annie wore a jade green dress to church. It had tiny silver dragons embroidered all over it, and was slit way up past her thigh on one side. Preacher Langston at First Presbyterian politely asked us not to come back.

Eventually Annie took me for everything—while I wasn't looking. I was distracted by a different dragon—a quart of booze a day. That Amber River drowned me at age 41. It's funny—I always worried about dying in a crumpled cockpit in a rice field. Mama warned me about liquor, but I got hooked from the beginning.”

"Boots" Mitch Bonham, 1918-1962

“When I got out of the Navy I chased after the sawdust that coursed my veins. I wanted to be a showman. I started with two trained bears and ended up with one of the largest circuses in the South. Doctors kept telling me my hobbling back pain was just a calcium deposit. It wasn't.
In '62, I rode a rented Cadillac to Showmen's Rest. I guess I squandered my deathbed words by saying how "the show must go on." I said it because the words seemed so noble—a ringmaster's epitaph. As my family evaporated in that haze, I could tell they wanted to hear something else but by then my words had trailed off.

Well, the circus didn't go on. It folded. I knew my greedy sons-a-bitchin’ partners couldn't run it. They never understood. They thought the circus was only about the money thing.”

"Penny" Eddie Branch Jr., 1920-1980

“I read someplace that if a person got tagged with the name "Jr." he would spend the rest of his life chasing a ghost. I got tired of such an elusive legacy at age fifteen and ran away from home.
Then I lied about my age and sneaked into the Army. I was stationed in Germany and married a woman I met in a bar. For my honeymoon, I went AWOL and stayed drunk for fifteen days. One night the MP’s spotted me going into a liquor store and I got grabbed. I was shipped off to Fort Leavenworth Army prison. It was there they discovered my true age, and I got a dishonorable discharge for all my sins. I have no idea what happened to Jeanette, my German bride.
I ended up back home only to figure out I was really meant to roam. I left again and my friend Lootie Rainwater went with me. We hopped on and off trains heading no place in particular.
One wet morning his hand slipped from mine and he fell to the track. The train cut off his leg.

After that, Lootie and I drank together every day for the next twenty-four years. We took our naps in New Orleans' gutters—marinating in sweet-and-sour slime. We eventually hocked Lootie's wooden leg for four pints and forgot what pawn we left it in. After that Lootie just propped himself against me until he died.
You know what? All we ever wanted was to find our river of gold. It would be a happy stream—where honey poured, not Ancient Age.”

“Clipper” Archie Wilbur, 1926-1960

“I was little in more than name. I was the youngest and smallest—some said puny. Maybe that is what attracted me to the Marine Corps, where attainment of rank is the great equalizer.

When I mustered out I saved enough money to start my own business. I bought a Standard Coffee route and made deliveries from Marshall, Texas to near Little Rock. I got tired of the road and went to work as a repairman at the local Pontiac dealer. I learned everything about body shop work and opened my own place. It did good.

When I was 34 I returned from a two-week vacation in Arkansas. My wife and I were looking over snapshots from the trip. Suddenly something like a giant vise grabbed my chest. I felt my eyes bulging out of their sockets as I crumpled to the floor.
Therefore, since I've now experienced something everybody wants to know about, here's the secret: Death is a feeling just like when TV signs off at night. There is the National Anthem and an Air Force fly-over. Then there is that annoying hissing noise coming from a snowy screen.

I hope you suckers ain’t counting on more than that, because that’s all there is.”

(C) Copyright 2002 by Lad Moore