SCREAMING WITH THE CANNIBALS
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: West Virginia University Press
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Crum, West Virginia. I used to live there. But this is not about Crum, West Virginia. The miserable little town sat on a flat valley floor at the edge of the Tug River, just upstream from the foot of Bull Mountain...
Part I: West Virginia: Black Hawk Ridge
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The night that lightning struck my great uncle, Long Neck Jesse, he had just come out of the hardwoods up on the high end of Black Hawk Ridge. He had taken the shortcut back to his cabin, down through the sodden graveyard...
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Jesse. That’s what they named me, those folks up there where I was born, on Black Hawk Ridge, at the head of Turkey Creek, in Wayne County, West Virginia; those folks who had lived on those ridges and in those hollers and on...
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Great Uncle Long Neck had gone up in a ball of fire in the cemetery and they wouldn’t let me try to find any pieces of him. They told me to stay out of the graveyard but I sneaked out there in the middle of the night with a kerosene lantern that sputtered in the misting...
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I don’t know why he stopped and picked me up, that driver. He surely didn’t seem happy about it. He was a lean and narrow sharp-faced man who didn’t say a word for fifteen minutes after I got into the car. He stared straight before him...
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I had never been out of West Virginia. Behind me, back there in Crum, I knew tattered curtains had been drawn together and yellowed blinds pulled down from the tops of drafty windows. Books had been given away and junk thrown out...
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The car had been patched together so many times with so many different parts, I couldn’t tell what it was. Most of the car was green, some of it was rust, and it had one yellow fender. But it was running...
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My nose and mouth were full of water and it tasted vaguely like shit. At least, it tasted like what I thought shit would taste like. In Crum, we would spend hours on hot afternoons messing around on the riverbank. We sucked...
Part II: Kentucky: Screaming with the Cannibals
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He said his name was Lard and that he could drive cars, trucks, tractors and any manner of other farm machinery that had ever been invented and the son-of-a-bitch pulled me out of the water on the Kentucky side of the river...
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Sometimes I woke up and realized that the only thing I had moved was my mind. Everything else was stillness, silence. My eyes were closed, motionless in their darkness. Not even my heartbeat broke the faint buzzing in my ears...
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Lard had dropped me off at Eli’s farm a couple of months ago and now it was hard into a boiling summer. It hadn’t been hard to get a job. Eli needed a farm hand; his last hand had left suddenly in the middle of last summer...
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I never ate at the house on Sundays. I never knew why. Eli never worked on Sundays and sometimes he would have company at the house. They would arrive in shiny cars and pickup...
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The dirt road led away from Eli’s farm and off through the edge of the apple orchard, twisting gently through a couple of open fence gates and then past the back of the house of Luther Pritchard and his wife, Ruth Ella. The road was...
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There should be more to tell about Kentucky, at least the time when I wintered there, but there isn’t. Mostly, it was like West Virginia, just a little flatter. The people I met there weren’t cannibals. They weren’t even pig fuckers...
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One day there was a different smell in the air and the rain tasted softer and a couple of green shoots shoved up through the mud and a bird that I had never seen before landed in the barn. And when Eli changed the oil in the tractor, I knew it was...
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I still drove by the Pritchard farm, but I was a little more careful about it. I only went by when I was driving the big John Deere. I thought maybe it was fast enough to outrun Luther if he came bustin’ out the back door of his house...
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The voice had the power, the glory in it. It came storming out of the pulpit, driving through the hot, thick air inside the old brick church, blowing through the open windows and out into the dark, deserted churchyard and off down through the trees. I thought it...
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Lard had dragged me to a seat near the aisle, only a few rows back from the pulpit, and then the big bastard had disappeared, laughing, leaving me there within sweat-smelling range of the preacher. My neck began to ache from being twisted far to...
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“There are SMOKERS among you!” the preacher screamed, seeming to reach his full volume instantly from a standing start. The words whipped out across the tense congregation and slammed against the back wall of the church...
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I couldn’t take any more. I began to feel giddy with tension, with the compression of the place. I was coiled to do something, anything, except sit there and wait for the preacher to get to me. I knew that my body was going to make a move...
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ran all the way back to Eli’s farm, the hot night air pushing against my face and singing in my ears. At any moment I expected to hear the sounds of other running feet or of car engines cranking into motion, a posse coming to get the...
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Somehow, when all those sweating, moaning people had been stuffed into the fragile little building, it had seemed larger. Now, in the rain-filtered light that managed to get through the grimy windows, the church seemed to have shrunk...
Part III: South Carolina: Bleeding on the Sand
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The battered Triumph was jumping and making odd noises and each time I leaned it into a turn I wondered if the engine would still be there when I straightened up and tried to accelerate. It was difficult to tell when the Triumph...
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The sun was running low behind me and evening light flowed through the pines, soft heavy bands of gold mixed with the black greens of the woods. It didn’t seem to be a time to ride fast, so I slowed the old bike almost to a walk...
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The light of a fat moon drifted down through the pines and I was lost in the sweating effort of pushing the motorcycle along a road that seemed to become softer as I went, and I was at the edge of the pathetic collection of plank shacks...
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Just across the highway there was a tiny shack with grease and smoke smeared across the front and a faded Royal Crown Cola sign nailed crookedly across a gap in the boards over the door. Off to the side a mound of old tires...
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It was wonderland. Everything about it was new. Everything was something I had never seen before. The water, the sand, the huge trees with the thick, gnarled limbs that hung out over the narrow, sandy lanes...
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Banger had swung his magic baseball bat and decreed that I was a lifeguard. He said I could start any time I wanted. He didn’t even take me down to the water to see if I could swim. He didn’t even ask me if I could swim...
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Sitting beside the Tug River where it slid under the green, tangled overhangs with Crum just up and over the bank and waiting there for me, sitting there on that damp riverbank I would pretend that the Tug River was the ocean and I was sitting on a beach...
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In my entire life I never expected to see her again. Now and then Banger would give us a morning or an afternoon off—usually on a rainy day—and I would wander around the side roads, sometimes hitching down to Myrtle Beach...
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Rosalind took my mind off things for a while. If there ever was a woman who could take your mind off something, anything, anything at all, it was Rosalind. Sometimes, when I looked at her, my mind started to see Yvonne’s face where...
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Sometimes, I thought the rainy days were the best. It didn’t rain often down there on the beach, but when it did it settled in gray-dark and flat, everything blended into itself. The thick sky fused with the horizon, curving back into the ocean...
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Hugo and I didn’t have the money to buy suntan lotion, so when we couldn’t beg lotion from the girls we slicked ourselves up with motor oil. For a while, we worried what the girls would say if they found out we were using motor oil...
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The beach is a naked dun stripe along the edge of the earth that forces you out into the sunlight or the night and keeps you there. There is no place to hide on a beach, not even in the dark. I was always good at hiding. Ten feet inside the edge of the woods...
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There are times when you get a second chance. I had one now. Maybe I would get it right this time. Yvonne still had her brother’s old Chevy. She loaded me in the thing and drove to Myrtle, to her house...
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The road led from the highway, wandered off through the trees, crossed one small, shallow creek and ended at the Homeplace, less than a mile from the blacktop. It was a one-lane dirt road. At least, I thought it was dirt; the layer...
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The summer was coming to an end and if Hugo and I had let it alone it would have just run out on the sand, quietly, without any sort of notice, without even one of Banger’s firecrackers. The days would have grown cooler, the people mostly...
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Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. We had closed the rental shack the evening before, carrying all the stuff up to the pavilion and stacking it in the storage room. When the rental shack was empty, all the beach floats deflated and gone...
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“One of the funniest sights I ever did see,” Jason said, laughing, leaning his ass back against the boat. He was using the movie- Negro voice again. He sounded like some black man in an Abbott and Costello film...
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It was like walking down a tunnel, the trees overhanging the narrow road into Homeplace, filtering the thin moonlight. I had been into Myrtle to see Yvonne. I was worried about going into Wimpo’s, so I waited until I was sure Wimpo wasn’t there...
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I was back at the Homeplace. The rat wasn’t there. Maybe he had gone on to other rat business under another house. The dog wasn’t there, either. There were no dogs anywhere. It was almost as though they knew the deputy was...
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Goddammit, I wasn’t a northerner. And from what I had seen, I wasn’t a southerner, either; didn’t want to be; didn’t want any part of it. I didn’t know if there were any people called easterners, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t going east. I was just another West Virginian...
About the Author
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Lee Maynard, also the author of Crum and The Scummers, was born and raised in the small towns and hollows of Wayne County, West Virginia, where his relatives have dwelt for over two hundred years. His work has appeared...
Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2012