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LIGHT SWEET CRUDE / Baine Kerr IN JANUARY IT never rains in Rio Jesus, so the storm had everybody edgy. Randall would later swear his restlessness was inspired, a shiver to a nailscratch by God. For days he'd worked without success reconfiguring the dish to try to capture some reception, from somewhere. Why should he want to go up again now and look at the blank visage of the antique 25-incher lashed to the rafters of the community shelter? It was getting dark fast and for no good reason he wandered out in the rain. Then he saw it at the head of the path, a weird light pulsing faintly in the gloaming. He quickened his step. At the shelter the light was playing on the walls of rain that poured off the tin roof. It danced on the glossy white hood of the Isuzu on blocks in a corner. It illuminated a lamb tethered to a post and an iguana behind the lamb. The lamb stared back in wonder. The iguana closed its eyes. The high-pitched, curiously emphatic voice strained for an audience, but there were only the animals and now Randall wandering up. "These are the times that try men's souls," said the familiar voice. Soon, across a screen that blinked and leapt with distant lightning, there were charts with planes, bombs, targets. Holy shit, Randall whispered. He began to holler. Pam. LaDawn. Mom and Pop. Get a load of this. Pam. Tm a shrimper's daughter. I'm not used to the jet set. Tell the truth Daddy quit shrimp quite a little while ago. Can't fight boatpeople. Don't fight fair. So the whole lot of us got to working at the yards. Elgin Naval Yards. In Ocean Springs. Mississippi. Me excluded, eventually, and Daddy. Rest his dirty bones. Working, I should hasten to add, when not laid off. Drinking Jax with all the other dead-ends. Only one smart shipfitter I ever knew and that's Randall. Ex-shipfitter. We met in AA. One week after Daddy died I was shooting sure gone. I didn't get to the hospital until the day he went. I made that little doctor let me in. I stood there fifteen minutes cussing his dead body up and down, and we hit the road to Texas. The Missouri Review · 27 Nossir, I sincerely doubt I will ever go back home. By and by we found a little place over by Temple. Randall has a gift for bees. Honey is money, let me tell you brother. But how would you like to bring a little boy up in Texas? Makes Ocean Springs look advanced. Last year we sold, kit and caboodle. WIe retired. Randall's a wild goose. He wakes up in the morning and it's a brand new day. He up and says it was either Kauai, Hawaii, or Rio Jesus. Rio Jesus it was. I see you looking at me in that tone of voice. It will take time to adapt. Given the cultural differences. Take food. Can't help missing what you grew up on. Don't care who you are. And that was the thing about the Redneck Riviera. The shrimp. Boiled in seawater, right on the beach. That was the high life. Tell you what they sell down here in the Super Jesus is weird. I don't even know what most of it is. And I get a little nervous around some of these folks. It's like you're the nigger. I saw this little guy this morning looked like a dadgum boatpeople himself. Just staring. Still, when you think about it, we have come a ways. Bobby's in private school. Taught entirely in English. Nose stuck in that Game Boy, might as well have lit in darkest Africa for all he knows. Or cares. Still. Tucking in that little uniform makes me smile. Like we got us a preppy in the family. LaDawn. Before LaDawn Heumann, dancercise was unknown in Rio Jesus. Spandex tampoco. NÍ knee socks, ni Lycra, ni heavy hands. Roller blades? Spankies? Ay yay yay! LaDawn split her time between the school—the...


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