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I do not know any famous turkey guides.

I have no hope of recovering the kind of time and place that Florida was when a large rattlesnake slipped under the maid’s quarters — a six-by-eight room detached from the house on Kingsley Lake, its roof, I believe, already gone, which deterred no one from calling it the maid’s quarters, and inspired no one to remove or protect the maid’s meager furnishings — slipped under the maid’s quarters, amid the grown male hollering that accompanies the movement of all sighted snakes, got under there and holed up good, which was not too hard, because the hollering grown men did not go after him with much more than a rake handle and maybe later, inspired, a water hose on full blast, idea being that rattlesnake under maid’s quarters would prefer having his head chopped off to getting wet: this kind of time and place is gone.

For one thing, I am nearly as old as the grown hollering men were then, and I do not holler at rattlesnakes, even if I could find one, and I can’t. They are extinct.

Maids are out of the question.

The quarters are now a low ruin of powder-post beetle-age and funny-looking marks on the ground, as if something got nuked.

It is hot enough, generally, to think that something should get nuked.

The hollering men are dead, some of them, and some have new child brides and drinking problems, according to their ex-wives, and I have a drinking problem, and the maid’s descendants have crack problems, or no problems except no small desire to annihilate all the descendants of the hollering men.

All of us have hope of salvation, I think, except those who actually stuck a rake handle two feet under the skirt of the maid’s quarters and held it there three seconds, then ran, wondering why the rattlesnake had not obligingly attached himself to the handle for ease of magical extraction and his own execution. Some of them are still wondering.


SPAVINED, CLAVICULAR, AND COW-HOCKED, with an air not of malice but simply of a leaden determination that seemed to come up from the hard, baking ground itself on which it stood, chained, confined, gravitate to the orbit of earth depressed, moonlike, and polished by its five-foot circular diurnal traveling, looking forward with a low-lidded not scowl or glare but just look, the eyes half-lidded and half-rolled, suggesting not insolence or calculation or even sentience but a kind of pride — rear-axled and log-chained for a lifetime to a hot powdery hole in which it is its fate to consider its chances of fighting, the rare times not chained, for its very life — a profound self-esteem that says simply, I am here, you see that I am here, what need to look you in the eye: the bulldog bit the corncob truncate.


Into foreshortened segments, not as if—

He busted it all up?

— not as if they had once been parts of a greater piece, but as if they could yet assemble into a piece larger, so profound was their truncation—

Dog bit the corncob?

— there, vanquished at the splayed feet of the animal with an air not canine but not unlike a locomotive, small, furred, steeled, yet without so much a train of cars behind it as the quintessence of linked and smelt earthcore, its log chain—

Dog bit the goddamned corncob?

— yes. Yes. Wait—

In half or what?

Wait. Not halved so much as no longer whole, as if in the authority of the bite was contained the undoing of natural history, and if there were two pieces of corncob where there had been one, there might have been now twenty; for the moral, imperative, and inviolate impression made was of a corncob no longer one.

In half, in the dirt?

In the moted, desiccate, rivulet ground.

I dig where you comin from, but you talkin in circles.

Helically, gyring, for the truth is never at one location but variant, even unto itself: dislocate, inchoate, rubricate of subtler chance—

God, man. Say it. We this far, all happen is dog done bit a corncob. I’d have me a dog done kill a horse by now, drag a man out a burning house. And you want you a mean bulldog? He gone bite a corncob? Shih. I seen dog so mean he bust up his water dish — a Buick hubcap! And not just once, every time you give him water. Don’t even drink the water first! Whyont you let your dog bust up a bicycle with a kid on it, or bust up lawnmower, a runnin lawnmower—

The corncob is integral to this kind of story. You can do a lot with a corncob.

Yours is bust up.

True. You can do a lot with what can no longer happen. Thwarted fate is integral to this kind of story.

Well, integral some action in your story. Git on wid it.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

What else I can do?


Wayne’s Fate

GOING UP THE LADDER after lunch I see Wayne badly handling the stepladder we need to get to the dormer peaks and wonder how he gets away with stuff like that without falling: and then that he does not get away with it and he is falling, falls off the roof, and I wince but do not look down. I wait for the sounds. I wait clenching the ladder where I stand five rungs from the top. There is no sound. Can Wayne have found a soft canopy of tree? Has he tricked me?

I go backwards down the ladder. Not far from it, facedown, Wayne. I kneel and of course think of Rule #1: Don’t move him. Then I see Rule #1 may not apply: Wayne’s head is gone. This, too, looks like a trick. There is no blood or gore and from my angle, behind and to the side of him, no wound visible, just no head, as if he’s an incomplete scarecrow.

The woman whose roof we’re fixing comes out.

“Wayne fell off the roof,” I tell her before she fully reaches us, as if to prepare her for a horror that I don’t want to surprise her.

“Wayne’s dead,” she says, and goes back in the house. She didn’t know Wayne and to my knowledge had never heard his name. She has given me a lesson in hard-boil.

Of course, I say to myself. Wayne’s dead, let’s hard-boil. I was afraid to glance ten degrees from Wayne to look for his head. His head would have been too much. But now, hell, Wayne’s dead and the lady is back in the house. I see her stop her daughter from running out of the house with a Popsicle. The kid has picked up a signal on its radar and is using a Popsicle to try to get through the lines. “No, you don’t,” her Wayne’s-dead mom tells her, turning her with the child’s momentum and aiming her back into the house.

I look around. Suddenly I want Wayne’s head. I am its rightful finder. My previous inclination would have been to get up from where I knelt and, not looking one inch either side of Wayne, go into the house, tell the woman to call somebody, and begin drinking beer unasked from her refrigerator, and sit at her cute kitchen bar on one of her expensive blond-wood barstools and wait and drink more beer. But she has cut me off from all that. She has ruled out the feeble.

I get up and begin to look around. I stand still and survey the open ground. Wayne’s head is not in the open, apparently. I change position to see behind things I can’t see behind, and keep looking at the actually open ground, because that is where I’m convinced Wayne will turn up. I do not want to step on Wayne’s head. This makes me take very small, shuffling steps.

Shuffling so, damned near scooting, I circle in and out and around the compressor and the felt and the cooler and the cans of mastic. I am afraid for a moment his head will be on the sofa, and that that will be too much, will undo this steely resolve in which I scoot in figure eights about the job site looking for my partner’s head. The sofa is a comic thing we do. We got it somewhere, some job, and carry it from job to job and sit on it to amuse (and enrage) customers. It’s quite comfortable, except that deep down it is wet, and this will wet your clothes, so we sit on plastic. Because it got wet the sofa is ungodly heavy, too, and we have threatened to abandon it when we find a good place. I am thinking that if Wayne’s head is on it, it’s going to be a good place. I cannot see the seat side of the sofa and must go up and look over the back. Carefully I do this. A weird idea strikes: Wayne hit the sofa and somehow his body bounced over to where he lies now. What could have held his head?