Saturday, August 31, 2013

Story by Big Dope


By Jimmie von Tungeln

 Mama used to say us girls picked on Eula Faye or else egged her on, but I can tell you that she gave about as good as she got. Like the time we stole her Bible verse. We all had a good laugh out of it at the time but we didn’t get ahead of her. No sir. Not at all.

Now there are those who wouldn’t think this little episode was important. They have never lived out at the end of the world where everybody you knew was either direct-kin or step-kin, or sometimes both. It didn’t take much to create a story that would last forever. Particularly if you were as poor as we were.

After Daddy died, Mama raised us as best she could. While she didn’t hold out much for preaching, or churches in general—I think it had something to do with the hardness of her life—she did send us off to church when we got to aggravating her.

Ever third Sunday Brother Elmer Tisdale would ride out from Caldron with his old mare pulling his wagon and hold services in Pleasant Grove Church. I guess this must have been about 1930. I couldn’t have been over twelve or thirteen, I reckon since I was married and gone by the time I was sixteen.

The church was nothing but a little frame building set off from a cemetery that went way back almost to the civil war. My granddaddy had been a charter member but he had died young so Mama could barely remember him. The church building rested under the shade of three enormous oak trees. We kids called them “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” but not around any grown-ups for they had no sense of humor whatsoever about religion.

We would gather up around nine-thirty in the morning and have an hour of Sunday School before the services began. So Mama made us leave early to get there to serve the complete sentence. Naturally she didn’t trust us as far as she could spit and I can still see her on the porch as we took off, threatening to cut a switch and wear us out if we didn’t get there in time.

The older ones were gone by then and it was just Sister and Jim and me had to go. Mama made us because she said it wouldn’t do us any harm and might do us some good. She was welcome to her opinion. We had our own, but we went just like she told us to.

We dawdled around as much as we could. Jim would usually cut us off some grapevines to smoke on the way and we would make up all sorts of imaginary trips that we were really going on. None of them included a church house. Hog Eye Bend Creek would be the River Nile and a clump of oak trees would be a pyramid. We used clouds for the Alps and the road we were on was the main street through Paris. For a bunch of country kids, we weren’t bad at making things up.

Anyway, Hattie Ruth Turner taught school up at Armistead so they had her teach Sunday School to the girls on preaching day. There were about seven or eight of us. Eula Faye was distant kin and her daddy had a pension from World War One. They also owned a grocery store out on the state highway, so they was about the richest family in the community. She was a round-faced thing with freckles ever place they had a spot to be in. Her mamma kept her hair done up in curls to tight I bet you could have played music on them. She kind of had this little bounce when she walked and we would giggle that someday she might just bounce off like a rubber ball. She would hear us and say that rich women in the city walked like that. We liked her okay, I reckon. We didn’t mistreat her. It was just that she would sometimes create the opportunity for a laugh or just create one on her own.

All the girls had to have a Bible verse memorized to recite first thing in Sunday School. This was supposed to help us into Heaven in some way, but it wasn’t real clear to us how and we didn’t care much for it. It might have been due to the lack of scriptural resources available to a bunch of little country kids. Some of those girls were from families that couldn’t even afford a Bible. We had one but our step-daddy wouldn’t hardly let us touch it. So we were in a constant of agitation about it. It sure wasn’t our favorite part of this whole salvation thing.

Miss Hattie, since she was a regular school teacher too, had to remember what side her bread was buttered on so she would always let Eula Faye go first. We would start to snicker even before she stood up. We met in the back of the church house and the boys in front. Eula Faye would make sure the boys were watching her and then when the room got real quiet, she would brush a hand across her hair and say it just like some movie actress.

“Jesus wept, John 11:35”

She got away with it ever Sunday.

Then we would have to stand up and quote some regular verse. And you weren’t allowed to repeat someone else’s choice. It got to where it played on our nerves.

Well this one Sunday, we fixed it up so Sister held Eula Faye up outside the door on some pretense and she hadn’t come in when we started. So Eloise Covington jumped up and asked if she could go first. What could Miss Hattie say?

Eloise was in on it, see? She stumbled around until she saw Eula Faye come in then Eloise shouted out loud enough for the whole church to hear: “Jesus wept, John 11:35”

You could just about see the color drain out of Eula Faye’s face when she took her seat. We swallowed our giggles until our stomachs started to swell, expecting to see Eula Faye have a nervous breakdown. But she didn’t miss a beat when Miss Hattie called on her. She stood up and took a deep breath. The boys knew something was up and had all stopped talking and were watching like a bunch of hounds at hog dressing time. She nodded to them as if they were her audience and then gave us her best “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” look. Then she announced to the world, as if she might be telling the Red Sea to part.

“Moses crept, John 3:15.”

She said it real loud and then just set back and smiled the same as if she had just recited some long-winded psalm. We all broke up laughing until Miss Hattie stared it out of us. The boys didn’t know a Bible verse from horse-collar so they mostly just stared with their mouths all open. Then it was all over and we re-commenced our recitation period. Miss Hattie never let on like anything unusual happened at all.

That was the day we knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get something by Eula Faye. But Sister and I laughed all the way home over it anyway. Jim just smoked a grapevine and looked puzzled over the whole thing.

Now wasn't that cute? - C.W.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

164. Rules

School started back this past week, so naturally C.W. showed up in one of his classic forms. He calls himself Dickie Dunderwood the Diligent Student. He was all dolled up for class, with his Megadeth tee-shirt, dirty sneakers, and backpack. Seems he was contemplating his first essay.

“Your species doesn’t use the concept of “lootaquicksteria++” do you?” he said, using a phrase from his home planet of Falloonia.

“Uh,” I said. “I don’t know. What is it?”

“A simple concept really,” he said. “It provides a stricture forbidding, and a penalty for, an elder who participates in a vote involving the general populace, from which vote the elder may profit.”

I thought. “We do,” I said. “We call it ‘conflict of interest’ and frown down upon it when our leaders fall prey to the temptation.”

“Frown down upon it?”

“We deplore it. Why do you ask?”

“I am preparing a report on this latest crisis in the middle eastern portion of your planet.”


“Several of your congressmen who are urging entry into war are guilty.”

“Guilty? Of what?”

“Of lootaquicksteria++, or, as you call it ‘conflict of interest.’ Ours is a much prettier word, don’t you think?”

“I think we would have a problem pronouncing those clicks,” I said. I was intrigued, though. “In what way are they guilty of whatever you call it?”

“They represent states or areas in which weaponry is manufactured for use in wars.”


He looked at me as if I had just failed to guess the day of the week. “So, they stand to profit if a war commences.”

“Oh,” I said. “You don’t understand. They don’t profit personally.”

“No? Won’t it please their voters and contributors if their economy flourishes with the onset of war?”

“Well, yes. I suppose,” I said.

“There you have it.”

“No,” I said. “Wait. See it is not a conflict of interest if they simply seek political support by voting in favor of an action that would benefit their constituents.”

“Oh, really””


“If you will pardon the observation,” he said. “That sounds a lot like ‘replitocartawao.’ Or hadn’t you noticed?”

Repl… what?”

“Replitocartawao. It literally means the obfuscation of economic flow by transferring worth from one personal holding compartment to another.”

A light began to shine. “Taking money out of one pocket and putting in the other,” I said.

“Precisely.” He smiled at me as if I had just given the right answer in class.

Your writer Shakespeare once said:
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
I'm finally beginning to understand it. - C.W. 
“You have a lot to learn about our country,” I said.

“I imagine I do. Now … “ he began.

I groaned. “What now?”

“Let’s consider the opposite transgression.”

“The opposite?”

“Yes, It’s called ‘putricastoglia’ and it refers to the sin of an elder making a rule for segments of the populace from which the elder will not be affected or inconvenienced.”

“Well we would agree with you on making that a sin.”


“Really,” I said, but somewhat less confident than before.

“Then,” he said, pulling a large bundle of papers from his backpack. “Would you like to read some laws that your male-dominated elder groups  have enacted recently, laws that affect, condemn, or punish only the female of your species?” He waved them in my face.

“Don’t you have some homework to do?” I said.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

163. Wealth

Drats. My city has the best riverfront park for a city its size in the country. I love to do my “fat walking” there of a morning. So, imagine my discomfiture when I was suddenly joined by a familiar figure, Rodney Englewood III, the proud member of the Young Conservatives of America, aka C.W. the Alien. Was this to be the ruination of a completely wonderful day?

“Big Dope,” he said. “Been looking for you.” He was breathing heavily and beginning to perspire.

“I’ve been right here. What makes you look so concerned?”

“From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”

“That sounds vaguely familiar.” I motioned toward his blue blazer with the YCA logo. “Nice clothes.”

“Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither,” he said.

“Oh, please,” I said. “Can’t you be more original than that?”

“Be careful,” he said. “Do you have something against the Holy Word?”

“Not at all,” I said. “Just those who would use it for their own selfish purposes. And what brings you here?”

“A Young Conservatives conference. We’re meeting nearby.”

“And your theme?”

“Using churches to advance the conservative agenda,” he said.

“That explains your practicing the scriptures.”

“Nice park,” he said in an attempt to change the subject. “The city should be proud.”

I decided to play along and screw with him a bit. “Well, it was built by the government.” I let this sink in. “I thought you hated the government.”

He took on a stricken look. “We don’t hate the government,” he said.

“Oh really?”

“No, just the parts we don’t like.”

“Oh, I see. And those are?”

“Anything that doesn’t make us, or our parents, richer.”

“But of course.”

We started walking again. “What do you suppose we shall do?” he said. “When we have all the money and all the things money can buy?”

“I dunno. Start taking it away from one another?”

“No,” he said. “We won’t allow that to happen. We’ll have the military to prevent it.”

“One of the parts of the government you do like?”

“Of course.” He continued walking. Then he turned and said, “But won’t the poor be a problem? Who will take care of them?”

“I thought Jesus said we were supposed to.”

“Oh bother,” he said with indignation. “Don’t start with your ‘Social Gospel’ crap. It’s taken us years to wash the stench of that out of the churches.”

“I see,” I said.

“Besides,” he said. Didn’t the ‘great man’ himself admit that the poor would be with us always?”

“I think he did.” I looked over toward him. “So you and your pals are just helping to fulfill prophecy?”

If children would just be more careful about whom they
choose for parents, any one of them might be eligible someday
for the Young Conservatives of America. - C.W.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We must all do our part.”

“So you have the joint goals of producing the poor and keeping them poor?”

He contemplated this. “I never thought of it quite that way,” he said. “But it is a scriptural imperative.”

“Sort of like a ‘moral imperative’ but with your own slant on it?”

“Quite so,” he said.

“That would explain your current war on contraception.”

He narrowed his face in thought. “I suppose you are right.” Then he brightened. “Doing the Lord’s work is fairly simple once you get the hang of it.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

162. Revenge

As always, I dread the times that C.W. wants a job. This time, I found him at the kitchen table, in a form resembling the late William Faulkner, complete with pipe and mustache. He was busy at the keyboard and scarcely noticed me. A pile of printed sheets lay neatly on the table. He finally looked up, nodded, and puffed on his pipe.

“Big Dope,” he said, exhaling a cloud of smoke.

“Don’t let my wife catch you smoking that thing in here.”

“You seem to be wound up somewhat tightly this morning, walking in as if there were two ghosts within you, one a remnant of the past stirrings of history and the other a sprite born of this fecund soil bursting forth among the ancient growths of hyacinth, pine, and sycamore trusting, not in yourself completely but perhaps somewhat and even then not totally but knowing that there are more sins amidst this ancient place than the soil can nourish and make clean with its everlastingness.”

“Did you make coffee?”

“Am I not a man born of necessity and lost amidst the yearnings of the past?”

“You are an alien, and a troublesome one at that.”

“My hope for mankind endures.”

I walked to the coffee pot. “Three level scoops and a half more for body?”

“As you prefer,” he said. “Now, begone. I have work to do.”


“Yes, work. Important work.” He blew a cloud of smoke toward me.

“Doing what, this time?”

“I shall be a writer,” he said. “A writer probing the subterranean sources of the soul’s wanderings upon earth.” He quickly entered several strokes on keyboard. He looked at what he had written. “Sweet,” he said.

I groaned.

“As a modern Proust,” he said, “I shall explore mankind’s essence through remembered memories created by sounds, scents, and secret fantasies born of eternal longings. That’s how I see myself.”

“Others see you as a complete idiot,” I said. “The ones who can see you at all.”

He ignored me and began typing. I walked, coffee in hand, to the table and picked the top sheet from his stack of writings. I read the following.

“Dearest Mikey: I noticed with some degree of surprise, that, following our breakup, you have indulged in what is commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ by posting a video of what I considered to be one of our most tender moments on the internet. As certain dishes are best served cold, I am including a copy of the video in a birthday gift of rare cheeses to your Granny Taylor. You know … the one who controls your trust fund. Oh, and by the way, a wee bit of surfing uncovered several other productions starring grandson himself. I am sure that she will enjoy the serialization. Ta ta, as they say. Signed, Linda.”

Revenge may be a green-eyed monster,
but isn't he a hunk, girls? - C.W.
“C.W.,” I said. “What the hell is this?”

“Put that  back,” he said, reaching for it. I let him have it and picked up the next sheet. It read as follows.

“Hi Barry. I am not unaware that you have developed the habit of referring to me as ‘that little faggot’ in conversations with our classmates. I have also heard that each week, one of the starting defensive linemen on our school’s football team receives a dozen red roses from you with a poem attached. That is so sweet of you. If your actions continue, the offensive line shall surely enjoy your favors, a prospect that offers a more salacious (look it up, asshole) prospect as more than one of them are what you refer to me as. Oh, and better hold on to your soap when you shower. Love, Timmie.”

I looked at him. He smiled and shrugged. “It’s called ‘’ and I’m already flooded with orders.”

Sunday, August 4, 2013

161. Credentials

C.W. is back on his kick of having a career. He thinks that the simple fact of being an alien qualifies him for some area of expertise. Maybe so.

“You are the species, after all,” he pointed out. “that made a Oliver North into a political pundit.

“Well yes.” I had to agree.

“And we won’t mention that TV show about the little fat girl that breaks breezes as her primary talent.”

“You must mean Honey-Boo Boo,” I said. “I have heard she has a tendency to fa…, uh break wind as you say.”

“So let’s talk about standards.” He had taken on one of his wildest forms in months, wearing a rumpled outfit set off by a corduroy jacket with, oh yes, suede patches on the elbows. His wild gray hair stood straight up at least six inches and he wore those half-frame reading glasses that he glared over as he talked.

“I want to be a TV personality,” he said.

“Don’t we all?” I said. “How do you propose it?” We were sitting in front of our farm shop where I had been working with my new woodturning lathe. Two friends had come for a visit and had just left when C.W. appeared.

“I will become a UFOologist,” he said with a bright smile. “It’s a natural, don’t you agree?”

“Uh,” I said. “That sounds a little ridiculous. Whatever gave you such an idea?”

“I saw it on the History Channel,” he said, assuming a defensive air. “They wouldn’t put anything ridiculous on the History Channel, would they?”

“I need to get back to my work.”

“So I need to prepare my credentials,” he said. “Then I can be the expert they interview on these shows about flying saucers visiting Earth.”


“Don’t be dismissive,” he said. “They have it all wrong.”

“What all wrong?”

“About visitors from other galaxies. They avoid this place at all costs.”


“Well, your species has a habit of shooting strangers who wander by.”

“But you’re here.”

“Yes, but I fit in,” he said. “I assimilate.”

I looked him over. “Quite so.” I said. “Now, can I get back to work?”

“What about my credentials?”

“What about them?”

“Should I be registered, certified, or licensed?”

“Are you serious?”

“Registered sounds good,” he said. “Like a ‘registered engineer,’ the ones who design pipelines and such.”

“Sounds a little too close to ‘registered sex offender’ I said.

“I’ve never offended anyone of either sex,” he said.

“Not even when you wanted my wife to star in ‘Desperate Housewives of Arkansas’”?

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll be certified."

“That’s what she keeps saying.”


“Never mind.”

“How about licensed, then? That has a nice ring—Licensed UFOologist—don’t you think.”

“A license to deceive people for personal gain?”

“They license acupuncturists and faith healers, don’t they?”

“Yes, and also dogs that have been vaccinated.”

He was a bit deflated by now. I could sense that his dreams of glory were evaporating. He stood and walked over to our shop building. He looked in and then turned toward me.

Don't fear aliens from another planet, my friends.
If you see one, just say "Klaatu barada nikto."
That is a galactic message of friendship. It means:
"Peace to you. I'm just walking along eating my Skittles."
C.W. - Certified UFOologist
“Who were those men who were here?”

“Just friends,” I said.

“What were you talking about?”

“Woodworking mostly.”

“I was up at the hose,” he said. “Mrs. Big Dope said you were talking about ‘it,’ whatever that is.”

“I can’t imagine,” I said.

“Hey,” he said, brightening as he looked inside the shop. “Look at this mess. I could help you. Maybe I could become a certified organizer. I’ll bet nobody ever thought of that one.”