Buster Bright Boy’s Big Ass BeJesus
by Vincent Craig Wright
I thought something would help me make the BeJesus go away and I didn’t do anything but get tied up by sixteen-year-olds and left on mean-ass neighbor Mr. Gillespie’s front porch between a pile of newspapers and a dead plant.
He came out and kicked me for being there. I was thirteen and he was fifty-something but I felt older by a mile.
I got loose and poured gasoline on his poodle right in front of him but didn’t have the guts to do anything. He went inside and I thought he’d come back out with something but never did and me and the dog stood there, him smelling like gas, not seeming to mind long as I didn’t light him which I didn’t.
I went home and watched Hogan’s Heroes and ate Froot Loops from my favorite blue bowl and when I came back out the dog was shaved clean with a big birthmark like a little California on his ass. Mr. Gillespie came out and looked at me so I climbed up on the hood of his car and did my dance at him until he went in again.
He couldn’t see inside me. Nobody but my sister could, and she’d been gone to live with her Daddy a while now. Her Daddy wasn’t like mine. Charles Chase had an internet job nobody understood. He married Mom when I was one. Then Daddy came back from wherever.
So me and Cindy went one day from being brother and sister to just two people. I didn’t really miss the person she was living over there by the golf course but I would walk by her room and feel like a ghost was in there.
She saw me inside and out when we were growing up. She’d tell me what I was thinking when I wasn’t sure. She knew my favorite foods and color better than me and never had anything to do but exactly what she was dong with me at that moment. When they took her away we said we’d see each other every day but would only see each other at school where she could only see my outside.
I let everyone, her and her daddy too, think what they wanted but I needed the BaJesus out of me.
So I smoked off a light bulb with this cop’s daughter in the back of his cop car while he slept inside on his cop couch with the football game on. It had a star. The couch did, she said, and I told her how I used to hate the Dallas cowboys and now I don’t give a fuck.
There was a shined-up shotgun under the rear view the whole time pointing up through the roof and a plexi-glass shield between the front and back so you couldn’t reach up and knock the shit out of the cop and try and escape. A set of marks scratched on the plastic kept me wondering how they got there while she kissed me in the way nobody did before. Like she was the boy with her thick-ass tongue. I’d go from being all turned on to completely grossed out over and over and felt like I was somewhere I didn’t want to be but didn’t have anywhere to go.
She kissed me one last time climbing out and said she did it all the time.
I told her don’t get caught and we never acted like we knew each other again except for one time I thought we were going to do it all over, but next thing I know she’s walking off with some dude with a moustache.
I tried to join the army and told the sergeant behind the counter it’s what my grandpa did and he didn’t know what to say except that don’t happen anymore, come back in three years.
I told him I’d whip his ass right then and he said come on back.
So I was late to school and told assistant principal Mr. Pride the army took me and he said he should be so lucky.
I told him I’d whip his ass and he shoved me into some lockers.
I smiled so he could see my BeJesus, but he just walked on and said, “Get your ass to class, Dupree Dockery,” like he didn’t care if I did or not.
After school I tried to get Sherry Schmidt to meet me in the woods. She said she would but never showed so I yelled at these guys going to smoke what ended up being a joint of shwag could I come and they didn’t say anything so I went along. They acted like I wasn’t there until one did pass me the joint and told how I threw my lunch tray at quarterback Jaden Lane in the cafeteria and half the football team came after me but didn’t know what to do when they got there when I’d jumped up on a table with a fork in each hand, which was true.
When I started doing my dance the place went crazy and Mr. Pride came running with the coach. I dropped the forks before they got to me, the coach screaming like you hear him all the way down on their practice field, “Son, do you know what my boys’d dooooo if I was to let them at you?”
I tried to jump over his head but slipped on a smushed Tater-Tot and landed across his neck and the whole place went wilder. All I really remember is flying chocolate milk and a flash of some kid looking up at me, smiling through his braces.
In the principal’s office I acted like I didn’t know what was going on until they went to figure out what to do with me and I crawled out the window and we never talked about it again.
When the story was over I walked off with what was left of their joint and one said, “Fucker,” and another, “Yeah,” more like they were talking to each other so I thumped the roach back at them.
I walked home singing “Joy to the World,” the one with “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” but mixed in the Christmas one at the end.
I haven’t heard her sing in a long time, but when I was little me and Mama would sing both those songs and plenty others all the way the right way and she would’ve slapped my face if she heard me sac-religious.
Now I talk to Mama through her door while she gets ready. I can never tell who’s in there with her. Both her boyfriends got every chance in hell to get this out of me, but one’s scared and the other wants me to like him.
I heard Mama telling one some old story about high school and my daddy was quarterback and she was cheerleader. When whoever asked how my daddy turned out like he did she didn’t say anything for a while, then, “Some people ain’t ready for children.”
I knew she meant me, but it felt more like another little kid my daddy got tired of in my memory. I leaned against the wall until their voices didn’t have words any more, like I was listening to a foreign language with no idea when one word stops and another starts.
I tried to remember the last thing my daddy said to me but could only recall my mom saying to him somewhere in the parking lot of some shopping center with a pet store I knew had puppies sleeping in there and I remember rain swirling in these giant spaceship streetlights, “He’s just a little boy, Sunny,” and my daddy, Sunny, saying, “One of these days, baby, I’m going to knock the BeJesus right out him.”
So I knew, there in the shine of those science fiction lights, what I had in me.
He left not long after that and some people said beat up somebody and some said had a girlfriend and most said how I was just like him.
When the scared-of-me boyfriend came out of Mama’s room pulling on his shirt he stopped when he saw me and I didn’t do anything.
Mama came out past us like we stood there looking at each other all the time. I heard her radio in her room but couldn’t tell about the song.
Her boyfriend said, “What?”
She went in the bathroom and shut the door. Turned on her hair dryer.
He said, “Want to get something to eat sometime?”
I stood moving my mouth at him until Mama turned off her hairdryer.
She came out and told me, “Randy won’t be over no more so no use getting to know him now,” and he turned his head at her quick like that was the first he knew of that then looked at me like I ought to straighten things out so I went and watched T.V.
On his way out he said like he wasn’t talking to anyone, “Life’s a fucked-up bunch of shit,” and wasn’t me or Mama in a hurry to disagree.
Only time Mama ever hit me was when I said I’d go find my daddy.
Then she cried, kissing on my face the way when it’s for the person kissing, telling me about when she was little and her daddy made her dress up like Charlie Chaplin, moustache and everything, made her walk that way and do her cane for people who came over to drink and see her show.
She said her whole life flickered by like an old movie, her memories and dreams flashed black and white, and music sounded “too tinny, tiny and far away.”
She said she felt that way too.
So I told her I should go find my grand-daddy but not in the way I’d said about my daddy and she hugged me into her like she was saying, “You can’t go whip your grandpa’s ass for something that happened so long ago it could be a movie but I know what you mean Buster.”
When Mama came out of the bathroom for good I told her how I liked her hair when we lived in Forest Acres and she said something like know what Buster you got a big mouth and told the guy about to be her ex but still standing at the door could he please go and started crying and smoking and cussing when he did.
I still needed to do something about the BeJesus so I stole one of her cigarettes and lit it right in front of her.
She snatched it out my mouth without turning her head, took a drag, then put it out in a saucer in the sink. She brought the same picture of daddy she always does and put it in front of me. He looks like he’d never have a son like me. He’s pointing at something and my whole life I’ve tried to figure out what.
Mama always says it didn’t take anything for him to be pointing at. “He’s probably just pointing,” she says.
So this time I move the picture around so he’s pointing at different things in the room. The chair. Mama’s cup. The T.V.
Then he’s pointing at me.
When Mama leaves for work she leaves him there pointing at me and tells me don’t get in any trouble and I thought she was gone then comes back in and kisses my face three times. She reaches down like she’s going to get Daddy’s picture but lays her hand across his face a second or two then walks out like she’s on the T.V.
We sit there, me and Daddy’s picture pointing at me. It feels like we’re in this together now. He knows it’s in me. Left it there without any notion of what to do.
I point back at him, but it doesn’t feel like anything. “You’re a picture,” I say out loud and he keeps pointing of course but maybe not at me so much.
I go get Mama’s cigarette from the saucer in the sink and light it on the stove.
Sitting there burning holes in the edges of my daddy’s picture with Mama’s cigarette what strikes me first is how perfect the holes are. Little circles I see straight through running around my dad.
I stay away from his face and for a moment wonder what Mama’s going to do.
I know it doesn’t matter as long as this is in me so I take the cherry of the cigarette around to the back of the picture where I imagine everything is still happening the way it once did. I pull the heat in close behind him. There’s glow around his head first, a halo and a sunset, a flash of space ship, before a hole is all of a sudden where he was and there’s nothing perfect about it.
Somehow I end up in Cindy’s old room which Mama has pretended like is her office ever since her work gave her their old computer but I don’t know what for. There’s some boxes in there and the closet has Mom’s overflow clothes but there’s still Cindy’s first poster she ever put up of these two horses running off toward the horizon and I think that maybe she left it there for me to see where we might go. I miss her in a way that never gets touched when we see each other at lunch or something and she seems like she doesn’t know me any more and I seem like I’m going to just keep getting more messed up in my head. I know I wouldn’t know how to say I love her but standing there in her room, in Mom’s office, I think I do love my sister and not just the ghost of who she was when everything I knew she knew, but I love who she is and will be. I want what’s best for her and realize right then and there that ain’t me.
I wonder what it’d be like to ride those horses with her and laugh like we used to and nobody’d know what we were laughing at and sometimes we wouldn’t either.
I close my eyes and put everything I got into being there with her on those horses just long enough to get somewhere.
There’s this big fog settles in around our house some mornings and you know what it’s like to be in a cloud Mama says coming in.
I’m on the couch with the T.V. still on static and enough fog comes in after her to move around the bottom of the room and I can never tell how much the smell of the smoke and liquor comes from her clothes and how much from her but this time she sits down with me. I wake up a little later and she’s still there beside me sleeping.
T.V. shows are back on. There’s no sign of that picture of my daddy though.
I bring her cereal in my blue bowl and she holds it in front of her like she’s never seen anything like it.
When she goes to take a shower I go outside and Mr. Gillespie’s dog is there and I know he knows by the way he comes over that it’s just me now.
Then Mr. Gillespie’s there like what the hell am I going to do this time.
“What’s his name?” I ask him.
He tells me the dog’s name. Mike. “My dogs are always named that,” he says and walks away with his mail.
Then he stops on his steps and turns around and hands me a letter from the army to Dupree Dockery and it feels like that’s who I am. He nods at me like maybe it feels that way to him as well and we walk off with Mike wagging his tail enough to notice.
When I get in Mama’s wearing a dress she bought to never wear and we’re going out.
In the shower I sing so loud she has to hear and I sing the songs the right way.
She lets me wear whatever I want and I try and make it something I think she’ll like. She’s watching the end of some show about what all the movie stars and people like that are doing.
“They always look like regular people to me,” I tell her, “Just different clothes.”
She gives me another picture of my dad.
Says, “Try not to burn it up.”
And she gives me the other one where he isn’t there any more.
She says, “Sometimes I feel like you are the only real man I’ve ever known.”
In the new picture he’s not pointing. I’m there. And there’s the picture of nothing where my daddy used to be.
The three of us wait for her as long as she needs.
Vincent Craig Wright is a short story and song writer from Ashland Oregon. Professor of Creative Writing at Southern Oregon University and Co-Founder of the Institute of New Writing/Ashland, he has recent work in BlazeVox, Sleet Magazine, The Harvard Advocate and a book of stories, Redemption Center (Bear Star Press). He has upcoming work in Fourteen Hills.