The succeeding pages contain a short story I wrote for a class on the Contemporary Novel. We could either write a serious research paper or satirize one of the novels we'd read. I chose the latter, and the rest is --well, not exactly Jonathan Swift, but rather interesting, I think. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children attempted to capture all of modern India in its 600+ pages; for my piece, I rather tongue-in-cheekly did the same for Arkansas. If you haven't read the Salman Rushdie novel, then the mockeries of specific passages of the book (and his crammed, crowded prose style) will pass you by. Likewise, if you're not familiar with recent Arkansas history, some of the inside jokes you won't get. Oh, and I make fun of Moby Dick, The Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison's), Money (Martin Amis'), The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and Lolita, in a few lines, too. Anyway, here it is, with all apologies made in advance.
Call me Asshole. At least that's what most people call me. My real name's Lleyllewyen Robert Duchampe, but most folks just call me Billy Bob. I am in every way a standard Arkansas good ol' boy, raised and bred and fed in smalltown approximately an hour's drive on the interstate from Little Rock, the city to which all roads lead. Firstmemory I have is of my stepfather Jackson Davis whipping me for knocking over the cookie jar in the kitchen of my mother's trailer nestled in the sunny hills of the Ouchitas, thereby interrupting his view of the Razorbacks' football game against SMU, which he dearly wanted to see because if they won the Hogs would have gone to the Tabasco Bowl in Texas. This of course was back in the days when Arkansas played the Southwestern Conference, which pitted our lone, small but brave state against the hordes of unwashed and uncultured Texans, who used their size to intimidate and bully us again and again (which I endured frequently during the brief period I lived on the Arkansas side of Texarkana, the summer of 1984 when I was notyet five but hadyet passed four, and saw the inside of a mall for my first time in Texas, where my mother bought me a Basket & Robber Glazed Ice Cream yogurt yeast cone, vanilla chocolate was the flavor). Firstwords I spoke at age two, I am told but do not remember, were, "Yeahbuddy".
Oh, the strain of being the uncreated conscience of my race! The race I speak of is Arkansan, blessed and cursed with a native son of prodigious appetites and talents, a man whom all have been affected by in ways profound and profane, a man who is my father. I was born in the basement of Central High School at the stroke of noon on January 21, 1979, where but a few blocks away my father was delivering a speech thanking the people of Arkansas for electing him to the high office of governor. My mother, a social studies teacher at Central High, still grows misty-eyed when falls from her lips the tale of how I, notyetborn, was conceived one lonesome night in a hotel in Little Rock in 1978. My father, then the attorney general of the state, had gone to the high school to deliver an inspirational and informative lecture to the students. After his speech his eye spotted my mother, her eyes glazed over with excitement and admiration and what my father correctly guessed was desire. He asked her if she would like to get social with him because there were parts of her he'd like to study. Nine months later my mother, stubbornly refusing to let her pregnancy get in the way of her teaching, went into labor during fourth period and I was delivered by a dirtyhanded but gentlesouled janitor, Nelson Rockabilly, who will not appear again in this book.
My memories of Little Rock are dim and vague because within the end of the schoolyear my mother transferred to the high school in her hometown, Malvern. A small brick-manufacturing town of 10,000 nestled near the foothills of the mighty Ouchitas, where the river of the same name flows to the Arkansas to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, which itself is a subsidiary of the Atlantic Ocean, which itself is but one part of the interconnected ocean amidst which continents lie, all of which are but pieces of the entire planet man has deigned Earth, which is part of a solar system which is part of a galaxy which is part of a universe, a universe in which I play not a small part but a very important one, though I have my doubts about you. It is there my mother met my stepfather Jackson Davis. My mother, Lucy Lee Duchampe, moved in next door to my stepfather, who at 22 still lived with his parents while working at Reynolds Aluminum and attending Ouchita Technical School on his offhours learning to be an industrial mechanic.
My mother was unaware of this, but my stepfather had known since age 14 of a small hole permitting a view into the bathroom of her house. My stepfather had taken advantage of this hole to become the first boy in Malvern Junior High to see the naked body of Sue Sluesoe. Susan Sluesoe was the first girl to develop breasts in their class, and she will also not be mentioned again in this novel. The only problem was that the hole was not very large, allowing for only one section of the body to be viewed at a time. Every day my mother took her shower like clockwork, and every day my stepfather was there at the hole. One day he saw a belly, one day a tit, another a buttock, another a thigh, and so forth, until the day he finally saw her face. She had found the hole and screamed, threatening to call the police. Fortunately for my stepfather she was only able to discern the color of the peeper's eyes, and my stepfather quickly began throwing his voice to make it seem as if he were chasing away Lucas Snornosse, the teenage boy down the street, who as you might expect will not appear in this book again. My mother, who had gotten dressed by then, ran out of the house and thanked my stepfather for chasing away that nasty boy. From that moment onward, they hit it off and became hitched within the span of a year, June 21, 1980 at 12:45 P.M. Standard Central Time at the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Malvern out on Ridge Road two miles past the city limits, with an attendance of 254 guests, friends, and relatives (mostly relatives, since my stepfather has 2 brothers and 3 sisters, 5 nephews, 2 nieces, 31 first cousins, 9 uncles, and 8 aunts, while my mother has 2 sisters and 1 brother, 1 nephew and 1 niece [twins], 14 uncles and 19 aunts [some divorced in-laws], and 48 first cousins), to be precise.
On the wedding day my stepgrandfather Oxford Davis gave my stepfather a wad of chewing tobacco, a baseball bat autographed by members of the Arkansas Reds, a pair of jumper cables, a thirty-dollar Bible, an album entitled Johnny Cash: The Cheatin' Songs (a native son of Kingsland, 50 miles to the south, whom my stepgrandfather worked alongside with in the fields as a young man and never tired of endlessly repeating his stories about him and Johnny in their younger days, most of which started with: "I tell you, one night me and Johnny got so drunk...". My stepgrandfather still keeps in his safebox the guitar pick that Johnny poked a man's eye out with in a barfight, "just to watch him bleed", in Fordyce, 1952. Johnny Cash will not reappear in this story), a Kodak 505 millimeter camera, a shaving kit, a highway map of the 50 states for vacations (with many highlighter marks near the Gulf Shore from my stepgrandfather's previous use), a pack of playing cards of dogs in place of jokers and queens, a pair of workboots, a pair of cowboy boots, a pair of sneakers, a pair of slippers, a round of ammunition for hunting season, a mounted deer's head (which my stepgrandfather always claimed he shot, and my stepfather always claimed he shot, in the woods of Dallas County on October 23 1976, and which they argued about a lot. So by giving him the deer's head my stepgrandfather was essentially burying the hatchet), a rocking chair, a hammock, a foldable tent (which my stepfather had used many times, beginning with the Boy Scout camping expedition on the weekend of May 19-20, 1970 at DeGray State Park on DeGray Lake three miles from Arkadelphia), a brand new color TV (the biggest and most important wedding gift either my mother or stepfather received. They were both in awe and used it immediately when they got home on their wedding night), a subscription to the Arkansas Gazette (the oldest continous newspaper west of the Mississippi, it was still running strong in 1980 but would fold a decade later due to a buyout by the nefarious Gannett newspaper chain and would lose the intense and heated newspaper war with its archrival, the Republican daily ironically entitled the Arkansas Democrat), and a few words of advice.
"Now son, I see you've got yourself a fine woman for a wife. She's real pretty and she's got brains, too, a teacher and all. I don't see what she sees in you and if you want to keep her you've got to clean up your act. That means quit being such a goddamn pervert and peeping in people's bathrooms. And one more thing. You're 23 years old and a married man. It's time to get the hell out of our house and go live on your own. You've been mooching off us and being a lazy bum far too long."
"Yeah buddy," were my stepfather's words of reply. Within a few short weeks my parents had moved out to a trailer near Perla, a small community of 500 souls which is indistinguishable from Malvern proper except that Acme Brick wanted to situate their plant outside of the city proper for tax purposes. At the time it was also a community composed of 500 black souls. My parents were the first white couple to move into that section of town in July 1980. Of course they moved there because the rent was cheap, what do you think? At the time it cost only $50 a month for a trailer in Perla (these are 1980 figures; I am sure the rate has gone up to, oh, $150 a month for a five bedroom house in Perla nowadays), which was good because as an Arkansas schoolteacher my mother only made $2 an hour, most of which went to pay back her $11,000 in student loans. My stepfather, however, made $52 an hour working for the aluminum factory. "It's not a secure job, like teaching, though," was what my stepfather always said, which he found out when Reynolds laid off over 300 workers at their Malvern plant in 1980. My stepfather was one of those unfortunates. He lived off unemployment for six months, putting in applications at such establishments as Western Sizzlin, McDonald's, Speedo's Carwash, Huckabee's Grocery, Tucker's Drive-thru, White's Drive-in Theater, Bumpers' Eats, Pryor's Pet Store, and others. Unfortunately 300 other laid-off workers were applying for those same jobs, all of which went to teenagers attending Malvern High and working part-time.
So my stepfather, a desperate man, took what he considered the only option, the only job that allowed him to make a salary commensurate with the money he made as a highly skilled aluminum factory worker. He had made a little money on the side bootlegging for Old Man McCasklin, Hot Spring County's chief supplier of whiskey to old drunks who couldn't afford to drive across the county line or just felt too plumb lazy and stubborn to. McCasklin knew this fella by the name of Dan Harmon, a deputy in nearby Benton, who could set him up with some Grade-A Colombian (not coffee). McCasklin was getting old and didn't feel up to it, but it was a helluva opportunity for a up-and-coming young man and he offered my stepfather a place on the ground floor. Jackson Davis hesitated, being a god-abiding man who perfectly understood a man marinating his miseries in alcoholic spirits, but felt illegal hard drugs were another matter altogether (the natural exception of course being marijuana, which by 1974 had surpassed soybeans as the state's chief crop, at first due to an influx of hippies in the northwestern corner but by the mid-'80s a favorite among the redneck crowd, who now sported long hair and blasted loud rock'n'roll, short hair and country music now being the province of young professionals commuting to Little Rock from the suburbs).
"Hell, boy, all you're gonna do is sell this shit to a bunch of rich asshole kids 'studying' up at Hendrix, ain't going to be doing anybody no harm. And them over in Niggertown," reassured McCasklin. My stepfather shied away from the last part of McCasklin's spiel, but forgave him like he did all the old farts because they grew up in the Faubus generation. Like any good Hot Spring County boy, though, the first part appealed to his traditional yellow-dog Democrat upbringing. In fact, my stepfather only voted Republican for the first time in his life at the insistence of my mother, who made clear her objections to his ever voting for my father ("He never called back," was my mother's heartbroken reply when I asked why she resented Bill so much, many years later). Though difficult, my stepfather aquiesced to my mother's wishes, and proceeded to vote straight Democrat down the rest of his ticket. This was easier than it sounds because, at the local level, there were no Republicans in Hot Spring County, except for Windrop Rockefeller, who ran for mayor of Malvern every year and even managed to get a few votes, mainly because folks felt sorry for him.
My stepfather drove two hours to Mena, in the sparsely populated western part of the state, where it is rumored many bodies are buried (I discovered to my horror last night on the Internet that Vincent Foster was secretly murdered near the outskirts of Y City on a dark and frigid night, and then whisked back to Washington the next day and made to appear as if he committed suicide. At least that's what Matt Drudge claims). At the airport my stepfather was greeted by a Lt. Colonel who called himself Oliver North (not his real name), a Catholic Priest (Desmond Tutu), a high-ranking member of the Politburo (Mikhail Gorbachev), a Jew (Stephen Spielberg), and several heads of Arkansas industry, namely Sam Walton, Don Tyson, J.B. Hunt, and Mary Kay. Quickly my stepfather discovered that they were all members of the dread TriLateral Commission, dedicated to conquering the world and destroying white middle class Protestants along the way. They went into a little room and conspired, while my father stood by fiddling with salt shakers.
Yes, my father Bill,whom Jackson met for the first time that day. It turned out that Bill was the unwitting lackey to these forces bent on world domination, which failed that day and would fail in the future due to my father's good-natured ineptitude. Apparently a secretary named Paula caught Bill's eye and he got so excited he knocked over the salt shakers, which were on a map of the world and detailed the the Commission's movements in key areas of the globe. My father hastily rearranged the salt shakers, hoping no one had noticed, but in doing so he put them in the wrong places. Within a decade, the Soviet Union no longer existed, a black majority ruled in South Africa, Oliver North was put on trial, and Spielberg had quit making science fiction movies. All this was due to my father's rearranging of the salt shakers. Unfortunately, he did not move the shakers that detailed Walton's plans, which led to Wal-Mart's continuted barbarian swath across a hapless America, which would lead to global hegemony by the year 2021 (and spark a bloody revolution led by myself in 2024, which led to my current position as president. My first act was to rename all the major cities in honor of my father, who died of a heart attack in 2011 having sex with one final semi-attractive female, Millie Japers, who will not appear again until the very end of this book).
My stepfather was offered entry into the Commission, but refused, still being a god-fearing Baptist who attended church every Sunday and occasionally a Wednesday when his wife felt particularly religious. "Okay then," they told him, "But you're still interested in corrupting the youth of America with illegal, dangerous, and addictive drugs, correct?"
My stepfather was assigned the beat of Oaklawn Race Track in Hot Springs, where many tourists came from miles around to watch the horses run. He ran into a wide assortment of people, and every now and then arranged a venereal-free prostitute for the businessmen and members of the State Legislature (who recieved free tickets as a perk). It mostly went smoothly, except for the occasional scuffle, such as this obnoxious drunk by the name of John Self who was making some commercial for Wal-Mart in Hot Springs, and who had to be forcibly discharged from the city and told never to return.
It was at the track that Jackson met his best customer. A wavy-haired, goofy but attractive man with pretensions to musical talent, Roger was also the half-brother of my father Bill, and thereby my uncle. Jackson, unaware of the circumstances of my birth, took a shine to Roger, and pretty soon they became best buddies. Carousing the sleazy bars and strip-joints of Hot Springs nearly every night, picking up loose women and snorting coke till dawn, they had a hell of a time. For my mother it was one more aggravation; sometimes I could hear her lying awake at night in the trailer, sobbing into her pillow. She finally confronted Jackson about his long stays away from home, complaining that he never spent any time with her, and worst of all, that her baby boy was growing up virtually without a father figure. Jackson sat down and mulled her charges over. Finally the guilt got too much for him, and he resolved to make some changes. From then on, whenever my stepfather went out drinking and womanizing with his pals, he took me along with him. Thus began my association with the underworld, and my education into the ways of corruption and sin.
Oh, the sordid tales I am ashamed to tell from that dark epoch of mine, a dark epoch for all the world. One of my stepfather's friends was a biker by the name of Bill McCuen. One day me and McCuen were in Little Rock, looking at the state capitol. McCuen put his arms around my shoulder and told me, "Son, whenever I look at that pretty white dome I just can't help but keep thinking of one thing. You know what?"
"Blowin' it up. Yeah buddy, blowin' that sucker up and watching the flames come down." A few years later McCuen got his wish when a crew from Hollywood came to town. Another day my stepfather was chuckling with Roger over a list, crowing with pleasure that he made it onto there. I peered over my stepfather's shoulder. The list didn't make sense. "Dad, who the hell is Steve Clark? I never even met the man, and he's claiming you and I had dinner with him."
"You wash that mouth of yours, son. You're only 10 years old. That man is the attorney general, and it is a privilege to be on that list of people he claimed to have dinner with but didn't. It's a marker of social status. It means we're real movers and shakers."
Then there was the night me, Roger, and my stepfather were chained to the fence of the Pulaski County jail because the sheriff, Tommy Robinson, wanted to make a statement about prison overcrowding. I know what you're asking right now: how could such a young boy be doing all these things? Shouldn't I have been in elementary school? Well, let's just say that I grew up fast. Really fast. Don't ask questions, this is what they call "Magic Realism".
I hit bottom, however, with my uncontrollable sexual appetites. This I take from my father Bill's side of the family. Like my father, my appetites took a strange turn. You see, I have a special power. I have a big tongue. A really big tongue, like a frog's, that I can actually catch flies with (which I don't because that's disgusting). My tongue also makes me talk a lot; once I get started, I can't stop. I can go on and on about everything, throwing in every meaningless detail that pops in my head (with quite a few pointless asides, to boot. I assume this all goes back to my days as a precocious little boy, who had to tell every story in a roundabout way to exercise his vicarious, voluptous, and vitituperative vocabulary in various ways....but now where was I....), which perhaps explains why this book that you hold in your hands (Vol. 1, copyright 2038, New Jefferson Press), is longer than the combined works of Proust and Balzac combined, neither of which I enjoy, because I despise the French. During the Ethnic Riots of 2014, I, a proud Welsh-American, reassumed my longforgotten name Lleyllewyen, which I had been made to feel ashamed of ever since my father Bill, in a pointed attack upon me and my mother, disparaged the Welsh in a speech in which he swore that the United States would not "welsh out" on a deal with a foriegn country, which naturally drew much protest from the Society of Welsh Americans.
But back to my tongue, which I seem to have lost track of in my narrative. I found upon my sexual awakening that I had a certain fetish for toes. No other part of a woman excited me more. Since most women were disgusted by my predilection for sucking their toes for hours upon end and never saw me again, the satisfaction of my pleasures had to be fleeting and furtive. I struck at women's feet at odd hours, in odd places, gently sucking their toes and fleeing before they came to their senses. Yes, I was the famous Toe-Sucker of Central Arkansas. Oh, sweet Toe, light of my life, fire of my loins! I grovel at my feet to possess you! This little piggy went to market, this little piggy went to town....ah, the wild and fervid fantasies my freakish imagination conjured, a whole woman's shoe store full of row upon row of women with their bare feet stretched out before me, eagerly waiting upon my giant tongue to suck, suck, suck upon that big toe of theirs. To this day I have yet to conquer this debilitating addiction. You probably think of me as a pervert, a monster, but I am neither; I am merely a man. I yam what I yam! A man who lurks in the shadows, invisible to all, even himself: and who knows, but on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?
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