25 March 2011

Spades and Sofas

I never meant to understand that trashy train-wreck watcher with the dirty red hair…that fellow algae-drinking Appalachian good-for-nothing pea farmer named Alphonse.  Why his bow-legged father decided to name him Alphonse, I will never understand, if I live to be ninety-four.  Perhaps it was that restaurant…that one restaurant he had ever eaten in.  I do believe that it may have been named “Alphonse’s”, or perhaps the owner was named Alphonse, or perhaps there was a waiter by that name who worked there.  Perhaps there was no connection whatsoever.  Perhaps it had only to do with the boy’s dirty red hair.

Alphonse, you trashy pea-picker, there were so many piles of soil outside your home.  You would pile them up, one after the other…pile after pile after pile.  All the way around your home they stretched – that ramshackle frame home of yours.  Two stories of scratchy, flaky clapboard that hung in there like scales on a diseased fish…a diseased fish that would stare into the west wind that swept over that dirty, dirty pea-farm.  Did you bury things in those piles?  Did you pile them there as art – the only art you knew how to create with your calloused, filthy hands with bruised knuckles and twisted, arthritic joints? Hands that would shake the soft, smooth hands of that pastor from that Lutheran church down the road from your filthy, filthy pea-farm, and wave after him when he left.  Hands that you wrapped around his neck and with which you throttled that same Lutheran pastor when he spoke to you of sin and the dangers of drink.  The judge put you in for 90 days and that pea-farm grew filthier than ever – filthier it grew even after you were let out.  The people never understood.  Never understood.  I could never understand, either.

They said it was a woman who took you away.  A woman or the bottle, I guess.  I would have put my money on the bottle, although no one ever really saw you again, the way you would see men like yourself when that happened – face down in the ditch (as the stereotype would have it), or with your back against a cold, stone building and your chin on your chest.  No one saw you like that, so as my brother Audie said, you probably done ended up far, far across the state with some woman who never minded your drinking and your carrying on and your hoopin’ and hollerin’ at the top of your lungs when the bottle was empty.

Alphonse, why did you look at me like that the last time we saw each other in town, now some twenty years ago?  That toothy grin and that dirty red hair – your eyes all wild.  I thought you were drunk.  I thought you were half out of your mind with whisky, the way you were when you throttled the pastor.  I thought you might reach out and put those calloused, calloused hands around my neck and throttle me to the end of my breath.  You did not.  You only blinked twice and coughed out a single word. 


  1. Ughh. That description of the house as a diseased fish is so good I feel a little sick. I can totally picture this guy.

    What's the significance of 'marrow'?

  2. I never asked him. I was too scared at the time, but I believe it was just a reference to where his demons were - deep in his being. Later I added a lot of my own meanings to it, as the event got more obscured by the passage of time, but my original interpretation is probably closest to the truth.

    My brother's name is not Audie, however. :)