I don’t like you, mustache man.
When I was a boy, the family would visit my grandparents every weekend. They lived in a small textile mill town out in the country. Most Saturdays were spent in the nook of a large oak tree. The bark was scaly and crumbled in your hands as you pulled yourself up to the top. A strange smelling, sappy black residue clung to your hands; it took much scrubbing with soap to make it go away.
My Aunt had a prison romance. He was ugly and hairy and they produced grotesquely obese children.
The mustache man was one of these. He said, open your mouth boy open your mouth. He was instructive. Rodent face. Red flushed cheeks. Gangster smile. Cracker dialect.
Grandfather said, “look at the difference between the red oak and the white oak. The leaves of the red oak are jagged like the red man’s arrow points. The leaves of the white oak are round like the white man’s bullets.”
Don’t play in the well. Don’t taunt the dogs.
Jerome said this. He spray painted his name across the doghouse. He was older than you.
While it is true that such things happen everywhere. It is true that sixteen-year-old girls get married and remarried to the same aimless boy and then pop out two unwanted children in rapid succession. Girls in rodeo clown makeup with light blue cheeks. Orange faces. Girls who don’t know the meaning of “understated”, in life or in artificial pigment. Can’t even spell the word, or many others.
Don’t play near the old well.
The top was secured shut with a piece of scrap iron and dusty with red clay. The fire ants ran beneath your feet and invaded rotting crab apples.
Reading crackly old encyclopedias with yellowing pages stuck together with the adhesive of neglect and time and no air conditioning. Forty years old with no color pictures, no entry on sex other than to distinguish between penis and vagina. The Civil War was labeled War Between the States, The. On the mantle was a gray ceramic cup commemorating the centennial of the conflict.
So you sat quietly in what had formerly been your aunt’s bedroom. It was bare except for a brown vinyl covered sofa with stuffing leaking from the divet hole. A quarter-sized massive cigarette burn.
Mustache man, you were there. You were the one in the bedroom with the cheap white-washing and the closed-in side door.
You can’t go out the back anymore.
Ruddy-face intoxication open your mouth boy open your mouth.