Chapter 1

February 28

Neil returned from his ritual Saturday outing with a mysterious paper bag in tow. Its contents appeared to be moving. This was no uneaten lunch returning home. I cornered him at the bottom of the stairwell.

“So what’s in the bag?”

“Snake,” he said, and disappeared up the stairs.

As always, a man of few words. He is also a notorious liar, although generally not maliciously so. Generally being the key word. Must investigate further …

 

Later …

Neil has been unusually active this afternoon. Several raids to the cellar. Perkie caught him trundling up the stairs with a filthy old aquarium. Around three o’clock he nipped off in the BP truck only to return an hour later with an armload of what we assume are library books. Neil is not exactly the bookish type. Soon afterwards he was observed wandering about in the backyard collecting grass and twigs. This is becoming strange, even for Neil. I conferred with Perkie and it was decided that a confrontation would be in order. We knocked on his door, and after getting no reply as usual, made our entrance. Neil sat curled up on his bed, his nose buried in a rather large book: Reptiles of North America. In front of him lay what appeared to be a particularly disgusting member of the order reptilia.

“What the fuck is that?” asked Perkie, pointing to the coiled organism.

“A hognose snake,” replied Neil.

“I’ll say,” I said.

A more descriptive name for a particular species is you’d be hard pressed to find. This animal, of a genus not generally regarded for its beauty, looked as if God had started out working on a hog, forgot what he was doing halfway through, and finished up with a snake. Kind of like a tubular pig.

“What’s it for?” I asked.

“Pet,” said Neil.

“Right,” I said.

As we were walking down the hall to our bedrooms, Perkie asked me about the possibility of hognose snakes being poisonous.

“When you’re as ugly as that you don’t have to be,” I told him.

“Too bad,” said Perkie.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“I want that room.”

 

Last thoughts …

I’m lying in bed, wine bottle in hand, entertaining grim thoughts about work. It was cold as hell yesterday. Being a carpenter in February is a drag, even a Georgia February. I can’t remember when I last saw the sun and I found what looks like moss growing in one of the pockets of my carpentry belt. Of course it could have just been mold, another case of the fungus among us. This entire house is a regular mildew factory. It’s rotting as I write, working its way up from the basement, spreading its creepy little feelers everywhere …

Actually, our house is fantastic. At least it was, once upon a time. While all our other sleazeoid city friends are slumming it downtown in rat and cucaracha-infested trashed-out apartment houses, we sit here perched high above Piedmont Avenue in a red-brick, two-story Tudor with a full cellar, double garage, azalea bushes in the garden, and an oak-studded jungle for a backyard. For which we pay almost nothing. Yes, it is slowly but surely disintegrating, melting back into the hillside, but that has its own hip American Gothic charm, kind of like faded jeans. So I’m willing to put up with a little mildew and a maniac roomy/landlord like Wallace if this is the meager price I have to pay.

As far as I can follow, Wallace’s father flipped out when his wife suddenly died after an acute illness. He packed his toothbrush and split to Florida, leaving his suburban dream and its contents to the elements. Wallace moved back in a couple of years ago and has managed, through diverse means, to accumulate us as renters. That makes us, in a sense, also elements. I can get into that. It has a solid feel about it. The neighbors despise us. Of course they do! We’re a blot on their precious landscapes. If Morningside Drive can be considered the lap of Atlantean luxury, then we are the syphilitic groin. Situated in one of the best parts of town, surrounded by doctors and lawyers with their Mercedes’ and manicured lawns, we are an affront to everything they have worked and striven for. I love it.

Speaking of fucked up housing, we did a particularly awful piece of work on the second floor of section twelve last week. Floors are usually supposed to be flat, but this one looked like a hump-backed whale. I wouldn’t move into one of those stupid apartments if they gave it to me for free. I’d rather have moldy Morningside any day of the week. The Mule came by after lunch, and I figured he was going to start bitching at us. Dan the Man felt compelled to say something.

“Looks grim,” he said.

“Caint see it fra mah fukin’ haus,” said The Mule, ejecting a massive tobacco honker as he made his exit. The Mule says that kind of thing quite often. I think he lives out past the airport.

 

                                               Our house (pre tube-o-phone installation)

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One response to this post.

  1. I’m still laughing at the response to Perkie’s question on hognose snakes being poisonous, “When you’re as ugly as that you don’t have to be.”

    Brian this should be already in bookstores, and Kindle,smashwords, etc and in a perfect world it would be.

    But it’s not perfect. Inexplicable that. Keep posting, and building a fan base. It’s gotta happen, seriously it’s too bloody good to go unpublished.
    Tiffany’s book review was excellent, btw.

    Soooz.

    Reply

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