Pickle

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PICKLE

In my defense, I had no idea what I was doing; though I will admit to being teenage captain of The Orange Camaro.  I rode shotgun through the Deep South, because I could sing the best to Leon Russell’s Stranger In A Stranger Land on the eight track, and because, especially then, I was going places.

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I don’t remember her name, only what we called her. Pickle.  Probably because she brought an eight inch one to the fold out card table that served as a lunch-room in the emergency high school campus that was forever a concrete floor built on a raw gravel pad with barn metal siding, in the middle of a fallow cotton field.   deSeg came in December.  Hiring blacks to cook at an all white private school became passe when it was federally mandated that blacks would be allowed in all white schools.  Allowed, as it turned out, by the National Guard, who up till then, had only brought us Christmas presents.  We used to sit around those tables beneath a clock that proved Einstein’s relativity theorem 28 hours a day.  There was no Art class.  No creative writing.  No philosophy.  Few whistled. Readin and ‘rithmatic mostly; never rising above theater of the absurd, except for the part with Mr. Kittles’ shoes; and the incessant talk of the next million going for a football program.  I think there was a Coach in there somewhere, but all he did was teach math, when not sniffing our coats.

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For exercise, we posed as scarecrows during lunch period, in the fallen cornfields out by the open cesspool-pond, while smoking the latest holdovers from Mexican pot shipments headed through Mississippi on the way to the lucrative eastern seaboard markets.   Gotta stop for gas somewhere.

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I remember now, that Pickle didn’t smoke, not even cigarettes; a highly polarizing position which, while not excluding her from our group, did lead to her reluctantly sharing her lunch with us on most occasions as nominal proof that she was not a narc.  Whatever we said about Pickle, it was clear that her mother could cook.

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The game was Hearts, beneath that damn clock, day after same shit day.  I have tried to play that game since, but cannot recall the first rule.  Like in most card games, and everything else, the one with the most of the highest what-evers wins, and the game is extended with intrigue as the immediately obvious losers compete among themselves in order to be the last to drown.

Never learned much math, either.

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“Pickle, go get me some Nacho Dorito’s from the machine and put some of that cheese you brought on em, and nuke em.”

“Well, do you have any money?”

“No.”

“OK.”

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This sort of myBitch thing was not happening in East LA yet, in fact, Hispanics didn’t even exist.  But, we, the almost well-bred of the South, were proving that as a race, if you take away our slaves, we will indenture them legally with draconian economic D’segregations even better than the old ones.  Then, we heard, if you  liberalize some fresh illusion of civil rights, we will simply turn on our on.  And eat them like Pickles lunch.

Nobody in Mississippi has to study history.

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“Here, are these OK?”

“Pickle!  You Bitch!”

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Her complexion, which I would later see on a tall horse-faced model in Colorado I was to scared to fuck, had that gaunt, white, and freckled princes thing going.  You just knew, if she was let outside, she would go bronze like the rest of us,  under the brutal all-seeing Sun we shared with the sky.  Up top, though, Pickle was cursed with questionable hair tone that tended to feint copper beneath sandy dirt locks that hung steel rod straight after her careful nights in curlers.  That girl took our abuse, and appreciated the opportunity.  No one else would have her; a nose outgrowing her spindly legs, accentuated by an obviously confused breast line challenging her balance to the other side; every couple of months.  But if I knew then, about lips, what I know now, things might have worked out different between us.  Underneath her all-focusing facial aberrations were the lips I dream of today.  At fourteen, She had that earthy, ‘I know what to do with your seed’  aura about her.  Pickle was a breeder from the git-go.  Her Catholic father acknowledged this fact with a pious nailing of her windows shut.  Written on the paper nacho plate, surviving the seeping nacho effluent, were always the words, ‘I’ll call you tonight.’  No one could ever know, but Pickle and I, were phone-kissin buddies.

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Pickle had a Princess phone, she said; the numbers lit up her night, and no one knew what went on in her darkness but me, myself, and that phone.  She certainly didn’t.  This was before the days of Benadryl laced cough syrups for children, raging hormones were all we had.  Well, and mushrooms growing in cowshit.  By age 14, anyone cool was addicted to dopamine endorphins, an old style high you bought with good kissing; still pretty good, which are now called forth by the mere recollection of dogs fucking.  The pot, and the throwing up of maggots and cowshit, came later; around 15.

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“Go fuck your pickle, Pickle.”

“Stop!”

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Pickle never showed up at our Country Club, nor at the beer parties held at any available parent-absent home on the weekends.  Not even as a guest; a fact that counted against her more than any lacking presence of smoke or normal cleavage.  It was OK not to attend anything if you could, but if you were not attending because you couldn’t, social fabric groaned against the weight of a willful reality we kids had yet to comprehend.  Only the very rich and the very poor refused an opportunity to go into debt over such things, and now that’s gone too.

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She lived twenty miles out of town, almost to Alabama, and the Camaro only made it there once in the three years we knew her.  There was no soul searching consciousness about any of this, we were simply playing the hearts dealt to us, not realizing the damage they took in passing from our sticky hands, to a rising deck ready to be dealt again.  At night, I twisted a skeleton key from my side of the door, and waited by my phone, for Pickle to call.

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“Hi.”

“Hi Erin.”

“You were mean to me today.”

“I didn’t mean to be.”

“Well, you were.”

“Sorry.”

“That’s OK,” She’d sigh into the phone, like she was twenty-two and dropping the straps of her negligee.  “So, what are you doing?”

“Talking to you.”

“You think you’re so funny,” then, after a short devastation, “I’m in my bed.”

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To this day, I don’t know what made us do it, and I don’t want to ever remember that final look in her eye that has shaped me finally into a man.  But I do remember, every Spring, when the sun shines right.   It was Saturday, I had taken to carrying a copy of A Clockwork Orange in the back pocket of my Levis, so the title could be read.  I was sitting in the cramped back seat on the left hand side, which was unusual, because my father was an ardent tobacco chewer, so I always favored the no-flying-spit side.  I held court from there. My latest inspiration seemed to be succeeding, as my companions were ravishing the boundaries of decorum, in ever rising tones, to claim my place at shotgun up front.  After much discussion, we stopped by Seven-Eleven to air the car out, and buy fakeChocolate Milk and Cracker-Jacks.

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“Alan, get me some Cracker-Jacks and chocolate milk.”

 “Got any money, honey?”

 “Hell no, you just smoked it.”

 “Ass-hole.”

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Then, the ride out to Pickle’s.  I guess she had told me where she lived during some midnight phone call.  No one asked me to explain, it was somewhere new to go past Chunky.  Might even catch a glimpse of Alabama.  She had been asking for a visit at Hearts for months, and we had been promising one for double that amount of time; and now here we were, 84 miles an hour to the East of Meridian.  The white concrete slabs of the Eisenhower Roads were swollen shut from the hot after-noon, and the fat tires on the swollen black ridges stamped out a fair rhythm beneath Teenage Wasteland at 10.

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“Don’t Bogart that joint, Nimbo.”

 “Take a left right after the sign for worms.”

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 Then, drowned in raw volume, we all sang our best powers and harmonies to Stranger In A Strange Land.  Back then, you waited four or five songs for what-ever you really wanted to listen to.  Our Orange Camaro crunched onto gravel, which soon sank into the familiar rusted sand of zillion year old seabeds and shark teeth, and we fished tailed expertly around the corners, thrown leaning into the walls of the car, our faces stretched in grim tune-less grins.

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“What?”

 “Is Pickle your girlfriend?”

 “Huh?  Turn that shit down an minute.”

 “Is P I C K E L your girlfriend!”

 “Fuck no, man, she’s just the coolest skank I know.”

 “Sure.”

 “I swear to god, man.”

 “Sure.  Nim and Pickle, sittin in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g,”

 “Fuck you!  Are you in third grade?”

 “He is in third grade man!”

 “Bullshit.  I know love when I smell it.”

 “I will fuck you up.”

 “You can’t reach me, you backseat dipshit, so shut up.”

 “Mother-fucker.”

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He was right.  The 1968 Camaro RS was not built for fucking.  I had to do something.

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“Jethro Tull!”

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 The eight-track player gulped out the carcass of Cat Stevens, and Jethro Tull was shoved back into his most happy home.  The tracks clicked over, there was a loud stereophonic hisssss, describing the only silence we knew, and then the opening thick Strat, announcing Aqua-Lung.  We all together at once eyed little girls with bad intent in a screaming rush that drowned out all things but us, and that sun.  Then we were there.

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It was just a small out in the boonies farm house.  Pale blue, or maybe just white and dirt; worked by the sun.  She had hung purple ribbons and a paper plate that said ‘Hi’ on a squat oak which took up half the yard.  Like she told me she would.  We blew the horn.  She parted the yellow curtains.  We blew the horn again.  A little sister took her place in the window, wide-eyed, looking out with thumb-sucking efficiency.  Then there She was, fidgeting through the doorway in a plain country smock; our favorite little pig.

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Erin looked so different that day.  Taller, I think;  and her hair was autumnal red, painting back the light in a way that my memory cannot now match.  I got a hard-on watching her walk to our open window.  She had nipples.  Everyone was talking and laughing; I couldn’t hear anything, like when birds stop singing, and she was standing so proud, smiling in the moment she finally belonged.  Everyone but me suddenly shouted “Pickle!”  Mike popped the clutch on first gear, and we smoked away with everything she would ever have.

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“Salvation ala mode!” shouted Alan.  “Here, fire this up, Nimbo!”

 “Yeah.”

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Together, we shifted into third, and Alabama welcomed us in.

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JHS

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One response to “Pickle

  • Namring Charles

    Erin, if you somehow find this poor excuse for Faulkner, or if you, gentle reader, are a Woman or Girl who knows Pickle as yourself, I want you to know that I have no apology. Apology is the stuff of manipulation, a perpetual poorJesus to pull out of your pocket or purse in order to continue to shit upon another and still call it love. Since finding a True Detective magazine in the washed out back yard of a recently abandoned house, I have known what a naked woman with a pistol to her head looked like, in black and white. As soon as possible, and I was the first for many things within my group, I graduated to Playboy; religiously bought, and kept in plain view of my homophobic parents, except when Grandmother came to visit, as negotiated by my trendy mom.

    It was never you. And now always.

    Love Is The Cure,

    .J H S.

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