And it might be contagious…
ILLITERACY AN OBSTABLE, STUDY FINDS
Headline, Washington Post news service story
Washington? We have a problem.
ILLITERACY AN OBSTABLE, STUDY FINDS
Headline, Washington Post news service story
Washington? We have a problem.
Early July 2006 – Environmental Recycling – Gentilly Landfill – New Orleans, LA
Bobby looked across the field of broken machinery and salvage from Katrina and saw more cool stuff than he could think of uses for.
“Whattaya think, Eldridge? Heaven, or what?”
“Looks like mountains of broken shit to me.” Junior Eldridge scanned the field trying to see what Bobby saw, but decided no one ever saw what Bobby did. Except Carrie Louise. And there’d been times he’d seen her throw up her hands, exasperated. Or, like Junior was, confused.
“You can’t see it?” Bobby’s eyes were as big as a four-year-old at Christmas. The skinny Santa Claus, with so much white beard and hair all you could see was nose and glasses, handed him a clipboard. Bobby signed the waiver and took the roll of orange duct tape and the Sharpie, headed off into the junk.
Late July 2006 – Used-to-be-abandoned Celitore’s Machine Shop, West of Houma, LA
The eighteen-wheeler pulled up in front of Celitore’s Machine Shop on the narrow two-lane that dead ended a few miles away at the old Milchem mud farm. Bobby had rounded up as many friends and still-looking-for-work Katrina locals, including a couple of ex-Celitore’s employees, as he could put in the back of his old pickup. The eighteen wheeler’s crane arm unloaded parts of boats, swamp skiffs, cabins from tractors and combines, a couple of single engine planes, outboard motors and all the salvageable aluminum and light sheet steel Bobby could get the Katrina salvage yard to load up.
Senior Eldridge stood between Bobby and his son, an arm around both their shoulders, looked over the parts scattered around between the machines and through the open hanger sized door into the back lot of Celitore’s old shop. “What the hell you plan on buildin’ th’all this shit, Bobby?”
“Boats, Mr. Eldridge. Air conditioned swamp boats. Came to me in a dream.”
“I was you I’d stop eatin’ Mama Roche’s Jamabalaya. She gets her sausage over to Rupert’s.” He crushed out a cigarette under his workboot, gave Bobby a sideways glance. “Shit’ll make you crazy. Before it kills you.”
Late August 2006 – Celitore’s
Carrie Louise had on work boots with her cutoffs and tank top, her hand on a SURF LOUISIANA surfboard with a metal room fan bolted to the back end like a propeller driven swamp boat, the board stuck on a pole set in a cut-off whiskey barrel full of cement. She was toe kicking the barrel a little harder than absently.
“Bobby, I don’t want to learn how to weld.”
“Every party has a pooper. You don’t wanna learn you can hang and watch me.”
“Imagine the joyous memory that’s gonna bring me in the old folks home. Me and that ol’ numb-nuts whatsisdoodley, I forget his name because he was so boring, we were a real pair of weldin’ demons down to the machine shop.” She walked around the surfboard pole, hanging on it like a lamp post. “I want to go to Lafayette before school starts. To a real movie. Not X-Men but something with half a plot. And I want to eat some of that shrimp done up right three kinds of ways like they do it at LeCroix’s.”
“Half a plot with some slow, noisy slobbery kissing and shrimp roulette?”
“Only if you make me. If we leave early we can do all that and be home by midnight, can’t we?”
She could work him and didn’t even know she was doing it. Carrie had always liked Lafayette for some reason, even when they were little kids and one of their parents drove them up for a cinnamon pancakes and ice cream lunch after church. Lafayette was just enough college town, a little touch of metro with some lingering old school coon ass where you could still eat legitimate Cajun and listen to old farts play Zydeco. She’d make him dance with her like she did when she was ten. Uptown bayou girl. Damn. If he said ‘yes’, there’d be no welding lesson. But there’d be a shower, some happy girl rowdy sex, a boring ass chick flick and dinner outside Lafayette with a couple of no-ID-check beers. The dancing part would suck. And four fucking hours round trip in the car. They’d talk all the way there and she’d sleep most of the way home. Which wasn’t so bad. He thought she looked almost angelic when she was quiet and asleep, something he couldn’t tell a soul but felt all the same. His Mawmaw used to say Joli de fleurs printemps. Pretty as spring flowers. Prettier the quieter and sleepier she got. He tossed his grease rag into an oil stained wooden box, checked the clock. Noon fifteen.
“Pick a movie, Roche. If you’re waitin’ on me, you’re backin’ up.”
Thanks to Environmental Recycling in Lexington, KY, for the Katrina salvage info call. That’s one of their pictures, helping clean up after Katrina
“We want to be as open and as opaque as possible.”
vestry member, Episcopal Diocese of Oregon
Maybe obfuscation and mixed messages are the point of stained glass?
Window by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
From the Victoria and Albert William Morris Exhibition
Baton Rouge, Louisiana – May 2006
Bobby pushed the last of the papers back across Aunt Liz’s shiny desk, ran his finger around inside the collar of his starched shirt. Carrie’s pink pen he’d used all afternoon had left a red canyon in his finger. He looked up at Carrie Louise, she loosened his tie.
“S’up Bobby? Why’re you lookin’ at me that way?”
“I hate to keep askin’ you for help, but can I change my name? Not all of it, just the last three? Without a lot of questions and BS?”
“I can have a look. Why?”
“‘Cause if I write Bobby Beauregard Barthelemy Buisson one more time my fuckin’ hand’s gonna fall off. And Ms.V, is there somewhere in all this paper that will get CL paid for helping me? Or she can send me a bill or something?”
Carrie punched his arm. “Goober. I’m already on your payroll. You work me harder than my retainer and you’ll get a bill, and I’ll pay myself. And in all that paper somewhere you have bequeathed to me an education in law at the college of my choice. Providing can I get in and all, and have proven myself to be a good steward of your financial interests between now and then.”
“Be –queathed? That sounds like –”
“Carrie Louise?” Liz Vernier didn’t look up from whatever she was signing. “Let go of his tie before you strangle him.”
“He was gonna say –”
“I know what he was he going to say, sweetie. Let him go. You train men the same way you train dogs. Once they stop peeing on the floor and you have their undivided attention you start on manners. He’s housebroken and you have his attention. He’s got this one. Let him go.”
Carrie Louise released Bobby’s tie, smoothed it. “That was lesson number one, buddy.”
“But I thought you thought –”
“I did think. ‘Cept funny is funny some places and not funny in others. Haha pizza and beer and sex during the Saints game commercials, not so haha in here. This is like a church, only better. So no sex noise jokes. Got it?”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear most of that.” Aunt Liz dropped the last of Bobby’s paperwork in a cardboard file box. “We’re finished, you two can go. Keep your eye on the mail in case they forgot something.” She watched them take a sloppy, arms around each other shirt tails out teenage stroll toward the door. He pinched her butt, she smacked his and glared. “Carrie Louise, are you on the pill?”
Houma, Lousiana, May 2006
“We’re home for only two days and you got ‘er done? That’s it? Dayum. You for certain sure there’s no more forms I need to sign like this?”
“You’re being a waste of skin, Bobby. All we did was change your name, not start a country. The court will send it to Social Security and the Parish and the State and you’ll get your new driver’s license in the mail. Tomorrow we’ll go to the bank and give them the card. You’re done with everything name-wise after Bobby.”
He held up the bank signature card. Bobby B. “What do you think, legal beagle? I do okay?”
“The old-time scroll-y thing underneath needs work. I just…I’m not sure. I liked Buisson.”
“It’s called a flourish. Come on, Roche. What’s the prob?”
“Ro-shay, Ro-shay, Ro-shay. Goddammit, you can’t call me Ro-shay like that whenever we get married. And now it’s just B? CL…B? Something you pour in a septic tank or a coffee pot to clean ’em out? Carrie Louise…B? I can’t ‘B’-lieve you’d do this to me, Bobby. Even if I hyphenate it with Roche it sounds like I’m the fucking mascot for some kind of honey.”
“Then I’ll call you ‘honey’.”
“Don’t be a shit, Bobby. I’m serious.”
“My little Honey B. That oughta be okay, ‘cause you’ve been named after a foil wrapped chocolate thing for sixteen-and-a-half years anyway.”
He felt it in his teeth when she slammed the screen door. He clicked the TV back on.
“Hey, Honey B! You’re gonna miss Murder She Wrote and all those great Eighties perms you like.”
Bobby ignored what she said about selfish assholes and what they could do to themselves and to each other in their curly perms and how the fucking candy ended in R and what sort of douchebag he was all the way down the steps and across the front yard. He picked up the signature card, touched it to his puckered lips. Some ideas nobody agreed with came with some honkin’ hidden benefits. Like quiet.
“Let this socialist country resound with Song of Big Fish Haul and be permeated with the fragrant smell of fish and other seafoods!”
official Kim Jong-un slogan
I’ll bet it was just the rockets that made you think he was a whack job…
Baton Rouge, Louisiana – July 2005
Elizabeth Vernier waved off one assistant, handed another a china coffee cup and saucer and held up two fingers before she got back to the man sitting across from her.
“We’ll take fifteen grand as good will to recoup the funeral and sixty days living expenses. Six grand a month maintenance, post taxes and fees, until we put an offer together we can both live with. Say ‘yes’ or he’s a traumatized minor, and you’re a big, bad oil company.” She leaned back into the uncomfortable Victorian love seat, drummed her fingers on her knee. “I can have this in front of a sympathetic judge tomorrow morning.”
“It’s low, but acceptable.”
“What I should be asking is why.”
“So you’ll take it and look like a hero with your homies at Magnolia and buy your child bride something pretty with your bonus.”
“That was low. I can go twelve without touching my phone.”
“I don’t want twelve coming back on me. When I bend you over for the settlement next spring I want you to look like the cheap, uncaring bastards you are. Sign it at six, Brad. Or go to court in the morning where we both know twenty will be a gift and hero goes out the window along with your bonus and happy trophy wife.”
“You’re a gold-plated, sapphire crusted, oil dipped bitch, Liz Vernier.”
“Thank you, Brad. That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me this morning.” He signed, pushed the document her way, she flipped it up with a polished nail. “Leave the doors open on your way out.”
“Two coffees, straight and strong.” The assistant set the coffee on an antique table between the curved Victorian love seats, pulled the office doors closed behind her.
“Any questions, Carrie Louise?”
“Why did you go low?”
“Keep them over a barrel, anywhere they look. He can’t argue with us or we go to court. He’s an oil company, your Bobby is a damaged waif kept alive by the charity of neighbors. Court is the last place they want to be right now. We know Bobby’s liabilities and he can live on six grand, easy, and you can give your mother more than enough to feed him.”
“But you said settlement in the spring and that’s all court, ain’t it?”
“Isn’t it. And yes, it’s all court. I’ll ask twenty-five, we’ll puff up and sit on it down to the wire. I know they’ll waste both of our time fighting anything over twenty. When they finally lose we’re a year further down the road, they’ll go buy us a bunch of crap financial instruments that won’t mature until doomsday…” She waved her hand dismissively, tested her coffee, set it back on the table.
“On the courthouse steps I’ll deal us down to seventeen to keep them out of a drawn out court battle with pictures of Bobby dressed like Huckleberry Finn everywhere they look. But only if they’ll write us a check. They’ll bite, I’ll take two off the top and buy that house I’ve been looking at in the wine country. You and I will go shopping for institutions to act as wallets for Bobby’s money that you will learn to manage. We’ll cross those bridges when the time comes. In the meantime, go to the library and read what you can stomach on long-term and short-term interest only payouts from various financial instruments, and the tax burdens on those payouts. Put some scenarios together, see what Bobby’s allowance would be living on the interest. Call me with any questions.”
“Okay.” She closed her new leather folio, dropped it and the $200 pink Italian fountain pen, both gifts from Aunt Liz, into last year’s school backpack. “Shooo-eee, Aunt Liz. Was Bobby’s daddy really worth seventeen million dollars?”
“No, it’s worth seventeen million for Magnolia not to look like shit in the press and have OSHA up their asses for a couple of years levying millions of dollars of fines every time one of their platform workers sneezes.” She tested the coffee again, drank half the cup. “Bobby’s daddy, from what I gleaned, wasn’t worth much of a shit for anything but roughneckin’ and keeping Budweiser in business.”
“He wasn’t mean, though. He just kinda left all that up to Bobby’s momma.”
“And she kinda said ‘fuck this’ and handed it all back to him. And didn’t get a damn thing for eighteen years of indentured servitude but a trash bag full of cheap clothes, a son who won’t talk to her and a pansy greeting card artist.”
“That’s why I’m going to law school? So when me and Bobby get married and he fucks up I get half?”
“So you get it all.”
“All seventeen million?”
“Fifteen, sweetie. I’ve got a house to buy, remember?”
Bobby’s Living Room Houma, Louisiana – July 2005
“But you won’t will you? Fuck up and make us get divorced?” Carrie Louise switched off the Charlie’s Angels re-run and shook Bobby’s knee again, harder.
“Hey! Come on –”
“Bobby, you need to be listening.”
“It’s okay. Only the half stupid one would have made it twenty minutes in a real swamp. Fifteen million dollars, that’s what you said? No shit, CL, that’s honkin’. When?”
“April. Maybe May. Nobody stalls Aunt Lizzie much. And you still weren’t listening to me.”
“Yes I was. You wanna know will I maybe have a girlfriend on the side ‘cause of you not sexing me up like a millionaire deserves. And the answer is no.”
“Good. Because –”
“I’ll sure as hell have more than one, CL. That kinda money? I can afford a butt load of girlfriends, spread out all over.”
“Bobby, you listen and listen good. I won’t –”
He reached around, pulled her into him on the couch, kissed her.
“Well gawl-damn, Bobby Buisson. Why didn’t you just tell me to shut the hell up?”
“’Cause I’m only half stupid?”
She chewed “Right answer” out on his lower lip and smashed him into the back of the couch.
Houma, Louisiana – September 5th, 2005
Bobby, Carrie Louise and Momma Roche, all in new rubber waders from the WalMart in Meridian, Mississippi where they’d waited out the hurricane, stood in the street in front of their houses. Momma tried to cry, was so shocky she couldn’t. Carrie Louise was about to squeeze Momma and Bobby’s hands off. Everywhere, houses were covered in a chocolate pudding mud, like the sky had taken a giant shit and covered their town with it. Windows broken, chunks of roof gone. The bayou behind them was still sloshing out of it’s banks, choked with debris and dead livestock. There was an upside down cow where Bobby’s detached garage and his daddy’s workshop had been. His car, like Carrie Louise’s daddy who’d decided to ride out the hurricane in place, were nowhere to be seen.
“Eldridge Junior said his front loader came through okay. He’ll be by in a day or two to carry off the cow.” Bobby had a hard time believing what he’d just said. “I heard they’re truckin’ plywood all the way from Montana. We oughta have it all fixed up by Mardi Gras. Christmas, maybe.” Bobby wasn’t sure he believed either of those, what with having to live in one of Aunt Liz’s condos with Carrie Louise and Momma Roche and go to school somewhere outside of Phoenix. He shook CL’s death squeeze. “We ever do get married, and have us a daughter? Katrina is out of the name pool. Just sayin’.”
Momma Roche broke, hugged them both like they would blow away, and cried so hard they were afraid she might choke on it and die.
Almost Halloween 2005, a golf resort condo outside Phoenix, AZ
Bobby pulled his phone out of his jeans. Unknown and an area code he didn’t recognize. All the calls from insurance companies and contractors over Katrina, he answered it anyway, listened, stepped out on the balcony. He talked for a minute, left his phone on a chair, slid the door closed when he came back in.
“Momma R? Mr. Roche turned up. Passed out drunk in my car at a rest stop outside Memphis. The cop said it looked like he’d been living in it for at least six weeks. Puke and vodka bottles and trash all over, gone to taking a leak and laying cable in the back. He’s in the hospital, crazier than a hoot owl, might not make it. I told them to burn the car and I’d get online when they told me it was scrap and kill the title. He said they’d had him about a week and apologized, but what with Katrina fucking everything up…Sorry. What the cop wanted to know from you was did you want to post his bail and claim him, in case he makes it?”
“Is the policeman still on the phone out there?”
“Yes ma’am. He said he’d give you time to –”
“You go back out there and tell him no. I don’t mean any kind of maybe no, or polite no, Bobby. You tell him Virginia Roche is on record saying Fuck. No. That miserable son of a bitch can rot in hell and don’t anybody need to apologize to me. His sorry drunk ass is Jesus’s problem now, not mine.” She waited, caught Bobby’s hand before he left. “When I’m gone and folks talk about all this, you tell them Katrina might have fucked up a lot of things, but she fixed a few things can only be fixed by a hurricane.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden – addressing a group of student athletes while campaigning for President Obama at Newport HS, New Hampshire:
Football, soccer, lacrosse, and cross-country. Any others?
Biden: Guess what? The cheerleaders in college are the best athletes in college. You think I’m joking. They’re almost all gymnasts. The stuff they do on hard wood, it blows my mind.