Well howdy stranger, what brings you all the way up here on top of Looksie Hill? Checkin’ to see what I’m up to? Well, I just like lookin’ over our town of Maple Creek – you can see all thirty houses from up here, so if you’re lookin’ for somebody in particular I can sure nuff give you a point right to where you’re a lookin’ to go. The name’s Antony-by Portsnort, by the by.
I like comin’ up here just stand, lettin’ the wind howl around my ears – not too many folks take the time to stand and just listen to the memories a whistlin’ in that wind. I reckon by not havin’ themselves wonderin’ of what might have gnawin’ bout it lets them jus walk through their day without wastin’ a minute of it, but shoot, for me – ain’t nothin’ better to do on a Sunday afternoon than wallow like a hog in a newly made muck puddle in those memories. I think folks mistake a ponderin’ for regrettin’; that just ain’t so unless you let it; wouldofs, couldof, shouldofs and the was’s let’s a man recall why he done made the choices he did in the first place. Up here, you see, the wind doesn’t whirly-wind around you so’s the memories are just floatin’ through rather than hoverin’ like; that’s when you get in trouble with them, when they hover. So here I stand lettin’ my mind skim over the folks and places I’ve known like a good ol’ toss of the skippin’ stone on Theresa’s Pond on a summer’s day.
Nah, I ain’t lookin’ to remember for anyone in particular; I just think this here spot is special place. It was on this very spot that I met my first love, Ella-Jean Harlow – see that yella lookin’ house at the far end there? That was and still is her home; her mamma and pappy died a few years back, Ella-Jean goes to the city for a few months at a time but she always finds her way back here for a spell or two before leavin’ again. We were just tryin’ to figure out our sowin’ the wild oats thing when she and her folks moved to town. Guess she was tryin’ to muster her courage up to meet the town from up here when I came up here to see who was a standin’ up on my spot.
Ella-Jean had a classic beauty to her; long straight brown hair - Her bangs were a bit long on her forehead according to Amber-Lynn, but to me it looked like a halo over top dark rich hazel eyes that seemed a touch large for her round-ish face, but it seemed right with her big ol’ full lips. Lord Almighty, it was like lookin’ up at Heaven though she stood some four inches shorter than my five foot and a half-ness! I was a dog in the butcher shop, I ain’t ashamed to say, just lookin’ at her tryin’ to fit herself into some over-alls and a flannel shirt that was a little small on her, made me notice things poppin’ about that I never even thought to look at with the other three girls in town. I surprised myself by askin’ her to go with me to the county fair that next day. She surprised herself, I think, when she said yes. I suppose that I was a might misleadin’ when I said that I wasn’t up here for anyone in particular, now wasn’t I?
I was more nervous than a mouse walkin’ over top an owl’s burrow the day of the county fair; I couldn’t stop my hands from sweatin’, my bladder felt like it was gonna to burst though I knew it was empty and I had a build up of gas that could run a bus from Californee to New Yawk . Ella-Jean looked so pretty; she wore a yellow sun dress and since it had rained the night before had spray painted her rubber boots to match her dress. We met at the entrance to the fair and I bet that she thought that I was just loco the way I talked so loud – I was tryin’ to cover up the little pops and cracks that were escaping from my butt cheeks with almost every step I took. I felt bad for her, all lookin’ around with her nose a curled for where the livestock stall were and commentin’ on the fact that she sure wished the wind was blowin’ up wind from them stalls. I bet she thought that I was a shy one, what with my face red and all, but I wasn’t goin’ to admit to her that it was from the effort of clenching my butt cheeks. For the first while I thought I was hidin’ it pretty well, not bendin’ over, coughin’ loudly when I could feel a larger bubble pushin’ its way out.
About an hour into walkin’ around the fair, lookin’ at all the sights and such, avoidin’ the sittin’ down rides that I noticed that Ella-Jean had started pullin’ away from my side – givin’ some distance between the two of us though we started out damn near shoulder to shoulder. I could see her nose wrinklin’ almost permanently and a little redness creepin’ into her cheeks. I could have thought that it was that she was just interested in all the goin’s on. I could have thought that she was just doin’ the proper etiquette thing so that it didn’t look like we were a couple of rabbits waitin’ for the darkened corner of a hutch. What I thought though was it was me she has to escape. It got to the point where she was a good five feet away from me, I knew I had to concede that this wasn’t gonna to work out between Ella-Jean and me, to do the gentlemanly thing and free her of thinkin’ she had to stick this thing through. People were walkin’ around us as I put my hand on Ella-Jean’s shoulder.
“Look, Ella-Jean, I know that you ain’t enjoyin’ yourself,” I said to her, “So let’s just stop and you don’t have to pretend that you wanna be around me, alright?” It wasn’t relief that I saw in Ella-Jean’s eyes, but tears that started to well up.
“Oh, Antony-By, it’s not you,” Ella-Jean sniffled out, “It’s just that...” She turned her face away from me. I put other hand on her shoulder to pull her head back towards me. She fought it and asked that I didn’t do that.
“By why, Ella-Jean? If it ain’t me, then why you all over there?” I asked.
She quietly told me that she had a stomach condition that she was afraid that I knew about I wouldn’t like her no more! Lord to Betsy! I laughed and told her that it didn’t matter; I had been more worried that she hadn’t like me – no little stomach condition could stop me from likin’ her. To prove it to her, I gave her a great big bear hug.
Now I ain’t trying to huff myself up but I done been learned all official like – I’d seen the movin’ pictures of that there A bomb at Nags With Sake but sweet Jesus that plum looked like a lil’ ol’ minnow in a pond compared to what I saw shootin’ out of my patootie’s butt. I’ll never ferget the look in them folk’s eyes that day; one back hop in time and they’re all a smilin’ and all happy like then the coverin’ of their ears, their eyeballs lookin’ like they’re goin’ to burst outta their sockets just before droppin’ to their knees screamin’ that judgment on them had been pronounced – guilty. The one image that haunts my dreams the most though is little five year old, red headed and all freckled like pin cushion, Jimmy Jensen Jones. One minute he was just payin’ no mind to the world around him; all that mattered was that big ol’ triple scoop tiger ice cream waffle cone, and walkin’ straight into ground zero.
I picked little Jimmy up, his body was stiff as a two by four, all the hair had been done burned off of him, even his red thin eyebrows were nothin’ but a memory. His face was so red and raw that I thought that maybe he had done had the first few layers of skin ripped off. I can’t say for certain if he looked that way for true cuz I was looking through glistenin’ eyes on account that there was a lingerin’ air about him. As I cradled him in my arms lookin’ round for some medical attention, he coughed. I looked down into those lash-less eyes of his as he spoke though his voice was some burnt and hoarse. He limply pointed his finger at the Ella-Jean, who was holdin’ her hands over her face and a wailin’ as if it was her who got caught in the rectal crosshairs.
“She pooted, Antony-By,” Jimmy croaked softly, “She pooted.”
I gave little Jimmy a brave smile and agreed with, “Yep, she done pooted but good.”
For a while Ella-Jean and I were tight, but like all firsts, they sort of lost their appeal in their simplicity and we sort of moved on our separate ways. Truth was as much as I tried to ignore it, after the county fair and my acceptance of Ella-Jean’s condition, she was a might, how can I say it, loose with it. I managed to overlook the incident at the pre-prom bonfire where four of our classmates standing on the opposite side of the fire from us ended up with first degree burns, but being only sixteen I wanted to go places and with Ella-Jean that meant not only payin’ for dinner but replacin’ the shattered shitters every where we went; I just couldn’t afford her. She’s done alright for herself though; she’s the only all natural paint-peeler in the country and two years ago she went down to that place in the desert and set a new land speed record on an unicycle by strappin’ a pylon to her fanny.
Yeah, I suppose it does sound like I’m sorta still sweet on Ella-Jean, don’t it? So why am I up here when she’s down there? Well stranger, last night was the chilli eatin’ contest and she won; just bein’ up wind ain’t gonna be enough to save myself otherwise....