By Johnny Hughes © 2010
Billy Sue Bailey, well-known local Tea Party leader, and prominent member of one of Lubbock's founding families was standing at the checkout counter in the upscale grocery store, Market Street.
Dewey Huffknot was standing right behind her. "I screwed your sister in high school," he said loudly, "In the backyard of y'all's historic home."
The teenager at the cash register was a frozen statute, holding a can of Del Monte Sweet Corn in mid-air. Dewey's naturally buggy eyes and perpetual half-grin gave him a surprised, innocent expression. His perfect flat top, and short-sleeved shirt with a plain, black, clip-on, bow tie shouted out, "Square!"
"What did you say to me?" Billy Sue turned sharply, with a rattle of bracelets and ear rings.
"I've seen you around many years. I've always wanted to say that to you. We dated a while. Where is Wild Jenny? I heard she is in Santa Fe. I hear you on talk radio all the time. Me and Jenny didn't go together long but she wanted to screw in the backyard one summer night I'll never forget."
Billy Sue Bailey still occupied the family home, one of the historic knock-offs of Tara, the plantation in Gone With the Wind, that face Texas Tech on 19th Street. Dewey always, always thought of Wild Jenny when he drove by there.
Billy Sue almost ran for the parking lot, abandoning her groceries and the startled clerk. She stood by her Lexus in the 100 degree heat calling her lawyer on her cell phone. Billy Sue was known far and wide for the walkouts and demonstrations at the annual county and state Republican Conventions. Neo-Nazi blogger, Don May, a.k.a. Dr. Doom, was her ideal ideologue. She labeled most everyone socialists on a few talk radio call ins each week. She liked to point out correctly that she was farther to the right than everyone else, everyone. Of the talk show hosts, Chad loved her. Wade tolerated her. Jim and Jeff went to a hard break or a Zogby Poll. At 38, she was a striking, even beautiful, brunette with the figure of a college girl.
Billy Sue hadn't spoken to her New Age, hippie, socialist sister in seventeen years, even though Jenny came to Lubbock often. In Santa Fe, Jenny was a crystal healer and channeled a five-hundred-year-old Navajo woman named Velvet Hands who was a massage therapist. Billy Sue didn't doubt for a minute Dewey's backyard humping memory.
Dewey's life was crashing down before his eyes. For sixteen years, he had been the Life Skills teacher at the Tornado Christian Military Academy, funded almost entirely by the late Asa Sheridan, Dewey's best friend, mentor and Bacardi Rum and Diet Coca-Cola partner every single Sunday afternoon. Dewey told folks, and it was very true, that Barack Obama killed Asa Sheridan, and therefore the Academy, which needed killing.
In the early days, Asa wanted the students to wear uniforms to celebrate the combat experience he had in World War Two, which was a lie since he entered the Army two years after the war ended. Asa was thrown out for bed wetting, sleep walking, and an outrageous, false charge of public masturbation stemming from a technicolor world-class wet dream he had in the barracks. The Academy parents resisted uniforms and most tuition increases.
Dewey had a wife, Ariel, the first four years he taught at the Academy. With him gone every Sunday, she began an affair with the young man who drove an ice cream truck through the neighborhood playing, "Pop Goes the Weasel" over and over. When Ariel changed Dewey's pet name from Cuddles to Caliban, he should have known the jig was up. Ariel and the ice cream man moved to Longview, Texas and opened a wildly successful Chuckie Cheese franchise. Any time Dewey would see an ice cream truck or hear any of their songs, he'd cry.
The Academy students were a joke all over town because they all marched for one class period a day outside if the temperature were above 25 degrees and the wind was below 90 miles per hour. Kids tagged them the "Tornado Marchers." The Academy, for seventh to ninth graders, was down to 164 students even though they hosted the annual Easter egg hunt for "home skooled" students hoping to meet some other right-wing white folks avoiding the socialist, government-run schools and minorities. The did have five old non-operative M-1 rifles and some students developed drill team skills twirling them around. Dewey took them over to Asa's house for delivered pizza, and they got drunk and watched them left face and right face around the yard. Dewey didn't really like rum and coke and would never have ordered it in a bar. However, he had lied to Asa on that first afternoon and it became their personal tradition.
In the early days, Asa and Dewey watched football with the rum and cokes, but since Obama's election, Asa, 81 when Obama finally killed him, left the television tuned to Fox News 24 hours a day, even when he slept. When Bill O'Reilly was on, Asa would stand very close to the set, militarily erect, almost as if at attention, but more like a trance. Asa had ordered O'Reilly's book for all the Academy parents, whether they could read or not. When Obama was elected, Asa was the model of health, and had five million dollars he had inherited from his father's lumber yard chain. He promised each Sunday that the Academy would be taken care of by the mysterious and generous will he spoke of often as a sick, old man's con. About three quarters way down the rum bottle, he'd let it slip that Dewey would get "a nephew's share" in his will.
Actually, telemarketers in Las Vegas who had "proof" that Obama was a foreign-born Muslim and Manchurian Candidate Muslim plant beat Asa out of most of his fortune, and he gave the rest to Sarah Palin. He had a series of strokes starting with Obama's election and became most profane at cursing the TV. Dewey thought it was Alzheimer's. Asa was the maddest man he had ever seen. He was popping Lipitor and Atenol like popcorn. Fox News was helping him secure some eye-popping blood pressure numbers.
When Dewey got home that afternoon, Todd, a lawyer and his younger brother, called with a "deal." He had to stay away from Billy Sue, not mention their family and get counseling or she would file stalking charges for holding her up to public ridicule. Billie Sue had also told Ronda Eloyd, the principal of the Academy, who couldn't make payroll anyway. Dewey protested that he really did screw Billy Sue's sister and that he was just telling the truth.
As a sideline, Dewey spoke in small high school assemblies on Life Skills which was basically an anti-sex lecture. He'd started out with twenty small town high schools a year, but most didn't invite him to return. Dewey, with the same flat top he'd had in high school, would sit in the middle of the stage at a table with his yellowed, veteran index cards and warn the teenage girls that boys will tell any lie, do anything to touch certain spots. He'd talk about hands outside clothes, hands that would unfasten bras, hands and the dangers of drive-ins and parking. He'd tell of a boy driving a girl out in the country and saying, "If you are not here after what I am here after, you will be here after I am gone."
He'd say that every boy, every single boy, will go into that locker room and tell that you went all the way whether you did or not if you let him touch certain spots. If he feels of your breast, he tells. Boys hated him as a gender traitor. When Dewey repeated his signature phrase, certain spots, he'd drag the words out and pause as he made eye contact with the prettiest girls. More than one high school counselor noticed that Dewey liked to hug the girls and that he held the hugs with the chubby ones way too long. Dewey was steadily hitting up on the young chicks in those small towns, often in the oil fields south of Midland.
Ronda asked for and received Dewey's resignation and a small retirement party was held at the Academy for the faculty. Ronda had heard talk that Dewey was a lecher with the girls in small towns. She had lost her own husband, an evangelist, when they were teaching at a Christian summer camp in New Mexico. Her husband had been caught giving two teenage girls LSD and malt liquor. They were thrown out that night. Their marriage did not survive the long, painful bus trip back to Texas.
For Dewey Huffknot's retirement party, they had a white cake from a bakery, some Fritos and bean dip, and this fire-engine red punch they served at every occasion. Ronda said some of the expected things, then Dewey began to speak.
"This place was founded by Asa Sheridan who promised me long-range funding one thousand times. Hey, we're all turning a page, huh? It's honesty time. When I'd go give those anti-sex lectures in the little towns, it would make me horny. I nailed me twelve of those young Texas beauties but none were underage, nothing illegal. I'd wait. One girl worked at the Dairy Queen in Crane. I started courting her when she was only fifteen. Single roses and Hallmark cards. I would drive 100 miles out of my way to see her."
It was the summing up of his years of teaching, and he chose his favorite memories.
The room began to empty rapidly. Ronda's fists had balled up and she couldn't open them, just like on that dreaded last bus ride with her ex-husband.
Dewey's brother agreed that he would attend a therapy group. This was someday-Doctor Nina Hemply's on-going group, last labeled anger management. Everybody there had made some deal to go there to keep from criminal charges being filed against them. Nina started out going over the rules for the new members, although Dewey was the only new member. Confidentially. Free expression. Cooperation. Share your feelings. No seeing other members outside the group.
Calvin, an outrageous gay dude with so many piercing's he couldn't pass though airport security, had stabbed his roommate in a dispute over a floral arrangement. He chimed in, "Why is that Big Nurse? What if I want to see Mr. Wilson or Jose for a beer or something?"
Nina went into this carny pitch about being a Rogerian explorer helping them map their untapped inner feelings.
Mr. Wilson's son had attempted to have him declared incompetent in order to control the worthless oil rights on the old family farm. He had traded away the cotton farm and kept the mineral interest in order to invest in exploration and 3-D Seismic surveys that indicated there was no oil. Mr. Wilson said it was the greatest hot weather for a record cotton crop after record rains. The price of cotton had nearly doubled in a year, the highest in twenty years. His family wouldn't harvest a single boll. Not one boll because of his idiot son. Mr. Wilson had fired both barrels of a shot gun over his son's head in his front yard when he came out to get his Lubbock Avalanche Journal one morning.
Nina was a large, tall woman, not fat, more like a big, muscled man. She ran the group with an iron hand and a soft heart. She was very, very good at what she did although few of the clients knew that. She warned Mr. Wilson that "graduation" from the group was based on her report to the District Attorney's office. It depended on progress in "owning and authenticating and using your anger."
Ernest Watkins and his wife were locked in a bitter child-custody battle. Neither he nor his wife wanted their black-clad, heavily tattooed, nail-polish sniffing, expert shoplifter, twin girls. He was the maddest man there.
There was also a wife abuser, a man who was abused by his wife, a hard-shell Baptist church youth minister, a parolee, an ambulance driver, and a Catholic priest, all men.
When Nina asked Dewey to reveal the source of his anger and how his anger brought him to the group, he said he didn't hear about anger until after he got there. Then he told the story of Billie Sue at the supermarket, and his confession at his retirement party. The other guys roared with laughter. Nina saw this as as cohesion building and a critical stage in the group developmental process. She was curious about the sex part. She left for the bathroom.
While she was gone, Mr. Wilson invited them all over to his house that very evening to grill steaks outside, drink beer, shoot pool, and break Nina's rules. All but Jose Alvarado accepted. He was on parole and a member of a lesser-known, out of favor, prison gang.
"I can't be hanging out with all you outlaws," he said. "I'd end up back in jail."
That first night, Dewey brought his old index cards with the famous quotations, and jokes from old Reader's Digests. Calvin immediately asked him about his twelve sexual conquests in the little towns. Mr. Wilson echoed that question. They liked to talk about sex and the group bonded, just as the absent Nina intended. There was Dewey, just as he was supposed to be, just as he felt called to be, up before a group talking about sex, only now, he could tell the truth, finally.
They continued to meet each week at Wilson's house, and even took up a collection for a turquoise and silver necklace for Nina. She cried. Life-long friendships were developing. Mr. Wilson funded a used CD and book store for he and Dewey to own together. It became a hangout for the group members who often came for coffee in the mornings. Dewey Huffknot had another rich mentor and another job, for awhile.
Johnny Hughes is the author of Texas Poker Wisdom.