Saturday, March 21, 2015


This story is not about Joseph ‘Goody’ Hawthorne. He wasn’t an exceptional person. He wasn’t well liked. About the only thing that could be said about Hawthorne, as a kid was that he had an unbridled curiosity and a mean streak a mile long.

This story is not about William Wilder. He was exceptional. Driven. Friendless, but by choice. His teachers fawned over his work ethic and inventiveness. Though they worried what the hell he might grow up to be.

Hawthorne came from a middle class home. His father worked at Bard’s Furniture factory and his mother was a waitress part time at Kramer’s Diner. He wasn’t unloved, just unnoticed. His parents spent most of their time at home half dozing in front of the TV while Hawthorne explored the woods that separated their neighborhood from Maupins City.

Wilder’s father was a busy man. A man people feared. On the outside the Wilder’s looked like a bunch of hillbillies. Their home was a two-story plantation style house that was as old as Maupins itself. It was nicknamed the Leaning Tower of Carter County. The vast yard was littered with broken down cars, rusted out farm equipment, and a bunch of mean guard dogs. Behind this white trash façade laid a nest of vipers. The Wilders were notorious in Carter County. They were old time moon shiners and grew marijuana. Back in the union days, they murdered strikebreakers and intimidated blacks and foreigners that the coal company tried to hire while the real miners were on strike. If there was a murder somewhere in the county, you could bet that William’s father Cecil and his brothers probably had a hand in it, but no one could ever pin anything on him.

Hawthorne would spend his evenings in the living room after dinner doing homework (or not) and then playing with his little green army men. Until he discovered girls, then he’d just stare blankly at the TV trying to hide his erection that’d pop up almost constantly. He never cared about what his parents were watching, but his interest was piqued when his parents had a rare squabble about what they were going to watch. His father insisted on watching the movie Helter Skelter, but his mother wanted no part of it. They both dug their heels in, but his father won and his mother went to bed. Hawthorne paid close attention to this movie, what was so special about it that made his parents actually talk to each?

Wilder didn’t care about TV either; he couldn’t care even if he wanted to. During school there could be no distractions from schoolwork. His father expected nothing less than straight A’s. William would be the last of the Wilders to have to get by with their fists or risk prison to make a buck. By God, that boy would go to Harvard and be a lawyer or something! So he didn’t see Helter Skelter, but he did read the book.

Both boys were enthralled with the wild tales of Charlie Manson and his ‘family’. For two disenfranchised kids with no friends in a dead end town with nothing to do, besides getting beat up by drunken soldiers or rednecks, Helter Skelter offered an attractive outsider identity that separated them from the rest of the chaff in high school.

Wilder and Hawthorne didn’t know each other, though they had both lived here all their lives. Had the Hawthornes known their son went to school with a Wilder they would have warned him to stay far, far away. Wilder’s father would have equally disapproved of his son hanging out with one of those typical pus bag American ass-wipes. Those shit heads with their asshole TVs and slave wage jobs, all red, white, and blue. Fuck them.

Wilder was wound up too tight for friendships and Hawthorne had nothing to say to anyone, but they found themselves sitting across from each other in the library. It was study hall during their junior year. At first Hawthorne was indignant about Wilder sitting down at his table, the little nerd, but as he unpacked his backpack Hawthorne became more interested in him. Besides a couple of school books, Wilder had a ragged copy of The Exorcist (Hawthorne loved the movie), a book on cults in America, and a book about Jack the Ripper.

“Have you seen Helter Skelter?”

Wilder looked up with a smirk at the head banger with the Manson hair and Freddy Krueger t-shirt.

That was twenty years ago and this story isn’t about them. Well, not just about them anyway.

(City Long Suffering; First Movement is available HERE)

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