THEY SURE MAKE GOOD POTATOES AT THE MAYHILL.

Posted: October 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
THEY SURE MAKE GOOD POTATOES AT THE MAYHILL. This story is part of the DUCKWEED cycle of stories.

It’s 1986 and they sure make good potatoes at the Mayhill. But Dalton has no idea what year it is.

“Yeah, the secret is to cook ‘em with real butter. Not deep fried, but fried in a pan, just the right heat. That way the butter don’t burn up and you ken cook more of ‘em for the next customer. Just keep addin’ butter. Yep. They sure—”

“Make good potatoes at the Mayhill,” I mouth the words to the ceiling as he speaks them.

It’s 1986 and two weeks to go until I walk out, a free man.

Dalton is down there in the lower bunk, droning on. There’s something comforting about knowing what comes next. But then Dalton says, “I ‘spect you’ll get some them potatoes I been tellin’ you ‘bout when you walk free, Chuck.”

My heart skips a beat and my throat goes dry.

In two years John Wayne Delbert Dalton had not parted company with his spiel about the twins and the Mayhill potatoes, about killing Officer Dan Royal with his own sidearm. Or about his sleep in the cow pasture and his dream of the mountain lady with no clothes on. Dalton is like a grasshopper with a missing hind leg that can only hop in a figure eight. He’d never, to my knowledge, spoken my first name. Dalton is a might soft in the old bean.

It gets me to thinking about freedom. About what I might do with my life. In two weeks my time is considered served.

***

Some people have to live in the city with all the noise and the crowds and the constant this and that. Others prefer the lonely stretches where it’s not people per acre but sections of land to the person. I suppose I’m somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem being around my fellow man. But suddenly there is a whole world out beyond the prison yard and the wall with its razor wire and the peckerwoods up in the pickets, watching. Always watching.

A world waits for Charles Englewood Lyman, after parole.

A bus ticket is what they give you. A new suit of clothes and a bus ticket anywhere.

Anywhere.

***

When I close my eyes I dream. Sometimes it’s the dream and sometimes it’s Dalton’s voice. Most often it’s both.

That Officer Dan Royal, I tell you. He’s a mean sonuvabith. He goes outta his way to screw a fellah up but good. I sure was tired of him pushin’ me. Always pushin’ me. So one day he stops me at the corner of Signal Hill and Persimmon. It was a hot day and you could see the heat waves comin’ up off the road like you was lookin’ inside one of those heaters with the white bricks that lean backwards that get so hot they glow. It’s so hot the grasshoppers are too lazy to play a tune on their hind legs, and it ain’t even two in the afternoon yet. Officer Royal flips on those red and blue lights behind me and bumps that sy-reen he’s got and it goes “Bew! Bew! Bewwp!” and I pulls over almost into the bar ditch. I’s hoppin’ mad, I mean to tell you, but Officer Royal, he’s got this shit-eatin’ grin when he gets out and he comes over to me and says, ‘Dalton, now you know they done upended your driver’s license and you ain’t ‘sposed to be drivin’.’ But me, I plays it straight only I’m ready to kill the sonuvabitch only he don’t know it and I don’t let on none. So I just nods my head and gets out with a big smile and scratches my head like I’m tryin’ to figure out what he’s sayin’. I gets out slow and easy like and I grabs him. Boy, let me tell you that smile of his turns into somethin’ else. I slams him against the back door of my uncle’s 1955 Chevrolet and I pulls that hog leg from his gun belt and sticks the damn thing into his gizzard and I pulls the trigger. It goes off loud, too. BAH-LAM! But there’s this other sound comes right after it, and it’s like what it sounds like when I’m sloppin’ the hogs and I gots this big bucket of slop and I tosses it down the length of the hog trough. It makes a right nice sound, which was what it sounded like in a whisper right after that big bah-lam. Yep. Officer Dan Royal. You know, they sure make good potatoes at the Mayhill…

In the dream I hear the gut-killing sounds and see Royal slump down onto the burning road. His dying skin cooks with the heat. His heart beats its last and he looks up at Dalton with eyes glazing over in shock. I can see Dalton’s eyes. I see his eyes and I wonder about freedom and death, and try to work out how the two are distant cousins.

…and the mountain woman is comin’ down through the pines. Of course I’m dreamin’, but it’s as real as seein’ a bowlegged man at a square dance. The mountain woman, she don’t wear a stitch of clothes. Her skin is fine and white like fresh cream from the cow’s nipple. Her body floats over the grass and her toes barely touch the bluebonnets and the Indian Paintbrushes, but her face is all ugly, and it seems like to me she wants me to make like I can’t see her and if I don’t she’ll disappear. That’s what I needs to get me. I needs to get me a mountain woman with a face what’s uglier than sin so’s no other man will want her, but hidden away just for me is all the pretty that a whole world of men would kill for. You knows what I mean ‘bout a mountain woman, now don’tcha? Sure you do.

———

More later, I suppose. Ciao. -gw

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