A Swear and A Curse

On the night before Thanksgiving, Jim Bob stopped in at JD’s to meet up with Ricky and Gizzard Thomas. Nothing unusual, the three men gathered at the bar on most nights after fishing or working or doing much of nothing. But just like their town, and their country for that matter, the old watering hole was a far cry from the good old days. And, just like the country, hardly recognizable to him and his kind.

The trio often griped and moaned about renovations in their beloved bar. The deer heads had been removed, the wood paneling stripped to the brick. Those old billiard lamps had been ripped out and replaced with shiny modern industrial fixtures. Not to mention the drinks, which, like everything else, had become just a bit too colorful for old Jim Bob’s taste.

Just walking in that night gave old Jim Bob’s nose a twitch, as JD’s was packed with the holiday crowd coming out to make merry with friends and family.  He sneered at the group occupying his regular table, all gelled up and fresh faced and smirking with arrogance.  Upon hearing a familiar call, Jim Bob found Ricky and Gizzard Thomas waving him back to a booth near the pool table.

The three locals groveled through greetings, the conversation stiff and careful until the right combination of liquor found their bloodstreams. On the third round Jim Bob glanced around in disgust.

“Can’t have nothing these days,” he said, his tone funereal. Ricky and Gizzard nodded in agreement, the grunts and slurping being the only dialogue between the three as they thought back to better days. Ricky nodded towards a couple at the bar where, two girls, both with perfectly whitened smiles, leaned in close. Too close. They were happy and playful with launching, carefree laughs. But worst of all, they were confident.

Jim Bob turned away in disgust, although if he were being honest he’d snatch up a chance at either of them before they could say, “Oh I just love your filthy hat.”

“Never thought I’d see it, not here,” he groaned, then drained his glass.

But nothing should’ve surprised them. After all, they’d seen a black president get elected and even reelected. Now the big shot was doing whatever he wanted with the illegals and gay marriage. The whole country was in the shitter, on that much could agree. Ricky motioned for another round, taking out a cigarette before remembering the new policy.

The smoking rule sparked a discussion on government, then veered off towards sports, but there were so many blacks in the game that they couldn’t stomach it so the direction then hurled into religion and how society had shunned God. Thoroughly lubricated, the anger coursed through Jim Bob’s body, seeping from his as though noodled out of the blackened pores of his skin by the liquor and company. He hadn’t been to church in five years, but still, he was a God fearing man, unlike those terrorists. Damn ’em all.

The remarks at the table became less veiled and more vengeful. It wasn’t long before they were back to the two girls. Jim Bob sneered. What the bar needed was some David Allen Coe. Coe would take care of all of this real quick. So Jim Bob rose, righteous and wobbly as he shuffled towards the bar and leaned over the counter, his breaths were hot and wet with rancor and liquor.

“What do you need, JB?” Terrell said. Jim Bob leaned in. The bartender took a lot of flack, but when pressed Jim Bob knew whose side he was on.

“Change, for the juke box.”

“We’ve got a DJ tonight, JB.” Terrell said without looking up.

“A what?”

After a whisper, both girls burst into simultaneous laughter. When they touched noses, Jim Bob let out a head shaking sigh and then muttered something about wishing to God that things were different. Only he used a word that hit the bar like an anvil.

It wasn’t that nobody in that bar had used such language, but the bar was changing with the times. Terrell’s eyes went big before he dropped his head. Jim Bob felt like he wasn’t in on some big secret.

The girls looked him up and down, the white one with malice in her eyes but the black one with a deep, thoughtful stare. She wasn’t upset. Not even close. Instead she set down her drink and gave him a curious smile. Then said,  “Be careful what you wish for…”

A chill fell down Jim Bob’s his spine. Terrell waved his bar towel. Motioned to a bouncer, who graciously rolled his neck and smiled at the bartender for the opportunity to get physical. Jim Bob didn’t leave quietly, pointing at the girls as he was dragged through the door and yelling like Preston Brooks at a senate meeting. “That right there is everything wrong with this country. Right there.”

The girls waved and winked. Terrell gave them a drink on the house.

***

The next morning, Jim Bob woke up in his trailer with a cleaving headache. His hands smelled of Catfish and his tongue dry was as dry a desert. But blinking to life all of that all of that was forgotten.

His hands were small. Freakishly small like that of a baby. Worse still they were the wrong color. He tried to sit up and wipe clean his dark skin but he had little control over his limbs. He still felt like himself, regular old Jim Bob. In the  same room with the same hangover and the same faded confederate flag over his window. He tried to curse but could only manage a gurgle.

Jim Bob wobbled to the mirror only to find a black baby. And that wasn’t all. The horror show continued as the groggy redneck reached down, between his legs—where the unsubstantial basis of his fears derived.

It was a scream heard throughout the trailer park. Because as inexperienced as Jim Bob was with the opposite sex, he was more than qualified at recognizing his own equipment. All he could do was cry. Wail and scream, unable to articulate his worst nightmare: That somehow, overnight, Jim Bob had morphed into his three biggest fears. Black, female, and being that he still liked women—overwhelmingly gay.

And now she’d have her whole life to figure it out.

 

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