In an unincorporated shit-area of Polk County,
Florida, on Tarpon Rd, there was a family
that lived in a school bus. Fruit pickers.
Mom, dad, a daughter, and four burr-headed boys,
Preternaturally mean, ranging in age from four
to sixteen, who’d contracted lice so many times
their folks just kept their heads shaved.
They scared me no end. All four of them shared
a pieced-together bicycle with no seat
and got in epic all-day-long dustups with
each other. One time the ten-year-old tried me.
I declined his challenge and was called variations
of “pussy” for a whole week until I caught him
unawares and kicked him off his fucked-up bike.
It was such the underhanded act that I’d won
his respect and was no longer referred to as “pussy”
or “pussyboy,” was no longer referred to at all.
The older boy, whose name was Herschel, but
preferred Junior, was inordinately muscular
and ever bare-chested. I once watched Junior
taunt a full-grown Brangus bull, like a performer
in a circus sideshow. He kicked it in the head,
between the eyes. Took a sizeable tree branch
and stuck it up its ass. Rode it bareback, like a lousy,
unshod cowboy. The girl, who was fifteen, and
to me the creepiest one of all, approached pretty
but never crossed the threshold. Her name was
Beautrice, “Putrid Beautrice.” She would take
you into the woods behind their bus and do “whatever.”
My cousin, Terrance, told me that Beautrice and
Herschel had had relations and that the four-year-old
(Tadpole, they called him) was actually theirs.
I believed it. There, it seems now, was something
in his burgundy eyes that confirmed it, an inborn
shame, perhaps. Whatever it was, it smoldered in him
like a lump of coal, and already, at the age of four,
he was the meanest motherfucker around.
Steve Lambert (Gavin S. Lambert) was born in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 1974, and grew up in Central Florida. He now lives in Saint Augustine with his wife and daughter.