A passed-out freak show

I woke deep in the AM to Meg on the other line. 

‘Jackson, honey, how are you!’ 

‘It’s five in the morning.  Why’re you calling me?’   

‘It’s time to party, Love.  Meet us in room 539.’

‘It’s too early.’ 

‘Oh Jackson.  I know you want to come see me.’

She was right.

‘You’re entertaining Fuco,’ I said.  ‘I wouldn’t want to get in the way.’

‘He passed out,’ Meg said.  ‘Come over.’

I got dressed.  I knew I shouldn’t be doing this but I would have eaten shards of glass for that voice if it asked me to.

            Meg opened the door wearing a red t-shirt that read ‘Tamed’ in yellow letters and hung to mid-thigh.  As advertised, Fuco was in bed, the sheets tangled around his legs, his eyes welded shut.  I wondered who had tamed who. 

‘What happened to him?’

            ‘Oh, it’s such fun.  Fuco is an absinthian.  We’ve played all night.  Try some.’  Without waiting for me to respond she went to the bureau and poured emerald liquor into a tall shot glass.  She used a long-armed lighter to ignite the alcohol.

‘This doesn’t seem so smart,’ I said.

‘Oh Jackson don’t be so square.  We’ve been doing them this way all night.  Just have one and then you’ll want to have another.’

I knew she was right.  It would start with one shot. Never mind that it was four a.m.  Before long I’d be as tossed as Fuco, and then no doubt would come the awful-wonderful sex with the blond nymphomaniac and maybe Fuco would wake up somewhere along the line and who could say what would happen from there. 

As Meg hoisted the flaming shot with a pair of thongs I realized that this Biloxi hotel room was not so different from the debauched household I’d left back in California.  I recalled how Marty and Monty had pleaded to come with me on my journey.  And at that moment I had to ask myself just what the hell I thought I was doing in Biloxi.  The Calverts were in Poscataw, sixty miles northwest of the casino in the heart of kudzu country.  I had to leave Biloxi pronto. 

‘I don’t think so, Meg.’

‘Oh come on!’  Meg swung the flaming shot toward me and I had to step back to avoid the flame.

‘Watch it…’

‘Just try it, Jackson.  You should have seen what it did to Fuco.  He got all crazy.  It was brilliant.  He started to talk about the lions.  The lions in Africa.’  Meg was a little too far gone to provide many details so instead she waved the flaming shot.  ‘He said, Henceforth I will never be Fuco.  A girl didn’t know what to think.’ 

‘Sorry, Meg.  I’m leaving for Poscataw.  At the crack of dawn.’  I saw no point trying to negotiate with her.  I turned for the door.

‘But Jackson…’

I didn’t reply.  I couldn’t afford to procrastinate any further.  I’d been stalling for a week now, ever since arriving in Biloxi.  In truth I was terrified to enter Poscataw County.  Biloxi had been a perfect purgatory, the safe port between California and the home of my father’s family.

I began to pack as soon as I got back to the room.  I needed to act now while I had some momentum.  My father’s words echoed across the hotel room, scratchy as the telephone call that had brought the Sovereignty Commission to my attention.

‘I wanted you to hear it from me and not from some crank reporter like David Drysdale.  Best to hear it from the horse’s mouth, y’know?  There’s these files opening up down in Mississippi, anybody can take a look at them who wants to.  Pretty good chance some Calverts will be named.  You deserve to know the truth.’

I pressed him for details but I must have been too aggressive.  His will to disclose wilted under my questions and by the end of the conversation he was asking me to forget the whole conversation had ever happened.  But I couldn’t forget. 

‘Well, I just wanted you to know, in case you hear something, in the news or something, just wanted you to know not to worry about old Johnson Calvert.  All just a bunch of media hype baloney and mostly untrue anyway.’

And now I was going to Poscataw, with no idea of what I might find, hoping to ease the burning in my gut that had begun when I was a boy and been stoked from one encounter to the next as visitation slowly became an ugly word.  I didn’t know Johnson Calvert from Adam but somewhere in the recesses of the backwood Calvert hamlet I figured I could find the heart of the man I dreaded becoming.

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