Let’s bring this regional gothic thing back to its roots, the ones that run deep through gray-green swamps and the blackbelt and clay as red as blood …
You return to the old Baptist church for Easter service, feeling a little guilty for staying away so long. But you are greeted warmly by the church-goers and invited to share a pew. Gruff old men shake you hand with fingers curled and knotted like oak branches and soft old ladies hug your neck and half smother you in affection and thick perfume. Everyone inquires about you, your family, and the various details of your lives with honest familiarity. You have never seen any of these people before in your life.
“I Hunt Black-and-Tans” reads the bumper sticker of the mud-streaked pickup. It’s jacked up too high for you to see into the bed, but you’re pretty sure that not all of the reddish stains leaking out from under the tailgate are clay. You bring the dogs inside that night.
The schools are closed. Weather alerts interrupt every radio and television broadcast. The governor had declared a state of emergency. Standing on the back porch, you can hear the tornado sirens in town, eerily faint in the distance. The sky above is a beautiful, cloudless blue and the breeze smells of honeysuckle.
Uncle Earl’s death is a shock. He was old, sure, the eldest of twelve siblings, but still hale and spry. He was fond of telling folks about how he’d only ever had to go to the hospital twice in his life – once when he had pneumonia as a child and then to get pins put in his knee back in eighty-six, after Larry’s bull knocked him down. Unlike many of Uncle Earl’s stories, you know that this is true because Aunt Bea and Uncle Mike and even Momma can vouch for it. Aunt May, the unexpected widow, seems to have wilted from the shock like a tomato vine in the heat. She tries in vain to make the dinner after the funeral seem like any other lively family gathering. She even cooks her signature roast, though the kitchen and the laundry room and parts of the front bedroom are overflowing with dishes from friends and neighbors. “She’s coping in her own way,” says Aunt Bea in an undertone. You nod solemnly just as you bite down on a piece of gristle. Something clacks against your teeth when you spit it out and you discretely fold your napkin to hide the tiny screw.
The subdivisions encroach a little further each day, full of yuppies and yankees. “Worse than kudzu,” you mutter, with a disdainful eye on the new paved roads and neat plastic fences. “Maybe we’ll have a good frost this year.”
Granny complains that the rooster crows at night. You’ve never heard him do it, maybe because you are a sound sleeper and your room is on the other side of the house, facing the garden. But she fusses so much that Grandpa finally tells her to just butcher the damn thing, it’s not like he’s laying any eggs, and Joe down the road has half a dozen roosters if she wants to get a different one. So she stews the offending bird for Sunday dinner and buries the head and the guts in the bean patch, pleased to have gotten some use out of him. She is also pleased to have gotten a decent night’s sleep, all bright-eyed and chipper at breakfast the next morning. You barely hear her through the lethargic haze in your mind. Hoarse, muffled crowing kept you awake all night.
Everyone knows when hurricane season starts. The National Weather Service awards tags on the lottery system and publishes the harvest restrictions and bag limits. Tropical storms may not be taken. Hunters under age sixteen must be accompanied by a qualified adult. No more than two named storms may be taken in one day. Night hunting is punishable by fines and jail time. Category fives and above may only be taken in group hunts consisting of three or more individuals over the age of sixteen. There are no restrictions on the harvest of tornadoes, including those spawned by hurricanes.
Out-of-towners passing through on the way to the beach like to laugh at the names. Fall fairs for rattlesnakes and peanuts. Monuments to boll weevils and coonhounds. Highschool mascots of twisters and gamecocks. The old folks nod silently with smiles that don’t reach their eyes. The strangers don’t understand the fickle powers that govern our lives. The old gods, forces of nature and wild critters, must be respected and placated and content to leave us alone. The younger powers, our allies, must be remembered and honored so they remain faithful. In the blight years, when the cotton withers in the dry summer and the hay rots in the wet fall, the old folks don’t smile at all when the strangers laugh. And if some of the travelers fail to reach their dingy motel on the gulf, well, it’s awfully crowded down there this time of year. They won’t be missed for a long while yet.
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. How many times have you heard that line, even said it yourself? You’ve read of dry desert heat and it sounds almost peaceful, like the clean cut of a sharp knife instead of this slow, choking bludgeoning.
They dug a new well when they got an electric pump way back before you were born. The old one got filled in. It left a scar in the yard just off the porch steps in the form of a shallow, circular depression. You used to like to play there as a kid because the grass was always a little bit thicker and greener. Sometimes there were mushrooms. But your daddy would fuss when he caught you there and drag you away with a hand tight on your arm. It was years before you noticed how everyone else avoided the place. The treads on the steps were more worn on the side furthest from it and whenever anybody was walking across the yard, even if they were in a hurry, they’d swing wide around so as not to step on it. Later still, a storm blew down the weather-vane. The next night, the loss of its creaks and groans makes it too quiet for you to sleep. As you lay there, a rhythmic metallic clanking reaches your straining ears. You’d always assumed that it was part of the weather-vane turning. Soothed by your familiar lullaby, you begin to drift off even as part of your mind worries over the sound like a dog gnawing a bone. It’s a little different all by itself but you’re sure you’ve heard it before. Just before sleep claims you, you recognize it from a visit to a friend’s grandparents’ farm, which is even older than yours. It’s the sound of somebody priming a pump.
The hand-lettered sign in the gas station window reads “fresh hot cat heads!” You know they mean biscuits the size of a cat’s head. You think they mean biscuits. You pray they mean biscuits. As you pull away, you try not to notice the delicate bones littering the ground around the dumpster out back.
So, @gunwildversuseverything was interested in getting some console-tan sticker designs for himself, and came to me for the design to put through Redbubble. We have some photos of the two designs he ordered from me here, featuring Xbone-tan classic and her sporty new Special Halo Edition outfits. And now that we’ve confirmed it all worked out all right, I figure if anyone else is interested they can get it from the store Gunwild set up:
If any other designs get done I’ll be sure to announce it here. I’ll also make a link to the store on the Tumblr page. I know I’ve gotten one anon that expressed interest in console-tan merch so maybe there’s a market out there! I guess we’ll find out. I hope you all enjoy it, though!