Lunchtime Bullet for Clinton


I sit in my mother’s chair at our family dining table in America Junction, Alabama. The table is covered in pots and pans, the ones that throughout the years were used to prepare the food that would make our bodies: mine, my brother’s, and my parents’ although they’re not using theirs anymore. I plan to keep the cookware I can use and give the rest to charity. It’s what Mamma would have wanted.

I press my pen into the virgin white page praying for, as my friend reminded me to do, “inspiration, an intuitive thought, or decision.” I’ve been here often, in expectation. I’ve never (knock wood) have had writer’s block so it’s really more about my desire to write what I’m supposed to and not just to write. In my mind, The Creator takes hold of that pen which is connected to my heart by a golden thread and drags me around this whole big wide world and beyond. The lines made by the pen form a map by which I’m meant to guide myself through the precarious emotional mine field that is my life. My fantasy is that if the map proves trustworthy, I can share it with others and their journey might be a little bit easier. Journeys are usually easier with a map.

I press the pen a little harder, listen a little more intently. I hear, “Go to your parents’ graves and pray.”

After I’ve grabbed a couple of sacred items, I speed down the highway toward the church where my family attended services all the years I was growing up. That’s where the cemetery is and that’s where I’ve been instructed to pray today.

I love riding down the road in my big four-wheel-drive pickup truck. It’s got four doors and six windows; the windshield is the only one that doesn’t roll down. So with five windows  open, nothing separates me from the steamy Alabama July and the wind whips in to  air out my soul and carry my worries away into the pines. The hum of my mud tires on the pavement dictates the key for every old song I’ll belt out a cappella on the short drive to Hatt Church of Christ. I bounce along like a boat on choppy waters and as if I’m just along for the ride.  I hang on to the steering wheel and let the truck do the driving, a passenger in the driver’s seat. After all, I’ve got singing to do.

When I arrive at the church house I see there is a man there mowing the grass in and around the cemetery. I had imagined I’d be alone. What will he think of my playing my drum and singing? What will he assume when I smoke my chununpa? I remind myself that all is perfect. My daddy used his riding lawn mower as a form of meditation and that sound, together with the smell of freshly cut grass, always reminds me of him. Not to mention the young gardener is beautiful so it reminds me that when I pray to God for a husband not to forget to ask God to make him a handsome one.

I pray.

After giving the young man my phone number and telling him the next time he cuts the grass to let me know and I’ll come help (helping helps me hurt less), I drive a quarter-mile to Hatt Hill Barbecue for a little early lunch.

This is a place Mom and I used to come together. It mostly caters to men who work at Gorgas Steam Plant and other blue-collar workers from around the area. It’s every thing you imagine when you think about a rural Alabama barbecue joint. There are lots of reflector vests and lots of dirty hands. Honest hard work and the evidence of it never repulsed me, even at the lunch table. The room smells of barbecue, men, and labor.

I sit at mine and Mom’s booth, as I always do on my side and leave hers painfully empty. I say to myself, “She’s in me, not with me.” Sometimes that works; sometimes it leaves me still lonely. The lady brings me my barbecue sandwich with slaw and fries and I bow my head and pray for a long time. I have a lot to pray about these days, most of it gratitude for what I do have. But also for help.

If a TV’s on in any business around here, it’s tuned to FOX news. Hillary Clinton is on, giving a speech from Illinois. FOX has begrudgingly aired it so that Karl Rove can come on right after and explain to the Alapublicans how she too means to take their guns. I wonder what Judy Key would think to see a woman have a real shot at the White House given all my mother did, as a school teacher for thirty years, to help women’s rights crawl forward in this change-resistant coal mining county.

I’m drawn out of my consternation when the man at the next table points at Clinton with the pommel of his steak knife and says, just loud enough for every man sitting in this small dining room can hear, “You know, the prettiest picture I’d ever see is if somebody just put a bullet in her forehead right now.” Every shoulder in the room, save two, bounce up in down in quiet laughter, nods of agreement all around. I feel as though someone has placed a hot, wet towel over my head with anvils attached to the corners.

I want to launch into a impassioned plea; I want to talk with them about how good, honest, working folk around here are duped into, as Joe Bageant so eloquently but it in his book Deer Hunting With Jesus, “voting against their best interest.” I want to show them all how the man’s statement, with which they so obviously agree, lies in direct contrast to what their tattered bibles teach. I want to do or say something that will make these men change their minds. I got nothing. My melancholy transforms into deep sadness. The best I can come up with in the moment is, “Naw, I reckon we’ve seen enough of shooting in this country here lately.”

Most of the men bring their faces closer to plates as if they expect this lunchtime disagreement might turn into a barroom brawl. The large man who wants to see Hillary dead just looks over his shoulder towards me, snarling, wondering who in the hell had the nerve to contradict him.

People down here fetishize military service. Today, that’s all I have in way of a hole card. “I went to Iraq,” I say so all can hear. “I’ve seen where violence leads.” “Well I have a son in the Army!” he responds. One of the other men at his table looks at him, disappointed in his weak response.

As I finish my lunch, they continue to vomit out Rovian sound-bites, but lowered in volume so that I can’t really hear. They’re not going to be told they can’t hate over their lunch, even by a Marine. I do catch the word “immigrant” and “they oughta send ’em all home!” at which point the Mexican man in the booth next to me decides he’s through with his half-eaten lunch. I look down at what’s left of my fries and decide they no longer look very appetizing either.

Today, I’ve prayed over my journal. And at my parents’ graves. I prayed over my lunch but somehow feel moved to utter just one more:

“God help ’em. ’cause apparently I can’t.”





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