There had always been a sentence hanging within Mr. Ake Whitecotton, but it was never for him to transcribe. The long of this seems to have been proven amongst the thick groves of flies and soul bugs that permeate the backyards of certain Southeastern vicinities in the States. Sewn to the thought that he was a human worth more than the share delineated to him since his birth, his collapses in schooling, social senses, and his failed writing career, Whitecotton’s stare became the most of his written word, transfixed upon that tree in that yard, undisturbed. His ideas remained un-channeled, his conclusions ignored, and the wealth of his superfluous creativity had dried with his life amongst vines, curious possums, and the rising Kentucky grass. It was nature, he once spoke to his ex-companions, that only understood him, and it was society, he had continued, that would eventually have to share the burden of his intellectualism, which, according to he, towered so mightily above the sounds of voices of common men, or even the thoughts of the “so-called educated university stooges,” that he held to himself only because he had never met anyone who would understand his superior curse of genius.
But that was spoke before the Summer of ‘07, the year summer brought death, and Whitecotton’s presence burdened only a copse near the wooded privacy by the back alley of his yard.
In actualities, to say that Whitecotton’s ill fortunes began that summer would be untrue. Perhaps more honestly, his ill fortunes began their fall that summer. Lost luck had plagued him most of his life, as a matter of fact. When we was but nine years old, Whitecotton fell victim to temporomandibular joint dysfunction, for which the dentist and his round of specialist friends had no cure, nor any real solution, other than a breaking and a resetting of the jaw, a resolution both he and his father had decided to deny. Whitecotton had spent the end of his ninth and the beginning of his tenth year in a frozen frown, his jaws locked in place based on what the doctors claimed was simply “too much worry.” From that point, periods passed, some without the misfortunes, most with. The destruction of his first automobile, leaving him destitute without income set him back, he felt, years. Love was discovered, and marriage occurred, only to see it vanish through her infidelity and his ignorance of human relationships. Careers had eluded him endlessly, forcing him to careen through odd jobs and low wages, until he finally secured a small life sweeping floors and changing toilet rolls at a nearby comedy/variety club, as well as developing a depressing drinking pattern.
Yet, Whitecotton remained in friendly company with his peers, even as he saw them launch lives filled with travel and fulfillment. They surrounded themselves, foolishly, he concluded, with wives, property, securities, and overall attempts at coziness. He was still invited to their get-togethers (no longer parties in the traditional sense; that wasn’t conventional for people in their thirties and early forties) to watch them crudely fangle with their stereo systems and digital screens. They would drink and sit on back decks and tell stories of France, professional accomplishments, and overall achievements and perfection. They discussed and pondered sentimentalities concerning their loved ones and the supposed perfection of the adjustments they had made in their lives that allowed them to pursue all of the goals they had drank and sat and pondered on back decks a decade earlier. The journalists, artists, professors, cinematographers and psychologists usually sipped their single barrel malts and talked altered politics and unusual takes on regular occurrences in the world. And Whitecotton, stammering and ugly, simply mocked them and their savoir faire, his self-absorption forthcoming and his maturity and once polite mannerisms receding more than his hairline, and they all laughed, because they still loved him and accepted him as one of their own. Then they would abscond into the evening, bright faced with their brandy or bourbon, to their individual homes with their happiness and compassionate loved ones. And the host always knew, and was grateful and appreciative and glad, although maybe sometimes annoyed, but usually in a generously piteous veil, that Whitecotton would stay the evening, falling to slumber alone in the guest bedroom, or the couch in the great room, or on especially celebratory nights, in the backyard, ranting and cursing those around him in a vile aura.
It was one of these very get-togethers that Whitecotton did, in fact, attack his host and his host’s guests to a much more abandoned degree. The home was owned by one of Whitecotton’s former college roommates, and a man who had been his closest acquaintance throughout his middle and secondary school years. His name had been, for the most part of their journeyed friendship, Rags, although he now preferred to be called by his given name of Paul-Simon, a moniker Whitecotton wholeheartedly scorned. Despite the separate paths their lives had traveled, Rags Paul-Simon had always shown little but respect and appreciation for Whitecotton’s interests, experiences, and opinions. Unlike Whitecotton, Rags Paul-Simon had taken his higher education seriously, and had pursued a calling in journalism, ironing a life with a home, beautiful wife and the means to live expensively. He maintained his youthfulness assuredly, and had become a respected writer in his field, creating headlines nationwide with his exposes on national economic fronts, and nigh earning his employing newspaper a Pulitzer for his coverage of the scandals involved in the structural adjustment programs employed in the Horn of Africa by international financial institutions led by the nose of United States interests. Yet, his heart remained balanced, and he funneled his friendships toward the guests, including Whitecotton.
The get-together, a sentimental assembly filed with old friends and acquaintances, occurred near the middle of that summer, and yes, only a fine slip of time away from a certain rainstorm and the certain fleeing of an ill-tempered arachnid into the confines of a sock. Rags Paul-Simon has spared no capital in containing the festive occasion to the heartiest Southern barbeque: grilled steaks and vegetables, smoked pork, and even homemade macaroni salad. Rags Paul-Simon’s neighbors gritted enviously, resentful they were not invited next door, trapped in an evening of drifting laughter and the essence of a closed-gated bring and braai spiced with spareribs. And to compliment the gala, the host provided a crowning lot of liquors for his guests; each rum, bourbon, vodka and brew was the premium, and well, to the observant Ake Whitecotton, lavish and brashly cocky, however delicious they were, and however much he consumed of them, feeling no need to starve his lust for mental and spiritual removal.
The fest proceeded into the evening, and friends shared memories like shrapnel, cutting the flesh of Whitecotton’s hide as they poured their drinks and poured more of their hearts, eating the music and dancing to the feast. Whitecotton sat shrunk into the wooden corner of the backyard deck, sifting in the lights of the porch and the candles, sacrificing his time to make judgmental comments and inappropriate observations, occasionally. And he brooded as laughter at the past and a satisfaction with this day rose and fell, and rose again, in capacity, volume, and viscosity. Tales of college romances unrequited were admitted, sometimes embarrassingly concerning members of the present company, which wrought excitement between some and sad jealousy from others, and Whitecotton took minute dips into pleasure through the needling at those displeased, attempting to aggravate the situations. But, the evening would not be slanted. Stories of valiant little insanities of risky, and most often, inebriated and youthful adventures from those days of irresponsible childhood that had left the participants only six to ten years prior, were recounted with guffaw, and shuddered at agreeably as though such days are best left for the adolescents they once were, and Whitecotton squinted from behind several drinks too many and lauded them for giving into society’s expectations too quickly. And still they snickered ahead, cheerfully mindful of his bitter revisions of their lives.
“Oh, Whitecotton, you bunk,” a plump, round fellow named Brenting that Whitecotton had only held company with briefly in the past decade due to his friendship with Rags Paul-Simon. “You have always been such an old man. Never happy with anything,” and he laughed, hoping for the laughter to follow from his fellows.
Whitecotton’s ire had begun to up his own back, but he held himself coolly, slumped in the deck corner.
“The present is always an agitated state of mind,” he slurred.
“And, once again,” Brenting remarked with a raised glass of borrowed bourbon. “Always the beacon of good hope and cheer for us all. To Whitecotton, our flare through all of our blackish glooms and brunette undertakings.” And Brenting stole a look at Rags Paul-Simon, as though for approval. Rags Paul-Simon not only seemed taken by the stick at his friend, but rose with his own glass, and saluted. They all hurrahed and drank, Whitecotton’s disposition being another reason to consume their drinks as the night wore long.
“Brunette undertakings?” Rags Paul-Simon added, his girth and jolliness expanding with his stance and subsequent swigs. “I've never known Whitecotton to be caught with any brunette undertaking! And I was his roommate!”
And they all swam in their fun.
Whitecotton rose, his head sorry for its state. And he shook that head and simply stared at them. His eyes seemed tunneled, and the blood rushed to his pupils, causing spots that made it difficult to create a morbid glare to penetrate them, succeeding in only tipping his glass of rum and ice too many degrees to spill some down his shirt, and throwing them all a gaze that could only be read as muddled, and perhaps slightly constipated.
“You, Brenting,” Whitecotton’s sudden activation strangled the toasts and mirth directed at him. “You wouldn’ have even had friends, or relations with brunettes, or anything, if it hadn’ been for riding the droppings of your fearless leader, Mr. Paul-Simon there,” His voice had grown to a boom, a common overcompensation from bitter men delivering drunken soliloquies swathed in selfish intent. “So, here’s to Brenting,” And Whitecotton raised his glass alone. “May he realize he had no friends, or undertakings, but did only follow’d Rags like a little pup, and never realized how unknown, unneeded, and pointless his pointed little fat-head, on top of his useless fat body, and how he would have never found his life or career in this modern world without the favors, attention, and path handed to him by his good frien’, our modest and successful hos’, Paul-Simon.”
And Whitecotton tilted his head back, spilled more rum and ice water down his chin, alone in his thanksgiving.
The crowd had become silent. The dying charcoal still cracked spits of sentiment to Whitecotton’s growling cheer. As his head readjusted itself, awkwardly, he noticed the lack of ceremony. So, he pointed at Brenting, and humanity, to finish the unprepared and eloquent speech he had begun.
“I mean, did you ever work a day in your uninteresting life, or have you always just mopped up the remains of salt left behind by other foot soldiers? I ‘ave never seen someone without a reason to ‘nhabit the globe-”
“Ake!” Rags Paul-Simon interrupted. “What the devil are you doing? Please, look here, calm yourself down, have some water. We were just having a row with you, not attacking-”
“I’m just pointing out his pointlessness, ‘s all,” Whitecotton continued.
“Not at my get-together,” Rags Paul-Simon raised his voice. As the merriment began to show signs of singing a good-night, several of the revelers began to stir in the direction of their belongings. “Apologize.”
Whitecotton noticed the hesitancy of the carnival to participate in his unyielding show of grinding and verbalized callousness. He saw the unraveling of the jollity, and his nerves knew it was the result of his own joylessness, but were bent on securing his carousal of acerbic burden.
“Apologize?” He left his cornered post, facing Rags Paul-Simon. “I’m merely making the statement that you people claim to have progressed so far, so much, to have grown past into a knowledgeable adulthood, specking your touted lives with pats on your own backs and congrats and hurrahs-”
“Hosh!” He crumpled the work of words before they left Rags Paul-Simon’s mouth. Flies circled the porch lamp. “Yes, another night where Whitecotton’s the clown, the smudge in your fancies, all your pretty things tied in messes of stability and mistaken assertions of accomplishments. All your careers, doubled in moneyed successes and monumental credentials, drunk in fear of the facts that you’ve wasted your lives to gain social grace. Leaving alone all the desires to never be the sorts of wishful midlife wits that you’ve become, believing that you’ve lived and had and loved and seen and heard and experienced and suffered and stomached. Have any of you spent hours waiting for a bus in the winter? Have any of you greyed your hairs with jobs spent cleaning the properties of well-to-do’ers by collecting sticks from underneath their trees for hours on end? Have any of you, my well-learned friends, struggled a day without the knowledge that when you arrive home, there may not be a meal?”
The flies circled the porch lamp. One of the guests gnashed their teeth.
“And what have you done to live?” Brenting said. “What have you done that far surpasses our insufficient existences? What have you done?”
Whitecotton paused. Again, he realized that another evening had disintegrated into another painting of his self-absorbed soreness, his battled and mangled ego. Still, he felt vinegar remaining; enough to tilt and spill. So he sloshed his cup.
“You washed out brutes,” He responded to Brenting, a journalist, also, by trade. “If I so felt, I could write sentences you only desired could escape your pen. I’d actually apply thought , as well as that weary concept of creative might, that once sought fashion, into a song of words, singing from the page with more fusion of sin and love than your mired readers would understand. I would re-purify the language, meld the arts and the trees into tresses that curled and fell onto the shoulders of common and uncommon men, singeing the indoor soul and selling the outward mind, simultaneously. I would expound on the ions of pain in the planet, and paw the human life of its devils and its dogs, and Create. And I wouldn’t need an editor, or a handsome pay, or a beautiful and supportive and loving wife, or a friend to clap my back! Only the angels and nature would comprehend the porous stature of my hand; not humans, they already fail to grasp things as they are as it is. Only trees would read my writing, and see the existence of soul that can come from a terra mind. This curse of this pent ingenuity, and seeing the garb that others wear as the talent in the written word, dries me and burdens my existence. No one understands this mind, only the trees, the scrubs, the earthworms, the bush, the bricks, the dirt, the yard!”
A keen breeze sniffed through the jealous self-interest that poised Whitecotton’s verbal rotes, and Brenting the journalist split the silence.
“So, Whitecotton,” He paused in an aching and qualified silence. “Why show the brunt of your unhappiness in occupations to us, with accusations and lashings, and not pursue your wits, and be generous with this genius?”
More spills, down to Whitecotton’s toes. “What, for your amusement? How can one work in this environment? Among such wasted minutes as these. I could deliver novels and pages and essays and literal wonders, but how can one be expected to do so when the only outlets are smeared in the tar of rats like yourself? Am I to sentence myself to bland outpourings in a ragged newspaper? The noises of this city, of this society, are but blunders and reinforcements of idiocy. You cannot expect creation after a small day of work at a small job eating small portions of rice in a small cold house on a street of lunatics, nor to garner inspirations when you see your wasted acquaintances beguiled in such worship of immaterial slop, pardoning themselves with the excuse of age as the mediating factor to which accomplishments should be measured. You force your work for pay and immediate satisfactions, and as a result, I witness it as typed deficits. I, meanwhile, shoulder the weight of literature as it was meant to be, and will compose it when it should be composed. I do not, and will not, set down truths without the correct environment, and will not ignore the need for postponement to simply garner a delicious mast to proudly display to my dunce wife and drunk friends at a useless backyard barbecue in the middle of the evening.”
He sloshed his crashing liquor.
Whitecotton’s last words became a mumble. Most of the patrons, their hearts aching for Whitecotton, and their minds aching from his speeches, had vanished. Brenting, his coat in hand and his eyes coarse, turned his back.
“Dearest Whitecotton, it’s refreshing to see you have adjusted so well to the sincere ignorance of the rest of us. To see your consciousness of your ingenuity gripped and viced in such a humble style.” Rags Paul-Simon said. “Then go forth, and do it. But not here. Ever again. Go write to your yard, and live your still life.”
Thunder had begun.