CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - And, Lo, There Came Low-Riders to Big Puf Baring Arms

By Jack Cawthon 12/2004
I finally found Jelly Belly Willie living in a remote section of Clay County, which is a pretty broad description. Willie had been a member of the Erbacon Road Kills, a notorious motorcycle gang which had rampaged throughout central West Virginia. I had once written a story about Willie and had gained the admiration and respect of the Road Kills, who had invited me to become a member.

However, once it was discovered that I needed training wheels for my Harley, the club, for some unexplained reason, withdrew the invitation.

I found Willie living in what the media might term a "modest" house, if "modest" is meant to merely hide nakedness in the afternoon. The tarpaper was flapping in the wind and there were several holes in the roof. In the yard were three vehicles of various makes up on blocks. I could see a wealth of parts in their remains, something non-residents wouldn't prize from lack of knowledge. I considered making an offer for a pre-owned carb for my Dakota pickup, but first things first.

To my surprise, Willie was living with Sprocket Chain Sally, a biker babe who had taken a liking to me, but which I strongly repulsed in my quest for a non-biased story, keeping within my strong ethical approach to journalism.

Willie and Sally seemed a little let down when they found that I wasn't after another story, as my reputation as a major online column writer had penetrated even into remote regions of the state, and perhaps nation. But, like a large number of my would-be readers, I noticed that they didn't have a computer. The likelihood of an upgrade during my lifetime was rather slim, I supposed, and I could do little but curse the darkness.

I had a far greater purpose for a visit. I hoped to borrow Willie's motorcycle leathers, which are worn by dedicated cyclists for protection against loss of control of both their bikes and themselves. Willie said he would gladly lend me his outfit, but he stressed that it was pretty much degraded. I had figured as much, knowing Willie's reputation, but he meant degraded of a different sort.

When he brought it out, shaking out various insects and a couple of field mice, I noticed the holes showing through. The jacket had slits and a neat round hole in one armpit.

Willie explained that the slits were knife punctures and that the round hole was caused by a bullet. He asked why I wished to borrow the garb, as he noted that I had always needed four wheels and a spare for stability. If I hadn't known better, I would have taken that as an insult.

I told him that I planned to attend a New Year's celebration in Big Puf, and that I felt the leather outfit might offer some protection should the crowd become overly exuberant. At the mention of Big Puf, Willie turned pale, fell to the floor, and began to twitch in some sort of seizure, which those of us less versed in medicine might call a "fit." Sally came running in and shoved a broomstick between his teeth, while at the same time cussing me in words that she could only have learned on the road, a rather rough road at that.

"Don't ever say that again around Willie!" she screamed. "What did I say? What did I say?" I could only stammer. "Big Puf, you idiot!" she replied.

Gradually, Willie came out of his blankness, as much as possible after years of chemical ingestion, and I began to hear the rest of the story. Years ago, the Road Kills were having fun roaring through little towns and villages, when someone suggested they enter Big Puf. Christmas had just passed, which is an ominous time in Big Puf, unknown to the Road Kills, however, when peace and goodwill towards men, and if you are a feminist, women, becomes revenge and a piece of each other.

Big Puf grows extremely anxious around the Christmas season. Some old timers claim that is the stress of Jimmy Stewart's "It's a Wonderful Life" being played over and over, when everyone in the Tri-Holler region knows that life isn't so wonderful when a banker like Jimmy doesn't live nearby to cancel out some of the hard-hearted bankers who do and who haven't learned proper respect for angels without collateral.

When the Road Kills rode into town they found the citizens riding shotguns, as well as rifles. It all had begun with the annual Christmas pageant, held at the Holy Ratters church. A six-months-old Pratlow baby, who was playing the baby Jesus, began screaming backstage. Someone yelled "Jesus Christ!" and the stage crew thinking it was a cue, stuck the baby into Sister Hannah's arms. She was playing the Virgin Mary, a rather poor type casting, and she swung onto stage wearing a mini-skirt, which may have been a little drafty, considering that the shepherds wore long robes. The crowd roared approval. Well, about half, comprising men, did.

Some woman yelled "Hussy!" and some man told her to shut up. He was immediately floored, either by one sex or the other, and the fight was on. Old wounds were opened between the Pratlows and the Hanshaws, and not only the Star of Bethlehem, but stars of various sorts, were seen by many of the participants.

Amid the melee, which had grown larger over two or three days, the Road Kills fatefully rode into town. Suddenly, they were in the midst of a pitched battle, with many pitched objects coming their way. After all was said and most were done in, this proved to be the last ride for them. They had had enough violence and most settled down to become respected citizens, although two or three became lawyers.

Willie was suffering from "post stress hormones," Sally said, and whenever he heard "Big Puf" he had a spell. I apologized for my insensitivity and told them I would pass up the season of peace and goodwill. Maybe I would plan something for Groundhog Day.