September 16, 2004

An Excerpt from "The Autobiography of a Rakish Wit"

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The Autobiography of A Rakish Wit of the State Trust Lands of Orleans (as told to the manager of our state trust lands)

My life is a history of woe, and I pray that future generations will learn from my disconsolate heart. I was born in 1911, or as the Orleans Telegram put it, “the Year of Ole Sordide Misfor-Tune.” The way my grandmother tells it, I came out of my mother’s womb smoking Georgian flue-cured tobaccos. It was the only time I ever got to meet my mother, and her cheerful attitude was much diminished by the fact that my enormous head was protruding from her bloody loins. A month later, she died of tuberculosis in a cotton field. I know because a soldier from The Great War came to my raft one day and related to me, by way of a rather long anecdote, that he had stolen the teeth out of a dead woman soon after the Third Battle of Ypres. He later realized the dead woman resembled the picture of the pretty girl I had placed in a tin locket round my neck. I informed him that the girl was my mother. He apologized and left me to my coon-trapping. Only later did I find out that he had gone on to my pa’s shack. He killed my father and stole all my possessions.

As a result of this disheartening news, I tried to bear my own children in my parents’ names in order to carry on their legacies. For an entire year, I set up enormous spikes on the banks of the Sabine River, with the hope that a wayward child would impale himself upon my trap, and I could take him home and father and nurse him. One day, an officer of the law saw me trying to extract infants from Honey Island swamp and put me in the town slammer. I was the only four-year-old in the Orleans City Jail. Eventually, a reverend who preached to Indians bought my emancipation. To punish me, he removed my fingers. It is difficult to describe the sensation you get when you see one of God’s messengers throwing all your fingers in a deep well. It is like watching Heaven die.