Sweet Home Mississippi (A Novel)

Sweet Home Mississippi

By Eddie J. Girdner

ISBN: 9781514822289 (July 2015)

Copyright Page

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Descent Into Hell

Chapter Two: Gentility

Chapter Three: The Plantation

Chapter Four: No Phone, No Pool, No Pets

Chapter Five: Saving America

Chapter Six: Marching Toward the Past

Chapter Seven: Getting Lucky

Chapter Eight: Making History

Chapter Nine: Hard Up

Chapter Ten: Sunset Limited

Chapter Eleven: California Nirvana

Chapter Twelve: California Zephyr

Chapter Thirteen: Dixiefication

Chapter Fourteen: Soakin and Pokin

Chapter Fifteen: Little Rock

Chapter Sixteen: Rules

Chapter Seventeen: Midnight in Punjab

Chapter Eighteen: Security

Chapter Nineteen: Freedom

Chapter Twenty: New York

Chapter Twenty-One: Memory Lane

Chapter Twenty-Two: Cowshit Blues

Chapter Twenty-Three: Delta Blues

Chapter Twenty-Four: Treason

Chapter Twenty-Five: Fall Poetry

Chapter Twenty-Six: Mississippi

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Ideology

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Socialism

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Marlene

Chapter Thirty: Afternoon

Chapter Thirty-One: Saving the South

Chapter Thirty-Two: Delta Death

Chapter Thirty-Three: Member of the Country Club

Chapter Thirty-Four: Political Scientist

Chapter Thirty-Five: Pinkertons

Chapter Thirty-Six: Stone Wall

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Whitewashing

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Boll Weevil

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Tall Ships

Chapter Forty: Getting Beat Up

Chapter Forty-One: Every Tom, Dick and Harry

Chapter Forty-Two: The Lady

Chapter Forty-Three: Going Home

Chapter Forty-Four: Memories

Chapter Forty-Five: Full Moon

Chapter Forty-Six: Chains

Chapter Forty-Seven: Christian Boy

Chapter Forty-Eight: Diamond Lake

Chapter Forty-Nine: Prickley Hall

Chapter Fifty: Ascent to Freedom

Chapter Fifty-One: America the Beautiful

Chapter One: Descent into Hell

Ted Grover peered through the windshield of his aging Volvo down the long straight road ahead. He had been driving the old car since six thirty in the morning and his eyes were growing somewhat weary as he neared the approach to the California desert. It was a long way to Weaselville, Mississippi, which he would reach on the fourth day of his trip and he dreaded the descent into the moist heat, the super steamed cauldron of the bug infested, chemically saturated, toxic Mississippi Delta. Meanwhile he would enjoy the cool, clear, mountain air for the next couple of days until the inevitable steam bath would overtake and drag him under. His lungs would begin to burn before he reached his destination. Better to travel than to arrive, the sage said. That’s no shit when it comes to Mississippi. Especially if the destination was the Delta.

The market solves everything. Sure, even if it put him in the grave, making a living. That would solve everything for him.

It would be his second year of University teaching, having done a one-year haul at the University of South Carolina. Given the market, a man took what he could get, grasping at every straw, and that was what had come his way, after pounding the pavement for teaching jobs since winding up his doctorate in California. It had taken two years to land that first full time job, although it was only a one year instructor position. Meanwhile, he pieced together an income working in the registrar’s office at the university, when there was a need, and teaching a one quarter course in Democratic Theory when the visiting instructor from back east fell ill and canceled out. Then the break came at the end of the summer. The phone rang in late afternoon and he was offered a one year job. The department in South Carolina had been left in the lurch when one of their staff decided to not return from a leave of absence, late in the summer. He was hired to fill the position, which was his first lucky break. While there was a couple of nibbles from Arizona and other schools, with an interview at a restaurant in LA, this was the only solid offer and he grabbed it straight away. It even put a little strut in his stride thinking he would have a real teaching position and he scrambled to get the courses together. His first real chance of being a professor.

It had been a good year in South Carolina, but not a fun one. He had lived in supreme austerity, neither a radio nor TV in his Spartan apartment and spending most of his time preparing lectures and reading exams. Horny as hell, but no time for chasing women. It was difficult, leaving the family in California, but he had no choice. During the year, the position opened as a tenure track job. But his views were too left-wing to land the position in the department in South Carolina and he predictably lost out to a right-winger. That son-of-a-bitch who was chairman of the selection committee had all those Republican Bush stickers plastered all over his door. Not a snow-ball’s chance in hell of getting in. During the year he had interviews at Ithaca College in upstate New York, and Ball State, but neither one panned out, even though the first place was full of left-wingers. For one reason or another he came up empty handed every fucking time.

Back in California for the summer, it was like a return to paradise. If he could only stay and there was a job. Nothing doing. The money was running out quickly and he found it difficult to make it through the summer, having split the modest income between two households during the previous year. Applying for unemployment pay, extras were being signed up for an HBO film being shot in Santa Barbara. He signed on and worked for four days. That was just petty cash. After that he wrote abstracts of academic articles for an abstracting company. It put some food on the table, bought a little gasoline.

But he was largely losing touch with the family. He suspected his marriage was going on the rocks. Not possible to keep it together being strung out this way.

At a rest stop just west of Needles, an oasis in the desert, he stopped to stretch his muscles. He needed a cup of coffee but that would have to wait until the next pit stop, another 40 miles. A van pulled up next to him full of Japanese tourists. They were loaded with cameras taking pictures of the desert flowers.

At McDonalds in Needles a bus load of Chinese arrived, crazy for American French fries. Back on the road, the only available radio stations had degenerated to country music and Christian proselytism. Pile on the guilt. Tell the sons of bitches that if they don’t have a job that it’s their own damned fault. God is punishing you. So send me some bucks and pray and wait for God to work the miracle. That seven times seven business. For every seven bucks you send me, God is going to give you seven times seven. What a racket. If that was the case, that guy on the radio would be sending his bucks off to a preacher instead of bending your ears for cash. He would better entertain himself with his thoughts.

On to Arizona, where the rest stops were hard to find and far between, he made Flagstaff by five. At Williams, he tried for a motel. At the first, two Indian girls were behind the counter. They told him fifty dollars for a single. Too much. The Gujaratis seemed to have a monopoly on the motels near the Grand Canyon and so he headed on to Winslow. Fewer tourists. By seven, he was in the Mayfair Motel, a crummy place also run by Patels, but not a bad deal for twenty bucks. Broken door, par for the course, but he would get by.

He flicked on the tube. At the Republican National Convention a former POW was making a speech. The bastards think they have the corner on patriotism, the flag, family, God and apple pie, he thought. He looked for another channel. No luck. Now Ronald Reagan was reading a speech and flubbed his line. “Facts are stupid things.” The blathering idiot meant to say “Facts are stubborn things,” but, no shit, facts are stupid things for Republicans, for all politicians, as far as that goes. It doesn’t take a fucking political scientist to know that. If they do know it. Most of them don’t have a clue, he thought, poisoning their minds with those shit-eating screeds he was forced to read in graduate school. Nelson Polsby, my ass. All that polling and polling, adding up all those lies that people told them and calling it political science. “Pohleeticle Sighuns,” as the southerner had said when he told him what he taught.

He tried to get the LA times at Needles, but the machine just stole his quarter and refused to open, so he missed the last chance for something to read. Not a big loss. Most of it was shit corporate lies anyhow.

Out early the next day, he made Gallup by ten in the morning for breakfast at McDonalds on the big strip. It was cheap. Cheap poison and a free pisser. That’s about all one could say. He recalled other times when he had stopped there with his family. Now he was forced to truck the long distance alone. Albuquerque by one. Gassing up at a dollar a gallon. Gas still dirt cheap by world standards, if one did not include the billions to the military and Halliburton it took to keep stealing the oil from the Arabs. Near Moriarty, hitting some heavy rain, he pulled into a truck stop for some rest. The rain looked heavy up ahead. Shit. Opening his brief case, the aroma of Indian incense filled the air, reminding him of California, Delhi bazaars, rickshaws, Punjab. He would rather be in a rickshaw heading for a cold Golden Eagle beer and some Punjabi chicken. He trucked on through spots of heavy rain.

He rested beneath the small pink stone shelters at a rest stop in Eastern New Mexico. The sky had mostly cleared, with white fleecy clouds, the dark rain clouds receding in the west. He broke out some Indian Jelabi sweets he had brought from California and some Indian hot mix. His mouth burned with hot pepper. He soothed it with a cold Budweiser. Better get wiser, get ready for standing in front of those dummies. By five he made Tucumcari for coffee and a salad at a Mickey D’s. Where else, on his fucking budget? He hated that shit, but slipped in and out. Do what you have to do. He was depressed by the southern accent he picked up from the local customers. One guy talking about his Holly Carburetor. “I just put me one a them there hollies six hundreds on there. The motherfucker hauls ass.” The spillover from Texas.

On toward Amarillo. “Foot-long hot dogs”. “Stukeys” His eyes were starting to get tired at seven, but he was still thirty miles from the Texas border. The land was flat now, prairie grassland. No more outcropping rocks or mesas. Texas cattle flat lands, but the still high altitude afforded cool breezes. Tomorrow, he would be sinking deeper and deeper into the hot superheated air of the cowshit lowlands. Deeper shit.

At nine, he wound up the long day in the Coach Light Motel in Amarillo. A Gujarati Patel Motel again. Aren’t they all now? Sure as shit. Except for the American ruling class, business class, that gets the big corporate owned plush five-star outfits. The cream for the business class. No classless society for them.

Nigel, the clerk is a nice gentle guy and he gets a room for a twenty. He knew just how his wimpy hand would feel if he shook it, that Indian handshake, warm and limp, and lingering, that always made him feel somewhat uncomfortable. At least no bones would be crushed. He remembered that pipe smoking farmer from Iowa in the Peace Corps office that always crushed your bones with his earnest grip as he grinned and showed you his large teeth. The son of a bitch.

Pat Robertson was speaking at the Republican National Convention in fascistic tones. That shit-eating grin. High whinny voice. How many times had his parents tortured him with that charlatan, forcing him to listen to his bible thumping drivel. Deliver me. Keep those sons of bitches away from me. Done enough damage to my mind already. Kills brain cells by the billions. Even worse than student papers, and that’s bad, real bad. Still trying to exorcise himself from his early years in Sunday school classes, revival meetings, altar calls, and warnings of hell-fire for all eternity. Jerry Falwell was being interviewed. He felt sick at his stomach as the fat goofy face gushed inanities. J. Danforth Quayle, to be Bush’s Vice Presidential Candidate. The rich spoiled Republican twerp. A Bush Quayle Ticket. A quail in the Bush. The GOP. A bunch of Greedy Old People, so called, greedy men and women. The so-called party of the corporate class. Or the executive committee of the business class. Lenin had it about right.

In the Patel motel, the chain was off the flush handle. The dead toilet would not flush. The door chain had broken some one hundred customers ago. Hungry for profits, they weren’t going to spring for maintenance. The wallpaper was peeling off the wall. Looked fine on the outside but crummy inside. Just as well be in Gujarat. Better, in fact.

The third day, he made Elk City by ten and breakfast with Ronald Muckfucking Donald. Insulting. These corporate games. It was hot at the rest stop after Oklahoma City, heading on to Ft. Smith. Just a slight whiff of refreshing cool air from time to time, mixed with the smell of cowshit, soon to be snuffed out in the steam bath and crop chemicals. Protect the crops and kill the people. Another one of those neat market solutions.

He passed Salisaw a little after three. A blue haze was hanging across the horizon, clinging to the red ground. He braced himself for the worst. He was descending into hell.

At Ozark over in Arkansas he stopped at a pleasant rest stop on a grassy hill above a lake. The heavy rain had subsided, now a gentle sprinkle. Green fields with parallel ridges. He rested beneath the large pine trees, resting his eyes and body. Contemplating. Here the air was sweet, soft, gentle, mild. Movement made one perspire. Embracing the body. He recalled coming to Arkansas to visit his grandparents when he was a kid. The small quaint working class house in the small town of Paris. The cherry trees behind the house. The old wooden outhouse. His Irish grandfather, a coal miner chewing tobacco. And the funeral when his Grandmother died. Staying in the motel in town. The heavenly smell and taste of the cheeseburgers his father brought back. That was when they made real hamburgers on the spot, not the industrial crap they rolled out nowadays in fast food joints. He would come to love travel. Feeling tired after the third day on the road. He needed to stretch his muscles.

Signs with brutal force across the country mirrored the local mindset. He was angered by “Don’t mess with Texas.” In Oklahoma, “Buckle up. It’s the law.” “Watch your speed. We are.” Yes, big brother! You fucking fascists! Leave me the fuck alone, you bastards! I am on my way to hell.

Chapter Two: Gentility

Ted made Weaselville by noon, driving the two hundred miles from Little Rock down into the valley and across the Mississippi River. The Day’s Inn was also a family-run Patel Motel. Back in the South, he faced the sloth and institutional racism. Indian clerks at the desk and black maids cleaning the rooms. He had to ask three times for towels for the bathroom and finally go and get them himself.

Crossing the Mississippi, down the old US highway, he remembered the call from the chairman of the Cotton State University Social Science Department the year before. It had come before he accepted the position in South Carolina. The second question was “What are your political beliefs?” It was a shock, and a question which he didn’t know how to answer. Surely an indication that it was not a good place to work, in any way, shape or form. At the time he had thought that the chairman was probably a southern bigot. It turned out that he was actually a kind and considerate Mississippi liberal who was just tired of hiring people from the north and Nigerians who couldn’t take the sordid place. Most would leave after just one year. Anyone to the left of Barry Goldwater was not going to stay there. That was for sure. Almost all of the staff came from somewhere in the South.

Welcome to Mississippi. What are your political beliefs?” That could be a good slogan for the place, he thought. Now the wheel had turned and he was actually driving straight into that pit. Straight into the flames of conservative, racist, Weaselville, Mississippi. Straight into Mississippi Delta hell.

And the Goddam Republicans. Winding up their convention. Those bastards. Strident, smug, jejune, haughty, flippant. Mean, just plain mean. Past the badly farmed cotton fields. Old and new cotton pickers rusting beside the road. Rice fields. What the hell? The real crop raised in these fields was not cotton or rice, but dollars from the Federal Government, quickly exchanged for Lincolns, the biggest cars on the market.

Past the Sunflower Market parking lot. Crummy run-down looking stores. He had arrived in Hell.

After carrying the boxes of books into his office on the second floor of Prickley Hall in the afternoon, there was not a dry thread left on his shirt. He needed to find an apartment, but for a few nights, it would be the local motel. He settled into the fourth Gujarati Patel Motel in four days. He had come from Santa Barbara on around two hundred dollars. He would need to collect his moving allowance from the University before he could pay the deposit on an apartment. Splitting his income between two households meant living on a shoestring, year to year. At least he was not stuck in one place all the time, but the money was always short. “Life, liberty, and poverty,” as one student had described liberal democracy. A brilliant concept, he thought, that cut right through to the heart of it. Another one of those market solutions that the economists were so fond of.

The general faculty meeting to open the year was held the next morning. Again an eye opener. It might have been entertaining, had it been a film, but here, he was now a part of it. The meeting began with an invocation by a nursing professor, beginning “Deayah Jesus, as we begin a newa school yeah” and continuing in that vein. He tied to shut out the droning mindless drivel. Worse than mindless. Ted soon realized that it was not just an invocation. Schools in Mississippi went out of their way to violate rulings of the Supreme Court against prayers in public schools and universities. They made a point of snubbing their noses at the laws of the land, when it had to do with religion, and racism. There were always ways around the law when they didn’t want to obey it.

Not a bad idea, he thought, if prayers could have helped, but this place needed more than prayer. A little Schumpeterian creative destruction seemed in order, the market having a difficult struggle.

He was shocked by the rampant racism and sexism after coming from California. South Carolina couldn’t compete. The Mississippi Delta was said to be “more genteel” than Alabama. There was so much surface to southern society. So much front and hypocrisy. At the faculty meeting, an official joked: “We wuz goin to have a stag paaty und watch Debbie does Dallas.” Such remarks fell easily from their lips, in their Mississippi Delta drawl. Totally unaware and uncaring how they might come across in a different venue. He saw that it was different from South Carolina. Different accent. Smaller school. More rural. Less sophisticated. More stupidity. If that was possible. It was. One had to know the culture to know reality. Only a few outsiders, who would always be “Yankees,” no matter if they settled and stayed for years. Most could not do it because the psychological toll it took on their minds was unbearable.

He was thrown back into culture shock. He was forced to ask about a loan to get to his first pay check as he was broke as shit. The friendly little guy who ran the office across the hall in Prickley, told him:

I kin hep ya, but cayn’t lone ya any money, cause my wife’s got ahl mine.” This was Albert, a decent local yokel.

Thrown back in culture shock, after California, the rampant sexism and racism assailed one again and again. The meeting droned on until noon. The new faculty was introduced, including the new young women, complete with information about whether they were married or single. That was strange, he thought. Not so strange, actually. Men had a need to know. Everyone had their designated place and status in Delta society. If they did not remain in their place, they would be told where they did belong and sent there.

Back in his office, he noticed the bells in the hallway. What the fuck is this? He thought. Is this a fucking high school?

Looking for an apartment in the afternoon, he kept telling himself,

I am just here for the experience and will be moving on.” Sure. He looked for a place near campus.

After lunch he called up a rental agency, Landlord Realty and Rentals. The voice on the line asked:

Ahh ya a studant.” He was taken back. What the fuck kind of question is that? None of his business.

Why are you asking that?” he reacted, without thinking.

Oh, Ah’m not tryin to be smaat or anythane.”

He realized he would have to play the game, after all. He had to have an apartment. Not so different from his experience the previous year in South Carolina, where the rental agencies had practically told him where he had better live. The black apartments and the white apartments. There were areas for blacks and areas for whites, and the racial divide was even more strict here in Weaselville. They needed to know if you were black, of course, about your social class, whether upscale or “white trash.” Your income. Then they could place you. Put you where you belonged. Keep the place neat and tidy, from a sociological point of view.

I am a professor,” he confessed. Fuck it. He had to get a place to live.

Ahh won’t have anythin till tha fust of Setembah,” the man said. He gave him some other names to call and said

Menchun mya name coz we screen each otha’s cahls.”

He called Dan Belly who ran a service station and received some important advice.

I’d advize ya ta stay on the west side of tha trahks.” That really sank in.

You mean, don’t get on the wrong side of the tracks?”

Yeh, litly, litly.”

That was an indication of how concerned people were to keep the races apart. Keep the place neat and tidy. A socially feudal society, sure as shit, he reflected.

Driving around town, it was clear from the unpainted shacks and grassless yards strewn with broken toys and junk, where the black parts of the town were. They would not even hold out the winter cold.

He went to see the apartment owner who was a professor in the accounting department and had apartments next to the university. The rice and cotton fields came up to within a few yards of the campus. He lived in a large brick house that joined the land next to the university. A hut in the back housed his vicious dogs that kept up a continuous barking.

A drug store truck driving man,” Ted thought, “could be a guardian of the white race in South Africa.”

He rented an apartment, but would have to wait a couple of days to get the lights turned on.

Ted spent the evening in his office trying to write a short piece on Pakistan. Zia al Haq, the military President and the American Ambassador had been blown out of the sky in a C-130 a couple of days before. The news came over the radio as he drove across Oklahoma. In the stagnant air, he sweltered, using the old typewriter. Finally he opened a window in the hallway for some fresh air. A fatal mistake. Voracious Delta-bred mosquitoes, bodies enriched and fortified with fuel oil and toxic chemicals, swarmed into the room, ready to eat him alive. New tender meat fresh from California. Spraying the sons of bitches never killed them. Just made them stronger. Spray them ten times a day. They thrived. They rolled over, laughed, and zoomed off to dive bomb for more blood. Like fucking vampires. The chemicals certainly knocked down a swath of local citizens with cancerous lungs, but the bugs were made out of sterner stuff. Ted finished the piece and headed back to the motel nursing what the mosquitos had left of his itching arms and hands. What kind of fucking place is this anyway? he thought.

It seemed bleak. It was bleak. Worse than bleak. It was a challenge. A sure as shit red-blooded American Goddam challenge. He would do it. Fuck n’A. Try to get some research money. Stick it out in the meantime and try to get out of the place in one or two years. Vow to take it easy, be a good citizen, be docile. Keep his nose clean and his fence painted white. In places like this, one could get themselves killed. Literally, literally, he thought. He was not that stupid. Nothing is going to change here. A big thunderstorm with loud lightening had come up. The rain poured down in torrents. The streets flooded as he peered out the small window of his cell in the Gujarati Patel motel. Hell. Hell, period.

Chapter Three: The Plantation

The cotton fields were turning white and the Delta farmers were getting ready to take their pickers into the fields. Tufts of cotton clung to the sides of the highway. Still, the terrible heat lingered. Sloth. Decadence. The South.

Ted went to the bookstore to check on books for his class. The only one on the shelf was terrible. He went to his office. The air conditioning in his building was not working and his office was like a tomb. His shirt soon became drenched with sweat.

He went to the Chairman, Paul Bennington, and told him that he had decided on his books for the classes. He said he was dropping one text and substituting two others. Bennington was elderly, in the last years of his career, thin and wiry, kind and soft spoken, with a goatee beard. He seemed the most humane person Ted had met in the University. He cared about the well-being of people but despaired of being able to make any significant change at Cotton State University. He viewed many things about the place as wrong, but knew things would stay the same. There was not much one could do except bear with it.

Well, you better check with the bookstore,” Bennington told him. “There is a rule that you have to tell the bookstore two semesters ahead when you are going to drop a book,” the Chairman said, apologetically.

For Ted it was a kick in the head. The guy in his position the previous year was an extreme right-winger and had ordered some books that Ted simply could not stomach. To impose that upon the students would be, in his estimation, some severe violation of the injunction against cruel and unusual punishment and in any event, he couldn’t look at that drivel much less teach it. In spite of being so conservative, the professor had been very unpopular with the students. Like almost all outsiders, he decided to move on.

That is just a little ridiculous, Ted thought. A nice way of selling books.

What happens if you use a book and you don’t like it,” Ted asked.

Well, you have to use it anyway,” Bennington said, with a little ironic smile.

How can they tell you that you have to use a book?”

It’s been a rule for twenty-two years,” Bennington said. “You have to tell the students to buy it.” Obviously he too thought it was a pile of shit, but had lived with the policy for years. Docility was clearly the ticket on the plantation.

Ted had always thought that it was the instructor who was supposed to decide what materials to use in a class.

After a few days, Ted went to the bookstore to check on the books again. None of the books he had asked for had come in. He went to the cluttered bookstore office and asked Barney Barker, the bookstore manager, about Aristotle’s Politics.

Barker was standing near a cluttered desk. Ted noticed his swollen gut. His face was ruddy and puffy, with jowls and little piggy eyes buried deep in the fat. He moved slowly and peered suspiciously at Ted. Yep. He had spied a Goddamned Yankee. Shore nuff.

I’ve writ ta tha pubisher but aint heard nothin yit,” he lied. Ted thought, shit, I’ll give them a call myself. These policies could work because there was no other bookstore in town to sell books for students. In his gut, Ted was determined to keep the market out of his classroom. He was not going to let the whims of profit dictate what he would use in his classroom. Not if he could help it. The hell with that solution, the economists be damned.

I will use whatever materials I damn well please, he thought, and the hell with them. I don’t market textbooks, and if they want a textbook seller, they will have to get one. That’s not me!

But he would try to cope. It was a nice little rule made for the bookstore that was being forced down the throats of the instructors and students. He tried to think of a way to bypass the bookstore altogether. But it could not be done in a small southern town.

The conversation with Barker happened the same day, while he was still in that sour mood. It had gotten under his skin and he didn’t feel like suffering fools. But being new, he still had not mastered the southern survival technique of keeping ones opinions undisclosed, when they might get one butchered. Literally. He could enjoy the conversation, dicker with the feudal asshole’s mind, and watch the son of a bitch turn red and explode, but then there would be hell to pay. The liberal mentality did not exist in such a feudal society. But sometimes enough was enough, and he was beginning to think he might not have very much to lose, in any event.

The whole thing started when Barker asked Ted how he liked Cotton State University. The proper answer to that question in Delta society was “Great, wonderful, friendly people, cosmopolitan” and a bunch of other such lies and a smile with a shit-eating grin to demonstrate conformity to the southern hypocrisy which dripped thick as shit from everything and everybody and tiptoe on out into the superheated dripping air, dragon flies and poison chemicals. Bad faith. That was the only way to save one’s ass. As an honest person, it was so easy to fall into the trap, get one’s ass in a sling. The trap was sprung, and Barker laid for him. Doctor Grover was dead. Dead fucking meat.

Well, the system of apartheid here makes me feel uncomfortable.” Ted said, veering dangerously toward a dead-on honest answer.

It really does makes me feel bad,” Ted confessed.

Weya, doan think ya goin ta see much chain aroun heya verah soon,” Barker said, barking the obvious. Then began his apology for the way things always have been and always will be.

Ted told him his experience in trying to rent an apartment and how the things one hears are rather shocking when one is not used to it.

Do you think there is a part of this town where Blacks live, where whites could also live?” Ted asked. “I have wondered about that. Is this town totally segregated?”

In practice, it seemed to be almost one hundred percent complete.

Weh they is one apahtmint bildin over heya on ya East Side a tha trahks nexta K-Mart wheya Blacks and ya Whites diyah live in tha same pace. A coach at oya college lived theya fah a whiya. They been seval fiyas ovah theya. Don’t know why,” he said. “They buhyund doyun.”

Ya see, oya blacks heya jist doe wanna mix up with ya whites,” Barker spouted.

They jist wanna be left ta theya self. Ya jist can’t mix up nigras and whites.”

Fuck n’ A. Ted thought. I’m with them on that one. Neither do I.

The system would naturally make them want to avoid the white community and enforce the system of apartheid,” Ted said.

The whites are delighted that the Blacks prefer their own because it relieves their guilt about not wanting to associate with them, Ted thought.

An tha whites is afraid a tha Blacks,” Barney said.

And the sons of bitches sure as hell should be, Ted thought. The way the whites had fucked them over and still did, the whites had a good reason to think the Blacks could well be getting enough of it by now and might erupt.

Maybe they should be,” Ted said. “They may are bitter about the way they were treated in the past.”

Weya, it aint near as much as a few year ago,” Barker said, brushing it off.

Now ya north, thas worse than tha South,” Barker said.

True, it’s worse for you, Ted thought. They don’t put up with quite as much hypocrisy and Mississippians look more stupid up there than they do back on the plantation where they can carry on in their old Dixie ways. Old times there are not forgotten. That logic always irritated Ted. We’re bad but they’re worse, so we are OK. Fuck n’ A! What a fucking lie, Ted thought. This was classical Mississippi.

If ouya Blacks dough like it, then why dough they jist leeve? Why do they stayuh heya?” Barker clinched his argument.

That’s what they have been doing for several decades, Ted thought. Where did the Blacks in Chicago, New York, and LA come from. From down south, of course. And a bunch of them had fled to Liberia more than a century ago. Why did Mississippi vigilantes have to stop the trains before they got up to Memphis and throw the Blacks off and ship them back home when they tried their best to leave in the l930s? The ones that don’t leave, don’t because they can’t. The ones that can, leave all the time, so much that the population of the Delta was dwindling. But anyway, why the hell should they leave? It’s their Goddam home, after all. Don’t they have a right to stay here? They didn’t ask to come here. It was the whites who had brought them here for slaves. Heavy denial.

Enyways, ahya diden do anythin. Ahya diden have anythin ta do with it,” Barker continued, “how we keepen em down?”

Read some of your books, Ted was tempted to say. He could have written down a list for him, but what was the use?

Wy some a oya blacks heya drive a biggah caha than mine,” he said.

Yeah, but yours doesn’t have rust holes in the sides, Ted thought. The Cadillacs and Lincolns were handed down to the blacks when the white Delta farmers went out and bought new ones with their cotton subsidy checks every year. They imitated the tastes of the ruling planter class. The ideology of the ruling class becomes the ruling ideology.

Well, how do you explain that the Blacks are down, then,” Ted queried, venturing into even more dangerous territory.

Nevah thaut about it,” Barker lied dismissively.

Fuck n’ A, Ted thought, wondering if there was anything the son-of-a-bitch had ever thought about seriously.

How can it be explained?” Ted asked. “It is not an accident.”

Anyway, in l787, the Constitution of the United States was intentionally designed that way, for the purpose of keeping them down. In 1857, Supreme Court Judge Taney ruled that Blacks were not citizens, whether slave or free, north or south. Did God create the society that way? No. Clearly not. And maybe it can be explained…”

Ted was now starting to enjoy toying with his muddy mind and started to be mischievous. He gave him a straw to grasp, as a sort of litmus test to see just how stupid the son of a bitch really was.

Some would argue that some are rich and some are poor because of differences in talent,” Ted offered.

The fool swallowed the bait at once.

Weya, ain’t it true?”

It couldn’t possibly be true,” Ted said. “If it accounted for poverty, then there would be some sort of normal distribution of wealth and poverty across both races, not a poor Black class and a white dominant class. But the historical social, economic and political repression can explain why the Blacks are down.”

Should Blacks have equal protection under the law, the Fourteenth Amendment?” Ted asked him.

I dough no if ah agree with that,” Barney said, suspicious of smelling something very foul. It was clear that he didn’t. Probably thought it was a communist idea.

Wy lemee teya nowya. Do ya know how much things uv changed since ahaas a boy in tha fiftees?” he said. “Then ouya Blacks diden even come ta high schooh.”

Sure, the schools were not integrated then,” Ted said. “But what else has changed?”

Oh Blacks cudden come inta whiyut resrunts back en,” he said, as if they were free to do so now.

Are there any restaurants like that today where Blacks can’t come into?” Ted asked.

Oh shuya,” he said, “but Ah ain’t seen any Blacks gitten thrown out,” he lied. “Abou niney percent a oya resrants nowya ahh ahl white. They’s one resrant, thas Black. Ah been in theya myseff and bought food. But ah diden eat it theya. Ahh took it out. Ah diden sit dowun and eat it riya theya.”

Then is it true that then it was about one hundred percent segregated and now it is about 90 percent?”

No, no, theys been a lotta change,” he said.

Do you think there should there be more change?” Ted asked.

Yeh, theya should be more change,” he lied. “But shoube slowa. Nottoo fast.”

Yes, Ted thought. The asshole wanted to wait until he was dead and gone and then it wouldn’t bother him.

I just cannot understand how someone in America could support that,” Ted kept fucking with his stupid mind. “We talk about rights and equal rights and then we tell someone, OK, you stay down there. We’ll help you down there and just let you up a little at a time. How can that be justified? How can these people claim to be so moralistic about prayer in public schools, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and all that, and not even believing in human equality, they pretend to be so religious and moral. It looks to me like they are just big hypocrites.”

Weh, may be Ah’m a hipocrit,” he said.

I wasn’t referring to you,” Ted lied, “but there seems to be a lot of people like that around.

Genaly Ah try to not have these kines of tahks. Dough know how ah got inta this un,” he said.

You got into it by asking me what I thought about Cotton State,” Ted reminded him.

Yea, weh guess that’s wheya ah went wrong,” he said.

Ted hoped he wouldn’t send the Ku Klux Klan after him. He could well be a member. Who knows. Probably was. That would add up.

Well, I think it is alright to talk about it,” Ted said. “To try to understand why society is like it is.”

Don’t you think that’s OK? It’s difficult for me to understand how people can just go around and never question anything and think that things are just nice the way they are when you have those hovels for Blacks down in one section and the big houses for the white elites.”

Weh, whenya been raised up in a place like iss, then ya jist sahta like it thaa way,” he said, spilling the truth.

Well, my experience is not the same because where I grew up in North Missouri, even though there were no Blacks, you had classes and class repression. Certain people were kept down because of their class background and name and where they lived, in the “west end” of the town. I reject that kind of elite and classist repression and would reject it here also, I think, if I had grown up here.”

It seems to me that there are two types of people,” Ted said, living more dangerously now, “those that have the mentality to take up and support the underdogs and those who support those who are already in control. I don’t understand the psychology of those who always take the side of the elites and the strong against the weak.”

Barker then began to quickly plead his innocence.

Ah aint done anythin. Ah don’t have anythin to do with it,” he said, as if washing his hands of the whole thing.

Close one’s eyes and the problem will go away, Ted thought. Its not there because I don’t see it.

Don’t you think that by doing nothing you are actually contributing to the existing situation?” Ted said.

It is probably so,” he seemed to soften up some.

In tha sixties when we was fosd to intragrate tha schools, we diden do it on oya own,” he continued. “But they wasen any vilence. Tha Blacks gathad up in tha administrashun buildin and rafoosed to leave and then tha police brought tha bus and arrested all of em and took em all ta Parchment prison. Kept em theya ovanight.” That was the state penitentiary.

Of course, the authorities would never use violence, Ted thought cynically.

They waza black girh who woked at oya bookstore. She saw tha bus leavin with tha prisners and she ask em to stop tha bus so she could go withem. And she diyid. The leadahs wuh some baaahd cayactahs.”

It wasn’t surprising to Ted that the leaders would not have a very positive image. They would be lucky to stay alive. A lot of them didn’t.

Ted had a sinking feeling that he had blown it. He was guilty as hell. He could be strung from the highest limb. His floating body fished out of the Tallahatchie River. He knew that Barker would certainly be angry and never forget until his dying day. In the South, there ain’t but two kinds of people in the world. Southerners and Yankees and he had put himself squarely in the enemy camp. Worse than that, things like he had said to Barker clearly identified him not only as a Yankee, which was not so bad, as they also had their racist side. They could screw Blacks too. They could even earn their laurels as honorary southerners, if they screwed enough of them bad enough. Like the Delta Chinese had done. But rooting for true equality, as Ted had done, was a different can of worms altogether. Those were fighting words. A casus belli. Got one labeled as a communist. The South was not so hostile to anything so much as equality. That was the red flag par excellence, a proposition up with which they could not put! When would the shit hit the fan? He groaned inside. He should have kept his fucking mouth shut. Literally. He would feel shivers up his back when darkness fell. Well, fuck it, he thought, if these people were so backward that they could not even discuss something, then that was their problem. If they didn’t want him around, and they clearly didn’t, he had always considered himself fortunate when he moved on to greener pastures anyway. If he was still alive.

Chapter Four: No Phone, No Pool, No Pets

When he got the key to the apartment, he started settling in. He first had to collect the moving allowance. The five hundred bucks was not enough to get him to the first paycheck six months away, so he had to borrow another three hundred dollars from the business office, which would be deducted from his first pay. It was humiliating having to go that route, but he had taken his pay over nine months at South Carolina, and there was no way to stretch the last month’s pay though the whole summer. In California he had earned a little money writing abstracts for an abstracting company and collected a few weeks of unemployment compensation. But when the Employment Development Office found out that he was a teacher and had a job starting in the Fall, they came after him to pay back the few hundred dollars they had paid him in the summer.

He told them that he had filled out the applications honestly and had revealed everything, so if they had paid him mistakenly, it was not his fault. Nevertheless, he was under fire from them and threatened as if he had been a dangerous criminal. There would be a non-judicial hearing. What did that mean? He would not be there, of course, but in Mississippi teaching his classes and trying to support his family and pay his bills. Let them do whatever the hell they wanted. He had done nothing wrong. The next day he moved into the apartment, using the last of his meager funds to get the lights and water turned on. A telephone would have to wait until later. And some Spartan furniture. No TV, but he could get a small radio from Walmart with his credit card. He would limp along on credit for the month and a half till his first pay came at the first of October. Depressing. And he was not a slacker. He was busting his ass. Still stuck in the pits after all those years in graduate school. He would use the rest of his cash for food and gas and the bare necessities.

Leaving his family was not as difficult as it had been last year. When he finished his doctorate, his wife, Lakshmi enrolled in an undergraduate program and they could stay in family housing for some additional time. Local apartments were beyond their reach to rent. His older daughter, Angie, was fourteen and entering high school. She had her circle of friends of a California breed. It would be cruel to subject her to the American South. His younger one, Melody, was four and starting to pre-school. It had torn him up missing her the first year, but it was not so difficult this year. He figured they would be much better off in California, given everything. Still if the family was to hold together, they should probably stay together, but one had to roll with the waves in life. He would be back to California in the semester breaks.

The place of his apartment was not terribly unpleasant as a retreat. Except that the university band practiced in the field behind his apartment. Blasting out their phony enthusiasm, into the putrid stinking chemically saturated air. Stupid, he thought, no getting away from it. He was right next to the university. It put students into his mind to hear that booming and drumming and that was not good. Tanner, a professor in the business department, had planted pine trees around the apartment, making a small woodsy perimeter. It was a two story wooden building with two apartments below and two above. There was a wooden stairway and a small wooden deck in front and a small gravel parking lot. Across the way were more of Tanner’s apartments. Chicken coops or rabbit hutches for people. But it was off the street and quiet most of the time.

Since he hoped he would not be there long, he decided not to sink money into furniture. He would just have to leave it behind. If he could pick up some used things from the Salvation Army, that would suffice. But he found the situation even more bleak than in South Carolina. The nearest thrift store was in Greenville, but there was nothing there worth getting. Just a pile of junk. Where people are poor, somehow things get more expensive, at least used furniture is treated as if it is worth its weight in gold. He would have to do without for a while.

What he needed worst was a desk that could serve for a table as well. He would make it himself. He went down to the lumber yard and had a couple of sheets of plywood cut up. Bought an electric drill and screws, and put it together. He found a book shelf at a yard sale for a ten dollar bill. He would forget about a bed. He actually liked sleeping on the floor. There was a carpet and he was used to it from the year before. Anyway, it was said that it was healthy to sleep on a hard surface. He went to the grocery store and got some food in his refrigerator. People in the grocery store started giving him strange stares. “Where did you come from,” they were probably thinking. Almost all in the upscale store were white. They looked stupid to him. And the blacks did not want to talk to whites. He bought some chocolate ice cream. Had to have that, and was set for the year to begin. And then he cooked up a big pot of hot chili. That was easy and satisfying food. He would walk to class just across that practice field.

Classes started in the last week of August. It was still hot. He spent the weekends busting his ass to get the first Supreme Court cases in his head. He was a novice at that, but would hit the ground running. He would make it through. In the other days of the week, he could prepare for the other classes which he was more familiar with.

At the end of the weekend, tense about the Constitutional Law, which he had to understand on his own, he lay awake Sunday evening till four in the morning. One of those nights when sleep just wouldn’t come. He got up at nine to start writing the syllabus and trying to see how much it would be appropriate to cover. The previous instructor had tried to cover the whole book in a semester. Not possible, he concluded. He would cut it back to a reasonable level. After all, he had to learn it too before he could run with it.

Classes had started with many students not bothering to attend the first classes. They were even more laid back than in South Carolina. There was no pressure to excel in teaching, even though he wished to. No pressure to publish. Most people did not bother. The main thing was to keep one’s nose clean and not to antagonize the students. Keep the farm running along smoothly.

Classes started normally, but then there was no way to really tell what the students were thinking in those early days, indeed, if they were thinking anything at all. He would probe that later. Students generally had very dim ideas.

Keep your nose clean and your fence painted white, as one veteran professor in the place kept saying. That was what it took in Mississippi. That was the ticket.

Chapter Five: Saving America

Clouds moved across the Delta sky slowly filling up the patches of blue between them. The cotton had been picked and baled and taken to market or stacked in ricks. The rains came down in buckets full with warnings of tornadoes. It turned colder. When the clouds moved away, the mornings were cool and crisp. Ted did his work, taught his classes. But he found himself hard up for emotional support and any female companionship. In that respect it was good that the law class and writing kept him so busy, filling up most of his weekends. Otherwise he thought he would have gone nuts.

It was October. The Presidential election campaign was on. Tacky cardboard signs littered the lawns around town. Almost all of them Republican. Mississippi was electing a new senator to replace an aging one. There was to be a campaign rally in the town following the fish fry. The catfish industry had recently emerged as a spark of economic hope for the area. Brent Trott, the Republican candidate, was scheduled to be there and give a speech. Ted thought it was an opportunity to do some local soakin and pokin in Mississippi politics.

He cautiously approached the crowd of locals at the venue on the north edge, the white section, of the town. There were businessmen in ties and coats, prosperous looking landowners and some working class guys. Cops with heavy guts and guns on their hips stood around. He spotted just a couple of blacks. That was all. He got some catfish, and felt silly, eating Brent Trott’s catfish, almost guilty, but he was operating undercover. Just curious. He had to slip around, being one of those Volvo-driving pinkos with a beard. He was not going to be fooled by anything. There was endless smoking which irritated Ted, especially when people blew the smoke right into his face. His eyes began to burn. Lumpen elements, he thought. There was no doubt that Trott was going to be elected, but he would not get a majority in the Delta, with its majority black population. The blacks would vote for Dwayne Dandy, the Democrat. Ted didn’t like either one of them, but Dandy was a little more socially progressive. The state went way beyond being conservative, to absolutely reactionary in Ted’s view.

He joined the crowd in the VFW Hall, sitting well back, to observe the happenings. The affair opened with the pledge of allegiance. He played along. What the hell.

Then a group of young kids, all male, all white, sons of Mississippi, from a local high school, were brought out to sing the national anthem.

This was followed by a prayer, in which celebrating Christopher Columbus was combined with the request that the audience pray for Brent Trott. It would be more appropriate to pray for his victims, Ted thought.

Then there was a singer from the Lawrence Welk Show who assured the audience that Brent Trott would “enshuh yah fuchah. Brent Trott, from Tupelo, fa Miss-ssippi.”

Heza guyud man. Get evabody ta go out and vote fa hiyum. We shou be runnin him up ta Washinton.”

Now evabody clap ya hands ta this song.”

Ahm from Tupelo an Ahh love Mississippi. Heez tha one, Miss-ssippi, Heez tha one. Heez tha one. Heez tha one Miss-ssippi Ahh see. Heez tha one. Brent Trott fa Senatah, Heez tha one. Weya woeied abot tamauow. Tha world’s outa hann. Theyas nothin we cun do. Oh ye they iz. Get out and vote ofun fa Trott. Miss-ssippi desuves a Trott. Brent Trott fa Miss-ssippi. Jis like tha Miss-ssippi cahies watah ta tha Guff a Mexeeco.”

The driveling shit of the song ended, dying a deserved death. Not only could he not clap to that inane crap, Ted felt a sinking feeling. Ah, Jesus, this shit is a lot worse than I imagined, he thought. A lot worse than the worst heart-burn he had ever felt. He felt quite ill. But he had to go on with it now. Well, it was instructive for a political scientist. This was, after all, politics, American style. Polly means many and ticks are blood sucking animals, as Utah Phillips used to say. Politicians are so crooked, they have to screw their socks on in the mornin’.

Whe Miss-ssippi elets a Senatah, they eelet im fa twenta-fiyuv yeahs,” the speaker intoned. And he wasn’t shitting. The imbecile went on.

We nee one whoz consahvtive like Brent Trott iz. He uz vo-oted one a ya six in a House most outstandin in tha Souyuth. He wrote tha budget that tha US is operatin undah riyut nowa und a highly reespectud, greyutt leedah.”

Enough reason to make one ill, Ted thought. Oh God. This is a lot worse than I thought.

The man himself came to the microphone. Ted was amazed at his size. Like a little shrimp. Short. Jesus. That son of a bitch looks twice as big on TV, he thought. Amazing how the camera can transform the world. That little sawed off greaser. Slick. He could have made a good used car salesman or a lobbyist. Maybe that would be his future, once his lying was honed a little more sharply.

Jist thanks ta evabody. Theyas nothin sweetah then yung bowas’ vu- uhcis tiya they staht droppin offa cliff. Ah know wheya tha Delta eeyis. In niyuntin fifta nine, Ayah come to tha Universitah of Miss-ssippi in Oxfahd. What Ameyaka is ahl about iz freendship, tha famlee, prayin togethah, stayin togethah, strong moeyal values. Ah wanna pazuhv thoz theengs in Misss-sippi that ayah soo valabul ta ya. That’s what it’s ahl abot. Ta haya tha opahtunatee Iya had. Be abah ta go ta colleej. We ahta thaank about blessins. Ameyaka is at peece. No meyun and wimin at wah. Sustayund peece fah tweve yeahs, bacoz we have bilt miltarah strength. Ah wuz a worryin abot the strength of auya miltarah. We have reebilt oyah strength. We need ta remembah how prosprus Ameyacans ayah. Tha economy’s a growin.”

The string of lies rolled off his tongue and out the sides of his lips as his southern drawl filled the room.

Ah wanna staya close ta tha peepul. Cahl Brent ah write a lettah. Ahm a goin ta have an offus in Nothwest Miss-ssippi. Not juss fa poleetical puhpases. Get a messuj ta Congress. Miss-ssippi needs ta move fahwahd on tha econamee, need jobs, good payin jobs, and fedal assistuhns. We makin progress on highways, industial staht ups, ayaports, an Ah’l have a fuhl time economic deveyopmint assistan in Washinton. We have ta go for it ta get industry. I will be un active spokeman foya tha state. Ahl peepul need is moyah oppahtunty. We nee drug leguslashun. Must say no ta gun control leguslashun. Ah am a strong supportah of thah Social Secooratee Trust Fund. Ahm askin for yah vote. Itahl affect oyah lives fa yeayahs ta come. Myah fathah worked in a shipyards in Pascagoula.”

Mercifully, the lies droned to an end. All boiler plate. Right-wing clap trap and empty promises, that meant the opposite of the way it sounded. Ted had to get the hell out of that place. What the fuck was he doing in this place anyway. Well, there’s American politics for you, he thought.

A local law firm and some businessmen, the establishment, had erected a large sign on the highway near the junction of the two main highways. It was mounted on an old wagon with Bush signs all around it. At the top was a banner: “Save America, Vote for Bush”

Ted had seen the sign several times and it started to get under his skin. It was sending a not so subtle message to the locals, that any advance of the underclasses of society was a threat to the ruling class. He had heard people referring to Dukakis as that “little Greek.” It was racism and near-fascism, Ted thought. He wanted to expose if for what it was. The instructor who taught criminal justice next door, Bernie Shaw, was calling Dukakis “Zorba tha Greek,” “Jimmy tha Greek,” and “Jimmy tha Beak.” That’s racist, Ted thought. Those people need to be exposed. It is so “un-American” in spirit. Save America? What they really mean is “save racism, save fascism”. In a way, it is true. They are saving it for the rich. The underclasses will never get their share of what they have produced. That is their real hidden agenda and what they intend to ensure.

The sociologist, Eric Goodman, was amused at Bernie’s fulminations. “Tell me, Bernie,”he said, “why are you gonna vote for Bush?”

Ima goin ta vote fah im jist bahcaahs heza nihyus guy,” Bernie said, sounding as dead serious as stupid. Straw for brains, Ted thought. What would one expect? Ted liked him OK, as far as that goes. A good old boy. A retired policeman. But who could trust him? No longer young, relatively harmless, poor guy. Out to pasture.

Bernie had tortured blacks in the civil rights movement as a policeman in Jackson in the sixties. An older black student told Ted how he had arrested a group of blacks on a hot summer day and thrown them in the back of the police van with the heater going full blast.

Ted decided to go for it and wrote a letter to the local town paper. It would be a daring act to actually send it to the paper. But somehow, he couldn’t just let the sons of bitches get by with that without getting whacked from some quarter. Oh God. The temptation was so juicy. Sometimes he went a little too far. Way too far. It was not an open society. There was really no freedom and democracy here. He hated to go on the attack, but clearly somebody needed to do it. He was sure that the blacks felt hostile about that sign. He was going to get himself lynched yet.

To the Burdick Times:

Can anything be done here that does not reek of racism? I am referring to the banner that has been hoisted above the Bush-Trott sign in Weaselville: ‘Save America, Vote for Bush.’ This must mean many things to many people, depending on ones’ particular prejudices, such as, “save America from that subversive little Greek immigrant.” Or “keep America in the hands of the whites. Don’t allow a progressive like Dukakis to be elected that would expand opportunities for the underclasses. Vote for someone who will change nothing. Our heads will remain firmly planted in the sand forever. Amen.”

Just what, I would like to know, is so American about that? I have always thought that one ideal in America was equality and opportunity for all, not for one race, class, sex, or ethnic group. We are a nation of immigrants, blacks, whites and everyone else except native American Indians. Only a racist argument could support the inherent rights of one group over those of another. But Bush is seen as a super patriotic ‘American.’ Dukakis is seen as a ‘Greek,’ in Mississippi. Does that not smack of a racist mentality? Obviously both candidates were born and raised in the United States and one is no more ‘American’ than the other.

Our democratic institutions have roots in the political thought of the ancient Greeks and the system of direct democracy that was established in Athens. I hardly think that we need to fear that a ‘Greek’ is somehow a threat to the American system by virtue of the fact that she or he is of Greek ancestry.

Dukakis, it is implied, will somehow lose America. How will Bush save it? Or it might be better to ask who will he save it for? I suggest for ‘the rich,’ that is unless the Japanese buy up the rest of it first!

The best evidence of this is seen in the Reagan-Bush Administration. Clearly the rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer. The national debt has skyrocketed to over three trillion dollars in 1988, so that American is now the largest debtor nation. Our trade deficits have grown to 170 billion dollars a year. Educational standards have fallen and the quality of the work force has declined, relative to Western Europe and Japan. Real hourly earnings have dropped more than four percent. There are eighteen nations with lower infant mortality rates than the US.”

On the social front, the thrust of the Reagan-Bush Administration has been to steadily erode civil rights and economic opportunities for blacks, which were hard won during the l960s. This has solidly won Bush the white vote in the South. The Republican Party hears the drum beat of those who march beneath a racist banner. But racism will not ‘save America’ any more than it saved the South. Its stench portends the doom of nations and peoples wallowing in this cesspool of hate, whether in Weaselville, Mississippi or Pretoria, South Africa. Apartheid, though clad in (red, white, and blue) sheep’s clothing, will be relegated to the scrapheap of history.”

Sincerely, Ted Grover

He got a call from the editor asking him if he had written the letter. He confessed to the crime. He waited for it to appear. Waited for the shit to hit the fan. It would hit it somewhere. No shit.

A few days later the letter appeared, just as he had written it. He learned from a student in one of his classes that a group of lawyers were responsible for the sign and that one of them was the student’s father. He said that he gave it to his father to read. Oh shit!

There were also progressives within the pores of Mississippi society. A couple of people complimented him on the letter. A middle aged woman who worked in the library had his letter taped to her wall and said that she agreed with every word of it. She told Ted that every time she saw the sign, she just wanted to get out and tear it down. Those God damn Republicans think that the American flag stands for racism and apartheid, Ted thought. No one has replied at all to my letter. That shows how bankrupt they are. They are cowards and know that I’m right. They can only defend themselves with violence. That is the only way.

Huge raindrops were plummeting out of the sky, banging against the metal drain pipe, soaking the wooden railing around his little balcony and drenching the leaves of the little tree which were now turning yellow, orange and red in the autumn air.

It was a lonely existence. Sweet Home, Mississippi.

Chapter Six: Marching Toward the Past

Now the Presidential election was only a few days away and the Ku Klux Klan stepped up their agenda in towns across the state. Anticipation mounted. The next venues would be in Petal and Hattiesburg. Jordan N. Gollub, KKK Grand Dragon of the Realm of Mississippi, requested permission to march in a “prominent downtown area, easily accessible to the white public and that the march begin at city hall.” Good idea, Ted thought. The mayor and Board of Aldermen quickly approved the request, according to the press, for a “street-walk-parade.” It only took 20 minutes according to the press. The green light included the provision that the parade route would be at least one mile long and that the Klan would be allowed to freely distribute membership applications and other literature. At the end of the parade, there would be public speakers. The police would provide protection for the marchers.

After his letter, Ted thought he must have irritated a lot of people in the town. He would have to be more careful. Evidence came when he got a letter in his box, with some literature against Michael Dukakis, but the sender did not identify his or her self. Ted thought it was strange. Here was a person who wanted to say something, but wanted to do it secretly without being identified. Ted thought to ignore it but it got on his nerves. Why didn’t the local people want to identify themselves and stand behind their ideas. It was just in the culture. One just did not come out with their ideas, as in any totalitarian country. He wrote another letter.

This is an open letter to the person who sent me the anti-Dukakis literature. I don’t know who you are, but (here I may be assuming too much) I think you know who you are. I would prefer to write to you privately, but since you did not identify yourself, for reasons known only to you, I do not have that alternative. Nevertheless it may not be a total misfortune. While I hope that is not the case, it might reveal something about those in the pro-Bush camp.

As I recall, a certain John Hancock, in affixing his signature to a historical document, which we know as the Declaration of Independence, signed his name in such a manner that the King of England would have no trouble reading it. This is lauded in every classroom in this free nation and held up as that shining example for all of us to follow. “Fear not to stand up for that in which you firmly believe.” This is, or at least I would have thought, not only in the American tradition, but in the spirit of patriotism which the Bush campaign tries so diligently to capture.

Imagine then, my surprise at a Bush supporter who not only does not follow John Hancock’s example, but cowers behind anonymity. Not only does this patriot not affix his or her signature, writ large, in the John Hancock tradition, but is apparently terrified at the very thought of bringing pen near paper. Are we to tell our children: “John Hancock stood up for what he believed in! He signed his name in large letters in defiance of the King of England. This is the American way. But if you should see something on the editorial page of your local newspaper, that you do not agree with, don’t reply in print. Sneak around and reply clandestinely to the author, but don’t let anybody know about it. Be a patriot, but a safe one!” What a different history lesson that would have been! Is that the way Bush supporters stand up for what they believe in? Does the blood of modern patriots run so thin?

An American president of more recent vintage, FDR, as I recall, once reminded this nation that “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” He forgot to add “hypocrisy.”

Another letter followed in his box quickly. He wondered if it was from the same person who sent the material against Dukakis. A copy of his published letter cut out of the newspaper was included, showing where they thought there should have been a couple of commas, which were left out. At the top was written: “I hope you don’t teach English.” Then there was a name at the bottom, a woman, but no address. Then at the bottom was written: “Did John Hancock write about anything else?” Well, at least I hit a nerve, Ted thought. But I better let things cool off.

A storm came through bringing tornadoes across the south. He could hear the storms roaring through in the night. He looked for signs of tornadoes in the black sky when the lightening lit up the sky. He sometimes thought that his place was going to go with the wind, but there was no shelter. No place to go. One night, the roof was blown off the local bank, just down the road. Someone’s house was blown away at Parchman Prison. Then a cold front came through bringing clear blue skies.

He decided that he just couldn’t endure small-town southern society. It was insufferable. He needed a break. But one had to go hundreds of miles to escape it, from the Delta. He felt isolated and bored. He wrote some editorials to send to local papers about international events. Sometimes they were actually published. The local papers, however, didn’t consider that there was much interest in what was going on in other parts of the world.

He drove to Tuscaloosa for the weekend, where he had some academic friends. He was again struck by the Greek revivalist style around the university and around town. Plantation houses, essentially. He needed a hair-cut, he thought. He went to the local barber shop. He told the barber to leave it full. But he got a scalping. Military whitewalls. A damned farmer, he thought. He walked out sick and angry. It had happened before at the same place, and he couldn’t believe there it was again. The Goddamn redneck fascists, he thought. One felt so helpless. When the barber swung him around to see himself in the mirror, he was shocked. “It’s too short,” Ted said. “I said I wanted it full.”

Weh, it’s evun,” the barber said.

Well, it’s not full,” Ted said.

Wee, you doughn owe me anythin fa that haircut,” the barber said.

Ted offered to pay, but he wouldn’t take it. It didn’t make Ted feel any better and he was stuck with the white sides till his hair grew out again. Funny, he thought. I went with it so long and will come back with it so short.

He looked up a colleague from the political science department and had lunch with him. He drove on to Birmingham in the afternoon. He knew an Indian grocery store and went there for some of his favorite Indian tastes, like mango pickles.

Another colleague and her husband, who taught at the university in Birmingham, lived in a big old house near downtown. He went to their place. They didn’t have much in common, he decided, later. Never really understood her husband who mostly taught American politics. Poor guy, ten different jobs, in ten different universities in ten years. We are just migrant laborers, Ted thought. Laboring in the barren vineyards of so-called higher education.

They took him to the famous Ollie’s Barbeque. It had gained notoriety after the famous Supreme Court case in 1964 about not serving blacks. The court had used the Commerce Clause of the Constitution in Katzenbach versus McClung to rule that not serving blacks was a violation of the US Constitution. Commodities in the market have rights to move in commerce. Too risky to try to use guarantees of equal protection. That was always interesting to Ted, who now taught the case in his classes. But one cannot legislate social change. Not much had changed. Not a single black was in the restaurant. He learned that blacks did come, but they took the food out, not sitting in the restaurant. They did not want to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation. This was more than twenty years later. Ted had a pork plate and apple pie. It was greasy, but tasty.

The next day he drove back to Mississippi to prepare for his classes for the coming week.

After classes, Ted tried to track down some cheap furniture for his apartment. It wasn’t easy. Not like California, where one could pick up useful things cheap. He drove through heavy rain on a Saturday to the Salvation Army store, but found only a pile of junk and no decent household goods. This was worse than South Carolina, he saw, where household goods were also poor, but usable. He went to a garage sale. The woman wanted one hundred dollars for an old chair. Not worth it. Another used place wanted five hundred for a used couch and two chairs. He asked the woman about places for used furniture. Then she mentioned downtown. She took him aside and almost in a whisper said in his ear,

Ya know, theya some of these plasus that ha chaayurs, wheya nigras has sat in em and thaayul rentem ta ya fa teyun dollahs a week.”

Ted was amused to hear such a remark but didn’t say anything. It struck him as so much like India. Of course, a high caste would not want to sit in a chair that had been polluted by an untouchable. In what context had “the nigrs sat in tha chair?” he wondered. How could a person tell that a chair had been used by a “nigra.”

The next day, he told the story to the young assistant professor across the hall from his office who taught sociology. Dick Barrows found it amusing, but in discussing it, Ted found that his attitude was not very different. Borrows came from West Virginia and taught race relations, so might have seen more deeply into the situation.

I’ll tell ya Ted,” Barrows said, scratching his goatee beard, “blacks are just dirty, dirty people.”

To the extent that that is true, it is surely related to poverty, not race,” Ted asserted.

Barrows wasn’t completely sold on that idea.

I don’t know, Ted. They just smell different,” he said. “Different races smell different.”

The way a person smells has nothing to do with their race,” Ted asserted. “It depends on their environment. The products they use. Their house, what they eat. That is cultural.”

Well, Barrows said, “it might be attached to their genes.”

You actually believe that?” Ted asked, surprised. “You believe that a black living in Hong Kong and one living here would smell the same because they are both black?”

Quite possibly,” Barrows said. “I know an Italian girl and she smelled a certain way.”

Sure, because the family probably uses different products and eats different foods with different spices and garlic, but what does it have to do with race?”

To Ted, Barrows was demonstrating clearly racist notions, and yet he was the person teaching race relations in the department. Still, Ted had noticed something. Racism seemed to have a different quality in the Delta than in Alabama or South Carolina. In Alabama it was more open, even flouted. In Mississippi, it was subtle, under wraps, but just as thick and ingrained for being so. People were more coy, not revealing their true feelings. Sometimes they tended to come out strong with their true opinions when they were drunk and lost their reservations.

It seemed that the woman at the garage sale had tried to get close to him on the basis of racial solidarity. This idea was entirely revolting to Ted. That the basis for human solidarity would be racism, a sort of religion or communal ignorance or reaction, not progressive practice, like equality and opportunity, was deeply disturbing to him.

He thought about other ethnic groups living here and how it would be hard for them to fit into this society. One time he mentioned Indians and if they were prejudiced against them in the same way. The guy in the office across the hall, Albert, had told him that what people object to is not so much color of skin, but black African blood. That is what they really object to and would not tolerate intermarriage of one of their children with one of that race. The respective races lived in their own little closed worlds, forced there by decades of white repression. That pointed to just how closed the society really was. They were integral parts of the society intermingling and making up a part of the whole, but were light years apart. Never the twain shall meet. Not in Mississippi, at least.

He thought a good deal about the ignorance and bigotry he found. He was young enough and foolish enough that he entertained the notion that he might be able to do something about it. He had in mind writing letters and articles, but was wise enough to know that it could get him tarred and feathered and ridden out on a rail before he had even received his first paycheck. Violence was not uncommon. To get himself butchered would be self-defeating. He felt himself becoming more radicalized by the day.

Why is it that hoards of mosquitoes and ignorance always go together, he wondered. It was certainly true in this hole.

As for furniture, maybe he would make do with a few cheap items from K-Mart. They could just be left behind when he moved. That was his agenda. Get those classes out of the way. Find a job and get the hell out of here. It was, however, easier said than done.

Chapter Seven: Getting Lucky

It was late Fall. Ted had plowed through the mid-term exams. Disappointing, but that was par for the course. He didn’t consider that it was his failing. He could only commiserate with Barrows, and the English instructors down in the coffee lounge, who also complained about the laziness of the students, and the appalling performances on exams, but then the Cotton State staff were not all that hard working either, as far as that went. They hardly ever went to conferences or worked on an academic article.

He had to have a Friday or Saturday evening for himself now and then. He had to have an outlet for his social and emotional needs, even if it was a piss poor one. He had to try. He kept his eyes open for what might be possible.

Then Ted had found the name of a woman in the local ad sheet which was circulated for making matches. There were ads such as “One-man woman looking for a one-woman man. A gentleman who knows how to give a woman what she deserves. White Christian man. No drinkers.” She was a divorcee and said she wanted to meet an available man. The prospects were dim, but he couldn’t see how there was much to lose. There had to be some amusement, and he was still a quite young man. She must be a redneck, but he would give it a go.

He wrote and found that she was interested. After that, he called her up and arranged to meet her on the weekend at her place near a small town just up in the hills from the Delta. When Ted got to Moody, he went to the country house just a short piece down the small blacktop highway. The lawn was cluttered with a couple of half-gutted cars, stove wood, old rusted auto parts, scattered boards, and dog bones. He approached the house and knocked on the door. Judy was sitting on the couch and came to the door. The whole scene turned him off. There was a big dog outside. He went in and saw two little dogs running around on the dirty frayed carpet and yapping, raising a commotion. Judy’s father was sitting at the table in the kitchen and her mother was standing. He walked in and said hello to her father and shook his hand. “My name is John C. Hancock,” he said. Ted almost expected it to be John C. Calhoun, as so many southerners carried that name.

When he talked to Judy earlier, he had suggested that she wear something casual. But when he came in he noticed that she was wearing a pale pink dress with a little round broach tied on the hip. It was a tacky dress like country women might wear to church, he thought. He wondered why she couldn’t put on a pair of jeans and sweater or something normal like a modern woman would wear.

She was heavy-set and dull looking, running to fat, pie faced with short curled hair in the style which old woman usually like. She had grown accustomed to living at home with her parents since being divorced. She had to remain single to collect her alimony. Her marriage had produced no children.

They said farewell to her parents and walked to Ted’s car. They pulled out of the tacky yard and started up the road toward Wellsville. The conversation was a little slow. Ted didn’t know what she might be interested in and let her talk.

Judy began to tell him about her experiences with a Ouija board. One of my favorite topics, he thought, cynically. How bored was he going to be? It was so intellectually stimulating! Using the board, she claimed, her relative had told her the name of the person she was going to marry. Ted hated such stories, but knew it was typical of people in her class. Skeptical, he said, “It might be true, there isn’t any way I can explain it.” He eventually was able to get her off that subject. Trying something else, Ted told her about going to the Blues Festival. But it didn’t spark her interest. The white working class was not interested in that kind of Blues, the only real contribution which the Delta had made to American culture. Instead, she started telling him about the country music industry. That was her kind of blues. She had tried to succeed as a singer and had actually made a record. She told him that she had written some songs and wanted to get them published, but it was hard for new people to get songs published and get on the radio. She told him she would play the record for him sometime. They drove on to Wellsville and Ted got a room at the Wagon Wheel Motel, a local Patel Motel. He did not plan to drive all the way back to Weaselville that evening. Then they drove on to Kudzu City.

Along the highway there was a strip of motels, restaurants, and fast food joints. Ted was totally at a lost in this culture, but at Judy’s suggestion, they went to The Citadel, a popular place with the locals. A limousine was parked out in front. To Ted, the place struck him as crowded and mock bourgeois. No class, not even redneck, which would have been local color. A lot of elderly ladies and men, some families, more what one would expect of a church group, and all white. It struck him in the gut as revolting, not immediately clear why, but somehow the epitome of decadent Mississippi mediocrity. It was not his type of place, but it seemed to be the only restaurant with real food, the others being mostly fast food chains with their pre-fab warmed up factory shit. Ted asked Judy what type of place she liked. She said a shrimp or steak place. In the end they landed here with all the white haired old ladies, bankers and lawyers. He figured that most people just headed out for a fast food joint. The clientele here had a little more money to spend.

Ted wished for some privacy, as he was a little embarrassed to be seen with such a fleshy red neck woman. She could certainly not have been more than a friend, he thought. The relationship was doomed from the start. But why not go for the soakin and poking? In this case, he couldn’t see any scope for either of those, but he might get a little more insight into the local scene. Even soakin would be too sad. The restaurant was set up like a large living room with tables in the middle with people, mostly middle aged or older, sitting around and looking like they had just come from church. To one side was an older woman playing a piano, the type of music which suited older couples. Ted was not yet very familiar with this Mississippi atmosphere.

At the entrance was a notice that one could fill out slips for a drawing, which happened to be a free ride in the limousine parked outside. Shades of Elvis Presley and Graceland, Ted thought. That kind of mock aristocracy would appeal to the locals.

There was a bar area with somewhat discreet booths and Ted escaped there with Judy. There were waiters, but one could go and get a salad at the salad bar on their own. Judy, being lazy, asked the waiter to bring her a salad. Ted, determined to be more proletarian, braved it to the next room to the salad bar and got a plate of salad and soup. It was a chance to look around and observe how the place worked. It was clearly not his type of place. And there was no alcohol at all.

When they had their food, Ted tried for some conversation but inevitably he veered unwisely in the direction of politics.

What did you think about the Ayers Supreme Court Case last week?” he started. One of the state universities was being sued for racial discrimination. “What do you think about the Governor’s race in Mississippi?” The only responses he could get were mostly:

Oh-ah, Ah dough know abou that…my daddy waz a supportin Fordice. But ah like Mabus becoz he hepped teachers’ salrees.”

Then the conversation shifted to education. Judy was working as a grade school teacher in a private school.

Ah teach fifth grade,” she said. “Tha salary is not as good as in tha public school.” Ted thought it must be very poor, indeed, because the public schools were pretty bad too, from what he had heard.

Ahve taught these black kids and what Ahve noticed, they should be seprated,” she said.

What do you mean, separated,” Ted asked.

Judy hesitated, then said,

The white kids seprutt from tha blacks.”

Why do you think that,” Ted asked.

Weya, they jis hold the whyut kids back,” she said. “Theyah too fah behine.”

Well, maybe that is why they should be together,” Ted suggested. “The fact that they have been living in an apartheid society and separate means that they are bound to disadvantaged when most of the wealth and benefits of the society goes to the whites.”

In my classes many of the whites are poor students while some of the blacks are better than them,” Ted said. “So it seems that it is not that all the white students are always the best students, nor the blacks always the poorest.”

Weya, they should be seprated accordin to ability,” Judy said, changing her tune.

Oh, well that is different. Maybe I can see the point of separating them on the basis of ability. But separating them on the basis of race is still considered to be unconstitutional in public schools,” Ted lectured, remembering his Constitutional Law classes. But he had heard some Blacks making the same argument as Linda, that they should be separated according to race. Linda had quickly revised her thesis on separating them, but Ted didn’t believe she was being honest. Every red neck white was going to believe that they should be separated. Who knows? Maybe they were right, Ted thought. Once society has been poisoned with racism, there is really no cure for racial repression. And some blacks were now making the same argument for separation.

Fordice is a goin ta close down some collujes,” she said.

Yes, he will try,” Ted said. “Republicans like him like to keep people dumb. Dumb, barefoot and pregnant. That way it’s easier to get their votes.”

George Bush wants a one-world Govmint,” Judy said, apparently trying to get into the political to compete with Ted.

You will have to explain that to me,” Ted said. “I know he talks about the new world order, but I didn’t know about the one-world government.”

It doesn’t make much sense to me,” Ted said.

Of course, he would like for the US to keep ruling the world. But this couldn’t be what she was referring to. Ted thought it sounded like an idea she might have got from a preacher selling the idea as some evil work of the devil. Some of those evil European socialist ideas might creep over and start to ruin the flourishing Mississippi freedom they enjoyed. Could anything be more stupid? Just bald ignorance at every turn.

Well, the preacher’s game is to keep people frightened so they can shake loose some money from their pockets,” Ted said. “But they don’t have a clue how the world works and what is going on. So I wouldn’t worry about that. It is not going to happen anyway.”

The evening was turning out to be quite bizarre.

They started back to Wellsville, but he seemed to be jinxed. Or maybe it was providence which stepped in and saved him from some deadly move that he would have always regretted. Just outside the town, his old Volvo began to lose power and then slowed and finally crapped out completely. He felt the lights getting dim, the engine lost power, and it died a certain death, in keeping with the tenor of the night so far, as he pulled to the side of the old-fashioned highway with the slanted cement edges. There was no possibility. They would have to walk ahead for help. And he knew that he had lost his chance to sleep with her that night. He had already started to wonder how he was going to get it up for that, quite a few miles back, and the prospects did not present themselves as very bright. Like going to bed with the ugly woman sitting in the row ahead of him in the church. He began to see it as a little revolting to kiss her and slipping out her round soft breasts. He had escaped. How lucky can you get?

Chapter Eight: Making History

Ted and Judy walked the quarter mile to the pizza joint in Wellsville. Judy knew someone to call to get the old Volvo towed into the shop. Ted went out and helped the tow truck driver get it hitched up. He figured that the alternator had gone out again. It wasn’t the first time. Judy got a ride home with her brother’s girlfriend and they dropped Ted off at the motel. Wellsville is a crummy place, Ted thought, but the good thing was that he had a motel room near where the car broke down.

He was woken up the next morning by the motel maid banging on his door. The Patel who ran the place did not like to pay the maids any more than he had to, so he wanted them to finish the cleaning early. What the hell. He would hang it up and get out of there.

Judy came and took him back to Weaselville. They stopped at Shoney’s for lunch. Then Judy began to tell him about something that happened a long time ago, when she was “just a little bitty old thing.” It happened near their place in Moody. Behind the house there was a pasture where a black family lived. One day when she walked across the pasture she saw two white men carrying a black man and the black man was yelling. “They ah goin ta kill me. They are going to kill me.” She got scared and ran to her mother. “Oh don worra honey. Theya not goin ta kill eem. They just goin ta teach eem a lesson,” she said her mother told her.

Then about two weeks later, she was near the pasture again and she saw two or three men in the small pond on the side of the pasture. They were doing something in the water and she saw a big gush of blood and the water had turned red. Then she came back to the place where some women were standing and they told her that some civil rights person had been killed and they were just trying to get rid of his body. Not all of the details of her story were coherent, but Ted was fascinated by it. It certainly sounded like something that could have happened in Mississippi. It had certainly happened to some of the civil rights workers in the early l960s.

Wona them women swung er hann and cast a speyah on me,” she said. “She hypnotized me and ah forgot most a what happened untiya some time last yeah.”

Judy told Ted that she thought one of the men she saw standing in the water may have been Lester Wackey, who was a business man in Greenwood and the husband of a woman who worked at a bank in the town and embezzled peoples’ checks.

The story then turned on a more bizarre note. She said she thought that the black man that she saw being carried was Medgar Evers and that he was not killed in Jackson by Byron de la Beckwith but by somebody else. She said that some of the people she knows also knew de la Beckwith. She called him “Delay.”

Tha face of that niggah Ah saw was the same face of the niggah on TV when Ay saw that show on Medgar Evers.”

She kept repeating “that niggah’s face, that niggah’s face.” This grated on Ted’s nerves, but he was enjoying hearing the revelation. The woman spilling the contents of her mind made her appear more and more grotesque to Ted. He had to settle back and give her free rein to get all her thoughts out, regardless of how distasteful.

Judy then gave her interpretation of what had happened.

Medgar Evers was actually killed ten yeahs befoya he was supposed ta have been killed in the 1960s,” she said. “His wife was then paid off by somebody ta keep it quiet that he was not really alive but dead.”

Judy said she didn’t know who paid off Ever’s wife. But they did it so that they could build him up and get him into the history books and make it look like he was a civil rights leader. She said she couldn’t understand why he got in the history books. But there were all these people who wanted to raise a hue and cry and get him in the history books. She thought it was a big plot by someone who had it in for Mississippi and wanted to get Evers into the history books.

Tha person that was actually shot in the driveway a Medgar’s home was an investigator,” she said. “He was shot in the face so no one could tell that it wasn’t Evers.” As if there was no other way to tell, Ted thought.

Ted thought it was all bizarre, because she had not checked about Ever’s life after l954 to see if her theory was at all plausible.

Hearing Judy tell the story in such racist tones, Ted concluded that she certainly was a deep racist, along with the other members of her family. She was giving him a window into the mind of a southern red neck. The story didn’t add up, however. How could Ever’s wife be bought off that way? Hadn’t she been trying all those years to get the State of Mississippi to try de la Beckwith in a new trial? Judy was four years old at the time and now forty-two and had forgotten about it for all those years. But seeing that face on TV had brought it all back to her according to her story. A red neck fantasy and example of classical Southern ideology, Ted thought. The Yankee plot against God-fearing white families.

Ted noticed that the local red necks tended to wear a certain kind of clothes. They wore a tacky shade of brown and light powder orange and sometimes unwashed new denim jeans. The women started getting double chins in their forties and sometimes had a round puffy face, except when they were heavy smokers. Then they had a hollowed out, drawn and wrinkled look. They started to act like old women in mid-age and said things that need not be said which confused the situation. They were unpredictable and didn’t level with you. They didn’t come clean until it was absolutely necessary. They were too concerned with what other people thought and were almost invariably racist. They looked simple, but were very much infused with the white old ruling planter class ideology, even though they were dirt poor. Their superiority resides only in the whiteness of their skin, Ted concluded.

Tha hill farmers think that the Delta ritzy ah stuck up,” Judy said. “People in the hills talk about tha ‘damned Delta fahmehs.’ They are jealous a them because they always get a good crop, when the hill farmers do not.”

Rednecks, Ted thought. That was a proposition up with which he could not put. Judy dropped him off in Weaselville, It had been a hell of a weekend. Now it was over, and that was the best part about the whole fucking thing. It alerted him to the deep sinister forces that lurked in the minds of these seemingly simple hill folks. All the civil rights revolution had done was to confuse them, he thought. Their minds were running down the same perverted racist track as ever.

Chapter Nine: Hard Up

Ted Grover drove across the Mississippi Delta through the dead brown cotton fields with little tufts of white cotton clinging to the stalks. It was a bright cool day in early December. Some fields were flooded from the recent rains. He followed a farmer in a pickup truck sporting powerful hunting weapons in the back window for several miles. He passed through flat dull fields past Sunshine and Lefleur Counties into Tallahatchie County. Crossing the Tallahatchie River into Grenada County, swamps appeared with trees and water covered with green scum.

It was good to be alone. He had entertained the notion at first that he would take Judy to bed. Although they were so different, he thought that it would be nice to make love to her. They would come together in the moment of passion and she would heal him momentarily. It would suffice till he found a spiritual mate. But the most he had done, when he was with her, was to kiss her as they watched a film and slipped his hand around her soft breasts. She said that he “kissed good” and she wanted more. He tasted her lips and then they lay down together. She enjoyed letting him taste her breasts. They were nice, as far as that went, but when it came to it, she just didn’t turn him on. The wrong chemistry totally. She was the kind of woman who would suck a man dry. Get what she could out of him and then be finished with him, Ted figured. Her real passion was eating, and her parents abused her for it, unkindly, but there was truth in it. She truly believed that the best way she could lose weight was to have a dentist take some wire, attach it to her teeth and wire her mouth shut. The idea was appalling to Ted. Not only was it goofy, it was positively dangerous, but she claimed that some people had done it.

She had driven to Ted’s place on a Saturday evening. He thought at least that they could spend the night together, even if they didn’t fuck and he might poke her in the morning when they saw the morning light and had had some time to be together. He didn’t mind so much that she was somewhat fat. She just didn’t have any spiritual vibrations that gave him a feeling of affection. Her warped values always just turned him flat off.

As it turned out, she wouldn’t stay the night. Perhaps she didn’t want her family to think that she had slept with him. What the hell? She was forty-two years old. And so she drove back, leaving him alone. It was actually a relief and the best solution. There was just no way it would work out. Rednecks are rednecks, Ted decided.

These hunters have brought Vietnam home to America, he thought, as he drove, with their jungle fatigues, guns and dogs and their four wheel drive vehicles. The tops of their outfits flared bright orange to ward off other hunters.

Kudzu City came into view at the edge of the Delta up from the flat Mississippi River bottom. Big old houses, some of them falling down or being torn down. Downtown, it was mostly whites. Tacky Christmas decorations had been brought out and dusted off for the season. Black areas with tacky unpainted houses were third-worldish. There was dire poverty but here was more life and color. The underbelly of Mississippi society. The Blacks tried for a big city look even in the small towns in their used Cadillacs. And then there were the rednecks. He thought of the students who just came into the department at Cotton State and started red necking in jeans and cowboy boots. The round skoal pack in their rear pocket had worn a circle on the back of their jeans. They always had a cud of chewing tobacco in their mouths. They generally wore Western style shirts with the little round snaps and sometimes a Dodge City hat. Jawboning their chaw and spitting in a coke can as their young teeth rotted and their gums became cancerous. They even brought the coke can to class to use during the lectures. When one talked, the conversation stopped until the black-brown saliva had drained into the can. He remembered the student red necking a couple of days ago for an hour across the hall in Barrows’s office, talking about people making moonshine for twenty-five dollars a gallon. They were mostly criminal justice students who worked part time for the local police departments. Learning how to be mean, he thought. Real mean and asinine.

He checked out the Kudzu Ciity Amtrak station where he would be leaving the next week for California. It looked abandoned, history having passed it by. No upgrading of the rails in gasoline powered private-car America

Sometimes he had to shut out the local scene completely from his thoughts. He felt alienated and more and more unable to fit in. He looked forward to getting away but it really hadn’t worked. His trip to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham turned into a small disaster when his hair was disfigured by that redneck barber. He visited a former colleague, a middle aged woman, academic, at her home in Birmingham, but her husband was nasty, hostile. She had invited him to come over for the weekend, but it seemed to grate on her husband’s nerves. He was a tight wiry guy, the type who tended to teach American politics classes and probably had Republican Party inclinations.

He was on his way to California, after the semester, for Christmas break after a few days. The weather was turning colder with some snow flurries. He went to the coin-op laundry near the university. While waiting for his clothes to dry, he saw a heavy set man with a beard, in a white shirt and tie, come in and take some clothes from a dryer and leave.

Then a man said, “Tha wuz my old lady’s undaweyah and evrethin.”

The other man said, “Weya, Ah hope it was a mistake. Ah’ve done a lot a crazy things, even gettin inta othah people’s cahs.”

Ah knew a woman who ud take clothes out a the Good-Will box and sell em,” the first man said.

Ted thought they probably suspected him. He gave them a sympathetic look. The fools. They should have watched their clothes, he thought.

He needed a woman for companionship, but didn’t know where he was going to find her. His students were sometimes friendly, but off limits. Some were cute, but mindless, Delta bow heads. Some may have had inclinations, he thought. There were a few nice looking women around campus, especially the one he noticed in the library that dressed nicely. She came to his mind when he lay down alone at night. Those little girls were cute, but he would get into trouble if he tried anything with them.

The snowflakes were falling heavily in the small pines beneath his window in the late evening. He wanted to strip off his clothes and run through them feeling the cool on his body. He called up Brenda, a porky woman in her thirties. She was another woman who worked in the library. He had met her checking out some books. She was not attractive, but friendly and soft, at least to him. In spite of her drooping double chin, he thought she might be a possible friend, or even lover. It would not be the first time he had closed his eyes and poked a fat woman. She said she would be glad to take him to Kudzu City to catch that train. He decided in the back of his mind to ask her if she wanted to stay with him that night. He had not had a woman since leaving California and half-way hoped that she would. There would be nothing to lose if he got a taste of her cherry and popped her the night before he left. Fat women were not so bad. He had had them before in a pinch.

He woke up at four in the morning. Nude, he stepped out on his balcony with a throbbing hard-on. Oh God, for a woman. He was supercharged. He felt the delicious cool air on his balls. He wondered about the woman who lived next door. She was strange. Small, dowdy, and seemed to be afraid of him. A southerner from another state. Was it Louisiana? Would she fuck? He didn’t think so. Not likely. But he had his fantasies. He thought of the time he had laid on his couch in the nude with a hard-on when she returned from work one day. If she looked she would probably see him through the door. It had excited him. He heard her start up the steps to the deck. He decided not to move. Let her see his rabid red cock throbbing at the ceiling. Before she reached the top he felt the spasm in his loins as his cock began to kick and his semen shot out in wild spurts. He had not expected that wild reaction. A deep and exhilarating involuntary release. He didn’t know if she had seen it. But it was her proclivity that had brought on his sharp climax. She had somehow touched him deep in his psyche. She would be OK for a night, he thought, but she seemed so dull. He had never met her even though they shared the same building, either side of the same wall. Not a great body, but she would do. A plain face, but a little cute.

He laid down but couldn’t sleep for some time after that. He thought of being on top of her young, innocent white flesh, and thrusting for all he was worth into that creamy red honey cup till he made her love it and then went broke flooding her with all he had. He finished checking exams and turned in his grades. The next day he would wrap it up and head for California.

Brenda came in the evening and they hit the dreary evening road to Kudzu City. He knew he was using her, but he needed the ride. And she was willing. Too willing, it seemed. He treated her to a meal, of sorts, at the Pizza Hut. All that flesh. What would she be like. Like another fat woman, he thought.

A little later, she left him at the Monte Cristo Motel, a downscale Patel Motel that had nothing whatsoever to do with either a mountain or with Christ. It was obvious that it was a no-go with Brenda for that night, which he figured was just as well. Not even a little kiss. No relief for his aching balls there. He called the local taxi asking for a ride to the station early next morning. The motel, like most Patel Motels was going to hell. The room was dirty. The towels were soiled with big grease spots on them. The floor looked grungy and grimy. Several things were broken. Jesus Christ! Jesus Christo! No matter. It was for one night and his budget was in the same league with the motel.

He rose early, excited to be getting out of the Delta. He had been awakened by some loud rednecks in the next room at five, smoking, coughing and yelling at each other. Then they turned on the TV. They started up their loud truck and started cursing at each other.

Weya, ah you gonna lay theya in at bed the whole goddam day? What tha fuck you gonna do, ya lazy motherfuck? And so on.

Taking a shower, he got scalded twice when the assholes flushed their toilet.

The cab pulled up and he heard the motor running. A black car, rather run-down. There was no light on top, so he wasn’t sure if it was the taxi. When he stepped out he realized it was. A black driver. He threw his bag and blanket in the back seat and got in.

Good mornin.” “How ya doin this mornin?” the driver said. The driver was rather large, grizzled, needed a shave, past middle age looking rather over the hill. Kind and docile, like blacks were supposed to be in Mississippi.

The car rattled and bumped its way across the rough streets of Kudzu City. The driver had to brake for the deep dips in the roads and intersections. They passed a cheap-looking place with an old-fashioned flashing neon sign: “catfish dinners.” He liked those old roadside signs from his childhood, when his family had driven the long road to Arkansas. How he loved that travel and wanted it never to end. He was fascinated by exotic places even as a kid.

A black preacher was giving a sermon on the radio. The driver deep into his black southern respectful humility listened quietly. Reverently. He noticed how shoddy and cheap the car felt and sounded. The shocks were shot. They made it down to the Amtrak Station at the east edge of town. Definitely third world. The soft underbelly of American decadence, he thought. The cab was two dollars. He gave him three. Poor son of a bitch, he thought. That poor mother fucker stuck in this hell hole for the duration. He will only get out feet first.

It was still dark. He had to wait ten minutes in the cool morning air before the station master came and opened the waiting room. Kudzu City looked bleak in the early morning. Now some light showed in the east. Pink-red strips of cloud appeared near the horizon.

The station, once classical, was run down. It reminded him of train stations in India, minus the flood of humanity. There was an old desk with black drawers with peeling paint. “This is America?” Yes, this is America. Next to the old desk was a large computer terminal. Capital pumped out of the area, but penetrated by technology. Controlled from the outside. Another version of the classical colonial relationship, he thought. The train was due in fifteen minutes.

The Amtrak logo was posted around the walls with pine paneling. Two large windows afforded an ample view of the rails across the brick apron. Beyond the rails, in grass and dried weeds, rubble piled near pine trees. He relaxed in the high-backed wonderful old wooden seats with arm rests rather like church pews anticipating his embarkation. When would they rip these out? The station would likely be closed. His would escape from hell, albeit a temporary respite. He loved that part. Train crewmen were coming into the station to man the freights. The pink-red clouds had turned to a dull pale yellow. The sun was coming up. Now blue skies with high strips of clouds appeared. A southern winter sky, hesitant, balanced between the long Indian summer Fall and the attempt to become winter. Not a very serious enterprise, in this latitude, he thought.

His train had arrived. As close as he could get to human liberation for the time being.

Chapter Ten: The Sunset Limited

After Ted found his seat and settled down, he went for breakfast. Back in his car, he read the New York Review. He felt relieved on his way to New Orleans where he would catch the Super liner train for LA, The Sunset Limited. Surging along, the powerful diesel engines soaring him off somewhere beyond the Mississippi Hell Hole. Somewhere over the rainbow. Anyplace was over the rainbow, after Mississippi. The fields along the track reminded him a little of the fields in Punjab. There was far more timber in the hills than in the Delta. The sun emerged. Spikes of wood smoke from the small poor houses. Squalid countryside, the glories of underdevelopment. Thick columns of steam rose from some industry in the chill morning air. He knew from the pickup trucks that the white working class was already on the job. The fiery sun expanded to a huge round ball in the moist morning air. Catfish ponds appeared. Rail cars on the side loaded with pulpwood. That would be the New York Times in a couple of weeks. Tens of thousands of trees sacrificed their life for a single edition of ruling class lies, he thought. And for selling ladies underwear.

Pappy’s Lounge in Jackson. Small industries. Small squalid houses. Grain storage bins. Taller buildings to the east. Downtown Jackson. He read a travel piece in his journal about a woman transvestite who passed as a boy in Albania and became an honorary man among the Muslims there. The Mississippi State Capital. Crime scene, he thought. What are they up to today. Screwing the working class again, no doubt. Downtown Jackson was compact, small townish. It gave the feeling of southern sloth.

South through pine forests, a backwater of America. Mississippi is not prepared to put up with the social change that real development would bring, he reflected. Small town, more pulp wood being loaded on cars for shipment. Brookhaven. Another small squalid town. Piles of junk and red soil. “Lott Furniture Company”. A dominant caste in southern Mississippi. A man comes through the train swearing.

Dam. Ah got lost in this thane. I dono know which cah I was a settin in.”

The real armpit of America, he thought. Further south, it became greener. Some trees in full autumn color, red and orange leaves. Large billboard, “Brent Trott for Mississippi.” If they want him, let them have him. Weedy fields. Shacks with old rusty Fords in front. Pale green “cheapies.” Farm ponds. The “Great American Box Co.” American flag hoisted high above and small water tower. More catfish farms. Trailer trash on a bare dirt lot, old car in front. The blue skies disappeared for the overcast. More logging.

The houses become more squalid, trailers and shacks. Now and then a nice ranch-style house appears. A Sunflower store, a General Store. Upscale white middle class section of the town. Cannibalized old autos, big Fords, old Chevys.

Forget it. It would have only increased his pleasure if he knew that he was leaving this hell never to return. But it could not be the case.

Hammond, Louisiana. A large cemetery appeared, each grave with a large cross. It reminded him of cemeteries he had seen in Naples, Italy. He walked to the men’s lounge and took a took a whiz. One could look out through the small window while standing there and watch the countryside pass.

Lake Pontchartrain by noon. Swampy area. Dead trees in the water across the swamp. Probably alligators in there too.

A little after two, he boarded the Sunset Limited for LA. He settled into a window seat. He was a little late as he stayed behind the crowd to carry two bags for an elderly lady from Memphis. Helping a woman out. The conductor came through for the ticket. Across the high Huey P. Long bridge across the Mississippi.

The next morning the train was in West Texas. Ted ate breakfast with a woman from Texas. She was remarried, attractive, not looking that old, he thought. His seat in the chair car was next to a black girl. He tried to get a conversation going, but she was not friendly. Then he met the woman from Memphis. The plain was treeless. The previous night he had read one hundred pages of Richard Wright’s novel, Black Boy.

He talked to the Memphis woman with a good sense of irony, shielding his progressive, maybe radical, notions. Normal people take their prejudices for granted, he thought. The more urban the person, the more perceptive and canny. He felt great, looking forward to Santa Barbara again. He could make two or three such trips a year, he thought, and love every minute of it. He preferred the slow travel by train. Some people he found decidedly dull. He thought of Plato’s City of Pigs in the Republic.

Kids are little sponges who readily soak up the social excrement of society. Where will society be if someone does not squeeze that shit out of them, to disabuse them of the excrement with which they are full. Full of it. That was his job. That was what they paid him for. The twelve labors of Hercules, or worse. Well, it wasn’t actually what they paid him for. They paid him to pack them full of even more shit from those shit-eating textbooks, written by high-flying and much cited political scientists. But he made it his duty to try to squeeze some if it out of them anyway. Even if only a little bit. That should be the mission of a good university. That the opposite was true, he couldn’t do much about. Otherwise they wouldn’t get a dime out of the farmers and insurance salesmen in the state legislatures.

Sanderson, Texas. He heard somebody remark that it’s in a valley. More like a hole, Ted thought. A sheep ranching area at one time. Desolate. The train brochure pointed out that west of the station was the brick ruins of the Sanderson Wool Commission. There were a few houses and businesses. Not much else.

Moving out of Alpine, Ted talked to the redneck woman from Memphis. Probably in her fifties, but looking older. This class had a rough life and it put a lot of miles on them early on. He went with her to the lounge for coffee. He noticed that she had pretty traditional ideas. No education, so irony was in order. Hills rose abruptly from the plain, like small mounds, some rocky, covered by little green bushes.

Mid-afternoon, El Paso. Blue skies. A stop for a walk into the station. The woman from Memphis got off in Yuma, Arizona. He had switched seats and kept her company and helped her get her bags off in the middle of the night. He said he might see her again in Memphis. Not much of a loss if he didn’t, he thought.

The next morning it was cloudy as the train rolled into the California coast land. Light rain was falling. The leg up to Santa Barbara was an Amtrak bus. At breakfast he had met a woman from Sacramento and fell into a conversation with her on politics. So different from the southern mentality. She was normal. The first real normal sane person he had talked to for a long time, it seemed to him. So they hit it off. She told him that conversation had been so dead, she was glad to see a spark of interest for intelligent talk. She lashed into Reagan and Bush. Ted told her he was teaching in Mississippi.

What are you doing down there?” she asked.

She was obviously not clued into the job market to know that new Ph. D.s were landing in places like that. The bus was now roaring up the 101 freeway which was loaded up with pre-holiday traffic.

Agoura, the sun had broken through the morning layer of fog to illuminate California’s coastal beauty. No more dead stick cotton fields and cobbled up shacks. The southern black underclass had been replaced with the Mexican Latino underclass in the fields. Same old shit, just different slaves. Past Thousand Oaks, he would soon be over the hump and headed down the hill to Oxnard. The bus driver was roaring dangerously down the steep grade. Over the hill in a minute into the flat vegetable fields.

He recognized the northern accent from a Midwestern family from Elkhart, Indiana, who got on in LA. The guy fell into the natural lingo of talking sports, basketball, naturally. A basketball star had been injured in a car accident. “He is a black boy.” He said. All had that sturdy look, the iron frame of puritanical beliefs. But they lack imagination, he thought. The Pacific came into view. All the Indianans craned their necks to see the ocean. Mother and daughter of high school graduation age had identical hair styles. Old fogey type. Staunch Republican Indiana. The daughter seemed to be a younger version of her mother. Ted wondered if and when she would rebel. Voting Republican, likely.

Irrigated fields of winter vegetables reminded him of the fields of winter cauliflower and potato in Punjab. Ted felt half brain-dead. Got an LA Times at the brief stop in Oxnard. First real newspaper he had seen in a while.

He saw the road to Ojai. Was Krishnamurti still up there? He loved those little winding roads up into the California hills.

Carpenteria, the mountains loomed above Santa Barbara. He saw what was on the back of the Indiana girl’s T-shirt. “For radicals only.” Perhaps there was hope. What did the stolid parents think? Or was it merely cosmetic. What could the word “radical” mean to a young kid like that? The marketing of the sixties had come into vogue, now that the danger of any change was long past. Even the word “radical” became just another commodity to market in America. The driver careened dangerously, narrowly missing a truck at Montecito. They were off the exit and up the back way to Cabrillo street and the train station. Fess Parker’s Red Lion Inn claimed the spot across the freeway. But beautiful. No shit. He was home.

Chapter Eleven: California Nirvana

When Ted walked up to his apartment in Santa Barbara, he was standing in the doorway. Just off the plane from London the previous day at Los Angeles International Airport, Lakshmi’s uncle, had taken up residence with his family for the holidays. This meant that sex was out of the question. Meals would have to be prepared, nonstop, morning, noon and night. And to entertain him, was not easy. So, to put it briefly, it was great to be home for the holidays, but he would have to spend a lot of time entertaining Uncleji, his wife’s dear uncle.

V.D. Verma, who was a Hindu in his fifties, and long-time bank clerk in one of the big banks in downtown London, was making his once in a lifetime pilgrimage to America. For orthodox Hindus to leave the holy land of India and cross the kali pani, or black waters, to the infidel west was deeply polluting. Uncleji had no fears of that, as he had lived in England most of his life. But his trepidation and suspicion of foreign lands was not yet completely allayed. Not at all. He cast his distrusting eyes upon all things which might be sinful and polluting to his venerable Hindu soul.

Now he had courageously taken the ultimate plunge and ventured into the truly deeply infidel land of America. He would find out what it was all about. Live dangerously. Of course, anyone who knows only LA and Santa Barbara knows America not at all. But this was beyond his comprehension. There were many things beyond Uncleji’s comprehension.

Between the heavy winter rains Ted worked to get his old Volkswagen running. It had been setting in the student housing parking since he left. His wife did not drive. The battery was down along with a couple of the tires.

Ted and Lakshmi did their best to please Uncleji but there were clearly a lot of things that did not go to his liking, having been immersed in orthodox Indian culture for so long, even though living outside of India. After all, west London was a little India. A ghetto. They didn’t call it Little Delhi for nothing. First, his niece had married an outcast, Ted. Having not been born a Hindu, Ted had no caste at all, which rendered him an outcast. That was breach enough of the sacred Laws of Manu. Then Uncleji was shocked at Lakshmi’s shelf of Punjabi books. He asked her why she had so many.

There are no use for them in this country,” he said.

And as a Hindu, she ought to be reading Hindi books in the Devanagari script, according to his narrow communalist thinking. In his prejudiced view, Punjabi, written in Gurmukhi script, was a language of the Sikhs, and one would never see a Sikh studying literature in Hindi. This merely exposed his ignorance of his own country, as Lakshmi pointed out to him. There were many Sikhs studying Hindi literature and even writing in Hindi.

One studied for a Ph.D only to make a better living in his view. When Ted pointed out that in America people went back to the university at all ages, just for the purpose of learning and enriching their lives, he thought it was a totally foolish thing to do. What could be the use of it? If it could not help them get a better job and earn more money, they were wasting their time.

After downing his stack of greasy prontas, or Indian bread cakes, every morning, with some mango or red pepper pickles, his stomach would blow up and stick out like a round balloon and then he would lay down and begin to emit foul smelling odors, sometimes in a quite explosive manner. The house was always filled with smoke in the mornings like a Punjabi village, as his wife cooked breakfast for Uncleji and made cup after cup of tea to wash down all that spicy food. She had purchased a twenty kilogram sack of flour in preparation for his arrival and its replenishment would soon be necessary.

There was almost two weeks in which the burden fell upon Ted and the family to entertain their guest from the Old World and this was not easy. He was at a complete loss in America, as if his boat had capsized and washed up on some foreign shore with strange incomprehensible people.

After Christmas, Ted rented a car and took them all to Los Angeles, so that dear Uncleji could get a taste of Disneyland and the true infidelity of the urban south land. They had stayed with Lakshmi’s Iranian friend, Nusheen, in Glendale for three nights. Even though saved from paying for a motel, the excursion made a considerable dent in Ted’s pocketbook. But he had no choice. He dared not further antagonize the orthodox. Surely he had done enough damage already by polluting a member of the family beyond redemption. He did his best to make amends. He had toured his guest all around the town, the mission, the Santa Barbara hills, and museums, and shopping centers, to entertain him to the best of his ability. For Uncleji, unfortunately, it meant nothing, nothing at all, all of it apparently incomprehensible, having never developed his interest in anything other than pulling down a paycheck at the end of the month to pay the bills and get on through the four stages of a Hindu’s life. There was no such thing as entertaining Uncleji.

He was now reaching that final stage, where one was supposed to give up all earthly possessions and seek Truth and God, but there was no danger of Uncleji wandering off with his begging bowl to become a homeless Sunyasi or truth seeker. His proclivity ran rather in the opposite direction, to plastic table cloths and cheesy Texasware. Such pursuits were close enough to the truth for a modernized plodding upper caste Hindu, a Brahmin like dear Uncleji. His nirvana would emerge not from the infinite Brahma, the infinite soul, but from the plastic found on the shelves of shopping marts. That was the only thing that made his eyes shine, as far as Ted could tell.

What does it mean by freeway entrance?” Uncleji wanted to know, as they, in fact, entered the freeway. To some, it would have been obvious.

What does it mean by no littering?” Uncleji wondered.

In the food store, he had to ask: “What does it mean by key buy?” “Can I use my Master Card here?”

Ted spent his holiday explaining such mundane inquiries, resisting the temptation to ask him where he had left his dunce cap.

My dear Uncleji, what your mastercard will not buy in America does not exist. This country is not called America for nothing. Maybe in India the sky settles everything, as E.M. Forester had it. But in America, the market settles everything,” Ted wanted to say.

In the end, what turned Uncleji on, utilitarian to a fault, was the cheapest most cheesy household items in K-Mart, Walmart, Shitmart. These were his key buys warming the cockles of his post-Vedic Hindu Soul. They were commodities which could be bought at the same price around the corner from his house in London, no doubt, but then they would not have fallen from the nirvana which emanated from America in the eyes of Indian immigrants. Buying them in England would strip them of the prestige and aura which attached to them, having come from infidel America. They might be polluting to his soul, but when it came to material goods, he would take a chance and live dangerously. He would lug his plastic fucking treasures all the way from America back to the Old World, which was already chock full of that shit. Most of it came from China anyway. These were considerations which did not impinge upon Uncleji’s consciousness. He lived in his own little world. He was doing it his way.

When he wasn’t entertaining Uncleji, Ted read stories to his young daughter, Melody, now five. The Night Before Christmas, Mother Goose, Peter Rabbit. His older daughter, Angie, fifteen, and now in high school was having trouble in her classes, having discovered many ways to have more fun than studying mathematics. He would have to talk to her teachers before going back.

Ted talked to Uncleji about his life in London. Uncleji said that it took more than an hour to get to work on the buses or tube, and most of the time, he had to stand all the way on the crowded transport. It was a grind, doing it for years. He admitted to Ted that he never read, so it was not surprising that he was rather dull mentally, his universe confined to his narrow duties in the bank. He did have a car, but his ability to drive was so minimal that it was rather suicidal for him get out onto the roads, even for a weekend drive to the countryside. Ted remembered Uncleji’s bumbling attempts to drive in London one summer when he had been there with the family on the way to India.

It was refreshing for Ted having the LA Times, a real newspaper, which was dropped every day in front of his door. The American South was vacuous in that respect. But Uncleji never looked at the newspaper. It was crowded in their small apartment. Uncleji settled down in his daughter’s room, his wife and the kids got the big bed, and Ted got the cold hard floor downstairs. This was even harder and colder in the damp winter air, as the floor was not carpeted. He fought off the creeping bad cold he felt coming on.

There was a party for Indians and Iranians at the housing site just before Christmas. Ted had cooked a big turkey, upside down, as it turned out, keeping with the spirit of his holiday. But perhaps the fate of the turkey was hardly worse than that of Ted. It was readily devoured by the guests despite its seriously erroneous orientation. Just a hundred and eighty out. Roger that. In any event, a turkey is a turkey as was becoming clearer by the hour.

One morning Ted took Uncleji and Melody for a long ride up over San Marcos Pass and over into the Santa Ynez Valley. They stopped at Vista Point and made some pictures of the scenic view and the sea below. It was chilly in the pass, as if the wind was blowing off snow with the green and brown hills behind, and the blue of Lake Cochuma in the distance. The mountains below were green with the blue sea expanding to the horizon. The sun reflecting from the Pacific Ocean below left a shimmer and beyond one could see the mountains rising from the Channel Islands in the distance. Below, Goleta sprawled in the flat strip of beach land. Uncleji was lost in wonderland. Contemplating Brahma? Not likely. Looking at mountains and the sea was also a waste of time for him.

He was also not impressed with the Mission or the Natural History Museum, which had exhibits about the California Chumash Indians.

After coming back to the apartment, Ted felt tired and feverish. The damp weather was catching up with him and his shoes, his only pair, had become soaked in the frequent rains. He lay down in his old bed upstairs and listened to Beethoven, which seemed a welcome break from all things Indian. Looking across to the adjacent apartments, he felt a sense of deja vu, after being away, and a sense of loss.

It would soon be over for his California residency. He would never really make it in California. He had come to understand that. The place had turned off too yupieish for him. The cutting edge of America. They only had need of the new generation of youth with ideas quite different from his. His mind drifted back to winter days in Punjab, when he would catch a cold and have to rest up.

And then he thought of his childhood on the farm in Missouri. He saw a field of golden ripe corn in the river bottom on the farm in Preston. It was a bright Fall day. His father was there in his overalls holding the reins and driving the old wagon with high side boards and wooden wheels, pulled by two big brown horses. Now stopped in the field, the wagon was filling up with a heap of long fat ears of ripe yellow corn, as his father shucked the ears off the dry stalks and tossed them into the pile. The pungent smell of ripe ragweed and horse weed filled the clear sunny air. It was a pleasant and homely fragrance. A cool breeze stirred with the bite of frost. An Indian summer day, before the bitter cold and snow of a North Missouri winter.

The last rays of sun disappeared behind the tops of the red tiled apartments and the evening began to fall quickly. He had come a long way from Missouri.

And then there was the dinner at Harban Singh’s place in Goleta. He and his young wife were Punjabis from Hoshiarpur. They were treated to a video of their wedding in Punjab. Uncleji quickly grabbed the opportunity to gobble down some bacon, another serious sin. But what the hell? His family back in England would never know. He even wet his lips with a glass of California wine. His gluttony, not surprisingly, brought on another round of gaseous explosions in the small car as the family made its way back to the apartment.

This outing was followed by the New Year’s get together of local Indians, where the men absorbed themselves in a mindless Amitabh Buchchan film and the women from West Bengal sang hymns from Rabindranath Tagore. Amitabh crooned Hindi songs while dancing across the tops of cars in a Mumbai parking lot. The film props included enormous goggles or sunglasses, a staple of popular Indian films. Ted soon had his fill of that, but his karma was to endure the torture. He fled for relief to Rabindranath’s odes but that too left something to be desired.

Then there was the visit to the enormous ostentatious Hindu temple in Malibu and blessings from the pundit. Ted could have used them if they had cut any ice.

In Los Angeles, they went to the Krishna Temple. There was a vegetarian meal in the evening after the chanting of Hari Krishna, Hari Rama. The guests sat down on small mats on the floor with just a small platform in front of them and then simple vegetarian food was served, lentils, rice, vegetable, coconut juice, and a sweet dish. A young woman sat in front and gave a talk, admonishing the devotees to be more fervent in their worship of Krishna, to “let Krishna come into your life if you believe that Krishna is God.”

Live your lives in Krishna Consciousness,” she admonished them.

Ted thought about what that would entail down in the Mississippi Delta.

It is very unfortunate that children are being given a materialistic education in the public schools,” she asserted in foreboding tones. What the world needs is more religion.”

It was a rejection of secularism. Substitute Jesus Christ for Krishna, and one would have a typical Christian sermon. Ted thought. How many times Bible thumping preachers had bent his ears with that torturous and inane clap-trap when he was a kid and then made him think he was going to drop into hell for his grievous sins against God before the end of the night. The Christianization of Vedic religion had almost reached this level. Was it a result of the Ramakrishna Mission as Agahananda Bharati, that Austrian who became a Hindu Monk, thought?

It grated on Ted’s nerves. He knew what was going on in India. There was no shortage of religion. Was it what they needed? Coals to Newcastle. They had religion dripping out their ears and everywhere else. Not only was it often dogmatic and reactionary, but it often produced communal riots. Now it had entered the heart of politics itself. The rabid communalization of politics. All of these devotees seemed to be very naive indeed about Indian society. Where were people more materialistic than there? Why did Indians rush to America except to get rich. It was a Yankee go home, but take me with you mentality. They found their Nirvana in Silicon Valley. These young white devotees were a group of Indian lovers who knew what the books and the pundits said about India, but did not know India. Did not go to the roots. They had not endured the heat and filth and degradation, the ruined lives, in the hundreds of thousands of rural villages. They knew nothing about it. They had not seen the reality. It was instructive. He pointed this out to them, but they rejected it totally. There was no bursting their big pink Hari Krishna balloon. They were true believers.

That is dangerous, Ted thought. Just as dangerous as any other dogmatic ideology, and rather blind in assertions cut from whole cloth, rather than based upon sociological analysis. The opiate of the people, recycled.

Back home, relations between Uncleji and Lakshmi were becoming more icy. They had already had several fights. He began to ignore her. Sometimes he talked to Ted, but mostly to his older daughter. He reminded him of Lakshmi’s mother, who had died some years before. Exact same face, in essential features. In his room, he continued to let his roaring farts, periodically. Indeed, what could prevent it after all those buttered up prontas and belly tickling Indian pickles, even though he spent long and frequent periods in the bathroom. Ted sometimes wondered if he had indeed merged with Brahma, the infinite soul, never to emerge again.

Fixing Uncleji up with tea, was a major headache when they stopped at McDonalds. It had to be made with a bag, so un-Indian. First the water would not be hot enough, so Ted would have to truck back and buck the line for another hot water. Then Uncleji would want a spoon to stir the tea and Ted would have to make another trip back up the line for that. Back and forth, and the dear man so helpless. Why was he so incompetent? Why couldn’t he get it for himself for once? And why did he never spring for anything? Stoically, Ted endured until time to head back. Carrying his Christian cross was not enough. He had to bear up this Hindu one too.

As it turned out, the Pundit’s blessings at the Temple were not completely in vain. One morning Uncleji boarded the bus for LA Airport. Ted carried Uncleji’s bags out and bid him farewell. Half an hour later Ted got a ride with his wife’s friend down to the train station to start the long trip back to the Mississippi Delta. Ted had survived and performed his filial duties but at the expense of his holiday.

Chapter Twelve: California Zephyr

Now Ted was on the long trip back. Early January. The train left LA in the afternoon, made Salt Lake City the next morning where the cars were joined with the California Zephyr from San Francisco, and was into Colorado in the afternoon. Then his dream woman got on in Glenwood Springs. She was attractive, young and friendly with a lovely body with flesh in just the right places. She was only going a short way up to Fraser in the mountains. She would be on the train only a couple of hours. Her seat was next to him in the chair car. When he returned to his seat, they met. She asked Ted if there was any place where she could get something to drink. He said, “Sure, in the lounge car up ahead.”

I would like to have a cocktail,” she said.

Well, I’ll walk up with you,” Ted said.

Can I buy you a drink?”

She said she would pay for it, but he went ahead and paid and they had beer.

My name is Ted,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you.”

I’m Ramona,” she said. “Nice to meet you too.”

How do you like the train,” he asked.

Oh, it’s nice” she said, “I take it quite a bit, but I only go a short distance. I would probably get tired on a long trip.”

I rather like long trips,” Ted said.

What do you do?” she asked. He looked into her beautiful big brown eyes. They were so soft and sweet. Her ear rings dangled, her cheeks young and vibrant and slightly flushed, full of youth. Her lips were inviting, as she slipped a nut inside and crunched. Her beauty started to captivate him. He had just come from home, but his wife had been frigid, with Uncleji there. She had hung it up, leaving Ted in the cold with dear Uncleji. Priorities. She is more than pretty, Ted thought. She has real beauty. If only he could have her for one night, it would be enough to take him through the whole semester. He might start believing in the Brahma Atma. At least in karma Yoga. He could see the outline of her breasts under her sweater. Just right. And a lovely ass in those snug fitting jeans. He noticed her elegant hands, long, thin fingers. There was a wedding band. She was getting it if she wanted it. But she might want something else. His nuts began to tickle. He wanted to touch her.

I am teaching,” Ted said. “At a university in Mississippi. It is just down from Memphis, called Cotton State.”

Oh, so you are a professor,” she stated the obvious.

Sort of” he said. “I try to teach them something.”

Why are you teaching down there in Mississippi?” she asked. “Is that where you are from?”

No way,” Ted said. “That’s just where I ended up finding a job after getting a Ph.D. One year at South Carolina, and then to Mississippi.”

Why don’t you come and teach in Colorado?” she asked. “It is a nice state.”

I would love to,” Ted said. “But getting a job is the trick. I did have an interview at a university in Grand Junction. A Colorado state university. But no luck. Anyway, it looked a little bleak out there.”

Oh, I know that place. A friend of mine went there. It’s not so great. But Boulder is nice. I graduated from the university there and studied French and German. I lived in France for a while.”

Thats great,” he said, impressed. “It’s wonderful to travel abroad.”

Well, tell me about Cotton State, she said.”

I don’t even like to think about it,” he said. “It’s worse than you could imagine, if you haven’t been there. A lot of people think that things changed after the Civil Rights Movement, but really, it is a seriously racist place. And people just don’t like outsiders. I am just waiting for a chance to leave.”

She bought the next round and some beer nuts.

Do you have a family?” she asked.

Yea, and two kids. The oldest one in high school. Both girls. But they stayed behind in California. They just didn’t want to go there and it would not be good for them anyway.”

That’s sort of hard,” she said.

It is, but I do the best I can,” he said. “It’s better than nothing. I spend a lot of time applying for jobs but for every job there are more than a hundred applications, so it is sort of like a lottery. You have to be lucky to land something. There are lots of people who didn’t get anything. And sometimes one gets turned down just because it is an affirmative action position. That goes against white men like me.”

Well, maybe you will get lucky this year,” she said.

What about you?” he asked.

Oh, my husband is working in the ski resort business. He is gone quite a lot.”

That sounded inviting, but was not of much use to Ted, since he was on his way back to the southern purgatory.

Ted knew the area had undergone a good deal of yuppiefication in recent years. The first women he really got into talking to on the trip so far. Ted hit it off with her real well. She was an intelligent and sensitive young woman. He was falling in love. They returned to the chair car. They passed Granby. They would soon reach her stop.

Sometimes I wish I could just stay on here and ride the whole night and sleep,” she said. “Would you take care of me?”

I would love to,” Ted said, and looked into her eyes. She laughed.

But I’m afraid my husband would miss me,” she said, and touched his arm as she laughed.

The hell with him, Ted thought.

I will miss you too,” Ted said. “I wish you could keep me company. I will soon be down in all that flat Nebraska cowshit country. A man needs some real serious comfort to get through that.”

Sorry,” she said. “But I think you will do fine.”

I could do a lot better with you, he thought. No shit.

The train was slowing for Fraser.

Well, this is it,” she said. “I hope you have a good semester and good luck.”

Thanks, I’m going to need it,” he said. “I will think back to meeting you on dark days, Ramona.

You are sweet,” she said.

She gave him a small kiss on his cheek. He felt his cock thicken. Then she wished him well and was off. He could only drool at her gorgeous young ass as she collected her bag. He hadn’t even gotten her address or phone number. But probably no need, he thought. But one could always dream. Next stop Denver. Goodby for ever, dream woman. I can only dream, Ted thought. It was depressing.

The next morning he had entered farm country in Nebraska. Cold and drab looking. No snow. Small streams frozen over solid. Small dilapidated towns. The excrement of capitalism, he thought. Or was of crapitalism? It didn’t work the way it was taught in Economics 101.

He had gained a new seat companion, seemingly a farmer with a red checkered cap. Those like feed companies give out free. Purina Chow or some such. He came on reading The Examiner, past midnight. Ted pulled the blanket over his head to sleep. When he woke up the next morning, the farmer was still combing through the pages religiously. He noticed the headlines. “Why poor Vanna White is scared.” And another, “Tragedy of Humpty Dumpty Boy.” The picture showed a baby that had some sort of deformation. The farmer’s wife was in the adjacent seat across the aisle.

When they started to come into Lincoln, the guy put his head up like a goose straining to see above the seats. Looking stupid, he continued to read the tabloid. The station, solid, shabby, Calvinistic, Midwestern. Three story red brick structure. It reminded Ted of the old school houses.

The man reminded Ted of his father, the way he talked and acted. The woman sounded like his mother.

This is Sara Lee. No wonder it is so good,” she said, eating a small cake. The old man didn’t catch it. “Sara Lee, the one that makes the pancakes,” she said.

This is the first time I’ve rode a train since World War II, when I was in the service,” he said. He started talking about why they went to Denver. To visit their son who was working at a military base there. His wife went to get some coffee. Ted told her where to get it.

They are coming out of up there. Don’t know if they’re coming out of the next car or from down below.” Ted told her to go to the car in front of the diner for the coffee. She brought the coffee back with the Sara Lee rolls. He put the coffee on the floor in front of him and started putting in cream and sugar. Ted showed him how to lower the tray on the back of the seat in front of him. Then they wanted to smoke, but didn’t know where to go.

Brook Shields: 300 crazies threaten her life,” read the headline in the tabloid. Thankfully, the couple walked forward to the next car.

On the outskirt of Omaha. Housing developments had sprung up in corn fields. Condominiums, sparse and Calvinistic matching the drab countryside. Industrial units. Tilled fields. Junkyards. Salvage yards. Squalid run-down older housing. Cotton Belt, Frisco, Cargill, Con Agra, Falstaff Omaha Brewery. Old wood frame houses with junk in the yards. Graffiti on the walls along the tracks. The downtown skyline appeared on the left. Miserable. More excrement of capitalism. Use and throw. Suck dry. Deplete. Discard. The laws of motion of modern capitalist society. More excrement. The House of Butternut Coffee. Massive drab brick buildings, windows broken. In the belly of the beast. It had turned cloudy. Women cackled at the mens’ jokes further back in the car. Decrepit industrial units. Moribund. Across the Missouri River into Iowa. Now the drab fields of Western Iowa.

Ted thought of her ass, that lovely ass. Yes, that could help a lot getting through all this American excrement. He thought of those eyes. And those red lips. Those warm, soft, breasts. That ass. If only she was here.

A local in a flannel shirt waddled through the train. “How are you”, he says to the Santa Barbara couple sitting behind Ted. Three or four of his cigarettes fall out of his pocket. “Gahad daham” he says and shuffles on back to the smoking, coughing area, cancer breeding car.

The farmer offered Ted the Examiner, but he turned him down, not wanting to pollute his mind further. It went to the couple from Michigan. They looked at the pictures and passed it on. They were not doing a whole lot better with USA Today. Big sections: People, Sports, Television, Money, All trash. More Excrement. With a capital “E.”

Creston, Iowa. More excrement. The station appears, an unimaginative yellow brick building with window frames painted green. Across the track, small wood-frame houses. Chevys. Fords. A Hams Beer truck.

Osceola. Ted remembered it from his childhood. When his father took them to see Oral Roberts in the big tent in Des Moines for several nights in a row. He would pull out all stops to get to an Oral Roberts carnival. That’s what it was, Ted thought. Entertainment for the peasants. Opiate. Pie in the sky. Smoke and mirrors. Imprisoned all their lives by religion and politics. Spartan wood-frame houses. Green and white roofs. Small town and now back through the cornfields. Soil upturned in the sun. It looks warm outside, but he knows it’s cold. Cold as shit. No snow this winter. Clear blue skies. Farmers are worried about the lack of moisture. A huge pile of scrap iron. More excrement. He is getting weary of the journey, anxious to get back, the trip taking him though fourteen states, three thousand miles from California to Weaselville.

The “City of New Orleans” will not leave until the train gets to Chicago, it was announced. The train was running three hours late now. With his dream woman he wouldn’t care if the son of a bitch ever got there.

Burlington, across the Mississippi into Illinois. Along the bluffs of the river. A birch church with steep spire on the steeple, prominent down town. Picturesque, but not a place where he would like to live. The river here appears puny, narrow, compared to the mile wide river down in Mississippi.

Galesburg. The train high-balls across the flat prairie to make up some lost time.

Coming into Chicago. Looks grim. Rundown. Uninviting. Some remnants of a recent snow remain. Some lights of tall buildings come into view. He sees the Sears Tower to the left.

Into the station, Ted quickly took the long walk down the length of the Zephyr and back the length of the City of New Orleans on another platform. A long way with his bags.

Inside the train. The seats were small. It would not be easy to sleep. More than three thousand miles from Santa Barbara to his destination. He had another night to go.

Hungry, Ted went to the dining car for dinner near the end of the train. The meal was good, or was it just because he was so hungry? He was the only one at the table and treated himself to a small bottle of wine. Another man came in looking like a guy he remembered in the Peace Corps. Was it Russ? No. The waiters sat him down with Ted. He asked Ted what he was having. He got the menu and shifted to another table. Things began to seem different, more looney, than on the California train.

A man in his fifties in a dandy suit and tie was sitting across from a woman. He was pointing out Chicago landmarks as the train made its way south out of the city.

The train rode loud and rough unlike the Super liner Zephyr. His destination was not la la la la land, but the Delta.

In the night, they would lose an engine and set on the track in the dead of the night in a dead dark car waiting for a replacement engine to arrive. Why did America, the richest nation in the world, have to be like this? It would not be if it was businessmen riding this car, Ted thought. Europe, Japan, had super-fast trains. America was still in the horse and buggy age when it came to trains, and the politicians were trying to kill even those off. An underfunded and badly run outfit. Congress had always poured the taxpayers’ money into the military and the auto industry, neglecting rail travel. They knew which side of their bread was buttered. The one that got them re-elected.

Chapter Thirteen: Dixiefication
The clouds rolled across the Delta, filling the sky and molding it into a mottled white and gray. It was late February. Birds fluttered around the little trees now bare and flanked by pines. The rain would come again, perhaps by nightfall. The cycle continued. Cold and dry, warmer and rain. Even mosquitos in the dead of winter. Living at the bottom of the rain barrel, what more would one expect?

Six weeks of another semester had already passed. There would soon be a Spring break. A little respite from the grind, if not from the scenery. Farmers would start flying chemicals onto their fields for another crop season.

In the morning hour, he reflected on the personalities of the locals. One could never be sure what they were thinking because they, like society itself, were not open. They weaseled around behind one’s back, hid their true thoughts and emotions, seemed fickle. Emotions seemed to be, at best, appearance deep, on the surface.

An older student had warned him. “Those students ayah nevah goin ta tell ya what they think. They think jist like their mommies and daddys, and that’s all.”

Then he reflected on his mother, a native of Arkansas. Wasn’t it the same with her? There was the appearance and then the thoughts, which resulted in hypocrisy. It would make it difficult to function in such a society when one valued openness and honesty. When one was an outsider. Then it seemed that people said one thing and did another. One could only understand their thoughts by their actions. There were other indications that this was true, and the frank admission, the insight, of one honest student that it was true. People knew others by what they knew they were thinking, not by what they said to others.

He wanted an encounter with a woman. That would do him good. Sometimes when he lay down at night in loneliness, to again do without, he reflected on missed opportunities. He kicked himself for stupidly not taking advantage. He remembered that cute woman he had met in Key West. They ate fish together, but somehow there was something wrong with it. Ted got deathly ill and took a day to recover in a motel. There were so many possibilities, and he would hungrily avail himself at another opportunity.

He generally thought of Claire Berkshire, who had come after so long, and who was so satisfying, invigorating, after a long period of doing without. One could never recapture the spirit of the initial encounters. One could never exactly recapture the initial joys of love making. Why was it that such intense pleasure was the least memorable and yet the most sought after?

Their love-making was full bodied, passionate and complete. He remembered the night they had fallen into each-others’ arms and gone after each other hungrily. Both sought pleasure with abandon and gained the pleasure effortlessly and naturally that was not possible in every case, with most. But it was captured in this relationship to a remarkable degree. There was the phenomenon that the character of love took on a peculiar characteristic with each and every partner. One might, with one partner, experience only a distorted and discordant form. One might, it seemed, want to experience a range to determine the appropriate resonance and harmony, and then play that instrument. That wouldn’t guarantee that the instruments would stay in tune and that they could necessarily continue to make music. That the resonance would continue. That was the essence of the love relationship. Union could be achieved but resonance, harmony, and music, was something else. What he really wanted to do, what he needed to do was to make music.

There were not many with whom one could genuinely make music, as many elements had to come together, and a certain practice, rhythm be established and the instruments must be mutually tuned.

An essential element, undoubtedly, was liberation. Liberation from the lies which society pumped into the heads of youth of every society. That was part of the celebration of love making in American society in the sixties, that a generation could throw off some of its bourgeois culture and along with those shackles, could also throw off some of the inhibitions of making love. Now those shackles had been clamped ever tighter, in yuppie climbers, one might almost say the Southernization of America. Dixiefication of the USA. And as America went through the throes of Dixiefication, so too the sex and inhibitions were again clamped tightly. Not the least, the campaign waged by G.E. packaged Ronald Reagan, the Ray Gun, the man of the eighties, and the fundamentalist fellow riders. It was getting worse.

The most intense incarnation of that was found in the Southern Dixie, Watermelon Heart, Mississippi-Alabama Axis, with tentacles spreading out to Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia, the whole southern cluster and with tentacles up and around the vast stretches to the northwest and west, Chicago, New York, Detroit and so on. Eldridge Cleaver had put it well. “Dixie is all that territory south of the Canadian border.”

The Dixiefication of America clamped a tight chastity belt on society and threw away the key. There were a hundred would-be Ayatollah Khomeinis in the movement. Fundamentalists. The sect Ted had grown up in. An American puritanical Taliban. Still, it did not take readily. The basic reason, too restrictive of the market. The force of the market kept undermining such fundamentalist ideology in America.

Indeed, at root, that was why all ideologies, other than the market ideology, had always been so weak in America. So the bursting of the market, with the marketing of sex, certainly facilitated the movement of products, kept cracks in the chastity belt. Nevertheless, one could not deny that fear had greatly increased, and particularly the fear of freedom.

It was odd, he thought, individuals like chicks, would likely run under any brood at imaginary fears. Politicians could cynically play the game of exaggerating those fears and flushing the chicks under their brood. Was that not the global game practiced since the Second World War, the “Cold War”. Now the cover was wearing transparent. The genitals were clearly discernible behind the national security fig leaf.

Now, the scramble for a new fig leaf. Sadly, in the age of television, it was less crucial. Generally, a new camera angle would suffice until the fig leaf could be sewn. Perhaps the age of ideology really was dead.

Winter was almost over. Miraculously, the clouds rolled away and a huge patch of blue appeared in the sky. It was coming Spring. The sun threatened to emerge. A bluejay explored the dead grass where debris had covered the ground from days of drenching rain and flew off into the young green pines. Apartment dwellers across the parking lot, divided by a patch of small pines, rolled out in their cars to the steeple of the Baptist church on one of the main highways that bisected the town. At nine, the bell sounded. He liked bells. But he objected to hymns being pumped out and perceived it as an ideological violation of his being. The rape of his mind, to reach out with tentacles and grip the innocent and unsuspecting. The revolting illiberality of it, attuned to the Ayatollah Khomeini, his tentacles only being longer. Reaching farther.

Another form of rape he had experienced, unexpectedly, and suddenly, but then rape is generally unexpected and sudden, not that he had not lived under a reign of such repression and mental violation in his youth. But he had to some degree been successful in avoiding it in carving out a space for himself in society, and staving off those tentacles.

He thought of how that rape of his mind occurred way up in Wisconsin. It was Dixiefied too. He had gone for an interview at the university. He was picked up at the airport and deposited at the motel, and then taken to another professor’s house for dinner. She was a young woman who lived in the country, on the rural outskirts of Racine, and was married to a retired Air Force officer. A white, bland, unappealing face, perhaps suited to an academic, she looked washed out, lacking the blood of life.

Perhaps, her husband was the instigator, but she must have been drawn to him, to his ideological sentiments. Such marriages were perhaps not made in heaven, but more often in churches. There, in the small farm, she could indulge in having horses and dogs.

After sitting in the rather sparse living room, Ted, the candidate, and the faculty members and spouses advanced to the kitchen and were seated around the table. The food was already laid out.

Then the ritual was imposed. “Well, this is something we do here,” the Air Force man began. “Everybody hold hands.” Then the ritual was imposed upon all while he intoned the ritualistic prayer.

This was, Ted thought, a secular function, as he had applied for a post in a secular institution. But ideologies will be ideologies and impose their world views, on others, or attempt to. It is a form of agenda setting, he thought, and drawing lines as well. It was in a private home, but not exactly private, as it was part of the interviewing process of a state-funded institution. Maybe she was checking out just how much of a believer he was to see if she wanted him to be hired.

I stand on this spot. I have an ideological line around. I won’t cross this line. And if you are not in this circle, you are irrelevant. Everything is irrelevant outside of this circle. It could only exist if I drew my circle wider and took it in.”

Why draw circles to begin with? Wasn’t that the essence of the Hobbesian world? So many circles!

That was the setting. But then one realized that the non-bourgeois in a bourgeois society does not also exist. More circles. More dividing lines. Ted did not exist in American academia. Not with his ideas. He was outside the circle.

Back in the Delta, the weather was evidently becoming March, even two days before the arrival of the month. Hints of spring, even with wintry breezes, and bursting green grass. Renewal again. He felt that this time, he must be a part of that renewal. What must he do for that?

By two in the afternoon, when he left his office to walk to his apartment, the drizzling rain had started. Another drab season was setting in. The dismal drivel in the student papers he was reading further depressed him. Messed with his mind. The historical project for the last century and a half had been to suppress education, enlightenment. Not all historical projects had succeeded, but this one had and brilliantly. He might recommend that the whole institution be shut down, when he left. But that would not remedy the situation. It might provide a candle, a degree of enlightenment, in spite of everything, that otherwise would not be there.

Few read in this society and fewer wrote, although there had emerged fine writers among the Mississippi elites with wealth in the past. Generally, the students did not express themselves and did not even know what they had said when they attempted to write a sentence. They could not recognize vacuity for what it was, could not extrapolate. Certainly, literacy was going down the drain under the pressure of the market. To constantly sell entertainment, was to keep the thought channels of most of society perpetually blocked. What would be the historical impact of that? Could there be another Renaissance and when would it be? The Dixiefication of America was far advanced.

Chapter Fourteen: Soakin and Pokin

The blue March sky changed to high fleecy clouds, heralding the arrival of Spring. With the best of intentions to work on a paper on Friday afternoon, Ted was sidetracked by Barrows who wanted him to go out with him. After class they went to Dick’s apartment to drink beer. Playing his music very loud, Barrows started abusing Mississippians, only half in jest. Indeed, Dick was quite serious and Ted thought he saw a little deeper into him. He is sometimes a tolerable person, he thought, but likes to get drunk and make a lot of shouting and loud noise. A working class background guy who was abused as a child. Now he is sometimes full of hate and beats up on his women friends.

Barrows was standing out on his small balcony, watching cars drive by.

Weya, theyuh’s ouh Lincon towyun caah,” he would burst out, when he saw a Lincoln, and there were a lot of them.

Goddam mother fuckin bastards,” he kept yelling.

Ted thought it was funny. A little after five, Ted and Dick drove up Highway 61 to Sunflower to the crawdad place to eat crawdads. “Suck the head and pinch the tail.” The fish, boiled alive and highly spiced with red pepper and other spices, sentenced to hell. Dick began to get obnoxious with an English professor and his wife, not allowing them to enjoy their outing in peace. Sometimes his behavior embarrassed Ted. But he was his best friend and he put up with it.

They drove back to Weaselville, Dick played loud music and abused the locals. They went to a popular watering hole, The Rooster. Mostly young kids were there from the university and a few young black women. Dick told Ted he would “introduce him to his redneck friend.” The young women had frilly haired and dressed like high school coeds sitting on stools along the bar. They appeared to Ted as want-to-be “Southern Bells” who waited to be swept off their feet by a young handsome aristocratic cavalry officer. Poised like commodities in the market-place ready for plucking. Most of the young guys were locals and had gone to school with these young women.

Ted and Dick met a couple of older women in a corner near a pinball machine. One was a school teacher in her forties, named Becky, with a relatively young man in tow. She said she taught at a black junior high school in Weaselville. She chain smoked.

Along about midnight, the school teacher asked Ted if he wanted to go on an adventure with them. The other woman’s name was Sue, Sue Weaver, around the same age as her friend. Ted danced with her a couple of times. She was not pretty, but not bad. They wanted to go to Rosedale to the Mississippi River. They bought some beer from a package store and drove down to the River along a small road though the timber. It was two in the morning. The teacher and her young friend were making out in the back seat. Ted and Sue got out and walked under the tall straight trees along the bank of the river. The moon and stars were bright. It might have been romantic, but there was a chill in the night air. Ted had the urge to take his clothes off right there, but it was a little too cold for that. They got back into the car. Ted pulled Sue toward him and began to play with her, feeling her plump breasts and nipples. Then Ted unhooked Sue’s bra releasing her ample breasts for the free play of his hands. They were very nice. It had been a while. Sue’s nipples were popped out big and hard. Ted unbuckled his belt and let her feel of his stiffness. Sue was giving him big hot French kisses. He knew she wanted him. In a little bit, Sue said: “We bettah drive back ta Weaselville.”

They drove along the old narrow road through the gathering fog and up sharply over the levy and down the other side. It was slow driving. On the highway, Sue pointed out a sort of tower along the highway that they had climbed while in high school.

We otta mayk Becky get out und climb tha towah,” Sue said.

Becky, who was having a party of her own in the back with her young friend, was not interested.

When they got to Weaselville, the women and the young guy accompanied Ted to his apartment. They noticed the austerity of his place, the almost total lack of furniture. Becky and her boyfriend settled down in the living room. Ted asked Sue to come with him to his back room, the bedroom. They made a bed on the floor. Sue laid down flat of her back with her clothes still on.

It didn’t take Ted long to make love to her. When he took his clothes off, she followed suit. Oh, the heavenly relief to have a woman, finally. She was so soft and warm and delicious. That was what he had been missing.

It’s so nice to be inside a woman,” Ted told her.

He had noticed that she expected him to make love in the missionary position.

Would you like to come on top of me?” Ted asked.

Sue hesitated: “Owa, A’m not very good at thaya.” Ted couldn’t imagine anyone having that kind of attitude toward sex.

Oh come on, let’s have some fun.”

She came on top of Ted. He thought she was perfectly fine, nice to make love to with her quite mature plump and soft body.

You are really nice. You are really nice to love,” Ted told her. He sucked her ample breasts. He squeezed them in his hands.

Ya muss do this a lot. Ya do it soo good,” Sue said.

Nah,” Ted said. “Not enough. You have a nice ass.”

Youd like ta have it, wouldn’t chah?” That seemed, like a hint.

Ted felt like saying “If I did, I would look sort of funny with it,” or “Not really, I’d look funny with two.” Or, “Well, I thought I already had it.”

Instead he merely said “Yea.”

Ted enjoyed loving her from below. “Do you have an orgasm easily?” Ted asked.

I doughno know if ah evah have,” Sue said.

Well, maybe you never have,” Ted said. “I would like for you to have.”

Ted wanted to take her to a climax. He told her he wanted her to enjoy it as much as him.”

Weya, noboda as evah ask me uf I enjoyed it befah.”

Ted put her on her side and put his leg on her breast to bring her up to a climax. Then he turned her over and came on top again.

Ted wanted to get some lotion for lubrication, even though she didn’t need it. He enjoyed putting lotion on a woman when he made love.

Doughn cha go ouu theyah. Theyull see ya,” Sue said. But Ted didn’t care. He slipped around to the bathroom and returned with some lotion. He started rubbing it on her.

Whazat? Sue said.

Suntan lotion,” Ted said. He made love to her. He thought she had just reached a climax. He kept making love, telling her he was going to finish.

Sue got more excited as he exploded all his pent-up lust.

Yaall musta been savin up. Ituz sowa much,” she said

Yaalls not married, ahh ya?”


Sue said, “Oh, yaalls not married.”

OK, then, I’m not married,” Ted said.

Ahh ya?”

Well, I never kept it a secret from anybody.”

Ted told her how he had got married to a woman from India who he met in the Peace Corps.

Ahh betchur wife’s a nice lady.”

Uh huh,” Ted lied.

Actchully, ahh prefuur married meyen. They doughn expect anythin outa ya.”

He thought that Sue probably began to think that his ideas had changed because he was married to an Indian woman.

Ahh youwa Republakin or a Democrat?” Sue asked him.

I’m not either one of those fucking things, I’m not anything. I’m an infidel. An infidel in everything. And an anarchist.”

Becuz we cannt get along if Ayum a Republakin and yurra Democrat,” she said.

There were only two possibilities, it seemed, unless one were a communist.

What a screwy idea, he thought. A person didn’t fuck with their political beliefs. Anyway, Ted thought they had been doing all right so far since he had been screwing the shit out of her for the last half hour, in spite of any political differences. A silly idea, he thought.

Are you looking for a Republican prick?” Ted asked. “There are plenty of them around if they feel better than a Democratic cock.”

Sue told him that every time she had voted, she had voted for Republicans.

That’s too bad,” Ted said. “You need to take my class. The Republicans have only helped the rich. They never did diddly shit for the poor. Just screwed them.”

Yeahh, like yura doin ta me?” she said.

Well, not exactly,” he said. I don’t think they enjoy it quite as much.

They carried on the conservation in this vein for a little while.

Jimmy Cahtah was sich a bayud puhson,” Sue said. Ted figured that she probably also thought that prick jar head Oliver North was a great hero too.

Ahh youwa commanist?” Sue asked him, right out of the blue.

Ted was amused at this. There were a thousand answers to that, probably which would mean nothing. It could have a thousand meanings. But it was an insight into her thinking.

I try,” Ted said. “I have a Volvo and a beard. Does that qualify me?”

Ouyah blacks ahh lazy. They live off welfayuh and food stamps,” she said, “They won wok and tha whitesuv bacum theya slaves.”

That has some truth in it, Ted thought. But the series of half-truths and foggy lack of understanding did not add up to an understanding of the world.

She could have said, “The Delta farmers are lazy. They buy a new Cadillac every year with the hundred thousand dollar check they get from the Government, while abusing the poor whites and blacks for getting some nickels and dimes in welfare to buy food from the Delta planter aristocracy. We are all slaves to the corporate class in this country, which the government works for.” That was the hidden side of the story.

The Blacks need it and the poor whites need it and we all need a minimum of social welfare,” Ted replied.

One could not understand what was happening through such half- truths.

Anyway, whatever welfare they get is a lot less than what the Delta farmers get,” he said. “Not to mention the corporate class who get all kinds of hand-outs from the government.”

They don get welfayah,” she said.

No, they get a subsidy,” Ted said, “Same fucking thing, except their subsidy checks are a hell of a lot bigger and go for Cadillacs and mansions and not potato chips and Rainbow Bread.”

Ayah reed tha Reader’s Diagest,” Sue told him.

Motherfuck! Ted thought. That rag has done more to propagandize people, obfuscate and falsify the facts and keep people dumb than anything I know.

Poison!” Ted said. You can’t understand the world by reading the Reader’s Digest. It’s about the shittiest propaganda I know of. It’s not all wrong, but they just put enough truthful things in to make it seem plausible and for people to believe it. Best way to fuck your brain. That’s what it’s for,” Ted told her.

Weyah, that huts my feeyalins,” Sue said.

Ted replied, rather apologetically, “Well, I’m sorry. It may hurt your feelings, but not as much as it hurts your brain. It’s probably already helped to destroy your brain, which I don’t think you need, being from the Delta. I have to tell you the truth, don’t I? It took me twenty-five years to learn what was good to read and what was not. And that’s not.”

Weyah then, what shud ahh read? The thanes you write?”

No, but you might learn something there. There are lots of good things to read, but you mostly have to get them from the library,” Ted told her. Throw your reader’s digests away. You can use them to start a fire, if you need to.

Ted realized that she probably wouldn’t understand most of the things that could enlighten her without having some education anyway.

Time Magazine is better than the Reader’s Digest, but still pretty fuckin bad,” Ted told her. “American boosterism. More corporate press propaganda, but not quite so rabid.” Maybe that would be as much as she could handle. It would not change her views much.

When she turned over to sleep, Ted said, “Well, anyway, you ought, to be progressive and support women’s rights.” He held her with his hand on her soft breast.

Whya? I don even agree with a lotta wha they say.”

Ted told her to get some sleep. She started snoring right away and then he conked out too.

Ted made love to her again in the early morning before she left. He had got some insight into her thinking. The stereotype about the white working class was pretty nearly correct in her case. Sometimes the soakin and pokin wasn’t all that bad.

Chapter Fifteen: Little Rock

The next week Ted worked on his presentation for the academic conference in Little Rock. He thought back to the night with Sue. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is the tunnel at the end of the light. It had done him good. The down side was the repair bill. He had to have his car towed in. That night he had left it with Barrows at the bar. When Dick had trouble getting it into reverse, he had somehow burned the clutch out. There was a trick to that with a Volvo, and Ted forgot to instruct him.

To get to Little Rock for the conference, he had to borrow a university car. He would use every chance he could grab to get away, even though it was just across the river to the next state, it wasn’t the Delta. At a rest stop just across the river, he signed the guest book.

Oh, yuh from Cotton State,” the lady there said. Then she introduced Ted to another lady from the Delta.

Oh, we luv Cotton State. We a sendin ouya daughtah theya. So glad to meet yaall.”

Ted smelled a rat.

Yes, and what is it that you like about Cotton State?” Ted asked.

Oh, we know that goin to Cotton State Univahsity wiya naa change our children,” she said. “Theyull come back home with the same ideas, not like happens when people send their kids to these colleges in tha north.”

Maybe if they get a good education, their ideas should change some,” Ted said. “It seems to me that it might be a good reason not to send your kids to Cotton State.”

Fucking fool. He still had not learned to humor these dunces and keep his ideas to himself. The woman looked at him like he was a monster that had crawled out of the nearby lagoon. Ted quickly said goodbye and retreated to his borrowed Cotton State automobile and headed west. He had blown it with that dedicated patron of Cotton State. Likely she would report him to the President. Another one of those pinko commie professors. Bringin them there durned Yankees down here to teach “commanism.” These colleges ought to stick with the local white Christian teachers.

The backward woman, he thought. Imagine. She wants her kids to stay with just the same rabidly racist and regressive ideas that she has packed into their heads since they were born after four years of study. But it was instructive. That was a sort of niche in the market for Cotton State, and the top officers of the college understood it and perpetuated it, through subtle statements in which the significations came through. His job, as he saw it, was to squeeze the little bastards. Squeeze them till some of that shit ran out of their ears. Squeeze as much shit out of them as he could. That’s not what he got paid for, of course, but he saw it as his noble duty. His small contribution to society.

Little Rock seemed surprisingly upscale after the Delta. He didn’t dare do any soakin and pokin, not having his own car, but he was away from Weaselville for a few days. Small townish, still, a state capital even in the south, was not Weaselville.

He settled into his hotel. There was a reception that evening. That was when he met Julia Goldman. Lovely Julia.

Hi, how are you? Where are you from?” He looked at her name badge which said Texas State University. “Oh, Texas. Well, I’m down in Mississippi. Cotton State University, south of Memphis.”

Oh my, how is that?” she asked.

How would you think?” Ted said. “Terrible, really. I’m in deep shit, but it’s a job. Sort of.”

Yea, I know what you mean. I would like to go somewhere else too. What do you teach?”

Political Science,” Ted said. “So called. At least I try to, but I wonder sometimes, if I do. I teach India too, Indian politics, if I get a chance, political development and so on. I was there in the Peace Corps in the l960s. But nobody could even find it on the map down there.” He saw that the development process had been quite successful in the case of Julia.

Oh really,” she said. “I like traveling. I lived on a Kibbutz in Israel. My husband is Jewish, but I am not.”

Interesting,” said Ted. The hell with him, he thought. I hope he is not around.

There is a lot of anti-semitism in the South and it hurts me to hear it.”

That’s too bad,” Ted said with mock sympathy. “But there will always be people like that. Don’t let it bother you. I feel the same way about people’s attitudes in Mississippi. But I can’t change them. I hope I get out of that shit hole after this year.”

You really do hate it, don’t you?”

Fuck’n A,” Ted said. “But hate is not the word. Way too mild. Even fear and loathing doesn’t come up to Mississippi standards. It is closer to a gut-wrenching loathing that makes me deathly ill.”

They tied into some food and ate together. They would drown their academic sorrows in ham sandwiches and Coke.

You look beautiful,” he told her. “The first real honest to God woman I’ve seen in a long time.”

Not one of those wimpy little Mississippi things with a high whiny voice and a white bow in their hair and shit for brains, he thought.

The only real white,” he corrected himself.

Some of the young black women were voluptuous and knew what was going on. The whites don’t have a clue, he thought.

The women at Cotton State are called the Lady Kudzu. Officially, kudzu. That’s what they call the girls team. That is the ladies team. Can you believe that?”

Pretty bad,” she said. “But thanks for the compliment. You are nice. I am glad I met you. Maybe I can come to your panel. I don’t know if I will have time.”

Ted felt like kissing her. She looked so vibrant and fecund. She looked like a woman who would be very good in bed, if he had her there. He thought of asking her to dinner tomorrow. He knew there were some restaurants up from the river in the center of town. Would it work? Nothing to lose, anyway.

The next morning he gave his paper, endured the session, the insipid questions and inane comments from nit picking professors and then booked. Get out of there. He had more important things on his mind. And not theoretical ones either. He looked for Julia. He found her as she was on her way back to her room.

Oh hi, Julia, how are you? You look beautiful. Is your panel finished?”

Oh hi Ted. Yes, we just finished,” she said. “And I am so glad. I was a little nervous about it, but it turned out alright. How about you?”

Yes, I gave my paper too. Not very exciting, but it is over. Why don’t we go for some lunch or maybe dinner?”

Oh, I’m so sorry. I really can’t,” she said. “I have to catch my plane in a couple of hours, so I have to get my things together. Maybe we will meet again next year. They have this conference every year.”

Yes, but that is a long time away,” Ted joked. But it wasn’t a joke.

I don’t know if I can hold out for that long, after getting to know you. It was a fun evening.”

I enjoyed it too,” she said. “Too bad we have to work when we come to these events.”

Work?” said Ted. “I mostly have to work to keep from laughing at the stupidity and uselessness of most of these academic papers that are being read. But you are right. But then, academics don’t get to play like the bankers and businessmen. Those up in the ruling class. Hell we would be out playing golf and spend our time in the VIP lounges. We would have a first class ticket.”

It was a disappointment that she was leaving that soon, he thought. He should have moved in sooner. Machiavelli was right about nailing a woman down at once if one wanted to succeed.

Oh, well, OK, then. I would have loved to talk to you some more. You are so different from the women down in the Delta. But I understand. I am sure you are very busy having a family and being an academic.”

And so I am shit out of luck, he thought.

Oh, that’s for sure,” she said. “But most people do not think of it that way.”

Well goodbye and thanks for being a friend.” They exchanged a little hug and then she was off. Oh God. What a woman, he thought. What an ass in that lovely little skirt. That wiggle was giving Ted a blister on his heart. He felt his balls itch as they twisted in lust. A sure sign of love. Well, at least of lust. What I would do to get into that, he thought.

He couldn’t get her off his mind after that. The food and drink had been good. She was such a pretty young woman, mature, with a lovely body. Just the right amount of flesh and those eyes would melt steel faster than an acetylene torch.

He took a long walk across the bridge to the other side of the river nursing his disappointment. It was a bright Spring day. When he walked back, she was standing on the sidewalk.

Guess what. My plane was canceled,” she said. “And there is nothing going to Tyler till tomorrow morning. Looks like I am stuck. Stuck here with you.” They laughed, but his heart took a leap.

Shit. What luck.

Great, that’s great bad luck,” Ted said. “What about my offer to have dinner together?”

By the time they had come to the dessert at the Taj Mahal Restaurant, he was clearly in love. He kept seeing her eyes, the gloss of her moist lips and thinking how it would feel to press his lips to hers. Her velvet voice. Her reason and progressive ideas. Her decency as a human. She had been out of America. That always improved an American’s intelligence more than any number of years in a university. They had talked close, as the soft wine worked its way into their blood. There was a cacophony of social science meaningless wonky shop talk all around them as the lonely professors drowned themselves in their academic theoretical woes and chugged Micheloebs with wilted pricks. Fellow riders on the ship of academic fools. For Ted, he would go with soft wine and lovely Julia. The hell with that shop talk, academic theories and the tab. He would send the bill to the President at Cotton State. Sure.

They took a long walk along the river. The moon rose in the Spring night air. When they neared her hotel, she asked him if he would like to come up to her room for a drink. She didn’t have to twist his arm.

Chapter Sixteen: Rules

When Ted left the apartment, it was drizzling rain. It had rained now for seven days straight, since he returned from the interview in Wisconsin. Disgusted by yet another day of the dreary weather, he went back in to get his umbrella. How I hate cheap things, these cheap screen doors,” he thought and went out across the small balcony, down the narrow and poorly designed steps onto the gravel driveway.

Just past Tanner’s gabled brick house, he arrived at the university grounds. He walked near the edge of the street, as the ground was so water-logged one would sink straight into it. He only got off and onto the edge when a car approached from the rear. Again today, there was mud spattered across the sidewalk and standing water from the continuous rains.

He walked across the small quad, behind the student union and past a large white tombstone. Strange, he thought, that someone should have themselves buried there in a little niche near a tree and between the sidewalks running at diagonals. Better, maybe, than a graveyard. But in Mississippi it was hardly conceivable to him that one would really have a love for this part of the country and desire to be buried here. He pondered that, but understood how it could be so. The grave would probably be inundated with water. Any hole dug here filled with water when the rains came and it required weeks to dry out the soil again and for the water level to sink down.

The quadrangle lawn appeared as a young rice paddy, freshly planted too thickly. He remembered the conversation he had the afternoon before with Karl Whitman, the retiring political science professor, telling about the impossibility of constructing storm shelters in the ground in the Delta. Of course, it would not be as cold, perhaps not so morbid in the grave as in the northern cold country, where the ground remained deeply frozen for months. Someone buried in the dead of winter, surely froze quickly there and stayed frozen like a solid chunk of ice until the Spring thaw.

He walked on, thinking of Karl’s favorite joke. The poor mother. Twenty five years in the Delta and still an outsider, coming from Washington, DC. Here still, because he had married a local, a Deltoid as Barrows called them. When somebody said: “What are you up to Karl?” he would hold his hand up to his nose and say “Oh about up to here.” Outsiders were always about up to here in the Delta and looking for an escape. So was Ted.

At the library, he closed the umbrella and quickly walked through the turn-styles and past the desk. The usual group of elderly library clerks, and a dowdy young one, were gathered there. Appropriate, he thought. It operated more like a high school, than a university, it seemed. There was the little crabby woman who had given him a hard time in putting the three dialogues of Plato on reserve for his political theory class. What a ridiculous thing that was, he thought. She wouldn’t put it on reserve, worrying about the copyright laws. He had blurted out: “Well, it’s out of print. Doesn’t that make a difference?” “Weya, yes it does,” another clerk listening to the conversation had said. And then it was put on reserve. But what he remembered more vividly, which had burned in him the consciousness of the Delta, was the response to his remark, “Well, sometimes we have to work around the rules.” Rigidly, she had stated in an authoritarian manner, “Weya, we doughn do things that way heya.”

Like shit.

Later he reflected on that. Sure. When one could see how things were run, in such a slipshod manner, almost like laws and rules were made to be broken in Mississippi, as they say. And faculty were never required to observe the due date on a book or a video. And what about the history of the South? What about today? What about thumbing their noses at the Federal Government and Supreme Court decisions? What about the effort to rent an apartment and all the petty minds concerned about the color of one’s skin and where one worked and where one came from. And what about the fear that the demise of racism and genuine democracy and greater equality would be the ruin of the place if Dukakis was to be elected President. Yes, “They don’t do things that way.” They used the rules when they could to give others a hard time, it seemed.

It was infuriating how all those little rules that impede learning and progress and social and economic change are so religiously observed. But not those that contribute to progress. Those thoughts floated through his head.

Then at the newspaper rack, he found the piece of information he was looking for in the Jackson newspaper, about David Duke, Ex Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, being elected on the previous Saturday to the Louisiana State Legislature.

A library clerk came up, a young woman, and told him she had some newspapers, New York Times, saved for him. Not having time to stay, he took them and prepared to head over to the Social Science Department. That wasn’t the first time he had thought about her, or the first time she had stimulated him. She was an attractive black woman. Another day. There, but not quite there. An embrace. Strange, he thought later, as he ate lunch. When younger, he never realized that middle aged men, old professors and gray beards, sat in their offices and fantasized about making love to young black women.

He thought about that interview in Wisconsin. He had got up at five in the morning to practice his presentation. Went over it several times. He would nail it down this time. From the window of the Holiday Inn, he could see that it was snowing like hell. It was February in Wisconsin. He wondered if he was going to get snowed in. And then he began to wonder if he really wanted to come up here where it snowed for months and months. It snowed in Mississippi, a couple of times a year, but just a light skiff. He had spent so much time preparing his talk on the Third World. He was determined to do it right and get that job. He had thought of Wisconsin as progressive, almost radical, but the interview was at a smaller campus. The people in the department struck him as quite conservative. One was a retired Air Force officer and another was married to a quite strident Christian, which he discovered at the meal at their home. The snow tapered off and the interview went ahead. A whole day of meeting officials, faculty, staff. It tired one out. One should be a politician for that kind of work and love shaking a lot of hands with a big phony smile on one’s face.

At Wisconsin, the students were invited to attend his talk. After he was finished, he fielded questions. Normally this would have been a pleasant enough exercise. It was going fine.

Then a student asked point blank, “Are you a Marxist.”

There must have been something in my talk that suggested this, he thought. And he didn’t know if the student was a right winger or a lefty. It was not until later that he thought of the perfect answer, but probably any answer would have sunk him. He should have said, “Well, the best I can do in answering that is to quote Karl Marx himself who said I am not a Marxist.”

But then, he would have not only agreed with Marx but quoted him, which would have also likely been deadly. Instead, he had given an answer that probably sounded like he was a weasel, saying that Marx’s ideas could help one understand a lot about politics and the world, but that they should not be taken dogmatically. A social scientist could use them as a basis for hypotheses. One cannot deny that Marx was a great thinker and that his ideas are very relevant in understanding politics in developing countries. There was no way to know if the student with his question and his answer had sunk him. Perhaps.

The truth is, Ted thought, there are only two types of social scientists. First there were the ideologues, like some free market economists and main stream political scientists, who accepted the ideological myths and perpetuated them. Silly stuff like interest group theory to explain American politics, when everything was controlled by big money. University departments were perfectly happy and contented with such scholars, as they just taught their classes, kept things on an even keel and never caused any controversy.

Then there were the second type, who really tried to dig beneath the surface for the truth. The Marxists came in here. But they often ran into trouble, not only with their colleagues, sometimes getting fired or often not hired at all. If they published articles out of the main stream, they became labeled as radicals. They were the true social scientists and dissenters and tried to get students to question society and dissent and become true intellectuals. That’s what he called squeezing some of the shit out of the little bastards. Going that route might be OK late in one’s career, but it was not the way to start out if one wanted to be an academician. A little bit like the Japanese say, “the nail that sticks up gets bent down.” Better just bend with the wind, that is, if one wanted a job. So one had to pussy foot, pussy foot, pussy foot, and be careful not step on anyone’s ideological toes. Political science departments were, by nature, conservative, having been immersed in perpetuating the myths about the American political system.

He wished he could have said “Shut the fuck up, you little bastard, are you trying to sink me in this fucking interview?” Whatever.

After his reply, the student had said, “If they will hire you, I will pay half your wages.”

Too late, sonny, you stupid shit. You have already blown it for me and now you are probably going to get a right-winger and free marketer to teach your courses. That would be good enough for you.

It was terribly difficult to win in this academic game, he thought. And being honest and sincere and a hard worker didn’t mean diddly shit. It was all image and what the faculty of the place wanted to hear. One was just a commodity. If hired, one would be there up until the opportunity came to deny one tenure if they did not like one’s ideas and work. Thrown out if one’s work did not fit the accepted paradigm which promoted capital and the free market. Taking the side of the poor was a deadly sin. The poor may inherit the earth, as Christ had it, but political scientists who believed that would probably not get even a retirement income.

It was easy to be put one’s self in a position where one went through the whole couple of days of interview torture for nothing.

Other interviews came along that yielded nothing. Getting an interview meant being among the three singled out from at least one hundred applications. That meant that one might be on the right track, but then one had to play it very carefully. Being too far right was not a problem, maybe not even possible. It was the danger of being too far to the left that was deadly, and if one was, no matter how much they knew or wanted to work hard, it was difficult to hide. Even the titles of one’s articles would give one away. The other factor was administrative manipulation just for legal purposes. Just for window dressing. It was difficult to know, but due to affirmative action criteria, he suspected that he had been a mere dummy candidate at one time or another. Departments which needed to hire a woman or black to broaden out the ethnic and gender profile would sometimes interview three candidates but one or two of them would be merely for show. They were the dummy variables. The department knew who was going to be hired ahead of time. A black or a woman or a Hispanic.

He remembered the time he talked to a faculty member recruiting for a school on the east coast at the political science meeting in the Fall. “We would really like to hire you,” he said, “but the truth is that we have to hire a woman.” Well, along with getting the Ph.D., I couldn’t get a pussy too, unfortunately, he thought. It is a hell of a reason to be jobless. The principle of affirmative action was easy to support in the abstract, and he argued in favor of it, but it was not always fair in practice. Bring a cute little Latino chic from a rich family in South America, such a woman would land the job every time. Better to see her in the hall every day than some ugly swingin’ dick for the next twenty years. Life was not fair. But he had to plod on. Hands on the plow.

He remembered the very rough and shaky flight back to Memphis from Wisconsin. The captain made the hostesses sit down because the flight was so turbulent. And then the slow drive down through the rain and fog to arrive in Weaselville late at night and then be off to classes again the next morning. Back to Delta hell. And all that torture for nothing.

Chapter Seventeen: Midnight in Punjab

On a cold cloudy weekend, as he read for his lecture, Ted’s mind flashed back to that night in Punjab, their first real chance to get together. They had managed to exchange letters in the village, first hand to hand. The first time he saw her was near the neighbor’s house. She was with a friend. The young Punjabi girls wanted to meet the “Englishman” who had just arrived in the village a few days earlier. They said hello. He found out that her name was Lakshmi. That was about all. He thought she and her friend, her cousin, Neelu, were cute. They knew he was staying in a room in the village agricultural cooperative society.

In late evening, women left their houses to visit the fields. It was an infrequent chance to get out of the house which they treasured, even to use the fields for relief. They normally passed on the unpaved road in front of his place, across from the main building of the coop society. One day she simply walked into the open door of his compound and to his door. It was late fall with night falling quickly. He was surprised to see her and asked her in. The light was dim. It was a rather awkward clumsy conversation. They talked briefly, standing. When she was about to leave, on a sudden impulse, he quickly kissed her passionately on her lips. It was a daring thing for her to risk coming. And now he had added to the intrigue by making that extremely foolish move. What would be her reaction? What would be the result? No way to know.

From the notes they exchanged, he knew that she wanted to meet him. They would generally see each other on the road to the local town, a couple of miles. They went by bicycle. Sometimes she would give him a note as they passed or vice versa. But there was no way to meet openly in rural Punjabi village society.

Talking to his Indian friends, he knew that the young guys sometimes met their girl-friends secretly in the night. They talked about meeting a “piece.” They told him about some “nice pieces” in the village and sometimes pointed them out to Ted. Some days later, she dared to meet him secretly.

Late one evening, he heard a scratching on his window screen. It was cold and the shuttered window was closed from inside. He didn’t know that it was her. He went to open his compound gate. She was there. He ushered her into the compound quickly and closed the latch. There was a night watchman for the area, a chowkidar. He hoped they had not been seen. He brought her into his room, where there was a single dim electrical light. There was privacy, as his wooden shutters were closed tight against the cool night air. They talked briefly. Better to light a candle, he thought. Anyway, it would be more romantic. Ted didn’t know if she had come to sleep with him. He asked her if she wanted to lay down with him. He slept in his sleeping bag, which he had brought from the US. He had arranged to have a large rejai or quilt made which was thick and heavy, stuffed with cotton. This was sufficient for the cold nights in Punjab without heat in the room. The candle made a dim flickering light. He quickly slipped out of his clothes, down to his shorts and invited her to join him. Ted buried himself under the thick stuffed blanket. He loved the feel and exotic scent of her chuney, her thin scarf, which she wore over her head, which she now put off. She gave him cardamom pods to chew which spiced his mouth. He pulled her to him and kissed her lips. Then he began kissing her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, her entire face. He was now fully hard, and slipped his shorts off under the cover. He felt her soft warm young hand and placed it on his heart-throbbing arousal. She touched him gently, with little reaction. He pressed his weapon hard against her kurta, her long shirt, as he held her tightly in his arms. Gently, now he felt her fingers touching his anxious balls. He wouldn’t have her that night he knew. They would not make love, but she was heavenly. Had anyone seen them? He didn’t know. If they had, would they say anything? Maybe not, he thought. It goes on in these villages all the time, but then, his case was different. My God, he could be butchered, for all he knew. A foreigner. An ungrez, a nice guy like him, who had, after all, come with the best of intentions. Now he was being led by his cock and not his brain. A man who thinks with his cock is starting to live dangerously, at any age. He not only thought with it, but sometimes wrote with it too. No matter, a man does what he does and what he has to do. That’s all there is to it, he thought. And he couldn’t do much else at the time. Certainly, it was risky. They were surely living dangerously.

Slowly, he persuaded her to remove her kurta. Young girls generally didn’t wear a bra in the home. Her small young breasts, soft and wonderful, greeted his lips. She was right there in front of him. He kissed her tender fruits and persuaded her young nipples to harden and stand erect with encouragement from his lips and tongue. Now they embraced and touched, skin to skin, and that was enough for him tonight. He knew he wouldn’t make love to her but she would think about having his gnarled raving member inside her giving her love from her lusty foreign friend. He showed her how he would like for her to play with his over wrought gnarled tool. She was hesitant, but he drew her on. He thought of her cherry. But it would not be tonight. He was on hair trigger, it wouldn’t take much to finish him off. He loved the feel of her tender fingers on him and when he exploded, while kissing her lips, it was all he could do to contain his massive load that spurted forcefully. His first sexual encounter with an Indian girl. It was wild and beautiful. It was crazy. But then, he had always been a little crazy. Her response seemed muted. He couldn’t tell what she really thought. She was just going along. It was surely out of keeping with the culture, but he wasn’t sure. Other Indian guys were doing it. Maybe the youth culture was changing. He wished it could have been more but for now that could wait. It would be too risky, anyway. He thought she might be a virgin. He had to take his time. His crazy cock wouldn’t quit. Where was it taking him? Straight to hell, probably. He was worried now, somewhat, about what he had started. But it was done, and so be it. He had let the deal go down, as Hank Williams sang in one of his old honky tonk songs. They heard the sounds of the night watchman, the chowkidar. They talked in muted whispers. daring not to sleep. Still, she lingered. They embraced. He was a fool. His cock was hard again now. He might have her this time, maybe he could, but that was not really the problem. Fool as he was, he could start liking her and start loving her. She might become crazy about him and want it so bad she couldn’t stop herself. She was not a woman of the world. Just a young, innocent village girl. She would get imprinted on him as her true love. That could be a problem. Not just a game. But maybe she knew what she was doing all along. He was an American. Privilege attended to his existence, unlike most Indians, certainly those without connections and money in the village. She hadn’t cured him. She only only inflamed him for more. Ted thought she must like the strange feel of him. Oh God. It was finished for the night.

In a bit, they faced the music. Cautiously, he said goodbye. They put their clothes on and he ushered her out of the compound and latched the gate. Back in his bunk, he felt safe. In spite of misgivings, it had been a pleasant adventure. He would see those little soft flowers in his mind forever. Guilty as hell. He slept.

Chapter Eighteen: Security

Monday morning blues. Ted arrived and sat down in his office to get his thoughts together for his morning class. He could hear Bernie Shaw’s rough voice rumbling in the nearby class room, then gradually rise to a crescendo, then explode with a loud “Gahaddahham!” and an explosive torrent of unintelligible words and curses. Going after those federal policies to protect the rights of the accused again, Ted thought. Going after the Feds, the Constitution, the Supreme Court, Congress, liberals, Democrats, pinkos, draft dodgers, commies, fags, Mexicans, winos, half-breeds, traitors, feminists, and on and on. His deep southern soul was spouting hell fire and brimstone and damning these modern sissy pussy-whipped times to hell. What happened to American red-blooded patriotism. Southern gentlemen. “Its a greyyut liffe if ya know how ta livit. “Tha jist ain’t tha way things iz done aroun heya, son. It makes me so Gaahhaddammm mmahad! Maak myuh wods. This here cuntrees a cummin ta a bayud eyund. We outa kill evy durned one a these heya commie, hippie fags, Gahaddahham, ita makes me suh Gahaddahham mahhhad, traitas a ruinin this heya cuntry. Wastin tax payas money. It gotta be stopped. We a goin ta hell in a hanbaskit. Goin agin ouah fammly vowelyous. Ayuh next genrashun goin to hell. Weyuh dependen oyun youha yungstas. Ima tellin ya raat now. We need fahmlee valyous, not all iss fag and queers a leadin this cuntry to… ya durned librahl polytishus runnin up the nashinal dett….”

He couldn’t quite catch all the words but once Bernie Shaw got warmed up, he wouldn’t wind down inside of forty minutes. Not till the last second of class, his red face taking on a glow from the anger that welled up in his cop’s soul. He was preachin the old time gospel, preachin, praying, singin, shoutin, the old time message, staight as shit from the hallowed and gallowed halls of the Jackson, Mississippi Police Department. Bringin a new generation of club wielding police around to take their “propah place” in society and “inshoor lawun ahdah, this heyas public safetee, son. Ima tellin ya yung peepel now this heyas whatcha gotta know. We gotta git back ta rat polysees.” Ted tried to concentrate on his lecture on Marx some million miles away on a different planet and age.

Ted’s phone rang. It was someone from the Security Department on Campus.

Is Jerome Brown gointa to be in ya class this moanin?” he was asked.

What kind of question was that, he thought. How the hell could he know, short of having a crystal ball?

Well, I have no way of knowing if he will be there or not.”

Will ya tellim ta come ta the Secooratee Depatmunt ifee comes, bacoz we gotta a warunt out for iz ahrest.”

Jesus, Ted thought. Maybe they’ve got one out for me too.

I’m not sure that I would want to do that,” Ted said. He hesitated, then said “No, I don’t want to do that.” It rather pissed him off that he was asked to do it. He didn’t want to participate in the arrest of a student. Suppose they beat the shit out of him or killed him. Falsely arrested him. Failed to read his rights. Those bunglers were sure to be doing something wrong. You never knew. He didn’t want any part of that. The best answer would have been “yes,” covering his ass, and then doing nothing, or better yet warning the student to get his sorry ass off the campus because the pigs over there were out to snag him. But he was too honest for that. And he had little to lose. He was leaving as soon as he could. He would play it straight.

OK,” the guy in the Security Department said, and hung up the phone.

Ted went back to preparing for his class. Marx explained all this shit beautifully a hundred and fifty years ago, Ted thought. Brilliant pithy words that cut to the heart of social dynamics and class repression.

In just a few seconds his phone rang again. It was Gomer Hogg, the Campus Police Chief. “This heyaza Gomah Hogg, durectur a secoorty. Diyud yuaa jist teyill ayuah deputy that you wooden seyund a studunt ovah heya?”

I said that I did not feel comfortable doing that,” Ted told him.

We bin tole ta do this when we nee ta track doyun a studunt an we don’t have a phone numba on eim” Gomer said.

Well, I am not aware of your policies and no one has explained them to me or informed me about them. I don’t know anything about police work and if the student’s civil rights were violated and the University was sued, then I would be a party to it,” Ted said. “So I thought it was better to leave the matter to the police. That seems to be their job, not mine.”

He thought to ask Gomer why the department didn’t contact the registrar’s office to get his telephone number.

By this time Gomer was getting furious. He imagined that his face was probably turning a dark shade of red and starting to glow.

Weya leme te ya sompen, boah. We gonna see if we can get a deen to make ya do it.”

Well, you do whatever you think you should do,” Ted told him.

He heard Gomer bang the telephone down, hanging up on him.

Good luck, Ted thought. The son of a bitch tried to intimidate me and got nowhere. Let him line up a whole string of deans ordering me to do it, every goddam dean on campus. Just see if I will ever do it till hell freezes over. It’s not my job to turn students over to the hands of the campus pigs. Anyway, Ted had already decided to resign and the school year would be over in a few days. To fire him then would just be to cut their own throats and give themselves unnecessary problems. At the moment he had no fears.

Ted went on to his class. Time to talk about Marx. Sanity at last. But something that made sense was sure to fuck up their Mississippi minds. Go for it. Let em have it. A few more days and that would be it. Seeing the place in his rear view mirror for the last time would be worth all of this hell. To get over on Gomer would not be bad.

Right away, Gomer called up Bennington, the Chairman, to bend his ear about Ted. Fuck him, Ted thought. Everybody on campus hates that son of a bitch and knows he’s an asshole, anyway. He had no credibility on campus and almost everyone had had a run in with him. Let him stew and spit and burst a blood vessel behind his fat pig gut.

Bennington ignored him. Ted had figured he would. Bennington hated those good ole boys almost as much as Ted. The student didn’t appear in Ted’s class and appeared to have cut out of the class anyway. Nevertheless, I would have never turned him in to Gomer, in any event, Ted thought. Not till hell freezes over, or Mississippi, which was the same goddam thing.

Ted was convinced that he was right and that the police had no business asking the instructors to help them catch people. It was not their job. They didn’t get paid for that. And they would not know anything about the legal procedure, unless that was their field. Bernie Shaw, who taught criminal justice and had been a policeman had notches on his gun there, but not Ted and most other instructors.

When Ted’s two classes were over, he decided to confront Gomer. Why should he get away with such bullying of the staff? It was uncalled for. He was the one who had picked the fight. Ted was just going about his business reading Marx, trying to be a good peaceful commie. Live and let live. Who was he to be doing that, anyway? Hogg was acting like he owned the whole fucking plantation. Didn’t he know that he was just a gopher that busted poor guys’ heads so the ruling class could go on fucking everybody royally and living in their big houses and taking their trips to Europe and driving their new Lincolns and Cadillacs. He was just a petty pot-gut functionary, two bit police chief with a big belly and a puffed up head.

Ted called up Gomer, this time taking the offensive. He felt like wiping the floor with his ass. Ted had called the Registrar’s Office and found that they had a telephone number for the student. So that was a lame excuse. The Security Department could have done the same thing. A police department that didn’t know how to find a telephone number?

I just wanted to explain to you why I did not want to participate in arresting the student,” Ted said. “I just do not think that it is a proper thing for professors to be doing. We do not have any training in police procedures and we could be sued if something bad happened. We would be in the wrong. So I would rather just leave it to the professionals like you.” Professionals, my ass, he thought.

By this time, Gomer Hogg had cooled down.

You shudunt neva be afrahyud a bein sood for that,” he said. “It neva happend in twenty six yeaahs.”

Well, like I said, I don’t know anything about police work,” Ted said, “and I didn’t want to be involved in this.”

Yuu jist wanna aahgoo,” Gomer said, pretending to be the victim.

Ted felt like telling him that he was the one that called him to begin with and he would be the last son of a bitchin asshole he could think of that he would want to waste a minute of his time arguing with or even talking to. He did not feel like defending his point of view, however.

Ya can jist leave it at that. We won be askin ya to do inythane agin,” Gomer said.

Is that a promise? Ted wanted to ask him.

I thin we unnahstan each uder,” Gomer said.

Well, I don’t know,” Ted said, “because I understood you to say this morning that you were going to get a dean to make me do it.”

These fascists like Gomer wish that it was a dictatorship and that they should order everybody around until their heart’s content, Ted thought. They are used to using intimidating tactics and not respecting anyone. They don’t know how to deal with it when somebody will not do their dirty red-necking work and take their orders. But he can’t make me do his work. I will leave this place before I will do any of that. After all, it’s their job and I’m not getting paid for it and don’t know if it should even be done. In most cases, not, I am sure, he thought. The kid they were looking for was black, for Christ sake. They probably wanted to harass him. Might have killed him too. Ted guessed that he probably just had a parking ticket that wasn’t paid and now they put out a warrant to arrest him.

That was Ted’s first run in with Gomer, because he never parked his car on campus. However, he knew that Gomer knew that he had once had out of state license plates some years back, and had sent out deputies around campus looking for his car. But Ted always left the car at his apartment. So now he tried another way to pull him in, but failed and had to back off.

One of Ted’s students, who had worked for the Security Department told Ted and Dick that in the morning Gomer would give a list of names of people to be ticketed. They were supposed to find their cars and ticket them. It was totally selective law enforcement.

Still, Ted was looking out for them. One can never trust those snakes, he thought. He was afraid that they might try to plant some drugs on him in his office and bust him before he could finally leave the university. You never can tell.

Later, when Ted was checking out of the university, he had to go past the Security Department to have Gomer Hogg sign him off.

Wha aboucha caah?” Gomer asked.

Well, I never brought it onto campus,” Ted said.

Why not?” Gomer asked.

I just kept hearing that it wasn’t a good idea,” Ted said.

It was clear that Gomer didn’t like to hear him say that.

I just live right next to campus,” Ted explained. He was sure that Hogg knew exactly where he lived.

Well, ya neva did heya anybodiya gettin they caah towed, didja?”

Ted didn’t answer. He would have like to tell him that he had heard many stories of what had happened to people from their own mouths, how they had been ticketed for having out of state license plates. How that was a crime, he didn’t know.

The other professor in the Division who taught Sociology lived in Memphis. His car was ticketed for having Tennessee plates and he was sent to court and fined. McDaniels was told that he “had to pay for the privilege of living in Mississippi.” That would have been funny if it had not been so sad. “Privilege?” Like the privilege of drinking a gallon of dioxin every morning for breakfast. Ted thought that everyone had the right to choose their state of domicile and he couldn’t understand how having one’s car licensed in another state could be illegal, especially when they lived in that state. The court had fined McDaniels and forced him to buy Mississippi plates and keep them under the seat of his car when he came to Mississippi, just for his work.

He figured it had to do with the mode of regressive taxation in the state. The poor were always taxed at the highest rates and automobile tags were very expensive. Another form of regressive taxation. Every car with out of state tags was just another loss of revenue.

In the old planter aristocracy, it was the poor who were going to get stuck with the bills, not those who lived in “de big house.” That was Mississippi. Sweet Home.

Chapter Nineteen: Freedom

Assistant Professor Grover rushed through his morning coffee and cereal. During the night, the clouds had moved away. The morning sun illuminated the small pines beneath his window. Hazy strips of cloud drifted across the sky shuttering the sun momentarily. The balcony was transformed during the day. At night, sometimes he went out to look at the storm. It was quite secluded there.

A cold winter morning. He woke up. He stepped out on his balcony in the nude at four in the morning, in the frosty air. Walked across the balcony and back. Had an erection, his erect phallus reaching skyward to point at the stars, as a thing of beauty. The stars were extra bright and glittering. It felt good to have the frigid air bathing his body. He stretched to the sky and felt a sense of freedom, unencumbered as the cool air bit his exposed balls. As for his neighbor, the young dowdy librarian, who shared the same balcony, fuck her. Something drew him toward nature to the trees. Once he had run down the stairs and frolicked in the grass, dancing around, daring anyone to challenge this self-assertion of freedom, natural freedom against the narrowness and bigotry of society. It was easily inspired by a few glasses of wine.

Now it had become stiff again in the morning air. He yearned for the inner heat of a woman. Yearned to pierce deep into her depths to let her eat up his throbbing blood-hot prick and give her all, give it all to her. He did not prefer a life of celibacy. He needed the warm flesh of a woman. He envisioned her long, slender torso, sloping down and back, her shoulders on the floor, small breasts, gently rising hillocks, little brown nipples, risen, her receptacle ready to open to him like a fresh spring flower. Ready for his seed. He is linked with her, inside her, while her legs embrace him and press him inside her. Lovely creature. He needed liberation. He needed a good fuck. He had fantasized about his neighbor. No chance. She seemed to be made of wood.

In the evening, he felt a sense of fatigue, not so much from the work but from the local society, the entombment by acres, miles, of flat cotton fields, and beyond. The terrifying alienation until he could break free and beyond the barrier, to again breathe. Only pockets within himself and small spaces were congenial locally.

And then there was the sweet urge tingling in his loins. The lack of sexual fulfillment, another pillar of the alienation on the physical plane. The flat, unresponsiveness of the women he had met weighed on the bleak impossibility. They were also alien, even lumpen, lacking the aesthetic dimension. Did they fear him? Did they flee from thought, from that from outside? The outsider. He didn’t know what was wrong and could not know, as people lived within their shells, within a cocoon, hard and would not unravel their thoughts, unwilling to examine the contents. They bared not their soul, feelings or thoughts.

Faces often fell bland, still, unbelieving, but attentive, at statements in class, made at times intentionally to force, as inviting was useless. A look closer to home. So the tension built and could only be released by a great escape north, west, east, to the coast, outside the closed mind of the south.

The situation, he thought, was such that not all were beyond redemption. Indeed, some were quite responsive, and might be saved before they drifted beyond the precipice, beyond the pale of middle-aged petrification and acceptance of mental death.

He wanted to excel, but this was difficult in the situation and appeared increasingly futile. Spoon-feeding, perhaps was all that was possible within the local culture. He felt that, for the most part, his perspective, the critical perspective did not take. That the mission of the college was to pull up and shape up the flesh for middle class respectability which in this case embraced racism. This was harder in the South with its feudal past and semi-feudal present. To go beyond to true progressive thought was utopian, perhaps meaningless.

The rice fields were starting to turn yellow. The smell of the ripening grain took him back to the rice fields in the Punjab when he used to ride his bike to the local town. He drove the seventeen miles to the big river. It was a state park. Some people had come for Sunday picnics. He sat, enjoying the cool breeze. He could see the sand bars ahead. They appeared to keep going all the way to the trees on the other side. One could not see the river at all between the banks. It was a tranquil scene. There was a high tower which one could climb to observe the river. Closer to the river, the wind was picking up the sand, drifting and sifting.

Ted climbed the tower. A long barge was slowly moving down the river.

He climbed down and walked through the fragrant cottonwoods and willows on an old road. A blown up version of the small river he was brought up on in North Missouri. The pungent scent of the weeds and trees took him back in memory to his childhood days. He looked for rattlesnakes. The skies became overcast. A rain was coming.

At the end of the year, Ted invited some of his students to meet him at a local watering hole for a beer. They were surprised to find the place closed. Ted didn’t want to let them down. So he said, OK, come over to my place and I will cook you something. They went to his place. Some brought beer from a package store and Ted cooked curried chicken for them. They all had a good time. This is decent, he thought. A real get together and talking, more like what society should be like here.

The students drifted away, toward mid-evening, except for one young girl, Crissy, who stayed behind. It seemed she wanted to talk to him. She seemed somewhat sad. Her marriage had failed and then there had been a tragedy in her family when her brother died in a car crash. She was sure it was a suicide. He felt sympathy for her and wanted to touch her and kiss her but it didn’t seem appropriate. She told him about her life, which was not very bright, and then she said that she thought she was too thin and wanted more shape to her body. She asked him to feel her body. She lifted up her T-shirt so that he could put his hand on her stomach. She was so soft and tender and warm, her young skin like velvet. “My breasts aya too small,” she said. “So men don’t like me. Ah would like for them ta fill out more.”

Your breasts are fine,” Ted said. “They are lovely, and they will fill out as you grow more mature. I think they are very nice.”

Look,” she said. “Feel my hips. You can feel the bones.” She put his hand on her hip. He felt the bone.

That’s OK,” he said, “It is nothing to worry about. You are still very young. You will fill out when you become a mature woman. You are very nice.”

Ted moved his hands up her body. He liked feeling of her and wanted to kiss her. “I want my breasts to grow lahjer,” she said. “You can feel them.” Ted hesitated, and then she put his hand on her breast. Ted pressed gently and felt her firm little tits.

I want to show ya,” she said.

She quickly opened her shirt to show him her breasts. They were small, but firm and pointed with lovely delicate pink tips. She smiled. “You can touch em,” she said.

They are beautiful,” Ted said. “Really beautiful. I love them. They couldn’t be more lovely.”

Touch them, she said. Ted touched them gently and then kissed them. Ted felt himself getting thicker in his pants, becoming hard. She kissed his cheek and then he kissed her on the lips. She tasted his lips.

You are sweet, Crissy, very sweet.”

Youra nice man,” she said. “Your nice, Teddy. I wanna show you my body.”

She slipped out of her jeans. Then got rid of her small panties too. Ted was amazed at his luck.

You are very nice,” he said and started to run his lips down her body and kiss her. He kissed her thighs and stomach and ass. She had not trimmed her Delta of Venus, leaving her natural bush. Ted kissed her there too. She put her hand into his shirt and felt his small erect nipples. He couldn’t take it anymore. He was gone. When he stripped, he was fully erect. He offered it to her. She knew how to taste it sliding her lips down his shaft till it touched her throat. It felt so divine. Now he wanted her. He pulled her to him and pierced her small slit with his weapon. There was resistance, but then she opened and he filled her, pushing in all the way. He lay back and took her on top. She was light and could easily move her honey cup up and down his stiff thick scepter. Her small sharp tits filled his mouth beautifully. She was getting more excited.

Your nice,” Ted, “I like you,” she said. “I like having you inside me. It makes me feel good, so good. When I came today, I never thought you would make love ta me, but I have wanted ya a lot a times. I thought of you.”

He thought it was strange, when she was in his class. He let her down to his side. She was so small. Petite. He had always loved cute petite women. She was sweeter than the sweetest candy. He mounted her from the top. Tasting her soft lips, he pleasured her deeply but gently, letting her enjoy the pleasure, loving the beauty of love, until his passion took him and he exploded his pent up love. He loved those eyes, dreamy eyes. It was so good. She was so young and sweet.

It would be strange if I had ya baby, Ted” she laughed. He kissed her. He had sinned, a lovely sin, a beautiful sin. He felt the soft velvet of her warm young body next to him. A miracle, the wonder working miracle of love, on a lucky Spring day.

Chapter Twenty: New York Restaurant

His mind flipped back to Punjab in the village. When he awoke that day long ago, he opened his shutters and the bright winter sun pierced through his windows. He heated some water for tea. Boiled a couple of eggs. He thought about the night. When would she appear again? He wanted it, yet feared it. In the daytime, the danger seemed more real. The secret was sure to get out. He thought it might already be out. Someone must have noticed them engaging in suspicious behavior, at one time or another, perhaps exchanging notes clandestinely. He deemed it dangerous. What if the word got back to Delhi? What would the Peace Corps officials in the Delhi office say? He would be shipped back to America straight away, he knew, and likely be drafted into the Army for Vietnam. Hoisted by his cock again. That was seriously dangerous. The woman in his home town, head of the draft board, had been laying for him for more than a year. He had just escaped by the skin of his teeth, and the Presidential appeals board that deferred him from the draft and going to Vietnam. Now he was sure they wanted to get him. So he warned his young friend to stay away. Not to come to his place again. He better destroy her letters too. Other arrangements could be made. They could make a better program that would be safe away the local villagers.

When the dust settled, they did. There was a place in Jalandhar, the local district administrative town where they might go. He had seen the place in passing. He went there with his Peace Corps friend, Don, for lunch one day. It was more than likely a disreputable place, a sort of cabaret, that featured belly dancers, but what were the other possibilities? It seemed to be the best bet. It was a pleasant place and could be fun, as long as they did not get caught, that is. In fact, it was largely innocuous, as far as he knew. He thought about arranging it. Would it work? The rendezvous point would be Onkar Bus Terminal in Jalandhar. From there, once both parties spied each other, they would go by separate rickshaws to the New York Restaurant for lunch. It was a place where big-bellied and turbaned sedaugies, Sikhs, came for lunch as stags and drank some pegs of rum or whiskey, made jokes and teased a couple of belly dancers. Maybe there was also prostitution. Probably so. That, he didn’t know, but it didn’t concern him greatly.

Ted made the arrangements. This involved a trip to Don’s village, not far away, but involving half a day’s travel to arrive there. It was the most efficient way to communicate, lacking anything resembling telephones. This too was risky, as his liaison with a Punjabi village girl was certain to get back to the other seventeen members of his group.

On the chosen day, Ted and Don arrived first at the bus station in Jalandhar. They sat down to wait. The girls arrived half an hour later. There was a tea stall where Ted and Don drank tea and sodas and talked. Ted and Don’s rickshaw then led the way. Lakshmi and her friend, Lale, came behind.

Inside New York Restaurant, there was a little upstairs balcony which overlooked the main floor where there were tables. A couple of belly dancers were gyrating to the music. That part was somewhat discreet, so they asked for that. It was very small, with only a couple of tables. They settled down, with a lot of girlish giggling from Lakshmi’s friend, Lale, who seemed to take it more seriously. Don was at a loss, at his first, and perhaps last, encounter with a young Punjabi girl. He must have avoided going for it and falling off the cliff partly because he had told Ted that his mother warned him within the inch of his life not to come back home with an Indian girl. But what was there to lose? Loosen up and have a little fun. Lale had come to make an American friend and was game, so just enjoy it. Ted had no such qualms as Don. He was going for it.

He knew that one of the other guys in his group, Jonathan, had a rather open friendship with the daughter of a retired military officer who lived in the local town. But she was from an upscale family, so there was less potential for any sort of scandal.

The smell of the Indian food whetted Ted’s appetite. He was hungry and ready for a good spicy meal. They ordered. Chapatis, rice, vegetables, Punjabi chicken.

The cabaret started. A pudgy mature woman in a red sari was shaking her protruding belly in front of the two black bearded sardars down below who were downing their pegs of whiskey and rum, cracking obscene jokes, and raring back with lewd laughter, as they showed their big white teeth. Ted had watched one of them enter scratching his balls as Punjabis like to do as he approached his friend. They sported handsome tightly tied turbans of bright red and turquoise blue, which came to a point in front, making their heads look larger. They looked like red headed woodpeckers in the spring preening their colorful feathers for mating. Their black beards were waxed slick and tied fast to their dark puffy faces, their black mustaches waxed and twisted at the ends to curve upwards on both sides like the horns of a Texas longhorn cow. Their big round eyes always reminded Ted of the big dumb-looking eyes of a water buffalo. They were in their fine expensive synthetic bush shirts, from England, where they all had relatives who had gone for work. They wore wrist watches from England and a small steel bracelet on their wrist, one of the signs of a Sikh. Their tailored trousers were western and fashionable, not the traditional tumba, the piece of cloth like a skirt worn by ordinary peasants. They were modernized Sikh Jats, at least in appearance. Scratching their minds, one would find that they were, in fact, quite socially conservative. They looked exceedingly powerful and healthy in spite of their large bellies that belied their fondness for liquor and meat. Let the show go on. They would get rather drunk and go to a hotel or home and sleep it off. Or maybe engage a prostitute from the joint. Having a huge capacity for debauchery, they handled it well. Raised hell on the roads in their jeeps and pale green Hindustan Ambassadors. Jats, Sikhs, upscale peasants, the dominate caste of the Punjab. They had landless laborers who tilled and watered their fields. They liked to be playboys, but mostly kept their women at home in the kitchen and arranged the marriages for their daughters sticking to the many rules of caste and social community. They had to keep up the family reputation, but the burden fell almost completely on the women.

Ted daringly touched hands with Lakshmi as he sipped his cold Golden Eagle beer and waited for the hot curried chicken to arrive. He really had started to love her. Touching her was a thrill that caused his trousers to bulge, but he kept it under control. Lale was rather left in the lurch to keep giggling uncomfortably as Don wasted his time, dilly dallying, instead of taking the plunge and starting a conversation. Silly man, Ted thought. Don, a serious smoker, lit a cigarette and nursed it, while Lale felt uncomfortable.

Ted enjoyed the food immensely, especially, with a pretty girl, who he was on the verge of kissing. He thought her long sleek black hair and eyes were divine. He liked the colorful kurta and pajama Punjabi dresses they wore, the thin dupatta or long scarf, around their shoulders, which struck him as rather sexy. He liked the tight fitting pajamas which were currently stylish for young girls. It didn’t show off their ass so much as their shapely young legs. Where was he headed. He had not a clue. Probably to hell if he didn’t change his ways.

Dessert came. Ice cream with the little thin wafers sticking up in the middle like the starched center of the turban worn by the patrolmen in khaki shorts who stood on the platform and directed traffic. Shades of the British Raj, sort of, to the extent the drivers paid them any heed, which did not seem to be often. Ted was reminded of it, when he saw the ice cream and vanilla wafer construction. But the servings were small, and it would quickly vanish. No American size servings here. Just enough to wet your whistle. At least one whistle was getting wet. Wetting his other one would have to wait.

At the end of the meal, the small dish of anise seed and sugar arrived to freshen one’s mouth, along with the warm water with half a lime or lemon for washing one’s fingers. Then it was over.

The rather heavy food and the big cold beer braced Ted for the fiery temperature and hot wind, the loo, which hit them in the face as they bailed from the cool haven of the small oasis in the belly of the New York Restaurant. The afternoon sun was blinding, which called for dark goggles in India. But who needed to see? They bid farewell to the girls and were off to Onkar Bus Stand for the trip back to their villages.

Somehow, he wasn’t sure how, but Ted ended up on the same bus with Laksmi who was sitting a few seats behind him. She insisted on getting on that same bus. Then, as he found a seat, he almost shit his pants. It was none other than that son of a bitch, the Block Development Officer (BDO), who was his immediate supervisor. Officially, he was not to be “out of station” without his permission or official leave. Never mind, such regulations were never really taken very seriously, and who he was or why he was there was only the foggiest of notions in the BDO’s mind. The Peace Corps Volunteers were more of a nuisance than anything else to these bureaucrats, but commanded attention, only because they had some official status. The Indian Government had authorized their presence in the country. The charm of the American President, JFK, and the global horsepower of America as a superpower, meant that regardless of how crackpot the idea was to the Indians, and useless they were in producing wheat and sugar cane, they could not refuse the Americans. If nothing good came of it, at least they would keep their own precious ass out of a sling.

Mr. Sharma, the BDO, was a Hindu, of rather lower middle class existence. He bought his ticket and lumbered his chubby body into the bus with seats way too small for Ted’s big body and plopped down beside him. They exchanged pleasantries. They talked on the way. Ted made excuses of why he had to be “out of station.” What the hell. It wasn’t his job to raise the fucking sugar cane and Mexican wheat for the Punjabi farmers who were getting richer day by day due to the high food demand and who hated American policies which sold cheap wheat to India lowering the price. That goddam PL-480, Public Law, that provided for large scale wheat sales to India for rupees was the culprit for Indian farmers. For Ted, his job was to avoid having to go into the American military and kill some poor peasants under the rubric of stopping communism or keeping the world free. Some such nonsense as that.

The BDO was, after all, a decent guy. Just a working stiff, low-level bureaucrat, putting his time in until retirement and not really caring. It was all kismet anyway. It would all come out in the countless eons of the Hindu eschatology.

Maybe he was now in a world of shit, Ted thought. No matter. Back in his home block, Banga, that sordid backwater, he collected his bicycle from the newspaper vender, who kept it for him, and headed for the village. Where Lakshmi had disappeared to, he had no idea. He pedaled the two miles out past the green paddy fields and growing sugar cane to his home sweet home. Restful sleep, and memories of a daring deed. Indeed.

A month later, an event transpired that would put him in even deeper shit than the New York Restaurant caper.

He didn’t know quite how it happened. It was foolhardy as hell, no doubt, in such a closed society. Somehow they managed to meet on the roads. He asked Lakshmi to go with him to Newanshahr, the next town to the east where there was a large air conditioned film theater. She was foolish enough to go alone with him on his bike. They rode along the main road, thus fully exposed. At Nawanshahr, they got tickets and went to the film, Dunya, World, which was the popular film of the season. This was like announcing their relationship to the world.

How the events transpired was hazy. It was all so innocent. Childish stuff. Far more innocent than their midnight rendezvous. Nevertheless, stories and rumors began to fly around. They mushroomed into tall and fantastic tales of how he was seen on the bicycle with her with a bottle of whiskey in his pocket. All blown up in the imagination of a closed society where the sexes were to be kept completely segregated. That was the outcome of their flouting of local custom.

Chapter Twenty-One: Memory Lane

Ted drove up to Missouri at the end of the semester to visit his parents. One day he went with his mother and father for a drive north of his home town, Preston, to the place where his father was born. His father said it had been eighty years since he had been there even though it was only a few miles away. The old house was gone now. Just an old shed remained, which was now a shelter for hogs. An old-fashioned rose bush full of small fragrant yellow roses that had been planted in the front yard still bloomed and there was a Mulberry tree grown large.

His mother started saying that she would like to go back to where she was born in Arkansas. They went to the Redwood Cemetery where some of his ancestors were buried. His family had been some of the earliest settlers in the county. Cemeteries were interesting to Ted, especially when some of the people buried there were his relatives.

Across from the graveyard a bulldozer was working. A hog production plant was now being built. The hog production company was buying up the farms in the area to produce pig meat. There was a big market in Japan. The outfit would start with ten thousand sows to produce pigs and then expand as more farmers were signed up. A large lagoon for the sewage was being excavated. Ted thought it was a rather shitty situation.

In the evening Ted talked with his parents until late into the night.

I was surprised that Pat Robertson didn’t get farther than he did when he ran for President,” his mother said. They watched a TV program with him on weekdays, called the Praise The Lord (PTL) Club and sometimes sent him money.

I think it would be difficult for a preacher like Pat Robertson to get elected in this country,” Ted said. “First, it would be difficult for most people to accept a preacher like him for President. Secondly, certain spheres like the military, Wall Street, big capital, and so on, would not want someone like him who claimed to do things that God told him to do. Politics just doesn’t work that way in this country. Whatever one thought about his ideas on public policies, he couldn’t get elected. I doubt if Jesse Jackson, or even Jesus Christ could get elected,” Ted argued. “Anyone who runs for President has to have big money behind them like Donald Trump or T. Boone Pickins and the big corporations have to like their policies.”

His father, getting impatient with Ted’s boring academic jargon, suddenly started waving his well-worn bible. “Why people don’t know what’s in here. They don’t have any idea what’s in here.”

True, but irrelevant,” Ted said.

Well, I also think that Pat Robertson would be better off doing what he’s doing,” his mother said.

He helps people with a lot of charity. There was a woman on his TV show who lived for a week on a dollar,” she said.

That is fine to provide charity,” Ted said, “but in terms of public policy, people want to feel that they have a right to public welfare and not have to depend upon charity from a religious organization. His policies are mostly anti-welfare. He wants to get rid of food stamps and other government programs that help the poor.”

Well, I pray that the family will get saved,” his father said.

Well, who isn’t saved,” Ted said, somewhat to egg him on. He thought it was fairly obvious that he was talking about him. He was the official black sheep of the family and knew it.

No there is no one who is not saved,” his mother lied for Ted’s sake.

It has always been my experience with Christianity that rather than make one feel good, it tends to condemn and threaten and make one feel worthless, at least the brand of Christianity we were raised up under,” Ted said.” “Religion is more fun in India and doesn’t have a tendency to condemn others, that is, unless they are a different religion, of course. I remember that when we were kids, when we went to tent revivals and other services, that it was a matter of terrorizing the people. The adults probably didn’t take it very seriously. But as a kid, I did.”

It’s true, I didn’t take it very seriously,” his mother admitted.

But it was very frightening for the kids, all the hair raising stories that the preachers always told about people being dragged into hell and burned to a crisp, burned into a cinder,” Ted pressed on. “And they were always warning: Get saved or you may get hit with a ten ton truck. I was keeping my eye out for those trucks. Even if it was God that sent it, I was going to stay out of their way.”

Why, there was wasn’t any such thing,” his father said.

Well there certainly was,” Ted said. “I didn’t invent all those stories that I still remember very well.”

Yes, Rachel, your sister, said that when she was a kid, it always made her afraid,” his mother said. “When they preached about the moon turning to blood, when she came home, she looked up at the moon and thought about it turning to blood and dripping down on everything and she couldn’t sleep a wink all night.”

I couldn’t understand why it had to be a reign of terror,” Ted said. “I am sure some of the churches must be much more humane. It seems that the lower class churches, like the one we went to, are much more repressive and totalitarian.”

Well, I am glad to talk to Ted,” his mother said. “You know, I am interested in what he is saying. You know, I never have a conversation with anybody and don’t have anybody that I can have a conversation with here. Daddy, you will never have a conversation with me. You never want to talk to me.”

It seemed to Ted that his father thought that it was somehow dangerous to talk about the past. That somehow by their talking and laughing and trying to understand the past and their poor lives back then that they were going to incur the wrath of God and be struck down.”

Why do you want to drag up those things,” his father said.

Ted thought that from a psychological and therapeutic standpoint it was good for mental health to examine the past. Thousands of people go and spend fortunes talking to psychiatrists who make a good living at listening to them. He thought that it was the dogmatic religious approach that glossed over such problems and prevents the emergence of a more healthy state of mind.”

Then his mother brought up the conflict which had happened in the local church and the regrets she had about that and the way the children were brought up.

That brother Hayworth was not fit to be the pastor, the way he treated us,” she said. “I ran away and hid in the closet upstairs when he came.”

Oh, you did not,” Daddy said.

Oh Yes. I did.”

Jo was here and she shared the closet upstairs with me. Hayworths had brought their youngest daughter for me to babysit. They came and knocked, went away, and then came back later. Mrs. Hayworth come in the house and came to the foot of the stairs and called upstairs. I was going to throw something at her if she came any closer. They finally left and ended up leaving their daughter at the house up the road.”

Well, the way it happened was this,” his mother explained. “I had agreed to take her and keep her overnight, but Hayworths were supposed to send her on the school bus.”

Living in relative isolation, we were usually sensitive about people coming to the house, Ted thought.

Anyway, instead of sending her by bus, the Hayworths brought her down in the morning. I didn’t have anything to fix for her lunch and Daddy was supposed to bring something when he came.”

As it turned out, this incident added much fuel to the flames of the colossal feud in the church and brought on the campaign that went on against the family by the preacher. The minister would preach against the family from the pulpit every Sunday. Then his mother would come home and rave and criticize and abuse him, and then the family would go back every week to keep taking the abuse, even when they had to walk out for a mile or more in the mud or snow to get to the church.

Why did the family continue to put up with such abuse for years?” his mother wondered.

Beats the hell out of me, Ted thought.

Daddy would say Oh, we can’t get out to go to church today,” his mother continued, “and I would say, Oh yes we can. We have to go and we would walk out and go every time. We could go into the church and put them all on the other side. There was not a one of them in the church that would sit on the same side of the church with us.”

The discussion turned to the preacher’s teenage daughter.

Oh, she was wild,” his father said, speaking of Gloria Hayworth, the preacher’s daughter, a voluptuous, sexy, high school senior.

Ted remembered her well chiseled dark face and beautifully filled breasts when she was in high school. He remembered her ass in those tight dark skirts that gave him a raving hard-on when he thought of her later and masturbated. He couldn’t help himself.

One time she was coming back through Eldon,” his mother said. “They had the church car. Gloria saw some boys and stopped there. She got out of the car and just shook herself a little and then the boys invited her to come get in the car with them. Oh yes, Gloria was a beautiful girl and she was part nigger. Her friend, Sandy Woods, who was hardly old enough to drive, brought the car back to Preston and Gloria went with the boys.”

Rachel said that when her father heard about it, he just said to her, Well, did you have a good time?”

When you were growing up, I had no one to talk to,” his mother said. “Some days I just knew I was going to go crazy if I didn’t have somebody to talk to. I would think, well, who will I talk to today?”

They watched Oral Roberts on TV every week. At the big tent meetings they had gone to in Wichita and Des Moines they had to go through the lines to get prayed for. After he came on TV, he changed the technique and told them to just touch their TV when he prayed for them. “A point of contact,” as if God was running on a hundred and twenty volts like the TV. He wondered how many people had been electrocuted by that point of contact when their old TV had an electrical short in it. Maybe better touch something else, since it was surely only symbolic anyway. Well, it worked for simple minds, Ted thought.

We were so isolated in the hollow down under the hill,” Ted said.

You kids never had anybody to play with and never belonged to anything and Daddy wouldn’t take you to 4-H. Rachel wanted to go to the meetings north of Preston, but he took you only twice. Daddy refused to go again,” his mother recalled.

Ted remembered that old school house and eating a piece of cherry pie one evening. That was certainly delicious.

Well, I just didn’t want to go up there,” his father said. “It wasn’t in our neighborhood.”

But kids need to have some social activities to belong to,” Ted said.

My experience was that religion was repression, Ted said. “The only things that kids wanted to do was defined as sin. We couldn’t do what kids normally do. While some people paid lip service to this, they didn’t take it seriously, but we did. So we were barred from participating in sports, going to a dance, even from going to movies, all the things that were fun. The cycle of isolation and church-going was just social repression, seems to me.”

Ted knew that his mother realized this and encouraged her grandchildren to do all the things that her own kids could not do. Now she admired them for doing just those very things.

In the summer we were made to feel like a piece of dirt, because we were isolated down under the hill,” Ted said.

Well, I was partly responsible for that,” his mother said. “I was always afraid for you to have any friends to play with. I was seized with fear. I thought that something was going to happen to you. It was just fear that gripped me. I remember that when you and Freddie were playing out in the backyard one day and I saw how healthy you were, I just thought to myself. Now they are playing so nicely and by the weekend they could both be dead and buried. I was psychologically sick. I didn’t mother you, I smothered you.”

It was past two in the morning when they turned in, but Ted thought it helped him understand those years and what had happened in the family.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Cow Shit Blues

Ted was heading to California for a break before he would teach a session of summer school. Up at five, Ted ate his cereal and drank a cup of coffee before getting on the road. He liked getting out early. He left at six, driving from Weaselville to Greenville, down the Blues Highway, US 61. The putrid smell of the chemicals the farmers were flying onto the fields filled his nostrils. He felt an irritation in his throat which moved down into his lungs. He realized that he needed a gas mask but there was no choice but to breathe it and get the hell out as fast as possible. He had heard many tales about people getting their lungs pumped out and the skyrocketing cancer rates in the Delta. But people swore by growing cotton. They had to use chemicals, they said. They swore by them. If one questioned it, they might ask you if you were a communist.

Why is it that only communists want to breathe clean air, Ted wondered. Must be part of their incurable perversity.

He saw a Black worker already preparing for the crop dusting operation at the small landing strip, at six in the morning as he hurried out of town. The crop dusting plane was being warmed up at the end of the little runway and loaded up with chemically laced spray. The only time this town looks good to me is in my rear view mirror, he had said to the department secretary, watching the scowl on her screwed up Delta face. She couldn’t take a joke about Mississippi. Especially not from one of them damned Yankees.

Past Lakeside, more like Lakicide, of one were to drink the water, he thought, with all those chemicals in the air and water. He crossed the river on US 82 and headed up into the higher lands in Arkansas. He felt exhilaration in leaving Mississippi behind. If he wasn’t coming back, it would be grand, true human liberation. He would take the smaller roads across the country this time, avoiding the super semi- truck caravans on the interstates trying to run him over.

He made Texarkana by noon and had a salad at McDonalds. Fuck. Everything in plastic. This is America. The land of the free and home of the brave plastic shit from China. Communism to the rescue in the flat cowshit prairies of America. A country would have to be far less developed to provide actual waiters and real honest to God plates. Can’t have that in America. Too many light years ahead of the rest of the world. Plastics out the ass! The challenge was getting the rest of the world marching lock step to the golden fucking arches. Fuck N’ A! Backward motherfuckers. Still eating off plates. Don’t the sons of bitches know that elegance drags down the market, gums up the profits, fucks up consumption and the production of waste. And democracy, hell, that’s even worse for productivity. Never mind. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is training them little by little to stop that shit and get down to the basics. Or more like the International Monetary Fuck, Ted thought. Drive through windows! High Fructose corn syrup. GMOs. Kentucky Fried Monsters. MuckDonalds. Murder King. Pizza Butt. Shit-level condos. Get those bellies up to global standards. Well, American standards, that is. Not easy. This saving humanity from itself. But God chose America to do it. So what choice do they have? Shoulder to the plow. Onward Christian soldiers! At least Capitalist soldiers. On to straight up capitalism. Or more like crapitalism, he thought.

Capitalism is that imaginary economic system one learns about in Econ 101. Crapitalism is that real economic system that no one learns about but really goes on around the world.

The new system that had been put into place since Ronald McReagan talked about facts being stupid things was neoliberalism. No one seemed to have a clue what it was. Ted gave them a simple definition. Welfare for the rich, the free market for the rest. That was how the world had to work from now on, the Panglossian best of all possible worlds.

In the afternoon, he stopped at a roadside park for a rest. Northeastern Texas. Cloudy and it felt cool after the Delta. He heard bluebirds in the trees above him. Feeling sleepy, he felt the need to get some rest and then try to wake up and get in some more miles. It started to rain. He mapped out his route west. After Wichita Falls, he would take 287 to Amarillo, then US 87 to Raton, New Mexico. Then to Springer and Cimarron up to US 64. This would take him to Taos, Jicarilla, and Shiprock in Navajo country. Up US 666 to Cortez, Colorado and Moab, Utah in Edward Abbey territory. Crescent Junction, Utah and on past Green River, to US 50, the loneliest road in America. But no lonelier than the fucking Delta. That son of a bitch has nothing on the fucking Delta. It was one of his favorite roads. This takes one to Ely, Nevada, then Austin, Fallon and Carson City and on to Sacramento in the Golden State. Well, golden for those who have the gold and that ain’t most. Just grubbing for a living like anywhere else, for those who don’t. One then drifts down to the Bay Area, where they hit US 101, that polluted commuter gutter full of Jap and Korean scrap metal up to Sonoma County. That was his present destination.

Bonham, Texas at three. A shitty little town that reminds him of Chillicothe, Missouri, that insufferable hole where he once tried to rent an apartment and ended up living in a hotel for a month. Ended up living in the upstairs of an old house with his young Indian wife because the brilliant locals couldn’t figure out if she was white or black. One of the happiest times of his life, except for the boredom. At some point he had to burst out of there. He would blast himself out, at a horrible cost. Joining the fucking Navy. But it got him to California, Greece, Europe, the Caribbean. This shithole equally squalid and sordid. A small water tower has gaudy purple stripes around the top. The Courthouse, which looks like it has been recently sand blasted, says “Fannin County” over the door. To the left is a tree with yellow ribbons tied to the outer branches like Christmas decorations. Are they kidding? Ribbons for George Bush’s fucking imperialist war to free Kuwait, or rather that oil for America. Under the tree is a sign which says “The Living Tree,” as if it would not be living without being hogtied with that burden of cheesy yellow ribbons. Below that in blue, “Fannin County supports our troops.” How can a county support anything, Ted thought. Maybe the people might, but how are they supporting them? By saving the feudal Emir and the Kuwaitis who see the American soldiers as their white slaves? Yep, good idea. Support those troops. Send ‘em over there in the sand and get em shot and blown up with bombs and bring em back in a box so those feudal sons of bitches can keep building more palaces for their 55 wives and innumerable western white girl friends and making their shopping trips to Harrods in London. Hauling back shiploads of furniture, while Americans have their houses foreclosed. Hey, that’s as American as cherry pie! I would be an idiot not to support that. Edward Abbey wasn’t shittin. Looking at the backsides of those cows all the time does do something to a cowboy’s brains. Got to get on out of this shit. Maybe I’ll catch the virus too. Stray thoughts. Cowshit blues.

A stock truck comes by. The crowded cattle inside all shift their feet when the truck starts up at the light. The strong and sweet homely smell of cowshit. A historical marker has been erected in front of the courthouse with the outline of the state of Texas at the top. Inside, it says the building was finished in 1889. Nothing since, presumably. People here look extremely weathered, tough, wiry, leather-skinned veterans. “She’s got a holt of his haiur now,” a woman says in Oklahoma plains accent. Sure as fuck. They got us all by the balls, honey, the way things are going in this country.

New super-sex French Tickler, Cock Ring To Stimulate Her,” says the rubber machine. Makes more sense than anything he’s seen so far in this town. But one might have thought that it was the guy’s cock that was doing it. Well, if you can’t do it one way, try another. The glories of rubber. Platex. Another important reason to keep control of that oil. Got to keep those cowboys happy!

Five O’clock. Whitesboro, Texas. People around here look worse than in Mississippi, Ted thinks. Farmers. Heavy-set old women sitting around inside the Dairy Queen. Getting hot and stuffy now.

He finds a motel in Wichita Falls. It is a Patel Motel, sure enough, part of the Gujarati mafia chain. Anyway, it will do for the night at twenty bucks. On to Amarillo and New Mexico tomorrow.

By two the next day, he stops along US 87, just east of Dumas. Dumas or dumb ass? Six of one and half a dozen of the other. It was cool with a nice refreshing wind. Not much traffic on this road, as he had hoped. By late afternoon, he makes Clayton, New Mexico. There are no trees at all. No windmills. A few shrubs. Mostly clay. Tons of clay. Other than that, just Yucca. A rather small and narrow road. On to Springer. An hour later he is stopped at a picnic spot. He would like to sit there in the nude. Bounce a young fecund co-ed on his rod and merge with nature. Fantasies of Californication. A tremendous big wind blows through the trees. The first range of Rocky Mountains are just in the distance, forty to fifty miles ahead. The information board informs him that they mine carbon dioxide from the ground here. Hope springs eternal.

Most of the Dairy Queens across North Texas are full of farmers with caps and their old ladies.

He recalls his talk with the Gujarati Patel at the motel in the evening. The place was run down. It’s interesting, he thought, how they can turn something into a dump that was nicely fixed up. But they want to start from the bottom and go down from there and milk the profits. Another older motel had posted a sign “American Owned.” Some people say “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The Patel’s motto seemed to be “If it’s broken, don’t fix it. If it’s fixed, it will soon be broken, and then we won’t have to fix it.”

Ted had talked to the Patel about India. Patel said that he thought the Indian nationalist, Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister, was a “great man”, of course. He didn’t say the same about Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister. He also said he liked L.K. Advani, that Hindu fascist. Politics and religion. They all go for the dough, Ted thought. Just like the Patels. Never saw a dollar bill they didn’t like. Good thing sin and caste pollution doesn’t attach to dollar bills. As for India, “it’s all so corrupt,” the Patel said, as if he was an honest man.

I don’t pay much attention to it,” Patel said, “since I don’t plan to go back there.” Sure. Now he was in the great land of Great Satans, US dollars. No more of those shrinking Indian rupees for him.

He trucks on to Springer to the “Oasis Motel.” Much better for the same price. And the door isn’t broken, like the Patel Motel. But it will be when they take it over, he thinks. That will not be long coming. The wind whistles outside. Tomorrow the mountains. Next to the tracks, he sees Amtrak come through. Must be the Southwest Chief out of LA, which he took at Christmas. Early to bed. The night is cool and wonderful with no air conditioner. Up out of the cow shit.

The next day is Sunday, a beautiful morning. He was woken up in the night by people laughing, giggling, and shouting. The women making the most noise. Revenge of the French Ticklers and the cock rings.

Up over Palo Flechado Pass, 9101 feet. Cold. Patches of snow and small fields of dandelions. To Taos by ten. Getting yuppied out and touristy. The ski business seems big. He walks around the town, joining the flock of tourists. Nice place. Refreshing. But yuppie corrosion setting in. This is not the real west.

Get it Up”. Sign on a tow truck says.

At noon across the Rio Grand there is a long bridge across a deep gorge. Small boats below. People rafting. He parks and walks to the center of the bridge. He feels a touch of acrophobia. The sign says “Persons throwing objects off bridge may be prosecuted: Warning, Rafters on River below.” Good thing they are not above, he thinks. He speaks to a nice looking and friendly woman.

On to the Continental Divide and Apache Reservation. At a stop on the mountain, the picnic table is almost completely buried in snow. Further on, at another stop. Like the young tender breasts of a girl, the new leaves are emerging, light green against the dark spruce. Raining big drops. Coming down from the summit. He feels like he wants to make love to the woman he saw in the store in Taos.

Jicarilla Station: “Condoms in assorted colors for visual excitement. Red, pink, blue, green,” the rubber machine says. One might have hoped to be excited by seeing the girl. But if the girl doesn’t do it, the condoms must. This is an Apache Indian reservation. A nice looking girl is working in the store. The Navajo reservation starts a little to the west of here. The Ute reservation is just above that in the Four Corners area.

He makes Farmington at six: The wind has picked up and is blowing up a big dust storm. About thirty miles from Shiprock now.

Last chance to chicken out,” the sign says at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Except that those are not chickens that they are selling any more, but GMOs.

Tomorrow, after Shiprock, he will take US 666 north to Cortez, Colorado past Mesa Verde Park, then on up to Utah to Monticello. From there, US 163-191 runs up to Kane Springs and Moab, to Crescent Junction. He will get on old US 50 across to Delta and Ely, Nevada. That keeps one off the interstates. Those horrible trucking routes. On smaller routes, one can enjoy the mountain scenery. Three days on the road. Another two days, taking his time to California.

A night stop at Farmington. Not too crowded here. He feels lonesome.

Out by seven the next morning, he is enjoying the trip.

He stops in the desert near Shiprock. There is a dirt path out across the desert in the direction of the towering spires. Seventeen hundred feet high. He drives out part of the way, but it is not passable with his old Volvo. One needs a jeep for that. Navajo country.

Noon, about thirty miles south of Moab at Kane Springs Rest Area. At an earlier stop, he was overtaken by a huge dust storm and moved on. Cool and windy. There are huge old trees and towering red rocks. Cottonwood trees along a wash. The wind has carved holes in the red rocks, like church windows.

Mid-afternoon. Green River, Utah. Getting hotter. Lunch is a microwaved burrito. Terrible. Inedible cardboard. Back on the road.

About eight he hangs it up. It is the end of the line for today. Fillmore, Utah. Near the jumping off point for US 50 west. No motels in Holden. An old-style motel, which Ted prefers to the pre-fab new factory ubiquitous models. Sixes and eights and so on. All Patel Motels anyway. Not great, but it will do. His old car is doing fine.

The motel is strange. It is not run by Patels. The room is right behind the place where the woman manager lives. It is almost like he was staying in her house. She rounds up the kids and puts them to bed. Talks to her boyfriend. The sun is still shining brightly.

The next morning, he is on the road by daylight, just before six. Looking to make it on across Nevada that day. Up and out of all that cow shit to lala lala land.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Delta Blues

It was mid-September. Still hot as hell. The cotton fields were ripe and turning white and looked as if they were covered with snow. Some fields had been picked with the cotton ricked in big covered piles on the sides of the fields. Ted and Barrows went to the Blues Festival. Jerry Jenkins, another member of the department came along and Doug, a young student aid in the division. It was Ted’s first time. The fields were rife, the air saturated with the pungent smell of chemical defoliant in the Mississippi Indian summer air. Fall weather in the most southern place on earth.

Late morning, they arrived and parked in a big grassy field. An enormous crowd has just gathered. But where the festival was to be held, most of the ground is just dirt. It had been bladed down flat. It was steamy hot. Some people had set up tents toward the back of the field. This was smart. About half the audience was white. A lot of college kids had come down from Oxford and it seemed that most were well on their way to getting drunk. Ted was determined not to. Not a good idea to get drunk here, he thought. It would be a long day, and he had to act as a sort of chaperon for Dick, who was going to get fucked up with both booze and acid. Stick with a few beers, Ted thought. Keep his head on straight. And enjoy it as much as he could. That’s all.

He sat down on a blanket for some time, but soon saw that it would not work. Ted smoked one of Jerry’s Dominican Republican cigars and slowly sucked down a beer. People walked across the blanket. Water spilled out of coolers and it started getting muddy. The only way was to have one’s own lawn chair except that it was too hot to sit under the sun without some sort of shade. He saw why some more experienced people had bivouacked in tents toward the rear of the field. He walked around, drinking water.

Dick Barrows went in a different direction. He found some of his former students and bought a couple of hits of acid. By that time, he was drunk too. Later he started saying: “I’d be OK if I just had another hit of acid. I love drugs, man. I fucking love drugs.” He can’t even remember what has gone on earlier in the day.

Ted walked around with Barrows to the food booths and had some lunch from various venders. People were now dancing to the music. Getting high.

Barrows wanted Ted to go around with him, but began to make a nuisance of himself, getting more fucked up with drugs and alcohol. When he met somebody he knew, he would intentionally insult them or the person they were with. Then he found some Cotton State students. Connie, a swimming instructor, was there. Ted saw her as rather obnoxious. She kept calling him “Grover.” Ted had to lead Dick and others through the crowd as he was the only one sober enough to do it by two in the afternoon. He thought someone had to take some responsibility, so he cut back his consumption to just coke and water. It was turning into a disaster.

Then they met two women. Dick knew one of them from his class. They seemed to be interested in doing something together with them, in the way of partying.

One of the women, about thirty, asked Ted: “Do you teach at Delta State?” Ted spent some time talking to her. He found that she worked in a travel agency over in Lake Village in Arkansas. Then Barrows got jealous and started being obnoxious and drove them away. Ted was getting pissed off at Dick’s behavior.

Why did you do that?” Ted asked.

Dick just looked stupid and said “I don’t know.”

You drove them away,” Ted said.

Yea, I did, didn’t I,” he said.

The bastard, Ted thought. That would probably be their last chance to link up with some broads that whole day.

The way he had done it was to look right at their breasts. “Nice breasts,” Dick had said. Then he had started shouting louder, “Hey, the woman in red has nice breasts.”

People around heard him and started looking. The woman got embarrassed and told Dick to stop, but that just egged him on. So the women left.

It was a brutal display of his jealousy and stupidity, Ted thought. He wondered why he was going around with somebody like that. They could have had some fun staying with them. Much more pleasant than being with swingin dicks all the time. He doesn’t have any right to ruin the good times of others, he thought, but his nature is greedy and he wants to hog everything. It doesn’t make any difference what a good time he has. He doesn’t want others to enjoy anything. And he is jealous.

Dick started talking about “that Dago bitch.”

I wish you would stop making those racist comments around me,” Ted said, “You don’t have any right to keep doing that.”

Several fights broke out. The security people were sent around. He wondered if the same thing had happened at Woodstock in the sixties and if the place had become this much of a mess. Maybe so.

Ted was shocked at how quickly the people turned the place into a pig pen. As people emptied the water from their coolers, and threw down soda and beer cans, those collecting the cans could not keep up. There seemed to be thousands of them all over the place. He was reminded of the Italian festival he had seen in south Philly when he was in the Navy. But this was worse. Then it began to get muddy, slippery, and filthy. After a few hours, the place was not recognizable. It was hardly possible to stand up, let alone dance around. The blankets and sheets that people had brought to sit on were abandoned, trampled down in the mud.

Dick and Ted spent some time with some Cotton State students. When they returned to their old spot, they could hardly recognize the place. Jerry left about seven in the evening. Ted and Barrows stayed longer along with Doug.

Then behind them, a big fight broke out. Earlier, Ted had seen some people walking around coated with mud from head to foot, like pigs. Then he saw people laying on their bellies, drunk, and trying to get as muddy as possible. Ted thought it was stupid and that they probably would not be doing that if they had grown up in the mud in Missouri like he had. They would be sick of mud and would not have to experiment with it. But it was just the whites getting muddy. He didn’t see any blacks doing it.

Behind them, in the fight, people were now throwing mud on each other. It went on sporadically, now both whites and blacks were doing it. Dick and Ted decided to leave that place, as it was getting filthy. They went to the back of the crowd.

Just after dark, the concert with B. B. King started. Ted and Dick worked their way up close to the stage. It was very crowded, mostly blacks. Most were quite drunk, some falling down or nearly falling on each other.

Ted thought the show was great with B.B. King and the band. Some seven or eight musicians were on the stage, with trumpets and saxophones, bass guitar, drums, keyboard and guitarist.

The audience knew the songs and sang along while dancing. The great and powerful music brought tears to Ted’s eyes. It was the first time he had ever experienced anything quite like it. The crowd kept raising their hands in the air as if in obeisance to B.B. King, as if to some sort of God or ruling king. The amplifiers were so powerful that one could feel the vibrations far back in the crowd.

Ted was not completely comfortable with the reaction of the crowd. He thought maybe it showed the proclivity and capacity of the crowd to easily fall into hero worship. The singer was holding perfect sway of the audience and Ted felt they would have done anything that he asked them to do. If he had been a politician, or ruler, this could have been dangerous. Someone like that could have an enormous amount of power, Ted speculated. And how could anyone resist the power and emotion of that music, the passion. The herd psychology that had grasped the crowd. The effect was totally different from just listening to the music. Ted instinctively drew back into his own thoughts from such emotional hero worship.

Dick, who was in front of Ted, looked around and said: “Lift your hands up Ted.” Ted thought that he would feel rather stupid and like a puppet in blind worship to do that. It was too much like in a church, or even the blind worship of Adolf Hitler, something of that genre. He had never felt comfortable with that sort of herd psychology.

He heard Dick say: “That’s power, now that’s power.” That went without saying. Then Dick started saying silly things.

That’s the man who ought to be Governor of Mississippi. He ought to be Governor.”

Ted was a little embarrassed. He though it would be ludicrous to compare an artist and musician like B.B. King to the pale shadows of humanity, those racist crackers and nincompoops, who had been governors in Mississippi. Ted thought that this man was in a different category altogether. The man, although now thoroughly commercialized, had feeling and soul.

Later he told Dick, “I think it would be an insult to B.B. king to suggest that he should be governor of this state. Don’t forget that it is the primary objective of the leaders to keep this state in fiftieth place in this country. The principle of governing is to never do anything that helps people if it helps blacks. The whites will keep cutting their own throats forever as long as their policies also cut the throats of blacks. That just about eliminates any progressive policies. Now is that stupid or what? The old banker-planter white elite keeps ruling, keeping the white trash just a little above the blacks and getting their votes by scaring the shit out of them that the blacks are going to get their piss-poor red neck jobs. They do all they can to keep them barefoot, ignorant and pregnant and that’s the way the system works. You are right that it ought to be turned upside down, but that would take a revolution. The planters and bankers would never allow it, anyway.”

The music effused power and charisma. It was the sound, the music, the feeling, emotion, more than the words that made it great. Ted thought that it was a great performance. Only in the Delta, in that setting, between the deadly white cotton fields, the deadly chemicals, the deadly racism, the deadly historical legacy, the deadly inequality, the deadly hopelessness, the deadly ignorance, the deadly stubborn clinging to the past, the deadly twanging miss-ssippi language, the deadly poverty, the deadly exploitation, the deadly bible-belt Jesus white trash and black preachers, the deadly boozing, carousing, shacking up, balling, deadly proletarianization, deadly lumpen decadence, deadly death, deadly rate of infant mortality, deadly repression of human potential, did that cry of the oppressed creature, the opiate of the masses, as in religion, emerge in these powerful strains, the inviolable urge for human liberation, the safety valve, the decadent ruling class allowed the repressed souls to explode some of the repressed anger that built up in their psyche. These were Frantz Fanon’s wretched of the earth. This was the soul of the blues. Like the mighty Mississippi, it had to be diverted to the margins of society. The contradictions were too intense, like a time bomb ready to explode. That must one day explode. The festival was just a little safety valve to let the people vent a little of their frustrations.

He saw a beautiful black woman, the most attractive woman he had seen all day. She appeared to be part Chinese. He knew that in the past, the Chinese workers in the Delta had taken black wives. As workers, they were black. There was intermarriage, when the Chinese were treated more like blacks in the Delta. It was only with wealth and their imitation of the white ruling class in reactionary politics that they succeeded in crossing the color line to become “white” or perhaps honorary whites. Race had nothing to do with the color of their skin. More to do with money. Purely a social invention for class and race repression. Another lying-ass tool for the purpose of political and economic repression. Ted too, was black, as far as Mississippi society goes, being a commie in the eyes of the big beer-belly drug store truck driving Deltoid mothers. All it took to make you “black” was some slight feeling for human equality. An idea of equality or democracy. Nothing incited the hatred of white Mississippians more than that idea of equality. They were hostile to nothing else as much as that. The local gut hatred of democracy was perhaps unexcelled in any other spot on earth, Ted suspected.

Actually, Ted thought, he was worse than black. Not being from Mississippi, there was no place for him to fit into this society. He was neither white ruling class, white trash, nor black. He was classless and casteless. An outcast, in other words. The blacks were on the bottom, but a functioning part of the society. Professors from outside were as useless as the tits on a boar. Academics like him belonged to the boar tit-class in Mississippi, and as such would be hated even more than blacks. After all, the blacks were “Ouya Niggahs.” They needed them. They had no need for professors whose brains had not been saturated with the racism that pervaded society. Exactly the reason that almost of the academic staff of southern universities were from the area. Outsiders only stayed until they could get a job elsewhere and get out. Outsiders were a nuisance, and dangerous, because they might cause some to doubt the old southern racist ideology.

Dick spotted a Delta Chinese with a Banana Republic T-shirt. “They have become bananas now,” he said, “white on the inside, yellow on the outside, but somewhat accepted into the white society.” They piled up their money from those little jerk-water family run grocery stores till they could talk like a white, vote like a white, curse like a white, and react even more violently than a white and bash blacks to become honorary whites. Hell, even Ted could have become an honorary white if he had become reactionary enough. Could have metamorphosed himself into an honorary “good ole boy.” But he would need to develop his gut.

When Ted and Dick came back to their camp, it was like an abandoned battleground, the troops having moved on. There were abandoned coolers and lawn chairs, cans strewn everywhere, piles of abandoned trash, a testament to the absolute capacity of people to foul the earth in a very short time. Consumption gone wild. Hallelujah.

Dick was drunk. There were small groups of people dancing around among the little piles of trash and smashed beer cans. They had gone over the edge, completely bonkers. This fucking society drives people crazy, Ted thought. They are crazy, and this just gives them a chance to show it.

Ted started to change his mind about the Blues Festival. It was not at all like the festivals in California, in the little town of Isla Vista, where it was on the grass and never turned into a pig sty. Where, to be sure those hippies were on the margins of society, but rather left alone and given some freedom to do their own thing.

It was not so different from other Delta functions, except that the alcohol began to break down some of the social barriers. Some of the more liberal whites, the students from Oxford, who appreciated black culture, got up to dance with the blacks. Most of the college students were drunk by then. Too bad, that it takes alcohol to break down the social taboos, Ted thought. Intellectually, they tolerated them, but nevertheless, did not live with them.

He was glad that he had come for the experience, but was not sure that he would come to another one of these. He wondered why better arrangements had not been made to handle the garbage.

Ted and Dick stayed on the periphery of the crowd till dark. Some blacks, who were completely drunk out of their mind, came up and talked to them.

Then they saw the two women again and said goodbye to them. Ted thought they were decent and Ted thought that they liked him. He thought they would have liked Dick, if he hadn’t insisted on being an ass.

They stopped to buy egg rolls at a small food stand from a Delta Chinese.

The place was getting increasingly sordid. They went to the parking lot, carrying Dick’s big cooler. It was difficult to find the car in the dark.

Dick got out what was left of his Tequila and gave shots to some blacks who drank it down straight. Standing there with it under his arm, a black guy came along and made fun of him. “Hold it tight, now don’t let it get away,” he said, and laughed.

Dick really represents the greedy soul in Plato’s Republic, Ted thought. And the crowd had turned the venue into Plato’s City of Pigs.

Dick kept on being silly and then obnoxious, saying “Bayuh-bay, Bayuh-Bay.” People were looking at him as if he had gone nuts. Ted was afraid some blacks would think he was ridiculing black music or culture.

A black guy was loading his van next to Ted’s car. Dick, having no discretion, went up and started talking to him. “Hey, what’s goin on there? How ya doin?”

The black guy saw how Dick was fucked up.

Go away you white mo fo,” the guy said.

Dick and Ted got the cooler loaded up in Ted’s car.

Dick began to whine about how he had been mistreated. He was no longer a misanthrope, but the benefactor of all mankind on a campaign.

People that live in the hills always help each other out, but not those that live in the flat lands,” Ted said.

Acid’s groovy, kill the pigs, acid’s groovy, kill the pigs,” Dick kept repeating loudly, over and over again, as Ted maneuvered his car into the line of vehicles leaving the festival. Time to get the hell out of this place.

Ted hoped that they did not meet any pigs, as it would not be a great thing for them to hear Barrow’s lament.

They got out of the lot and onto the road following the parade of cars. They saw a black guy on foot. Dick wanted to give him a ride so Ted picked him up.

The people around this town are bad,” he said. He was talking about the racism. He said he was from Chicago.

I would like to get two guns, one in each hand, and go after them,” he said. Then the guy was talking to them, inviting them to his place, and hugging them. The power of alcohol to break down social barriers.

Ted thought it was an indication of the bitterness in society in the Delta.

Now Dick began more bullshit, telling everyone that we were “tourists” who just came here for the Blues festival. Ted felt uncomfortable about that. What was the point of making up that stupid story?

Dick started getting more friendly with the black. “We hate pigs. Hee, hee, hee. We hate pigs, hee, hee, hee.” He kept repeating it over and over again.

They let the black guy off near the town, and went to Taco Bell. There were some blacks on motorcycles.

Better watch those mother fuckers. They will be racist. Don’t want to fuck with them,” Dick said.

You can’t say that just because they are on motorcycles,” Ted said.

Dick was drunk as a skunk. The black girl behind the counter was not very friendly to him. She put up with him and they got some Mexican food stuffed with beans.

Dick saw a white girl there with her boyfriend and started saying silly things. Ted went away to sit at another table. Dick asked the girl: “Do you want to be named Penelope.” Disgusted, she answered “No.” He started calling the people inside “Bayuh bee, bayuh bee.”

Then Dick struck up a conversation with some blacks about B.B. King.

I know a cook in a TV show and I am from West Virginia and I just drank beer with him and am a hillbilly like him. Yeah, yeah, yeah.” He was either talking out of his head, or the acid was taking over his words.

When they left, Dick asked Ted to get him a beer from the cooler in the trunk.

They drove back to Weaselville listening to the blues program, Highway 61. It nicely summarized the day.

Dick crapped out in the back seat of Ted’s car, moaning “Bayuh bee,”from time to time.

Before they got to Weaselville, Dick said he wanted to go to Connie’s house. She was one of his students who supplied him with acid. Ted told him that it wouldn’t make any sense. We would have to wait outside. They dropped their friend Doug off at the university and took Dick to his place.

The next morning Ted thought about the day as the cotton chemicals drifted through his windows, filling his apartment and lungs with another load of deadly Mississippi poison. He could hear the crop duster planes gyrating over his apartment and diving back onto the fields of white. This deadly poison stuff we breathe all the time could be a symbol of this whole society, he thought. People down here breathing the repressive social poison from cradle to grave.

Ted hoped that the woman he met at the festival would be interested in seeing him again, even if she was married. He thought about contacting her. It might be better than a long-distance relationship. She had a fairly good body. She would be cuddly. She had told him that she went to California in her travel agency work. His daydreaming had started again. Motherfuck, adrift. In society but not of it. But not being of this society could be nothing other than a blessing.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Treason

It was early September, a boiling cauldron, with the heat index at 110 degrees. Some crops in the Delta were burning up.

When Ted landed in Memphis at ten o’clock in the evening, it was 95 degrees. He walked out of the airport into the sultry air. The stench from crop dusters filled his nostrils. It was a sharp contrast from San Francisco, where he had spent the last four days, loving the cool fog off the Pacific and drinking gorgeous cold draft beer. Driving down to Weaselville, he was forced to breathe the chemicals spewed from crop dusters that day. His lungs and throat began to burn before he was halfway to his place.

He stopped at a McDonalds on the old Blues Highway, US 61 south of Memphis. Right away he noticed how unfriendly the blacks were and how the little tight faces of the whites were all screwed up like they had just bitten into a sour lemon. They didn’t want to smile here. He braced himself for the hellish days ahead. Another Shitty Day in Paradise. Not much of a joke here, he thought.

Doctor Grover’s ancient political theory class began at ten in the morning. Some late students drifted in and sat down. Grover began with a discussion of the soul in Plato, the Orphic Cult. He noted that the Greeks did not have the idea of the soul before Plato.

This caught their interest. Some of the students began to ask questions totally unrelated to the lecture.

Professor, Do ya believe in Gaaud?”

What the Fuck? Grover thought. Where did that come from?

I really do not have any way of knowing,” Professor Grover said, “so I don’t bother myself with such questions. Anyway whether I believe in God has nothing to do with Plato.”

Nothing to do with you either, you fucking little son of a bitch, he thought.

All of sudden all hell seemed to break loose. Students were asking more questions. Shit started flying around about the Bible and other things. Grover was amused at this reaction, but was not going to pull any punches. Talk about the soul and God had surely hit a raw nerve.

Well, there are dozens of scriptures,” he continued. But being rational in this case was like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull. What he said just egged them on, rather than settle them down. “The Buddhists can fill up rooms with religious texts. These are just as holy to them as the Bible is to Christians. So what it says in the Bible doesn’t prove anything.” That comment was another tragic mistake.

Grover tried to go on with the lesson.

All of a sudden another student, Bill Parker, from one of the back pews, began to preach a blue streak.

It’sa in tha scripchuhs. Ayah ave touched the heyum of hees gahment,” he shouted.

Ted just looked at him astonished. What the hell? He felt like puking right there in front of the class. He was going to be ill. He ignored the outburst and took up his next point.

Before the class degenerates into the old time gospel hour, maybe we could go on with the lesson,” he said. “Maybe it would be a good idea if we could suspend some of the prejudices that we learned in Sunday school class while we study the Greeks.”

Not a chance in hell.

Grover moved on to talk about Parmenides and Heraclitus and flux, “dust thou art to dust returneth.”

All of a sudden, Bill jumps up, books and all, and bolts out of the classroom.

Jesus, Ted thought. Now I’m really in a world of shit.

Professor Grover went on with the lecture.

At the end of the period, Ted told the Chairman, Bennington, that a student apparently got upset while he was teaching the class. Then he saw Parker in the hall on the way to another class.

I hope you haven’t left the class for good,” Ted told him, being friendly.

Nah, buhyut Ah dougn let nobody say anythane aginst myah Gaaud,” Parker blurted.

Well, we were not discussing your God. The lecture was about the ideas of Plato. But in my class, there is no sacred ground,” Ted said. “Everything is subject to critical examination and you will have to accept that if you want to attend. It is not a church where there are things that one can say and things that one cannot.”

Ted returned to his office and made a phone call. Bennington came into the office and told him that Parker had been downstairs in the President’s office complaining bitterly.

The little bastard lied to me, Ted thought. When he asked him about leaving the class, he had said, “Oh, Ah jusa had ta go downstayir.”

Bennington suggested that he and Grover talk to the student together in the presence of another student to corroborate what happened in class.

Ted thought about it and realized what was going on. That seemed to him to be making an issue of what was said in class, which might question his professionalism as a teacher. The student had charged Ted with using “expletives,” which was a totally false accusation. Ted knew that he had not. At least he couldn’t remember saying any such word, although he had felt like saying “Holy Shit” more than once. Or maybe “Motherfuck” or what the fuck is going on here?

When Ted returned from lunch, he called Bennington and asked him what the real purpose of meeting with the student was. What was the issue? Ted had decided that the only real reason would be to determine what he had actually said in class and that it would be his word against the student’s. In any event, that could not be an issue because it was a First Amendment issue related to academic freedom. So if he went along with that, he would be admitting that what he said was an issue. So he told Bennington that he did not want to participate in such an exercise.

Whether I used expletives could also not be an issue because while I do not make it a practice to use them, I know that at least one person in the Division does use them frequently. This would be a double standard.”

Ted had often overheard his next door neighbor, who taught Criminal Justice, cursing heartily in his first period class. That wild ringing “Gaahdaaham!” kept echoing in his head. And it wasn’t just once but picked up momentum as the former Jackson copper got warmed and carried away up in his lecture. It was fun to listen to him giving the students hell.

It is not an issue of First Amendment rights or academic freedom,” Bennington said, “but whether you referred to the student as stupid or said something that the student was sensitive to.”

Ted knew that some of the students like Bill would be super sensitive to almost anything related to religion. In that case, how could one teach concepts related to other views of religion? These students were sensitive to almost anything that was not in their daily experience.

Obviously, I don’t go around calling students stupid in the classroom, and to imply that is to question my professionalism.” Ted said. “They may feel that they are stupid when they cannot find a way to refute my arguments. I can’t help that. I also cannot pussy foot around and avoid discussing some concept because some Christian might have a heart attack and hit the floor. What kind of teaching would that be? I cannot always know what they are going to be sensitive to when discussing other ideas.”

Of course, some of them are stupid, Ted thought, incredibly stupid, but that goes along with the society.

Ted felt like also saying that he was not responsible for the enormous ignorance that they bring to the classroom. One would need to bring a twelve foot crow bar to class to pry their minds open to slip in a hint of something new.

I thought that all I did was to let the student know that political thinking involved putting one’s self in other frameworks and seeing the world from those perspectives, Ted said. “Some of them are just so reactionary to anything that touches on “their God.”

Bennington knew it was true, but put up with it.

He wished he could get hold of some of those fat ass grinning shit eating charlatan preachers who waved bibles and screwed up young minds and turned them into fucking little reactionary monsters, while secretly sneaking around and going to prostitutes down in New Orleans. Taking the cash and building mansions, while sponging off the scarce earnings of the poor white trash.

It seemed to Ted that the proper thing to do would be to explain to him that he needed to be prepared to think, and not start quoting scriptures. There’s a big wide world with a lot of views, so get used to it. It seemed to him a travesty to start getting up a little rinky dinky investigation to find out what he had said. That would make it seem like he was the accused and the students were the witnesses. One of the students was the accuser and Bennington would be the Jury.

Ted thought that maybe it was a good thing that it had happened. He could use it to illustrate what happened to Socrates when he was accused of teaching about new Gods and corrupting the youth. But even though I was right and merely doing my job, my duty, to teach the class, he thought, these bastards will hold it against me and it will reflect badly on me in the long run. One can never get into trouble for holding a dull class, for boring students. But to teach a good, lively, and intellectually exciting class, is treacherous. Ted maintained that he was only doing his duty. Anyway he had survived two years of student evaluations.

Bennington had told him that his student evaluations for the previous semester were “very good.” Ted was relieved to hear that. The Chairman told him that one student said he was the best teacher he had ever had. But another student had said that “he should be tried for treason and that all he teaches is communism.”

A few days later Ted heard from Bennington that the Academic Vice President had told Bill Parker that he could fire Professor Grover for “using profanity in the classroom.” Ted was certain that he had not used profanity in his lecture and comments. But he also knew that at least one other professor did use it quite a lot. It was also said that the Vice President said he was going to put a regulation in the staff handbook saying that profanity could not be used in the classroom.

I am so tired of chicken-shit, Ted thought. You would think this place was a goddam church. He hated these rinky dinky little paranoid fascist minds scurrying around behind his back like rats. They can have this shit hole and sink in it because I am moving on to bigger and better things.

One thing was clear to him. It was suicidal to discuss the concept of God in class. One could not discuss things honestly without getting themselves in hot water. He wondered if it should really be called a university. But still, he was defiant. He thought he would say what he wanted to in the classroom. To hell with them.

A month later, Bennington told Ted that the student, Parker, had ended up dropping the philosophy class he was taking from him. Parker claimed that he had been in the hospital for nearly having a heart attack. Ted wasn’t sure if his lecture had anything to do with that.

After classes he went walking with Dick who claimed to be a Republican but also hated the Delta. He called the locals “Deltoids” and called the girls “bow heads” because of the big ribbons they liked to tie in their hair. Ted thought his Republican leaning was a false consciousness, in spite of being a sociologist. He had a stark working class background. Quite bull headed. Ted was slowly bringing him around to political reality. He would see the light. At heart, he saw the world more like Ted than he imagined. But the son of a bitch was still a reactionary, Ted realized.

It was the third year that there had been no pay raise, not even a cost of living increase. This meant, of course, a de-facto cut in pay every year as long as it went on. Ted had signed a petition earlier in the day which some of the staff in the English Department had got up, protesting the low salaries. The administration was threatening the staff with pay cuts, due to the reduction in the budget from the state legislature. The faculty was trying to get the list of salaries of the staff put in the library for everyone to see.

Dick got angry when Ted told him about the petition. Ted thought he must be stupid. He knew that his father, a factory worker, had been involved in strikes in West Virginia. Why wouldn’t he support this? And if it worked, his pay would go up too. What was there to lose? It was clear that Cotton State was not broke. They had an airplane and spent lavishly on the football team and on the girls’ sports teams, the Lady Kudzu.

Ted, there are people in West Virginia that don’t have a job, there are people that do not get enough to pay their rent. There are people that do not even have a place to live.”

Well, West Virginia is not my standard, any more than Mississippi,” Ted said. “I could take Minnesota, Wisconsin or California as my standard, or any place that had decent salaries and treated its staff as human beings and with dignity and respect. And this place falls way short of all those.”

But this is the South,” he said.

That’s exactly the reason we have to do something,” Ted said. “That makes it urgent. In other states, it wouldn’t be so urgent. Even Alabama must have more progressive policies than this state. Mississippi and Louisiana are always in a fierce contest to see which one can be flat last. And this state usually wins over “loose-iana.”

He is so stupid, that he reacts in a negative way when he sees somebody doing something progressive, Ted thought. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. He reacts against progressive actions. Ted felt that he had busted his ass in working hard and teaching for the last two years and deserved a good raise. He wanted out, but when one was teaching in Mississippi, it was an enormous handicap. Others thought, oh, he must be a looser. What the hell is he doing in Mississippi? So maybe the only way to get out was just to see the son of a bitchin burg Weaselville in the rear view mirror on the last trip out. After that, the only way would be up, because one could not go down from here.

The cotton was getting ready for harvest. This meant gassing the environment with defoliant spray, which was being flown onto the fields to make the leaves fall off. The strong odor began drifting into his windows before seven in the morning. Living here is like living in a gas chamber, he decided. The horrors of history have not ended but continue in new forms. He could hear the crop dusters circling around and diving back over the fields dumping the chemicals. He could hear it hitting the roof of his apartment. He had to keep his windows closed. The stench drifted for miles filling up the entire Delta all through the growing season, and even now, there was no respite as it took more chemicals to get the leaves off so that the pickers could get the cotton.

When the warm rains came, he felt like stripping off his clothes and rushing out into the rain. He stripped to his shorts and stood on his balcony letting the huge drops pelt his body. Then he remembered the young woman next door. She seemed somewhat of a prude, so he better be careful. He was already in a world of shit, he thought. He sometimes had visions of being over her and giving it to her until she begged for more. He wanted to pleasure her until she moaned her pleasure and took everything his loins could give her. He wondered if she ever wanted it. She too was one of those weaseling whites who seemed to have a lemon face, although he thought she would look rather nice if her pasty white face could actually be melted into a smile. If she could relax. She needed a tickler up her. If she could strip off her clothes and frolic in the grass and get drunk and fuck, the way he imagined that he would like to see her. He remembered the crazy night, after the long drive. He drank wine after midnight. It was a cold and frosty night. He didn’t feel like sleeping. When he was drunk, he ran out in the nude under the small pine trees and frolicked in the cool frosty grass. He sat on top of her small new car stiff as wood and pointed at the stars. His wild supercharged balls in the frosty air wanted to give her all he had. To mate with a female in heat and heal the burning fire in his loins. His got hard so often. He was ready to do some dipping. He let the cool rain drip from his body. Why didn’t she take her clothes off and offer him her body? She wouldn’t be bad. Not a bad body. A little plump, soft flesh. What the hell, even if he was a fucking communist, they could have a good fuck. He might even get her to smile or laugh. What could be wrong with that? What was wrong with human liberation?

I am excitable, humanistic, erotic, phallic, leftist, irreverent, profane!, anti-fascist, socialist, anarchist, pagan, and proud of it! Maybe even a fucking traitor. If Mississippi won’t drive one to it, then what the hell would?

Chapter Twenty-Five: Fall Poetry

Ted contacted Jenny Summers through an ad in The New York Review of Books. She was an English professor at a university in West Virginia. They exchanged letters and phone calls all Fall and she arranged to come for a weekend in November. After his classes on Thursday, Ted drove to Memphis to pick her up at the airport. It was a beautiful Fall day and he sat on his balcony at noon to soak up some sun.

He looked around in the airport for Jenny and then walking toward McDonalds spied her walking and recognized her from the picture she had sent. Jenny didn’t recognize Ted right away. He walked up to her and said “Hi Jenny” and asked her how her trip was. She was wearing a small red beret and looked considerably older than she looked in the picture she had sent. They headed for the airport parking lot. He thought she was attractive, but her body looked younger than her face, arms and hands. In fact, as he realized later, she had a great body for fifty-six, some ten years older than himself.

I take estrogen,” she told him. “And I continue to have my periods.”

Should I take it too?” Ted asked.

They drove to downtown Memphis to the Rendezvous Restaurant on Beale Street. When they were seated she put on her glasses and looked at him closely. “I want to see better what you look like,” she said.

Ted felt like an insect specimen in a display cabinet as she examined him in detail. “Anything missing?” He wanted to ask.

Later they went to a blues club called “The King’s Palace.” The band was “Butch Mudbone and the Wolf Pack.” They stayed till around eleven o’clock listening to music. Everything was great and they enjoyed the music. He had a class at eight the next morning, unfortunately, and needed to get back.

Driving the one-hundred miles to Weaselville, Jenny lay down in the front seat with her head in his lap. He let his hand rest on one of her breasts, which were not overlarge, but beautiful and soft. She gently pushed his hand away. When he brought it back after she drifted into sleep, she let him fondle her. Now he could feel her nipples popped out nicely. Perfect, he thought, for mid-fifties. She would be his for the weekend. She was a sexy woman who almost lived up to the picture she had sent a couple of weeks before. He looked forward to a weekend of good sex.

They slept separately the first night. The next morning, he slipped off to class. She visited his office after his morning class, slipping in and out, without other faculty knowing who she was or why she came. The aging showed in her face in the sunlight, but her body was young, nicely filled, not too much, just right. She was much younger below the chin. He decided to make love to her in the evening. Surely she knew it was on the agenda.

She showed him her book of poetry which had just been published.

It was a beautiful Fall day. The leaves had turned shades of red and orange in the warm autumn sun. They walked back to his apartment in the noon warmth. She gave him a nice view of her lovely breasts, cradled in her bra, as she changed into something more comfortable. He wanted to scoop them out at once and devour them. Maybe even leave his teeth prints. He imagined that curdled taste that he hadn’t had for some time. He would suck out all her flavor. They drove down to Rosedale to the river landing to see the wide Mississippi. On the bank, Ted touched her hip and pulled her to him. Then he pressed his lips to her cheek. She moved her lips to taste his and he felt her tongue in his mouth. He was swelling. He pressed her hand to his groin and felt her hand feeling him grow stiff. He tasted her neck, her ears, her nose, and pressed his lips to her eyes as his he throbbed. He wanted her, but waited. His hand had a piece of her derriere and he held her tight against his body and kissed her again, probing her mouth with his tongue.

You are delicious,” she said and squeezed the bulge in his jeans. He knew by the look in her eye what she wanted.

You are too, honey” he said. He pressed his lips to her neck, down to the top of her cleavage. He walked back to his car with the bulge in his trousers. They drove down the levy to another small town as the sun was setting. It was a pastoral scene. In the car, she touched his crotch. It was a lonely place. He opened his fly and let his stiff tool fly out. I like this view better, she said, as she took him into her hand. Then she bent over and took him deep into her mouth. Ted loved the feel of her warm lips embracing him. She was about to get him off. Let’s wait a little, he said, “I am saving it for you. She licked the drops off and let him slip it back into his pants.

You are beautiful,” she said.

Back in Weaselville, they went to rent a video. Ted wanted to see “Born on the Fourth of July,” but it was out, so they rented “Glory” instead. It was not much to Ted’s interest.

Next to Ted’s apartment was an area of small pine trees. He sat down with Jenny under them in the late afternoon. He felt himself growing hard. He touched her hand and quickly slipped it into his shorts so that she could feel his stiff tool. She didn’t object.

Oh it’s such a big thing,” she said.

Just for you,” Ted said. “For your pleasure. All for your pleasure.” Ted tried to tame it, but it continued to throb even harder as he kissed her. He kissed her harder. He felt her fingers on his nuts. He pressed his hand to her lovely mature tits and wanted her right there. The bulge in his pants wouldn’t quit. It was going to be good.

Ted cooked chicken curry and brown rice. They drank champagne and a California wine.

They settled down to watch the film. It did not interest Ted greatly, but Jenny seemed to get into the Civil War story. The lay on a pallet in front of the sofa. After a time, Jenny got up to go to the bathroom. Ted decided to make love to her when she returned. Was she lubricating herself? Under the cover, he slipped his shorts off. When she returned, he was nude and ready. He quickly slipped her small satin panties off and she let him enter her at once.

I want you, Jenny, I want you so good.”

He pleasured her explosion coming too quickly before she could reach her climax. She got up to wash herself.

Oh, it’s so much,” she said. Ted felt a little ashamed. He had saved up a little too much. What the hell? She was good. He loved her body. After a few minutes, his arousal returned and they made love again. Their interest in the film had rather waned.

Well, give me a chance to get off this time,” she said. He had been too quick the first time. Ted took his time and she came. His orgasm came slower this time. Relieved, they watched the rest of the film, sipping some more wine. They slept in the same place and the next morning, he made love to her again before they got up.

Her fleshy hips were fabulous and he enjoyed her body.

You are a dream,” he told her, “a pornographer’s dream. It is beautiful to make love to you,” he told her. “I wish I had you every day.”

I’ll bet you do,” she said. “But you would get tired of me, like all men.”

Well, I would enjoy it in the meantime,” Ted said.

It was a good way to start the day. He could fondle those soft fleshy hips all day. He wanted the weekend to last.

They decided to go to Crazy John’s, a place on the highway, for breakfast. It had local greasy delicious food, which Jenny loved. “This is great,” Jenny said, “I love these kinds of places.”

They went to the park where there was a track and walked. She stopped to pick up a bouquet of wild flowers. Now she looks old, Ted thought, as he walked. Like an old lady, but such a good lover. She was several years his senior, but she had a young body that worked miracles for him. He couldn’t wait to get back home.

In the afternoon, they got “Born on the Fourth of July” and watched it. Then Jenny slipped her clothes off, so that Ted could give her a massage. He rubbed down every inch of her beautiful body. She pulled Ted to her, sitting, and he sank effortlessly into her soft wetness. It was a beautiful experience for him. She was starting to love his love-making. Ted lay back and let her feel her pleasure. They were starting to get accommodated to each other. She told him that her favorite position was the missionary position. She turned around facing his feet. Then she lay back and Ted made love in the missionary position until he was finished. He would give her what she wanted. Ted was starting to get used to her talk, her voice, her laugh, her warmth, her body. All the things together. He thought that sex did not assume all the importance, but the whole package was very nice, indeed. Jenny liked a lot of petting, which Ted didn’t mind. She got sexually excited easily and wanted to be touched and petted all day till she got hot. She had a very nice body, nice figure. Her breasts were beautiful and her hips flared out nicely with “love handles.” He remembered the massage. He loved to squeeze her hips.

Well, after about five days of solid fucking, we would get to know each other pretty well,” she suggested. They smoked bidis and ate Indian pan. Drank Champagne and wine and made love.

I smoked for a long time,” Jenny said. “But had to quit.” I have lived my life already. Now I just want to enjoy the rest of it.”

Most men I have met recently are impotent.” Jenny said. “They can’t get it up.” She said she met a man who was spending all his money on shrinks, but he couldn’t get it up. “Impotence is rampant among academics,” she told Ted.

I went with a man with a penis like this.” She showed him two joints of her little finger.”

When one man came to see her, he stopped past the hardware store and bought some rope to tie her to the bed. His name was Bob Goodhand. She apparently didn’t mind it all that much. That was the only way he could get it up.”

When they had gone to the river, she told him what she thought about feminists.

Most of them are men haters,” Jenny said. “The women gather up at

conferences and engage in lesbian activities. I am just out of it because I don’t eat pussy. Yuch!”

She was bitter that this group of women were taking over academia. She liked men and liked to be with real men. She gave Ted some advice on how to get a woman and said she had also tutored her son. “You have to go slow, ever so slow.” Advice like “put your hand on a

woman’s hip in your office when she is coming in.” She said her chairman did it in New Jersey. She liked it. One got a totally different story from the feminists.

On Sunday, Ted woke up at five to take her to the airport. He wanted to make love again, but it was too early for Jenny. They made it to Memphis in time to have some breakfast before she had to catch her plane. She asked him to come to West Virginia to see her over Christmas.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Mississippi

Ted Grover saw how the historical legacy of brutalization in the South survived and surged forward in time. The savage ideal. The brutalization of black men and women reflected back, sprang back to brutalize all of society in the machismo hardness of myriad faces. In the guns and badges and in the pointy white caps and robes. In the blasting of wildlife from their natural habitat. In the wholesale destruction of the environment, in the destruction of air and water, and ultimately one’s own body. In the ignorance and decadence that flows down dark and infested streets. In the fear on faces. In the side long glance. In the swiveled head. In the hate of pigmented skin, in the passion for white. In the Anglo-Saxon Christ. In the gaunt hard-set jaw, in the tinny vocal chords, in the asides, in the suspicion and pervasive fear. In the divided town, apartheid. The squalor on the other side of the tracks, in the Lincolns, in the white shirts over swollen bellies, in the side arm. In the brutalized poor whites, lungs eaten out with nicotine. In the poor whites grown fat, in the labels “white trash, nigra, fag, cunt, hippie, commie, bitch, queer.” In the despair, the broken drugged body of the elderly, wrinkled, heavy, crushed. In the ostracism, the hate ridden negation of the outsider, of novelty, of creativity.” In the pulling down of standards. In the pervasive and honored ignorance, in the decadence of the ruling class, in the lily white bride, the exposed white tips of lily white tits, reserved for white lips and tongue and encased in white lace, emulated by black, the bow at the back. In the bully. In the brass knuckles, in the thrown acid, the burned faces, the scarred pickup trucks. In the Dixie flag, the pickup window pasted with Dixie flag, the Hollywood Muffler, the bumper stickers, Performance Cams, Shit Happens, Ollie North for President, Brent Trot, Bush, KKK. The South Will Rise Again, The gun rack, the muddied wheels, the roll bar, the tossed Budweiser cans, the leather belt encased protruding gut, leather sheathed castration knife, the cuffs, the dangling chain, the barking hounds, the sucking down of humanity into the black bottomless pit. The naturalistic fallacy, the is as the ought, the grooved mind, the narrow eyes, squint, open mouth, stained teeth, the chaw, the spit, splattered tobacco juice, the rotted teeth. The hard white face without a smile. The ratty, reeking, pic-a-bit, the white drop-out cashier. The whiny female voice. The cheap whiskey, the racist song, the infantile ditty, “She ran off with a nigger, Well, I never did figger.” The giggle, the rolling of the head, the teaching from the cradle till death. In the white congregation, in the preacher bombast, in the lily white rapture, in the black grave yard, in the pitiful cement stones, with nail-scratched names, dates, in the shacks, in the tacky tiny stores in black ends of all-black towns, in the black dance halls, behind the flashing miller and Bud neon signs. Coors, the hostile black, brutalized, burned out, busted, the fine line mustache, the uniform, the fascist wielded flash, the held pen, the line to walk, the sordid cell, the piggy gut, the huffy puff, the strip, the cash, the swollen pocket, the fatty head, the starred car, the whine in the night. The fouled cancerous air, the cough, the fouled lung cancer dead, the grassless yards, broken toys, clapboard houses without paint propped up on cement blocks, the warehoused old, the billed cap, the barking dog, the clapping hands, the call, the switch, the whistle, Swi, Swi, Swi, come ere, come ere, Ar, Ar, the fence, the viscous stance. The dog becomes the human, the human the dog. The lily white academy, the all-black town, lily white Mississippi.

The day lay heavy with time. Ted lay in the autumn sun. Big clouds rolled up. He bared his ass in the hot sun, exposed his penis in the sun, walked barefoot in the pines in his shorts, bought some pizza, looked at Jenny’s picture, loved her smile, fondled her neck and cheeks in his mind, thought of her lips around his penis. He wanted her to come. It would be so cruel to lose such a woman, a woman whose face surpassed sweetness, his sweet secret affiliation. He wanted to know all five feet three and one hundred and fifteen pounds of her. His cell, serene, but enforced by unseen chains, heads that turn away, minds that run in other streams, currents that flow cruelly away, silent, hard, firm, unyielding, death wielding, unyielding little egos. Hot rocked mouths, round words drop. Motors revving up. The futile screech of tires. She walks in the evening, the teacher of English. She looked so good tonight. So delicious, but didn’t wave. Faint smile. Back to his sordid hole. Eat a pizza. Need diversion. He felt like he was in prison.

October nights began to bring cool. He waited for Billie, Billie Joyce Moon, a woman his age who was taking his class by correspondence. Billie Jo was supposed to come in the afternoon. She taught at a community college some distance away. She always wore beautiful dresses, dressed up for him. He fantasized about a sexual encounter with her. She was so beautiful, so sexy. The dresses she wore showed the cleavage of her nice young-looking breasts. Ted was trying to be professional. It was fucking hard with her coming to do some work on feminism. Her ass was so inviting. That would be so lovely to touch.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Ideology

Ted remembered a Fall day in the Navy in the Mediterranean. Ted was fascinated by the old cities of Tunisia. He wanted time to wander and explore the cities, such as Bizirte and Tunis. Over the weekend, he went with Becker and Mac to Tunis by bus. Ted wanted a better taste of the local culture. They got a hotel not far from the downtown area. It was near a large park. Interesting how the Muslim cultural idea of expansive gardens translates into the structures of cities, he thought. At the same time, there were the facades and elements brought by French colonialism all blended together to present a fascinating city. A synthesis of the two cultures.

Ted was struck by the population on the streets and the visible generation gap. Here, a mother in the traditional white Islamic dress, signifying holiness or purity, and teen age daughter in blue jeans and T-shirt, not very different from anywhere in the most secular and modern capitals of the world, and yet perhaps governed by traditional social mores, in terms of marriage and relations between members of the family. Nevertheless, a great chasm between this modern port city, a fascinating blend of old and new. The small red and white taxis looked like little toy cars and the cafes with European pastries and awnings, and chairs and tables set up outside, with names of European products. It could just as well have been in France on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Out of the window of the fourth floor of his hotel, he could see the street life below.

He didn’t remember a whole lot about that night, except that they did go out and buy some wine. Ted got drunk on it. He did remember that and then he went out on the town on his own. He managed to get lost not so far from the hotel. He found a taxi driver that knew the way back in one of those little red and white cars. The houses looked rather run down. There were kids playing European football, kicking the ball around. He wandered around a good deal, not able to find his way back to the hotel. Then he sat around for a while on a low wall. This was one of the times in that part of the world when he had been approached by a homosexual. He recalled that the guy was a Middle Easterner, but he might have been European. He said that he had been living in Austria. For some reason, he had to leave and couldn’t get back. Ted thought that he was asking him to help him in some way. But there was no way he could help him. What he really wanted that night was to sleep with Ted and he was too drunk and disoriented to object. Ultimately, Ted ended up going up to the hotel room with him. Ted was slated to sleep on the floor. When Ted lay down, the guy laid down too. Then Ted became ill and that was when he left.

He woke up the next morning with a heavy hangover from the wine that crushed his head in its grip.

Ted, Becker and Mac breakfasted in a little hotel along the large central boulevard named after Habib Bourgiba. Ted remembered Becker laughing and saying: “I knew Ted would come back with somebody last night.” How did he know that? Ted thought. Did he think he was gay? It was the third time that a guy had tried to pick him up. Spain, Italy, and now Tunisia.

Ted liked the tranquility of Tunis but thought that one might like to see a more dynamic social and political ethos. Nevertheless, he found it culturally interesting.

From the great covered Bazaar, Ted bought dates and incense and a tunic for his wife. At Sidi bu Said, he enjoyed the tranquil little settlement above the blue Mediterranean.

For Ted, many of the black women of Mississippi were beautiful, sexy, and intelligent. He thought that the white inbreeding had begun to take its toll on the white race where women sometimes seemed to be washed out. Black women seemed to exude greater vigor and pubescence, voluptuous breasts and strikingly beautiful faces, colorful, the salt and vigor of a fertile land. Let it be politically fertile as they awake from their decades of slumber, he thought. Let humanity emerge. He would that the cultural strength of white and black could love and bring forth a dynamic culture but history dictated otherwise. He was very strongly attracted to a number of black women. He saw them as exceedingly handsome and elegant creatures.

The failure of American culture at large to transcend racial barriers had weakened the society inordinately, he thought. Both socially and politically, not to mention economically. Ruling classes have often been known to cut their own throats through their own blind prejudices. Racial prejudice is such an all-encompassing structural attribute of the society that not even economic necessity could break that deadly log jam.

His mind again drifted back to the Navy. In October, all hell breaks loose in the Mediterranean. Often everyone on the ship from the Captain on down would be ill. It starts shortly after getting underway. Skimming further and further into the sea, the swells become larger and the pitching and rolling motion of the ship gains amplitude. One is tossed from side to side in the passageways and one clings to railings descending and ascending ladders. Sometimes it is a relief to go out on deck in the open air and focus on the level horizon, but what to do when the ship is darkened and closed? Often the pitching sends the entire bow of the destroyer under water as it comes crashing down into the sea. And then the bow is lifted out of the water on the upswing. Few sailors are salty enough to ride that pitching monster without rushing out to vomit over the side. The heads or toilets in the ship become stinking hell holes. Puke is commonly spouted over the walls anywhere on the ship on such a sea. Some sailors tie plastic bags on the side of their bunks during the night. The rolling can toss one from side to side and almost out of the bunk, the ship tossed like a little tin can on the swells. The trip across the Mediterranean from Naples to Barcelona, in a terrible storm, was a trial of determination, of endurance for the entire night. It was not a matter of enjoyment by any but rather a sober facing of reality and looking forward to the warm port and the beach, attractive women, mail from back home, steaming, meaning getting drunk, and if luck would have it, getting laid. “Getting over” as sailors said. In such a situation with advancing six meter swells, the ship did not exceed eight knots. Mostly less. Sometimes a work party on a life line was sent to the brow to secure equipment that was about to break loose. They were allowed a shot of sherry when they returned to quarters. It is not unknown that it enters the mind of the sailor to ask himself more fundamental questions. Will he see love and loved ones again? What holds the old bucket together as it creaks and shudders down into the sea again and again. Will it burst and send them scuttling down into the fathomed deep? One tended to take it all stoically, in the end, and rather lead a hibernated existence. It was rather a sort of civil society in miniature. One feels an enhanced attachment to friends and loves.

He dreaded going down into the bowels of the ship, to the lower sonar spaces, when the transmitters had to be reset or, worse yet, when the power supply went down. Fuses and transistors had to be replaced while one felt deathly ill. To the rear of the ship, periodically to drop the BT, the bathothermeograph for the water temperature profile.

The next day, the entry into the channel is a welcome event. The water becomes calm, and one looks forward to going over, hitting the beach. Most sailors on the ship cared nothing for the city or its culture. They were just looking to get drunk and get laid.

In his first year in the Delta, his weekends were taken up by that Constitutional Law class. He had to learn all the cases in the first semester. He did more than was necessary. He had not been a law student in his PhD. program. Now it was necessary to catch up on that in a hurry.

He saw American politics as one-dimensional. Interest groups, poor theory, which really did not explain much. It didn’t explain how big capital ruled and controlled the system. Better to read Marx. Better to read Chomsky. But Marx was never mentioned in the teaching of American politics, as if it had no bearing whatsoever. It was clear to him that all but the most powerful interest groups could be crushed. Members of Congress were bought by the interests that funded their election campaigns. So they had their constituents and they were not the people. What else did one need to know? But the American Politics textbooks were filled with myths from cover to cover, and never went into these fundamental questions. There was a special theory made just for American politics, so that the dynamic principles of political struggle that were universal, were never applied to the American scene. Such was the power of ideology, he reflected.

He never bought it. Perhaps it was because he had seen so much of the world before he started studying political science. Had read so much of Marx. Had lived in a remote Indian village. Most of those guys, professors who teach American politics had never even left the US, much less lived abroad and observed politics in a foreign setting. Surely that would give them some ideas of how politics around the world was not the same as in Ohio or Kansas. If they thought a little deeper, they would understand something about the poverty of their theories of American politics. This was particularly true of the foolishness of interest group theory. It just served to cover up the reality. That’s what effective ideologies are designed to do, after all.

He sometimes observed the scoping out process at the yearly American political science meetings. It was not really recruitment, unless a department ran across someone whom they really wanted to hire. He called it a “meat market” for the best warm bodies. He saw it as beneath his dignity.

We would really like to hire you,” a person from an eastern university told Ted, “but the truth is that we have to hire a woman.” There was no affirmative action for guys like him from a rural Missouri background. For “Native Americans” but not for “native Missourians.” He had to be a native of somewhere, and if not of Missouri or America, he could not think where it could be. He had always seen the point of affirmative action, but in practice, the woman they hired would probably have had greater advantages in life than him. It was not very probable that he would make it as far as he had, given his rural origins in Preston, Missouri.

When he found a note in his box from the Citadel, the Military Academy, he went to the interview. After a few questions, the guy from the school says, “You know if you came down there, you would have to cut that beard off.” So that was it. The chief criteria was not having a beard. It was so absurd that he just started laughing. The other guy laughed too. After being on the red-eye all night from LA to make it to Washington the next morning, he would be told that shit. What was this?

Suck my cock. Get out of here, I’m not a goddam flag saluter, to do that nonsense. He had done the Navy. Knew the Military. Didn’t want any part of that. He had not adequately appreciated what “the Citadel” really was. He let it go and walked away. But the pickings were exceedingly thin. Political Science was a very conservative field of American Academia. If he wanted a job, it looked like Mississippi was going to be his sweet home for quite some time.

Chapter Twenty-Eight : Socialism

At the end of October Ted went out on Saturday evening with Dick. Bernie’s bar had closed up. Since the pickings were slim, they ended up going to a place called “The Pub.” There were little tables with white cloths which appeared tacky. A large black divan with rows of brass tacks was on the side which looked like something out of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion in Memphis. Ted thought the high curved back gave it a feudal look, mock aristocracy, mimicking the ruling class. It reminded him of the way Ann’s Rising Sun had been set up before it went bankrupt. The locals called it “Ann’s Rising Buns.” Ted suggested that the style was “Red Neck Contemporary.”

Bernie, a Mississippian who had lived in Texas, had fixed the place up like bars in Texas in cowboy style, but it didn’t take in the Delta. So it degenerated into something more in keeping with the local redneck culture.

Ted and Dick had a few beers, watching the wretched look on the faces of the few lonely men who came in. They seemed to be taking their drinking on Saturday night very seriously which was reflected on their faces. But it was also a look of despair. An older guy came in with big plastic-rimmed glasses and a cap. They were drowning their loneliness in a few beers. Maybe needed some talk as therapy. Clearly, they were not finding what they came looking for.

They decided to head to the other place called “Roosters.” Ted met a couple of his students from Ohio who played sports. At least, people from outside the area would talk to you, he thought. A couple of Dick’s students were there. He called them rednecks. They were. One had a little puckered up mean and ignorant-looking face. One of them made a racist remark right off. Ted didn’t laugh but just looked at their faces. They didn’t know what to do with that kind of response.

Whatsa mattah, ya dough unahstayan?” said pucker face.

No, I don’t appreciate your racism,” Ted told him. “You think it’s cute to make racist remarks but it isn’t cute. You can get by with it in Mississippi, but if you go to other places, people will just know that you are stupid. You ought to understand that.”

Both of them opened up at once and started chattering gibberish about “nigrah this and nigrah that.” Ted couldn’t catch all their words, something about “welfayah nigrah.” They started to tell horror stories about blacks collecting welfare. Ted was reminded of the Brahmins in Andhra Pradesh state in South India complaining about the low castes and the benefits they were getting from the government.

Ted was not going to listen to that shit coming from their mouths.

Wherrd yoo cum frum? Ow long ya bean heyah?” one asked.

Assholes. They think that if one stays here long enough, then he will be normal and racist just like them, Ted thought.

It doesn’t matter where I am from or how long I have been here,” Ted said. I understand the situation perfectly well.”

They are just too stupid to understand how they are victims of their own racism, he reflected. From the first day, he had realized perfectly clear that it was obvious in a thousand ways how the exploitation in the society militates against both poor whites and poor blacks.

Anger started to well up in Ted’s brain and he started to behave dangerously. “You know that what I am telling you is the truth. You will stay right here and sink and rot in this shit-hole.”

Theess cuntrie gonna be dastroyd by soshlism,”the other red neck piped up.

Ah wanna tellya somthun. This heyah cuntries gointa soshlism.”

As if he had any idea of what socialism is, Ted thought. He wanted to say:

Well, yes, tell me now. How do you know this country is becoming socialist? What are the signs? Do you call cutting back food stamps, unemployment, WIC food programs, and college student loans to increase subsidies to businesses and the Savings and Loan industry, while busting the unions, as Reagan and Bush have done, is that what you call socialism? Not quite my brand of socialism, I’m afraid. And the enormous subsidies to the rice and cotton farmers down here so they can have their Lincoln Town Cars? Is that socialism?”

Ted had heard the same stupid refrain from the bar owner Bernie before. These stupid rednecks really don’t have a clue, he thought.

You don’t have a clue. You can’t understand how the world works,” Ted told them.

But I have black students who have been to Detroit, New York and Chicago and they understand it a lot of it.”

That really burned up the rednecks to hear themselves compared blacks.

Soshleesm eesa taakin oovah,” the other shouted louder, as if you said it loud enough it would be true.

I hope so,” Ted said, “I hope that is the case because usually socialists are the most progressive against racism and it would be good if the socialists could take over. And they would educate stupid nincompoops like you so that you could think straight.”

He realized that he was living dangerously, threatening to get himself lynched or killed down here in this Mississippi shithole.

All so ludicrous, Ted thought, George Herbert Walker Bush ushering in socialism? Shows how well they understand the world. This place is clearly doomed. A state that starts at number 50 among the 50 states and moves downward. It is all tied up with the historical legacy of racism and exploitation and fear that the underclasses might become educated and revolt, that they might revolt when they start accumulating the tools needed for revolt. After the Civil Rights Movement, Blacks did acquire some fruits of US prosperity and the expanding educational system. But not so much in the South. The South knew that their minds must be kept as dark as their bodies. Then the US economy faltered and the blacks and poor whites were thrown back in virtual slavery. No getting out. The old game goes on and now the effort continues to take apart the universities.

Back in his apartment, Ted heard Parker’s little cur dog yapping away. I must get another job and get out of here, he thought. This place can only sink further into shit and I am sinking with it.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Marlene

Ted met Marlene in the library in Sunflower, a small town near Weaselville. She was married to the physics professor at Cotton State University. He made friends with her. He checked out a book from the small town library. She could only allow him to have one.

Marlene told him that they had lived in Tucson, Arizona. That was where her husband got his degree in Physics, concentrating on astronomy and astrophysics. She said she had loved it there. Ted told her he had lived in Santa Barbara for eight years.

You must hate it heya,” she said, “It’s sa ugly heya.”

Yes, that’s true, it’s ugly,” Ted said. “But that is not the worst of it.”

It’s soo dee pressin,” she said.

Well, I just concentrate on other things while I am here,” Ted said.

Ah loved tha mountuns,” she said.

She was a native Mississippian from Jackson. Did that mean she was liberal? She seemed liberal, unlike most in Weaselville and especially in the library. One day when he was looking for a book in the library, he heard a woman behind him say,

Eef tha damm Yankees havunt dastroyed em”. She must have been talking about some old records.

We’ve lived heya twenta-fouya yeahs,”Marlene said. Her voice was different, not the whiny normal high pitched Mississippi woman’s voice. She had a Mississippi accent, but one that Ted liked to listen to.

She was, Ted decided, an elegant woman. Better breeding? Perhaps in her late forties. Well preserved. He wanted to say to her,

You are a lovely woman.”

He fantasized about embracing her. Or, like a silly teenager, sitting across a table from her. When he heard a seductive song, he visualized sitting with her and they would look into each other’s eyes and laugh. He could remember those eyes. They were very blue and they were large. And it seemed to him that her face was very blushed when he talked to her.

This elitism that pervaded southern society was pervasive. It was not true that class was just race, because there was the “white trash” element, the “red neck.” Could being an academic save them from being “white trash”? That was a novel element. A despicable term, repressive and degrading, and he despaired to realize that the idea of “white trash” was deeply embedded in the minds of people all over the south.

He wondered if she was perhaps from an old wealthy “blue blood” family, of aristocratic heritage. Would she see him as “white trash?” How could one go beyond such false dichotomies? Certainly the elites enjoyed the lion’s share of the social surplus, a ratio of nine slaves to each white in Burdick County in the nineteenth Century. How could one not see it as a reality that surplus could produce an elegance, training in seduction, in the “social graces,” in art, in literature, in being seductively coy, in being a desirable sex object. The real hard sex was done on the Africans! But getting into royalty extended the blue blood line and kept the property in the family. Class prejudice had not only an economic basis, but produced a well-packaged sex object. A Marxist deprived of sex would have trouble with that.

So-called “poor white trash” women often were crude looking, lacking any training in the “social graces.” Ted certainly thought that he lacked them with his background. Poor whites were a totally different animal. Often the poor white women became big and out of shape. They seemed repulsive, compared to those who much social surplus had been poured into. That’s what made them the fragrant roses of southern society, but often, they were mentally innocuous. Which would the normal man choose? Each could be a sex object. The black woman might be the most satisfying sexually. But that was off limits after the era of slavery. And they were only slave objects, no spiritual resonance before. Such a complex society. Would it be possible to transcend all that historical and social baggage and find spiritual and sexual resonance with a southern woman? He didn’t know, but he wanted to know and wondered what kind of feeling she had toward him.

He began to make frequent visits to the library hoping to see her. If there was a fairly liberal enclave in Sunflower, then he might make some friends there and establish some semblance of a social life. That could make life bearable. It was just different in the South. One could not just change a society. He considered sending her a note, care of the library. She would certainly get it there. But that was a further step. Right now, let things simmer. How did he end up in this trap? This bottomless pit. He must try again, but was it all futility? Boredom. That was what had led to excessive eating and drinking. A woman was interested in one only if he was a man of means. That was the modern day reality. It would not suffice to have brains.

It was a mid-March morning filled with the promise of Spring. The air was filled with the smell of new life, new grown grass and swelling buds. The little tree outside his window began to fill out with new leaves. A small cherry tree burst into bloom overnight.

He thought the situation over in his mind. He would go to the library. She might work on Saturday. If not, he would see her next week. Find something common to talk about. To solidify the friendship, they might invite him to dinner. What would the conversation be like? Did they really have some liberal ideas? What about their kids? He was not graceful in society. He would have to be discreet. Now he couldn’t exactly picture her in his mind. That always happened when it was someone one liked a lot and started loving. Just like a silly kid in grade school, he thought. How pathetic. And how miraculous. There was a time when he felt dead, that such a thing could never happen. And now rebirth of feeling. Spring renews, he thought.

I need a woman that needs sex and lot of it, he thought, not someone who turned to the mood only once in a blue moon. He was thinking of his wife. A woman of sensuous mold, like Rousseau’s Madame de Warrens. There must be a lot of women out there who need it.

The day grew colder and cloudy. He felt depressed.

He was surprised to find Marlene in the library. He took a copy of the New York Review of Books to give her. He would ask the library to subscribe to it.

He went to the track and jogged for two miles, then spent the night reading Rousseau.

A few days later, he saw Marlene in the library again. She is a pretty woman, he thought. She gave Ted back his New York Review and said they were not going to take it. He decided they were right. It was too intelligent for the likes of the place.

News came that Oliver North and his Secretary Fawn Hall had shredded more than eighteen month’s worth of documents in the White house. She said that she had smuggled documents out of the White House in her boots and under her shirt. That’s the person these red necks down here want as President, he thought. Really bright, since they complain about Yankees destroying documents. They just object to them destroying the wrong ones.

Ted heard his landlord, Instructor Tanner, down below with his little pop gun trying to scare off some black birds to keep them from roosting in the trees. The birds were on their way back south. The birds have to roost some place, he thought, and the trees seemed to be a logical place. Damn southerners, he thought, they want to scare off even the birds that come from somewhere else.

Chapter Thirty: Afternoon

Ted went to the library after his class in late morning to check on the old issues of the New York Times that he was getting. Marlene Dixon, who worked in periodicals, seemed happy to see him. He kept thinking about her. She looked attractive in a snug fitting dress that showed the outline of her body. She was nearly fifty and still attractive. Ted was younger, just past forty, but he liked meeting women who were older, early fifties, with nice bodies and still sexy. Did he want to be mothered? He didn’t know, but he liked women who appreciated sex.

Why don’t you get those nuewspapers latah,” she said. “They can wait. I’ve gotta bettah ideya. I wanna take tha aftahnoon off. My place is lovely now. Come out with me and have lunch over at ouya place.”

Ted was surprised but pleased. He expected that her husband, the physics professor, would also be coming. On the way out to the edge of town, where there were large old trees, she told him.

Oh, myah husband’s away. Heez gone ta a confence in Californya and wont be back till Sunday.”

As she leaned toward him, he could see her exposed white breast inside her dress. Her skimpy lace bra exposed it nicely and she seemed to be giving him a view. It was lovely.

He nevah takes me withim. So Ah have ta stay home.”

That’s too bad,” Ted sympathized, hypocritically. He was delighted that her old man would not be around.

So Ah have ta make out on my own on these lonely weekends.” Ted was hoping that it wouldn’t be too lonely.

Weya, Ah thought itud be nighyus to show ya ayah place,” she said, as she reached over and touched his leg. He noticed her long, slender fingers, a beautiful hand, unlike most women. She moved it on his leg. She lifted away her hand and drove on, before putting it back, this time a little closer to his crotch.

Ya must like seein new places. Ah need good friends. Doughn you?” She increased the pressure on his leg, squeezing and teasing.

Yeah, me too,” Ted said. He felt her fingers squeeze again. His balls tingled.

Ah think youra littel lonely too, ayen’t you? It muss be ard havin ya famlee so fah away.”

He noticed how far her dress had ridden up on her long tanned legs and wished he could touch her and slide his hand up her legs to undisclosed territory. His family was quite far from his mind.

Well, I couldn’t get a job in California,” he said. “So that’s the way it is. You have to go where the jobs are if you want one.”

She patted his leg. His pants were thin and he liked the feel of her hand. His tool had started to swell and her fingers were dangerously close to the emerging bulge. She glanced down at his crotch just as she lifted her hand again.

Ya waun be heya forevah,” she said. “Jobs come and go.”

That’s just what he wanted to do. Come and go. At least to come.

We aah comin, juss up theya.”

She took her hand away but gave him a big smile. They reached the turn and came up the driveway. The house was nicely secluded in a grove of trees. She stopped in a cool spot in front of the garage.

This ees eeyet,” she said, “welcome to my place. Let’s make some lunch.” Her face was close enough to kiss. She was not heavily made up, but her lipstick was nice, he thought. He noticed some emerging wrinkles in her neck. He thought they were cute in a woman her age and would have liked to touch them with his tongue. He was tempted.

Weya, come on eeyen,” she invited.

She gathered up her bag and was out. Ted followed. Her ass was gorgeous and wiggled deliciously as he followed her in under the arch of new roses. That little dress, he could get rid of that quickly. And that ass put more than just a tickle in his balls. A sure sign of love or something along that line. The outline of her fleshy hemispheres was clear, as she moved. Such an ass could move the world, he thought. Did move the world, along with money.

Want a beyha?” she offered. “Oh darn. Wy doughn we just ave some wyun. It’s cold. Would you do it Ted, while Ah make some salad and sandwiches?”

Ted jumped for it. She bumped into him at the kitchen counter. “Get outta myah way,” she teased, pressing her body to his.

This place is big enough, but that can happen. Sorry. Ya don’t really mind do ya?”

She touched him again, this time on his side and he felt her soft breast press against his bare arm. She kept it there momentarily.

Don’t mind me. Sometimes Ahm a little flaky.” God, her voice is sexy, Ted thought, yes, she might be flaky but it was nice. She buzzed around efficiently, her ass wiggling near him.

The wine was open and Ted poured two glasses, white and tasty. “Here’s to ya,” she said. “And to you,” Ted said.

He took a healthy gulp. Just a tinge of fruity sweet. It went down easily. Beautiful California flavor. He wanted to embrace her from behind and kiss her before he left the kitchen, but hesitated.

Ted, come ere. Can ya help me a little.” She touched him again. “Now be a honey. Can ya chop up this for a salad.” She pulled him forward toward a pile of fresh vegetables. We’ll do it together. When she bent over, he was looking down at both of her breasts, seeing more of them this time. Oh God, they were beautiful, he thought. They seemed about to fall out of her thin bra. His prick bulged another notch. She turned to the sandwiches.

Most meyun don’t usually like it, but Ah think you are willin to help with lunch. Youra deeyur.”

She gave him a little kiss on his cheek and pulled him closer. He caught her eye and she giggled a little. Her lipstick was red and glistened in the light. She looked at his eyes and kissed his cheek again.

In a little bit, they finished. The sandwiches and salad were done and they set it out on the patio. He noticed how her fleshy tits bounced nicely when she walked. The wine was going quickly.

Oh, theya’s more a that,” she said. “Ah see ya like wyun.”

He had gone through two glasses already. What could he do? A man needed a drink in such a situation, which didn’t happen after every class. She sat across from him.

This is excellent,” he said. “It is divine, just like you.”

Sometimes Ah can be a little devleesh too,” she warned. “So be cayeful.”

Ted was hoping. He was ready to rush in. A fool, like all men.

Howdja end up comin to Miss-ssippi Ted?” she asked, letting her dress ride up further in the sunny air. “It could not be very inviting after California.” Her legs were becoming terribly inviting.

With the job market like it is, we have to take what we can get,” he said. There are too many fucking Ph.Ds in Poly Sci. So they throw us to the dogs. We end up in the ends of the earth.”

Shooya, that’s true a lots a fields,” she said. “Librarians too. Ah wish you betteh luck in a futchuh. Cotton State is the peets, but we settled heya. It’s sa hard ta move on, once you’re settled down. And we ave ouya place. At least it’s not North Dakota where it’s like tha North Pole.”

I ave ta admit. This is tha most borin place, much worse than Jackson. But Ah liked the West when my husband was a student. Ah loved the dry mountain climate.”

They worked on the wine. Talked of the travails of Weaselville.

My husband goes out ta confaences on the coast, but they only send us librarians ta Jackson,” she said. “Sometimes Atlanta.”

Sometimes Ah need a break from heem too, doncha know” she said. “Ya know, marriage. And he does physics. Just physics and equazuns.”

They took their time with the lunch.

Oh. This is so confinin. Ah wanna get outta this dress,” she said, “and get mouh comfftabul. Come on eenside. I’ll put on the ayuh. Be back right away.”

Ted sipped more wine and waited. What would she wear, he wondered. The house grew pleasantly cool. Ten minutes later she reappeared, more than comfortable. She was in the nude, sporting just her long dangling earrings, and a little red sash tied around her middle. A lovely package. She was lovely with a nice healthy bush, which Ted liked. She sported her lovely breasts. He saw that her nipples were nicely erect. She must be in heat. She had kept her brown through the winter. She came to him and took him by the hand.

Bring that wyun along. We can enjoy it.” She led him slowly upstairs. He looked down at her glorious cleavage as she moved up the steps. At the top, she wrapped herself around him as he tasted her lips. His hands found her soft breasts, moved down to her gather up her ass, squeezed, and pressed her body close. She was warm all over. In her bedroom, she looked at herself in the big full mirror.

Now Ah wanna see ya with ya clothes off, honey,” she said.

Ted quickly undressed. He was pointing skyward as he jettisoned his briefs. She lay back on the big bed. Ted came quickly and took the plunge, slipping into her creamy rose. He tasted her lips and began to churn her soft flesh in a grinding motion, shifting to long, sliding strokes, then punching with penetrating blows. He tasted her lips, gathering her up. She was good, as good as he always imagined she would be. She loved it and met his thrusts with hearty undulations. He ate her nipples. She had been ready for him.

Ted, Ted, oh Gohyud, Ted, Ah, Ah, oh ye us, ye us, honey, you feel sa good, sa good inside me.”

She came quickly but wanted more. He asked her to come on top. Her lovely breasts were nicely elongated with big mottled pink nipples. Now she pleasured herself sliding up and down his stiff scepter, polishing his weapon until she moaned her pleasure and came again, sighing. She slid down to his side Now Ted stood up and took her from behind, this time with hard punishing strokes. He always loved possessing a woman’s buttocks hard in his hands that way as he pleasured her. How did she tan her ass so beautifully? His muscles tightened, the strong spasm taking him and then his balls burst in rhapsody until he was spent.

She had a cigarette.

I genally don’t smoke,” she said. “but this is somethin special. A special occasion. Oh Gaayud, honey. Ya really creamed me. Ah mean you fucked me good, real good, honey. Ah like men with a lot to give and ya do me so good. Ah like well-hung men. With Gordon gone, Ah was so much hopin to see ya today. Ah thought about ya last night, a lot and got sa wet. I wished you wehya heya. Ah knew ya would do me good. Ah juss knew what ya wanted for a long time.”

It was nice,” Ted understated. “I have wanted you ever since I met you,” he came clean. “I started wanting you the first day I saw you.”

When we met, Ah juss knew you were going ta love me. Ah knew it tha first day in the library, when ya checked out that book,” she said.

Ya balls are niyus. I like ya balls,” she said, running her long fingers around them. “You have such nice beautiful balls.”

Ted was lucky his afternoon class had been canceled. After a bit, they made love again.

Your good in bed, Teddy, my Teddy bear,” she said, “It’s been a while. Ya got me real good with this big thing. Ya got all the cobwebs out fa suya. I feel alive agin.”

She kissed his cock that was still half erect.

This is so beautiful. Ya fill me up so nicely, mya Teddy bear.”

He was wood hard again when her husband called from San Francisco. She cradled his erect cock between her breasts while she talked. Gordon was glad to find her in such a good mood. She grasped his cock and tasted it from time to time. Ted heard the lying voice on the other end of the line.

I miss you honey. Wish you were here. Are you eating something?”

Oh, yes, somethin Ah got in the library this mornin,” she said, not lying.

A surprise. Ah thought Ah ud bring it home and it eat heya. A piece of tasty candy. Old-fashioned horehound flavor hard candy. Ah had not tasted it fah so long.”

She winked at Ted and engulfed him deep inside her mouth, stimulating him with her tongue. Ted almost came.

I love ya honey, she lied. How’s the weather?”

Perfect, as usual,” he said. “Beautifully clear, but the fog comes about five.”

Unlike you, she thought. Foggy, to be sure, but that’s all.

How’s the confaaence goin?”

Ted heard some technical jargon about vectors and pi mesons coming from outer space. A pained and bored look came over Marlene’s face.

Weya, Ah’m shuya it ul work out OK,” she intoned, hinting for him to shut up.

See ya Sunday, hon. Meanwhile Ayul be heya all by my little lonesome seff, thinkin a ya.”

Like hell, she will, Ted thought. She hung up.

What a bore,” she said. “Oh weya, heza a pooa deya, but he just dont get it. Whoud expect a physisist to get it, anyhowa? They only know about gravtee and electromagnetic waves and such other nonsense.”

I want to fuck you, Marlene,” Ted said.

Refreshin words,” she said. “Ah wish that son of a bitch would talk to me like you do.”

I want to fuck you and ball your sweet honey slit so hard,” Ted said. “I want to bite your tits and leave my teeth marks in your beautiful white flesh while I fuck your sweet pussy and cum for all I’m worth.”

Ah want a husband who talks like you,” she said. “I wanna suck you off, Ted. Ah wanna suck your cock.”

Ah nevah get ta do it becoz heez always too busy integrati some equazun. Ah reelly have ta take care a this thing rat now.”

She cradled his balls in her long slim fingers and pleasured his stiff cock slowly with her mouth pumping up and down with her lips until his spasm pulsed into her mouth.

Oh Ah, Teddy, you ah rich, lovely an rich, ya fuckin stud. Yah cock juss doezen quit.”

She moved her hands over the hair of his chest and tasted his small male nipples.

Whadaya do with all that creeyum when ya doughn have a woman” she asked. “It’s such a shame ta waste it. All that proteen a goin ta waste. And mah tongue juss salivatin for it. Ya lovely balls juss keep making it and then it all goes ta waste. What can ya do without a woman?”

Not much,” Ted admitted. But, then, women always came along, when they came along, with problems attached.

Ted, you need a woman,” she stated the obvious.

Honey, we have ta get togethah sometimes. We have ta find a way.” She kissed his receding cock again. Her fingers were hurting his balls.

She had healed him good for that day. He would need her again after a couple of days. She told him she would like for him to stay, but one of her friends might come over. She would drop him near his place after dark.

Back home, Ted worked on his lecture for the next day, with his mind mostly elsewhere, largely Marlene’s lovely breasts and delicious body. My God, she’s a real woman, he thought. So much above this red neck shit. She has some class and knows how to appreciate a man. He would see her again when he could. He thought of some other women. None of them measured up. She was the best hope. A man couldn’t go wrong with her.

The next week, he saw her in the library. She had an idea. He would meet her at the convention in Jackson. Her friend had a house where they could get together. Ted was able to get away and spend a night with her. After Cotton State, they dreamed of taking a long trip, maybe to Mexico or Europe. But that was just a fantasy.

Just before Christmas, Ted went to the library after class. She asked him into her office. She gave him a drink of Irish Creme and some cake. It was illegal to have alcohol on campus, but she thought the hell with those rules. There was a small back room, where they would be safe. They quickly made love. Ted had needed it badly. So did she.

Give me a cah when ya get back, Teddy,” she asked him. “Ah’ll be thinkin a ya.” She squeezed his bulge. Oh God, Ted was tempted to make love to her again right there, but it had to wait. He embraced and held her tenderly for a moment. He always loved her scent. Subtle, so much woman. So much her.

He was off with his New York Times. That fucking shit. How can a pack of lies be that heavy? he thought.

He would soon be off to see his family in California over the break. He wasn’t sure if he would even get a kiss.

Chapter Thirty-One: Saving the South

It was late Spring. White-robed Ku Klux Klansmen carrying Confederate flags were marching in Winona. It was a Sunday afternoon. More than one hundred residents of the town turned out to watch the parade.

Bob Brainy, designated as a Klan spokesman was giving a speech.

When thah ‘We shaya ovacum’ dream is throo, tha whyuut race uz ovah,” he blurted out in his corny accent. Some of the residents applauded.

Whyuut peepul doughn fahgit tha seed a yah genrashun,” Brainy droned on. These words of wisdom were followed by attacks on Marxism, Judaism, Martin Luther King, social welfare, socialism, anarchists, feminists, gays, communists, liberals, professors, universities, Washington, Mexicans, Cubans, other foreigners and the media.

Reading about the event, Ted wondered if the Klan really thought that a Marxist revolution was on the way in Mississippi. One can be stupid, but surely there is a limit. Well, maybe not here, he thought.

TV uz owuned by the Jooz. They cuntroh oyah meedya. The Jooish religun teechuz child molestin. Welfayah iza killin ayah nashun,” Brainy shouted. “Weyah goin bankrupt.”

In more ways than one, Ted thought.

But Ted hadn’t noticed that the local area was exactly inundated with a surplus of welfare checks. From what he could see they were pretty hard to come by. And for him, spending money on food for people and education beat the hell out of spending it on nuclear weapons and tanks which perhaps Brainy forgot to mention. It seemed like a good idea to him, and he didn’t think the USA was going to go bankrupt doing that. Of course welfare checks for the arms producers and bankers were truly adding up the national debt. That aspect of reality was way beyond Brainy’s comprehension.

The speech then took a curious turn, in fingering the enemy of Mississippi.

Theyah tahkin about tha Rushuns and theyah propaganda. They gotta swim tha oshun. Tha reel problum for tha whyuut race is fouyund in Miyami and Texus, fightin Cubans and Heespanics,” Brainy said.

Cubans and Hispanics? The Cubans down there are mostly right wing Republicans, Ted thought.

Then another Bob spoke. Equally brainy. He said that he had supported the white supremacists for twenty-five years.

Tha Klan saved tha South once befoyah aniyatul savit agiyun,” he croaked.

Ted tried to think when that was but it escaped him.

Then the meeting was closed with a prayer. It was reported that security had been heightened due to threats of clashes with the Klansmen. Maybe there was hope after all if people were starting to go after those assholes.

The air was filled with the pungent scent of Magnolia blossoms. He had not experienced it before living in Alabama, and for him it was not a sweet smell, given the social conditions and general feeling of depression which went along with it. He felt nauseous.

Reading student notebooks at the end of the semester, he ran across a letter to her mother that a student had left in her notebook. The letter ended like this:

Here’s a joke I love, Mom. Do you know why baby niggers can’t play in sand boxes? Cats keep covering them up! Ha”

Ted figured that her mother must really get into jokes like that too, bringing her daughter up with proper values. The sweet little thing. Was there any significance in the fact that the student’s last name was “white?”

Reading student papers was such a bore and finding racist stuff like that was extremely depressing. He had been casting his pearls before such swinish minds for week after week. No wonder they were falling on such barren ground.

Ted drove up to Missouri with his family at the end of the semester. He couldn’t help seeing what was written on the shithouse walls. In Arkansas,

Anyone can piss on the floor. Be a hero and shit on the ceiling.” Another wit had written:

NAACP: Niggers Are Actually Colored Pollocks”.

His eyes fell on another one before he finished his piss.

J.B. Hunt: John Boy has us niggers truckin.”

A Mississippi newspaper in Jackson had obtained a large number of documents about the Mississippi Sovereign Commission, created by the State Legislature in 1956. The Commission had existed for seventeen years, after which it was abolished in 1977 and its files ordered to be sealed until 2027. The New York Times reported some findings. Hundreds of people, including teachers, preachers, and students were investigated for their views on civil rights issues and for allegedly subversive activities. Some people lost jobs after being investigated. People, including a black educator, were used to infiltrate organizations to gather incriminating information.

Senator James Eastland gave the commission the names of people who had backed civil rights. He helped link the president of Tougaloo College and others to communism.

Well, Ted thought, that is a long tradition in Mississippi, calling people communists who have any progressive ideas. If that is what communists stand for, then one would have to be a communist. It was either that or be a racist in Mississippi. Take your pick.

The Commission had Mississippi newspapers kill news articles which they did not want published. The Commission had planted an article in Mississippi’s largest black newspaper, publicizing assertions that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was linked to the Communist Party. The Commission also spied on Jewish teenagers who were attending a youth meeting.

We observed them and listened to them, but we could observe nothing or hear nothing that indicated that they were advocating subversion, integration or anything of a communistic nature.”

That integration is surely communist in nature, Ted reflected. Well, it certainly is in Mississippi.

Try as one might, one just could not get away from the racism, so many years after it was supposed to have ended.

Chapter Thirty-Two: Delta Death

Ted was awakened by the chimes of the Baptist Church as they rang out at eight o’clock. He rose to start his forty-fifth year. It was Monday morning and he had better get to class. No time off for his birthday. No rest for the wicked. It had rained the day before and now the late February skies were heavy with dark clouds. A thick gloom hung over the surroundings.

He had got a late start and still had to prepare for Constitutional Law, the class that took most of his time. How to remember the details of the cases, was difficult, there was so much to go over.

He thought about his situation and found himself noticing the attractive young women in his classes. He reflected on the absurdity of the situation. The absurdity of radical individualism. The absurdity of compartmentalization, radical loss of community and bonds between individuals.

In the apartment building in which he lived, there were four separate units, two above and two below, dwellers like hens in their nests, totally closed off, only seeing one another if leaving or arriving. That was absurd, not that he particularly desired any community with those, but there might be the possibility of community in some quarter. Still, there was the evidence of its existence on a larger scale. Even those in New York City sought for community. They took out ads like “New York City woman 28, who thinks sex and wine are glorious, seeks urbane white male forty plus.”

The weather had turned much colder after the rain. The ground was supersaturated. The water settled in small pools. The wind blew, adding to the bleak demeanor. Socially, it was even bleaker. Nothing could fathom the lack of intellect and narrow imbecility of the lumpen locals. Still, he sought possibility for companionship and met a young woman in the language lab. He didn’t know much about her, but she did have a nice smile and the absence of a Mississippi accent. That was a good sign. He needed rest, but needed other things more. There would be no sin in that. It was sin, if such existed, to exist in his condition. Besides, he did not believe in sin, but rather ideas of morality. Absent sexual companionship, the only alternative was serial masturbation. Where was the morality in that? It was the antithesis of human liberation, it was auto-repression. Auto-masochism, the depths of degradation. So there was the sweet, tingling desire, fantasies, of pubescent women, and erections unfulfilled. The serial repressions again. Was it designed upon him? Was it really economic necessity that landed him in that entombment, while his life slipped away, or was it really control from a distance? One thing he knew. Sex was healing. It had healed him in the past and he again badly needed healing. Not from a pubescent young woman, but from one who could resonate and harmonize from the soul.

As those tensions mounted, so did his resentment creep up of being enslaved and denied the real possibility of liberation. That was the lack of praxis. It could not be practiced. Living in the local society was a sentence of solitary confinement. But surely there was redeeming grace to be found. Surely it could be found. In futility, he prayed for that and wondered if total liberation was not revolt from the conditions that made it necessary. Was his hesitance and inertia a foolish and naive faith? That suspicion also often nagged his thought. Well, perhaps he was just a chauvinist, but that he did not believe. Women also desired sex. Equally and strikingly, lack of sex was also a powerful tool of repression. The undercurrents kept running and the work became a rather superficial exercise. He was not like some who might continue to tolerate such a situation.

The clouds dissipated in the night and the dawn emerged clear and cool. The promise of Spring and March breezes was in the air. He would pick up and go on, to hope. He prepared again to go to his office. Another attempt to spark intellects. He had often infused life into dead material, but with little response from the clientele, the students.

Fatigue and tension, he thought, were perhaps starting to take their toll. He waited for the Spring break. There was the constant need for preparation, twice a day, new preparations, except for Friday, teaching four different courses. He had heard nothing from the interview in Wisconsin, which was not good news. The situation did not look promising, so now he felt rather cut off, entrapped and rather defeated, and doubted that it was really worth a fight. The lack of a social life made him want to get out.

It might well be mental illness, he considered, that deepening depression and uncertainty. The game now was that of survival. Income kept falling behind financial needs. There was never enough to pay up everything. Where were the resources to recover in this cultural desert? Perhaps he just could not find enough distance from his situation and there was a vast area of sameness and insanity. He could escape only into writing. Something must happen to break out of this syndrome.

He faced the tedious chore of applying for more positions but he dreaded the torturous and inane interview process, even if he was lucky enough to get one. One could only do with so much of that. What did that have to do with being a scholar, or of learning and teaching? He did not know. Probably nothing, he concluded. But where to turn? That also, he did not know. Increasingly in not knowing, he came to know, and elements of life became clearer.

He felt that he needed some breathing space. Needed to not be bugged. Needed some time for writing. Needed a woman. Needed some time off. The constant repetition of classes was just a viscous battering. He felt that he could not do them all justice. There was no way.

One day he went down to the Delta Chinese run grocery store. The Chinese owner had his office and observation post set up so that he could see every move that his employees made. His wife was running one of the cash registers. It had been a mom and pop operation for years. There were a few straggling customers and they were watching their every move, pretending to be friendly, afraid that someone might steal a dimes worth of something. Another man was posted back toward the meat counter. Ted wanted to go back there, but this guard was eying everyone like a hawk. He was obviously posted there for that purpose. He thought it was run with something of a feudal mentality. He bought a package of ice cream and got out, deciding that it would be his last visit there. A few weeks later, the place went belly up.

It was remarkable, he thought, how all those elements they think are so subtle strike out at one. They scream loudly in their silence. The whole place is a loathsome dungeon, a bottomless pit, an insane asylum, a gulag, worse. I was right earlier, he thought, to call it a cesspool. That it is.

That experience sent him right up the wall and he became a little crazy. I need to get out of this town, but would have to get far enough away to get out of this loathsome cultural vacuum in the weekend, he thought. If I don’t get out of here this year, then I’ll have to get out the next. He thought to write some letters to women. To answer some ads in the New York Review. He began to write with an old straight point pen which he loved, hating ball point pens. It shows that much of so-called progress is really for the purpose of capitalism and the accumulation of capital, rather than any real advantage. Now that all the instruments of writing have been made more convenient, do people write more?

I like classical music, he thought. Like good wine, travel, India, South Asia, all types of South Asian and Chinese foods, all types of third world foods, and third world experience in general. Sex, beer, good German beers, third world beers. Golden Eagle beer from North India. Anarchist writers, Edward Bellamy, Gandhi. Gardening. Good solid well built European cars, Volvos and Mercedes. Indian rickshaws and Punjabi dhabas. I can do without Bhangra, the Punjabi dance. Dhoop, Indian incense, is nice. Ripe Indian and Mexican mangoes in June. California avocados, Mexican parties, pinatas. Cheap Mexican hotels, Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada. Hussong’s Cantina and margaritas. Dos Equis, Reggio Calabria, Ouzo and Retsina and calamata figs on a string from Pireaus, Sambuca and Capaccino. Warm beaches in Goa and sea food in Bombay. Squid in Italia, calamari. But no Patel Motels.

Dislikes Mississippi, Alabama, et al. Political scientists of the orthodox variety, who are mostly pseudo-fascists, and right wingers of all stripes. Smoke alarms, which go off when making Indian cooking. Those are some confessions of a Volvo liberal, maybe radical.

Santa Barbara? No, give me a third world port city which drinks of the worldly currents. Or give me Barcelona or Lisbon or Valencia. Give me Reggio Calabria. Give me Bari or Messina, or Istanbul. And a camera. Give me not Haifa, but Bombay. So send me there. St. Thomas is fine. A tropical watering hole. Or Caracas. Send me to Santo Domingo, that will definitely do for a while. I’ll spend some time there. That’s where I would put my money. Not in stone and brick here, and let us buy life and let us have love which is free.

Sometimes the greatest holes are the greatest places to enjoy and learn. That is not true of this part of the country, except in a negative way. The painful experiences of a closed society are instructive.

This is the land of rain and cotton fields, of rice and silent violence. Of silent violence and the slow and steady death of the soul. The smothering of the spirit. That is Mississippi and the Delta Death.

The letter came that he had been rejected for the position in Wisconsin. Well, I smelled a rat all along, he thought. They seemed pretty conservative. By this time he didn’t care. He had a chance to go to India in the summer.

He went to his office to do some work, but felt lonely. He bought some beer and came back to his apartment and read some parts of his old Peace Corps diary from twenty years before. He had to escape this Mississippi Delta death of the soul.

Chapter Thirty-Three: The Country Club

There’s only one thing one needs to know to vote in America, Professor Grover suggested to his American Politics class. If one is rich, then vote for a Republican. If one is not, then vote for a Democrat. Either way, only the very rich can expect very much from the result. For the rest, one is likely to be hung, either way, except that the liberal Democrats will hang you from a lower limb.

It was a good way to piss off his reactionary conservative students and get their attention. To start getting those mean and suspicious looks from their corners of their slity eyes as they spit the tobacco juice from their chaw into the coke can they brought with them to class. They didn’t like listening to a “Yankee.” They didn’t like hearing something that was not like what they were used to hearing.

Whadaya think about Fordice? They say’id on tha radyo this mornin, heez gonna cut taxes. Fahmers payin too much taxes.”

One of the pissed off in the back row intoned. Ted looked around.

And you always believe what you hear on the radio and what the politicians say?” he asked.

Then whatawe gonna baleeve?” the student asked.

Well, that’s why I gave you my little simple rule of thumb,” Ted said. “Candidates only tell the truth when it is likely to get them votes. The radio and TV tells us whatever their sponsors like to hear. So one has to have some knowledge to know what to believe. But in general, the small formula works as a rule. The Republicans support those with money and wealth and the policies of the Democrats sometimes help those who are poor. Not true most of the time, but good enough for government work when it comes to voting.

Most people do not have the time and energy to inform themselves of what they really need to know to make good decisions. But they should understand that much. Instead they go on voting with a rationale like this:

I don’t want to help the blacks get ahead, so I will vote against helping them out, because they are already getting too much from the government. If I vote for a Democrat, it might help them out. So I will vote for a Republican, even if it hurts me too. Now is that kind of logic very smart? Professor Grover asked the class?”

He got more suspicious looks. What kind of communist bullshit is that? the students are thinking. More tobacco juice drained from the red necks’ lips into their coke cans. No one wanted to say anything. Their minds were confused, muddy. They only knew that one track they had been thinking all their lives.

When did folks in the South start voting for Republicans?” Professor Grover asked.

Most of the students do not know that southerners ever voted for any other party.

The South used to be solidly Democratic,” Grover explained. Just a couple of decades ago. After the whites regained control of the political process at the end of the period of northern rule. Every state’s politics was controlled by a Democratic political machine in the South. A tightly run organization that fixed up the rules so that it was impossible for anyone to win except a Democrat. And all the Democratic machines in the South were dedicated to keeping the blacks without a vote and with no political say. This was the way things were run in every state. They used the Grandfather Clause to keep blacks from voting. The rule said that if your grandfather had not voted, then you could not vote either. Since no blacks had grandfathers who had voted, this prevented blacks from registering and voting. They used the poll tax. Every person had to pay a tax to vote. Since a lot of blacks could not pay it, it prevented them from voting. All across the South states had their tricks and ways of preventing blacks from voting, even if they tried. In most cases, since it was dangerous to even try, most blacks just didn’t even try to vote. That’s the way it was. In the l960s, with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, also a southerner, the Democrats changed their policies and became the party to bring blacks into the political process. When this happened, white voters shifted to voting Republican, because the Republicans did not push for civil rights. Either way, the poor whites kept voting for the southern ruling class with wealth, and in the end were just treated as “white trash.” Just a notch above the blacks, but generally, kept them barefoot, ignorant and pregnant and poor.”

The southerners still liked to think of themselves as rebels. Rebels from what? In the past, it was the federal government in Washington. Now they were staunch supporters of right-wing presidents. Ted thought that was amusing.

If he asked the students, “how many of you support the war in Iraq?” It was almost one hundred percent. “How many of you are southern rebels?” Again, a large majority of hands were raised. “Then how can you be a rebel?” Ted asked them, if you are not rebelling against Washington, which is forcing its policies down on you and taking your taxes to support dictatorships in the Middle East. How can you be such a blind patriot if you are a rebel?

They had never even thought of it. They liked those near-fascists like Oliver North and true fascists like G. Gordon Liddy, who had no use at all for poor southern whites. They were just pushing for big corporations and imperialism and America uber alles around the world. They poor white trash were just being used as cannon fodder whether voting at home, or shipped off into the deserts halfway around the world somewhere to fight for oil and corporate profits.

Well, that was one way to mess with their minds. They had him tagged as a “communist” early on. He knew that from the comments he got on his evaluations. Well, much better than belonging to the Klan! A few responded. Sometimes a student would tell him: “It was a good discussion.” Most just weaseled away, having had their brains messed with and scrambled by a damned Yankee.

Mid-March, Spring break was coming up. It was warm enough to sit out on his balcony and sun himself. He drove to a nearby small town and around the town. Naively, he stopped at the Weaselville Country Club thinking to take a walk.

When he got out of his car, a middle class white guy came up and asked him: “What ayah yuuah doin heyaa.” He obviously did not fit the description of someone who would have a membership in the country club. With his beard, and Volvo, he was nailed as a communist at a single glance.

Well, I just want to take a walk,” he said.

Weya ya can’t come in heyah. This heyahs privut proptee,” he was told. He was told to get off the property. He felt as if he had been brutally thrown off, as he indeed had. With his feeling at the time, it hit him as a rather harsh and hurting blow. Of course, it was stupid, he thought later, to think about taking a walk on a golf course. Anyway it would have been a good way of getting beaned by a stray golf ball.

He knew, from what he had heard, that it was an all-white establishment, not allowing any membership of blacks or Hispanics. He learned that they used to have golf tournaments, until some golfers came to participate from Latino countries. The locals didn’t like this, seeing that brown skin, so the contests were canceled. It fucked up their minds, because they knew there were only two kinds of people in the world, whites and blacks and when they saw those brown ones, there was no place in their racist consciousness to put them. So they were, naturally considered black.

Even though Ted realized that he had acted stupid, still, the incident intensified his hatred and contempt for the place. I could never have anything but contempt for these constipated little minds around this fucking place, he thought. I would take any place in India to this stinking contemptuous place. He came back and sat in his car listening to his radio. The residents in the apartment started to become upset. A woman in the apartment below came to her door and looked out for several minutes. What a stinking place this is. He thought. I must get out of here as soon as possible.

He went inside and heard somebody close by blasting away with a gun. Blam, blam, blam. Its dangerous in terms of getting yourself shot here too, he reflected. He felt he couldn’t really tolerate the place.

He thought about the concept of private property and public property. There was a little squalid track on the university property for the public, where one could walk. The huge expansive golf course, on the other hand, seemed to go on for miles, all fenced off and private, with well-manicured turf. And one must have a lot of money to afford a membership and get on there. Still, those fat asses, bourgeois bastards, didn’t walk but rode around chasing after their ball in a cart. Now the Reagan fascists want to do the same thing with the state and national parks. Public property “user fees,” and more user fees. The psychology of privatization. Same with Thatcher in England. This disease of private theft from the people that got underway with the Enclosure Movement spreads until it grips its tentacles globally. Talk about loss! There’s the confrontation with the God of private property. I have found public property to be more congenial. If they don’t like you here, they will just take you out and shoot you.

I must close my mind to the surrounding area, he thought. I must stay away from any confrontation with the local red necks. It is safer to just suffer the resulting alienation. Pierre Joseph Proudhon said that property is theft. He is right. He should have added that property is poverty, spiritual and human poverty.

And then he saw the irony and the paradox that private property had not made American society in general wealthy, but rather had impoverished it. It’s true, property is poverty and impoverishes and imprisons all mankind. In future, at some point, it will only be possible to live if private property is abolished, he thought.

It is a sort of arrest and expulsion, a deportation by the private state within the state. Where is individual’s right over against private property? There is none. If I had the wealth, he thought, I would buy that place, the Country Club, expel all the members, and open it up to the public as a park.

History will destroy this squalid place. The sooner the better. I felt like I had just arrived from outer space, when I got here, he thought. In a capitalist fascist state, all those who are sane must be kept in a pen. Only the capitalist fascists are free to roam at will. It was Sunday morning, and he remembered that they would be sitting quietly and hearing about Jesus Christ this morning, many of them thinking about how they would like to screw the woman in the next pew.

Growing tired of the “Oliver North for President” bumper stickers he sent an editorial to the newspaper in Jackson, which published a truncated version. He imagined how it would piss off a lot more old ladies in the town and around the state. What a coup. That was great, somebody had to knock down that cocky little bastard, Oliver North. He argued that there was no way that the government could be held accountable for its actions when the truth was hidden from the people. There was no way that the people could make decisions without the knowledge of what was going on. “If we, the people, have lost access to the truth, we have also been stripped of the power to make decisions, which is the essence of democracy.” North had shredded reams of documents in the White House to hide the truth about America’s support for right-wing terrorists in Central America.

Truly, he was in a world of shit, Professor Grover thought, and sinking deeper all the time.

Chapter Thirty-Four: Political Scientist

Marlene felt Ted’s hand on her bare shoulder. He had slipped into the kitchen in the nude where she was whipping up some lunch. He kissed the back of her neck and gathered her lovely mature breasts in his hands, squeezed them tight, then slid his hands down to her fleshed-out hips at the top of her apron. That was all she was wearing. She glanced down and saw that he was fully erect.

Gaaud, honey, couldn’t ya wait till I fixed tha lunch?” She cradled his throbbing weapon in her hand and kissed his red tip.

You have one a the most beautiful cocks I have evah seen,” she said. Ted wondered how many that was, but was not concerned to know at the moment. He felt her grip his manhood with her long slim fingers and slip it inside. Ted sank into her soft retreat, as she sat back against the massive old wooden table that graced the kitchen. Ted kissed her lips, lifted her long lovely legs to his shoulders, and ground his body tight against hers loving her delicious mellow flesh. From the look in her eyes, he knew she was getting there and he took his time to build her pleasure the way she liked. He loved the feel of the soft flesh of her legs and hips in his hands. He flicked his tongue against her erect nipples. She was so good.

You’re such a good fuck,” baby, “he told her. “So good. You do me so much good when I need a woman.”

He ground more intensely, teasing the tip of her nose with his lips, while his cock frolicked somewhere deep inside her big pink magnolia blossom. When the waves of pleasure swept over her body, she moaned and he kissed her lips.

He was still ready to do more battle. He had held back his climax. He asked her to bend across the table so that he could slide inside her honey mound from behind. Ted loved it that way with a woman with a beautiful ass like hers. It was so perfect. Now she was honey-wet and he gripped her derriere tightly in his possession and pleasured her with long delicious decisive strokes. Precision machine tooling, he thought. He loved touching her little tight circle between her satin hemispheres and probing inside. That was enough to push a man over the edge in wild fits of pleasure.

I’ll give you what every librarian needs. And what they are waiting for.”

You hope,” she said.

You are good, baby, so good.”

Ted, honey, come on Ted. Come on and give it to me. Show me what a political scientist can do.”

More like a renegade from academia, Ted thought.

He hammered her with punishing strokes and exploded.

His tool recoiled, and finally gave up the ghost, having done as much positive damage as conceivable in his impromptu pre-lunch rowdy escapade.

She liked it that way, liked to be surprised by her man, and then pleasured heartily. Going for broke. Hell for leather.

Oh well, that’s what I could do,” he said. “Might have done better if that morning lecture hadn’t taken so much out of me.”

Ya did fine, honey,” she said. “Keep up tha good work.”

Honey, I love you,” she said, meaning “it was the best fuck I’ve had since you fucked me this morning in the shower.”

Ted didn’t need more for the moment, but loved seeing her lovely open breasts, that could not be more perfect, he thought. Having her was good, so good, when he had her. They needed each other, both being married, but not to each other.

Gordon was off in New York to another conference. Was he in bed with another physicist or mathematician? Marlene didn’t know, but didn’t worry about it greatly. Ted had spent the night with her catching up from a dry spell when they could not meet. They slept late. She ground some fresh coffee and they had the strong rich brew in bed. This was followed by a hearty frolic in the shower, the caffeine surging through their veins. A sort of home remedy Viagra, Ted thought. Ted always got horny again late in the morning. Sometimes there was much to be said for soakin and pokin. No shit.

He ducked out to give a one hour lecture and then was back.

Starting their weekend seclusion, Ted gave her a full body massage in the afternoon. He didn’t want to miss a spot of her lovely body. The stimulation having made her hot, he kissed her rose and tasted her swollen cherry. He took her deeper into his mouth as he slowly built her pleasure till her climax came and she cried out for him to release her. Then he made love to her. It was good to let her have it like that. She had taken it all out of him, and it couldn’t get much better than that, he thought.

He had planned to have her drop him at his place in the evening, before Gordon came the next morning, but she decided he should stay. Their sexual appetites satiated, they would watch a couple of films, kiss, and go for it again when the passion returned.

Chapter Thirty-Five: Pinkertons

On the way back from a short half-summer break with his family in California, Ted killed the engine of his tired old Volvo to fill up with gas in Fernley, Nevada. It had rained most of the way from the coast. He had risen early and fled from the coast up to higher ground. His Indian wife, Lakshmi, and younger daughter had fled in the opposite direction to the furthest point from the Delta the year before, after trying to tough it out in Weaselville for almost a year. She had got accepted to a master’s degree program in California, more to get the hell out of the South than to actually earn a degree. She had rejected the Delta carte blanche, cut rate programs at the university, local possibilities of crummy low-paying jobs, and even learning to drive. Ted and Lakshmi had endured the stupid local stares from the white puckered up lemon faces and he was now relieved that was over. Why was it that those right-wingers always had those stupid-looking puckered up faces, he wondered. It was something that not even that highly praised Nelson Pollsy or his old professor, M. Kent Jennings, the super political science number-crunching jocks could not find any regression analysis to explain. They had not not started getting a handle on that.

At one point, Ted and Lakshmi had even considered buying a house in Weaselville. It turned out that the house prices were inflated to twice what they should be, specifically to prevent the blacks from moving into white areas. They gave up the idea, when it was clear that there was nothing there for them and sinking their money into a wooden cracker box in a putrid chemical infested and sinking town would be stupid.

Ted had taught the previous summer, using his summer earnings and a big chunk out of his credit cards, to move his family back to lala lala land, and up out of the ignorance, chemicals, mosquitos, stupidity, apartheid, and rampant cancer rates. The two most common elements in the universe, hydrogen and stupidity, did not hold for the Delta. There they were crop duster chemicals and stupidity, he thought. Or possibly just first stupidity and secondly, stupidity.

Now his situation moved on to life’s next phase. His wife needed to declare legal separation to make it financially feasible for her to live in California, and was only waiting for her American citizenship to come through, to jettison Ted and the miserable pittance of a half-salary he sent monthly. He sent her all the money he could afford, but it was not enough. Splitting his Mississippi piss poor pay with rent and running a family in lala lala land, kept both parties in perpetual poverty. Life, Liberty and Poverty.

Now, after a year, Lakshmi had given up the master’s program. After all, she had little interest in anything academic. Rather she just wanted to be a writer in her own Indian vernacular and as time went along seemed to grow closer to the California Indian community and became more and more estranged from American culture. The fig leaf that she was there for study dropped away. Ted had no problem with that, but he found it impossible to bridge the gap between having a job in a university somewhere in the United States and remaining with his family in California. He realized that his life had reached a watershed. The contradictions could no longer be papered over. Now he was being pushed out of the picture. That life would no longer wash. He had to get a life for himself.

Rain was pouring down hard in Fernley. He was rather down hearted. Fuck it, he thought. I’ll mosey on down old US 50, the loneliest fucking road in America. That was sort of the way he felt anyway. He was not anxious to dip his brains and lungs into that shit bucket of toxic waste, superheated air, white planter class hypocrisy, and red-neck idiocy, awaiting him in Weaselville. No choice. He had to face it. The second summer session. He grated his teeth and drove. Hit the road, Jack.

With the old car and no means of communications it was somewhat risky. The long distances of desert driving with no towns for miles and miles, but he nevertheless headed out into the mesquite. Take a chance. Go for it.

In Austin, Nevada, he found a small motel. Too fucking remote for even the goddam Patels. Motherfuck! They had not yet taken over everything. Here was a great discovery. A non-Patel motel. Most people avoided these roads for the Interstate truck routes. He hated those mothers. The fucking trucks kept getting longer, first pulling two trailers, now three. Big wild-ass motherfucking cabs that came up on his bumper and blasted their horns and tried to run him over. The drivers high on drugs and marijuana. They just didn’t make truck drivers like they used to. Whatever happened to the old fashioned courteous truck driver of his childhood days? This new breed of drivers was made up of monsters. Exploited, but just the same, monsters on a coast to coast race track and covered with tattoos.

There was no TV worth watching, which is not so much different from anywhere else, come to think of it, he thought. Two stations came in, one a country music video channel, the other a commercial channel. Just as well. Give his brains a break from the constant pig slop corporate journalism.

Taking a walk, he saw a few small saloons. It was bleak and cold. The wind bit. One actually needed a coat here in the summer in this altitude. He thought back to a couple of nights before. The Blue Grass band in the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, the Lonely River Band. He had enjoyed that music. He had heard their songs on Mississippi Public Radio. That lovely friendly place in Berkeley, a little on the Yuppie side, but he loved getting the chance to go there for an evening with a small upscale audience. A little haven of sanity in an increasingly mad world. Some nice looking women there, if he had had the time. He had enough freight and was trying lighten up and salvage what was left of his life.

He had saved an article from the LA Times about Austin, population six hundred. Austin had three of the oldest churches in Nevada. The town was known as the Turquoise Capital of the West and was on the Pony Express Trail. The road was more than a mile high all the way from Fernley to Ely and the highest pass was 7588 feet.

He would write a letter to Tippi, the Jewish woman he was planning to meet in New Jersey. She sent a great picture. She looked sexy as hell. How old was it? No way to tell how many miles she had racked up since that was taken. What the hell? He wanted to write her something erotic. He conjured up her derriere in his mind. Those lovely plump mature buns waiting for his hands to grip them. Her buxom breasts, ready for him. He wanted to say, “Tippi, I want to see you with your clothes off.” he wanted to tell her, “I would like to feel your tongue on my little erect nipples.” “I would love to hug and squeeze and cuddle up with you and then…” Too mild. He liked writing to a woman who he could tell that he wanted to fuck. “Tippi, I would love to take you on my lap and sink into your delicious honey rose and take you to heaven. I want to hear you moaning your pleasure as your delicious honey cup drives my throbbing cock wild. Are you ready? I want to make you come. I wish I could fuck you tonight, oh God yes.” She would write back. “Honey, I wish you could fuck me tonight. I want your big beautiful weapon taking me higher and higher.” Oh Jesus. He thought about her mature lovely ass. It was healthy, plump, broad, just right. He would like to take some pictures of that. She liked his poignant letters, verging on the erotic. He knew she wanted sex. Her administrator-professor husband would be gone part of the summer. When he wrote to her, he always got a hard-on. His letters became more erotic as he started to write them late in the evening with his cock. Just get that summer session out of the way, and he would be having a lovely time with her in her big lonesome bed just off the Turnpike. He knew he needed her. He needed pussy. He thought she would be good pussy. She had to be. He would fix her up. And he liked Jewish women with some European flair. She wanted to play around some with a younger man before the time passed her by. Sure as shit. He was ready to take a chance. She was educated and had a broad mind. Except when it came to Palestinians, of course. But otherwise, good conversation.

The next morning Ted felt tired, but was ready to get on the road after a shower and a cup of coffee. He mailed his erotic letter to Tippi, sending a good deal more than hot kisses. He wondered if she would come as she read it, like some women said they had.

Half past six in the evening, he pulled up at a rest stop in Utah, a rather isolated spot in the desert. Saturday night. Rather than buck for a motel and the thirty bucks down the drain, in the pockets of the Patels, he decided to just crash in the back seat of his car and spend the night there. Avoiding civilization. Siphilization. Western fucking Siphilization, more precisely. And Gujaratization with the Patels. The drawback, all those fuckers coming though with a carload of howling screaming kids. He had started hating kids. The fucking little egotistical bastards, always disturbing one’s peace and whining. Smearing ice cream around. He just didn’t see how they were cute. They were monsters, horrible little freaky monsters, and he fled from them as far away as possible. Sometimes their mothers were nice, if they were not rednecks, but that was a different matter. But it seemed that mothers were always bringing the little monsters around to where he was.

A cold breeze was blowing through. He ate his California fig bars and bagel bars, yuppie grub from the yuppie coast. The wonderful air, that he would soon be missing, was cooling. Driving through the Mesquite all day, wood tough as iron. In some places the sand had drifted into small dunes. There was a big rock butte just to the south that rose several hundred feet to form a wide mesa.

His sexuality imposed upon his consciousness again. An image came to his mind, the image of the classical nude which he had developed an appreciation for, somewhat like Bluegrass music. The view of the buttocks, and the nice little split oval between her legs. That lovely ripe peach about to burst with honey. That image kept coming into his mind as he thought of Tippi. She kept writing affectionate letters. He had fantasized about making love to her in the afternoon. He knew she wanted to love him. Her letters provided a psychological boon of sorts. He needed someone who was hot and passionate and liked sex. He needed it more than twice a year, which was as much as he would get from his pseudo-wife. Tippi’s little cherry was going to taste so good.

He wanted a woman who wanted him to enter her from that classical position, thrusting forward, pulling her hips toward him, building her pleasure, and finishing rather like an animal, sexually satisfying. If sex is ever extinct it will be a distinct loss, he thought, even though it is no longer necessary from a technological standpoint.

The sun was slowly setting from the long summer day. He welcomed the dark. The locusts began singing in the small dry trees. Out in this hinterland, it seemed so far away from civilization, so far away from Berkeley. There was no phone, no way to call. At the ends of capitalism’s long deadly tentacles. How long would it be before this spot was desecrated by the golden fucking arches, Ronald Muckfuckingdonald, and the ultimate constipational sandwich. Come it would, he had no doubt. There is no place or space on earth off limits to the ravages of the big buck in the hands of the American corporation. Those mulitassinal craperations taking over the world and spreading high fructose corn syrup, obesity, and cancer, to the far corners of the earth. Amen.

The sun disappeared below a bank of clouds. It started getting cooler. Vans pulled in for the night. Rowdy kids played around in the desert air and threw rocks, disturbing the tranquility. Plug em with a happy crappy meal, that’s what they need, he thought. He walked up the small rising hill up a gentle slope. The rest stop below looked small with toy cars.

On the road early, headed east, Ted spotted something that resembled a small industrial plant with grassy areas around it. He saw the sign for the hazardous waste facility. He was suddenly tempted to go back and take a look. Why not? What would happen if he just drove in there to see what that mother looked like?

He turned around and drove the couple of miles back. Just before he reached the entrance, he saw a red truck turn in and park at a red brick building. Ted pulled up his Volvo and started copying down the information on the main sign in front of the building. No law against that, is there?

Hazardous Waste Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility” the sign said with more information about the company that owned it and about the engineers and construction company that had built it.

A man got out of the truck and started looking suspiciously at Ted’s car. Ted drove on down the entrance road cautiously. He saw that the red truck was following him. The main gate to the processing plant was just over a small knoll in the road. There was a lane for entry and one for exit. Ahead were some white buildings, tanks and pipes, like a chemical treatment plant. Over to the right, Ted could see a large pit, square, red and black inside, like it had some brick or plastic lining around the sides. There appeared to be sensing devices at the main gate and cameras also, Ted assumed.

Ted pulled into the small parking place near the gate. Two or three other cars were already parked there. As he pulled in, the red truck came up and pulled in beside Ted’s car. Ted then backed around to head back out the exit lane. As he did, he saw the face of the security man looking at him, clearly perturbed, and on the side of the red truck: “Pinkerton Security.”

Fuck’n A. Of course, it would naturally be that motherfucking Pinkerton rent a thug outfit for a waste corporation. The guy’s face was wrinkled. He looked like he clearly could be an asshole. A vigilante. Maybe that’s just an impression, Ted thought. He might be a real nice friendly guy. Fuck’n A. A real nice guy with brass knuckles. That vigilante man that Woody Guthrie sang about. Ted continued back down the entrance road before the man could say anything or question him and back out onto the highway. That was a close one. What the hell, maybe he was just somebody, a stupid fuck who got lost and entered the place by mistake, not having a clue what it was or what hazardous waste even meant.

The security guard followed in the red truck, then stopped just before Ted reached the highway. Ted saw him sitting there, looking after him as he drove down the highway. As Ted drove further, he noticed pits that had been dug in the field of the facility off to the left. Some of the pits were apparently already filled, with dirt heaped upon them and grass planted on top. It made a small arch over the pit. The sign said something about land development. That’s a hell of a way to develop the land, Ted thought. Impregnate it with deadly poison for the rest of eternity. Oh, the joys of Crapitalism. This was where the big mother defecated. This was the genuine excrement of the so-called capitalist system. For Ted, it was just crapitalism.

Ted drove on wondering if anything would happen. They had no way of knowing what he was doing there, but there were surely cameras and they would check him out. Why the fuck did I do that, he thought. Trying to get myself arrested? A lot of good that would do. And then be out of a job too. But more healthy air, maybe.

He stopped for a piss when he was far enough away. On the restroom wall, it said: “Super Hung driver in Blue truck going east then south. I have 14 inches of thick uncut cock if interested.”

In the women’s restroom, he took a look, as there was no one there.

You don’t have to be good looking. I’ll eat you twice a day. Tie a green ribbon on your antenna.”

He had entered shit cattle fly country. The flies were biting his legs. He ate his thick uncut San Francisco Salami. About 14 inches of it, he thought. Probably tasted better than that Midwest brand advertised on the shithouse wall back there. It was getting hot. Better move on down the road. Rest stops and city parks were far apart here. Down to the humid tropics.

He rested in a cool park, trying to avoid the flies. The day before he had stopped in that old grave yard in Carbondale in that big beautiful green valley. He always loved the spot. Those old gnarled pine trees. Below in the valley, hay was being baled. The green fertile fields and that enormous snow covered mountain at the other end of the valley looked rich. He found the grave he was looking for. A distant relative who had strayed to the west to make his fortune. Made it, lost it and died. His fate. Everyone’s fate. He sat down to take a rest, and then he saw her. A young woman. She was beautiful. He couldn’t have conjured up a more beautiful and refreshing image if his life had depended on it. She talked to him. Sweet voice. She said she was from North Carolina and had just graduated from college. She had big beautiful full breasts wonderfully shaped and was wearing a low cut top with no bra. Jesus, she was voluptuous, he thought. It wasn’t a mirage. She really was there in all that beautiful voluptuous fecund flesh. He hadn’t asked for it, but there she was. She must have had fun in college, he thought. She must have made a few guys happy. A lot of guys. But he could only drool and head on east. If only he was twenty years younger. There is more than one way to go to hell, he thought. On east to perdition: Perdition, Mississippi.

Chapter Thirty-Six: Stone Wall

It was a hot day in September. Ted went to the local hairdresser to get a haircut. He had discovered a woman who could actually do a decent job of cutting hair and avoided the local redneck barbers like the plague. He had been butchered too many times by the likes of them. Millie started a conversation about the recent war in Iraq.

Ah was so mad at Saddam Hussein for killin those animals in the zoo,” she said.

Ted was somewhat surprised at her comment, considering that so many soldiers and civilians had died. The CIA was wildly spreading misinformation about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and it was clear that this was having its intended affect. Those stories planted in the newspapers were cut from whole cloth. Fake stories, but the American public bought them. It later came out that they were made up by the CIA, but this was hardly reported.

Ted kept quiet and let her go on listening to her spiel for some time.

Well, I don’t see how the US had a right to invade Kuwait and Iraq,” Ted said. Somehow the conversation got around to Israel.

The fact that the Jews were tortured in World War II doesn’t give them the right to do it to the Palestinians,” Ted said.

Weya, then,” Millie said, “whah gives tha Blacks the right ta rule ovah us?

The blacks are ruling over you?” Ted said. “How so?”

Oh, they git food stamps,” she said.

So do a lot of poor whites,” Ted said. “Anyway, most of the whites here have better jobs than the blacks.”

Weya, that’s becoz the blacks aya too stupid ta have jobs,” she said. “They aha soo corrupt.”

Unlike Mississippi whites, Ted thought.

But Ah’m not racist,” she told him.

No, not much, Ted thought. He didn’t want to say much with her wielding those sharp tools around his head.

There was a sort of park and track for walking on the edge of town near cotton fields. He liked going there to walk, but now the crop dusters were up in the nearby fields. The stench of chemicals in the air was often so strong that he couldn’t finish his walk. He wanted to write a letter about it to the local paper, but didn’t because the dean had sent a message to the chairman of his department to tell him to stop writing those letters. The chairman was decent enough not to tell him, but he found out from another member of the department.

He thought maybe it would be better if they just sacked him, although it would give him a shitty feeling for a while. “Help me hold in tough for the long pull,” he prayed, to nobody in particular.

There was a faculty senate meeting. It was a rather toothless body, recently established, his university being the last of the state universities to establish this organization which was supposed to represent the faculty.

As the Faculty Senate Representative for the department, he had been asked to bring up the issue of the ticketing of cars with out of state license plates by the campus police. Ted brought up the issue and said that the faculty members who were being ticketed felt like it was harassment.

In his own case, he never parked his car on campus since he had California plates.

He was immediately opposed by a professor in the Business Department, a puffy fat old Delta Chinese, Bill Quan. He had heard that the Delta Chinese were the most conservative community in the Delta, even further right than the white ruling class, to prove their worth. This had historically been a mechanism to win the hearts of the whites and they become honorary whites, after years of discrimination as “blacks.”

Weya, as a Miss-ssippi taxpayah, Ay ud like ta take tha oppsitt powunt a voo,” Quan said, “If theyah giltee, they otto be arrested.”

Ted had brought up the issue in regard to a professor in the department who lived in Tennessee and taught in Mississippi. He had been taken to court and forced to have two license plates for his car, one for both states.

Ted replied, “maybe it would have been good to find out what their situation was, perhaps to send a memorandum around explaining what the law was.” In this case, he suspected that the Police Chief Gomer Hogg didn’t even know what the law was.

Then another person spoke up for the establishment. This was John Stern, the Reserve Officer Training Corp or ROTC Army officer on campus. Their job was to hook up young students and get them to sell out for a career in the military, while the government helped them through the university.

Might have known it, Ted thought. The business and the military are lining up on the side of the ruling class. Most of the delegates just kept quiet. Part of the feudal mentality, he decided. Nothing was decided but he had pretty much hit a stone wall of resistance.

The next morning he got a phone call in his office from Bill Quan. Farmer Bill. Most of the professors in the Business Department seemed to also be landowners. Sink their incomes into land and be gentleman farmers. It was easy with all the cheap black labor. The thrust of his conversion, it seemed to Ted, was just some friendly housekeeping, sage advice, such as he was given when he was renting an apartment. It amounted to letting him know that maybe as an outsider, he was naive, but it would be better if he just stayed in his place and kept quiet. And that place was not to mess with Mississippi. That was the message.

Quan told him that he had heard that Gomer Hogg had sent a memo to Vice President White requesting that memos be sent to the professors about out of state license plates, but that White had refused. Ted wondered why he was making such an effort to protect the reputation of Gomer.

Where did you get that information?” Ted asked him.

It jist scuttul butt,” he said. “I donnow if it’s true.

From that Ted knew that the issue had been brought up in other circles. It seemed that Quan was saying that it wasn’t our business and we shouldn’t be involved in it. Just leave it alone.

I ave fowur vehicles and pay taxes on them,” the professor said. “Proptee taxes on myah land ave gone up. It’s jist fightin brush fires to look into this. It is reactive action.”

But if we know there is a problem, shouldn’t we try to do something about it? What is wrong with that?” Ted persisted. “It is like the issue of police brutality. Now that people have been made conscious of it, they are ready to do something about it. What is this Faculty Senate for if not to resolve such issues?”

Weya, in New Yohk City tha police had an aaganizashun ta try ta check poolees brutality. But it diden do no good,” Quan said.

Well, if the lawsuits against the police are successful, they will have to be more careful in the future,” Ted said.

The reason Miss-ssippi as a shoyot fahh in tha budget is that people ah not payin their share a taxes,” Quan said.

I hardly think that professors are the culprits,” Ted said. “Anyway, that is not the issue here. I wasn’t saying they should not be subject to the law, but in this case, it seems that they were not found to have broken the law. But actually, I find the tax itself, three hundred to six hundred dollars for a license tag a form of high and regressive taxation and quite shameful.”

Weya, then you think there shouldn’t be any sales tax?” Quan put in.

Well, I certainly think there should not be a sales tax on food, because it taxes the poor the hardest,” Ted said. “It is highly regressive taxation in a terribly poor state.”

Weya, I unnastan that becoz Ah teach business,” Quan said. Ted was glad of that. But it seemed that he understood it, as someone who taught business, but was ready to stick the poor with the tax on food anyway. Ted expected him to be quite conservative and regressive as a Delta farmer.

Ted wondered why the Business professor should take it as a personal threat to question the way Hogg was sending professors to court. Ted knew that he might be on the black list of that group and would need to be careful. Anyway, I am just representing the Social Science faculty, Ted thought. He wasn’t sure if that was the case for Bill Quan. Trying to address the issue, Ted had hit a stone wall. He would try not to get caught in the drag net again.

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Whitewashing

The Indian summer lingered through September, with hot, languishing lazy days. Ted seemed to be working his butt off to no avail.

He observed the surroundings of the little town. Less that fifteen thousand. This hardly justified a state university, he thought. In fact there was a good reason why it was there. The Delta of Mississippi not only had a state university, it had two. One white, or almost so, and one black. When the US Supreme Court would look at the case for that division in a few years, they would say, “This is not constitutional. Solve it.” The case was remanded back to the state.

More than eighty percent white, the local parents thought Cotton State University it was a fine place, in general, to send their children and keep them relatively insulated from the wider progressive notions that were emerging in other parts of the nation.

Driving up to the northern part of the town, Ted could see that it was relatively poor, but white. White working class, essentially. Some downscale white Pentecostal churches where the women dressed in that ignorant style he remembered from his childhood. Rounded off hair, down their backs, no make up, frock type dresses. He wondered why religious dress often just looked so ignorant. A lack of styling. The men dressed like downscale petty bourgeois business types. What kind of religion is that which divides up the races like this, Ted reflected. He wondered if anyone ever thought about it. He would like to just be invisible and be able to see what goes on and what is said there in one of those churches. The east side was poor and black, and down south of the business district was a black ghetto. Further on, a long strip of relatively affluent houses, all white, with large lawns, flowering shrubs and gardens. To the west of the university, too, white middle class, where most of the professors at the school lived. Just cheap cracker-box development close enough to the fields to be immersed in a haze of dangerous chemical smog. It was said that the price of houses was roughly double the normal rate for the single purpose of keeping blacks from getting a foot hold in white areas. Most of the blacks in the area remained in poverty. All the avenues were blocked to them.

In general, he hated teaching the American politics class. All the real issues were generally avoided. Terribly boring. One had to get completely off the subject to make it interesting. He did that often, getting himself in hot water.

In one black area, he houses were literally shacks, surrounded by dirt yards with no grass whatsoever. Terrible conditions. The town was truly segregated. To the north of the town were some small all black towns, out in the flat land along highway 61. There was a university right in the middle of this, and the university was necessarily dedicated to having a close and supportive town-gown relationship. The problem was not to be addressed in the university. Indeed, what was the problem? There was no problem in the view of the mainstream middle class mind.

Driving back from the white area he met a truck fogging the side of the road with mosquito spray. He got his windows up as quickly as possible so as not to get doused worse than the mosquitoes. Keep the white areas free of mosquitoes. Those sons of bitchin mosquitoes are probably laughing their asses off, Ted thought. They have to keep spraying them continuously and they keep thriving, while people get poisoned with the stuff and go to the grave with cancer. The stingers revenge, probably. If it worked, why did they have to spray so often? Or they might grow less rice, perhaps. Those fields seemed to produce more skeeters than rice.

Most men live lives of quiet desperation, Thoreau said. That was what he was quickly becoming. He was being crushed. Reduced to quiet desperation, like how all the other crushed professors lived. Having stuck their neck out once, and had it whacked off, they learned to shut up. The nail that sticks up gets bent down, just like the Japanese said. The man that sticks up in the Delta gets their balls cut off, or worse.

He stood looking out his open door. It was a lovely and cooling downpour. He felt like stripping his clothes off and running out into it. If it was just dark, he could be out there in the nude dancing like a wild drunken Bacchus.

He fantasized about another letter, which he would not send, but it was a tempting idea. Something in this vein:

When I had just arrived from California, I had heard many stories and read about how ignorant, stupid, and bigoted people are here but I was not entirely convinced. However, after reading the appalling and ignorant ads against the Democrats in the local press lasts week, you have convinced me. What is revolting is the stupid smug attitude and self-righteousness, like people are looking down their noses at the whole world. They are so damned ignorant they don’t know how close to Adolf Hitler they are. It’s one thing for someone to be ignorant and trying to educate them self. It’s quite another to be ignorant and think they know everything.” Ted thought the town was largely devoid of ideas or progressive notions.

He tried walking in the town, but found it nearly impossible. He had to turn around frequently due to barking dogs on the loose. They were not generally friendly. He did not want to be chased by those mutts. Local dementos roared down the streets in their pickup trucks. I hope my brain doesn’t dry up and blow away, like those, he thought. He felt that he could only find the time to teach his classes and that was all.

In his American politics class, he mentioned Jesse Jackson and got a very hostile reaction. One student said that he was a phony, a big fake. This just egged Ted on. He went on explaining about human repression and human liberation. He pointed out that Jesse Jackson told people that “you are somebody” to make them realize that they are a human being when society has tried to convince them that they are not.

Students just give him a blank stare.

Then some students brought up some things about the churches. Ted discovered some interesting things about the nature of their views of Christianity in relation to racism. Ted said that if blacks were not welcome in the churches, then the whites might get together and have some meetings there, but in his view, it wouldn’t be Christianity. Christianity could not exclude the blacks. He sensed that some students began to feel uncomfortable.

Dr. Grover then talked about humanism and what it meant. It was the idea that the human individual could change the world. Ted argued that that was what America was all about. It was the idea that people could make the world a better place. He brought up the ad that was in the paper that said something like, “If you want your children to be taught by a humanist, then vote Democrat.”

Why wouldn’t you want your child to be taught by a humanist?” Ted asked. The term usually took the form of “Godless humanist” in the South, as in “Godless Communist.”

He asked “why would you want to teach a child that he or she could not do anything to make the world a better place?” He pointed out that anti-humanists think the world is how it is because God willed it that way or created it that way.

Did God create slavery? Did God create poverty? No, all of these things are man-made and they can be changed.”

The students took the discussion in another direction, which hit Ted unexpectedly, like a broadside. They got on the subject of whites and blacks in heaven. He had been talking way over their heads, incomprehensibly, talking about humanism. Just as well have been talking about a Digambara Jain, a naked follower of Jainism in India, for what humanism meant to them. Just as well. They would not like the idea if they could get it.

One student spoke up and said that there would not be any black or white in heaven. Ted considered that it would be difficult for Mississippi whites to think about having blacks in heaven. For his part, Ted had never even thought about it. Maybe he himself was guilty of envisioning heaven as only a place with only white people. There had been only whites where he grew up so that was a rather natural to think that way.

The students seemed to believe that people would lose their racial characteristics in heaven and be the same. That would be one way to whitewash them and get rid of their blackness it seemed. Too bad one couldn’t do it on earth.

An older student in his thirties, Joe, said that he heard a preacher on the radio on Sunday who was complaining that there were not many people at the church and then the preacher said, “theya ah sevral hundrid whiyuts in tha airya aroun tha church.” He asked Ted what he thought about that.

It sounds racist to me,” Ted said, “as if he only imagined that white people would come to his church or only welcomed whites in his church.” Ted was a little afraid that the students would start to think that he was criticizing their society too much. He was afraid that he was having a little trouble understanding their mindsets. After class, one of the students said that it was a good discussion.

He talked to a young black student about the situation in Weaselville. She said it was very racist here and that the blacks are racist too. She said that the blacks cannot stand the whites. She said she had lived in New York and really liked it there. She felt so much freer there. She said that in Mississippi, the blacks had been kept down.

Ted found talking to the black students easier and found them to be more honest about the situation. Besides, she was beautiful. He was falling in love in five minutes again. He thought about how it would be to kiss her. She was such a doll. He considered that he was increasing his awareness but hoped that it didn’t end in disaster. But he wondered if there was really any scope for staying and trying to teach progressive ideas here. The society was ultra-reactionary in his view.

Driving back to Weaselville from Greenville, he thought about the issue of prayer in public schools. He was tempted to say, “OK, let them have prayer in public schools. They need to pray if they are turning out students like these.” And too, one could rationalize that since they are not learning much, they just as well be praying. Almost forty percent of those entering high schools in the state were not graduating.

He started running through those thick swarms of big Mississippi Delta dragon flies. When his Volvo hit a patch of them, he could hear them splatting on his windshield, as the green goo from their bodies became heavier and heavier. The windshield wash was totally ineffective but he discovered that the service stations had a special chemical they used to remove that slime. It made native Mississippians feel like they were really back home when their windshields started gumming up with the swarms of big bugs in the heat. Dragon flies in the Delta and kudzu vines up in the hills were specialties of the state. The Deltoids began to miss all the green goo from the smashed dragon flies on their windshields when they lived outside the area.

He pulled into a station and had the thick bug gum removed from his windshield so he could get on home. The skinny white service attendant looked at his car suspiciously. One a them theya Volevoz, Vulvuz, a wimpy pussy cah. Nothin Americun, red blooded, like a Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Jeep. The Volvo marked him out as a commie. “Them goll durned furrin cahs.” The guy took a glance at him. Shore nuff! Beard too. Double whammy. A beard in a Volvo was dead meat in the macho state. “Whered you cum frum!” was the typical query. If you don’t look like a duck, quack like a duck, think like a duck, suck like a duck, you’re probably a damn Yankee.

If you’re a “prefessah,” then probably a pinko-commie too.

He wondered what he could do about his sexuality. Not much that I can do, he thought. He felt that his lifestyle was not the way it should be. He needed to do some things differently. Forget about Weaselville, he thought. Even for some shopping, one had to go to Greenville. One had to get out, or otherwise go nuts in such a little place. There was Kroger, the grocery store, a few gas stations along the highway, three motels, two of them run by Patels. Perhaps the caste system in India helped them fit into this society, Ted considered. They seemed to fall right into complaining about the behavior of young black guys and warning them like the whites did.

He engaged in a fantasy. He imagined himself standing in front of his mirror in just a towel. A nice looking woman lives across the way and sees him through the windows. She watches him. Sometimes he stands and shaves in the nude with an erection. His stiff penis bobs up and down. She watches him pour coconut oil on his cock and is turned on. Sometimes he sees her standing at her mirror and doing her makeup. She is wearing only thin lace panties. Her breasts are nicely shaped and her small nipples stand up hard. She knows that he is watching and squeezes her breasts with the ends of her fingers. Then he sees her standing in the nude, sees the small shapely spheres of her ass. She rubs oil on her long legs and into her rose and stands rubbing her thick pink nether lips while looking his way and bearing her breasts out. She fingers her nipples. Her lips glow with pink lipstick. He wants to feel her lips and tongue wrapped around his stiff cock, pleasuring him. She stands in her room in the nude and does calisthenics. He wants her to ie down and make love to him.

The faithful returned to their homes from the segregated churches, having received their weekly dose of white Christianity. There was one thing they were certain of. There would be no blacks in Heaven.

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Boll Weevil

The assembly was about to begin in the Cotton State University auditorium. The speaker was Dwayne Dandy, US Representative from Fourth District Mississippi, who was running against Brent Trott for the US Senate. He was a Democrat, but a Boll Weevil. That meant he was a conservative, naturally, being from Mississippi.

Ted was interested in questioning him about his position on support to the Contras in Nicaragua. He know he would take a reactionary stand and defend the policy, but at the risk of being the campus radical, decided to ask him a question after his political stump talk.

Would you continue to vote for aid to the Contras in Nicaragua,” Ted asked him.

Yeah, sho Ay wiya,” he said. And then he launched into a speech about “Soviet forces in Nicaragua” and also Cuban troops and how this situation was leading to revolution in El Salvador and so on. He said the US had to support the Monroe Doctrine. This was a nice little piece of outdated imperialism, as far as Ted was concerned.

It was all absurd to Ted who had been keeping up on events in Central America for years. He couldn’t really let him get by with that, although it would probably fly in most places in Mississippi.

I’d like to know how Soviets in Nicaragua promote revolution in El Salvador. Isn’t it rather social and economic conditions that are bringing revolutions?”

Then Dandy launched into a spiel about political repression under the Sandinistas.

How would you compare repression under the Sandinistas with repression under Anastasio Samoza, our favorite dictator, who bombed his own capitol?” Ted wanted to know. “How can we justify overthrowing the government of a sovereign nation? If you support the Contras, then that’s what you support. I think that it’s the Sandinistas that are carrying out the social and economic reforms that are necessary in Nicaragua.”

Ted had not meant to say all that, but he had and now it was said. After all, it was simple and essentially true, but he knew that there was no really free speech in this country and there would be a cost to pay.

Weya, Ah dough think we could acshully ovahthrow em.” Dandy lied.

Bennington, the Chairman, was quite liberal, but he too was determined to hold the Sandinistas up to impeccable standards, in the face of the secret CIA clandestine war to overthrow them. He said they have engaged in repression of religion and made bad tactical moves.

Hell, Ted thought. They made a revolution and many of the ideas came from liberation theology. Let the Americans make a revolution first before criticizing them. Ted hoped he wouldn’t be out of a job. He thought about Dwayne Dandy going back to Washington with it in his mind that there was at least one radical at Cotton State University… or at least there used to be.

Ted wondered if he could stand to do the American politics shit again the next day. He was so sick of that class. How the candidates get chosen, little trivial bullshit, lies, lies, lies. All the sons of bitches bought lock, stock and barrel by big fucking capital, he thought. Fuck it all. He thought it was better to get them to discuss some of the issues in the Presidential debates.

One of his students worked out at the State Penitentiary at Parchman. He had been fired because he got in a fight with one of the inmates. He was starting to be afraid for his life. An inmate had been stabbed and killed a few days before. The prison was about eighty percent black. The prisoners had all been tried and convicted in Mississippi. Those at the top and in charge were white with little education. Many of those lower down had college degrees in criminal justice but got low pay. They risked their lives every day for a low salary but there were not many other jobs around. The wage was just below the poverty level for someone with two kids. Those that got lower pay were those that had to work around the prisoners.

There had recently been an execution out at Parchman. It was done in a gas chamber. They drop in pellets that give off poison gas. Everybody was affected when they knew that it was getting closer and closer to the time when they were going to kill the prisoner.

My supervisah, who Ah really hate ees guts, was even hoomane foh about five minutes,” Joe, the former Parchman employee said.

On the way home, Joe said he stopped at a gas station and the relatives of the prisoner they killed were there. He knew a number of people around the area who had been in the prison and were now out.

A prisoner tried stabbing another on the weekend. He was beaten up by the officers and they took him to the hospital.

Joe thought that Cotton State was not really an outstanding place. “People heya ah cold.” He said. “Heya, you ah only visible when people want ya to be. Otherwise you ah invisible.”

That prison’s a gointo blow,” Joe said. Most of the incarcerated were from the poor underclasses of society. Ted thought that the whole system that produced the criminals and marginal class was a part of society as a by-product. Society largely produces the situation that drives the person to the psychological point of criminality. Ted thought that his experience in the Navy was as close to a prison situation as he ever wanted to be.

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Tall Ships

His mind wandered back to the navy base in Norfolk, Virginia. That was where he met Carol. Carol Winter, down on the strip in Virginia Beach. He met her in that watering place where he used to go with some guys from the ship, the USS Richard L. Page or “Dicky P,” as the sailors called it, for happy hour on Sunday evening. They would drink twenty-five cent beers and eat peanuts. His friend Ron gave her a ride to the place where she was staying and in the back of his Pinto, Ted had played with her. He got her address and phone number. A few weeks later, he drove up to New York to see her. She lived near Niagara Falls.

It was a long drive, but he was up for it. He arrived in the late afternoon. He found her apartment and she met him at the door. She offered him a beer. Presently, she came over and climbed up into his lap. In a little bit, she suggested that they move into the bedroom. She was ready for him.

Ted said he would like to take a shower first. When he came out of the shower, he was nude. Seeing him, Carol had said “Oh, you devil, you.” She took him to her bedroom at once. She was thin and petite with small breasts. He bounced her up on his stiff tool and sank into her glorious rose, cradling her young body and letting the delicious feeling engulf him. Having relieved his nuts, they made love again at a slower pace getting the feel of her deep soft rose. She was not so pretty, he thought, but he needed her. She did him good.

She was divorced and liked to meet new men. They spent the evening and part of the night making love. He slept off the long tiring drive. The next morning, they went for a drive and she showed him where she worked. When they came back to the apartment, she went to the bedroom and waited for him on the bed in the nude. Ted quickly undressed and gave her what she wanted again. This time he was on top of her thin body hoping he was giving her inordinate pleasure before his explosive climax came. This time he gave her everything he had. He would have to be leaving soon back to the pits.

She told him that she had gone to bed with someone since she had seen him in Virginia Beach. Then Ted confessed that he had too. A couple of weeks before, the ship had gone to Mayport, down in Florida. He rented a car and went down to Fort Lauderdale with a friend from the ship. DeJesus was a small Filipino boatswain’s mate. They went out to the beach taking along some beer. In a little bit, they picked up two women and took them to their motel room. Ted linked up Rosalee who was in her mid-forties. Vicki, who was a little older, went with DeJesus. They made love to them in the motel, DeJesus banging away on Vicki while Ted had fun with Rosalee in the shower. They were both pretty drunk.

They went back to the beach in the evening. Rosalee wanted a fifth of Jack Daniels, which Ted got in a package shop. She and Ted had a few shots and resumed their balling in the back seat of the rented car. A cop came along the beach and shined his bright light inside to see what was going on. Then he just walked away to let them get on with it, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. They were not doing any harm.

The next morning Ted resumed his frolic with Rosalee while DeJesus pumped away with Vicki.

Why don’t you come on and finish what you started, Honey,” Rosalee asked Ted. He did.

It turned out, as Ted discovered later, that the two had run away from a women’s prison up in North Carolina and hitch hiked down to Florida with a truck driver. Ted realized it when he saw the inscription of the women’s state prison on their toothbrushes in the bathroom. What the hell? Pussy was pussy for a sailor.

Back in Niagara, Carol made Ted a miserable lunch, some bland vegetables and two small pieces of dry meat. Ted liked big meals of spicy Indian or Chinese food, and rice, but no complaints. If the meat wasn’t juicy, her pussy was. After that, he bit the bullet and got on the long road back to the Navy base. It would be early morning before he rolled in to climb into his rack on the ship at the pier.

He wrote her an erotic letter. She replied with an equally erotic one, saying she would love the feel his glorious cock up inside her taking her to a climax. He promised to come and see her again. The ship was scheduled to go to New York for the Tall Ships Parade. It was July l976. He thought of Carol. If he had some leave, he could get some pussy, but he couldn’t work it out. They had made friends and she was a now more than just a fuck to him.

In New York, Ted had to wear his uniform when he went over on the shore from the ship. It was summer tropical whites. Ted liked the classical old Popeye dress blue wool uniform. It had a great feeling and was comfortable and warm for the winter or near the sea. Unfortunately, the Navy had cancelled that uniform, only to bring it back later. That was the real sailor’s uniform.

There was a continuous show going on at Radio City Music Hall. Visiting sailors were being let in free as special guests. He went inside the lobby with a couple of other guys. He didn’t feel like the hero military type, but a nice looking woman with a lovely body quickly grabbed hold of him and wanted to go in with him. She looked like she was in her thirties. He had become an object, now, he realized. Symbolic. A sailor on the beach looking for a woman. It made him feel a little uncomfortable. He liked pussy, but he wasn’t that typical sailor stereotype at all. It was like being a marketable commodity up for grabs. The patriotic over-sexed American sailor with shit for brains. But she was a doll, pretty and voluptuous. Under the right circumstances it could have been beautiful. She would be good. He would love her soft curves in bed. He felt her grip on his arm as she possessed him. She was clinging to him like she would never let him go. She may have been Italian or Hispanic, not Anglo-Saxon, for sure with her hot blood. Ted was suddenly turned on. It was a new experience, now that his uniform labeled him the well-hung sailor, searching for any port in a storm. She seemed to be playing out her fantasy from some old Hollywood film. He was just a toy, to bounce around and then maybe bounce away. Was she just playing with him? Maybe that was all there was to her clinging to his arm like she had found her dream man. Would she take him home and love him? He felt a hard-on coming on. Oh God. He had to control that. Oh, she would be so nice to kiss. Her warm flesh pressed to his body. As it was, she was touching and cuddling, and he wondered if she would be going home to her husband or lover. What the hell? He played the game. They went in and sat together and watched the show. The music started, the row of young girls kicking up their legs all in a row, mechanically.

Like Bernie always said, “It’s a grayuht life if ya know how ta livit.”

Chapter Forty: Getting Beat Up

Ted sat down in his evening real estate class to wait for the instructor, a local broker. Some of the older students taking the class began to arrive. As an assistant professor Ted could take the class for free. Some students were former military guys. Ted noticed one sporting a stomach that had fallen out and spread all around like a big inflated inner tube. He had noticed that he sat with his hands in his pockets during the lectures perhaps thinking that writing something down would imply that he had not known it before hand and cause his prick to wilt with shame. Some guys were so macho.

He acts as if he should be the instructor of the class, Ted thought. He always blocked Ted’s path so that he had to squeeze through. He didn’t move his desk, even when Ted asked to be excused.

Ted noticed his little chattering authoritarian voice as he checked his notes. He seemed hostile to academia and intellectuals in general. Not unusual for those in the business world, he thought.

Another guy was thin and wiry with a mean looking face and a chain of keys hanging from his belt. It was just like those red neck boatswain’s mates used to wear in the Navy.

When the fat guy struck up a conversation with his fellow student, Ted realized that both had been in the Army.

Evvawon should have ta suhyuv two yeahhs in tha milltary,” the skinny mean-face said. “They otto havta go straight outa high school.”

Damm right!” the big tire took up the mantra.

Tha Ahmee wadun a bayud life,” skinny said, “Ahyuz ina tank deevizyon. Ah shoulda stayed in. Sometimes Ah wished Ah had.”

Fuck N A,” big tire said, “Ahd be out nowa an ava good penchun and wok at un eazy job.”

Ted knew something about military lifers from his experience in the Navy. Most of them, from his observation, had become alcoholics by the time they had put in their twenty years and were pretty much basket cases. Hollowed out worthless shits. These military types were quick to make irrational decisions, stubborn, dogmatic, even stupid. That fat guy had a stupid, puzzled and defeated look on his face. He seeks to be dominated, Ted thought, because in that there is security and with his authoritarian mentality, wants to force others to serve two years in the military too.

The instructor of the class, Delbert Proctor, arrived, prancing proudly up to the podium, still sporting his business outfit. He wore a white shirt and tie and black coat. He was arrogant in his role as instructor. He apparently thought he was hot stuff because he sold houses. A member of the local petty bourgeoisie. Four weeks of the class had now passed and he had not yet bothered to distribute the syllabus. Ted thought he must be making good money, since he claimed to have sold several of the houses in Weaselville more than once.

The night of the exam arrived.

Eef Ahh ketch anybody a lookin aroun an Ah think yura cheatin, you ull git an eff,” Proctor said, in an authoritarian manner. “An therull be no appeeyal,” he added.

The hell there isn’t, Ted thought. He knew from the handbook that the University did have an appeals process for such cases. But not for Proctor. I could teach him a few things, Ted thought. That little prick believes he is the absolute last word. He’d probably love to give me an F.

Then Proctor made a big deal about putting one’s name on the exam paper. Ted would have said something quick and simple and non-threatening like “Please make sure your name is on your paper.”

Proctor was different.

Eef yah leave yah name off the papah, Ayall take off teyen powunts,” he said. “Ah will take off teyen powunts even eefya git evah keschun royut on a eekzam.”

Ted wondered about this near-fascist mentality which seemed to prevail in the local people. They are truly sick in the head, he thought. What would it hurt to treat people like human beings? If one ever tried to do anything decent or good or progressive, one could expect to be confronted with immediate hostility even from those that stand to gain from one’s actions. What a struggle to live in this society for a progressive, he thought.

He had heard of another incident that happened the same day. One of his older students had come and told him about Bernie Shaw’s class. Brenda Stark drove a long distance to the university from their farm in the hills, but said she had to get to class early because of his policy. If a person came to class four minutes late, even if he had not started the class yet, Bernie told that person to “git tha heya outa tha class.”

In the early evening, he went with his wife, Lakshmi, and daughter, Melody, to the university track. It was the year his family stayed in Mississippi while Lakshmi waited to get accepted to a graduate school in California. Melody was playing near some black kids. Then their parents came along, walking on the track.

Doughn play with uur. She’s whayut,” the kid’s mother said in a quite loud fashion apparently so that Melody would hear it. Melody was hurt by it and told Lakshmi what had happened.

Don’t pay attention to them, they are just fascists,” Lakshmi said.

However, Ted and Lakshmi were worried about what effect this social poisoning in society might have on their daughter. The accumulated hate over generations has come to fill up the whole society, Ted thought.

The next day Melody took the bus to the school which was almost all white, as Ted could not take her. She said that some of the girls who rode the bus started telling her, “Keeyuds like you git beeyut up.”

Because she did not act and talk and think like them, they would just reject her and beat her up. Even the kids’ minds get twisted around in the direction of a fascist mentality in such a society. Ted was just trying to hang on until one of his applications got accepted in another part of the country and he could get out.

A few days later, Melody came home upset again. Some of the kids on the bus were still picking on her and threatening. One girl had told her: “Remembah whaddah toljha?”

No, I don’t remember and leave me alone,” Melody told her. She came home crying and fell down and buried her face in the carpet in the room. Bullying seemed to be a popular tactic among the little Weaselville students.

The school was getting ready for homecoming. The young white popular southern belles were riding around the university sitting up on the back seat of convertibles, screaming and waving confederate flags. All white students with their racist banner, Ted thought. It was rather disgusting and he rather felt embarrassed to be around when that was going on. He tried to just ignore it, but it wasn’t quite possible. Interestingly, it seemed that there was no consciousness that the Confederate Flag was a racist banner. The students were not aware of doing anything racist. They were just doing what students do, but their minds and behaviors had been bent and warped in a particular way. When everything is racist, then nothing is racist. There is no consciousness of racism, since a non-racist way of life is not possible, nor even conceivable. It could only be conceptualized by an outsider. The impossible gulf was just too wide. In such deep racism, the maelstrom sucked everybody in. All must be sucked under by the structures, institutions, and practices. It was only with the greatest difficulties that one could stand outside and away from it. And people that did, of course, risked getting beat up. To survive, one must succumb. So the only real choices were to conform or get the hell out. Outsiders seldom stayed more than a few years, which was the way the locals liked it. Sometimes the encouragement to leave was not so subtle. They were not told that “people like you get beat up,” but “wheyurd jou come from?” which was not so subtle a hint that one had not yet learned how to be a southerner, even an honorary one.

The town was surrounded by a series of small all-black towns, the little bantustans of Burdick County, which served the same purpose as those in South Africa, or of the Palestinian Territories in Israel. These strategic hamlets to house the underclass, the under caste, helped to reinforce the structures of racism and keep the populations apart.

Ted showed a film to his class on the life of Earl Warren. In l954. Governor Orville Faubus had closed down the public schools in Little Rock to prevent integration. Some high school students were being interviewed. The students were saying that they did not want to go to school with “nigras” because they would then start coming to dances and other social events and that would lead to problems. Ted remembered his mother, who was from Arkansas, making the same arguments when he was in the fifth grade. An example of how racist ideology can poison society, he thought.

One day, an ad in the local paper caught Ted’s eye. There was a picture of a middle aged black woman smiling. Underneath the picture, it read:

At 72, Addie Bass did something she’s always wanted to do. She learned to read.” Below that, was information about reading programs in the local area. The ad was based upon a stereotype of blacks. Ted knew that there were also many whites in the area who were also illiterate, but it would be unacceptable to put a picture of a white in the ad.

It wouldn’t do to mention it, he thought. I might get beat up.

Chapter Forty-One:

Every Tom, Dick and Harry

One day Ted learned about a lawsuit filed against the county schools in the local newspaper. The suit claimed that the district had not complied with a federal desegregation order of the late l960s. He wanted to get a copy of the court order and went to the Superintendent’s office to get a copy. When he asked for it, they said that he could get it, but would have to pay for it, at the rate of seventy-five cents a page for the nineteen page document. This struck Ted as being exorbitant. He could easily pay the fee, that was not really the point, but it was the principle that hit him. It immediately reminded him of the poll tax that the south had imposed on voting to keep blacks from voting in the past. There were so many poor citizens. Those who might have wished to examine and read the document if it was free, Ted thought, would most certainly not shell out the more than fourteen dollars to get a copy. They could not if they wanted to. Further he thought that it was rather an unreasonable charge. Ten to fifteen cents per copy, could be deemed reasonable, maybe, but not seventy-five.

It went beyond this, in fact. Ted was shown a statement which said that it was the policy of the local school board that the District was required to charge seventy-five cents per page for providing public information in general. He was reminded that one of his students had told the story of how a school district in the state had kept the time of school registration secret from the blacks. Wasn’t this the same sort of thing? The court had given an order to the school district to remedy some practices and the fewer people who knew what the court said, the better. Technically, the information was available. But in practice, this policy would keep it under wraps. This was public information at a cost. How could one charge for public information, as if it was something that was being sold? The whole thing bothered Ted. Shouldn’t there be some limits on how crassly the ruling class ruled?

So he fired off a letter to the local newspaper. He couldn’t help himself.

In the first week of September a public notice appeared in the Weaselville Chronicle concerning a lawsuit filed against the Burdick County Schools, charging that the school district had not complied with a federal desegregation order. I went to the office of the Superintendent to examine the proposed consent order and asked if I could get a copy. The Superintendent said that I could get a copy, but would have to pay for it. I said that was fine. But I was shocked when I was told that the cost would be 75 cents per page. I said that this was surely not a reasonable amount. Then I was shown a statement which said that the school district is required to charge 75 cents per page for providing public information.”

I have some questions about this policy. I would like to ask the taxpayers and those who have children in the public schools of Burdick County if they think information concerning what the public school officials are doing with and to their children should be available to the public or not. This is surely a concern to everyone, as it not only affects the well-being of our children but the whole community. If the public school officials of this county have been denying the rights of citizens and their children, guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, I want to know about it and why. And I want to know what they are planning to do about it. In fact, I think this information is so important that the School Board should publish it in the local newspaper. I think that the taxpayers in Burdick County should demand that they do so.”

Instead, the board erects a wall of secrecy to insure that no information seeps out of its offices. This is a very effective method of insuring secrecy of operations and policies. How many citizens can afford to pay such exorbitant and outrageous fees for “public information”? And why should they? When this type of secrecy is observed in a Communist country, we call it tyranny. What name should we use for it in Weaselville, Mississippi”.

Whose information is this anyway? The taxpayers have already paid for it at least once through their taxes. Why should we pay for it again? This is double taxation. The Boston Tea Party was staged over such machinations by callous public officials.”

I challenge the school board of this county to let the public know what it plans to do with their school children in the public schools as proposed by the consent order. I challenge it to justify charging the public exorbitant fees for information that by right should be freely available to all. I challenge the members to justify erecting walls of secrecy around their operations. And I challenge all those who think this information should be freely available to the public to let the School Board know it. Isn’t it time for a little local glasnost?”

The letter had been a little strong and somewhat exaggerated, but nevertheless, significantly water tight. The ruling class knew fully well what they were doing. And anyone else too, who thought about it, and that seemed to be perfectly fine with Mississippi public opinion. The South had perfected the tactic of constructing policies that were technically legal, but discriminatory in their defacto operation. The poor whites, so called white trash, just loved bending over and screwing themselves, as long as they could screw they blacks too, and the white planter class kept laughing their asses off all the way to the bank, Ted thought. That was the system. It had been that way for years. It didn’t take very long for that to become crystal clear. Dumb. How could anyone be that fucking dumb, Ted wondered. Drench your head in the poison bucket of racism and yes, motherfucker, you will be that fucking dumb too. You will just be another one of these right-wing conservative red-neck dumb as shit, white trash cracker, Republican motherfuckers screwing themselves until kingdom come and any lilly-livered progressive pinko from outside that felt sorry for them was just asking for trouble, because they would hate your fucking guts for not being just as stupid and violent as them. People like that sometimes got beat up. Shore nuff in Miss-sippi. There was no way to win. Those who got it, got out, and those stupid enough not to, stayed, and so the system was extremely stable and durable. And those being screwed were happy as pigs in shit. For being poor, they would blame it on “socialism,” the “Mexicans,” Yankees, the “fedral govmint” or something else, never the real cause of being caught as a cog in the wheel of the system itself. The old ruling class would have collapsed long ago had it not been for the “socialism” that the Federal Government forked over to them. But they kept it for themselves. It never filtered down to the red-neck crackers. No trickling down in “Miss-sippi.” They had figured that all out a long time ago when the Government wanted to help the blacks back in the Great Depression.

Ted was again engaging in counterproductive activity of banging his head against a brick wall. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by being rational or progressive in a regressive and racist society. It was indeed foolish, but something deep inside his soul drove him to it. He just couldn’t let those bastards get by with all this incredible crap. But the most reasonable argument from even the court bench, regardless of how prominent the judge, would quickly find itself flushed down the Mississippi toilet hole, drowned in the racist stream of sewage that flowed from the highest point in the state to the lowest and every place in between. The most powerful argument ever invented didn’t mean diddly-shit in the red neck brains of the now decadent white ruling class, sometimes Bible thumpers that would go on ruling the state with violence and billy clubs and the Klan. To them the only principle that meant jack shit was apartheid, white supremacy, and the only thing they understood. He was just putting himself in harms way of maybe getting himself butchered by some pot- bellied thug if they had caught him. He would get beat up. “Shore’ nuff.”

Would someone reply to his letter? He had never experienced seeing a letter supporting him in any argument in a paper in the south. He didn’t expect that. No one was going to be foolish enough to stick their neck out in his favor. But he would probably be attacked.

Shore’ nuff.”

The idea that “public information” should be available to everybody had hit a raw nerve. Suggesting anything smacking of equality was fighting words.

Ted, as he expected, was attacked in the local paper by a citizen outraged by his letter, and having some instructions for him about how he should behave in “Miss-ssippi.”

He knew that mentioning the Fourteenth Amendment or even the U.S. Constitution was fighting words in Mississippi, a casus belli, but what the hell? Give em hell. They needed it.

The letter came from a Mister Dick Travis, a couple of weeks later.

RE: Mr. Ted Grover’s letter.

While it is commendable that Mr. Grover has enough community interest to make himself knowledgeable about the desegregation lawsuit filed against the Burdick County Schools, on reading his letter it is immediately apparent that he did not read what he himself had written. He stated in the first paragraph that he went to the superintendent’s office to examine the information and asked to get a copy. He was told there would be a charge for copying. He was not denied access to the information.

May I remind Mr. Grover that when the schools order paper and rent the copy machine, it is not done without cost. The information Mr. Grover wanted was freely available, however a copy of it was not available free. To be charged for a copy (and remember that the person who operates the copy machine has to be paid a salary, as well as the rent on the machine and cost of the paper, not to mention electricity, the salary of the person (s) who stopped their work to provide the material to him, and other incidental expenses associated with copying) is perfectly reasonable whatever the charge. Furthermore, I as a taxpayer do not want school equipment used to duplicate materials for any Tom, Dick, or Harry that wanders in off the street and calls himself a taxpayer. (Incidentally, a copy of an accident report at the police department will cost you two dollars per page.) Tax money is used to purchase and provide use of equipment in support of the schools, not individuals.

Finally, I have this to say to Mr. Grover. “So pack your lunch one day, Mr. Grover, take your pen and paper, and go to the superintendent’s office and make your own free copy of material that is freely available (of course you will have to pay for your own pen and paper.)”


Dick Travis

A week later, Ted replied to Mister Travis.

Mr. Dick Travis’s reply to my letter is a partial answer to my question as to whether the taxpayers of this county think that information concerning the operation of the public schools should be freely available to the public. Mr. Travis states that as a taxpayer, he does “not want school equipment used to duplicate materials for any Tom, Dick, or Harry that wanders in off the street and calls himself a taxpayer.” Apparently Mr. Travis’s sentiments are precisely those of the Burdick School Board which set the penalty for using the service so high that no “Tom, Dick, or Harry” would bother the Superintendent of Schools for the information. Mr. Travis’s letter attempts to malign me by making it look like I was unwilling to pay the cost of reproducing the information. A careful reading of my letter will show that I stated that I was perfectly willing to pay what was reasonable. My argument was rather that such policies effectively limit access to public information.

It was not so long ago that some states had poll taxes which required people to pay a tax to vote. It was argued that this was perfectly justified to cover the cost of the elections. But the Supreme Court in 1966 (Harver v. Virginia Bd. Of Elec.) struck down the poll tax as unconstitutional. The effect of such barriers was to disenfranchise thousands of voters. Taxes and fees have often been used to discriminate against the poor and underclasses in society.

Mr. Travis states that “to be charged for a copy… is perfectly reasonable whatever the charge.” Does he really expect his readers to accept that statement? Would fifty dollars a page be “perfectly reasonable”? One hundred dollars? Certainly, according to him.

But Mr. Travis tells us that regardless of the charge, he does not want every “Tom, Dick and Harry” to be able to use the copying equipment to get a copy. Why not, Mr. Travis? Should those who pay more taxes have greater access to the information? I thought we had something in this country called equal rights. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution provide for “equal protection under the law.” I am sorry to have to remind Mr. Travis that every citizen enjoys the same rights by virtue of being a citizen and not because of the amount of taxes that she or he pays. We no longer have a property qualification for voting or for using copying machines paid for by taxes.

Mr. Travis then reveals that “tax money is used to purchase and provide use of equipment in support of schools, not for individuals.” Really? I should have thought that, however the schools spend tax money, it is spent for individuals, for the students and for the betterment of the community at large. Surely the equipment and the schools are not ends in themselves, but only means for the improvement and enrichment of the lives of individuals.

Mr. Travis thinks that I should pack a lunch and go copy the consent order from the Office of the superintendent by hand. As a matter of fact, I do pack a lunch every day and go to work. I suspect that most people in the public schools are in the same boat. We are not members of the leisure class, that we can take a day off to copy a 19 page document in long hand. We have to work for a living. Is Mr. Travis suggesting a new way to dispense public information? How would you like to go to Washington, D.C., with a pen and paper every time you need information about a federal program? Yes, Mr. Travis, pens and paper are very useful, but now we have copiers. If we had to copy needed information about public affairs by hand, could we ever be informed citizens? Could we survive? I doubt it.

Today, for the first time in history, we have the technology to provide information to “every Tom, Dick and Harry,”and women as well, so that they can make intelligent decisions and take control of their lives. That, apparently, is what elitists, like Mr. Travis, fear most of all.

Sincerely, Ted Grover.

Well, there are just some people who will never be democrats, Ted thought. The dean told Chairman Bennington to tell Dr. Grover to stop writing those letters to local paper. He was just digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole of which there was no escape.

Shore’ nuff.

Chapter Forty-Two: The Lady

War fever was running high. The local supermarkets and other stores were draped from one end to the other with big American flags. Yellow ribbons were everywhere, tied around trees and lamp posts in the town. America was back. Defending American values. Kicking ass around the world.

A flier with a joke appeared in Professor Grover’s mailbox in the department. It showed an Arab on a camel in the cross hairs of an assault rifle. Below, the caption said “I would fly 10,000 miles to smoke a camel.”

America was smoking camels and people. Winning hearts and minds. George Bush was a popular President in Weaselville as tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers lay dead in the desert from American bombing and the infrastructure of the country was being systematically dismantled by American jets. It was clear to Ted that all of this made the locals proud. Proud to be Americans and proud to be Mississippians.

It all made Ted feel deathly ill. Sick, sick, sick, he thought. Rattling sabers and killing Arabs was high tone among almost everyone, it seemed, except some maladjusted grousing faculty members like himself. Racism did not respect international boundaries. “Sand niggers” were just as good a target as any, even if no one had a clue about them. The dissidents from wholesale slaughter tended to be found in the English or language departments. Pinko pockets like that. Pro-war war-mongering had been ratcheted up to a high pitch among the students. They didn’t like hearing any criticism of the war.

Nevertheless, Ted tried to get them to see beyond the surface images presented by the media to the underlying roots of America’s kicking ass in still another country which most Americans had no idea about and could not even find on the map. The prevailing racist view of the non-European world seemed to play into this jingoism in a place like Mississippi. America had to have its cheap oil no matter what the cost. Why the heck did God make the mistake of putting all that oil under Arab soil, when it actually belonged to Americans? Hell, it could have been right under Tupelo.

He was infuriated by the political demagoguery and the ass licking role of the American media. This time around, learning from Vietnam, he saw the military effectively muzzling the press, embedding them with the troops to ensure favorable war coverage. Great way to spread democracy, he thought.

Ted tried to speak out as best he could, challenging US policies in the war in a couple of quick writings to local newspapers. But there was not much that one could do. The colleagues in his division too were also pretty much on board. The US was, after all, on a roll, with the Soviet Union in a state of collapse and America high balling on triumphalism after their “victory in the cold war.” Some Cotton State students in the national guard had been called up and disappeared from his classes. Some from the world.

Shortly after this, Ted arranged for a speaker for Cotton State, a woman from California, who had started an organization to provide assistance to children in Iraq. After all, these kids were disproportionally the victims of the US bombing in Iraq and the damage to the water, sanitary facilities, hospitals, and schools. Rachel Lubka was a Jewish woman who was also alarmed by the self-defeating policies of the Israeli Government toward the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Being a peacenik was exactly equivalent to being a communist in the Delta where mild mannered Fred Rogers programs had been banned because they were not militant enough. Too pinko. No Mr. Rogers in Mississippi. Turning kids into wimps. Lubka had started an organization called Children’s Aid to help Palestinian Children after a visit to the West Bank.

Surprisingly, Ted’s proposal that Ms. Lubka be scheduled to speak at Cotton State was approved. She would arrive soon from Berkeley and Ted began making preparations. There would be a luncheon for selected members of the faculty and then a program in the afternoon.

The cool October morning arrived. Ted drove up to Memphis to pick Rachel up at the airport. She had no trouble recognizing Ted. “You were the only person around that looked like they might have something to do with Children’s Aid,” she said. You can spot those pinkos a mile away, Ted thought.

They headed for the Delta, stopping at a small store in Tunica to get a coke. The clerk behind the counter looked exactly like a character from the “Eyes on the Prize” video series from the l960s. Rachel was appalled by it all, but amused. They drove on down through the fields where the cotton was being picked to fill up the big cotton wagons and stored in ricks on the sides of the fields.

They rolled into Weaselville just in time for Ted to get Rachel settled in her guest house before the luncheon. Ted introduced her to individual members of the faculty and they settled down to the food. Ted and Rachal ended up eating at the same table as Eric Goodman, also Jewish, and who taught sociology. Ted let Rachel and Eric do most of the talking.

Eric began to tell her about Weaselville.

This is a nice place to raise your kids,” Eric began, “its cosmopolitan, no traffic, and friendly people.”

Like shit! Ted thought. Where the fuck did you get that Eric?

Well, I’m afraid I don’t see it like that,” Ted ventured. “It is not a place where I would like to live for very long. I would like to get out.”

We have a Synagogue here too.” Eric went on ignoring him, “We have an incredible rabbi. He is in his eighties, very conservative. There’s everything here that one needs.”

Not for me,” Ted put in. “I would really just like to get out of the Delta.”

You will be ok Ted,” Eric said, “You will get used to it. Just make sure you keep your nose clean and your fence painted white. That’s how to live here.”

Eric had been keeping his fence painted white for so long, that he had forgotten who he was.

Outside, the press was waiting to talk to Rachel. Reporters from two local TV stations met her when she came out from the luncheon. She was interviewed on the way to the talk. Ted talked to one of the journalists, a cute young woman, and gave her a copy of his introduction of Rachel, with some background information.

Whiting Auditorium was almost full. A great audience, Ted thought. Hope it is good.

The meeting was well attended as most professors had brought their afternoon classes. Ted gave a short introduction and turned the program over to Rachel. She told them how much she appreciated the opportunity to come to Mississippi and Cotton State. She spoke about her experiences and showed slides from her recent trip to Iraq.

She began by relating how she came to organize Children’s Aid.

I met Palestinians for the first time when I served as a Jesse Jackson delegate at a Democratic National Convention. At that time, I still supported the Israeli position and the occupation of Palestine, which has gone on for some twenty-three years. After the Intifada began, I had to see with my own eyes what was happening. I couldn’t believe the way children were being treated and the way Palestinians were living. The occupation of Palestinian territories is wrong. The government of Israel is dangerous.”

She moved on to talk about the Gulf War.

I didn’t support the Gulf War because I don’t support war, period,” she said. “We have to find new ways to solve our problems. I certainly didn’t think it was right what we did in Iraq. When I visited Baghdad, I found that Iraq had become a police state. The Iraqi people are being kept completely in the dark. The US bombing in Iraq has destroyed vital facilities, including post offices, communications towers, the water supply, sewage, and electricity. I think we can all agree that we don’t want our children to die from lack of food and medicine. That is why I am trying to help the young through Children’s Aid.”

After the program, Ted wanted to take her down to the small town on the river, show her the park, and drive down the levee. One of his students, George Beasley, lived in a big old house in Sunflower, a small town down by the River. Ted asked if he could bring Rachel down to see his place. George was there when they came and showed her around the elegant old house where he painted. His elderly father was retired. Then Ted took her to the state park on the river. They watched a big barge being pushed up the river.

Ted drove her around Weaselville, showing her the pitiful black part of town and the more upscale parts. Ted was sure she would remember those unforgettable images.

When they were alone, Rachel confided to him about Goodman.

That poor guy,” she said, “he has had all the life crushed out of him.”

Yeah, we always say that he has lost it.” Ted said, “I am afraid that if I stay here, I will also end up like that. I need to get out of here.”

Yes, what the hell are you doing here, Ted?” she said. “You have to get out of here.”

Then she told Ted what she thought about the members of the social science division who taught criminal justice.

She had met Bernie Shaw at the lunch, the former Jackson cop who kept saying, “Itsa grahyut life ifya know how to livit.” He spent his weekends going to stock car races and “sittin on myah ayass an not doin a goh odd daham thane and enjowain the heyall outa it,” as he put it.

Wellcum ta Miss-ssippi, leettle layadee. How djya lieyuk it douyun heya?” Bernie asked her.

It was a question which could only be answered with a nod. She was starting to feel like Alice in Wonderland.

They were characters right out of central casting,” she said.

He then took her out to the most upscale of the Chinese restaurants in the town for dinner, which was out on the highway. A mixed race couple came in.

Well, there has been some change,” Rachel noted. “That would not have been possible before.”

That’s true,” Ted said. “But one can still not feel comfortable with it. You have to put up with people’s reactions.”

A couple of older women came in. Ted and Rachel couldn’t help but watch how they kept staring at the couple at the other table. The ignorance and bigotry of the locals could not possibly be lost on outsiders. It was obvious to Rachel what was going on.

Ted related quite a few incidents that he had experienced while living in Weaselville.

One of his students, Johnny, had told him how they integrated his school when he was small. When the time came, the school announced the day of the registration in the local newspaper, but they did not give any time. Then the school printed up more notices with the time and sent these to the parents of the white students only. The time was three in the morning. Johnny remembered his mother getting him out of bed to take him to the school for registration in the middle of the night. Of course, when the blacks arrived to register their children, at a more reasonable time, they were told that registration hours had already closed and were turned away.

You have to write a book about it,” she said.

That would be a good idea, if I can ever find the time,” Ted said. “With my teaching load and applying for jobs, trying to write some papers, and everything else, there is hardly any time left for anything creative like that.” “Anyway I could not stay down here after it was published. I would be lynched from the highest limb of one of these big old trees around here.”

She laughed. “Well, you have to do it anyway,” she said. By then, we’ll find a way to get you out of here.”

I think the way to get out is just to get in my fucking old car and see this dead-ass racist place in the rear view mirror and never come back,” Ted said. “If you wait for someone to give you a job while you are still stuck down here, it will probably never happen.” He didn’t want to say it, but realized that blacks and women might have a better shot at getting out, with affirmative action positions opening up, but there was nothing like that for a white male. They would be marked as dead meat being at the bottom of the academic barrel in Mississippi. No one would dare to touch them after that. So it would be better to just haul off to a more respectable venue and apply for jobs from there. He was thinking of either Berkeley, or Madison, Wisconsin, where he could go for a time while he was looking for something. Moreover, he was coming to a critical junction. He just didn’t think that he could take it anymore. But if he left after four years at Cotton State, it would be assumed that there was something badly wrong with him and the university had rejected him for tenure. How could one win? He was getting it coming and going.

After dropping her off at her guest house, he came back to his apartment.

The ten o’clock news from the local TV channel had a good report on the days program, using most of the information from Ted’s introduction. Ted was pleased that they at least reported some of her points. He would get the tape of the report and send it to Rachel in Berkeley.

The next morning he was up before five to pick up Rachel and get her to the local airport for an early flight. She was off to Roanoke, Virginia for another talk.

I would like to send some other speakers down here from Berkeley,” she told Ted. “And I will talk to some other schools about getting you out of this place. You really have to get out of here, Ted.”

I know. That would be great if you could.” Ted appreciated her concern, but did not really think that it would be possible. It was not the way one got jobs in political science.

Of course, it might be worth it to stay down here and do some missionary work, working for change, but probably it’s better if you just get out.”

Nothing will ever change the people in the Delta,” Ted said. “They are determined to stay the same whatever happens. They only put up a pretense that things have changed. It is all on the surface. They have learned what they have to do to get by and that is all. Old times here are not forgotten.”

I imagine you are right,” she said.

I want to organize a trip to Cuba,” she said, “before Fidel Castro is ousted from power.”

If you do, I would be interested in going,” Ted told her. “I wouldn’t get any money from here for the trip, however.”

I just cannot stand the way the people talk here,” she told Ted.

Ah cayunt undastayund how a mayun that as childrin of his oyun…” I just can’t take that, she said.

I sometimes feel the same way,” Ted said.

Ted helped her get her bags into the small airport, thanked her again for coming, and headed back for his early morning class. It was over.

Weyall, didja ladee do good yestahdayah?”

This was President White asking about the program when he went to return the keys to the guest house the next day.

Well, I thought it was a good program,” Grover said. “Everything went pretty well and it was covered in the local media.”

He suspected that the President begged to disagree, but left it there. What was done was done and that was that. If they were going to hang him, they would hang him. There was not much he could do.

A couple of members of the English and Language Departments, with more liberal views, were delighted with the program and thanked him profusely for arranging for Rachel’s visit. It was the only time they could remember when a progressive speaker had appeared at the university. Getting a person from Berkeley, California down to speak in Mississippi was some sort of miracle. Par for the course were the G. Gordon Liddy types.

Thank you for bringing Rachel Lubka here,” one colleague said. “It is really great that she came and spoke. The students needed to hear what she had to say.”

The very next day Ted received a call from a conservative Jewish lawyer in town who had attended the program. He didn’t seem hostile, but told Ted that he didn’t agree with the speaker. He sensed that Goodman too didn’t agree, especially about her criticism of Israel. Had he lost his critical facility? In most things he was quite progressive as a Democrat.

He was certain that the lawyer and other members of the local planter aristocrat bourgeoisie would have gotten to the President by now and urged him to get rid of that commie who brought “this heya laydi doyun heya.” from “Buckly, Caliphonya.”

As for bringing any more speakers, Ted knew that the jig was up. But what the fuck? He had dared to tweak their bigotry and jingoistic views and was still here to tell it. Now they were squawking. Fuck’em. There’s a bigger world out there than this little mud-sucking frog pond, the Mississippi Delta. They cannot hide from the wider world with their heads stuck in the sand forever. That was the motherfucking existentialist hell of it. In a small way, Ted was proud of having pulled it off. Every dog has his day, he thought.

Chapter Forty-Three: Going Home

Ted’s father died on Thanksgiving Day. When his sister called with the news quite early in the morning, he said he would drive up to Missouri that day. He arrived late in the evening after the long drive.

The roads were wet and muddy, typical rural Missouri in the late Fall. It was getting colder and the skies looked like it would snow. He had come through fog the previous evening.

The funeral would be on Sunday. He went with his mother to the funereal home to make the arrangements.

Later, he went to the old family house and collected some of his books and other things to keep them from getting ruined by the rats and mice that moved in as the cold advanced. The old house was now unoccupied. He found his father’s old World War II Army coat. It was a souvenir, an antique of sorts. He also found his father’s diary. His mother had tried to get his dad to start one years before. It had just a few pages filled in over a several months span. Most of the telegraphic comments were about the weather and the temperature. He probably would not have felt comfortable talking about his feelings and the more interesting events going on around him. If he had written something of substance, it would have probably been something having to do with God and the Bible.

Ted remembered having conversations with his father about world politics. Sometimes he would have quite perceptive ideas about global events and the economy. The previous year when he had come up at Christmas, his father was dreading that George Bush was going to “get us into a war in the Middle East,” which he opposed. He was right about that, of course.

Ted had a good time talking to everybody at the funereal. He was glad to get a break from the routine and isolation in Mississippi. His father had lived to a ripe old age and so it had come time for him to go home.

His sister arrived with her family from Oregon.

In the evening, they went to the funeral home in the local town for the visitation. He saw some people there that he hadn’t seen for a long time. He remembered Jim Miller, a kid who was his own age who lived in the house up the road and rode the school bus. He was not there, but his sister Jo Ann was and she said that he now lived in Minnesota and had four sons, but was in poor health because he was in a car accident when he was in the Army in Germany. He learned that the other son in the family, Dan, had died two weeks before in LA, after a long illness. Ted wondered if it might be aids. Was he gay? Ted remembered how he dressed and was so prissy and fixed his hair in a duck tail when they were in high school and seemed very feminine.

Ted saw some people who used to go the local church, Trudy and Delbert Arnote and Jerry and Marcy Landy. He met his fourth grade teacher, Lacy Ball. He thought she still looked pretty much the same after all those years. He saw Ronald Jackson for the first time in many years and his wife Claire. He always thought that they looked like they did not belong together. Now he saw the guy in a different light than in the past when he built houses and always drove a new car. He had one of those cheap cowboy-type belt buckles. He looked short and had dyed his hair black, and slicked it back with oil. He looked like an older version of the Marlboro Man. Ted felt good that he could look at him from a different perspective. He had always seen the couple as town people and in a higher socio-economic class with new flashy cars and more money. Their son was a local high school sports star. He had always felt below them when growing up. Now that he was teaching in a university, he could put things in better perspective. He certainly did not feel inferior and was almost tempted to feel sorry for the poor guy. He remembered how his father had let him come and cut wood on the place, not taking a dime from him. He had no interest in coming to church and Ted could sympathize with that.

There were several sets of flowers. In more progressive places, it had become customary to spend the money for other purposes. Everybody seemed to be going around saying that “Daddy looked nice.” It was true that he looked natural. A sad occasion, in some ways, but Ted did not feel so much sad as relieved. The dangers of medical treatment that the doctors had proposed largely came to be a matter of prolonging the suffering.

His aunt Ellen had come the day before to see his mother. He knew that his mother hated that, but put up with it. Ted thought she still did not take him seriously, treating him like a small kid even in his forties.

The meal at the community center would be at noon before the funeral.

It had turned colder. At the dinner, he again saw people he had not seen for years. He saw his cousins, Carolyn and Patricia. Their mother and his aunt Margaret, Daddy’s sister, was there. She was the last one alive out of the five children in the family.

It was a short funereal service that started at two o’clock. But long enough, Ted thought. One preacher gave a talk and another read the obituary. What bothered him most was the attempt to proselytize during the service. A preacher could not avoid it. He considered it in bad taste and unnecessary. The more interesting thing that impressed him was the songs that his cousin sang. Her style was very interesting and different from anything he had ever seen or heard before. He was expecting an old traditional song which would bring back memories and make one feel sad. This was what usually happened at funerals, from what he recalled. He expected something with feeling, like the songs that made him cry when he watched the film “Matewan” about the coal miners in West Virginia.

On the other hand, he observed that it was possible to take a beautiful old song and butcher it to the point of absurdity in a ludicrous style. This was what he observed. One of the songs was Amazing Grace, a beautiful old song, Ted thought. But the way it was done, while certainly amazing, seemed to have nothing to do with grace. The style turned him off totally. There was, he observed, a total absence of humility, the singer reveling in herself filled with self-assuredness and seeming to say, “look at me, how glorious I am and how I can sing this song and you must think I am great coming from a big city.” That was the attitude, it seemed to Ted. The song was sung off key so that one could hardly recognize it. How could one take a simple and elegant song like Amazing Grace and butcher it up to that extent, it was difficult to understand. He thought it was ludicrous. Another old gospel song was butchered in a similar way. He could only speculate as to the reason why.

As this cousin was from one of the churches in a relatively big city, Kansas City and coming back to the small town where she grew up, perhaps she wanted to show the locals and her relatives what she could do, and how talented she had become.

He met the same people again in the cemetery. He hadn’t cried that day. Something had to be genuine to make him cry. And he had not seen much of that.

There was a little brochure from the funereal home with a Biblical quote:

To everything there is a season,

And a time to every purpose under the heaven.

A time to plant and a time to harvest…

Chapter Forty-Four: Memories

Late evening, Ted’s mind drifted back to his time in the Navy. In the summer after the Sonar School in San Diego, he was shipped to Athens to meet his ship, the “Dicky P.” That was the USS Richard L. Page. He took off a month to go to India to be with Lakshmi, his Indian wife and daughter. It was again life in an Indian village. They traveled, going to Simla in the hills.

When he returned to Greece, the Greek military government had collapsed following the Turkish landing in Cyprus.

His ship was not in port and he enjoyed two weeks in Athens in relative freedom from the Navy. They put up transients like him in a small lovely hotel, the Seville Hotel, along the sea in Glyfada. After mustering in the morning, he was free to go off on his own for the rest of the day. He was put on a work party for a couple of days to help unload supplies from trucks, but that was all. They were on standby to be shipped out in short notice.

He fell into the habit of going to the a small night club called “Bobbys,” just up the road from the hotel. Generally he just went there and drank Greek beer. There was a juke box and Greek and western music. He loved the little place. The women who worked there were mostly prostitutes. Some were nice looking young women.

Sometimes the sailors brought cigarettes from the ship or Navy exchange to trade for free beer. Ted used to hang around those places quite a lot when the ship was in Athens, docked at the little port of Elefsis up the coast. He liked the atmosphere in Athens and liked to roam the back areas of the city, just wandering around and taking pictures of the locals. Piraeus, the old part of the city was his favorite. A truly historical Greek place.

It was a beautiful country which he would love to go back to now that he would appreciate it more.

One night, he decided to go for it, just for the experience. It was quite a rip off, he knew, but what the hell. You only live once. There was a sort of madam that arranged a girl for the sailors.

One first had to buy drinks for the girl. Then they sent you to a little booth where you could get lovey-dovey and then one had to buy a bottle of Champagne at an exorbitant price. Finally, one went over with the girl to the hotel across the street, through a side door arranged for that purpose. The police were all around and so the women were sneaking around, but it was generally considered that the police were paid off and surely well aware of the whole operation. Prostitution was not illegal, but there was something that was not just right, the way they were running it.

High on Champagne and having let the deal go down, as Hank Williams used to say, Ted was anxious to get into bed with her. The room was like any other small hotel room in cheap hotels in Greece. Now, he could not even recall what she looked like, but he remembered that she was pretty, blond, and had a nice body.

Ted got out of his clothes and got into bed and helped her take off her clothes. He fondled her breasts. She was not anxious to play long, but rather to get it over with. For her, it was just a job. But she was willing to accommodate him to some extent. Ted enjoyed fondling and kissing her. She asked him to be gentle with her. By this time, naive Ted was in love with her. He was not experienced in dealing with prostitutes. He didn’t even think of her that way, but just as a lovely woman he now had the chance to make love to. Ted just wanted to keep her there and make it last a long time. Presently, she thought that the time was up, and was undoubtedly under instructions from her superiors not to indulge too long, but to cut it off. She started asking Ted to go ahead and finish. Ted thought that was rather cross at the time, but followed instructions and let his explosion come.

Ted took a shower, came out and dressed.

Ted was naive enough to think that he might be able to have some relationship with her. He had asked her if he could meet her somewhere. She pretended to agree, presumably playing along. They presently left the hotel from the side entrance near the road. She held Ted back to check for patrol cars before ducking with him across the road and back into Bobby’s Bar. Ted’s running mate underwent the same therapy that evening. They spent more time after that in the place drinking beer.

Ted had gone back to the hotel room feeling like he had wasted his money, but feeling in love with the woman he had made love to a short while before. After the sexual gratification, he slept like a baby.

The next day, the Navy officer warned of eminent departure for the airport and flight to Naples so that the transients could be dispatched to their respective ships which were underway in the Mediterranean. In the afternoon, they called the word, giving just enough time to throw things into sea bags and drag them down to the hotel lobby. Out the door and into the bus. Hurry up and wait. Standby to standby. Then at five, the whole thing was called off.

Ted felt depressed. The girl had told him she would meet him near a bar in Delta Faleron, and now the bungled Navy ship out had fucked it up. Back in civilian clothes and on the beach, he caught one of the Greek buses headed up to Delta Faleron and waited for her. Was he naive or had he missed her because he was late. He would never know. Ted went back to the bar that night but did not recall ever seeing her again.

A couple of days later, Ted and the other transients were flown out of Athens on a C-130 plane to Naples. It was a Sunday morning. Nice breakfast at the airport base. The lumbering plane rumbled down the runway and slowly rose into the sky. The sailors, some of the officers, were slung into web seats and given a box lunch to eat on the way.

They were put up in a large hotel just up the street from the navy pier in Naples. Across the bay, Vesuvius rose in its splendor. The vast city pulsed with wealth, poverty, sleaze, refinement, history. Sensuous, bold, brash, harsh. A few nights later a street urchin got his Swiss watch, when he went with some guys for a pizza and wine. Ted was used to humoring the street kids in rural India and trusted them too much. Ted was not a typical sailor, being one of the few enlisted men to have a university degree. There was one other guy on the ship like that, a small Jewish guy, who did office work. Ted enjoyed the cities and culture wherever they went so was having an adventure as much as possible.

He read the Kama Sutra on the deck of the oiler out of Siganilla, Sicily. Then he found lovely Maria in Reggio Calabria.

That year, he rode the ship to Barcelona, Naples, Palma Majorca, Lisbon, Canary Islands, and Puerto Rico.

One of Ted’s friends on the ship was Gunner. He was a sort of an alky who after too many beers, would just conk out, go straight to sleep. Then one would have to get him back to the ship however possible. Ted went over from the ship with him in Barcelona, one of his favorite cities. He was good to have along because he was good at meeting women. He had a knack of attracting them. So Ted liked to steam with him.

October in Barcelona was cool after the rough Mediterranean seas. One Sunday he went with Gunner and some other guys to a bullfight. They met a young American woman, a schoolteacher, and then they went off together with Gunner. They started drinking beer and wine at a small place near the port next to the statue of Christopher Columbus. Then they made friends with two other girls and went off with them to other watering places, getting drunk.

In one place, people were buying drinks for them. Then Ted got picked up by a gay guy, who came into the head and showed him his prick while he was taking a piss. Ted was starting to get really drunk. The night wore on. At some point he lost track of Gunner. Ted figured that he probably passed out in one of the places as usual. But later, he said that he had been beaten up and robbed. Ted, on the other hand, kept crawling almost the whole night through the sleazy bars.

At some point, Ted ended up with a middle aged American woman and her daughter. They took him to a plush late-night restaurant at four in the morning. He enjoyed being with them. They took a taxi and went to an area where they sold bread sticks and thick chocolate drink. It was nearing dawn, and they enjoyed some time together as he started to sober up. Then they left him at the port near the pier, down by the Christopher Columbus Statue, where the ship was docked. It was crazy. Instead of going directly to the ship, Ted continued to wander around for some time longer.

When he finally did climb up the brow of the ship, daylight was coming. He went down and changed into his Navy dungarees and came back up on the fantail to help handle lines and help get the ship underway. He was still drunk as a skunk, but not the only one. But he did the work he was supposed to do, enjoying it more in his crazy drunken haze. Later, he figured he was lucky to have made it back to the ship after a night like that. Gunner didn’t make it. Later he had contacted the American Embassy and was sent to another port where the ship picked him up. It was an unauthorized absence (UA), but he would get off easy, after being beaten and robbed. At least that was his story and Ted had no reason to doubt it.

There were other places that came to mind with the flesh trade. Bizerte, Istanbul, Santo Domingo, Port au Prince, San Juan, Lisbon, Grand Canary Island, Valencia, Rome, Tunis, Reggio di Calabria. The little town made him recall his adventures. Maybe it was something of an education about the ways of world.

In at least three places he had been picked up by a homosexual. The first attempt in Barcelona. Then in Rome and Tunis too. In Rome, a Syrian had pulled out his penis and shown it to him. It was stiff and he wanted Ted to start stroking it. That was the night his friend Billy from Indiana bought coke and then they smoked and sniffed it in the room. Then he went down and met the Syrian guy. There were many Ethiopian women on the streets of Rome. Some of the men were gay.

In Istanbul, Ted went with some guys to the red-light district. No red lights, of course. The night was bleak. It was drizzling rain. They took a taxi from Kapali Carsi, the covered bazaar, in the old part of the city, across the Golden Horn and up along the Bosphorus. Then they walked up the long, narrow street to the establishments. There were Turkish men wandering around poking their noses through the bars of the windows and gawking at the women inside. Some were fairly large, middle aged, with their breasts exposed. Fruits of enticement. Some were said to be prisoners, but Ted didn’t know about that. The guy he was with was not interested, but some guys did go in. An older sailor said that according to Turkish Law if it slipped out during intercourse, you were finished. Ted didn’t think much of that legislation, but maybe not worse than most. He was rather amused and reflected upon it from a rather philosophical point of view. It was not appealing to him, the way things were run in the rather sordid place. He had seen many beautiful Turkish women, but they, of course, were not there. He had met a couple of nice-looking young women from Istanbul University and had gone with them to the University one day. He didn’t know if it was proper to go with them or not. Istanbul was a mix of Europe and Asia. One of the great centers of Christianity, historically. He had first been there five years before, on the way back from India.

He had been affected by his study of oriental texts. He studied religions, went deeper into the texts of the Buddhist way of life. He realized that there was really no solution in the belly of the beast. Within the Navy, it was down-hill all the way. It was just waste and sleaze and the only salvation was liberation. However, he did seek an accommodation, a way to find alcoves for himself. This could be done, but not easily or often. He had some fortunate encounters that began to afford some emotional support, but generally, one was not in one place long enough for that. He thought that with his cosmopolitan approach, that he would find this accommodation more easily overseas than in America. From early years, he had felt more at ease in foreign cultures, or rather, the hard-ass stupid naval culture in which he was enmeshed was the most foreign of all. What could be more foreign? It was just a food tube which was sacrosanct and untouchable. What he wanted was to find and elegant, educated, cultured woman who liked him.

In Reggio Calabria, he found Maria. He was in love with her. He knew her in those few weeks that they were in Reggio Calabria and Messina. From Sicily, he took the ferry across to Reggio to see her. The ferry landing was actually to the south of Messina. He wished he could take leave from Genoa or another port to see her. He thought she loved him.

There was not much left in the old city of Carthage. His ship had docked in the port of Bizerte. At Carthage, there were mosaics, complete with an erected penis, which had apparently been the floor of a women’s residence or a harem. The Maghrib, with Arabs in long white robes and the semi-arid desert conditions sometimes reminded him of places in India. The town was interesting with hawkers of silver jewelry and coffee houses. Semi-European, a blend of French and African. He loved to drink beer in an admirably proletarian environment. Here he wanted to see the country. He was not concerned with the women. He noticed that small shops in Bizerte sold sweets similar to those one finds in North India. Milk sweets in colored layers, green, white, pink, sometimes sprinkled with coconut and pistachio. He did go to a brothel with some guys, but it was not enticing to him.

The second day, he took the bus to Tunis. The road wound around a flat semi-arid countryside, passing camps of Bedouins, in their Spartan life styles. A rather distinct part of the world, the fascination of the Maghreb emerged for him. He began to study Islam and Islamic cultures in earnest. The bus rolled across the flat countryside, through the suburbs, and finally the central avenue of Tunis, the peripheral areas with small, rather tacky shops and stalls and craft shops and outer lying residential areas, so strikingly reminiscent of the structures of cities and towns all across the Middle East and on across India to the far East.

Chapter Forty-Five: Full Moon

The party for the Social Science Division was just before the Christmas holiday at Bennington’s house. Ted didn’t know exactly what to expect. Most such events, from his experience would be rather informal. People would just pick up their food buffet style and eat it where they could find a place to sit.

When he arrived, he found that Bennington’s wife, Barbara, had set up small tables all through the house with a full setting of silverware. There was no being casual here. Everything had to be done in a rather feudal manner, it seemed. It was so formal for a private house. Everyone was being partitioned off into separate rooms according to the hierarchy, their rank in the division.

Bennington and the full professors were seated at the big table in the main dining room. Ted ended up being seated with Dick at a small table far out in a small room, a sort of annex, along with the division secretary and her husband who was a cotton farmer. There were four at the table, with Ted sitting across from Dick and the Secretary, Donna, sitting across from her husband, Dennis.

Ted felt like shit the whole time. He thought it was ludicrous and wished he had not come. But, of course, he had to. He wondered why she had not set it up like a buffet and let everybody just take their food and go where they wanted. But he remembered that the same style had been used at the retirement dinner of Karl Whitman. So it seemed to be the way it was done down here.

In the same room, there was another table with Bernie Shaw and his wife and Jerry Jenkins and his wife.

Near the big table, the only black female faculty member was seated along with Bob Black and his rather cute wife.

I hate this feudal ranking, feudal protocol, Ted thought. I am sick of the stupidity around here, he thought. He lived almost completely isolated from it, and when he was exposed to it, he felt absolutely disgusted. Why can’t these people just be more egalitarian and civilized, he thought.

It was awkward being at the table with the farmer and the department secretary. Somehow Ted didn’t have anything in common with him and didn’t feel like making conversation. He wished he could get into asking him all about cotton farming, but it would probably bore his wife. It was going to be a dull affair.

Walking back from the faculty senate meeting, the next day, there was a little girl, about four years old. She ran up to Ted and said: “Now thatcha ya heya, why doncha ya give us somethin?”

Well, what would you like?” Ted asked, trying to be friendly. He hated kids, but sometimes was willing to humor them just for the hell of it.

Geyut lahwust! Nouwa jist geyut lahwust!” she said, spouting venom from her young pink lips. Jesus, it’s amazing, Ted thought, how one could understand the local culture from the kids. Just imagine what she will be like when she is forty.

The kid kept following him for some distance toward his apartment. He suspected that it reflected what her parents said about him in private. Even though it was from a kid, it was somewhat revealing. She thought she was the queen of the hill because her daddy owned the apartments. The little imp.

The next evening, there was a school funding meeting at a nearby town. Ted didn’t have any faith that such meetings would increase the policy toward funding schools, but went anyway, as he was on the Faculty Senate and it seemed appropriate.

The university provided a bus for those who wanted to go. It was the first time he had been involved with most of the faculty. This time several were from the sports divisions.

At the meeting several people got up and made short speeches about the need for more funding. When they left and sat inside the bus, several of the white Cotton State University Faculty started making fun of the black speakers.

One had told a story, speaking about a small boy who wanted to buy some cookies. He asked his mother for some money and she gave him a dime. He went to buy the cookies and told the shopkeeper what all he wanted. She said, “You sure want a lot of cookies for your dime, don’t you.” Except Ted was not sure that Mississippi really wanted education for their dime. The society took care of the brainwashing and that’s what it took to get along.

In the bus, one member of the Cotton State faculty began criticizing the talk. The black who made the speech had mispronounced a word, saying that the “shopkeeper axed the boy what he wanted.”

Thayut made me mayud,” the coach started, “that tha shopkeepah axed that little boya.” He started laughing loudly and then everybody around started guffawing in the back of the bus. Ted was rather amused at their rude and racist childishness.

Weya, that’s whadde said,” he laughed.

He was obviously making fun of the guy’s language because he was black. Ted was rather appalled at that behavior. Ted gave the man who made the speech credit for making a good point. Although actually missing the point in some critical respect.

Then the same faculty member began to make fun of a black woman who spoke, a student at a local junior college.

Anybody wanna go ta Coahoma Junyah Colleej? He yelled out. “Thayut guuhl shou deed.” Making fun of the blacks seemed to be the high sport in the bus. But it left Ted rather down-hearted that these guys were acting in such a juvenile way about a serious issue. Any one of them could be axed with the budget cuts that the Republican honcho Governor in Jackson was bringing down.

It was getting colder. The natural elements were painting a fall scene. The leaves had started to turn yellow, brown and red. For the first time in months, there was some relief from the constant deluge of chemicals. He thought about making love to Billie Jo Moon when he lay down and got a pounding hard-on that just wouldn’t quit. Sometimes he thought she wanted him. But he didn’t know. Didn’t know if she knew that he wanted her. He thought she must have thought about it. Should he go for it? She was a very attractive woman and dressed up when she came to his office. She knows she is attractive, he thought. Mature, fleshy, just right. Racist, for sure, “for shore,” but he fantasized about having her. She had not had children. Her low-cut dresses revealed her still young-looking breasts so nicely. They were not too big and not too small. Like the breasts of a buxom young pubescent girl. And they were tanned nicely. She was exposing those beauties to the sun somewhere. And to him. Exposing them when she leaned forward to give him a view in his office. She told him that it was her work to take care of herself, adding quickly, “and my husband,” without much conviction. And then she had begun lamenting that “women lack sexual freedom.” He wanted to ask her what her idea of sexual freedom was. Was she giving him a hint? Or just teasing, him, the poor son of a bitch. Mississippi women liked to do that. To keep his cock frustrated. Thoughts of that sent his cock straight up when he lay down to sleep in the evenings.

Then she told him that her husband was a little concerned about her coming to Weaselville, for the class she was taking from him. Surely she knew that he was attracted to her because he had complimented her on her tan, when she was wearing that sexy low-cut yellow dress. She was frightfully sexy, no doubt about that. She was sexy-looking and tried to be. He saw from her record that she had graduated from high school the same year as him. Those few gray streaks in her hair, just turned him on even more for her.

She liked Ted’s compliments on her dresses. Ted decided to say,

Well, let’s make this a little more civilized. I am tired of being on one side of the desk with you on the other. We can talk about this over a drink or coffee.” He didn’t know if it would be wise. It would be a trial. It would be an adventure if that was what she was looking for. She told him that she spent most of her time watching TV. She had said in her term paper that she sometimes gets bored. Was that also a hint? When she came in a couple of days, Ted would ask her to go over to the student union for a coffee.

He talked to one of his black students, a very beautiful young woman who worked at a nearby all-white country club. “The work staff is black, that is ‘light-skinned blacks,’” she said. “The manager said that the dark skinned ones are mean. Minnie said that the manager calls them “her little nigras.” Minnie knew all of what was going on, but played the game, playing dumb, using the age old survival technique of blacks in a racist society. She told Ted that she only worked there because the pay was good. She got good tips because she was a beautiful young woman.

Billie Jo came to check on her work. Ted invited her to the student union for a coffee. Ted told her that he loved her hair and touched her hip gently, feeling her warm flesh, when she entered the door before him.

Your dress is very pretty,” he told her. “I love the way you dress up.” He had looked up her record and saw that she was born just seven months before him. They were almost exactly the same age.

When do you have to be home?” Ted asked her.

Oh, my husband has a game, this evenin,” she said. “Ah wooden have to be home befoh maybe ten, when he gets back.”

In that case,” Ted said, “I was thinking that it would be so lovely to have dinner with you. What would you say to that?”

Oh, Ah doughnoh,” she said, “a course, it ud be niyus, but wheya cud we go?”

Well, I know a nice old Italian place,” Ted said. “Of course it is not in Weaselville, but we can be there in half an hour. Take your car and follow me, and you can go back to your place from there. What do you say?”

Oh weya, that’s a very nice offah, but my husband should not know about it.”

No reason why he should,” Ted said.

In half an hour they parked in front of a small family run restaurant in a part of town with old elegant houses, thrown up with the income from Delta plantations in past generations.”

They ordered. Ted decided to order some wine. He didn’t know if she would drink. As it turned out, she did, and they toasted the first glasses. In a little bit, they began to get mellow. Ted reached over and touched her and kissed her lightly on the cheek. They tasted the home made Italian bread and waited for the food. She pulled him back and began to taste his lips and then kissed him passionately. Ted felt her tongue thrust quickly into his mouth and he returned the favor as the bulge in his trousers began to grow. They had broken the ice.

I love you, Billie,” Ted said, “We have to get together. You are so beautiful. I keep thinking of you and want to see you when you are not here.”

Ah thinkah you too, Ted,” she said, “Honey, sometimes it’s so stro ung when Ah’m alone at home. Ah juss wanna rush ta ya, take ya in my ahms and squeeze ya. An…”

The food came. It was delicious. They finished the wine. It had gone down so easily. Ted was tempted to ask for more, but knew Billie Jo had to get back.

Ted, could ya come next Tuesday,” she asked. “My husband will be away at a game an you could come. He will not be home until verah late in tha evenin.”

Ted thought of his schedule. He had an afternoon class, but no matter. He would make a way. Cancel that son of a bitch. He was not going to give up pussy just to teach a fucking class.

They didn’t want to be seen outside the restaurant, so he kissed her again before she left, telling her that he would be there. She had his home number and could call him if anything came up. Just four more days, and then they would be together.

On Tuesday, Ted said that he had to take care of an important legal matter and canceled his class. He drove the forty miles or so to her place across the flat river bottom cotton land. The air was cool and crisp and refreshingly clear of chemicals. In late morning he found her place and quickly slipped inside where she was waiting for him. He was hoping for some affection before they had lunch.

Billie Jo met him at the door. She was in a cute little outfit. A low cut yellow dress that showed even more of her lovely cleavage than she had showed him at the university. When the door was closed, he grabbed her and they melted into each other’s arms, kissing passionately. She was warm and her tan was beautiful. He touched her soft moist skin as her fragrance filled the air. He noticed that her dress zipped down the back. She gave him a glass of cold white wine and they drank to their rendezvous.

Ah’ve made some lunch,” she said, “but fusst theya iz somethin Ah wanna show ya.” She led him into the cozy den. She had closed the curtains of the big windows. “If ya would just unzip my back.”

Ted pulled the zipper down her back, all the way. The dress fell apart revealing her beautiful moist tanned flesh. There was no bra. She let it fall at her feet, now appearing only in her small black lace panties.

I doughn wanna disappoint ya honey. Ah’ve been waitin for ya.”

Is that worth an A in your class?” she asked.

That’s worth an A in any class,” Ted said, as he gathered her in his arms and began to fill his mouth with her delicious ripe breasts.

Why don’t we go for an A plus?”

She quickly opened his belt. As his pants slipped down, his anxious tool sprang upward, stiff. She took it, guiding it to her tender spot. He pressed her back against the divan.

Oh, that feeyuls good,” she said, “Please be gentle. Ay’uv not had it for a while. Be gentle. Fuck me. I want everything you have, honey, you fill me up so nicely. Fuck me, ya stud.”

Ted loved to hear her saying the word “fuck.” It was a nice word, but nicer when a woman said it. At least one like Billie.

Ted took his time, building her pleasure till she started to moan.

Ah always come easily,” she said. “Ah doughnno whya. Ah really like tha way ya feyul inside me. Ah wish Ah could keep ya theya fo evah. Ah like tha way you fuck me.”

Maybe you won’t when you get your grade,” he teased her.

Ted pleasured her harder stirring her deeply.

You do it soo good,” she said. “Ah would like to just keep you inside me.”

Ted felt his climax coming. He pounded hard and exploded.

Oh that’s good. You ah so good,” she said.

You have a wonderful body, he said. I wonder how you keep it so nice.”

Ah take care a myself,” she said. “Ah like to look good.”

They stayed in bed for some time.

Let’s have somethin ta eat,” she said. “We can continya aftah lunch. We have tha whole aftahnoon.”

Oh God, Ted thought. What a woman. She’ll wear me out. But I won’t mind it in the meantime. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

You are finally getting a little of that sexual freedom you have been talking about,” Ted ventured.

Yes, Ah love it,” she said, “but it happens so rayuly. How long wiya this last. Gaayud only knows.”

Ted wasn’t sure if God knew and anyway there was no reason why he should care that he was banging an aging woman somewhere down in the Mississippi cotton fields. God had given him the cock and balls and given him the proclivity to use them, the proclivity that drove him to it, irrational as it was. Like a dung beetle rolling his manure, he carried on in his biological slavery. Maybe that was the meaning of life. Maybe that was all there was. There was more than one way to be a slave.

They made love again in the afternoon, and fell off into a nap. Ted left in time to drive back to Weaselville. She may not have been his best student in some ways, but he was pretty fucking sure that she would get an A in his class.

Chapter Forty-Six: Chains

Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”

Dr. Grover began his lecture on Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. He began by asking the students to consider what democracy is and what democracy is for Rousseau.

Rousseau tells us that man began his life in nature, the Noble Savage, where he was free after a fashion. But when he entered civil society, he lost his freedom. This society which he entered was tied up with the establishment of private property, and the state, but here man loses some of the freedom he enjoyed as a noble savage. Rousseau seeks a way to transcend this condition so that man can again be as free as before, but be both free and civilized, unlike the Noble Savage in the state of nature. He can be free, being his own master, and at the same time protect himself and his property. In other words, it is a three step process, from the Noble Savage, to the man in civil society, to the man who both lives in the civilized state and is free. This is a classical dialectic, Dr. Grover pointed out. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

Now, in the Social Contract, Rousseau thinks he has found the formula which will again make man free. This will happen when the General Will prevails in society. But what is the general will?

Grover spends some time in discussing what the general will might be. “There are a couple of possibilities. It might be God. This would entail the idea that one becomes free by obeying God. Another possibility is that it might just be what is actually good for society. It might be that which will actually make society better or the world better and is good for the people.

What it clearly is not, for Rousseau, is the type of democracy envisioned by John Locke, in which the majority rules. The general will cannot generally emerge from an arithmetical politics, because this is what people want, not what they need or what is good for them. It may be, as in most cases, that the people do not actually know what is good for them. That is surely the general condition. It is so even more today, surely, because the media and politicians lie to them at every turn about what is the best for them. Which car, which toothpaste, which campaigning politician and so on, they are told will be best for them. So the people cannot generally reach the general will by voting, except perhaps in exceptional cases. They will end up getting a Ronald Reagan or a George Bush, which is certainly good for some, but is it good for society in general?

Now it may be that only a minority, only a few know what the general will is. It may even be that only one individual in society knows what the general will is. And then in this case, if it becomes the policy, it would have to be imposed upon society. It would seem that Plato’s Philosopher King would be an example. But maybe also Lenin’s central committee or the ruling vanguard party that knows the truth about what is best. Then it is the duty of this small group to impose it upon the people and force them to be free.

So the idea of the general will is really the opposite of libertarian democracy. It is perhaps what has become known as Jacobinism, from the French Revolution. This might be the basis for making society better, but it might also be the basis for authoritarianism, such as Leninism, rule by a vanguard party, an institutional Moses leading the people to glorious revolutionary freedom. Perhaps a sort of civil religion, in the case of Rousseau, that everyone will be pressured into believing and supporting.

Ted pauses to give an example from Henrik Ibsen’s play, “The Enemy of the People.”

In this play, people come to the small resort town to take the baths. But a local doctor discovers that the baths are being polluted by a local factory. He tries to warn the people, but the town newspaper will not publish his letter because the owner of the newspaper has some money invested in the factory. The doctor becomes the “Enemy of the People,” because he goes against the bourgeois economic interests of the local economy. He challenges what we would today call “the market.” Today the doctor would probably be asked if he was a communist, spreading rumors about the poison in the baths. But, in fact, the market is killing the people, and this is exactly the opposite of what is good for them. The doctor is the Socratic gadfly, trying to save the people, but their arithmetical market politics is herding them toward the cliff like a stampede of mad lemmings. Could anything better depict the condition of society today? Only the doctor knows the general will, but the bourgeoisie does not want to hear it. It threatens their profits. And many of the people do not want to hear it. It threatens their jobs.

Then Grover and the students begin to hear the crop duster planes circling over the building and dive bombing back into the cotton fields, preparing the fields for the new crop.

See, there they are. Dumping that stuff on our heads,” Dr. Grover points out, “and it will go on for the whole year till the last boll of cotton is picked and baled. They are killing us. Literally. Literally. They are killing us. The market that dictates all this dumping of chemicals is killing us. But the market must go on. The market rules. It is the opposite of the general will, in Rousseau’s terminology, but it rules and it is killing people who are going to the hospitals to get their lungs pumped out and dying of cancer by the dozens.”

Grover discussed the political economy of hazardous waste and how the market was shoving it down the throats of the people in the county where he was from up in North Missouri. And the courts ruled that the people could not even give an opinion about it on the ballot, when some local citizens opposed the wishes of the local business clique in the town which stood to profit.

Didja heyah about their tryin to git a toxic waste dump down in Washington County,” one of the students brought up. “An it seems like noya they ara tryin ta jist keep it quiyut so people wan hear about it.”

Yes, I know,” Grover said. “Another good example of how the market gives people what is exactly not good for them, although sometimes one can make them accept it by the fact that it provides a few jobs and some tax dollars. This is a case where the people are usually smart enough to reject it so the authorities are afraid to let them vote on it. In this case the majority of the people already know the general will and vote for it. But they may be thrown off the rails by all the corporate lies and propaganda.”

Back to the example of Cotton, Grover went on,

Now we hear the planes circling over the building and dumping chemicals on the fields, dumping them literally on our heads. Put to a vote, it will likely continue, because of the business interests and simply that so many people in the Delta make their living by working in cotton, in the Agra-business industry, which is generally rice and cotton. But what is really good for the people is probably to stop it all together.

A gaggle of student’s voices arise questioning how this could be done.

What ayah weya goin ta do heya if we doughn grow cotton,” one student said. “We gotta grow cahtun. Stoppin it would rooyun tha beesnesus a many fahmahs and othahs heya.”

Well, yes, that is what I was pointing out,” Grover says. “People will insist on planting cotton even if it kills every last man, woman, and child in the country, because it is so much in the blood and also the economic bloodline of the Mississippi Delta. It is actually part of the economic structure of the local economy. So it would cause much dislocation for some people at first.”

But, there is the idea that sometimes people have to be forced to be free,” Grover continued. “Left to their own choices, people may never make the right choices to be free. In this case, to be free of chemical pollution. To be sure, they are making economically rational decisions, but these rational decisions are killing them and their families. They are what Amartya Sen calls ‘rational fools.’” Ted drove the point home.

The economists love these decisions that are perfectly utility maximizing and rational but which put people flat in the grave.”

He wanted to say “fucking grave,” but held back the fucking.

Of course it seems a contradiction to say that one will force individuals to be free, but it has some truth in it. Take the example of a drug addict. Left on his own, he will do everything in his power to keep getting and taking drugs. The same with an alcoholic. He will go right on destroying himself. He will have to be confined and forced to go cold turkey to get cured and rehabilitated to be a productive human being.

Just as in this case, the Mississippi Delta is addicted to growing cotton. It needs to be forced to be free, if it is going to be a safe place to live. Growing cotton is not even profitable. It loses money. It is not even rational from an economic standpoint. The planter banks will not even loan the money to plant cotton unless they know the farmer is in line to get his dollars at the end of the year from the government. Farmers plant cotton and the government buys their votes with subsidies and the people are sent to the graves with cancerous lungs. Growing cotton here is completely superfluous. The market is already flooded by cotton from Egypt and Gujarat in India. What the farmers are really growing is not cotton at all, but federal dollars for their Lincoln Town Cars, and cancer for the local population.

Ted was starting to be a raving maniac communist, now, but the students understood that he wasn’t shitting. It was true as fuck and they knew he was spelling out the political economy of the Delta, to a T. Even Cotton State University was tied into a network of farmers pulling down a million dollars a year from Washington in cotton subsidies. Sixty Minutes even did a documentary on it, rather scandalous, but business as usual in the Delta.

Look,” Grover continued, “how this chemical so-called crop protection works. Here come the boll weevils. First, you spray a couple of times a year to stop them. But then those that survive breed and evolve a new tougher species and one has to spray four times the next year to stop them. And so on. Now the farmers are spraying them twenty times a year and they still cannot stop them. But they are stopping the people and putting them in the grave.

Ted pointed out that in Nicaragua they had figured out how to control the weevils with natural methods without using chemicals. Yes, the chemical industry or so-called crop protection industry has a hand in keeping farmers growing cotton where the society would be better off if they were growing something else.

Then after controlling the weevils, the farmers have to spray again to make the leaves fall off the cotton so they can pick it,” Ted pointed out.

More planes were buzzing and dive bombing overhead.

Here they come. See, just listen,” Ted said. “They keep dumping this stuff on our heads. Killing us. Someone needs to say: Stop! Stop, you idiots!”

A plane is dive bombing back to the fields. “Bbbrroooooooommmmaaaaaaaa…..” the crop duster pilot pushes forward the stick in the cockpit to lay down another swath of deadly chemicals as the plane buzzes across the long, flat, field and circles to dive down again.

Don’t you know that you are killing us and yourselves? Stop it. Just stop it. We have to force you to be free.”

So the dilemma exists for us right here that libertarian democracy is a real danger to the health and well-being of most people.

Getting back to Rousseau, the philosopher thinks he has resolved the contradiction between government authority and being free. Forcing people to be free with the general will. When it comes to things that will kill you, one can make that a relevant point. Perhaps the old fascist slogan: ‘Obedience to the law is freedom’ holds in this case, depending upon ones values.”

But giving priority to health and the ecology will never be done under the logic of the market in the capitalist system,” Grover pointed out. “We can find any number of examples in the US today. The damage done is called externalities by economists. People dying of poison is just an externality and it is never a consideration in deciding what is rational in the market.”

In a more general sense,” Ted argued, “Rousseau has not resolved the contradiction between authority and freedom. And he has provided the formula and rationale for a dictatorship if taken to its logical conclusion. The rationale is for a Jacobin democracy, which can force the good as well as the horrible on society. The dictatorship of the proletariat and peasants was a great Leninist concept, but became a disaster in the hands of Stalin.”

As someone who really wants freedom, as a sort of philosophical anarchist,” Ted argued, “it seems to be a dangerous concept when applied across the board. The right of political dissent is precious against both governments and the prejudices of societies. On the other hand, majoritarian rule can only result in good government when one has a highly educated people and people’s opinions are not shaped by massive corporate or political propaganda. Neither condition is seen in contemporary so-called capitalist society.”

Let us continue next time, and watch out for those crop dusters. Think about these issues and bring some intelligent comments next time. See you next class.”

Dr. Grover collected his notes. He didn’t know to what extent he was getting through to them. Some students actually liked the discussion. The crop dusting planes were providing a nice prop to illustrate his points.

Chapter Forty-Seven: Christian Boy

Ted had a week off before the trip to India. He had signed on for a six-week summer Fulbright excursion to India. In May, he drove up to the old home place in Missouri to see his parents. The drive was long and boring up through Memphis and Cape Girardeau, the flat lands next to the Mississippi River. Past the cape, the small rolling hills began. First came small undulations, dark green, blue haze and lighter green pastures. Outcroppings of red and white stones appeared along the roads.

He realized that Missouri did have its attractions after living down in the Delta. The hills almost looked like small mountains, after growing used to the flat lands along the Mississippi river. He thought of the observation of Marx, that the height of the intellect of the people matched the lay of the land, dull and abysmally flat. The flatter the land, the flatter the intellect.

He stopped at Wentzville and called his parents to let them know that he was on his way up. By three in the afternoon he was through Saint Louis and made it to north Missouri by eight in the evening. He braced himself up with another chocolate milk shake at McDonalds in Brunswick.

When they came out on the porch, his parents did not look that much older. When had he seen them last? His mother was in her late seventies and his father, born in 1900, was now almost ninety. They had been planning to go to Arkansas to see some of the places where his mother grew up, but they had canceled the trip. Not really up to it, they thought.

He was impressed by the lush greenery of the countryside in North Missouri, all the grass and shrubs. His father had made some garden and planted cantaloupe seed. It was a difficult task at his age. The big old Walnut tree in the front yard was nearly 150 years old and he wanted to have it removed as he was afraid that it might fall on the house.

He sat in the yard under a small shady Ash tree to escape the TV which was running continuously inside the house. Every so often a preacher would rear his well-groomed head out of the cathode ray tube to begin casting his audience into hell flames. At least those like Ted didn’t stand a chance. Better to avoid that if at all possible. In the evening a storm came up and reports came on the radio of funnel clouds in the area. His sister and brother-in-law came to avoid staying in their trailer which could blow away like a leaf in the wind.

He read and lay in the bed in the nude before sleeping.

The mornings were cool. From the upstairs room which had been his as a child, he looked toward the woods on west hill. He had never really appreciated the area, growing up here, until he lived in Mississippi. The area along the river was one of the most rough and scenic areas in the county. It might be a sort of retreat, he thought, from modernization and urbanization. He needed a woman.

In a little bit, his younger brother who lived on the hill, descended with his kids. They brought four riding mowers and began to roar around, cutting the grass. His mother began bragging about all the things they did.

Who are the other guys going to India,” his mother asked him.

About half of them are women,” he told her.

What are you going to do with this old house after me and daddy are gone?” his mother asked.

He was sure it would not depend upon him.

I don’t know. I am sure I’ll not be living here,” he said. He wondered what future there was in it. He heard his brother talking about fixing his truck. His brother and family would likely get the house, he imagined.

When he lay down to read, he heard his mother downstairs reading out loud some propaganda from Charles Collson about a prison fellowship program. Ted recalled that he was one of Nixon’s crooks, one of the Watergate burglars who went to jail. Part of that Republican goon squad to ensure that Nixon got reelected. Now he was appealing to people like his parents in the rural countryside for money. What a racket, Ted thought. The son of a bitch should probably still be in jail. It was disgusting to hear it and wondered why she insisted on reading it out loud. He knew they sent money to preachers. Would they be sucked in and send money to this crook too?

One day he was looking at one of his mother’s old picture albums. She started talking about his childhood.

Ted, God has a plan for you,” his mother informed him.

Oh God, I knew she would start throwing that on me, Ted thought. He tried to ignore it.

Then she brought up Dennis Jackson an old high school classmate. Why? He thought. What have I got to do with him? The idea seemed to be to tell Ted what a great guy he was because he had said something, seemingly, in praise of Ted. It was nothing one way or another, as far as Ted was concerned, what he thought of him. I don’t have a small-town mentality. Why bring that up?

He has changed so much,” she said. “He told people at the church that you were a good Christian boy.”

By what criteria? Ted thought. And who is he to judge? What the hell does he know about what I am. It was the first time that Ted recalled having been accused of being a Christian. He had been accused of being a communist often enough, but a Christian? Now that was surely quite a stretch.

Well, I don’t know what he means by that,” Ted said. “Maybe he has me confused with someone else.”

Dennis had also been in the same church as Ted when they were in high school. But in school, he was a sports star, playing football, basketball, and other sports and getting the popularity that went with it. He remembered a small speech that Dennis had given in school in his senior year. Those, like Ted, who did not play sports, were “scrubs” and completely worthless people, Dennis had said in his budding world view. At the end of the year when they were exchanging yearbooks, Ted remembered that Dennis had asked him,

What are you going to do this summer, Ted?”

I will do some farming,” Ted had told him. After all, he did enjoy driving the tractors and doing the farm work.

Farming corrodes a person,” Dennis said flippantly, seeming to put him down and dismissing his idea.

So, what the fuck? In the fall, Dennis went to Bible school in Springfield and studied to be a preacher and was now wearing a white suit and white suede leather shoes and preaching in a church in New Jersey. Ted had gone to the state University, and later to India in the Peace Corps and had sailed to several countries in the Navy. Now he was a professor. An evil fucking professor. Maybe even an atheist. Who is corroded? Ted thought. Who is he to judge and tell other people about me? After all, he had not seen him since they had left high school so many years ago.

You should go see Tim Field,” his mother told him. He too had been a high-school classmate and was now a farmer and lived somewhere near the local town. She showed him an article from the local paper about him being a hog specialist.

I doubt that we would have much in common to talk about,” Ted said. He didn’t know that much about hogs. Well, not official hogs, at least. Although they had taught him how to cut their nuts off in vocational agriculture many years ago, he had never found that skill useful. Come to think of it, he had come across quite a few hogs, but not that type. He would have liked to cut the nuts off of some of them, but the opportunity did not present itself. At the time, he was not really concerned to meet his old classmate Tim.

His mother kept talking about “God’s plan.” After a while it began to get on his nerves. At some point, he would break. She would break him down, and then foolishly, he would say something logical. Something that just didn’t line up with God’s Plan. It just couldn’t work. It wasn’t possible in such a situation. One way or another one would be made to regret it. Either being quiet, or saying something. There was no way out. But he knew damn well that she knew that the continuous harping on “God’s Plan” was going to send him straight through the ceiling at some point.

Well, maybe just a simple point of order to put things in perspective would not be so egregious.

There is probably another element,” he suggested. “The guys who stayed here, like Tim Field, Bill Landy, and so on, who became agricultural experts, were nurtured in the nest, because they found out that they were something around here, in terms of social class, without making too much of an effort. If they had gone somewhere else, they would be nothing unless they really worked hard and excelled. Somehow they yearned to return to the nest and doing agriculture and hogs came easy to them.”

He thought, after all, that those in the family who had stayed home were, after all, the most favored. The fact that someone had to remark about how well somebody turned out, revealed the expectation that they would likely be a failure. It was just like the remark that “some blacks are just as smart as whites.” Maybe Dennis was astounded that Ted was not a failure, as he had been slated to be by the society in which he had grown up.

He remembered another similar occasion. He and his sister sometimes hitched a ride back to the university after a holiday with another student. He remembered David, a town kid whose father sold insurance. Ted got a ride back with him after the New Year’s Holiday.

What are you going to major in?” David had asked him.

Well, I think I will major in Physics,” Ted told him.

You? You will major in Physics?” David said in a shocked tone of voice. He knew that David’s father sold insurance in the local town, and everyone had always assumed that the boys from the farm would naturally major in agriculture when they went to the university. Was it because they were looked down upon socially? They certainly had been all their lives by the town dwellers.

Maybe Dennis’s remark about him being successful was not so much praise, as astonishment that he had not followed the path marked out for him by his social class. So Ted put little stock in it.

For his mother, when one succeeded, it was because “God had blessed them.” Not because they had worked hard and busted their ass and succeeded in spite of all the odds against them.

Ted tried to remain emotionally aloof. Otherwise he would end up saying things that were not so innocuous and have feelings of guilt.

His mother shifted tactics.

Why right up there in that church, the preacher said that it would tear the church apart if Rachel held her wedding there.” Rachel was his older sister, who had married a Chinese guy. “Why look at Francis. He has provided such a good living for Rachel.”

Since he makes a lot of money, he can now become an honorary white, Ted thought. It reminded him of the Delta Chinese, who bent over backward to be conservative and curry favor with the ruling classes. At least this removed their untouchability, which was attached to them when they were coolies building the railroads.

And then we have Lakshmi” she continued.

Oh my God, what is the purpose of this? Ted thought. One could not escape the Calvinistic obfuscations.

Ted had started to have enough. He made a fatal mistake, trying to insert logic into the situation.

If one suggests that one’s life is just a big plan, that there is someone behind the scenes planning it, then it really takes the responsibility and blame off the individual,” he said. “If one is lazy and does nothing, then that is part of God’s plan and if one works hard and accomplishes something that too is part of God’s plan. So either way, it really doesn’t matter what one does. It is like karma in India. Things could not have been otherwise, and yet every minute, one is told that they are at risk of falling into sin.”

It was clear that he had exhausted his three days of freedom. From now on, there would be attempts to make inroads into his thinking. In the eyes of one’s parents, one never grows up. Truly, you can’t go home again.

Chapter Forty-Eight: Diamond Lake

Ted had realized for the last year that it was over with his wife after his last trip to Carmel. Once in the apartment, it was clear that his wife, Lakshmi wanted nothing to do with him. She refused even to lay down in the same room with him. Her attitude was simply that it was OK if he came to see the kids, but she would have nothing to do with him. Her student career at the university was ending without completing her degree. Ted thought she must have been dismissed from the master’s program, but there was no discussion about that from her. In any event, he was persona non grata in the apartment which she considered exclusively hers. That was when he decided to take out an ad in the New York Review.

He made contact with a woman in upstate New York that year through his ads. Cecilia Bruner was a writing instructor at a rich kids college in Diamond Lake. Harding College was up on the Hudson River. He received the first letter from her and her picture when on the road to Austin, Texas, for a conference. She seemed very appealing. Cute, attractive, in her fifties, she was sitting in the open under a tree with a smile and a look that suggested a hunger for good sex. She was showing her long seductive legs. He wrote back at once and they talked by phone when he returned from the conference. Ted promised to meet her at the first opportunity.

Ted spent the summer in Madison, rather than head for California. He had always wanted to live in Madison, having gone there a number of times for conferences. He was writing frequently to Cecilia, often erotic letters, that she adored.

Your letter came today, and so did I, five minutes later,” she wrote. It was a response that Ted found refreshing. Most women, it seemed, did not like or appreciate eroticism in a love letter. He told her how he would like to take her from behind in the shower. He told her how he would like to look deep into her eyes while he made love to her. She liked it. He liked women who liked the word “Fuck.” She told him she thought he was cute and fantasized about making love to him.

In June, Ted decided that it was time and suggested that he could come to Jewel Lake for a week or so. At first, Cecilia was hesitant, but perhaps it was just for show. She thought it would be fine.

From Madison, it would be a two day drive. He stayed in the Locust Grove Motel in Madison, Ohio and arrived the second day in the early evening. When he pulled into her driveway, Cecilia came out to meet him.

You made it,” she said, laughing. There were those lovely peaches he had been meditating upon for all those miles. He got out of the car and they embraced. It was good to stretch his muscles.

She took him into the house. They sat down at her kitchen table.

What would you like to drink?” “Do you have a beer?” he asked.

He downed the first beer, a Michelob, quickly, and she supplied with another one.

You look good. Good enough to eat,” she said.

Is that a promise?” he asked. “Absolutely,” she said.

Even though they had just met, somehow he got the feeling that they already knew each other. They had both been farm kids, and were now both academics.

He had his hands all over. Delicious in that little short skirt, she felt delicious. She was some ten years older than him, mid-fifties, but that cute ass in that short denim skirt looked so delicious that he couldn’t help himself. She was divorced and had a couple of children in the university, and now wanted nothing to do with marriage. Men were for enjoyment. “I am somewhat of a slut” she would tell him later, when they went out to drink some beer. She liked Dos Equis, that Mexican beer. He noticed how she had eyes for the young male students that she liked and enjoyed hanging out with them.

They had a simple dinner of sandwiches. Then she took him for a whirl in her new small car around Jewel Lake. She showed him the small college where she worked. It was an elite establishment. Elegant, he thought, after Cotton State. She would take him there tomorrow to meet some of her colleagues. He said he would help her pack up some books in her office.

A little later, after he had kissed her heartily, he opened her blouse and began to go after her breasts. She was ready. “Let me close my blinds first,” she said. “My neighbors will see.” He found that she was renting the rooms upstairs. She offered him her fleshy fruits. They were lovely with her pink berries popping out hard for his lips and tongue.

They would hang it up for the night. Ted stripped and got under the comforter to wait for her. Cecelia undressed and came in a light shift. They embraced. “I’m little tired. I don’t know how I will be tonight,” Ted hedged. She was game. Then he mounted her and felt her warm sweetness. Oh yes. It was fine for a first encounter. He didn’t know if she had an orgasm, but it was a nice beginning. Then they slept.

She brought him real coffee in bed the next morning. That was a terribly elegant and wonderful treat after his utilitarian existence. The caffeine surged though his veins and up to his brains. When he heard her enter the shower, Ted stepped out of bed. Slipping into the shower with her, he took her from behind, just as in his fantasy letters. She was all soft and open. He told her that he loved her and then his explosion came.

She made pancakes for breakfast. She promised to take him to the university. But first he had to kiss her and have her again. This was the best time of all.

Oh Ted, you like to fuck me a lot,” she said, “not that I mind. I think we are going to get along fine.” She told him that she liked being fucked by new men a lot. In fact, she wanted to be fucked, not loved. She didn’t care to hear Ted lie that he “loved” her. She had gone beyond that. She wanted him, as a man, to please her, pleasure her and give her a beautiful orgasm like a man was meant to do. He had read the picture right. She was hungry for sex. For a good man. A hard man is good to find.

At the college, he helped her box up some books to move to another building. He enjoyed working with her. She had great legs which she showed pleasingly with her short denim sexy skirt. He could have pulled her skirt off and had her again right then and there in her office. Yes, older women her age, in their lovely fifties, are great, he thought. She didn’t want a commitment from him. She just liked him because she thought he was cute and could have fun with him. He liked sex, just like her.

In the afternoon, they watched a film at home. He kissed her lips from time to time and kept his hands feeling her body. She cradled him on her breasts. Their attention altered from the film.

He suddenly wanted to make love to her. He slipped his tool out and made love to her till she had panted her pleasure. He knew she had come at least once before she finished him off.

Oh Teddie, I didn’t expect that so suddenly, but God, it was nice. You are nice, but you should let me get my clothes off before you screw me. You must have wanted it badly.”

You make me want you, Cecilia,” he said, “I think I have a weakness for older women like you. You are cute. God, you are a good fuck.”

I’ll tell you a secret,” she said. “Last year one of my students fucked me right here in my house. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I seduced him. He came here to get some help on his paper. He was a really cute guy, the best guy on the football team. While I was tutoring him, my blouse was quite open. He kept looking at my tits. His cock started getting hard. He couldn’t stop it. Then he said, “can we take a break from that?” Then he kissed me. He put his mouth on my breast and kissed me. I knew what he wanted, so I slipped my clothes off. He undressed and I took him into the bedroom and let him fuck me. It was delicious to have a beautiful young man inside me after all the years. His explosion inside me was fabulous. Even though his technique was somewhat rough, it was greatly refreshing after years of marriage. We had fun and fortunately nothing came of it. We kept the secret and guess what. He even got an A on his paper which he didn’t deserve, but I didn’t have the heart to give him what he really deserved. I am really sort of a slut looking out for opportunities that come but rarely. I like it with young men and so try to make myself look younger. Sure, I need a job, but I can be a little less cautious at my age. I have some young men in mind in the university that it would be simply adorable to have in bed with me if I had the chance seduce them. I think sex with young well-hung men is glorious.”

I wish you luck,” Ted said.

The week passed quickly. Cecilia arranged a picnic at Diamond Lake. They spent a good part of the day there. In the evening, it rained and they went to bed early. It seemed so natural to be sleeping with a woman after so long without it. In recent years, even when his wife had sex with him, she hadn’t wanted to sleep with him the whole night. Pressing her lovely warm nude body to his, he said that he wanted to come in the cold winter time and cuddle with her under the cover and just enjoy her lovely body. We can arrange it, she said, coddling his tool in her hand, which had become hard. I’m a woman that likes the taste of a man, she said, feeling of him.

They went to Glittering Glass State Park and walked all around the lake and through the woods. Standing above the lake, he kissed her. It was a beautiful scene. In the mornings, they had coffee in bed and stayed till ten. Then Cecilia got up and made chocolate chip waffles. She told him that her brothers were Mike and Ted, just like Ted and his brother. He thought things were definitely looking up, after the years in Mississippi.

At Glittering Glass State Park, they made a fire and cooked hot dogs. A night on the town, she took him to the Autumn cafe to drink Mexican beer. That was the night she told him she was somewhat of a slut. That night she took him home and made love to him wildly in her own special bed with the fancy ruffles around the bottom. He fantasized that she was his new wife, but she just wanted a lover.

The next day she left for Tennessee for a summer training camp for writers. She was milking her former husband for all he was worth. Ted would certainly see her again if at all possible.

Ted drove back to Madison listening to his new Bob Dylan cassette and fantasizing about her beautiful body. He would see her again the next month.

Chapter Forty-Nine: Prickley Hall

I wish you could fuck me tonight,” she wrote. Ted got a hard-on just thinking about it. It was another letter from Cecilia in upstate New York. He wished it too. He loved those sexy letters. He had written her an erotic letter a few days before. She wrote back: “Your letter just came and so did I, five minutes later. When are you going to come and fuck me for real, honey? I can’t wait to have your big beautiful tool up inside me the way you promised me you would. I wish you could fuck me tonight.”

Cecilia was a western Pennsylvania woman raised on the farm. They had struck it off nicely in their first week together in the summer, having a lot of sex and exploring the area together. She taught writing and flirted with the young guys. Ted remembered how she took him to bars and called herself “a slut.” Making love in the shower in the morning after freshly brewed coffee in bed was divine. Ted liked loving her in the afternoon, getting turned on and finishing off rowdy romp. She liked it straight. One of Ted’s lovers had told him that sex using a condom was like taking a shower with a raincoat. Ted loved the way she showed her tanned legs in those short denim skirts and effused a sort of sexual hunger for good men.

Now he would meet her again in Big Bend. She was attending a course at Hudson College.

He had to spend the night in New York, but took the early morning train up to Big Bend on the Hudson. He had the phone number of the inn where she was staying and called from the station. Someone tracked her down in the breakfast room and he heard her voice. She was clearly excited. “I’ll be down in five minutes,” she said.

She came in her small new car. He got in next to her. He loved her cute shorts and long beautiful tanned legs. He felt his balls tingle as he touched the tanned satin flesh of her legs. She took him back to the inn and they made love ten minutes later. He hadn’t forgotten her lovely fruits, but now renewed his acquaintance with them, soft and mature in a mid-fifties woman. She gave him that feminine taste, which he always found somewhat curious. She was wet and warm and open and ripe to be stirred with his stiff throbbing ladle till he reached his limit and released of his pent up lust.

Then he slept. When he woke up later in the morning, they played again. He took his time, enjoying what he had been missing and anticipating all during that long bus ride from the west coast across all those cowshit states. Nothing nicer than a mature ripe woman who enjoys a good hard man, he thought. After he worked her over, giving her what she wanted, he let her kill him again in rapture. He finished off with hard pounding strokes as her lovely rose sucked the last drops of his substance. That was the delicious end he had waited for. She was so good. What could be better? He loved those eyes. He could almost be falling in love.

Sexually satiated, they repaired to a greasy spoon diner to do some serious damage to their stomachs with big cheeseburgers, made on the spot. None of that McDonalds factory crap. God, her legs were beautiful. He touched her tanned leg as she drove. It was easy to slip his fingers inside her shorts and feel her warm delicious pink toffee as they glided around the curves along the Hudson River. He wanted to get her wet again. She was vibrant, so vibrant and a lovely woman and was having a good time with him.

In the afternoon, he took another nap in the room in the college dorm, as she attended the afternoon session. He was getting rested up from all those grueling cowshit miles. Half past four, she appeared. She came to him and they kissed. Irresistible. Hungry lips and sparkling eyes. He pulled her little yellow panties off at once and took her right there in the dorm bed holding nothing back. She liked it quick and hard. She had found her lusty farm boy.

In the evening she took him to a restaurant she knew. The place was crowded, but when they got a table, the food was good. Later, they walked around the town. It seemed that many of the churches had been converted into bars. Just another way to worship, he thought. Then they got rested up with a long nights sleep.

In the morning, he spent some time in meditation, mesmerized by her gorgeous ass, just how nice an ass could be, as he made love to her again, squeezing out every ounce of pleasure from every angle till he couldn’t stand it any longer and she took him down. How he loved her broad delicious ass, beautiful and seasoned to please a man. God, but her breasts were beautiful and he had left his teeth marks on them in the passion of yesterday.

I promise I won’t ask you to love me, honey, but please promise to be my slut,” he begged her. Life was funny. If they had met when he was younger, he could be the old man paying her alimony to send the kids to the university, instead of being free and enjoying her sweet treats that she so generously endowed. He enjoyed lying next to her and pressing her beautiful warm velvet body to his.

She wanted him to come again up to her small town, and make love to her in that special bed. None of this falling in love. Just pure lust, unadulterated fucking till her brains fell out. But now he was out, on the train again, headed back to New York and beyond. He couldn’t make it. He had to get back. A chapter in his life was almost coming to an end.

Back in Prickley Hall, eight professors were dying of cancer. This is an awfully high proportion of the people in this building, Ted thought. It surely is out of all proportion to what some natural rate should be. It turned out that most of the buildings on the Cotton State University Campus were full of asbestos, especially the material used for the ceilings. The State of Mississippi had sued the company that made the asbestos and Cotton State had closed down one dormitory to remove the material at high cost. Lawyers were coming to take depositions from individuals who worked on campus.

Ted had heard about it before and decided to take it more seriously now that more of the staff began being diagnosed with cancer. He learned that there was a notice posted in the ground floor of the building warning about the danger and saying that a report was available for public inspection. Funny, Ted thought. He had been down there so many times and never noticed any such sign.

One day Ted went down to see if there was really such a sign. It took a while, but after some searching, he found it, down at the end or the hallway, back in a sort of corner alcove. It had been posted in such an inconspicuous place, Ted noticed. One really had to be looking for it to actually see it. If officials had wanted to warn people of something, it would be the last place they would post the sign. They had hidden it back in that corner.

Down in the coffee lounge, when the topic came up, another professor pointed out that the building was not only full of asbestos, as if that was not enough, but the cement blocks used for the construction were made out of recycled radioactive material. Now that’s delightful! Bring a Geiger counter into the building and it would go wild, he said. Then one day Bennington pointed out that there was playground equipment in some of the schools in the town that had been made from recycled radioactive metal. Now that ought to give your kids a healthy glow!

Jesus, Ted thought. And I have been living and working in here all these years, and I was working to get a smoking policy established on campus, while the real danger was that I was being microwaved, cooked all the time from the fucking walls and my lungs polluted with asbestos from the ceiling tiles.

Just what the hell did that report say? Ted wondered. Ted got a brochure from the EPA that said that asbestos should be removed and disposed of safely. But some were saying that it is better not to disturb it at all, but just leave it alone.

He heard his neighbor Bernie Shaw who was again pissed off. When was he not? He had talked about “killer African bees” in his class that morning and a black student had complained about referring to them as African.

Good point!” Ted thought. “Shit, these students really can think. He loved to hear old Bernie foaming at the mouth in there. Best way to keep an old former cop out of trouble.”

Ayyum tieyud a heeyun this heya black cultchu, black thees, black thayut,” he was preaching to a white student. “Whayuts this cuntry ah comin to? Theya gettin a way outa lieyun. Whaz wrong with Afracun beez?”

A local TV news story in the evening reported on the opening of a Federal Housing Project. Some lucky recipients were being interviewed about what they thought about it.

Thayunk Gahad! Look what Gahad diyud. Gahad cundo anythin,” Ted heard one poor white who would get a small flat saying.

Ted was inclined to agree. It was probably about as close to a miracle out of scripture that one would find around Weaselville.

Ted called up the number he found on the asbestos sign and talked to a Mr. Dan Gates. He said that the report was not available at the moment but he would call the person who had it and get it back so Ted could see it.

A few days later, Ted called again with the same result. Ted pointed out that it was supposed to be available for inspection, according the notice in the building.

A few days later, Ted called again asking if the report was back yet. It seemed that Gates almost dropped the phone when he told him he needed to see the report.

Gates said that he was very busy giving depositions and could not give it to Ted.

Anawayah,” Gates said, “I cayunt jist givit ta anahbody.”

So that was it. He had just decided not to give it.

Yes, not to just any Tom, Dick and Harry, Ted thought. Same old attitude. And a professor who worked in an asbestos packed building might be a dangerous threat with that report in his hands.

What is your position at the university?” Ted asked.

Nothin,” Gates lied.

Well, the sign in Prickley Hall says the report is available in the physical plant for people to see,” Ted said.

Ted asked about the depositions that were being given.

Thaz none a ya bizanuss,” Gates said.

Not getting anywhere there, Ted decided to call the business manager for the university, where it was said that the report was generally kept.

Ted called the office and asked to speak to Bill Canter. He told him that he worked in Prickley Hall and would like to read the asbestos report and had tried to get it, but couldn’t.

Weya, theze depozishuns takes a loyung tiyume,” Canter said. “Weeall all been givin depozishuns bacoz the Staata Miss-ssippi is sewwin the compnie and one outa couht settlement has already been reached on removin tha asbestos. Theys a lot in theyah. Maybe in about a week I could let ya see it.”

That would be great,” Ted said.

Do ya have some concern?” the business manager asked, suggesting that he ought not to be sticking his nose into other people’s business?

Well, eight people over here in our building have been diagnosed with cancer,” Ted said. “So I guess you might say that I have some concern.”

I don’t want to fucking die, you son of a bitch, Ted thought. There are enough ways this job can kill me without asbestos as well.

Ted would wait another week for the report. It seemed that the officials were concerned that he might fire off some of those crazy letters that he was getting a reputation for.

Now being concerned about people getting cancer from the materials in the building where one worked, was pretty bizarre. That pretty much marked him out as one of those pinko commie professors from up north. The sooner he left, the better it would be for everybody.

Chapter Fifty: Ascent to Freedom

It was coming to the point in the Spring semester when Ted had to inform Professor Bennington if he would be staying for the next year or not. If he was going to leave, he had to send in his resignation by the end of March. It was a difficult decision. He didn’t have many debts, but he needed to support his family and he didn’t have an offer of another job. It was probably a catch 22, he thought. If he tried to stay until he got a job elsewhere, then he would probably never get one. He figured that people probably thought that if he was any good he wouldn’t be teaching in Mississippi. On the other hand to leave without a job meant having a gap in his career and hitting the job market without a job. People would wonder if he had been fired. Having a job was a plus. But having it in Mississippi, on the other hand, was a minus. So they canceled each other out. Maybe he would be just as well off to be jobless somewhere else in a more upscale place.

He kept applying for jobs, but the interviews had pretty much dried up. It seemed to be getting harder. He was not sure why. He had been in the slough too long and sinking in the quick sand deeper and deeper. That happened to a lot of people down in the Delta and at some point they were stuck in the pit for the duration of their careers. Maybe it’s now or never, he thought.

The other possibility of just booking and seeing the place in his rear view mirror was somewhat risky, but he felt like just walking away and being done with it, in spite of the risk. That had its appeal. Liberate one’s self. Surely it was not the only place in the wide world where he could make a living.

Staying provided a little income security but the pay was demoralizing. It grated terribly on his nerves. Come to California and teach in the high schools here, his wife, Lakshmi suggested to him. That didn’t sound so good to Ted. He had taught high school before. He hated the mentality in those places and the need for discipline. He hated the warehousing of children system in American schools, designed mainly to keep them off the streets. The stuff they taught them was pretty bad and pretty wrong, for the most part. Telling lies to young people was unethical, in his view. Anyway, his wife was putting him out, so he would be on his own, in any event. The call of la la lala land was not as strong on his heart strings as it had been at one time when he was still in graduate school. The sheen and glimmer had worn off of California for him.

Then the crunch came. He thought, perhaps, he was cruising for a nervous breakdown if he did not finally resolve the situation and find relief. He would have to walk it alone. No matter what, if he stayed, he would still be in the slough, he reasoned. So why not make the break? It just took courage. Make the break.

One night, he was unable to sleep. Even the sleeping pills which he had started to take would hardly knock him out as he agonized over giving up his job, when jobs were, after all, so scarce. Give it up and be out in the cold? What would be his fate? America did not provide any cushion to fall back onto. It was a cruel hard world out there. There was at least a hundred fresh Ph. D.s banging on the door for each new job that opened up. That was true no matter how sordid the venue. Even Cotton State University got a big pile of applications when a job opened up. It was amusing to go through the pile and see the applications of some of his old friends from graduate school who still had not landed a position or had toughed it out in one-year jobs.

After one sleepless night, he made up his mind at four in the morning. Fuck it. He would go for it. Hand in his resignation and get out. After that, he slept. Sweetly. Shit. Better be on welfare than keep breathing these chemicals and keep eating Delta Mississippi shit in this racist, repressive, society. That clinched the argument. Yes, he would take welfare before staying in the Delta. He would not be eligible for welfare, of course, but if given the choice, it would be that. In this case maybe a bum.

When he rose the next morning, he wrote his resignation letter, walked over to the department and handed it to Bennington. He told him what it was. Bennington, being kind, said he understood. He too was waiting to flee upon retirement to the farthest corner of the country. Ted had been a good and faithful employee for the four years and Bennington had supported him. At least, he appreciated his feelings and views, unlike most of those around him.

Well, I will be sorry to see you go.” Bennington said. “But I understand and I hope things will work out for you. I will not hire any more Nigerians. That’s for sure. They only stay for one year and then leave.”

When he returned to his place, Ted felt relieved, relaxed, and rejuvenated. He felt new hope. It was an existential situation. There was risk, to be sure, but where there was risk, there was hope. He figured the risk was small compared to the certainty of continuous sinking. He saw those around him who lacked the courage to get out and they continued to let their souls slowly wither and die, along with their minds. All the factors weighed against staying. There was the chemical health danger. There was the psychological damage of being treated as an outsider and a perpetual Yankee. Once a Yankee, always a Yankee in the South. There was the abysmal reactionary politics. There was the depreciating salary that continued to go down-hill as the state had little value for education and kept cutting funds. There was the heavy teaching load with so many different courses every semester and finally, and not least, there was the lack of a woman, a good, sensitive, and intelligent woman companion. Such a woman was not going to stay and make her home in the Delta even with a good man. She just wouldn’t want to put up with it. All of those things meant that the only reasonable solution was to get out. Only those who had gone through the hell could understand his obsessive need to hang it up and get out of the Delta.

From that day forward, he prepared for his ultimate liberation. He prepared for his ascent to freedom. That’s what it would be. The liquidation would not be so difficult. He had no furniture which he wished to keep. His major possession was his library and he would take care of the books he wanted to keep with a couple of trips up to Preston to store them in his parent’s house. Once his classes were finished, he would be free. Free as a Goddamn bird.

The last week of the semester came. He paid his bills and cashed in his bank account. On the last day, Ted loaded his car with only what he had to take. The rest he gave away to a young black woman who had become his friend. The next day he would head out.

He got up to a beautiful Spring morning in May, had his cereal and coffee and rolled up his sleeping bag for the last time in Mississippi. It was a perfect day for crop dusting. More to the point it was a perfect day to get the hell out of Hell.

He started up his old blue Volvo. Come on, baby, this is it, he thought. Don’t let me down now. Don’t worry. I’m not out to fuck a woman this time, but just to get my ass and yours out of this place. Slowly he backed around and drove out the small gravel driveway around the pine trees and past Tanner’s apartments for the last time. Out on the highway, he hanged a left at the junction and cruised up Highway 61, the old Blues Highway, watching Weaselville slowly recede in his rear view mirror.

God Damn! That mother looks good, he thought. The son of a bitch looked better from that angle than he had ever seen it before. He threw his Sweet Mississippi Home a goodbye kiss and gave his old clunker the gas.

Up the road a piece, he took a left. The story of my life, he thought. Always taking left turns. But this time it was going to be good. Had to be. Out through the cotton fields, the new crop was just getting up though the sandy soil in the morning sun. Ahead there was the pale green steel girders of the bridge. It rose in a gentle arch, up and over the river to Helena in Arkansas on the opposite side. Would that pig with the big hanging gut, that Mississippi Sheriff, be waiting for him? That was his last fear.

The pig would turn on his light, his cherry top turning rapidly and his siren whining. He would slowly step out of that patrol car, his enormous gut hanging over his belt and that big gun on his hip. He would walk over to Ted’s old banger and ask him to slowly step out. “Hey boah. Wheya think ya goin boah,” he would say as he reached for his hand cuffs and started to put them around Ted’s wrists. Ted would see the tobacco juice dripping from the corners of his fat mouth as he masticated. He would click the cuffs closed and turn the key in the lock till they bit into his flesh. “Yah git ya tenda pinky ass back down theya wheya ya baloung. We needja soyun. Ya ain’ta goin nowheya. Now ah gota warrunt out fa ya rayut heya. For ya aarest. So cum along with me boah. We gotcha numba. We know whacha been up ta. We got suhh thanes to tak aboyut. Yousa in a heapa truble boah! A whole heap a truble. You been a bad boah. You been infractin ouya laws son. Tha laws a the grate state ah Miss-ssipi. We think ya might be one a them theya commie hippie fags. We a law an ayudah state down heya, boah. We do thanes the rite way down heya. An we foun at mary wanna ya had statched in ya offus at tha colleej and in ya houwis too.”

He had thought of that. He knew it could happen. Frame him, throw him in the can and throw away the key and let him rot right there. Just like the poor black mothers who tried to escape the Delta for the North in the past. The sheriffs, they met them and threw them off the train and sent them back to the plantations. They were “Oya nigras.” Ya belong to us, boah. Ya get ya black ass back to the plantation on a doubul. We got work fah ya ta do.”

In slack seasons, they would rot in jail. Slavery continued under another name. But it continued.

That was his nightmare. The old tradition that had saved the south, or rather the southern semi-feudal political economy of slavery. The savage ideal. Continued slavery even after it had been legally abolished. It went on even today. He himself had been a slave for four years. Now he was trying to get his sorry ass off of this fucking plantation.

But when he approached the bridge, the son of a bitch was not there. Just a sign that asked drivers to slow down. A relief. He breathed more easily. He eased his old car out over the long ramp across the swampy marsh with cat tails and willows that led to the river bank. That beautiful ascending arch soared up over the water, the wide Mississippi. He fed the engine more gas. Come on baby. Don’t let me down. This is it! Ted felt himself being lifted up, up, up, magically, ascending gently but powerfully up from the Delta Hell, up from slavery, up from the mindless idiocy, up from the sloth and bigotry, up from the lung-rotting chemicals, up from those pot-bellied fascists with tin badges, up from the tabaccy chawin rednecks spittin in coke cans in his class, and blue blood planters and bankers, up from the old cotton planter aristocracy, up from the mass of white dunces who blindly voted for Republicans every fucking time, who then turned around and screwed them out of their hard earned living. And then at the top of the arch, it appeared. No shit! That beautiful sign. It was not at all like those fascist Texas signs with brutal threats, harsh warnings, but a glorious sign with big bright shining letters. It was so un-Mississippi. It was friendly, really friendly. The sign said

You are now leaving Hell. Welcome to Freedom.”

A feeling of exhilaration surged through his veins. He felt light as a feather.

He had heard his father talk about the rapture, when God would redeem the souls on earth and flash them into the sky and off to heaven in the twinkling of an eye.

This was surely as close to the rapture as one could get on earth.

Fuck’N A, he thought. Goodbye, Sweet Home, and I won’t be back.

Chapter Fifty-One: America the Beautiful

Fifty miles to the west, Ted took the small highway north that ran up through sordid small towns and cotton fields. The sun rose higher. His heavy European Volvo smoothed out the road. He popped a cassette of Bluegrass music into the stereo deck and listened to some driving music. Things went a little faster this way and picked his spirit up. It inspired him to the depths of his soul. Even brought tears to his eyes from time to time. He would soon be up and out of the Delta country into relative sanity. Just a few more hours to go.

In the open fields of a rural Arkansas county, the local farmers had sold out their land and their soul to a hazardous waste company and moved to town. The facility was so well concealed that Ted had never noticed it even though he had taken this road several times. They were burying the stuff in pits back closer to the river behind the timber.

He noticed a green waste truck with bright yellow sunflowers painted on the side waiting ahead, ready to pull into the highway. He thought little of it. The guy would wait for him to pass before he pulled out. At least, that is what he thought.

What possessed him to do it, no one can say. As Ted approached the road, the truck suddenly roared to life and lurched forward into more than half the road. Ted stood on the brakes, unable to go around as another one of the same waste trucks was approaching from the opposite direction. He was trapped. As his tires squealed on the pavement, his car spun round and dove head-on into the side of the massive truck.

The last thing Ted saw was the side of the truck rushing toward him at great speed and then he crashed into the word “WASTE” at what seemed tremendous speed. Everything went blank.

When they pulled his body from the car, Ted’s head was smashed from crashing into the windshield of the car as the body buckled. The blood from his crushed body had flooded the floorboards of the car.

The red-neck sheriff in dark sun glasses was chewing a fat cigar. He took a look at Ted’s body as it was put into the ambulance.

Weya Ah be dammed. If eet aint one a them theya God damm pinko commies a drivin a commie cayah. Suyavs tha son of a bich rite. Shore nuff. We rid a his ass.” he said. “Hey, we gotta keep this heya cunty cleen. Ameraka tha Bootyful. Git it on outa heya, Bubba.”

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