JOHN JASPER OWENS
Please accept my resignation as Grand White Pharaoh of the Order of Racial Purity, and the return on these here robes (enclosed) which have been patched by Missy-Bee before she run off, and dry-cleaned all the way up in Shilohville by authentic Koreans.
As y’all know, I never quite fit in with The Order. I have nothing special against black people (except for Highsmith Jones, who beat me out for running back when we were in school, and that was more of a personal thing). Plus, I have never actually seen a Jew, but if they do control all media, I remain angry with them for taking Katie Couric off of the before-shift television, where she was good-looking to wake up to, and putting her on nights, where I have had enough of women by then.
I have long suspected anyway I was only invited to join The Order on account of my Kingfisher pontoon, on which we all can get on to go fishing, and my extra large hog pit for barbeques. And likewise for being hitched to Missy-Bee, who has long spoke out against racial intermixing, and is Super-Grand White Squid of Paladuck County Ezekiel’s sister, and second runner-up for homecoming queen, and well-liked.
Well I suppose y’all are wondering why I am resigning, on account of y’all have not been mean to me lately in any serious way. Well, it is the direct result of our LizardFoot con introduced in order to make money from Yankees.
As y’all know, Yankees are stupid. They pay good money to come down here and try to find LizardFoot, even to the point of bringing fancy Wal-Mart cameras and such to record pictures of footprints, and that one time Hank got the Godzilla suit and ran along the up-puppies in the marsh out back of my trailer after dark, and it got on Inside Network, which is a good show. But then there were those that said those footprints were just big gator prints, and faked probably, which of course it was. I know y’all already know this, but bear with the back-track, so you will realize what is what when you find my trailer is empty of both Missy-Bee and myself.
Which it is, by the time y’all get this letter.
It was Rayletta that made the lizard boots what had the footprints we used to track around. I never asked, on account of Missy-Bee don’t like me talking to Rayletta, who is divorced and therefore hell-bound and has those huge boobs, but I suspect Rayletta made the LizardFoot boot bottoms by way of a gator foot, which she put on butcher paper, and traced around it to make it bigger. And as y’all also know, the swamp out back of my trailer was the ideal place to stomp around in the boots, because that marsh goes back about a hundred miles to the coast and is too shallow for skiffs, too deep and pock-holed for hiking, and impossible to drain, unless you are also willing to drain the Santeechee river what feeds it. Plus the gulf.
It seems like that swamp goes on forever, under them cypress trees.
Sometimes at night, sitting out on my deck, I watch the moonlight coming through the branches and hanging moss and then I hear a hoot owl, and I will admit I have sometimes wondered if the alleged sightings of LizardFoot have had some truth to them. Although during the day, like most people, I believed those sightings to have been moonshine and/or crank induced. My own daddy claims to have seen old LizardFoot once or twice, but mostly when in trouble with mama for gigging till dawn. And Daddy is not afraid of a drink.
My recent troubles began last Thursday (as you recall, our bowling night). As we were flush with Yankee cash and Missy-Bee has been barred from the Pin Joint due to unauthorized table dancing that was not even her fault, since Hubert played “All My Rowdy Friends” even though he knows what that does to her, I tied one on pretty good. Whereas that is not unusual, it was when I pulled my truck back up at the trailer that I was met with unusualness.
Missy-Bee was standing out back on the deck, staring into the swamp. Missy-Bee is not overly fond of the deck, where the bugs get at her, or the swamp neither. I noticed there were a bunch of LizardFoot prints around back, even though we had not put any new ones down in a while, to the best of my knowledge. Plus most everyone was at the Pin Joint that night anyway, including Rayletta, who had the boots last, as I recall. And even drunk as I admittedly was, I could tell these LizardFoot prints were different in size than the ones we had been setting out. They were a good bit bigger, and sunk deeper.
I tried talking to Missy-Bee, but she was more interested in staring out and smoking her cigarette. I got her back inside, and to bed. Having watched Rayletta bounce around the Pin Joint all night, I was in the mood for some marital relations, but Missy-Bee turned me down, which was even more unusualness, as Missy-Bee has never been one to turn down relations, marital or pre-marital back in high school.
Then the beer got the better of me and I passed out.
But before I did, I remember Missy-Bee stretched out there beside me, under the fan in the bed with the window cranked open letting in the warm swamp air, and she asked if I really believed that having relations with a person outside your race was a sin in the eyes of God. That was the most unusual event of the night so far, as we are all aware of Missy-Bee’s outspoken opinions on the matter.
Now, I myself have long held a secret opinion regarding Missy-Bee’s not-secret opinion about race relations, which I have never shared on account of not wanting to piss anyone off, especially her brother Ezekiel, but I will share that opinion now as I don’t see how it can matter no more. I’m sure y’all remember Duane, and his similar outspokenness against the sins of homosexuality. Well, then Duane went up to Atlanta and got himself backstage after watching Phantom of the Opera, and last I heard he was managing an alternative bookstore in Miami Beach.
I have often felt Missy-Bee’s sermons on the sin of inter-race coupling sprung from the same well as Duane going on about the gays. Back in high school, I sometimes wondered if running back wasn’t the only thing Highsmith Jones was beating me out of, and that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.
Well, after Thursday night come Friday morning, and Missy-Bee was back to normal mostly, except she still wasn’t in the mood for relations but she did make me a big lunch for work and was extra-affectionate out the door. She herself went to her job at the Sara Lee plant, I guess. I have not had the opportunity to check if she was actually there.
Come Friday night we had all been planning to go to the races up-county, but as y’all recall Missy-Bee was not there, having claimed to feeling sick even though going to the races is normally her favorite thing to do outside of having relations. Y’all may also recall me paying particular attention to Rayletta that night, but I assure you that was on account of frustration with Missy-Bee and nothing more than that. Still, I thought it best to leave early, before them boobs made me do something stupid, and I was home around midnight.
First thing I noticed back at the trailer was them LizardFoot prints. The big ones. They were all over, not just out back where the swamp laps up, but on the deck, inside on the good carpet, in the kitchen, and even down the hall, where Missy-Bee lay fast asleep.
The whole bedroom smelled like camping out in the marsh, in a dry spot under a cypress.
I woke up Missy-Bee to ask what the hell, but she just looked at me a good one and said, “I’m sorry.” Then she went back to sleep, or pretended to. I figured she was sorry about tracking mud all over the house with some new LizardFoot boots that had been made, and must be around here somewhere. Maybe she had tied one on with vodka-cranberry, which she does sometimes, and in drunk boredom had decided to make some new prints.
I went for the halogen and lit up the back yard, walking around bent over to check out them prints. There was definitely one set, and they went all around, up in the house and back out, which meant that Missy-Bee had to have taken off the boots somewhere out in the marsh and walked back barefoot, except I didn’t see no barefoot prints, but that wasn’t much unusualness, as Missy-Bee doesn’t weigh a whole lot. But that didn’t explain how come the LizardFoot prints were so big and deep, and I mean deep, like Tank Jenkins was wearing them and he must go three-fifty or so.
I got me the twelve-gauge and slept with it on the couch.
Missy-Bee was up early Saturday, bouncing around like a bluebird, claiming to have gotten extra-drunk last night and not in the way of remembering, although I had checked the vodka level and it was only a couple of drinks lower. She said she must’ve made them LizardFoot tracks herself with some extra boots she had made, although this was the first time I had heard tell of her making extra LizardFoot boots and plus she claimed she must’ve lost them last night due to drunkenness. It’s not that I especially believed her, it’s just that there really wasn’t anything else to believe.
I was due that morning to meet my neighbor Carl (who is not in The Order but a good man anyway) out where the gravel road turns to the dirt drive that leads back to the trailers. The rail on the bridge there is busted and we meant to repair it before some kid or one of our wives skidded off and into the creek.
Once again, Missy-Bee was very affectionate out the door, and she told me I was always real good to her and she was going to miss me a lot. In retrospect that should’ve been alarming, since I’d be back by supper, but at the time I was so happy to get some of Missy-Bee’s affections that I got insistive-like and we went and had relations right there on the couch, which fuzzed my logical thinking. She was in the shower scrubbing before I had even got my boots back on.
I rode out down the drive to the dirt road, and all along that to where the bridge meets the gravel, which is the end (or beginning, depending on which direction you come from) of county maintenance. Carl was already there and we drank coffee from the thermos and figured on the repair work a while. Fixing a bridge rail is a physical job, especially in the hauling and measuring and cutting the replacement, but it’s not a job to tax your brain, and Carl don’t talk a lot, so I had time to think.
After a few hours we were ready to set the rail, and I happened to glance down in the creek and saw three baby gators—just fingerlings—swimming along. That got me thinking about mama gators and daddy gators, and in my head it was like a cartoon. The Gator Family. Daddy gator was reading the paper in a chair and mama gator was carrying a pie, and baby gators were running around. Something about that caught my attention, and I figured it out right before I would’ve run my hand up on the Skil-Saw if Carl hadn’t of been paying attention and cut it off.
In the cartoon picture in my head, Daddy Gator was bigger than Mama Gator. That’s how it was with most all animals, including people—the men are bigger than the women, for such purposes as hunting and protecting.
Now, Rayletta had made the LizardFoot boots using a bigger version of a gator track. That’s what the old-timers, the ones who claim to have actually seen one of those prints way out in the swamp, have always said they look like. But none of us in The Order had seen a real track ourselves, so what if Rayletta had made a fake footprint that was the right shape, but the wrong size? What if she made it too small?
In that case, maybe we had been tracking around my property a whole bunch of female LizardFoot prints. Female prints of anything are bound to attract the attention of the male of the species. And if you all will recall, we tracked those things pretty far back in the marsh, just for the sheer joy of watching city folks ruin their clothes. So what if one night, say while I was bowling, a male LizardFoot was gliding along in the swamp, back there under the Spanish moss, and saw him some female LizardFoot prints. He might think, “She looks cute. Maybe I’ll follow her.” And them tracks would’ve eventually led right up to where the swamp rises into my back yard.
Where Missy-Bee was home alone.
At that point I happened to notice the metal sign out there that warns “End of County Maintenance,” and that gave me the thought I have spoken of already, which is that means either “End of” or “Beginning of” depending on which way you’re going. Just like the swamp is the beginning of the wilderness if you’re coming from my backyard, but let’s say you live in that swamp. In that case, the wilderness begins when you get to my backyard, and back behind you, in the water roots and Cyprus cover going back all those miles to the gulf—well, that’s home.
I wanted to high-tail back to the trailer right then, but LizardFoot being real or not, you don’t leave a man hanging on a two-person job. Carl wouldn’t have done it to me over his wife Winnie meeting no LizardFoot.
So it was well after lunch, even hurrying like I did, before my truck pulled back up at the trailer. Missy-Bee’s own truck was still parked outside.
But Missy-Bee was gone.
And there were fresh LizardFoot tracks.
We’d been working out at the only access road to the area and we’d seen a few cars come and go—I knew she hadn’t gone out that way. Plus, her purse and keys were on the counter. As near as I could tell the only things missing were her overnight bag, a loaf of bread, a pack of bologna, some of Missy-Bee’s female necessities, and the vodka.
I opened a beer and went out on the deck, and stared off at the swamp line with the twilight coming down.
I could clearly see where the male tracks came up out of the marshland, right up to the deck. The tracks were dug in there, like he stood and waited for Missy-Bee to get ready. Then, the tracks turn and head back out, and now they are just a little deeper, on account of at this point, he was carrying my wife away.
And what could I do about it? Track a LizardFoot through the swamp? That swamp, I tell you, is endless. Plus, it was night. So I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I went back inside and watched Cops, a show I have always enjoyed, and kept the light on for Missy-Bee, in case she had a change of heart. I kept drinking beer, and eventually went to sleep with the news on.
Hours later I started hearing sounds of the kind where you are unsure if you are awake or asleep. There was some sort of scraping from out on the deck, then a bigger noise, like something pulling itself up. The wind chimes started going. More scraping sounds that could’ve been most anything.
The back door opened and I heard heavy footsteps and I knew I was awake, and I also remembered the shotgun was in the closet.
I opened my eyes.
As my parents, along with any number of former teachers, employers, and ex-girlfriends can tell you, I often have a problem thinking things through to the end. In this case, my imagination had left off at a LizardFoot man come to steal my wife away, and his arrival by following fake footprints. What I had neglected to imagine was that where there was a LizardFoot man, there would also be a LizardFoot woman, in this case a woman out looking for her man that had snuck off to go hole up with some floozy. The floozy in this case being Missy-Bee, and I’m not going to argue that.
I can tell you definitely what these creatures look like.
They are mostly human in construction, with two legs and arms and hands with claws and thumbs. They are big critters, the female standing as tall as me, over six feet, and about as wide as me also. The male must be gigantic. They are split in coloration, with backs that are scaly and algae green, and fronts that are plated and gray, like a gator belly. They have longish necks, and heads, I would say, that are triangular shaped and snakelike. They are beautiful creatures, in the same way a puma or brown bear is attractive to look at, but where you know upon viewing that you would be a fool to cross one.
They do not speak human, but can make themselves known just fine regardless. They have long, snake-type tongues that flick in and out, and these tongues are split, and each tip of the tongue moves independent of the other. That tongue is very interesting. The first thing the lady LizardFoot did was flick it all over my face, in a way that let me know she was friendly-minded.
And yes, I am sure she is female. As I said, she is mostly human in construction, and she just looks female—slender arms and wide hips and whatnot. But mainly I can tell she’s a woman because a LizardFoot does not wear clothes, so there are obvious points of reference.
The same points of reference I’m sure Missy-Bee used to figure out she had a male on her hands, so to speak.
Mainly through gestures and tongue flicking and me drawing pictures, the LizardFoot woman and I have made out a plan to go into the swamp and confront our wayward spouses. She knows the likely hiding places, and I have loaded the shotgun with birdshot, so as not to kill her husband while stinging him mightily. She was patient enough to wait while I wrote this letter, which took a long time, and she seems to enjoy classic rock on the radio.
Right now, as I am finishing, she has come up behind the chair and is flicking my ears with that tongue of hers, which is pleasant, I won’t lie. I’m thinking that she is thinking what is good for the LizardFoot gander is good for the LizardFoot goose, or some such equivalent. I am also thinking in that direction, so perhaps she and me will have us some relations before we set out into the swamp.
As far as boobs are concerned, this critter puts Rayletta to shame.
So anyway that is why I am resigning The Order, and will not be at the barbeque on Tuesday night.
John Jasper Owens lives in the South and is not named after the painter, although he thanks you for your concern. He is aware that his other story included in this issue also contains female marital infidelity, and wonders where his head’s been at lately. Look for him in print in Out of the Gutter and Bards and Sages Quarterly. Yet another of John's stories, "Horrortown," was featured in A cappella Zoo's debut issue.