Take It, Naked Bacon

By Denise Pace

1. The Smothers Brothers’ slang meaning “I set the scene, now it’s your turn.”
2. "What's the Naked Bacon?" he asked. "It's uh, when people get naked and like roll around on the ground like they're having an epileptic fit and shit."—Jake, modern-day American hobo, as reported by Paul Demko
3. Seize the moment, take the opportunity, turn the situation around.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, everything you do goes way awry. Sometimes, this is due to someone else lending a strong hand to the other side. Sometimes, you can pinpoint the exact moment when it all turned bad, and you can impotently watch it in your mind over and over in slow motion. And sometimes, you might wonder why you didn’t muster your gumption and wrestle it all back.

Some people do just that. But an awful lot just don’t, preferring to cry over a beer or be swept along or bitch about it until it loses all meaning.

This is the world of Jeremiah.

I first met Jeremiah one night after a little spat with my girl over whether leaving a 75 kilowatt bulb on for a year really uses 11 gallons of oil and thus helps the terrorists, or whether turning it on and off causes the filament to expire sooner, heightens the risk of electric shock or possibly a fire, and thus poses a more immediate and tangible danger to the people who are real to us, or whether the whole thing’s moot and we should just have sex by candlelight, which naturally led to a heated discussion over who makes candles and whether they’re exploited children in third-world countries or machines that replace American labor. Well, let’s just say as it all turns out, any points valid or not were obviated by her hanging up on me and my going out back to smack around some empty beer bottles with a baseball bat.

Nice thing about beer-bottle baseball is it feels real good, plus sooner or later you run out of empties and have to make more. Nasty thing is you gotta clean it up sooner or later, else you end up with glass embedded in inexplicable places and held there with clotted blood, and you usually don’t remember about that part until you wonder where all the damn cuts came from. Also, it sometimes makes sober unsympathetic neighbor-folk call the cops.

Anyway, I was out back trying to pace myself, as I didn’t want to pass out drunk making empties before I’d gotten myself to feeling better about our little discussion and beyond being able to screw that girl and I back into the pre-argument state of the relationship, when one of the bottles made way more clatter than a proper empty should.

I figured I’d go see what it was in case it was one of those things that tells me I’m not as clear-headed as I think, so I headed back to the alley.

There was a guy there, rooting through my garbage. He had the requisite dirty plaid flannel layers, the torn pseudo-khaki cotton pants, the pissed-on half-worn-through boots, the Vet cap, and the cum- or tobacco-stained beard of one of those alley rats you see all the posters about. You know, those ones from the government telling you to use a certain kind of garbage can, and then telling you to keep it closed, like decent folk needed to send in their money to ensure that all that is properly legislated.

“HEY!” I said.

He jumped.

“WhayouDOin?” I asked.

He started to leave, but I saw he’d taken an old birdcage from my garbage, so I inquired again, “WhayouDOin, DUDE?”

He emitted a high, whiny, raspy sound: “Imtakinyouwonthis!”

I cringed, but walked closer, in order to facilitate our communication.

“Dude, what is going ON?”

He started to hurry off again, so I decided to ask for my birdcage back before he got too far with it. He told me I could most certainly have it for one dollar. So I countered him: “HEY! Thas already mine!”

He explained, in what proved to be his whiny raspy way, about the mechanics of American capitalism, which he posited to be the best system in the world, as well as some legal issues like habeas corpus and possession and such, and the duty of a Christian to do charity. I thought about his argument, talked him down to a quarter, took the birdcage, and invited him back for a beer. He seemed like good people, and smart, too, but he came back just the same.

It was a nice evening, little crisp, but clear, just the kind of night for a little sit-down and maybe some whiskey. I began by telling him about how stupid my girlfriend was, as that’s always a nice icebreaker, and tried to elicit his opinion on the light bulb issue. He skirted it all by inquiring as to the nature of my purpose that fine evening. So I elucidated further on the fruitless discussion my girl and I’d had, and tried to explain the therapeutic benefits of beer-bottle baseball. I noticed he kind of cowered and grabbed for my birdcage whenever I swung the bat around to illustrate a point, so I decided to toss the bat over closer to the house. He kind of jumped again when it cracked off some siding, but then I’d already seen what a jumpy little fuck he was, so that didn’t really worry me. I’m the sort that’s a hospitable host.

He was just standing there all stupid and looking at me, which caused me to realize that I was remiss in my duties. So I told him to take a seat and get himself comfortable, while I tried to locate the promised beer. I fished around the yard some, cussing whenever I encountered a shattered empty. Then I remembered how I’d put the stash by the garage so I’d know where it was, and I got him one from there.

I’ll be damned if that fucker didn’t swallow it all down like a cornered jailbird, lending more credence to my theory about the contents of his beard. But that didn’t bother me, to each his own and all, and I rapidly procured for him another now that I knew where it all was. We commenced a pattern of him chugging and me procuring, and then he finally slowed down and seemed to really relax.

I didn’t have to try to come up with topics for civilized conversation—he just plum started right in on whatever was on his mind. I felt the stroke of flattery that all good hosts do once their guests are at ease, and so I just sat on back and listened.

Now Jeremiah had a special way of talking where I didn’t always know exactly what he was saying, and I never could get his name, but I could usually catch the gist of the conversation. So I just called him Jeremiah, after that song about the bullfrog and the wine. He kept referring to me as Jim or Bob or Ted, although none of those are my name, but that was all right. I’m not one to be critical about things of that nature.

So Jeremiah started telling me all about his life and times. Now, like I said, he wasn’t the most comprehensible storyteller, but his story, as I gathered it, was this:

He was in the Marines in World War II. He flew a plane, so maybe he was actually in the Air Force or something, but I don’t keep up on all that, as all I know is that my dad was 4-F or a student or something during Nam and my grandpa was estranged, and it really never came up for me. After all, it is the duty of the fathers to impart this stuff to their sons, is it not? Anyway, he had this girl in high school who everybody figured he’d marry, and he figured it too, but he didn’t really have any particular passion for her. She was his girl and all, but it was more like she was his Saturday night squeeze than anything, and he never popped her cherry or got anywhere with her. So he went off to war, and she wrote him for awhile and then she stopped. At first he was fine with it, and hookers abounded, so while he didn’t pop any cherries, he did all right. But then one day what started out as a little itch, a little discomfort, turned into a horrendous situation. He found out he had some disease, maybe gonorrhea or leprosy, and his dick started to rot off. Take a moment to fully appreciate the facts of the case: His fucking DICK rotted CLEAN OFF!

Anyway, even though she had stopped writing him, he had come more and more to appreciate the value of a virgin. So when he got back, he had his mind firmly set that he wanted this pure, honorable girl, because maybe then nobody’d know about his dick and he could have some sort of normal life. He found her, beat up the guy she was dating, and persuaded her to marry him. On their wedding night he drank a shitload, thinking that would either help his cause or else he could beg off. I thought this was actually quite clever, as I had read somewhere that over 60% of all marriages are not consummated on the wedding night. So it was their wedding night, he was drunk off his ass, and he was thinking maybe it’s all still there and everything is going to be all right. I mean, the lust was there, just not the Johnson. They were in the honeymoon suite, he’d made off with it all, and he was all full of vigor and bloated balls. He grabbed his virtuous victim and with no decorum whatsoever, threw her on the bed, ripped her clothes off, and started trying to get his nub in her. She was screaming like crazy, but he didn’t care. He pushed, then he stopped. It turned out she wasn’t a virgin. And she was screaming about her dress. It turned out she thought she’d got knocked up, but she wasn’t sure by WHOM, and that’s why she married him.

At this point in his storytelling, Jeremiah was in a rather frothy state, so I recommended we commence the whiskey course. Since he was wet all over and crying, I took the liberty of assuming he was agreeable and slipped into my abode to grab the ubiquitous bottle of Jack.

Upon my return, I noticed he had a photo album out, and he was drooling snot all over it.

“Dude,” I offered gently, “Dude, that’s harsh.”

He took the bottle, and I mean he took the bottle like it was that long lost innocent bride. It was obvious that the hitherto untouched held great meaning for him. I admonished him to show a little tenderness, and finally he abated.

I took a good long swig myself, grateful for Big Bad John, and thought about my girlfriend’s ass.

Soon Jeremiah stopped leaking and whimpering and began feeling loquacious again. After the commotion of the wedding night, with disappointment abounding on all sides, a bit of a truce emerged. By largely mute and mutual consent, they tolerated each other for awhile and found the springtime of their love in outdrinking each other and passing out in doorways with packed bags, awakening too hungover to continue the action. This didn’t last too long, as in short time she thickened around the middle and it became apparent that she really had been pregnant, and she pumped out exactly the kind of son Jeremiah always wanted: strong, healthy, and whole-dicked. He loved this boy. The boy loved him. The wife was a drunken harlot, but at least nobody produced any more issue. They continued on, albeit with markedly less alcohol, and gradually he learned he was a casualty of that situation wherein one finds love based on the reliance of another’s keeping one’s secret, a love based on despondent circumstances.

I said, “Dude, don’t they have surgery or something?”

And he replied something about the Stockholm syndrome.

So I decided to change the subject, but I believe at this point I truly was touched by this harrowing account of events, and the whiskey, because I stupidly asked, in reference to the album, “Whatcha got there?”

Naturally, it was pictures. A blurry shot of a small fry with a lady. A picture of a lad in a suit standing next to a DeSoto. A shot of a clean-looking young man in a uniform. A photo of a stunning brunette with a big red-lipped smile. A whole lot of dressed-up uncomfortable-looking folk at a wedding. Another blurry shot of a small fry with a lady. A photo of a smiling dark-haired man with an empty carton of beer that had a laughing baby in it instead. A ton of pictures of a blonde burr-headed youth with and without a bicycle and a puppy. Same youth with a birthday cake, and a smiling brunette bombshell squeezing him between her breasts. Same youth standing in shorts and a white shirt holding a book bag in front of a white house.

It was his life, frozen.

“Sho, wha happen?” the whiskey asked.

The blonde burr-headed ill-produced offspring, it callously seemed, met with a calamitous incident involving a three-martini lunch coupled with an after-school bike ride. Jeremiah and his slut-wife persevered for awhile in their mutual grief, but ultimately she disappeared in a drunken haze a couple decades back. He showed me one last shot in his album: a tan heavyset fifty-ish woman in a yellowed white bikini, holding a cocktail, a cigarette, and a cabana boy. That was the last photo he had of her, and the one he held most dear. That was the way they finally were, and the way they finally learned to love each other as they were, down in Florida somewhere, near as I could tell.

“Jesus,” I commented, and offered him the last bit of whiskey.

He shook his head—it was his birthday, and he wanted to spend some time with it before it left.

I looked down the alley after him a long time. I thought about all the stupid arguments me and my callipygian girlfriend had had, and wondered about them. A lot of them were insipid. I thought about calling her and agreeing with her on our aforementioned topic of discussion, but it suddenly also seemed to me that life was too short and precious and valuable for that sort of thing.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, everything you do goes way awry. Sometimes, by letting things happen, they work out OK. Sometimes they really, really don’t. Sometimes, you have to take hand in your existence.

“Schrew her,” I concluded. I tossed the birdcage back into the garbage, picked up the bat and the now-empty whiskey bottle, and hit it for a home run.


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Copyright© 2003 by Denise Pace.

1st and 2nd photos: John Decker. 3rd photo: ias.org.uk. 4th photo: nantyglo.com. 5th photo: nhmccd.edu. 6th photo: Peter Miller.


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