Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Some small towns are funny. The rest are just plain scary. I remember being in Batesville Arkansas once; they manufacture caskets there. As you pass by the town square, there are a dozen grizzled old men, retired casket-makers, that give you the hairy eyeball. There is a stop sign there, but its best just to roll right through it. I stopped off at the diner, where the owner needed more information about me than what I would have expected before he could serve me.

'Its not me, " He explained "its the darn Camber of Commerce. They don't want no tourists or college kids classin' up the place."
He told me that it was for that reason he couldn't get anything but frozen peas to serve with his Chicken Fried Steak.
"No fresh vegetables" they had told him "Too delicious, people might come back"
None of it made any sense, even when he asked if I would like to buy his restaurant so he could get out of Batesvlle Arkansas.

It reminded me of a movie I saw long ago, "Outback" with Donald Pleasance. He played a schoolteacher who was stranded in a funny scary small town where they drank every night and everybody played a game with dice and no one could leave until they won the stupid game. Of course Pleasance never won, the movie ends with him sitting in the scorching sun, sucking on the barrel of a rifle and a single bullet in the chamber.

I just got back from passing through a town like this, where the cashiers at the grocery look at you funny and say "From out of town aren't you?" and its not a question at all. As you pass through the town square there are grizzled old men that don't bother to look up from playing domino's, they know you are there, they knew you were there since before you left the grocery store. You wave at the one who does look up, but he just stares right through you as you pass. Later at the lake there is an eerie quiet and there are no fish, or fisherman, its just you on the lake and you feel a million eyes watching you.
It doesn't surprise you one bit when you find your car battery doesn't work, or when the local deputy shows up at dusk with a bottle of whiskey and a set of dice.

The next time you pass by a big 18 wheeler full of coffins, take a look at the tags.
I bet its from Batesville.


Kim said...

Very nice once again Mr BH

soubriquet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
soubriquet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
soubriquet said...

I made a mess of posting my comment, in peices. Here it is again.

I've never seen a truck carrying coffins. Well, probably I have, but not to know about it.
Over here it's a very discreet sort of activity. When I was a kid, my friend's dad was a woodworker, and it said over his works' door "Joiners and Undertakers".
We were never quite sure as to what it meant. Overtake was what your dad did, in the car. Undertake? Did they have special people who went down the other side?
Or do undertakers rise up out of the depths, like sharks in the earth, and take you down? We never figured it out, aged six-and-three-quarters.
What we did know was that they made coffins. With the scent of fresh shaved wood, lined in shiny satin. I liked to watch them making the bends in the wood, where the shoulders would be. Auntie Alice was buried in one of their coffins. I never saw it though, just heard the grown-ups saying what a nice coffin Mr Watson had made for her.
Now of course, that was oh, late fifties, early sixties, when the whole thing was personal, close to home. The tree that provided the wood for Auntie Alice's coffin, probably grew within a very few miles, grew and shed its leaves, year upon year, for a couple of hundred years, before her birth, an old spreading elm, or an oak, I'd guess, maybe she sheltered beneath its branches without ever knowing that one day it would enfold her completely, down in the cool dark its roots once knew. Maybe in another eternity, its descendant's roots would penetrate old wood, and finger their way into a richer dirt, absorb Alice, and carry her aloft, into the sunlight, fluttering in the rain, and the breeze.

There's a cycle to the local undertaker, the village coffin-maker, somehow, there's something to me that just sounds wrong about eighteen-wheeler coffin carriers, and a town that sends them out.
I'll bet the next town over smells nasty, and nearly everybody is employed by the embalming fluid works.

bulletholes said...

Hey Souby, the future is in Urns!