ONE FOR THE BOYS
Thirty-two-year-old Thomas “Knotty” Horton was sitting in his front yard in a rusted, metal, lawn chair anxiously awaiting the arrival of his friends. His legs were nervously moving from side to side, as he stroked his scraggly, coarse beard and moustache, both of which were scattered with gray hairs. Like the hair on his head, his facial hair hadn't been washed in several weeks, and now looked like strands of frayed electrical wire.
Knotty examined and then flicked away a biscuit crumb he found in his beard. In addition to wearing a gasoline station uniform shirt with the name, MIKE, embroidered on the left breast, Knotty was wearing a pair of tattered and stained blue jeans, and muddy, blue and white, suede Puma sneakers. Perched atop his head was a dirty, white baseball cap with a white mesh top, and the words, “DAMN I’M GOOD!” sewn in large letters on the front of it.
At one point, Knotty had lived with his sister, Sylvia and her husband, Mike. Mike, who never really was keen on the idea of Knotty staying with them in the first place, soon grew tired of Knotty’s continuous drinking and was trying to find a polite way of getting him to leave. Fortunately, a tenant in a small house Mike had inherited several years earlier, decided to move, so he was able to get Knotty to relocate there. As he was packing his belongings to leave, a grateful Knotty helped himself to a gallon bottle of Mike’s homemade dandelion wine and three of his work shirts.
Sylvia and Mike assisted Knotty with some of his monthly bills, such as electricity and water. They also provided him with money for assorted other expenditures. He supplemented the money he received from Sylvia and Mike by performing odd jobs around town. The telephone line had been disconnected almost immediately after the previous tenant left. Knotty didn’t mind, however, as he said he didn’t have anyone to call and didn’t want anyone to call him.
Under a tree in the front yard, there was a tattered living room couch, with stains of various sizes, shapes and colors. The front porch had a mixture of odds and ends that Knotty had salvaged from other people’s cast-offs. Beneath a swing that was only attached to the roof on one side was a broken fan, an 8-track stereo system, and an assortment of books and magazines. An old rocking chair with a missing armrest sat next to the swing.
Knotty had placed a long, narrow piece of wood on top of several cinder blocks to make a bench. Rocks of various sizes were scattered on the porch; they’d been thrown at the house, and at Knotty, by neighborhood children. The panes of three broken windows had been replaced with sections of tin olive oil cans.
There were objects haphazardly scattered around the yard, including a ceramic, black lawn jockey; a smiling, plastic Santa Claus; a plastic deer; several large, gray cinder blocks, with no apparent function or purpose; and a children’s inflatable pool filled with rain water, leaves and assorted insects, from which several chickens were now drinking.
On one side of the house, two horseshoe pegs barely peeked above the overgrown grass, and four rusted horseshoes were hung on a railroad spike nailed into a tree. On the other side of the house, sat a small, unkempt flower garden which was encircled by a low, white, wire fence; its primary tenants were weeds and spiders. Missing porch steps and other broken parts of it had been replaced with pieces of wood Knotty had pilfered from construction and demolition sites.
Knotty, whose back was facing the road, heard a car pull up behind him. He thought it was his friend, Didney Marshall, but when he stood up from his chair and turned, he saw a Deputy Sheriff's car. Roland Curtis, one of only two black deputies on the Creston, Virginia sheriff's department, emerged from the vehicle and began walking towards Knotty.
"Hey dere, Roland. What brangs you out dis way?"
"What say, Knotty? Whatchu up to?"
"Nuffin much. Jus' waitin' fo' Frenchie an' some of de uvver boys ta come ova. We're gonna put some burgers on da grill. Have a few drinks an' stuff."
Roland knew very well what "an' stuff" meant. He'd been sent out to Knotty's house several times after he and his friends had been drinking whiskey. Sometimes an argument would start, followed by pushing, shoving and hurt feelings. On a few occasions, however, Roland had escorted someone away who had a bloody nose or a busted lip. Although, most of the time, Knotty and/or one of his friends simply passed out in the yard among empty whiskey bottles, discarded cigarette butts and chicken feces.
"Ah'm not gonna haveta come back out here, am Ah?" Roland smiled.
"Naw, naw, Roland. Me an' de boys gon behave tanite."
Knotty and Roland both laughed.
"Alright, Knotty. If you say so."
"So what's goin' on now?"
"Came to see if you knew anythang 'bout a missing roosta."
"Yeah. Didju see dis article in the Times?" The Lennix County Times was Creston's only newspaper; it was published weekly. Roland unfolded a newspaper page dated June 25, 1975, and handed it to Knotty, who took it and began reading:
CRESTON CHURCH APPEALS FOR RETURN OF STONE ROOSTER
By Lawrence Franklin
A large beautiful stone rooster was recently taken from The Doctor's Garden at Christ Church on Pike Street in Creston.
Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Julius Louis, his family transformed the lot next to Our Savior's Church into a beautiful garden which included the stone rooster on a pedestal representing the Louis name. The Louis motto is "All good deeds in glory to God."
This lovely garden has always been open to the public and has been enjoyed by many when not in use by the church. Easter Sunrise services are held here as well as other services.
Will the people who took the rooster please return it and no questions will be asked.
The article also included a picture of the statue.
As Knotty handed the page back to Roland, a pick-up truck drove by and blew its horn.
"Hey, Pootie!" shouted Knotty.
Roland turned and waved "hello" to the truck's driver.
"You kin hol' on ta dat paypa, if ya want," said Roland. "Ah got anuvver one in de car."
Knotty folded the newspaper article and as he put it in his backpocket, he then asked, "Now, what's dis roosta thang got ta do wif me, Roland? Only roosta Ah know about izzat one." He pointed to a large, one-eyed rooster strutting around the yard.
Roland laughed. "Dat's de one Winston gave you fo' buildin' dat doghouse?"
"Yep, answered Knotty."Big sonuvabitch, too, ain't he? Ah thank he lost dat eye inna fight or sumfin."
"Damn sho issa big, one-eyed, bastard. But, wif dat statue, Ah know how you like ta find an' collec' thangs." He spread his arms and laughed.
"Some stuff. But, Ah ain't seen no big roosta statcha," responded Knotty. "'Sides dat, sumfin as big an' heavy as dat thang looks like it'd be hell ta lug around."
"Ah guess so," answered Roland, as his eyes scanned the yard and the surrounding, overgrown bushes.
"But, if it'd put ya mine at ease, you cain look around a bit," said Knotty.
"Thanks, Knotty," Roland replied, as he began walking away from Knotty, and strolling around the yard.
Roland pushed aside a thicket of bushes behind the swimming pool and began walking towards the back end of the property through the underbrush. He turned and began walking back in Knotty's direction.
"Didju wanna take a look inside da house, too?"
"Might as well while Ah'm out hair. You know how dem white folks are when somebody takes sumfin from dem dey think is worf some money or sumfin."
Knotty walked with Roland up the porch steps and into the house.
They emerged twenty minutes later.
"You gotta clean up some uvvat junk in dere, Knotty. Dat's a fire hazard."
"Yeah, me an' Frenchie gon do dat on Sunday."
Roland laughed. "Okay. But, Ah'm comin' back on Monday ta check."
"Sure Roland. Sure. Anytime. You'll see."
Roland began walking back towards the police cruiser. "Well, Ah guess dat damn thang'll turn up soona or layta."
He got in the cruiser, started it and began to drive away. He stopped and backed up to where Knotty was standing.
"An' don't forget what Ah said 'bout behavin' dis evenin'."
"No problem, Roland. We'll prob'ly make it an early night tanite."
"Okay, now." Roland put the cruiser in gear and slowly drove away.
Fifteen minutes after Roland's departure, Pootie drove his pick-up truck back to the house, and pulled into the yard. He got out and walked to where Knotty was again seated, smoking a cigarette.
"Had ta make sho' de coast was clear," said Pootie. "Roland ain't no dummy. Ah know he axed 'bout de roosta."
Knotty reached into his backpocket and handed the newspaper to Pootie.
Pootie glanced at the article about the missing rooster statue, laughed, and then handed it back to Knotty.
"Ah tolt him de onliest roosta Ah knew 'bout was Mister Doodles," Knotty said, pointing his thumb towards the large rooster, who was now looking at them with its singular eye.
"Wair's Didney an' Frenchie?" asked Knotty.
"Saw dem comin' up de back way behine de feed store. Do ya wanna take it off de truck now or wait til dey git hair?"
Knotty thought about the question for a moment and then replied, "Ah guess de two uvvus cain handle it."
As Knotty and Pootie began walking toward the truck, Frenchie Knighton and Didney Martin came walking through the bushes.
"Wair y'all goin'?" shouted Frenchie.
"We gon git our fren off da back of ma truck."
"Need a han'?" asked Didney.
"Naw. Ah thank we cain manage."
Frenchie and Didney watched as Knotty and Pootie carefully lifted the canvas-covered object off the back of the truck and carried it to the back of the house. The three other men, also in their thirties, gathered around it. When he was certain no one was around, and the object couldn't be seen from the road, Knotty pulled the canvas sheet away to reveal the statue of a rooster.
"Now, Knotty, tell me again why we took'is hair statcha," asked Didney.
"Cause he looked so lonely ova innat garden. Surrounded by all dem flowas an' whatnot. He needed ta spen' some time wif de fellas. Wif uvver roostas, like us." He made a cock-a-doodle-doo sound.
All four men laughed. Like Knotty, each of the other men had already drank a few shots of whiskey in the late morning and early afternoon hours.
"We'll take ‘im back tomorra," said Pootie. Now, les drink a toast ta Mr. ah, ah, ah, um . . . What we gon call him?"
Knotty thought for a minute and then said, "Roland! We'll call him Roland Roosta."
The men laughed again, and then, with exception of Knotty, who had begun walking towards the house, went to get lawn chairs, which they then positioned in front of the statue and sat. Knotty emerged from the house carrying a fifth of Early Times whiskey and four cups of various shapes. He handed a cup to each man, keeping one for himself, and poured whiskey into each.
"Damn," he said. "Almos’ forgot."
He walked over to the 8-track stereo player, turned it on, put in a music cartridge, which he wedged in place with a matchbook, and pressed the "play" button. The sounds of Earth Wind & Fire's album, That's The Way of The World, came through the stereo's speakers.
Pootie took a sip of whiskey. "Dat Maurice White is a fuckin' genius!" he said referring to Maurice White, founder and co-lead singer of Earth Wind & Fire.
All of the men nodded their heads in agreement. Knotty and Didney began singing along to the song, while sipping whiskey. Frenchie put his cup on the ground, stood and began playing an imaginary guitar.
"Hearts afire," they all sang. "Love's desire. Higher an’ higher."
Soon the song finished and it was time for another round of drinks. Knotty poured. The men continued drinking and singing throughout the playing of the cartridge. It came to the end and return to the first song on the tape with a distinct clicking sound.
Knotty looked at the nearly empty bottle of whisky. He turned towards Pootie and asked, "You got annuver one uh deese in yo' truck?”
"Ah got little ova half a fif," Pootie responded. "Took a few sips while Ah was waitin' fo' Roland ta leave." He stood, wobbily walked over to his truck, took the bottle of whiskey from the front seat, and returned.
The song, "Yearnin' Learnin'", soon began to play once again.
"Dat's a bad muvvafucka on dat piano," said Frenchie. He began singing off-key and with an even more slurred tone, "We're jus' hair to remind ju. Baby, love's gonna find you. Yearnin' learnin's what you do!" "Havin' a good time wif de boys, Roland Roosta?”
“Feel free ta join in on de sangin', Roland Roosta," said Knotty, as he finished what was left in the first bottle by turning it up to his mouth.
The men laughed.
"Pootie, pour de boys anuvver drink." Pootie did as requested.
The smooth, falsetto voice of Phillip Bailey, Earth, Wind & Fire's other lead singer, began singing the romantic ballad, "Reasons" again.
"See like Ah said befo', dat song dere les a woman know you serious about huh," said Didney, his speech slurred. "If a woman don't let chu take huh ta bed afta listenin' ta dat song, you may as well fine a new woman." He took another sip of whiskey and sang, "An' all of de reasons start ta faaaaaade!"
"Wait, hole on. Dis is my part," said Frenchie. An alto saxophone began to play a solo. Frenchie stood and held his hands as if he were playing the instrument. When the solo finished, he sat and took another sip of whiskey.
Pointing to Mister Doodles, Pootie said, "Ah wonda how dat one-eyed bastard would react to Roland Roosta." His voice was slurred.
"Yeah. Grab 'im up dere Knotty an' les see," said Frenchie.
Knotty stumbled to where the one-eyed rooster was walking and drunkenly reached for him. The rooster flapped his wings and flew up a few inches off of the ground to move out of Knotty's reach, then began walking again.
"You ain't gon catch dat yard bird like ‘at. Lemme show you how it's done," said Didney. He took a sip of whiskey, stood up slightly off-balance and walked in back of Mister Doodles.
With his friends silently looking on, Didney put his left hand in front of the rooster, while slowly bringing his right hand up behind it. Suddenly, he moved his right hand forward and grabbed the rooster by its feet. Pulling the fidgeting, fighting rooster towards him, Didney grasped it with both hands and tucked it against his body under his left arm.
"Didney, if you ain't de craziest bastard evva shit behine two shoes," said Pootie, laughing. The other men laughed and took sips of whiskey.
Didney began walking toward the statue with the agitated rooster under his arm. When he reached the statue, he held the rooster out in front of him with both hands.
"Look at yo' cousin, Mister Doodles," Didney bent over with laughter. "Some rich white folks gave him a baf in ceement. Dat's why he's kinda quiet dis evenin'."
He began to laugh uncontrollably and the rest of the men joined him. He fell to his knees and released the agitated bird. The rooster flapped his wings and quickly ran away from him.
"You are one simple ass bastard," said Pootie, continuing to laugh.
Didney got to his feet and walked unsteadily back to his chair. He tried to speak, but began laughing again.
Frenchie raised his cup in the air. "Ah thank we should po' out a drink fo' de boys dat ain't hair."
"Now, Ah 'ont know 'bout dat, Frenchie," said Knotty. "Dey ain't hair, dey don't git none."
"C'mon now, Knotty. Dat ain't right," responded Frenchie.
"Ah kinda agree wif Knotty," said Pootie. "We ain't got much likka lef an' pourin' it out fo' de worms an' ants an' whatnot, jus don't make no kinda sense."
"But we did po' out a drink fo' yo cousin, Knuckles, when got kilt innat elevata axdent a few months back, Pootie," said Didney. “Fell eleven floors.”
"Dat was diff'rent. Knuckles was one o’ us," replied Knotty.
"Well, Ah'ma po' one out for de boys ain't hair. Y'all cain join me if ya wanna," said Frenchie.
Aside from Didney, no one else raised their cup.
Frenchie said, "A toast ta the boys dat ain't hair. We miss you, love you, rest in peace." He and Didney poured whiskey onto the ground, then took drinks from their respective cups.
Didney raised his cup again. "An, Ah'd like ta propose a toast ta Knotty and Pootie fo' bein' assholes. Fuck dem. Fuck dat dere concrete roosta an' fuck dat one-eyed bastard, Mister Doodles."
Knotty stood up. "Didney, kiss my ass, you sorry, stupid bastard."
"Fuck you!" yelled Didney, as he stood.
"Git de fuck off ma property," said Knotty.
"Nigga dis ain't yours," responded Didney. "Ah got as much right ta be hair as you. Dat damn shirt ain't even yours! Ya damn chair'ty case, free loadin’ bastard!"
Knotty lunged at Didney and they fell to the ground. In their drunken state, Frenchie and Pootie could only grasp at the two men as they tussled in the grass and dirt.
Both Knotty and Didney stood simultaneously, and this time Didney lunged at Knotty. He knocked him backwards into the statue, which toppled to the ground, with the rooster striking a cinder block.
All four men froze.
"Oh, shit!" shouted Knotty.
He bent down to look at the statue. The rooster was broken into several pieces. The stand on which it had been perched was broken in half.
"Damn it, Didney!" said Knotty. "Ya had ta go an' start some shit."
"You started it. You an' Pootie. Wouldn’t po' one out fo’ de boys."
"Cain ya fix it?" asked Pootie.
"Hell, naw. Not even if Ah was a mason," answered Knotty. "Damn thang's shattered. Ain't enough glue in da world ta fix dat summabitch." He stood up.
"Shit! Ya sorry ass, drunk bastards," said Frenchie. "Always gotta be some shit happ'nin when we havin' a few drainks."
Didney and Knotty looked down and away from the other two men.
"Alright," said Pootie. "Les put our haids tagever. Ah'm sho' we cain thank of sumfin befo' dem white folks wanna lynch our sorry nigga asses fo' breakin' dere expensive, pretty roosta statue." He saw the newspaper sticking out of Knotty’s backpocket.
“Knotty, go git me uh pen,” said Pootie.
Residents in the neighborhood in which Christ Church is located were awakened the next morning by the crowing of a rooster. To their knowledge, no one in this quiet, residential area had a rooster. The crowing sounded as if it were coming from the church.
Reverend William Smith, the church's pastor, lived a few houses from it, so he heard the crowing, as well. He put on a pair of bib overalls over his pajamas, a dungaree jacket and a baseball cap, grabbed his keys, and walked out the door in the direction of the church. As he got the closer to the church, the crowing grew louder. He soon realized the crowing was coming from the church's garden, and its door was swinging open in the early morning breeze.
He slowly and cautiously entered the garden. "Is there anyone in here?" he shouted. He moved forward. "I said is there anyone in here? Finally, Reverend Smith caught sight of something incredulous.
A one-eyed rooster, in its cage, was perched atop four cinder block blocks. With its head cocked to one side, its sole eye stared at Reverend Smith as if to say, "Who are you and what do you want?"
Reverend Smith walked over to the rooster. It was then that he noticed a handwritten note attached to the top cinder block, under the cage. The note, written on the back of a label from an Early Times whiskey bottle, read, "All good deeds in glory to God."
The rooster looked at Reverend Smith with its lone eye and crowed.
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