Getting off the couch to write anything for today's post has proven to be a Herculean effort if for no other reason than the fact that I'm so caught up in Chuck Kinder's Last Mountain Dancer that I want to stay with the book until its last tall tale is told. The only thing that can get me off the couch--other than the list of chores left for me by a wife who had to work on Sunday and the promise of some boiled shrimp if I can muster up the energy to boil them--is to share one of the many hilarious passages from this book:
Peanuts Kemper was the sort of "historic" character who interested me. Peanuts secures his place in Billville history as the ugliest man to ever live within the city limits. And his wife was just as ugly, and they had sixteen of the ugliest children ever born. So one day Peanuts was loafing as usual with his drinking buddies Billy Johnson and Billy Clark and my brother-in-law (who was about twelve at the time) out in front of the old Rosie's Place on Court Street. They were all helping hold up Rosie's front wall and sipping wine from bottles in paper-pokes and philosophizing, when Peanut's ugly wife (she was reputedly so ugly she couldn't cry, for tears refused to run down the front of her face), who was carrying their one-month-old ugly newborn, came loping up the street, along with all of their other ugly children, their knuckles scraping the pavement in their passage. Peanuts couldn't have been more proud.
The proud papa made each of his drunken-lout buddies hold the ugly baby in turn, except for my brother-in-law, who was too proud to hold something that ugly in public. He pleaded a cold he didn't want to pass on, and stepped briskly back away from all that ugliness. Whereupon Peanuts, that proud papa, rocked the ugly baby in his own skinny arms and cooed at it through his blue, toothless gums, and then he lifted the amazingly hairy infant into the air and wiggled it around like a baby baboon. Then Peanuts tossed the ugly creature into the air and caught it by the scruff of its neck coming down. Peanuts was making those grunts and barks that passed as laughter, and the baby's beard was wet with happy, blue slobber. Then Peanuts sent the child sailing aloft again. At which point one of the Billys let wind like a clap of thunder, and Peanuts, whose favorite jokes centered around gas expelled in public, became amused, and he began yipping and barking and thrust a hand under an armpit to make some funny fart sounds of his own.
Even if he had had the reflexes, my brother-in-law, if the truth be told, could not swear he would have tried to catch that ugly baby before it hit the pavement, where both its little hairy legs were broken and the features of its little, hairy face, such as they were, shifted considerably about. This historic anecdote has a happy ending, however, for many locals attest to this day that the baby's looks, after the swelling had gone down, were vastly improved upon.