|CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Time Is Timeless In Big Puf - Arley, Zeb, Homer Bob And Burvil|
By Jack Cawthon
You may have missed me over the past few weeks—I’ve been told that my writing is easily missed—but I had a prolonged visit to Big Puf to observe the New Year. Note that I say “observe,” not “celebrate;”if I had done the latter I might still be MIA.
Time is rather timeless in Big Puf. It operates both on the old calendar and something resembling the Mayan creation. As a result, no one is really certain when one year begins and another one ends. Most people say it doesn’t matter one way or the other.
Take Zeb Zeberly. He decided to go out, both literally and figuratively, for 1975, which he termed “a very good year,” and he is still celebrating, unwilling to give it up.
My role as observer is an honorary one. It was a close race between Arley Cleeter and me, but as he was an ex-Pennsylvanian, roots won out over perversity. As I was once destined for a brilliant career in journalism, that is, before I studied the subject, the kind folks of Big Puf decided to offer me a come-back, much in the fashion of Ken Hechler, but without his age and wisdom. I suppose ability may also factor in.
As I have said, there isn’t much to report about a new year in Big Puf, even if one can determine the beginning of it. As a result, I can only provide some insights into the happenings from my perspective.
Homer Bob, the illiterate writer, has “revolved” to be published, as he puts it, as most perspiring writers do, even if he has to use the Ecclesiastes press, which The Preacher considered “all is vanity,” but being a writer himself should have understood. Homer Bob intends to keep his daytime job as manager of the former Blue Moon and Lose Your Shirt Casino. Governor Wise forced a name change of the establishment, as well as others in the state, in what I assume was a move to be politically correct, although I think he may have flubbed his chances by earlier affairs.
Homer Bob, for the first time in his life, recently visited outside the state with a cousin who wished to show him Cleveland’s Hough District which has long been the domicile of West Virginians on the upwardly mobile tract.
Homer Bob observed so many Blue Moons of different sorts and descriptions that on his return he renamed his place The Over Easy Inn, a moniker he once used on an establishment he owned over on Little Wheeze Crick. He figured that if the Governor was forcing a name change he might as well go whole hog. By the way, he didn’t think much of Ohio as “it was too flat to hide in case of a bad storm.”
In the way of news, I suppose a mention of Arley Cleeter is needed. Some folks say he froze to death, but revived much like Lazarus or Sam McGee. As you know, Arley burns books for his winter heat, but as I noticed on my last visit to his cabin the stove was about as cold as the state legislature is to meaningful ATV legislation. When I opened the stove door to revitalize the fire with a copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Arley screamed “NO!” and grabbed the book from my hand. I detected a noticeable change in both Arley and the cabin temperature.
But that was only a small glimpse of what was to come. When folks passing by the cabin observed no smoke coming from the stovepipe and Arley hadn’t shown up for literary discussions at the Blue Moon, which we should now call The Over Easy, there was general worry afoot.
In the early days of Arley’s residence his stovepipe often emitted smoke of an acrid nature, not at all resembling wood smoke, and folks would shake their heads but as is the hill way not meddle in the affairs of another (except those of the governor). Let him ruin his mind and body with noxious weed, they would say as they downed their water glasses of Old Al Hag fresh, unfortunately still in its youth, from Okey’s still. “There ort to be a law agin it!” they exclaimed as they ordered another round of Okey’s tonic, which from time to time had the distinct taste of antifreeze. But when Okey was questioned about the flavor he always smiled and said it was a secret ingredient from Mexico.
After a week or more of smokeless, sub-freezing days, some alert citizen decided it was time to investigate. Burvil doesn’t fit the description but he wanted to pick up some educational magazines that often came with Arley’s books, some that he couldn’t reach on the top shelf and which contained pictures that would make Wonderful West Virginia blush.
It was Burvil’s alarm, aided by the surplus air raid siren on top of Big Puf Mountain, that brought people running. Arley was found sitting in front of his cold dead stove surrounded by books of all descriptions. In his hand was a copy of Lee Maynard’s Crum, which he held in a cold NRA death grip, which everyone thought it was. His body was stiff and his face pale, but when a bottle of Okey’s brew was forced through his frozen grin, there was life stirring in him. Some wise person observed that this was the first time a stiff had made a reverse transition using Okey’s tonic.
The good folks of the Holy Rattlers church have their own explanation. They said if he was into reading a dirty book such as Crum the Devil had probably already visited but found him not yet ready. It was his radiance that did the trick. When hearing this Okey Hanshaw said the thought it proved that a dirty book and his brew might take one to hell and back and one be better for the experience. But Okey is a known agnostic.
As I stated in the beginning, there isn’t much to report from Big Puf. One year is pretty much like another, except in review I believe 1975 was a really good year and I intend to go back and maybe this time celebrate just a tad with Zeb.