So Mizz Strickman told me it’s bad form for a writer to put in a preface but screw that. I seen ’em in all those big books she has up on her shelves and it didn’t hurt those books none. Anyway, following the rules ain’t never done me no good. Not that breaking the rules has done me much better but at least it’s my own choice. So here’s the preface, like it or not.
I guess I should warn you my grammar ain’t the greatest either. Now don’t think it’s because I don’t know no better. I can read, but I always wonder why nobody ever writes in those books the way they really talk. Trying to show off, probably. Well, I ain’t showing off. I’m just gonna put down exactly what happened, and I’m gonna write it exactly how I’d say it.
I’ll start at the day of Big Joe’s murder and put down everything that took place after that. If you don’t care to read a book like that, I figure this preface should be enough to steer you somewhere else.
Yep, I’m putting in a foreword too. Now in those books of Mizz Strickman’s, they always thank all their editors and agents and best friend’s girlfriend’s poodle for helping them write their book. Well, I ain’t got no one like that to thank. I only got Mizz Strickman and me. So that’s who I’m thanking. If this book makes sense to you, it’s probably ’cause Mizz Strickman went through and changed my bad spelling and all that. And if you like what I wrote, you can thank me, and no one else.
So like I said, everything started with Big Joe’s murder. You ain’t got to know too much about Big Joe, except he was pretty much the meanest mother to live in Wyattville, which is where I live, by the way. He lived in that nasty old house on Vance Street with his pack of slobbering coonhounds and he drank every day.
I knowed him cause his leg was lame and it was hard for him to get out, so he’d give me ten dollars to go down to the liquor store and pick him up the second smallest bottle of Old Kentucky Special whiskey. And they’d sell it to me at Jim’s Liquors even though I’m eleven, cause they knowed it wasn’t for me, but for Big Joe, and when I took it back to him he’d let me keep the change, which came out to two dollars and forty-six cents.
Now I guess Big Joe wasn’t so bad in the morning, before the whiskey. He’d meet me at the gate and give me the money to pick up the bottle, and I’d talk with him a little, chew the fat, as some people say. And his dogs weren’t so bad either since they knowed me, but they did slobber all the time.
But on this particular day—I remember it was the twentieth of June ’cause it was the day after school let out for the summer, and it’s important I get this down exact—Big Joe wasn’t waiting for me at his gate. When I stroll up, those dogs of his was all up on the chain link fence, whining and begging like no one had fed ’em. I was suspicious right away, ’cause you know, where’s Big Joe gonna go with that leg of his? I opened the gate and slipped in, though I hated to let those dogs drool on me. And I walked through the yard, taking care not to step in any of the piles of dog shit.
I’ll just come right out and tell you, the house was a god-awful mess. Furniture all knocked over and papers everywhere. I don’t know how much of that was due to the murder, and how much it was already a mess from Big Joe, but I guess the blood wasn’t there before. There was blood all over that living room, spattered across the back wall and the furniture where I suppose his guts landed after he was shot. I was thankful the dogs had not gotten in there.
I had to take a couple minutes to get ahold of myself. Don’t get me wrong. It ain’t the first time I seen a dead body. I saw Uncle Billy’s dead body after he had his heart attack, but that was up at the funeral parlor and though his body had a smell, it was kind of a chemical smell, and he was laid out all nice in his coffin. But this was different. It smelled like Mama patting out hamburger patties, only real strong, and I knowed it wasn’t hamburger patties but Big Joe’s guts. I felt kind of sick in my stomach and I turned around to push that feeling down. And when I’d pushed it down, I forced myself to check, and sure enough, there was Big Joe’s body, blasted clear behind his bloody couch, his big ole stomach full a holes, his fat face kind of frozen in a look of shock. I went over and closed his eyelids, like I seen in those crime movies Mama always watches, and that made me feel better.
I ran out of the house, but I didn’t forget to close the door behind me so the dogs wouldn’t get in. I ran clear down to Jim’s Liquors where Lynn was behind the counter and I blurted right out, “Somebody shot Big Joe.”
“Oh my God,” Lynn said. “Is he still alive?”
“Nope,” I said. “He’s dead, and his blood’s all over the place up there.”
“Oh my God,” she said again. And she picked up the phone and called the sheriff. I wished she hadn’t done that, but she did.
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Jesus Bugs! Now read the rest of the book!