Getting ou of Marshall time By Jack Canson Austin It was one afternoon. A girlfriend and I were walking, just passing a late fall afternoon by strolling along the streets. We were taking this walk, this girl and I, making the rounds of her neighborhood, fantasizing one way and then another, with me doing most of the talking and her having most of the doubts. Talking about Getting Out, you see. And when we got back to her house, there was her mother, standing around, looking like she was in a snit, but it turned out she was only worried. Because there was trouble in Marshall that day, and it was going on not more than half a mile from where we were talking. A crazy man, she said, was shooting up the street. He had already shot two or three people, and God knows, he could be just around the corner, aiming at us. In Marshall? A thing like this, full of excitement and drama? And I had just been talking about Getting Out… . They offered to drive me home, but Good Lord, if that got around . . . you know what I mean? I had to walk those six blocks if it killed me, and the way the girl’s mother was talking, it might. Walking home, I fantasized about things on the positive size. I began to see headlines in the paper, front page pictures of me holding the madman killer by the scruff of the neck. I’d catch him running down the street. There would be a reward of about forty-seven million dollars in small, unmarked bills. IWENT inside our house. My mother was listening to the radio. Do you remember, she said . . . remember Burleson Street, when we lived there, that man with the Baithouse, Marvin Kinchloe. Marvin Kinchloe! Did I remember Marvin Kinchloe? And the, Baithouse and Curley Humphrey’s and Rayford’s and all the rest of everything and the way it was down there at the intersection . . . and Marvin is doing what, for Christ’s sake, shooting who? Curley Humphrey’s, the nastiest filling station in the Western World. He had one of those wringer washers on his driveway, always churning up suds, spilling all over the grease and nastiness on the pavement. I ran his red rags through the washer for hours, but they never got clean. Do you remember, she said. The baitshop, the way it was. . . . Do I remember? Some of the roughest characters in East Texas breezed through Curley’s. There was always a lot of talk about whipping some sumbitch, or about finding out if soandso’s wife was running around with whoandsuch. There was always a lot of drinking and gambling and lawcussing. Everyone was just at the edge of trouble. You could smell fight and misery around all the time, and it was kind of fun for a kid, because you were looking at it from below, from the bottom. The real bitterness and futility shorting out all those lives was beyond your vision, the sparks it all made just looked like any other fireworks. Do you remember . . . how even if you couldn’t really understand what all this unhappiness and hostility was all about, you could get your fill of it, you could become uncomfortable being around it. Maybe it was just getting bored with all those people who were just fixing to bust someone or who were climbing out of a hangover and heading back into another drunk. You longed for a place around the intersection that wasn’t so damned mechanical, that wasn’t spinning and reeling about like an unbalanced tire. There was only one place like that. IT WAS Marvin’s Baithouse, where it was always cool. Listen. The top of that roof was all cane poles, and there were fans running in there all summer long. The long tin tubs of minnows were cool to lean against. The sound the pumps made circulating the wate would put you to sleep in the middle of the day. There were plenty of boxes to sit on, and a lot of birds. around the outside. Life was in the shade there, man. All natural stuff, none of this grease and nuts and bolts. Did I remember. Marvin Kinchloe. Did I know that there was a madman loose, shooting his guns off in all directions, blasting the stew out of his poppa-in-law? The kind of deal you might expect around the intersection, but that was ten years earlier. Christ, before the days of air conditioning, before Cool, and anyhow, Marvin? I mean, it doesn’t sound like him, not hardworking old Mary…. But then again, maybe it was. Because after all, we moved away from that intersection, we hit it on up the street and Marvin was busy getting in trouble. There was plenty of talk about him, I mean, how he was bootlegging and gambling, and, yep, that same quiet, hard-working, burn-the-midnight-oil-Marvin, was hitting the juice pretty hard, and he better watch that young stuff he’s got hanging around him, she’ll turn his head once or twice, and Pop, there it goes, goodbye family structure, goodbye all his hardwork and nose to the grindstone stuff, goodbye to the best things the good life and luck can bring. And They were right, those voices, damned if they weren’t, because sure enough, the young stuff turned his head, or whatever, because there it came, sliding in there right on schedule, the family split, and right behind it, on time and on the dot, came OVERINDULGENCE, and right on the track followed GAMBLING, and don’t forget CARRYING ON and in almost no time, good, hard-working, quiet, mind his own business, never get in trouble Marvin, was ON HIS WAY DOWN. And then just to make sure he was really down, he got drunk, had a wreck, and woke up charged with murder with a motor vehicle. A young girl was dead and someone else had two busted legs. I said Murder, Boy, With a Motor Vehicle. December 27, 1974 19
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