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. . . and Testament

The odds?  Let’s get real.  I’m betting against the house.
I know what you’re gonna say:  “It’s not an option.  It’s never an option.  Circumstances will turn around.”  And yeah, Mom’s gonna roll over in her blessed Christian grave.  But I ain’t contemplating this on account of you or Mom.  I’m not doing it to you.  I’m not doing it at you.
            I love you, sis.  But you know damn well we’ve never been able to agree on nothin.  If you’ll come over and beat me up, maybe I’ll reconsider.  Maybe I’m hoping you will.
            I’ve read a little bit and learned a few big words.  One of them high-brow words is sepulchura.  It’s from nineteenth century Japan.  For the samurai, it was a matter of honor to not allow his enemy the privilege of carrying out his execution.  So the sword slinger took care of matters himself.
            The samurai used a very sharp knife, sharp enough for a good, clean shave, to slowly cut out his abdominal cavity.  His enemies looked on with itchy trigger fingers and ate their hearts out.  Gruesome?  You can ante your smooth ass it was.  Yet, given the situation. . .
            But Sally, don’t worry.  I lack the guts to cut my guts out, and mine enemies are cor[orate.  I have no idea who they are.  No faces or names.  Bankers, lawyers, fat cat execs and lenders of filthy lucre.  The wardens of our new, improved debtor prisons.  To them I’m only a statistic.  I don’t even rate an asterisk, just a dollar sign.  If I were to surgically extract my intestines, they wouldn’t bother to watch.
            But Sally, go ahead and worry.  I don’t lack the guts to end it.
            How can I know that?  Quite a leap, huh, seeing as I’m rarely able to dredge up the fortitude to wash the dishes, sweep the floor or bathe?  Well, I’m just godawful tired, kid.  Tired of not knowing where the next right cross is coming from.  Tired of swinging at shadows.
            But I’ve worked my scrawny butt off, I have!  And damn right, I’m bragging.  Take a look at my hands.  Feel the muscles in these arms!  Still I can lift it!  Still I can pound it!  Still I can take their biggest, baddest, stinkinest hunk of iron and make it behave!  But I’m doing yesterday’s work for yesterday’s pay.  It wasn’t enough then.  It’s even less now.
            Take a walk around in my lower back for a day.  I’m an old horse now, Sally.  I ain’t fast enough, ain’t strong enough to do the overtime no more.  And everybody knows what they do with old horses.
            The way the game is rigged, if I live out my natural years, they’ll take everything I own, then start bleeding my kids just to keep me breathing.  It ain’t a fair fight.  And like I said, the butt holes won’t even show their faces.  I mean, whose fucking nose can I break?  I wanta put um down for the count!  I want to watch them squirm!  I wanta hear um beg, bargain, plead and grovel!  I want um to call me master, say Yes sir!  No sir! In my presence.  Cause I am so sick of seeing my pay check ripped and scattered by that flock of buzzards.
            I don’t intend to give them sonsabitches the pleasure.


            You remember that day at the Simkins County Fair in Helmsdale, believe it was the first year I’d moved out and got a place of my own?  But do you remember us standing in the crowd with all them other hayseeds and grease pit yokels?  “ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS!” the barker yelled.  “That is, if any of you backwater beer belly behemoths thinks you’re man  enough.”
           All hands shuffled their feet and mumbled, including me.  The Strong Man up in the ring stretched and flexed.  “Gawd!  He’s bigger’n my blue ribbon bull!” someone moaned.  “Probably damn near as smart, too,” somebody else put in.  The crowd chuckled, kinda nervous.
            “Better hope he didn’t hear that,” the barker said.  “Ain’t certain I can control Gargantua here.  Not if he gets riled.”
            “One hundred dollars.”  That’s what you whispered in my ear, sis.  “Better’n two days pay.”  I was wondering if I heard you right.  “You bust your balls and sweat blood sixteen, eighteen, twenty hours for that kinda money, Howie.  You can polish this varmint off in half a minute.”
            “Are you crazy?  I said.  “You think I’m gonna. . .”
            “Hush!  I’m figuring.”
“That comes to twelve-thousand dollars an hour.  You’re in the wrong line of work, Howie.”
            I know my mouth commenced to open and shut like a walleye’s.  No words coming out at all. 
            “No taxes took out of it neither.  Unless you’re damn fool enough to claim the income.”
            I think my mouth just stayed open at this point.
            “Hey!”  You waved your arms and hollered.  “Over here!”
            “Excuse me, Miss,” said the barker, “while I’m sure that you’re wearing a black belt under your petticoats, my man Gargantua. . .  His mama taught him good and proper.  He does have his manners.  I regret causing you any disappointment, but my gentleman simply cannot enter into mortal combat with a woman of the female gender.”
           “Oh no sir, this ain’t for me, sir,” you hollered back.  “Your boy ain’t mean enough for me to use as toilet paper.  But my brother here,” and you jabbed your elbow in my ribs, “he’s getting real tired of me whupping on him and wants to practice on somebody a bit, oh, you know, more effeminate.”
            The crowd laughed, not too nervous this time.  The barker waited for them to quiet down.  “So why, if I may be so bold, Madam, does he not raise his own hand?”
            “He knows better’n to upstage me,” you replied.
         Farmers and town folk howled like a pack of coyotes at a slaughter house gate.  And I could just see the front page headlines:  LOCAL BOY DIES DUE TO SISTER’S BIG MOUTH. 
“Well then,” said the barker, “with your little sister’s permission, Junior, step right up!”
            “What you gone and done?  What you gone and done?”  I said.
            “Don’t be such a sissy, Howard!” you snapped.  “Just hit him like you done that stallion tearing apart the barn last week.  The Strong Man’ll fall down.  The end.  Don’t forget to collect your hundred bucks.”
            A left to his rib cage took the breath straight out of him.  A right to the ear sent the Strong Man over like a sixty foot pine.  I will never forget the sound of him slamming into the canvas.  Like thunder!  Like thunder, and I was lightning.
            Not bad for thirty second’s work.


            Sally, I can’t survive on what used to be.  And hope, all by itself, don’t fill the belly.
            I ain’t wasted this life.  Been employee of the month down at the foundry, and more than once, by God!  Had a placard with my name on it right in front my own private parking spot.  Would been due for a nice, healthy pension if the company hadn’t been sold.  That was not my fault.  But then, whose fault it was don’t seem to matter.
            But I have stepped up when called upon.  Hell, I went to the Simkins County Fair in Helmsdale, took on Gargantua and won.  I won that bout with you in my corner.
            Still, I squandered my youth and I’m ashamed of the fact.  I ain’t kept up with the time and that’s due to nothing more than my own lack of ambition.  I’ve been pig-headed about taking advice, good and bad both.  But I was strong enough, quick enough and just about smart enough.
            I do wish, especially when I’m lying awake in the middle of the night, that I could’ve seen myself the way that you saw me back then.  The way I suspect you still do. 
            So I’m asking you, little sister, because time is indeed, running out.  I’m asking you.  Do you still believe I have that much fight left in me?  Do you think I can still make $12,000.00 per hour, even for half a minute?  Do you still suppose I can take the Strong Man?  If you do, I reckon the least I can do is give it a shot.
            If not. . .  And let’s be real here, we know the odds.  If not, at the very least, cherish the memories.  We earned them.
            For a little while we knocked them bastards out cold, instead of the other way around.


            I must admit, through the course of my life, I’ve done good work.  All the same, I take no pride in anything, except for this:  As of this writing, I am still alive.

Hardy Coleman resides in the Third Precinct of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yes, THAT Third Precinct. So, these have been interesting times the past couple of years. However, if the Third Precinct was good enough for George Floyd, it’s good enough for Hardy. He also has a Children’s novel, Game Day, put out by Moonfire Publishing. Which he thinks you should read.

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