(excerpt from notes by Jon Perdue)
Okay. I will start. You may not ever see it. You may not read it. But I owe it to you. Someone owed me too, but that is alright because they did not know. They did not know that their stories are my story and my story is your story and our stories are helpful. Our stories are healing.
So, I will tell you the story. I don’t know where to start and god knows how it ends. But I will do my best for as long as I can. The rest is up to you.
Being queer in Paducah was just about the worst thing a kid could be. I could tell from the look on her face and the jello wiggle in her voice when she answered the question. We were on the porch on Guthrie Ave waiting for the rain to come or not. If not, we could walk down the block to the Minute Mart and buy something. In the meantime, Mama sat on the swing and tried to figure out how to answer the question. We didn’t know what a queer was so one of us asked her. I don’t remember what she said. I remember how she acted. A queer, I guessed, was a guy who liked to be around other guys. Her answer was vague otherwise, but I was sure that it was horrible based on how upset she got. She wouldn’t look us in the face and her hand shook when she lighted her Taryton.
Mama was kind of nervous anyhow so maybe we should have asked someone else.
She never finished High School because of her nerves. It was kind of hard to believe cause far as I could tell she wasn’t afraid of much. She left her husband after 25 years for cheating with a blonde whore named Joyce. Years later the whore was dead, but Mama was still going. She worked any job she could find. She worked behind the counter at the Rexall downtown and dutifully looked the other way when the veep’s sister slipped those Mars Bars into her handbag. She worked in the Ben Franklin Five and Dime. She worked at the bowling alley cooking French Fries for smart assed kids who asked for a fork to eat them with when they didn’t need no goddamn fork. But that was her favorite job because she would stop at the pass through on the way out and buy two or three beers to take home in a paper bag. The bartender sold them to her as a favor so she wouldn’t have to go to the liquor store and be seen. Beer helped her sleep.
The rain never came so we took her tip money and walked through the black dirt at the edge of the road, crossed the four lane, and entered the fluorescent world of the Minute Mart. My brothers bought Sugar Babies and a Goo Goo Cluster to take back to her. I bought a Western Horseman magazine. There was a cowboy on the cover and I liked his belt buckle.
Copyright©, 2019 Jon Perdue
Jon is a full time social worker, part-time activist, and sometime writer. He lives with his husband and far too many animals in Montgomery, AL. He tells the truth as he knows it most of the time.