Excerpt from the Book:
“How come they so yella colored like that?”
“They butter cats,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil had reddish-blond hair with a short, bad haircut, a
big handlebar mustache and three-day beard. His face was sunburned. It was
lined so he looked older than he was and held an expression always that was a
little sleepy. He was thin to the point his body seemed almost disconnected in
places. He sat at the old card table under the live oak, honing his jackknife.
There were seven catfish on a stringer in the grass.
He regarded Kuka a moment, then got to smiling to where it
made spurs along his eyes and spoke as follows:
“You lookin’ rough, boy. You jus’ kind a hauntish lookin’
this mornin’. There ain’t no else way to put it.”
“I got too much sleep,” Kuka said. It had been the first
night he’d slept good in nearly a week.
“You might need to sort your ass out some now.”
Somewhat later, when nothing else had been said, Kuka scowled
at the sun.
“The hell time is it?” he said.
“It ain’t but nine,” O’Neil said, “but I swear, this heat’s
’bout to addle my brain a’ready.”
He walked to the bed of his old Dodge pickup, got a hammer, a
can of nails, pliers and a bucket. A mockingbird started to sing, jumping up
and down insanely on the telephone wire. Across the street kudzu entwined the
abandoned gas station and its fading R.C. Cola sign.
“Somethin’s riled that bird. It’s begun to put me in mind a
that preacher we had oncet when we was children. Sometimes he’d get to such a
heavenly pitch, he’d talk in a language no one could understand but the Lord.”
“I think it’s jus’ gone mad,” Kuka said.
“There you go,” O’Neil said. He nailed the catfish to the
oak, a 16-penny nail through each of their heads, made a cross on their backs
with the knife blade, then took the pliers and skinned them. Afterwards, he cut
the bodies from the heads and threw the meat into the bucket.
“Them cooters gone dormant, or jus’ they wadn’t hungry,” he
said. “Weren’t nary a one. But I still got a icebox full. You’ll have to come
over for supper a night.”
Kuka only nodded.