Eddie had been ugly all his
life. He knew he was ugly cuz when he and mama went to the foodstore
everybody would stare and make fun of him -- even the little kids werent
afraid to do it. Mama said them other kids was just stupid. Eddie knew what
stupid meant. Thats what he was. Sometimes he would try to explain that to
mama but she would just get mad and throw things and scream at the walls.
Sometimes she would just cry and say she was sorry over and over till she was all
cried out and fell asleep. When people run outa tears they have to sleep. Mama
slept alot but Eddie didnt mind. Thats when he would go see ol' Jerry. Jerry didnt
mind talking about things that upset mama. One time Eddie asked why God had made
him stupid and Jerry said he didnt know but then the next day said he did and it
was cuz God really wanted Eddie to go to Heaven. Ol' Jerry said it was easier for
retards to get into Heaven cuz they didnt know how to be mean. They were more
like animals and that was good cuz animals always went to Heaven.
Behind Eddies house there was some woods.
They led to ol' Jerrys farm.
Nobody liked ol' Jerry much but Eddie and mama. Lots of folks thought he was crazy.
It was funny to Eddie that people would talk about being crazy like it was bad
but really it just meant you were nice. Mama was crazy too -- thats how Eddie
knew about it. Summer was the best time of year. In the summer the woods was
all grown up and there were no trails. So every time Eddie wanted to go help
Jerry with the cows he had to make up a whole new way to get there. Some days
it took longer than others. One day it took so long Jerry had to come find
Eddie and take him home in his pickup truck. That made mama real mad.
The best thing about Jerrys farm was the cows. Cows were pretty and smart
and crazy like mama and Jerry. Eddie liked to watch 'em eat. His favorite cow
was Mary-bell. Her name used to just be Mary but a couple summers ago Eddie
found an old cowbell on the walk to Jerrys house. when he showed Jerry the
cowbell and Jerry said what it was, Eddie asked and asked till finally
Jerry let him put it around the neck of the prettiest cow. That was Mary.
Jerry seemed to like Mary-bell even better after that. One time when Eddie
was inside Jerrys house he saw a picture of Jerrys daughter and she had a
necklace with a bell on it, too. Her bell was tiny and gold, though. Jerry
said she was an angel now.
Sometimes after chores got done and the cows had eaten, Jerry brought
out sandwiches and beanie-weenies. It was fun eatin' beanie-weenies on the
porch and watching cows. The cows thought it was funny too. They would just
stare and sometimes talk to each or tell secrets while they were starin'.
It wasnt like the looks Eddie got at school or in the foodstores though. the
cows didnt care that Jerry was crazy or Eddie was stupid. They just wanted to
know what beanie-weenies tasted like. Jerry always said cows shouldnt eat
beanie-weenies any more than people should eat hay. Eddie knew better though.
Once, when Jerry wasnt lookin' Eddie gave one of the weenie pieces hed hid
in his pocket to Mary-bell and she wanted another one.
One day Eddie asked his mom to make beanie-weenies for lunch and she
did. Eddie had a secret plan so big and good it was all he could do to keep
from giggling cool-aid right out his nose. Mama thought Eddie
was funny to keep a secret and kept asking him what he was up to. That
made the plan even better. Every now and then mama would turn to fold clothes
and Eddie would shove a handful of beanie-weenies into his pocket. There was
no chores today. Jerry had to go to town and wasnt gonna be back till almost
dark. When his lunch was all gone Eddie tore away from the table in a fit of
snickers he just couldnt hide anymore. It was a breezy, light day that made
mamas smile feel warm like the sun. She warned Eddie not to get into mischief
but he was gone before she could finish.
Eddie couldnt run fast enough. He felt full and shiny and laughed so
loud it sounded like the woods was laughin' with him. This new trail he was
making was the best yet, even if he wouldnt be able to find it tomorrow.
Finally he could hear Marys cowbell clanking, telling him where she was. For
a second Eddie didnt notice she wasnt with the other cows who were all acting kinda
funny. Mary was all by her self at the water trough, yelling. The rope holding
her bell looked like it was caught on the water spigot by the trough. She was
jumping up and down and kicking. Eddie thought she might pull the pipe right
out of the ground. When he finally got closer he heard something that made him
look down. A brown clump of dirt moved just a few feet from Mary. It moved and
then it rattled. Mary was still blorting and yanking her head away from the
faucet. Eddie tried to get her rope off the spigot head. He pulled on it but
Mary kept bucking and knocked him down. He felt a sting on his leg and realized
hed already been bitten twice. He had to keep himself between Mary and the
snake. Finally the rope came away from the pipe but Mary kept kicking and
kicking till the snake didnt move anymore. Eddie beamed a stupid, retard-grin
and picked himself up outa the dirt. The beanie-weenies were still in his
pocket. He reached in and pulled out a fistful. His hand was bloody and swoled
up from getting caught between the faucet and Marys rope. He stood for a
little bit while Mary-bell ate his treasure. Finally, he had to sit down when he
couldnt feel his hands or legs. Mary-bell kept licking his hand and face even
after the beanie-weenies was gone. After a few minutes of sitting it occurred
to Eddie that when he was runnin' to save Mary he stepped in cowshit. Cowshit
was funny. It always made Jerry smile when Eddie talked about it. It was one
of their jokes. Jerry would, just outa the blue, ask Eddie what something
smelled like and Eddie would always say it smelled like cowshit. One time, at
dinner, Eddie tried that with mama but she didnt think it was funny.
Just sittin' there in the middle of the pasture the sun was real hot.
It looked white like one of them fancy lightbulbs that dont hurt to look at.
Eddie could still see it when he closed his eyes. He could see Mary-bell too.
Only she wasnt Mary-bell anymore. She was Jerrys daughter that was an angel
now. She was still wearing the little gold bell and just made herself look like
a cow to take care of her pa. It made Eddie smile to think of how Mary-bell was
really an angel and that she liked beanie-weenies, too. Eddie laughed cuz he
figured they must eat beanie-weenies in Heaven all the time. Then he
remembered what Jerry said about retards and animals. For a minute he wondered
if he might turn into a dog or bird someday to take care of mama like Mary-bell
had done for Jerry. He thought about that for a while. Mary-bell was
still licking Eddies face when ol' Jerry finally came back from town. And Eddie
was just layin' there, still smilin'.