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'.

John Alleman