Rot-Gut – W. Forneisi

“Terrance, I done told you to lay off that rot-gut.”
“It ain’t rot-gut, ma, it’s just whiskey.”
Terrance never was too bright, and when his ma told him it was rot-gut, he should have just believed it was rot-gut. A kid can’t go around second-guessing his ma too long, ‘fore something bad happens and he winds up hurtin’, dead, or dumber than he was before. Like that story of the brush chipper I was tellin’ you all about – how Jared Austin got hisself all up and killed just by being a little too careless.
But then, I already told you about that.
Terrance always got that rot-gut whiskey from that man up in Blanchers who was known to have a still out back of his barn and who kept it hid behind a bunch of old machinery. Sheriff Morgan never went ’round there to check out things, and everyone says that there might have been some kind of a deal struck there. I ain’t sayin’ that, mind you – that’s just what everyone says.
I ain’t sayin’ it.
So Terrance would get that rot-gut and go off on a wild spree, drinkin’ and cuttin’ up, and hangin’ out with his friends up in Cotton City. He lost his job at the mill, and took to livin’ back at home – that’s how his ma got to knowin’ about his drinkin’ in a real first-hand sorta’ way. She seen’ it. His aunt Lila seen’ it. The mail delivery driver seen’ it – seen’ it when he was passed out in the culvert with his coveralls bunched up ’round his ankles ’cause he was drunk and didn’t want his ma to hear him having the trots in the house. Dumb, drunk Terrance saw it fit to do his business out in the culvert, and he was still there when the mail came around.
Word travels fast, and folks ‘most already knew the truth, anyway.
There was time that Terrance had to spend in the pokey in Haverland, ‘course, and I think Sheriff Morgan liked havin’ a little fun with him whenever he had the chance. No one said a thing, even though some seen’ it. Lotsa’ folks suspected it, but none could ever prove it.
Terrance didn’t last too long. He wasn’t near’ as old as his old man was when he passed away. Terrance done dumb things, and then he done some dumber things. Dumbest thing of all was ever getting’ started down a road that he shouldn’t have set foot on. You know how that goes? You know roads like that? You know how a road can look like it’s goin’ in one direction when you set out, and then by the time you ain’t too far down that road, you’re headin’ right’ different.
And so it was that his ma looked at the piled up dirt on the grave and thought about things a ma should say and things a ma just can’t. You know how it is. I ain’t never been a ma, but I think I know as well as anyone – we all do. Anyone that has seen fit to ever think about right and wrong or even just been faced with the difference. You see it and you can hardly not think about it. You can’t hardly let the thoughts form ideas and the ideas form words and those words form right into the shapes on your tongue and on your lips and they damn near come rollin’ out your mouth. Even rollin’ out words when you’re lookin’ at piled up dirt on a grave.
“Terrance, I done told you to lay off that rot-gut.”

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