Rumors About Dread Mills

By Rodney Jones

Featured Images: Rouen Cathedral, West Façade by Claude Monet, 1894, Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington


At last they have him in church, a short service and the family silent, but the moments after the funeral are like a test.

True: The new base-tube press at Lockland Copper weighed sixty-seven tons. When they had completed the building and brought it in the door, six engineers agreed they would have to lift the roof to get the crane in and lower it into the pit. He heard from Tip Smith, a drinking buddy, a welder on the job, and wrote the board, saying he would do it for 10,000. Went to the ice plant, ordered eigh- teen blocks, filled the pit, rolled the press onto the ice; then, as the ice melted, pumped out the water.

True: Drunk every day for sixteen years. False: Mostly homebrew or moon- shine.

True: Every morning Maurice Orr’s rooster pissed him off. False: He caught the rooster in a sack, dug a hole behind the house, buried it with just the neck and head sticking out, cranked the mower, and mowed the lawn.

False: The story that besotted on the back lawn he ordered Jawaharal to dance and choreographed the steps with a Colt revolver. (Gunsmoke.)

True: Jawaharal inherited his logic gene and argued when he called him “Jerry.”

False: He never hit a lick at a snake. Once he pruned the grapevine. Twice, after midnight, he picked roasting ears from Leldon Spence’s garden.

True: When the money from the press job ran out, he wrote bad checks until his name was published on the glass doors of every business from Cold Springs to Decatur. It hit him then one day: go from store to store, copy all the names, print the list of deadbeats twice a year and sell subscriptions to each store for fifty dollars.

True: His Deadbeat Protection Flier taking off before the Credit Protection Act: drinking Jim Beam in the air over Georgia and Louisiana, he was a sloppy man who made a million dollars.

True: The gay son home from Palo Alto. The wife, a holy roller in a sari. His brilliant, inebriated redneck math, marks in the chicken yard. The liver. The heart—details of the unannotated life: grease-prints on Erdös in Combinator- ics, unused tickets to see Conway Twitty—Cliffs Notes for Abyss Studies—

His mind at the end like a hand reaching for a pocket when he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

“I would kill myself if there were anyone better.”

Rodney Jones is the author of nine books of poetry, most recently Imaginary Logic, published in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College

Originally appeared in NOR 17

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