“What is that you got in that bottle you’re holding so tight. It might just be killed if you don’t lessen up some.” Bellmore continued speaking as if he were reading the contents on a sardine tin. “Must be mighty important, you got such a death grip on her. Don’t intend to take it from you boy, if that’s what you got in your mind,” Bellmore stood on the rutted road, observing the boy clutching a half empty bottle of…
Grasshopper was said to be a bit different. Some folks cared about such things, most didn’t. Grasshopper got his name so long ago that most people that knew him, or of him, had forgotten how he came to be branded Grasshopper. A few people were still around that knew the origins of the name, but most of them refused to discuss how Jasper Persimmon Morgan, J.P, came to be called Grasshopper. The others refused to incriminate themselves, as they weren’t really all that fussy when it came to things that required the truth. Grasshopper cared little, as anything was everything to him.
Many an evening in Goodpasture, known for its depressing weather, was spent around a wood stove attempting to keep from becoming complacent about life in general. How the name J.P. Morgan, a financier of notable historic worth, came to be attached to Grasshopper, most could only speculate.
Most people, when preparing to usher a new person into the world, spend an inordinate amount of time choosing a name, one that not only distinguishes their newborn from all other newborns, but a name having something akin to a privileged destiny associated with it, usually money or fame.
Grasshopper benefited from one of the perceptions attributed to his parents but failed miserably on the other. The name J.P. Morgan was the obvious attempt to solidify grasshoppers projected future, at least as far as prognosticators were concerned. The anxiety of his parents however, in choosing a name that would distinguish J.P. from all others, was not in evidence. The idea that another Morgan was about to enter the realm of Pine Hope, was more than some could endure. Many families left town rather than abide the likely possibility of having to endure the antics of another Morgan.
It has been said throughout history there are those that commit to a place, and those that leave. The general consensus was that the Morgan’s were never leaving. They claimed to be the original settlers of Pine Hope, which was an asserted abomination of a concept, that it was the Morgan family that named the town, Pine Hope.
An old bible that belonged to Bessy Wainwright, who many considered the founding matriarch of the town, made reference to the Wainwright’s having named the town, Pie Hope. The contradiction in spellings was blamed on the inability of many in the area to implement a phonetic diction protocol, that could be related too, by county folks in general. The name therefore mutated to its present name, Pine Hope.
Pie Hope was rumored to be the code name for the Continental Congress Detractors: some of whom were hung as traitors, but that was later explained as simply a mistake that could have been made by anyone with diction protocol issues. To be safe, they continued to call the town Pie Hope, but spell it Pine Hope, so as to diffuse any anti-government sentiment that remained within families who were affected by protocol issues.
It was during these tempestuous times that J.P. was born and lived amongst the remaining members of the C.C.D, who were not only proud of their history, but founded a religion based on its principles. To many in the area, that was a line that should never have been crossed. The town’s folk pretended not to notice moonshine being sold by the Morgan’s during prohibition, or the ballot stuffing when Rheine Hart Morgan ran for Mayor, but the first anti-abortion clinic in the county, founded and staffed by the Morgan contingent whose medical expertise was garnered from a traveling medical practitioner from Kuala Lumpur, not the city in Malaysia, but an obscure island off the coast of African occupied New Zealand, was just too much.
For a mere seventy-five cents, one could obtain a Doctor of Divinity degree, which could be, and was used to infiltrate the non-existent medical profession in the back woods area of Pine Hope. The Morgan’s pooled their ill-gotten funds and bought every certificate the missionary had.
Jessabelle Warton, named in honor of her grandmother Isabelle, was claimed by many to have what was considered, magical powers. Now magical powers mean different things to different people; in this case it meant devious intent to be less than, was expected of you. Jess, as she became known, believed in little, and thought less of those that did. She believed most of life’s miseries were the contraband of those too industrious to do anything but imply their institutions of thought upon others, while disregarding said institutions themselves. “Hypocrites,” she was fond of mumbling to herself as she contrived ways on how to get even, show the hypocrites the folly of their misconstrued plans for a future that had as yet to be suspected, other than in their own muddled heads.
It was this ability to define possibility from reality, that she passed on to Grasshopper, not in the usual genetically manipulated way, by allowing two people with nothing in common but hormones, to find one another on a night of abandon, and believe their salvation depended upon just one more prayer to the God of lust.
When you are fumbling around in a life primarily interrupted and rearranged by the proximity of alligators and venomous snakes, your prayers need be to the point, and the answers had better be advantageous to your continued continuance, as was referred to by Hopian’s, as the ratio of territory and the distance traveled, to get from one side of the pond to the other; without a boat.
It was Jess who devised the system of chicken dragging, that, and the skip move. She’d attach a rope to her waist, tied a chicken to the rope, and as she skipped and hopped across the bayou waters that separated her from Hooligan’s, the still she managed, she prayed to her God.
The chicken did little but annoy the alligators, who really had no interest in either chicken or those that flailed about stupidly in their opinion, across the slime infested pond. They had plenty to eat as the butchering plant down the road, rather than comply with environmental regulations, dumped the animal refuse into the pond. There being only conservative notions afloat in that part of Circumference, no one objected. As a matter of fact they elected Jess’s father, One legged Hopper, unofficial mayor of their small but unattractive suburb.
It was from these humble beginnings, and the fact that the chicken decoy didn’t always work, as migrating alligators, not yet informed of the proprietary mode of operation, took a few improper by community standards nips at those following bayou etiquette, that this saga began.
The law of averages allowed some in the gene pool to be eliminated by the uneducated migrants, resulting in the transmission of latent examples of fortitude, but lacked the E.I, as they referred to ephemeral introspection essentials when choosing a mate. Years later, the result of the lack of E.I. in the general vicinity of Pie, produced the one known as, Jasper Persimmon Morgan.
No one knew for sure, but everyone suspected that the fright instilled in little J.P, that resulted in his mother committing pyrotechnic supposition on the family business while pregnant, was the result of the curse of Jessabelle Warton. Jess had declared on her death bed, to her God Pie, that she would not leave voluntarily, knowing only too well the probability of ending up in Circumference Pond, and becoming a component of the regulation that was ignored.
That fear and total disregard for institutional knowledge passed down to J.P. caused him, to be more than what people referred to as, jittery, or downright jumpy. The boy did not walk, crawl, roll, or any of the things normal Circumference Pond young’uns did; he hopped. From the day he was able to propel himself, he hopped wherever he went.
Some, attributed the behavior to the folk lore of skipping in previous generations, having become entangled with the ideas presented by the traveling evangelist from Kuala Lumpur. His Doctor of Divinity degrees produced an influence that explored the underbelly of the religious misunderstandings of those not prone to subjective indoctrination. It did little good in changing the ways and means of the Morgan clan.
Grasshopper one day, while skipping about the lily pads of the pond, realized being sought after was most of the fun, considering what would happened, if he stopped. The preponderance of what he believed to be divine suggestion, caused him to evaluate his situation in life, and the chance of him ever becoming catchable enough to have a family of his own. The thought infected him with a seriousness that caused him to slip and fall into the slimy green waters of Circumference Pond.
Knowing nothing but hopping his entire life, he sank to the bottom, where he encountered to his surprise, someone he thought he recognized, but could not be sure until he croaked. It was, of all his acquaintances, the one he believed he would not meet until he visited his watery grave, but then he’d been wrong before.
Captain Skelton was the amphibian in charge of bone management. His name and title were given him by himself, as no one else believed in names or labels. They believed it made you a point of conjecture that was difficult to change, once they found out you lived in Circumference Pond. It wasn’t that those from the pond were looked down upon, as that would be impossible, being that they inhabited the bottom of the community as it was. No, they simply disliked names because they increased the likelihood of becoming referred to as a Morgan, a reference to the anticipated irreverence one always left with. After leaving Circumference you felt as if you’d spent your entire work release time picking discarded disrespect from the roadsides of the Pond.
Skeleton began to introduce himself, as he’d been taught, but was abruptly interrupted by J.P, “I know who you are. I’ve watched you while lying on the dock, looking under the lily pads; I saw what goes on down there, here.”
Skeleton, looked unperturbed. He too had watched from his spot on the muddy bottom, his head resting on a thigh bone, it cupping his head perfectly, leaving him comfortable enough to survey the world above, and although a different world, an adjunct to his own. The two worlds he surmised, not only complimented one another but were dependent on the other.
“And you, I know you too,” replied Bones. “You are the one they call T.J. or PJ, hard to hear, the water you know.”
“J.P, not PJ” J. P’s frustrated response, “Something wrong with your ears? Do you even have ears?” J.P. realized he’d reverted to his old maligning defenses. “I apologize,” he managed, averting his eyes from those of the Captain.
“No worry,” said Bones, continuing to survey this new guest, which unlike many of his other visitors, was alive. He watched the bubbles escaping J.P. and rise in search of the surface of the pond, where they would meet with the sulfuric objections of the green slime.
“Thank you for not being dead. The last person of any consequence that visited was some twenty years ago; the old man that came often to fish, slipped, hit his head and came for a visit. His bubbles escaped too, but not for very long. He’s over here by your Isabelle, if you’d care to see.”
J.P. who was not used to being treated with such respect, didn’t quite know how to react. If he left, he might just make it home in time for mashing, but if he stayed, he could stop being who he was expected to be and be who he wanted to be. Sitting in the mud at the bottom of Circumference Pond he considered his options. As he was about to expand his deliberation, he began to feel disoriented, and then everything went dark.
He dreamed of mashing, his favorite new pass time. It consisted of skipping and hopping in a huge barrel of ground corn and water used in his uncles fermentation process. J.P. enjoyed the feel of intoxication between his toes.
He awoke to find himself inexplicably lying on the weed covered bank of the pond. Rain had begun to fall, as lightning slashed the darkening sky. He touched his face and found himself to not only be alive, but much the same as he remembered. He got on his hands and knees and peered into the murky water to see if he could find his new friend. There on the bottom, was what he could only assume was Aunt Izzy, not looking much different than when she was alive. A bit thinner than her bureau picture he mused, but not enough to noticeably change her to the point of being unrecognizable. He waved, and believed he saw a smile form on Izzy’s nonexistent lips.
He wished he could consider her his favorite aunt, but that would be a fabrication, as Lulu, his father’s sister, was his favorite. She was, what had become known around Circumference, a closet jumper. When he asked his father about the meaning, he’d explained to him that a closet jumper, was simply a skipper with above average enthusiasm. All J.P. remembered thinking at the time was, “Oh.”
J.P. found as he grew older, things did not change for the better as his brother, and knew Bishop of the church, had predicted. School was too boring; he felt he did not belong, and sitting still was torturous. His weekend job at the algae factory ended when his uncle decided he’d had enough of creating biofuels and went back to making the 200-proof elixir, he was infamous for.
J.P. decided the only time he’d felt like he was free to be himself, was when he’d been with Bones at the bottom of the pond. He thought about leaving town, looking for greener waters, but knew the Morgan curse would follow him no matter where he went. He would return to the pond and ask Bones if he had any insight into a quandary as insurmountable as he perceived his future life to be. He wondered if he’d be missed.
Bones was busy doing nothing as usual. The abundance of free time made his duties require less emergency than one would imagine. He busied himself with algae growth, water purity, recording contaminants from agricultural enterprises. In truth, he knew he didn’t have to do what he did. Pollution was the obvious resolution, to a forgone conclusion. Knowing the end of the story could change the beginning, and middle, but only for him, in so far as it affected the posthumous clams of his pond, so he busied himself with providing the dignity he believed everyone deserved, dead or alive.
Bones saw J.P. sitting on the edge of the dock. His feet swinging in time to the wind born white caps. He waited hopefully, and then as if by a nudge by providence, a splash, the shoes, and then J.P. settling into the mud, bubbles slipping from his nose. The miracle water created, made itself evident in the process of communication; it made exchanging thoughts possible without words. Not simply the exchange of words facilitated by a conduit, but the conduit becoming a medium that transformed the liquid conductor into a magical realm born of the ancestry attributed to Isabelle, the tenacity of Jessabelle, and the insight of Zelda. The water transformed the thoughts, moods, and jocular attitude of Bones into an interpretive framework of exchange and acceptance that proved to be the connectedness and approval J.P. had never before experienced.
It was as if his thoughts were not his, but Bones, and Bones, his. They were as one, an experience he remembered spoken of in the forbidden book Zelda kept under her bed; a book she called a Bible. Three individual aspects of one and the same entity, encapsulated in a bubble that floated before his eyes.
J.P. realized he had not really changed, nor had Bones, or the water they now communicated through. He had always had the ability to be whoever he wished to be. It was at that moment, he looked up to see a globe splash onto the water. A hook drifted towards him, and then, with a sharp tug, it began to pull him from his watery eternity. As he approached the surface, the light diffused by the carpet of green caused him to forget where he was. He instantly felt a force pulling him from a darkness into the light he had sought since his earliest memories.
“Heaven,” he proclaimed as he broke the waters plane.
The response finding its way through the heavy summer air above the pond, recognizable; “No, it’s Zelda. We thought we lost you boy,” her words having the essence of a foreign language as he felt the water spewing from his mouth, and the pungent rancid air of the pond replacing it.
“Where am I,” he gasped, knowing only too well he had failed to escape a destiny he’d been promised by the three women of a past he would never be able to abandon, no matter how many frogs he queried for a means to redemption.
“Don’t forget me,” his words directed towards the Captain but refusing to leave the place where his soul once doubted its existence, and he’d failed to remember that life is mostly water; some holy, some, not so much.