His name was “Flyrod” Jenkins—not really, but that’s what it said on his birth certificate when we found it while cleaning out the attic to his family home. Flyrod, but everyone called him Floyd. Everyone but me, that is. Although he made me take a sacred oath to never reveal the truth of his real name to anyone, to me, he was Flyrod forever and ever. He just died, so I am released from my oath—at least, I think I am. He’s dead, who cares what his real name was?
When Flyrod confronted his father—a crusty tobacco farmer in South Georgia—about the spelling, his dad looked at him and smiled, “Well, Floyd,” he said, “when I saw the nurse had made a mistake, I took a hard look at you and decided you wouldn’t be much as a farmer, so I didn’t think it was worth making a stink over it. That poor nurse was having a difficult enough time taking care of you and your Momma. You didn’t come gently into this world. You’ve always been a troublemaker. You haven’t changed at all.” Mr. Jenkins, who was a secret reader of all works by English authors, particularly Shakespeare, shrugged and said, “After all, what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Flyrod never became a farmer, but he inherited his father’s passion for literature. When he got out of the army, he used the G. I. Bill to get his doctorate in literature from the University of Georgia. I was there doing the same thing but concentrating on history. We renewed our childhood friendship as if the years had not slipped past. Eventually we both got jobs at small colleges within[lw1] twenty miles of each other, called each other frequently, and once a year went on a week-long road trip—just us—to some place we wouldn’t go alone. We’d drink too much, stay up too late, cuss every other word, and generally make asses of ourselves. After a year in the classroom and interacting with our scholarly colleagues, it was always a great opportunity to engage in the raucous behavior of our youth. Darwin would have been surprised at this process of devolution! Good times!
To an outsider listening to our conversations, it would have appeared that we hated each other’s guts. Insults, cutting comments, biting remarks, snarky replies—occasionally resulting in fistfights or minor altercations. It was not unusual for both of us to return to our families sporting black eyes or knots on our heads. Yet there was a real underlying affection in our relationship, a strong one that only brothers know, and while we were not related by blood, we were tied together by shared experiences and a common small town background. Although we never had a formal induction ceremony, we were as much blood brothers as any Native Americans or Mafia gunsels.
I dreamed about Flyrod last night—probably the result of indigestion from the two tins of sardines, a large chunk of hoop cheese, or maybe the massive pollen allergy attack that hit just as I was going to bed. Sleep was fitful, and I kept waking up periodically, but when I went back to sleep, the dream continued. Maybe not so much a dream as an extended memory.
Flyrod had managed to get the use of a mountain cabin from one of his neighbors. It was ours for a week and came with a pantry filled with all the necessities and a fully stocked bar. It was a golden opportunity to cut loose and give vent to our basic redneck heritage.
“The only stipulation about using the cabin,” Flyrod told me, “is to stay away from the two gallons of mountain moonshine Cesar (the owner) has aging under the bar. He’s not sure what’s in it, and he wants to let it mellow for a long while. He thinks any impurities will float to the top and he can filter them out.”
Flyrod’s words were a roadmap for action. Immediately after plunking our bags on the floor of the cabin, we headed to the bar. Flyrod reached into the cabinet under the bar and pulled out a gallon jar of a slightly yellow liquid with small bubbles in it. He shook the jar and more bubbles appeared. He tilted it and shook it once more. Flyrod was excited.
“Look at that bead in that liquor. There ain’t nothing wrong with this ‘shine,” he announced with all of the certainty of a sommelier in the world’s finest restaurant. “That’s liquid gold. Cesar will be glad we tested it for him. I figure a gallon for him and a gallon for us!” Yep, the redneck was coming out.
I don’t remember a lot after this point. I do remember us being arrested and thrown in the small hoosegow in Luvella, Georgia—a small stop in the road with a single policeman who got paid on the basis of how many tourists he stopped and charged with speeding, a sort of poor man’s Ludowici I guess. We were blind drunk, boisterous, and blatantly obnoxious, although when we got together, we generally acted like asses, so that was normal. We were in Luvella because at some point, Flyrod brought up the recent death of Benton Lovejoy, the most despicable creature we had ever known. Benton was also a professor, and had been a colleague of both of us at one time or another. He was such a craven lickspittle, always kissing the butts of those he thought could push him a little further along the path to academic success. He was devoid, unfortunately, of the one thing he really needed—talent. After moving from three or four colleges where he had enjoyed little success, but had engendered a great deal of hatred, this sniveling wretch had finally found some modicum success when he opened a small shoe store in Luvella and gave up his aspirations to be an academic. You can tell by this description that we, me and Flyrod, hated him, so when Flyrod suggested we go to Luvella and piss on his grave, I agreed wholeheartedly. That’s what we were doing in Luvella, but I have no idea of how we got there.
Anyway, as Flyrod and I were settling down to an undetermined stay in the Luvella lockup, we managed to get Jim—that was the name of the officer—engaged in a conversation. He wanted to know why we had done what we had, we mentioned how worthless a piece of dog fecal matter we thought Benton Lovejoy was and why we had decided to urinate on his grave.
“I knew Benton,” he said. “I shared the same opinion of him. He tried to get me fired and replaced with his equally worthless nephew. Hell, boys, my family’s been the Luvella constabulary for decades. It’s a family inheritance, and we don’t like when people mess with us. I’m gonna let you boys go as soon as you’re reasonably sober and my shift ends. Benton Lovejoy was a walking, talking advertisement for condoms.”
There is no record of our brief incarceration in Luvella. Jim just tore up the booking sheets. Jim was a nice cop!
Usually when I suffer from indigestion and have weird dreams, I would get up and take some kind of antacid, but I didn’t do it last night. I rode it through! Why? I was kinda of hoping that some of the blank spaces in my memories of that weekend would finally be filled in. The dream didn’t do much in that direction.
I miss old Flyrod, and I still hate Benton Lovejoy—and I still wonder what all happened that weekend. Flyrod is probably have a big laugh at my expense in Heaven right now! Rest easy, Big Guy!