Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Clutch
May 1972

Michael Salisbury


It was the last day of eighth grade for Booger Bramlee. Bobby Dale Treadwell was letting the booger drive his uncle’s souped-up ’67 Camaro, the car he promised his Uncle Ike he’d care for while Ike was stationed overseas. Booger had had to take $50 out of his daddy’s wallet to bribe Bobby Dale and even then, he wasn’t sure the older boys would really let him drive home after school. Bobby Dale and Jimmy were the two coolest boys at the public high school. They were so cool, Booger wanted red hair and freckles just like them. They were seniors. Booger had just turned into the long lane leading up to his house; his heart was racing fast as the Chevy’s engine, he was sweating, and Booger Bramlee had a boner.

“Geez Booger, slow down!” Bobby Dale scolded.

Booger couldn’t believe how they’d let him hang out with them this last year. They couldn’t either, at first. They did believe he was a pudgy, spoiled, stupid pig-dog-chicken-boy from the snooty kids' private school, and they knew Booger’s daddy was rich, rich, rich. Bobby Dale and Jimmy had noticed that the booger could take anything he wanted from the stores in town, and nobody would say a word about it. They’d figured out that when they had the booger in tow, they could take anything they wanted, too. Booger and his daddy lived in the Grove, and everybody knew what that meant. People who lived in Burwell Grove owned the whole wide world. Jimmy and Bobby Dale lived in Hamilton; they knew they’d be lucky to get jobs for $2 an hour, and so they never dreamed the booger would really come up with $50 to drive the Camaro.

“Gee Bobby, this is great! I’m doing a good job, aren’t I?” The booger was taking the car around the second turn in the long winding lane up to his house.

Bobby wasn’t so sure about the good job bit. He was having trouble seeing the road. The sunlight filtering through the trees was hitting the dusty windshield like a driving rain, making it hard to see. “Slow it down a lit- dammit – watch out!” There was a boy in the lane.

Booger swerved and ran off into a field, somehow missing the trees that sheltered the lane. Jimmy and Bobby Dale were screaming all kinds of Jesus’ names, giving Him a bunch of new middle names and everything. Booger didn’t care, he loved it when the older boys cussed. He wasn’t hurt himself, and his daddy would fix anything bad. He thought it was funny and started laughing a little.

“Who was that in the road? Was that Hammond?” Hammond was a year behind Bobby Dale and Jimmy in school; Hammond’s parents worked for the booger’s daddy. “We gotta check on him. Did you hit him?” Jimmy ran off to check.

“Look at this mess you made,” Bobby pointed at soda cans and a bags of chips and candy spilled on the floor. “If you dinged up my car I’m gonna put a hurtin’ on you, you fartknocker!” Bobby threatened, getting out to check.

“Forget about Hammond, he ain’t worth checking on. He was right there in the middle of the drive where he ain’t even got no business. My Daddy will pay for your car if it’s hurt, and it ain’t even really your car but my daddy will fix everything.”

*

Clutch had heard the car coming; he was thinking he’d have time to get over to the side, as it zoomed right by him. He turned just in time to see the car miss him by a couple feet with a wild-eyed Wallace Bramlee III at the wheel. He’d never seen anyone drive so fast on the lane. Then he realized he’d pissed himself. Oh, great! Clutch ran off into the woods on the other side of the lane and hid behind a tree.

*

“Bobby, I can’t find Hammond anywhere – there’s no sign of him! What should we do?” Jimmy was out of breath from panic.

“He’s probably running on up to the house. He ain’t important. C’mon, I want to finish my driving lesson.”

Bobby Dale barked, “Scoot yourself over – you are finished. You done got your money’s worth today.”

*

“Are you all right Gary?” The quiet voice and the hand on Clutch’s shoulder startled him and he jumped. “I didn’t mean to frighten you all over again. I was just out for a walk and I saw what happened.” It was Wallace Bramlee II. Clutch was embarrassed and tried to cover the wet spot in his pants; he couldn’t look Mr. Bramlee in the face. He hoped Mr. Bramlee wouldn’t tell his daddy; the former drill sergeant would be upset his boy had pissed his pants, humiliated his employer had seen it. “I’m OK, Mr. Bramlee.”

“Just run along up to the house and get yourself cleaned up. Wallace didn’t mean any harm; he’s fallen in with a wild crowd, that’s all. I’ll check on you later; you’re sure you’re all right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Those older boys from town, they’re a bad influence on Trey.”

“Yes sir.”

*

Wild crowd, Clutch thought as he walked slowly home. He could still taste the muddy grit between his teeth from the dust the Booger had stirred up tearing down the road. He hid deeper in the woods as he heard Bobby Dale’s car coming back from the Bramlee mansion. He hid his shame deeper still; it would be there years later, long after he’d traded his mother’s bowl-guided haircuts for a marine buzz cut, long after he would see the Booger for the last time, long after his brown hair turned gray. Clutch’s dawdling and the afternoon heat dried his pants by the time he got home, but his face remained red, fueled first by embarrassment, and later by indignation. Bad influence, he thought, I could poop a better booger.

***

MICHAEL SALISBURY is a native Kansan and has lived in Tennessee about ten years. He was relocated by the Evil Empire Gas Company from Overland Park to Franklin. He served as editor of his college newspaper for two semesters and wrote and edited his company’s newsletter for two years. He dabbles in satirical essays, mean-spirited haikus, and the occasional short story. He is a member of the Williamson County Council for the Written Word and Sisters in Crime’s Nashville Chapter. He is an avid reader and belongs to two book clubs.

© Michael Salisbury

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012