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John Waldo Miller

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Waking up to Nothing but Black
By John Waldo Miller
Friday, November 07, 2008

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A man wakes up from a hangover and finds his self chained to a giant chestnut tree and thiking he's blind and doesn't know who chained him to the tree.


Waking up to Nothing but Black

He was big . . . biggest of the litter . . . big enough to wrestle bears, and he did. He was the biggest attraction at the county fair every year. Everybody and anybody knew he wasn’t afraid of anything on this planet. Everybody in the county called him the Big Redheaded Viking because of his flaming red hair, their Hero and World War I Medal of Honor winner.

When he woke up in that black foggy night he couldn’t see a damn thing. Everything about him felt black: his hands, ears, fingers, nose, and even his goddamn teeth. His sticky hair felt black. His tongue felt black and so did his naked feet, black. Someone had stolen his shoes and that made a little scared. This must be, without a doubt, the blackest fog he had ever seen . . . if he could see, and it really was fog. It made him wonder.

He mumbled to himself, “I’m either blind or I’m in one of them there black foggy nights that Uncle Festus told us about. Old folks said it happens once in a hundred years.

“I remembered Uncle Festus said, ‘We were all afraid to go outside the house, weren’t sure we could find our way back. Lanterns were no good; you couldn’t see ’um. We even tied a safety rope between the barn and the house. If you went to the barn, you had better hold on to that rope or we didn’t see you fer a long time.

‘And there’s one thing I’ll never forget that goddamn witch, Crazy Annie IV. Most folks don’t knows that there was a fourth witch in that fellow Shakinspeare’s play. That was Crazy Annie IV’s great Grandma, but you can’t see her ’cause the first witch, Double-Double . . . she’s the one that stuttered . . . had # I Crazy Annie blocked out. She got so mad she set Shakinspeare’s hair on fire and put a curse on him that made him tongue-tied on Sundays. In all his pictures he gots a wig on. Nobody knows he’s bald-headed as a hen-pecked rooster. I cans still hear her flyin’ over and singin’ that goddamn song:

When Crazy Annie rides her broom,

and flies her kite high in the sky,

Watch out!

She’s coming in her black, black foggy night,

Watch out!

It could be your doom.


Willy laughed and asked himself aloud, “I believe it, but where in the hell am I?”

He had the dad-gum-ist massive hangover, and thought maybe Dad’s Cherry Jump moonshine had knocked him blind.

A goddamn buzzard had died in his mouth; he just knew it because of his rotten dog breath, a headache like someone had hit him with a poleax, and now felt dead as four o’clock.

Lordy, did he smell! His torn bib overalls were soaked in sour mash. Other than not knowing where he was, and thinking he’s blind, he still thought he was all right. But deep down inside he knew he wasn’t. Thank God, he had been weather-hardened by war. But he couldn’t get away from the pain and confusion, still his companions.

At first, he could only lay on the black cold ground. But the ground bugs, or whatever, were crawling all over him, making a meal out of him. Scratching made blood roll down his legs. He felt their bites in his ears, mouth, nose, and goddamn all over. On top of that, his two heads were still spinning, and lord, his mouth felt cotton dry. Maybe if he lay dead still, the pain and bugs might go away.

With memories of old hangovers, words crossed his lips aloud, “I’ll never takes another drink of shine in my life. Hit shore ain’t worth this here goddamn feelin’.”

That was the first lie tonight, and more would come; all fed by false promises and past hurts.

Finally, when his heads stopped spinning, he felt something around his neck, something that he hadn’t noticed before . . . a goddamn leather collar. Who in the hell would put a collar on me? And it had a chain braded to it. He struggled to get up, and tried to walk, but something knocked him down and hard. He got up again. Then fumbled, felt around, and found one end of the chain wrapped to a tree.

Shocked, he screamed, “Goddamn! I’m chained to a tree!”

Then he really screamed, “Somebody put a collar on me and chained me to a tree like a wild cur dog!”

He knew it couldn’t be a Heinsel. No Heinsel would ever put a collar on another Heinsel. It’s a terrible disgrace to any Heinsel.

“Who in their right mind would put a collar around my neck?”

Madder than a hornet with his stinger busted, he fumbled around and found something else about the tree. It was big, big, and could only come from somewhere in the Smoky Mountains.

Then he screamed even louder, “Son of a bitch! I’m in the mountains. But where in the hell am I? What part?”

He struggled with the collar again, snatching, pulling. He tried to recognize where he was. He decided the tree might tell him where he was. He felt the bark, maybe a Chestnut? But they were all gone from the mountains.

He sat back down against the tree, stunned, and mumbled, “Where in hell am I? I’ve got to be someplace where there are big trees like in the mountains.”

He felt the top of his head. It was sticky with blood. He shouted, “Goddamn it! My head is busted. Someone has hit me on my head, but who?”

He tried to walk away from the tree, searching the ground with his right foot. He didn’t want to crash into that big tree again. But it was useless; it snatched him back again. Then he realized he had no feel for direction. It frightened him even more. He felt alone, a loneliness he’d never known.

He wished his mule George Washington was here. They would find a way out. He didn’t want to feel alone, but he did; felt more helpless, hurt, and scared.

Then he got sick, tried to walk, but threw up all over himself. And the chain snatched him back and down into his vomit; it was all over him like those bugs. He pounded the ground with his fist, wondering how in the world he had gotten here and where he was.

Again and again, he got up. Each time he tried to walk in another direction, but the chain snatched him off his feet and back down on the ground and into his rotten vomit. It didn’t matter what direction he walked. Finally exhausted, he couldn’t get back on his feet.

Still he kept asking himself, “Where in the hell am I, and who in the hell put this collar on me?”

All night he shouted and wallowed in his vomit like an itchy, old, fat hog taking a bath in new mud. He heard no one come in the dark, silent, black night. Thank God! His vomit smell finally ran the goddamn bugs off his body and away.




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