Aunt Essie, like all of my aunts, was a wonder of fertility, if not child-rearing acumen, raising seven of the meanest boys outside Alcatraz. Thank God, her reproductive equipment gave out before she managed more. I thought Mother exaggerated when she said they’d all end up in jail or dead before they were thirty. She was wrong. Only four of the seven did jail time, and of these, one died in a bar fight after he was released at the age of twenty-eight. Most of rest passed their time boozing it up at Aunt Essie’s house when they weren’t begetting children or needed in jail. Contrary to Mother’s unjust prediction, all but one made it past thirty and one never went to jail. The meanest of the lot turned out to be pretty boring. He opened a very successful auto body shop and became a deacon. I hope Mother learned her lesson about being judgmental.
When Aunt Essie’s boys weren’t trying to kill us, they could be entertaining. Uncle July was an avid hog-hunter and was extremely proud of his Catahoula Cur Hog Dog, Catch. Out on the hunt, Catch would le go berserk with hog lust and “catch” wild hogs by the ear, hanging on until commanded to turn loose; not a nice dog. Uncle July kept him penned up, sternly warning us away from the fence. Catch might rage through the fence, “catching” us by the ear.
Aunt Essie and Uncle July heard “catch” noises from the dog pen and were horrified to realize one of their angelic three-year-old twins was missing. They rushed out and found Corwin and the monster dog rolling around in the dog pen. Expecting to retrieve the bloody corpse of his precious child, Uncle July leapt into to the pen to find Corwin latched down on Catch’s ear, blood pouring from the tattered edges. When asked why he bit the dog, Kelvin replied, “Dog bite me.” Corwin was fine except for a few drag marks.
Considering his tender age, it seemed premature to categorize Corwin, but he showed all the hallmarks of a psychopath. Energized and empowered by his encounter with “Catch”, his strange little mind focused on the unfortunate beast, making his life a living hell. Despite his concerned parents’ warning, he was soon back in the dog pen and had Catch cowering in a barrel half-buried in the dirt that passed for a dog house, howling piteously for rescue. Realizing he was no threat to Corwin, Aunt Essie and Uncle July abandoned poor Catch to his misery, knowing Corwin was off their backs as long as poor Catch was crying. Catch wet himself and ran under the truck next time Uncle July tried to take him out hog hunting, his spirit broken. Uncle July swapped him off to an unsuspecting buddy for a pirogue the first chance he got.
Surviving five horrible older brothers made Corwin and his twin Kelvin dangerous little devils. Their parents doted on all the boys, seemingly unconcerned about their reputations as hellions. When people complained about their bullying, their stock reply was, “What did your Johnny do to them?” artfully ignoring the obvious fact that the damaged kid was three years younger. Aunt Essie grieved because the twins would be her last babies, so she let them carry their baby bottles till the school put a stop to it. It was bizarre to see them coming in from playing football with their brothers, pull their bottles out of their back pockets, and fill them for themselves. They were fluent in profanity from the time they could talk.
As an adult, between stints in jail, Corwin lived in the dugout of the local ballpark. He’d worn out his welcome with Aunt Essie and his tippling brothers after attempting to burn her house down over their heads. He was forcibly extricated by the more sober among them, but did live to the ripe old age of forty-one. After the immediate threat of roasting in her bed passed, Aunt frequently mentioned letting him move back in, feeling he’d learned his lesson in jail, but her other boys had a longer memory and wouldn’t allow him back in.
Corwin spent the rest of his life residing between the ballpark, jail, and homeless shelters, except for brief stints with friends when he was flush with cash from his drug sales job.
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