BY LEO TARD
HAZZARD COUNTY, GA – Ever since the Daughters of the Confederacy announced in August that it would be sponsoring something called the Rebel Flag kkk Family Fun Run this January, the typically quiet dirt roads around here have been choking with frenzied protesters and reporters, like the clouds of dirt left behind by them Duke Boys racing away from Rosco P. Coaltrain in their windowless-but-beloved General Lee. The Heel Strike – never one to shy away from eating others’ dust – sent me to track down the race organizers to see if we could get them to admit that they’re racists.
I somehow manage to arrange a visit with them, and they are such lovely old ladies! As I sit in the parlor of the spacious mansion of Dolores Jefferson Davis Lee, president of Daughters of the Confederacy Lodge #666, I get truly spoiled with that world-famous southern hospitality. Homemade peach-cobbler, fresh-baked bread and the sweetest, most heavenly iced tea you ever tasted have me almost forgetting I’m sitting in the den of the Devil, and that these cute old ladies who keep calling me Sweetheart and stroking my face in such a way it makes me tingle all over like an infant nestled safe and snug in his cradle with not a care in the world, were actually his Hell-spawn.
“Here you are, Dear: a nice, hot plate of spare-ribs.”
The wonderful smell wafting up from the plate puts me in a magical daze, and I almost forget why we’re here.
“More tea, Honey?” asks another bespectacled old lady as she sees me shaking myself out of my daze.
“Honestly, we just don’t see what all the fuss is about,” begins Dolores.
“All we want to do is celebrate our heritage. The Rebel Flag, as it’s called, has nothing to do with the Civil War, or that horrid institution of slavery, like y’all think it does.”
“Well, I’m sure most Americans disagree with you on that,” I say.
One old lady, over in the rocking chair – she brought the pie, I think, with just amazing, perfect crust – looks up from her knitting: “Oh, Sweety, you sound like some of those abolitionists got to you.”
“Oh… I said… you sound like some… of those peaches got to you. Would you like another slice, Darling?”
“Yes, please! This is the best pie I’ve ever tasted!”
“I know. It’s an old family recipe, Sugar. Goes way, way back.”
As I sit there eating pie, drinking iced tea, waiting for the ribs to cool, enjoying the roses just outside the parlor window, I begin to think, yeah, maybe owning slaves, lying to myself about right and wrong, never having to cook or clean or work, and just be a rich, comfortable, lazy son (or daughter) of a bitch is the life for me! But I quickly shake that off…
“But why did you call it the kkk Family Fun Run? What with this nation’s history?”
“Why? Cuz it’s fun for the whole family, Sweetheart. ”
“No, I know… but why kkk?”
“Well, because it’s a 3-k race of course!”
“Why didn’t you just go with a standard 5k, like everyone else?”
A frail and tiny old lady steps forward, materializing from the darkness in the corner where the parlor door swings open: “Because, Dear, that’s kkkkk. Just doesn’t have a nice ring with so many Ks. Three’s enough. You young people: always making simple things so complicated!”
“Why are the racers going to wear all white?”
“We wanted it to be a classy race. Like the Wimbledon.”
“But they’re all gonna carry torches!”
“That’s because the race will take place in the early morning hours, before the dawn. They need to be able to see, Silly. Try those ribs now, I think they’ve cooled, Dear.”
I take a bite; it’s is so soft, so tender… it makes me happy, cozy, sleepy. I take another bite, enjoying the delightful flesh on the edge of my tongue. My eyelids grow heavy, and I hear Dolores say, “There you go, Sweetheart, you’re okay. You’re okay with it. Racism is fine. Racism is good, Sweetheart. Everyone has their place. It’s God’s will. They’re animals… monsters… uncivilized. Fear them!”
I feel someone covering me, so I open my eyes. Dolores – only inches from my face – looks surprised.
“You were falling asleep, Sugar,” she says. “It happens. There’s no shame in it. You are very welcome to stay as long as you want… Have another rib, Dear.”
As I bring my arm up out of the blanket to take another rib, I brush against something sticking out of my pants pocket. It’s a notecard. I bring it up and look at it.
“And all those torches will actually be white crosses set aflame!”
“Oh, is that what all the fuss outside is about? That’s just what we’ll provide. We just had a bunch of leftovers. The racers can use anything they want for a torch.”
Finally, I feel enraged! I throw off the blanket and get to my feet! But I look down at my plate of piping hot ribs. My iced tea, my cobbler. My bread, buttered. I sit down and eat it without a word. Tranquilly, I watch a servant come and water the roses, and beyond him, four young girls in pretty dresses play croquet on the lush, sprawling lawn.
“Is that… cotton… way out there?”
“It could be anything you want it to be, Little One. Don’t you understand, if you had this once, this perfect life here, in the sun, in this mansion, wanting never for anything… would you want it taken from you? Wouldn’t you want it back, Sweetheart?”
I’m startled by the shattering of my dropped glass, slipped from my sleepy hand.
“It’s time for me to leave,” I say, and move towards the parlor door.
“Of course! Here, let me get you a container for your food, Sweetie,” says Dolores.
“Look,” I say, calming down, “don’t you see how all these things put together, combined with the Confederate battle flag as the race-bib, would be offensive to a lot of people? Like, pretty much everyone who isn’t a racist?”
Dolores stands in the parlor’s threshold, tupperware in hand. I don’t know how she could’ve gone to the kitchen and come back with the container so fast.
“How could that be?” she asks. “We welcome all! It’s an all-race race!” she laughs. “Besides,” she continues, “all the racers will be wearing pointy white hoods, you know, with just cute little eye cut-outs in them. Nobody’s gonna know who’s behind those hoods!”
Dolores skillfully places my treats in the box with a beautiful set of tongs with mother-of-pearl inlay, and a delicate silver cake-knife. All the ladies walk with me to the door, and Dolores hands me my open box.
“You know,” she says, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling, “someone somewhere’s always gonna find something to be offended by. But there ain’t nothing goin’ on here but some patriotic Americans taking pride in the beautiful heritage they love. All these things you’re talking about… that’s all ancient history.”
Then she smiles at me, pleasantly hacks up a loogie, and drops it, slowly, right on top of my food. And I can tell that she knows that, weirdly, I still want to eat it.
“You sure you don’t want to stay a while longer? Why don’t you wait right here for just one minute while I go get my granddaughter. I think you’ll really like her…”
She turns and calls up the stairs, “Claire! Claire, my dear, are you decent? Oh, just wearing a towel? Well no matter, c’mon down here anyway and introduce yourself to our gentlemen caller!”
My heart is pounding in my chest – I burst out the front door! Fighting to not look back, I dash through the lovely grove of weeping willows and hurdle the white picket fence on the edge of the plantation!
I run down the gravel road and collapse. I realize I’m still holding my leftovers, but it looks like something’s flying around in it. I lift the lid and find feces! As I puke, a protester approaches and asks, “What’s really going on in there?”
A reporter shoves that guy aside and sticks a mic in my face: “Who are your Oscar picks?”
“Hmm? Oh, uh, I don’t know, Jake Gyllenhaal, I guess.”
Readers of The Heel Strike probably won’t believe this crazy story. I’m not sure I do either. But I think there is at least some truth to it. I don’t know. But I think I’ll stick to wearables and turkey trots from now on.