Another Saturday Night in Georgia
So there we were by the edge of the Gauntlet, breathing fire, spitting nails, ready to tear the world to pieces. Billy Ray looks at me and grins, the ugly snaggletooth sumbitch. “You ready to die, shithead?” he says.
“See you in hell, needledick.” I pause to scratch my balls, showin him I am not afraid. Jesse Lee, who was urinating in the woods, saunters up. He’s the old man, the champion, still alive after playing the Gauntlet for three summers. Everybody says his lucks going to run out soon.
He nods at me and Billy blinks his eyes and yawns like the whole thing bores the hell out of him. I hope I look half as cool as he does.
The girls is on the sidelines are going crazy. Raylene bats her black eyes at Billy. “See you when you win, honey,” she hollers, and shows him her pink tongue. Little slut.
My girl Betty Jean flashes me a pretty smile. “Go baby go!” she squeals and shakes her hot little tail. My nuts tighten just lookin at her, and I give her a wink. Damn, I love a woman with a nice tail on her.
Jesse’s woman Flozetta is dancing foot to foot. She just plum looks scared. She’s all swolen up with his children. It’d be an awful thing for a women in her condition to see her man spread all over the Gauntlet like a jar of strawberry jelly dropped on the floor of the Piggly Wiggly. Jesse blows her a kiss.
Oh shit here comes the Machine. It’s a big bastard, big as a buildind tall, as a pine tree and roaring like the end of the world. The lights are the brightest things I’ve ever seen, washin away the moonlight and glaring down like the eyes of a pissed-off demon.
My insides turn to water. It happens every time. I am not ashamed though. What fun would the Guantlet be if it was easy as takin a dump?
I can tell by the way Billy Ray’s starting to drool that he is as scared as I am. But Jesse he is a rock. His eyes are narrowed, chin up and as steady as the hills.
Oh, sweet Jesus, the ground started shaking. We stepped up to the Edge as the machine comes for us like the sulfur-stinkin devil hisself.
“GO!” screams Raylene, the bloodthirsty little bitch and we go. We run like our asses are on fire, right in front of the God-forsaken, flesh-eating, hell-breathin Machine.
At first it’s like I’m dreamin. I feel my legs movin, but it’s like I’m not really there. Time stops. I cain’t hear nothin but my own breathing. I am not able see anything but the eyeball-melting glare of the machine’s lights.
Them lights. It’s like they catch me, hold me and stop me in my tracks. My breathing stops. I cain’t move. The world is just those awful lights, brighter than a hundred suns.
“GO, KID!” screams Jesse Lee, right in my ear. “GO, YOU SILLY SHIT!”
And WHAM! Just’ like that, I’m back. The roar of the machine deafens me; throat-squeezing exhaust fills my lungs. I can see Jesse just ahead of me, running like hell. Billy Ray’s alongside me, sides heavin, eyes glazed with terror.
Oh Christ, the Machine is on us like a bulldog on a bloody steak. Jesse zigs, Jesse zags, and then he’s on the other side, he makes it one more time.
Billy Ray’s panicking. He runs into me, knocking both of us over. Cussing and screaming, I scramble to my feet. Billy’s up too, and we’re running and oh Mama the noise and the stink and the goddamn unholy lights turning the night into day, and Billy’s turned the wrong way, he’s headed right into it and I jump, I fling myself through the air and I’m hittin the grass and rollin and I see the machine hit Billy and he just explodes like a plastic bag full of ketchup and his guts.
It’s over. I’m lying on my side in the grass, panting. Jesse Lee’s stretching, yawning, like it was no big deal. The girls are screaming; Betty Jean and Flozetta cheering and jumping up and down; Raylene wailing like it’s the end of the world.
It’s over until next Saturday night, when, by God, we’ll do it again. Maybe I’ll die. Maybe I won’t. It’s all just part of the game and why, you ask, do we do it?
Well, what the fuck else do possums have to do?