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The Village Idiot

Finally, Sort of

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(2/2016) One-eyed Balor (DW) casts an angry glance my way. Whiskers begin to curl as an odor of scorched hair wafts about my head. My spine pops and creaks as I puff up with my own anger and challenge the Evil Eye of the Fomorian's reborn, if somewhat diminished in stature, king. (Hey, it ain't my fault DW had an Irish ancestor and the connections to Celtic stories snap into place every time she gets fired up about something I'm doing, or not. Mostly not.) For some reason she's dead set against my starting a business of my own. She insists I find a real job and my response of "show me the shoe factory I'm supposed to apply to" brings on the full glare of the Balor she normally suppresses.

Crap! Flames briefly lick my cheeks. But I'm on a roll and after a quick soak of my head, I contemplate how I can turn the missing patches of scraggly beard to my advantage. I realize DW saved me the task of shaving, a thing I find unmanly. Now I can apply face paint without having to shave!

I clamp a clown nose to my schnoz and DW looks away from me, furious at what I'm about to do, but revealing the tiniest of twitches at the corner of her lip. HA! I'm onto something!

DW is a plodder. Give her task she understands and she'll work through it for hours, days or years. Present her with something she doesn't understand and old Balor rises to the challenge. FEAR FIRE FOE! Which, in our time together, has kept a roof over our heads and our bellies generally too full. As a plodder, she's also carried the burden of my ever-changing dreams. I guess she's grown tired, but oddly her rebellion comes when I have a dream that costs neither of us a dime. Her frustration with me is understandable. In the 300 years (or is it 30?) we've been together she's endured many a dream I've attempted to make reality. Too dimwitted to puzzle this one out, I shrug and think about how I got to this place.

The first "business" I attempted was in the mid 1960s. I got involved with companies requiring you to sell their products to family, friends and neighbors. Greeting cards and flower seeds. I was 11 or 12 years old, living in rural PA. I didn't do well, though I did sell to my nearest neighbors, both of them. Decades later I took it into my head to raise tropical fish to sell to the area's pet shops.

DW was as seriously into the fish hobby as I was and we set about spending $3,000 on tanks, filters, pumps, chemicals, books and fish. We had contacts among Florida's commercial fish farms and local area breeders of species we weren't currently working with. We chatted up all the local pet shop owners and discovered between 6 or so shops we'd never sell enough fish to pay for the feed they were eating! I decided to open our own shop out of our home. That dream died the day I had to present the idea to the town government. (I've not been on good terms with the town since.)

Next came the idea of Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA). I have family and friends that want locally grown organic produce; meats and veggies. I have friends who own land and didn't mind me and my family killing ourselves on it trying to grow food. What I didn't have was land I could organize a CSA on. So I thought we'd try a market garden. I took to growing gourmet garlic at my grandfather's little farmett in quantities larger than I'd ever consume, but my kin that owned the property wanted to sell the land so I went looking elsewhere.

I gave some thought to opening a local bakery, just a few well made breads and some simple sweet treats, but watching tons of artisan breads being fed to a local farm's pigs (and the thought of having to deal with the town government again) put paid to that idea.

Marty came along and provided the best land I'd been offered for a market garden venture. He also had the power equipment to make such work a possibility as my then 60-year-old body was beginning to tell me it wasn't up to what I had planned to do with hand tools. Sadly, he cashed out before we picked the first bushel of beans.

I've had the entire summer to deal with the aftermath of Marty's passing. During that time the factory lost a major customer and my working hours fell to less than 20 a week. DW was beginning to worry she'd have to close the factory. We discussed what I should do. Hell, what could I do? Forty coupla years in a factory making small leather goods hasn't prepared me for much outside of that field.

Three area restaurants took my applications for a dishwasher position. I think I'm up to that, having done it for a winter back in '72. The work can't have changed that much! But no one has called, even though dishwashers come and go nearly as quickly as paychecks. Have I heard nothing because I'm only a few months and a year from being able to sign up for old peoples' welfare? Why would anyone bother to hire and train me just to have me go off and nap on my Social Security reimbursements? Hell, even I'm not that foolish.

Foolish. Hmm, my home-study writing course kicks in (another dream I had that croaked when I realized I can't write.) Fool, idiot, buffoon, jester, clown. Idiot? Clown?

Idiot is obvious. If I tease out the loose threads of my life the longest seems to be the "idiot". Sure, the foolish thread is there, but repeating the same sort of mistakes over and over builds a much longer and thicker thread of idiocy.

Searching the county library and the Marina catalog of connected state public libraries I assemble a small collection of books about idiots portrayed as clowns, or the reverse, depending on where in history one chooses to begin studying clowns. Being not particularly bright, or even common, I consider the truly stupid that once were the butt of everyone's laughter. I'm not up to the physical demands of such a role. Looking closer to modern days I realize I'll never be so hungry as to run for elected office so that leaves the traditional clown as my role model.

I like this idea. It costs me little that can't be paid by making an ass of myself. But what is that to me? Idiot that I am, becoming a clown is only a step up. Admittedly a very high step up.

DW's seriously not with me on this one.

I know! Once I've built a clown face, I'll get her to unleash Balor. The paints will bake on and I wont have to do more than touch it up occasionally! HA! A truly idiot plan!

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.