Mallard Roswell Doberman III was born premature, at 28 weeks, and some thought it was a miracle he lived at all. Others thought it was a damn shame that God let, and these are their words, “a retarded idiot like Roscoe” live at all. His mother and father fit into that category. Most folks were pretty sure if it wasn't for the check they received every month like clockwork from Social Security, his father would have drowned him in the toilet bowl and said it was an accident. No one would have questioned it. Roscoe was at the emergency room so many times as a kid, they started to name a wing after him.
Roscoe was not retarded by any means. It was determined by better minds than yours and mine, that he was just “slow”. Hell, I didn't care, I liked him anyway. I met Roscoe in kindergarten and he and I have been pals ever since. I would say on average that I've had my ass-whipped at least twice a year, every year, for over twenty-years, just for sticking up for Roscoe. Now, that’s not to say I can’t fight or have never won one or two. I'm probably 50/50 when it comes to wins and losses, so that should give you a pretty good idea of how many times I've had to fight someone for calling Roscoe an idiot or a retard or worse. Like I said, he’s my pal.
I'm not exactly Einstein myself, but I could scare up a few B’s and C’s if I set my mind to it. I didn’t. I preferred breezing my way through life. No muss, no fuss. I do enough to get by, which is all I’ve ever wanted. I've yet to figure out why a person works so hard for so long, to have things they don't enjoy anyway. A man kills himself to buy the best boat and the best fishing rods money can buy, and dies before he can get his rig in the water. Me? I buy a used fishing rod, never strike a lick and I'm frying more fish than I can eat in no time. Go figure.
That’s not to say I'm a lazy man, by any means. I happen to operate “KC’s Painting and Wallpaper Co., Free Estimates, of course”. It’s not a huge business, and I don’t want it to be. It’s just Roscoe and me most of the time, unless I need to hire a few boys to help work part-time during my busy season. That’s never happened, but a man can dream I guess. For the most part, It’s just Roscoe and me painting a room or two for people with a wink and a handshake. I charge less, they pay cash and everybody’s happy except Uncle Sam, and my lips are sealed. I slip Roscoe a few bucks, give him room and board in my old garage that we converted into an apartment, and life goes on.
Like I said, he’s part of my family. My wife and twin boys will also carry an ass-whipping if you mess with Roscoe. When I married Leanne, I told her that Roscoe was part of the deal. While she knew him, it wasn't until we got married and she started to cook a little extra everyday to carry out to Roscoe, that she fell in love with him. Now, she would probably leave me before she left him. The twins are both 10 years old and have never known a day without their Uncle Roscoe. He was there when they came out, and he’s like that old uncle who always pulls a quarter out of your ear. Except ole’ Roscoe couldn't pull wax out of his own ear with a box of Q-Tips.
I've lived in the same old house my whole life. When Mama died, she left the land and home to my sister and me. Wanda hated this house and town ever since she came out of my mother’s womb. As soon as she had her first period, she started making plans to leave “this friggin’ hellhole” as she liked to refer to it. She knew she was going to have to spread her legs to do it and by God, she damn sure gave it a go. She finally got knocked up by some young stud installing a new septic system in town, whose company worked out of Florida. They stayed at the only motel in town for 3 months, and then ran off together. That was the last we heard of Wanda, and half of this house will always be hers, along with half of the taxes.
During fishing season, Roscoe and me don't let work keep us from fishing, and it seems like fishing season is almost year ’round. Living in the south, there are very few days when you can't find some kind of fishing to do. The last time a pond froze over around here, I was just a boy. My dad and me, well, my step-dad anyway, walked down to Ed’s Pond and like the fool my mama always said he was, took off from a running start to show me how he could slide clear across the pond. He almost did it, I'll give him that. He had slid about half- way across the pond when he ran into a patch of ice that was as thin as a brand new dime, and, well, he wasn't a bad fella, for a step-dad anyway.
One day, Roscoe and I loaded up my little aluminum two-man boat that I traded a VCR for, right about the time they were changing over to CD players. The fella’ I traded with swore those little CD’s would never catch on, but if there’s one thing I've learned in life, it is you can't stop progress. Who would have dreamed 20 years ago that kids in the first grade would have cell-phones in their backpacks? Amazing. Anyway, the boat had a small hole in it, but after Roscoe and me patched it up and painted it , it looked brand new except for a few dents and dings. Besides, as long as it floats, what more do you need?
It was near evening and we were drifting along, a few minutes before the fish usually start biting, when out of the blue, Roscoe looked at me and said “KC, do you believe in God”? Well, I guess you would have to know Roscoe to know how strange a thing that was to say coming from him. The only time him or me had ever been in a church, was the time we painted the AME Zion Baptist Church over in Kenansville, where it’s mostly Blacks.
Made good money on that job, and one thing I got to say about the Pastor of that church, he paid me as soon as I was through. I still have two Pastors who owe me money for painting their private residences and it’s been way over a year. A Pastor and his money sure ain't soon parted, not around these parts anyway.
I thought about what Roscoe said for a minute or two and I said, “Roscoe, why you asking?” Roscoe took off the Cat hat I gave him a few years ago, scratched his head and said, “I think God talked to me last night, right after I laid down to bed”. He didn't say anything for a few minutes, and I finally had to prod him along by asking, “Well, Roscoe, what did God say to you?” Roscoe stuttered a minute and said, “I... I.., I ain't quite sure how he put it. But it goes.., something.., like this, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” I damn near fell out the boat.
I sat there with my mouth open so long, a mosquito flew in it and almost choked me to half to death. Now, I've known Roscoe most of his life, and you could have beaten me with a broom handle and I still would have said you were lying if you told me those words came out of ole’ Roscoe’s mouth. Finally, I came right out and said it. “Where did you hear that from, Roscoe, off the radio or from a billboard somewhere?” Folks, I ain't never known Roscoe to tell a lie. He just ain’t got it in him to lie. You ever meet someone like that? Well, that’s Roscoe. “KC, I swear on my dead mama’s grave, that God told me them there words,” he said after a few minutes. “What ya’ suppose they mean?” Since I have never read the Bible, I had no idea, but in Roscoe’s eyes, I know damn near everything I guess. Even though we're about the same age, I've taken care of him since he ran off from home at 16, and he sorta looks up to me.
I was just about to tell Roscoe that I would look it up somewhere when we got home when all of a sudden something pulled on his fishing line so hard that it almost took him out of the boat. He managed to hang onto the rod, but with the boat not anchored down, the fish was actually moving the boat. I put down my own rod and tried to help Roscoe catch this monster. Just as I reached for the net, I saw something jump out of the water that to this day, and it’s been over 20 years, I still haven't gotten over.
The biggest Largemouth Bass I have ever seen suddenly broke through the water. Roscoe and I stood in that boat with our mouths wide-open and in awe, as this majestic beast came 6 feet out of the water. His head was as big as a bowling ball with a mouth that I could easily put two of my fists in. It had to be over 5 foot long and weigh over 40 pounds, at a minimum. But even with his size, this wasn't what set this magnificent fish apart from any other bass I had ever seen.
I've also caught my share of bass and most are a deep green or olive color, depending on the time of year they're caught. But this bass was a rainbow of colors and seemed to defy gravity as it stayed in the air like Michael Jordan once did on a basketball court, with one of his patented basketball dunks.
It then landed right in the middle of the boat, directly between Roscoe and me. His head, and especially his big beautiful eyes, were sighted dead-on Roscoe. This monster bass kept maneuvering his immense body so he could get a better view of Roscoe. It was then that Roscoe sat down and stared into the eyes of the beast. I would swear on a stack of Bibles they seemed to be reading each other’s mind. I sat down and watched a sight not seen by this old fisherman before or since. Roscoe then wiped his forehead, looked at me and said “KC, let’s get him back in the water now.” I almost fainted. Here was the biggest bass ever caught, in our boat, and he wanted to throw him back in the water. I couldn't believe it.
“Roscoe,” I said, “Let’s at least get a picture of this monster. We ain't far from the shore and my cell-phone is in the truck.” But Roscoe would have none of it. He wanted him back in the water right away, before he suffered any. He reached down, took the hook out of his mouth and petted him gently on his head like a puppy and I swear that fish waggled his tail like a dog to his owner. We both grabbed an end and to my everlasting regret, let the most beautiful fish I have ever laid eyes on, slowly swim away, but not before flicking its tail once more and splashing water all over Roscoe.
Roscoe. My buddy. Who has been picked on all his entire life, called a retard and an idiot by his own parents, looked at me and said “KC, forget what I said about God talking to me, I think I know what he was telling me now.” I looked at Roscoe and said, “Roscoe, that fish could explain it a lot better than I could anyway. Let’s catch us some supper, buddy”. And that, folks, is the God’s honest truth.
I've lived and worked in the south for over twenty years, and I hope this story captures a part of this place that I love, with the compassion and pace of life that never changes and people who have never met a stranger. - Kenny Sibbett