Second Cousin Beauregarde

[An excerpt from Part Two, Chapter 20:
“The Novel: Bob The Teenage Drinker, and
The Great Poetical Unemployable, Second Cousin Dan”]


I guess this story is a story of how you can get in trouble, when the story-telling keeps going and going and gets to have a life of its own. So’s you can’t tell the difference, no way, between what is real in the real world, and what is haywired fantasy. Not that this is so bad a thing for an artist, but when you are only a kind of self-styled minor poet, like our old second cousin, Beauregarde, well, you can get yourself in a whole lotta trouble. And then poof, there goes the little bit of freedom you just barely hanging onto anyhows.

All us folks in Beaufort knew Beau, where he went by Uncle Beau, or Cuzz Beau, or sometimes just you goddamned crazy son of a bitch. What he was, in our family of Fluffers, was some kind of second cousin — not by blood, but leftover from some old divorce or was that a divorcee, of some wild reputation: a lady let’s say, who started off fine, but ended up with a wild hare up her ass, and dropped out Beau.

But I don’t know nothing much about those early days. When I first started seeing him flapping around town in a black cape the man was already white-haired. Us kids thought he was some kind of vampire; I never did know where he lived. He spent most of his days in the barrooms of Beaufort, spinning his tales, making up his story of himself that had no attachment whatsoever to the real world outside here. For sure the ruler of a secret world.

My first cousin Jobeen Fluffer told me years after that he himself was twenty years old before he realized he was not of Irish descent — because of Second Cousin Beau recounting so many times stories of “the family back in Ireland”, “the cozy old peat moss homestead,” going on and on about his Irish grandmother, and the moss-covered Catholic church in the glen, or wherever… so when one day Jobeen said something to his father about someday maybe going back to Ireland, his Daddy gave forth a petulant snort, “Good golly son — we are not in any ways Irish! That’s just another one of Beau’s crazy idee…” Astonishing, you go around for years, believing some old man’s dementia is your heritage. But that’s the darned truth — Beau believed it.

There was a rumor around town too that the fella was rich as beejesus, and this got him robbed by some of the more unsavory elements on the look-out, more than once. In fact, it happened so often I kinda think he was being used as an initiation for young up-and-coming young criminals. “Go roll that old man. See if you can find his stash. We know he’s got a wad.” But he didn’t have anything, only the social security, his soldier’s disability, and what hand-outs the family did not begrudge him.

He had been in World War II but who knows for sure what he did in the war, all you knew that coming from him it had to be something unbelievable heroic. Probably saved all kinds of people, like that. In fact, one of his stories I swear to God he lifted straight out of “All Quiet On the Western Front”, where the character sat for three days in a foxhole with a dead German. You know the story. When I read it in college I wondered why it sounded so damn familiar. FInally I recollected Beau telling it to us one afternoon, knocking us all dead with the terror of it all happening to he himself, Captain McGillicutty. I guess that’s kind of a big compliment to Erich Maria Remarque.

Yeah, cousin Beau might a been to some of its residents the walking, talking disaster of Beaufort, South Carolina. But he had this gentility that was just so disarming. Old school as they say — from out of another time. And he was not just a drunk. He was a beautiful old drunk. Tolerated because he was a character: with that ratty black cape he wore so well, the very tall stature of him, the long flowing white hair. One time reading into the biography of Edgar Allan Poe the image I could not get away from was Uncle Beau/Poe falling down drunk in gutters, astonishing poems clutched in lifeless hands, ten cents to their names, muttering invocations to birds… waking up all innocence to do the barroom rounds again. Such confluences in these mad geniuses infused his person with a glamour that he, for once, had no hand in inventing.

One fixed idea Beauregarde very well developed (during our era of running round Beaufort in our own capes and bleached-out white hair and big hobnail boots, yeah — the Goth period!) was that he was some kind of a General in the Irish Republican Army; a General who was secretly in charge of running guns from South Carolina into the holy mother country of Ireland, “to defeat… AND destroy… the evil Inglishmun.”

Now those were the days you could walk into any old gun store — and they were all over — and walk out with as many guns as you could carry and not even have to show that you were an American citizen. Still, before long, Second Cousin Beauregarde’s kind of tall tale-telling earned him his very own set of FBI G-men, who had the job of trailing along behind the crazy old man, in their terrible, obvious, government-issue Ford or whatever so damn boring a car. Staring straight ahead with their sunglasses on and their matching suits. G-men, they made me hot. I used to imagine they were gay lovers and had sex in those suits, with those plain hard faces… really hot sex but they couldn’t show they liked it otherwise they wouldn’t be men. Something crazy like that, yeah I was having something of a hard time ‘coming out’ in damned Beaufort anyhow. Scuse the digression.

As far as his being a poet, I heard tell Uncle Beau had once published an epic poem on the Civil War, where some ancestor of his who musta been made-up of course, fought some major battle and so defeated the North. That was another one of his ideas — that the South had been victorious in that war, and that “…all nigras are still slaves. They jus’ don’ know it.” Well that line got him a few beatings.

Can you think it? He made the Confederates the winners in the Civil War. Well as it turned out that ancestor was a real and actual one. One night hunkered down in the cemetery trying to get stoned on some bad pot, Marcus Fluffer took me over to see this old headstone from the Civil War, and sure enough, it was a McGillicutty. So that one real ancestor birthed at least some of Uncle Beau’s sense of glory. I mean that knocked me out. It was like a Rosetta Stone key to his madly hieroglyph’d brain.

Another time: I found out I loved the guy. I was sitting in the Oxford Tavern one Saturday afternoon, with my mother who liked to have two Pink Ladys starting around 4 PM. I would sit in the cool leatherette booth and have a ginger ale, and eat her gin cherries. That day, I could not take my eyes off Cousin Beau, where he sat, up on his barstool, a rickety throne, waving his arms around, slow and graceful, as he spoke. I haven’t mentioned that VOICE yet, have I? No… well, you could say that VOICE was the coin of his realm. Without that sound coming out of him he would have been only some old nut.

Now imagine: that kind of deep resonant voice runs in our family, but Beau’s was beyond and above… how Cousin Beau sounded: big, growling, dark, rush of trom-bone, with a long, thunderous vibrating ROLL as he rolls on down to the end of a story…

“Lemme tell y’all, if y’ain’t hu’d it befoah… about mah beeYOUtafahll Son — also name a BEAUREGARDE.

“Wisht you’all’ins coulda known The Man. But he’s ovah theah in the grayve-yah’d, siss feet under, where those god-dam Ko-REE-yuns done put ‘im.”

“He wuz DECK-OH-RAYted… wif TWO PUHpell Hahts… fightin’ in that dam Eisenha’hr KO-reen-yun WAH.”

Fixed like flies on fly-paper, we were listening to that voice. Couldn’t wait for the next sentence to stroll out, and conduct us, luxuriantly, on through the tale of the beautiful man BO – ruh – GAHD…

The way he tumbled that name around his mouth still’s sending chills up and down my spine, I am telling you, BO – ruh – GAHD…

“Mah Son, BO-ruh-gahd… was a man… a REAL man.” He waved his hand dismissively over our uncouth modern-day forms. “An’ BO… had… beeYOUtahfuhll, Law-ung (this word had three syllables) WEVVY, CHESS’NUT HAYAH!” He designated the length, shine and beauty of this ‘hayah” with eloquent turns of his palms.

But that hit on the NUT in “chess’nut” made my stomach drop out… I knew disaster was coming.

Sure enough, Beauregarde Junior fought long and hard, won medals galore, and was finally “KILT… and sent off to his ressin’ place… theah, on the right hand of GAWD.” And the old man started crying. And I realized I was crying too, crying for the beautiful Beauregarde with the beautiful long wavy chess’nut hair I was never going to see, never going to touch, because he was dead, dead, dead!

I turned a tear-stained face to my mother. I was so, so shocked to see her smirking, without a speck of concern, sipping on her Pink Lady. “Mooma! Why dint you never tell me about how he had a son… did you know Beauregarde? Junior? I mean the war hero?” Her smile was killing me.

“Ain’ no WAH he-ro!” she snapped, snuffing out her cigarette, “Poah man ain’t got no chirrun! ’S’all made up — don’ choo know that by now?”

So after a while Beau’s personal FBI agents realized Mr. McGillicutty wasn’t rich from gun-running, or rich at all, nor did he have any contacts whatsoever within the Irish Republican Army. Even though he’d made himself up a business card, printed and everything, that went “Beauregarde McGillicutty” — and on the second line “General” — and on the third – “Irish Republican Army,” it wasn’t going to come true. So the FB & I went away. We would not be visiting the grave of the beayoutifull Son.

All of it just fantastication from ver’ chahmin’ drunk ol’ Dandy.

One afternoon when I was over at the my Aunt Leona Fluffer’s house I witnessed a portion of his real degradation. We were sitting in the living room with her old Mother and Daddy, my Great-Aunt Toothie and Great-Uncle Wilbur, when Beau rang the doorbell.

“Oh DEAH,” went Toothie, and ran upstairs and locked the door to her room. Aunt Leona, who is some kind of psychiatrist and so shoulda been able to handle him, went to the door and talked through it:

“What you want, Beau?”

The delusional coot was heard to mumble and rang the bell again.

“Now stop that bell-ringin’ and tell us what you want.” She was gesturing at me and Great-Uncle to go upstairs but I for one was rooted to the spot.

“I wanna … san’wich.”

Aunt Fluffer shook her head and went into the kitchen. I crept up to the curtain and looked out.

The old man looked pretty drunk, but was on his feet, wavering on the porch there, kinda beat up and bent out of shape. I felt sorry for him. It was then I wondered if he lived anywhere at all. Maybe he slept in the woods with the tramps?

He caught me spying on him and came up to the window… I woulda run, but the mischievous look on that still handsome face, with its hooky nose and mad sparkling eyes captured me.

“You, boy, a spy?” He nodded his head wisely and looked all around — “You working for us?”

He meant the Irish Republican Army. I nodded my head.

“I’m gonna give you a ‘signment,” he suddenly yelled through the window. At that Aunt Leona came back in the room and shooed me away. She gave the old man a sandwich and a cupcake I think it was, and sent him off without even letting him come through their damn door.

From the upstairs window I watched him for an hour, sitting out on the curb amidst all the green lawns and nice houses, eating his hand-out. It broke my heart. I wished so hard he could be in the family regular like. But he wasn’t ever gonna be.

Well all night long me and my cousin Jobeen played out a fantasy of us being spies and doing the “signment”… Jobeen dressed up like a general, with a long bathrobe and plastic golf-club for a sword. I was his little foot-soldier, we were “running guns” oh well I mean how do you describe kids’ games, it’s so deep. And anyhows that way he got to boss me around all he wanted, which I guess was the real game.)

Seems Beau didn’t have much longer to go. The last thing we heard he had gone up to some lady in the street and asked her, “Do you have on a gattah-belt my deah?” put his hand up her dress and tried to snap her “gatter.” Not realizing even what a panty-hose was, old fool, how gatter-belts was long out of style. For that the police got called and our second cousin got taken away.

Once they observed him in the hospital they didn’t let him out anymore. Don’t know if he died there or what. Maybe after he sobered up he went plain ravin’ mad. Or maybe he took over the madhouse. I like to think the last, him sitting up on a stool making all the patients listen to him tell tall tales, to his mad little heart’s contentedly.

Still think that damned old bitch of an Aunt Leona, so-called psychiatrist, could have done something a little more. Well but that’s how people are. If there isn’t anything in it for them then they won’t do for anyone. I wonder how it is when you wake up in the middle of the night with a black heart like that. Does it make you choke to know you just about kilt one of your kin, a poet no less, even if minor.