Uncle Fuckup trashes cars. He drives them through ditches with scar-faced friends, breaks axles and shocks. He resurrects his kills with blowtorches and parts from auto graveyards, has a hydraulic lift in a barn, chains hung from the beams like Hellraiser, stank of hay and oil, the whole scene a fire hazard. As a kid you say, “Uncle Fuckup, were you in a war? Did you kill people?” and he laughs and pulls a cigarette. He takes great pleasure in the pause of answering questions, relishes eyes on him while he flaps open the Zippo like he hates its silver engravings, the snap of his fingers summoning flame to Camel. Uncle Fuckup sucks it and squints. “Don’t you worry, boy,” he says. “They’ll find you a war.” And then there’s a war you’re gone to, and wars are just riding in tin cans like sitting ducks until they tell you to eat, sleep, or shit. Friends get blown to pieces and everybody acts like pieces don’t make the man, that the man is gone once he’s in pieces, but your friends don’t leave, they hole-up rent free in your head. The war is over (for you anyway) and you go home to play Texas Holdem with Uncle Fuckup and he passes the bottle/the joint and says, “Well?” and you say, “Shit,” and he says, “Yep.” You’re riding shotgun now, smashing through hedges and mailboxes in Uncle Fuckup’s pickup. Uncle Fuckup sweet talks the law until they laugh and let you go with warnings, every damn thing a warning. Don’t smoke or you die, don’t drink or you die, don’t smoke, drink, and fuck or you die. You see the gray in Uncle Fuckup’s beard, streaks like lightning to his temples, how the widow’s peak thins out and gets lopped off by forehead. And at Daddy’s funeral he plays I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry on fiddle. All Daddy’s and Uncle Fuckup’s ex ladies cry, and you realize, good god, the music isn’t in the fiddle, it’s his hands. Ask the ladies about his hands. Then you’re crying too with these old men and your rent-free friends. Afterward he says, “Feel like a drive?” Then Uncle Fuckup is shotgun with the fiddle, you’re driver with the bottle. You donut out in the industrial park until you see it: the ditch you must vault. Your Evel Knievel childhood has prepared you for exactly this. On approach, you see it’s less ditch and more ravine. Uncle Fuckup says, “I can fix it.” So you stomp the gas.
Photo in Public Domain.