We've finally reached that point in the season that you doubters among the Crimson Tide faithful never thought would arrive...the SEC Championship Game.
After our beloved Crimson Tide fell at the hands of the literarily-inclined heathens from the Mississippi Delta, many among you thought that the dreams of a championship season died on the hallowed ground of Bryant Denny Stadium. Oh, ye of little faith...
For as Football Loki has proven to us countless times during the rule of Our Dark Lord, the seemingly cruel strands of fate are prone to change merely upon his whim. An early loss means nothing to him, nor does a late season loss, for that matter. Time and time again, when many thought a loss would keep Alabama out of a championship race, the winds of probability twisted to suit the will of Football Loki, rendering even the surest odds of Tide elimination pure folly in his wake. For if Loki loves anything, he loves chaos, and it is chaos that has propelled the Crimson Tide into the championship spotlight time and time again.
Such is the case this year, as after that loss, Alabama worked back up the ladder, the team swimming against not only the heavy draw of an SEC schedule, but the growing current of hatred of the Crimson Tide in the field of public perception. The football public has grown wearing of watching Saban's crimson-clad automatons grind opponents into submission, one class of five-star recruits ascending to replace the departing stars like rows upon rows of shark's teeth rotating forward to fill the gap left by their predecessors.
So here we are...the Tide will battle the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship, with a sure spot in the College Football Championship awaiting them on the other side if they win. Surely, all is well and good, and Football Loki remains on his lofty throne.
That said, it is our duty as faithful followers of our beloved Crimson Tide to keep the ravenous god of the gridiron satiated through the submission of recollections of past embarrassing instances, and the offering of painful challenges in the present. Therefore, I implore you (despite the fact that the Gator offense seems about as useless as Richard Simmons in a Chinese whorehouse) to come with a vengeance this week. Historically, these games against the Gators for all the marbles are high-stakes affairs, and this one is no different. Strange things happen, and nothing can be taken for granted. So Hoodoo like you mean it folks, and let's get this thing done.
This week, I will present to you a tale whose recounting does nothing but fill me with shame and horror at my youthful behavior. You see, despite my stature as a full-blown Sith Lord, I am otherwise a pretty trustworthy and ethical character. I would never take it upon myself to commit such an act of debauchery against my fellow man (or in this case, woman), but I will admit that under the coercion of a father figure of sorts and the copious downing of Irish nectar, I gave in to the pressure and allowed mine eyes to behold something that, despite my sincere apologies, I simply couldn't unsee.
Here's a little backstory about your narrator that is of some consequence to this particular tale. I was the child of a single-parent household after my ole pelvically-motivated dad decided dipping his ever-lovin' wick was a far more worthwhile pursuit than raisin' children. When I was five and B-Rad was two, this letch of a feller revealed his extra-marital dalliances to my mother, offering her the choice of staying married and allowing him to roam the country-side like a skirt-chasin' bird dog, or divorcing him and having a go at life on her own.
Being a woman of sound mind (and fiery temperament), Momz let him know in colorful terms what he could do with his offer and told him to get ta steppin'. He gladly did so, immediately shacking up with his paramour: a horse-faced woman with frosted hair from the sleepy berg of Lucedale, MS who has been described in this here Hoodoo ledger previously as the Ursula-like Big Evy.
Once he had done the deed and the divorce was final, dad's interest in me and B-Rad was on a steady downward trend. He only cared about us so much as we could be used to glorify his name. For example, when introducing me to his acquaintances, he always started with "This is my smart son, makes straight A's, going to law school," rather than providing such useless information as, say, my name or age. When he introduced B-Rad, it was always "This is my baseball player here, he bats .450 and throws a 70 mile per hour heater." We weren't people to him, but rather stat sheets, trophies on a mantle, and our value to him was calculated strictly in the quotient of recognition our achievements could bestow upon his name.
At any rate, by the time I reached high school, he had little to do with me, mostly because I didn't play high school football. You men amongst our little group of friends know that a male child between the ages of 14-18 needs one thing as much as food, water and air, and that is the influence of a positive male role model, someone who commands respect through actions rather than words, and provides a young fella with a target for which to shoot as he navigates the treacherous high school years.
For me, one such role model was my Uncle Barteemus. Now, Uncle Barteemus was, and is, a fantastic fella in most regards. From the time I was a child, he and I had something in common, specifically our common love of firearms. As a firearms instructor, he trained me to be a dead-eye shot, made me tactically sound as a combat shooter through hours of drills at the local shooting range. As I grew older, we spent a lot of time together. We took dinner together often, attended gun shows, listened to music on his timber-rattlin' stereo system, drank quite a few beers...he, my dad's only brother, was in fact a proxy father for me and B-Rad.
Now despite all of the good Uncle Barteemus did for us as boys growing into men, he was about as crazy as a run-over dog in a lot of respects. An ardent purporter of Illuminati-centric One-World-Government conspiracy theories, Uncle Barteemus had someone to blame for damn near every ill that had befallen mankind since Cain killed Abel. Whether it was the Zionists, Yankees, liberals or rich people, Uncle Barteemus had diagnosed the heart of society's problems and had put a pin in each one for use in future drunken conversations.
Another example of his mania was his very pronounced and public love for the female form. Now, he was a married man and is as loyal as the day is long, has never to my knowledge cheated on any wife despite multiple opportunities to do so. But he sure would look, stating "Just ‘cause you look at the art in the museum don't mean you gotta bring it home." He was all about women, had Playboy editions from the 1960s stored in metal ammo cans back in his Morgan tin-can building in the backyard. I can remember always looking into his gun safe with fascination, partially out of awe for the firepower contained therein, and partially because of the nudie biker chick calendar that perpetually hung on the inside of the door.
Now just because Uncle Barteemus didn't ever capitalize on his lust for the feminine form doesn't mean he didn't appreciate it, nay, ogle it, whenever the chance presented itself. We'd be sitting in the local Mexican dive, sippin' Dos Equis and talking about whatever, when he'd stop in mid-sentence:
"Hoooo-weee, boy, look at ‘at right there...that one right there got an ass so tight she'd squeeze a lump'a coal into a diamond, I tell you what...that's what they call a runner's ass right there, bet she runs...watch ‘is..." Then he'd proceed to call the woman down, inviting her to our table, asking her if she ran, telling her that he too was a runner. The women would actually answer, surprisingly to me, as he did it in such an unassuming manner that I reckon these ladies just saw him as a genial, conversational guy. Soon as they'd walk off, he'd elbow me and say, "See, what'd I tell you, runner's ass..."
Other times, it would be more staccato, something like...
"GOOD LORD! That'un there has a pair of headlights on her, and I'll be damned if them suckers ain't on high-beam...must be cold in here..."
(Here's a secret for the women among our little circle here...these are the things that most men think, but do not verbalize outside of the confines of our brethren. We all think them, regardless of our ethical systems or seemingly gentleman-like behavior. We are just that sick, ladies. Uncalled for? Yes. Barbaric? Of course. Common? Also yes.)
But unlike the bulk of men, who appreciate such curves and crevices from afar within the realm of internal dialogue, Uncle Barteemus just said whatever popped to mind out loud...and I mean out loud. His baritone voice can not whisper, like a car stereo stuck on 10, and even when an attempt is made to keep it at low volume, it penetrates walls the way a whale's call resonates through miles of seawater. Being a more introverted fella, this would generally lead to a red face for me (but that's okay, because thankfully, red is in my color wheel.)
Now, Uncle Barteemus' home was in the Cottage Hill area of Mobile. This particular area is a mélange of class and culture. There were the old Cottage Hill settlers, folks who came to the area in the 1920s and 1930s to escape the urban sprawl of downtown Mobile. They came to light on this high ground from which one can see the Bay in the distance on clear days, where they set up pastoral farms and dairies, creating a small town on what was then the outskirts of the bigger city on the low ground. Many of those old families, mine and my wife's included, had been there ever since, when the now five-laned Cottage Hill road was nothing more than a red-clay pig trail, before the federal government built the southernmost spur of I-65 across the land and changed the complexion of the community forever. Those original folks had numerous modest family homes build on acreage, compound-style.
As the area was developed, more tony neighborhoods arose along Japonica Lane, half-million dollar homes for doctors and lawyers and such. Those folks represented the second culture of Cottage Hill, a stark contrast to the dirt farmers, nurserymen and share-croppers who had originally come to the area. For example, on my grandparents' street (upon which Uncle Barteemus' house was also situated), there were 25-some-odd working-folk, middle-class homes. The yards of my family's houses backed up to the houses situated on Japonica, and over the hedgerow, one could really see the dramatic difference in the lifestyles of the back-fence neighbors.
Now Uncle Barteemus is one of those types who speaks to everyone. One can't go anywhere without him finding someone he knows to chat with, and on the off chance that he doesn't see anyone he knows, he immediately sets about remedying that situation by chatting with anyone who'll listen. So even though he didn't run in the same social circles as the rich folk over the fence line, he knew them from his casual talks with them in his travels around Cottage Hill.
One such local blue-blood family was the Robinsons (not their real name, but name enough for the purposes of this story). These folks had made their fortune in real estate, and their signs could be seen on everything from modest town homes to million dollar mansions across Mobile County. They drove the kind of cars I only ever saw in magazines, and they had a fantastic, incredibly large brick home just over the fence from Uncle Barteemus' modest SS Steele house.
One day, while helping him trim his grass in preparation for one party or another, I had seen a beautiful blonde girl through the hedge, working with a tennis coach on the Robinson's personal backyard courts. I peered through, couldn't help myself, as your humble narrator must admit a soft (ironic choice of word, yes) spot for a woman in a tennis skirt. Makes me wanna do thangs. This girl was tan and athletic and fine, roughly my age, with the quadriceps of a tennis player and a face like a cotdang model.
Uncle Barteemus had seen that my attention had diverted from the magnolia leaves in his backyard to the girl through the fence. He cut the lawnmower off and called me over.
"Whatchoo lookin' at, OWB?" he said grinning, fully aware of what I had been watching through the foliage.
"Who is that girl over there, you know anything about her?" I asked him.
"Oh yeah, that's Mary Beth Robinson, she fine just like her mama. ‘Bout yo age. Rich too, good Lord they got some money, got half of Mobile tied up in their real estate company."
"You know her? I mean, like can you introduce me to ‘er?"
"Maybe," he said with a grin, and fired his riding mower back up and left me to my daydreams.
A week or two went by, and there wasn't another thought about the folks over the fence line, at least not for me. My pager (yeah, a pager...I'm old) went off, and I saw Uncle Barteemus' number. I called him back, and the conversation went a little something like this...
"'Ay, whatchoo doin' tonight?" he asked.
"Nothin' really, probably just gonna watch some fights."
"Com'on over here, we can watch the fights and drink a couple beers."
Sounded good to me. At the time, I was going to school full-time and working at a local cemetery after hours. A relaxed evening watching a few rounds of boxing while downing a couple beers seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
When I got there, I noticed that Uncle Barteemus had his telescope set up near one of the back windows in his living room. "Go ‘head and get you a beer," I heard him call from the bathroom. "Be in there in a minute."
I cracked open a Newcastle and sank into the leather sofa, flipping the television on with the remote on the end table. After a moment or two, Uncle Barteemus emerged from the back.
"Boy, you ain't gonna believe what I seen this evenin'." I was sure he was correct, as I never knew what to expect next out of Uncle Barteemus. He motioned to the telescope. "See ‘at there? Boy, I seen some world-class tittays with that thing earlier!"
Hmm...those two things don't compute. Were said tittays on the moon? Is this some kind of unnecessarily poetic celestial body metaphor?
"Yeah, tittays man, right over the fence line back there," he said, motioning to the Robinson's house behind them.
I was in disbelief. I mean, I knew my uncle was a horn-dog to a degree, but this crossed even his line.
"YOU WHAT? YOU DIDN'T?!!..."
"I shore did. Big'uns, bobots (a poetic anagram for the phrase "big ole big ole tittays") with them silver-dollar nips."
I didn't know if I was blushing or not, but I was so ashamed of his behavior, as a fellow member of his family line, that I had a right mind to cut the evening short then and there. I mean, though I was a heathen in my own right, I had at least developed some sense of morals, as convoluted as they may seem at times. Peepin' at a woman in her private moments was not what I considered gentlemanly behavior.
"Com'on, look through there and you'll see, aimed right up there at their bathroom winda, right there on the second floor."
"Dude, you don't feel bad about doin' that? I mean, that's some thuggish-ruggish shit right there..."
"Hell naw, figured if she wasn't tryin' to show somebody then she wouldn't have left the curtains open. Some women like ‘at, you know, some kinda dang ole exhibitionism or somethin', they get off on it."
Thank you for that well-researched and sage information about the fairer sex, Uncle Barteemus.
Secure in the notion that the event in question had indeed occurred earlier in the day, I peeped through the telescope, and sure enough, it was focused in tight on the bathroom window. Good Lord, there was no way I could run from the fact that this man I had looked up to was, in essence, an optically-amplified peepin' tom!
I tried to forget about it as we sat down to watch the fights. Yet and still, though little this man did was a shock to me, this absolutely took the cake. I mean it's one thing to be fun-lovin' and shit, but this here was an actual criminal act. I was so traumatized by the thought of my flesh-and-blood relative peepin' through a telescope at an unsuspecting neighbor woman, however, that I probably over-consumed a little in an effort to drown out this unwanted new knowledge.
"'Ay, how ‘bout a car-bomb...you want a car bomb?" Uncle Barteemus asked. He knew damn right I wanted a car bomb, I had never turned down a car bomb in all my live-long life. And recent developments had me achin' with a desire to at least temporarily erase my memory banks. Enter the car bomb. He cracked a Guinness and poured my pint glass full, adding half a shot of Jameson and half a shot of Bailey's to an adjacent shot glass. For those of you out there who don't know about this Irish tradition (noobs), one takes the shot glass of whisky and liqueur, drops it to the bottom of the glass of Guinness, then rapidly chugs the whole she-bang. In college, I held the family record for car-bombs, sucking down eight in a single night along with other various and sundry libations.
"Want another one?" I was asked after the first hit rock bottom. He knew damn well I did, was already pouring it up before I could answer. I repeated the ritual five times within the span of 15 minutes, at which point, my consciousness was shattered like a Belfast street scene immediately following the detonation of the drink's namesake.
Also detonated in the blast were my inhibitions. So when, upon returning from the restroom, Uncle Barteemus hollered "Com'ere" from near his telescope, I approached he optic with some degree of drunken glee.
"Man, come look at this, she got ‘em out! Tittays ev'rywhur. Gettin' out of the shower."
Without even thinking, I craned over the diopter of the telescope and saw, just as described, Uncle Barteemus' middle-aged neighbor, topless, reaching for and wrapping up in a bathrobe, the high-definition of the telescope even showing the glistening drops of water trailing from her hair, down her back and into places only her husband (and her gynecologist) ever had any business seeing.
I instantly felt shame for my transgression, as I had fallen right into the same inebriated trap, though I had mentally chastised my uncle as less than savory for doing the same thing previously. I felt like a bad person, and rightly so. Though I didn't have the mental capacity to process what I had done until the next morning, I awoke with one of those snap-to-reality moments that reminded me immediately what I had done.
I thought about apologizing. I needed to rid my conscience of this undue heaviness, as I didn't want to tote that around with me for the remainder of my life. I mentioned it to Uncle Barteemus, and he was less than pleased.
"Hell naw, man, you can't do that. We'd get in big trouble f'you did that. Don't do it. It was just a pair of tittays, man, settle down."
I tried to release the image of those pendulous, dewy bosoms bouncing gently as the woman toweled them off. I tried to forget about how perky they appeared for a woman that age, wondering whether she had gotten work done to preserve them, as they certainly had the funding to do so. My eyes remained peeled open at night with thoughts of her sugar-plums, jigglin' and wigglin' as a taunt to my usually gentlemanly nature.
Finally, I had to confess my transgressions to someone. I knew if anyone could keep my secret, it would be my brother.
"Man, B-Rad, you ain't gonna guess what happened." I proceeded to tell him the entire story, detail upon detail. He laughed, he sighed, he asked if there were photographs. When I was done with my tittay-based confession, his response was much the same as my uncle's, only with the addition of a high-five gesture.
"Aw hell man, it was just some tittays, settle down."
I was, after confessing, able to go on with my life to a degree. After work each day, I'd stop by Barteemus' house, and he would lace up and run the slopes of Cottage Hill with me and my track-star cousin Bock. As we made our usual 5.5 mile loop over onto Japonica, I saw the tennis-playing sweetie I had seen practicing through the fence as she walked to her mailbox.
"'Ay, you want me to introduce you?" Barteemus asked.
"Hell yes I want you to introduce me."
He hailed her and we made a little small talk. I was obviously short of breath after running half of my course, but I managed to tell her I was a college student, and ask her where she was going to school. Uncle Barteemus continued to shuffle his feet to "keep his heart rate up," but quickly became impatient with my deliberate courting.
"'Ay girl, we havin' my 40th birthday party this weekend over ‘cross the fence. Gonna have a keg, music, good food, lotta people comin'. OWB's gonna be there, why'ontcha come on over and bring a couple friends, plenty to drink and eat."
She said she'd think about it, and that was good enough for me.
That fateful Saturday rolled around, and to my mild surprise, this honey and two friends actually showed up to the party. By the time they arrived, I was fairly well staggering drunk, and I had to muster myself a bit before launching into any full-blown courtship activities. I went to the bathroom to dust myself off and splash cold water on my face (I'm a hot-blooded person, red-faced an awful lot), and left Uncle Barteemus with the girls so that no one else would push up on my quarry.
This girl, MaryBeth, was just plain beautiful. I was so excited that she had come, as I saw it as a clear demonstration of her mutual interest in what ya boy had to offer, if you know what I'm sayin'. I was already dreamin' of what I could buy with the dowry I'd receive from marrying into that family (what? People don't do dowries anymore? You don't say...) when my fallin'-down drunk brother inserted himself into the situation.
"'Ay man, who's dis?" He half-slurred, winkin' and gesturin' at the young lady who was fast becoming the apple of my eye.
"Oh, this here is MaryBeth Robinson, she lives over across the fence line there, you know, back behind Barteemus' house..."
I had no idea what my inebriated brother would spout next. He is a walking Old Faithful, only instead of heated water, he sprays filthy, ill-advised words and phrases.
"OHHHHhhh, this is the one you were tellin' me about, the one whose tits you saw."
No he didn't. No he did not. He did not even just...
Yes he did.
MaryBeth was quick on the draw. "Um, what?"
I tried to get out in front of my brother's mouth, but I stammered, and he beat me to the punch.
"Yeah, OWB said he saw somebody's tittays over there with Barteemus' telescope, ma have been your mama, i don't know, right through that bathroom winda, just kinda peeped ‘em up."
Holy shit. I was plum froze up. As B-Rad gestured towards the window where the telescope still sat, aimed in the direction of the Robinson mansion, I realized that my brother's mouth had drawn back the curtain, and the evidence remained there in plain sight, clear as day. We simultaneously looked at the telescope, looked at the bathroom window of the Robinson home, and back to the telescope. Everything lined up, there wasn't much I could say in my own defense. I felt the creeping burn of embarrassment overtake my face.
"NONonono, you got it all wrong, man. It wasn't...I mean, we didn't see her ti...I mean, wasn't like we were tryin' to..." It wasn't getting any better. Each attempt at baling water only seemed to draw more into my sinking boat.
MaryBeth didn't say much of anything. She and her friends didn't just up and run from the party, but they slinked off to the bathroom trip of no return, as I never saw them again that night.
Within a day or two, I got a call from Barteemus, who promptly informed me that his peep show had been shut down for good. "For some reason," he said (as he wasn't present at the time of B-Rad's revelation), the Robinsons had hung some heavy, dark colored window treatments over all of the windows on the back side of the house. Of course, I put two and two together.
I never saw MaryBeth again, at least not from a distance of less than about 300 yards. Whenever I'd run by her house, she was nowhere to be found. When I'd spot her checking the mail in the distance, I would notice her rapid scamper to be away from the road before I ran by.
Lost opportunity, I reckon. One of many.
Football Loki, please consider this, my humble offering...let not my beloved Crimson Tide pass on the opportunity that is before them with a victory over the Florida Swamp Critters. Roll Tide.