OK, so I’m a slow learner. It started when I was just a little kid, the slow learning thing, and I think it was a progressive disease from that starting point. Ever since I can remember, I can either grasp something right away- or as Lauren Bacall told Humphrey Bogart, “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
I’m still trying to grasp the true nature of quantum mechanics. I have trouble obtaining absolute certainty when I can’t see the subject of discussion, and my teacher tells me he knows that it exists because, “There is no other logical explanation.” Like the quark, for example. Basically, a quark is like the DNA components of the smallest parts of protons, electrons and neutrons.
“Fine,” I say, “But it can just as easily be something else altogether, right?” Like with religion and faith- I say quark, you say I’m a devil-worshiping quack. The single letter changed makes a huge difference.
My first memory of learning slowly came from when I was maybe four, and Streaker Jones was over to the ranch for one of his first visits. Gram had a nasty old black cat named Lucifer, a properly-named animal if ever there was one. I pulled on Lucifer’s tail the first time and was favored with an arm full of nasty scratches. Gram said to me, she said, “Serves ya right, Butcher.” And then she added, “You’ll learn ta stay away from that devil- er else’n you’ll be a needin some sewin and one a them blood transmissions.”
Streaker Jones, also maybe four, said, “He needs time ta wurk it out, Gram. Better git his blood type.”
My good buddy Streaker Jones has always been smart.
Gram developed a special potion to stem infections from when that damned old cat would cut me up. I Got Yer Cat Scratch Fever was its name, and a little tincture bottle of it was always handy until I was almost six. Lucifer died when I was almost six and Gram thinks I was lucky he did.
I bring that mangy old cat into this conversation because his name came up last night, Sunday, at the dinner table. I’m still a touch wobbly after my butt surgery of last Thursday, so my throbbing and quite sore ass is always at the edge of my mind. And near the tip of my tongue as well.
I had dinner with SAC Ellen Saturday night and we went to Damian Mandola’s place there to the Triangle, north of the University. When I was a kid, that area was North Austin, and you could hunt rabbits near the triangle. Now, that would almost be the northern edge of central Austin.
We got a salad mista and a Margharita pizza, both to split, and some wine. The salads there are terrific and so are the pizzas. Hell, everything we’ve tried is above average to great. I always get some of their homemade sausage on my pizza half and the SACster gets roasted garlic on her half.
I don’t know why she won’t just order meat on her half because she picks half the meat off mine. I don’t get pissed about it any more, but it used to buggerate the ever-loving shit out of me. They don’t have Carta Blanca beer so we had a nice Italian something in red instead. No tequila either, but with Italian I’m liking either my beer, or a nice red wine.
We were halfway through the salad when our pizza arrived, and I had been sitting on the wooden chair for maybe twenty minutes. Comfortable under most circumstances, the chair was starting to telegraph pain signals to my Codeine-and-Gram’s-potion-soaked brain. SAC Ellen was driving because I was unsafe to do so, so don’t worry about that.
I placed my salad fork down to the table and said, “Cripers, Ellen, I think somebody just parked a Dodge Ram pickup in my ass.” I fidgeted a bit and said, “I think the front bumper took out my prostate.”
In response I got that “Have you lost your mind?” look.
“No, really,” I blundered on. “I’m starting to worry that my entrails are falling out around my Kotex pad. Like from when we watched Saving Private Ryan the other week.” I was wearing a lady’s cotton pad back there to soak up the blood and noxious fluids that continue to drain from the excavation site.
Another of the same looks headed my way, except this one had real intensity. I misunderstood the look and saw concern, so I barged on. “Would you come to the bathroom with me and check things out?”
This time, the response was for SAC Ellen to place her salad fork beside her plate and she put both hands on the table, gripping the outer edges like she would do if she wanted to flip the table over. “For shit sakes, Mooner. Would you shut up about your ass while I’m eating?”
“But it hurts,” I bravely stated through the blur of pain.
“Oh don’t cry Mooner, you aren’t going to die. But I swear to God, if you say one more word about your bloody ass before I finish my dinner, I’m packing up and leaving you here to fend for yourself.” Then she added, “Now shut up and eat.”
Since SAC Ellen is always good for her word, Streaker Jones picked me up from Mandola’s place and dropped me off to the ranch at about ten. I bided my time waiting for Streaker Jones walking around and talking to people in the crowded cafe. They needed my table to handle the big crowd and I needed to bounce some things off people. You know, get some third-party feedback on stuff.
This one lady tried to slap me when she figured out who I was. She’s a Catholic Republican and an area representative of the party. That’s not why she slapped me, but it is why she called me, “An inappropriate and Godless creature who should spend Eternity burning in hell.”
I told her I had already read her E-mail, thank you very much, and appreciated her support. She was wearing a nurse’s uniform and had her ID badge from the hospital around her neck, so I asked her, “Hey, would you mind taking a look at my ass for me? I think I might have blown something like that big BP mess out to the Gulf.”
That’s when she tried to slap me.
So. We were to the dinner table last night, the whole lot of us, and I was retelling the entire Saturday night dinner story, looking for sympathy and understanding, when my Gram pipes up. “Mooner, ya dumass,” she began. “You ain’t not one bit smarter than you was with ole Lucifer the cat.”
“Lucifer the cat? What the hell does Lucifer the cat have to do with the mess I call my ass?” My Gram often dumbfounds me.
She gives me this matronly stare that says, “They shoot horses, don’t they?” Then she says to me, she said, “Who gives a shit Mooner. You was a slow poke then an yur a slow pokier now.”
Confused, I eased myself from my chair and went to the fridge for another Carta Blanca. “Anyone want anything while I’m up?”
Only Gram answered. “I want you ta pull yur head out yur butt an stop talking about yur ass at tha dinner table”
Which reminds me. Have I told you that my actual birth name is Butcher Einstein Johnson? I wasn’t called Mooner until my first day of school. I think that’s a great story, but it’s in the book. When things are included in the book, they are verboten here. I am forbidden from talking about it now.
But I truly am a slow learner. They say the the definition of a crazy man is one who keeps repeating the same action with the expectation that he will get a different reaction. It’s like if you were to thump your thumb with a rubber mallet ten times in a row, and you expected to feel no pain with the eleventh thump.
I don’t want to dig too deep into my psyche right now- I’ve got too much pain killer and hallucinogenic potion in my bloodstream to get serious. But let me tell you about slow learners. When we get lucky and actually do learn something, it is learned. Bone deep.
When you convince a slow learner that something is what it is, he knows what it is. His learning is fact-based and reliable. After we mature and get things properly oriented mentally, slow learners are people upon whom you can depend. I guess it’s that whole conviction dealie.
I actually think the letters on my keypad are little black-shelled turtles that are slowly melting into a puddle on my desk. Vicodin has always done that when combined with one of Gram’s potions.
Have I told you that my ass hurts?
I need a Carta Blanca.