Loose in the Wires
by John Brown
Some thought my brother-in-law Delmus was unstable; I just figured he needed
some trials and tribulations to help clear his vision a bit. So when he found an
agricultural role in the Peace Corps, I cheered. I could not wait to see the changes
a noble service in the third-world would surely bring.
Delmus came back from Botswana one year later with the gleam of purpose in his
eyes. He sat across the booth from me at an Artic Circle in Big Pine, Wyoming. I
watched him eat his Bacon Bounty Cheeseburger in one long, concentrated go.
No talking, no looking about, just earnest chewing, punctuated by a few drags on
his chocolate shake. When he finally came back from whatever gustatory
dimension he had slipped into, he sat back with a smile of slack joy.
"Was the food over there that bad?" I asked.
"Billy Boy," he said, "they were feeding me on rats and grass."
Then he grinned all big and goofy, and I couldn't tell if he was pulling my leg
about the cuisine or the fact that he was calling me Billy Boy. He knew I preferred
William or Will, but he said those names made me sound like some rich city fart
and what kind of numb nut would want that?
He picked up his napkin and wiped his fingers like he was polishing silverware,
then he looked me square in the eye. "Here's the deal. I wanted you to be the first
He motioned at me with his chin. "What have you heard about the old ways?"
I groaned inside. "You've gone and hooked up with a bunch of zombies and
voodoo, haven't you?"
"Voodoo?" he said. "That's nothing but watered down Caribbean crap."
"Delmus," I said. He'd tried fighting fires. He'd tried college. He'd tried Wicca,
magnet healing, Evangelical radio, nudist camps, and quantum mechanics. For
one week he considered living on a Kibbutz in Israel. He'd told me that
something as powerful and deep as oak roots worked inside him, driving him to
find the three-dimensional manifestation of the ten-dimensionality of our
Delmus could see my disappointment.
"Things have changed," he said. "I ain't blowing in the wind."
I just nodded. I liked Delmus. He was funny and kind. And no matter what he
might sound like, he wasn't dumb - he had gotten a 31 on his ACT exams, and he
hadn't even been trying. The boy had a lot of horses under his hood, but they were
never given any opportunity to show what they could do: a Lamborghini stuck in
life's parking lot.
"Let me guess," I said.
"No," he said. "First, you've got to hear this thing whole hog."
"Okay," I said. "I'm all ears."
He nodded, and when he'd gauged my sincerity, he leaned in close. "The truth is
I've got me an African god in a Smucker's jelly jar in my trunk."
Then he sat back like he'd just showed me a million dollars.
"I see," I said.
Maybe I'd been wrong about Delmus. He wasn't a Lamborghini. Heck, he wasn't
even a Ford. Delmus was turning out to be a go-cart.