the boy who burned the whorehouse down

The girls all made it out, though they’d scrambled:
Some wearing only the slinky tools-of-the-trade lingerie,
Others slightly more dishabille,
Clad in no more than a towel or men’s shirt
Offered up by a client in exchange
For not being caught in flagrante delicto.
There’d been no doubt who set the fire;
The boy had been right there the whole the whole time,
An had copped to the whole thing
(Without any prompting, extraordinary or otherwise)
To the sheriff’s boys on the spot,
Not that he would not have topped the list of suspects,
As all and sundry knew he’d been barking mad
Since puberty had ambushed him,
With no one to mitigate the volcanic shock
Yoked upon his mind and body,
Each littered with thoughts and clumps of hair
Both unrequested and unwanted,
Mysteries he bore the burden of alone,
Not dreaming to inflict them upon neither mother nor father
Nor the preacher at the hard-shell Baptist church
(The boy invariably in the front pew,
Alternately scowling and leering as the preacher
Railed against liquor and cards and fornicatresses.)
The sheriff had, frankly, no clue in hell
Just what to do with the boy,
So he’d kept him in the county lockup
While they decided whether to try him as an adult,
Send him to the boys’ school out near Valmeyer,
Or just send him back to his parents
In the hope they could knock some sense into him,
But he’d hooted and howled and pounded the walls so much
They’d sent him to the juvy bughouse down in Carbondale,
After which he’d pretty much disappeared to myth and memory,
Save for the occasional regretful opinion
That he should have burned the house further outside town
(What with it being no more than a glorified barn,
Plus the girls there were a decidedly unclean lot,
Having continued to service the Cardinals’ minor leaguers
From across the river in Keokuk,
Even after they started to sign black boys)
And the story, though its veracity a subject of debate its ownself,
Of how he’d masturbated while the house burned,
Spilling his seed onto the burning embers
Until, seeing his flaccid, doomed member in his hand,
He’d broken down into a fit of shaking,inconsolable weeping
Beyond hope, beyond any possible reclamation.

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9 thoughts on “the boy who burned the whorehouse down

  1. for some reason I imagine him an inverted carnival cousin to Steinbeck’s character Lennie in Of Mice and Men, laced and braced with some Flannery O’Connor miscreant misbegotten son, aflame with orange hair, and now president. but then i’m weird. ~

  2. With Branch Rickey once hoarding all them minor league teams and players, this burning down the Cardinal players animal outlet may keep them frustrated and in the lower divsion. Just because it works for boxers – all that pent up aggression, doesn’t mean it works with hitters.The Pirates are only a few games back of the third place red turds, in this world where poetry suddenly decides the baseball standings.

    1. It’s funny you mention Rickey and the Pirates–when he took the reins of the Bucs in the early 50’s, it seemed like he signed every kid in the Pittsburgh area who could hold a bat, plus some all-or-nothing kid from St. John’s named Mario Cuomo.

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