Michael Reid Busk
The Seventh Son
Seven sons begat Ma Piston—the first six had all gone bad, and as for the seventh, well, it was still too early to tell.
Naphtali, the eldest, got himself drafted in ’68 and since he couldn’t find a car to haul off to Mexico, he shrugged and got shipped straight to the Mekong Delta. Turned out he liked the Orient so much he shuffled down to Thailand and bought a heap of whorehouses in Bangkok. Last Ma Piston heard from him was a Christmas card back in ’81, gum-stuck to a photo of him in the midst of an act of passion with several well-endowed Oriental lovelies.
Sammy, the second to spring from Ma Piston’s fertile womb, always had a thing for loud engines, firearms, and cheap bourbon. It wasn’t too long before he found himself a covey of like-minded individuals, the Hell’s Angels, and burned across the continent with them, until he and his compadres wound up in a Chihuahua jail for robbing a convent while they was crazy-eyed with peyote. Nobody’s real sure when, if ever, he’s going to get out.
Enoch, the third, well, everybody always said his brains were a little cooked. See, for nigh on a year, whenever neighbors saw Ma Piston leaving that little house of theirs all fat with Enoch, they said her face was just bruises on top of bruises ‘til it got to looking like a rotten plum. Folks always speculated Enoch was conceived one of those bug-chattery nights just after Pa Piston—when he was still a bull and not just a sack of veins and gristle—got himself fired from the Grain & Feed. Seems that night Pa Piston got so gone on sour mash he couldn’t tie his shoelaces, then screeched around town in his pick-up until folks thought the Apocalypse was upon us—one fist waving an American flag out the window, the other one safely fastened to the sour mash, leaving one hand too few for driving, until physics finally got the better of him and he crashed the pick-up through the Grain & Feed’s display window, almost skewering himself on a thresher blade. But anyway, when Enoch Piston was so young his fingers still outnumbered his teeth, he got to trapping baby squirrels and rabbits in tiny cages he’d steal from Pa’s shed, and sometimes he’d douse them cages with ammonias and peroxides he’d find undiluted in Ma’s cleaning closet, then watch as they’d wriggle and screech in the sun, and sometimes he’d bang their heads with slabs of granite he’d find in the deep woods behind their house, bang ‘til no naturalist would have been able to figure what they once were, and sometimes he’d just tear ‘em up and eat ‘em right there, fur and all, until one day Ma Piston saw him from her kitchen window, his little face to the ground, and when he looked up, with hair and entrails sticking to the blood that had dried around his mouth, Ma Piston just about had a conniption and kept him tied to her apron from then on out. By the time he was eighteen, he’d already given Ma Piston more bruises than Pa ever did, rolling around on the ground, unspeaking and unwashed, with rope burns on his wrists from Ma’s apron strings. On his eighteenth birthday, they took Enoch to Nachitoches State Sanitarium, where he spent the rest of his days on horse tranquilizers being fed Jell-O with a rubber spoon.