excerpts from
John Pritchard’s
the sequel to JUNIOR RAY

--painting by John Hawkins--

I suppose Junior Ray can be considered “part of an oral tradition” for the simple reason that he doesn’t actually write anything, nor is anyone who knows him certain that he could.

Still, as a woman I must seem an unlikely choice for the job vis-a-vis the book’s language and subject matter. But most people locally would not think it a bit strange. I expect they have always understood whether they wanted to or not that I never let womanhood stand in my way when it came to claiming my indelible right to this short, manifold segment in the process of Time and to this place in the mystery of Space. That’s all any of us ever have. Nor would I believe they could accuse me of ever letting my status as a female block the road for anybody else.

Even so, I am a Delta girl through and through. I did not see the allure of screwing sheep on the levee, but I knew the boys who did it and even went out with them one night, the time the whole flock ran over Brantley Duckworth when the gamewarden, Mr. Briarfield, showed up and threw his spot on the home team, most of whom were just standing around while Brantley attempted to bridge the chasm of the species. He was then knocked flat into some sheep. When the lambs got spooked by the gamewarden’s light and the scattering heroes, who—I along with them—fled to their fathers’ cars and sped across a field toward a gravel road that would take us back to town, leaving Brantley in pursuit, hopping like a kangaroo on the turnrow, his breeches down around his ankles and the rest of him shrunk up to nothing. As the gamewarden’s truck with its spotlight followed Brantley at about one-mile an hour and then turned off to the right, back toward to the levee, and left Brantley, the Don Juan of Livestock, standing out there in the Mhoon county darkness, rejected by sheep and man alike.

So, yes, I know all about that and because I do may be why when my name came up Junior Ray didn’t bat an eye—as he most certainly would have if I’d been one of those Chi Omega “Oouu-oouu-oouu!” sorority types who went to Ole Miss, whose blouses never wrinkled, and who only did it, and said they didn’t, real quick in the dark. Thank God some of them grow out of it and become human beings. Still it is no wonder those boys went out to be with the sheep. It was a relief from all the vivacity.

Junior Ray pretty much reports on things the way they are, but like the rest of us he sometimes tells them the way he wants them to be. I figured I had a firm obligation to the reader to keep Junior Ray in the ballpark of accuracy as much as possible. So, I have injected two or three cents worth from time to time throughout this second helping of Junior Ray’s “talking” contributions to the development of American literature
- McKinney Lake, St. Leo, Mississippi

Chapter 1
God invented Cusswords — Bible Books — First & Second Befukatheez — The List of Saint Pisstofus — Majorettes and Mallards — A Cussin CD — Mad Owens — Litter-ture — The Hot-Tamale Nigga — Pelicans — Okra Winfrey

Sumbich, you won’t believe this, but somebody’ll walk clear across the street just to come up to me and say, “Junior Ray, you ass’ole, why do you have to use so gotdam much profanity in that book you wrote about us?”

I look at that coksukka hard with my right eye, and I tell ’im: Listen, goat-dik, I didn’t write the sumbich, I talked it, but the fukkin fact is God invented cusswords. He invented them sumbiches just like He invented everything else—I mean, if you believe in God—and I don’t—but I’m just saying, if you’re one of those cobuptheass pekkaheds that always wants to let folks know you got to go to church on Sunday and sing all them draggy-ass songs in praise of a fukkin figment of your or somebody else’s gotdam imagination, then you don’t have no choice but to agree with what I just said: namely, that Godalmighty, Hissef, invented cussin.

Plus, you have to agree, too, that if what you’re singing all them hymns to needs all that dumbass praise, your ass is in more fukkin trouble that just the possibility of goin’ to Hell—which I have no doubt is probably somewhere over across the river in Arkansas.

I tell ’ose sumbiches to look at it thissa way: If God is God and He’s perfect, then He can’t make no mistakes. Plus, if he’s tee-totally-ass good to the bone, then He can’t do nothin bad—or I guess I ought to say wouldn do nothin bad, because otherwise you’d be strappin’ Him down, put’n limits on His power, so to speak, and of course, bein’ God, He’s about as un-fukkin-limited as you can get. Otherwise I can’t see no sense in Him wantn the job.

So, whenever a sumbich comes up to me and starts in about my gotdam profanity, I just use philosophy on his ass and tell him he can go fuk a truck tire.

I coulda been a preacher. And, even though it ain’t no longer Bible days, if I had my way, I’d put special cussin books in the Holy Bible. I’d add those sumbiches, and right off the bat I’d have The Book of First Befukatheez. Then, naturally, I’d have to th’ow in a follow-up and call it The Book of Second Befukatheez. And both of them would come right after The Hoodoo Hex of Saint Damyoass and The List of Saint Pisstofus. I’d slap ’ose muthafukkas right up at the front of the whole deal.

Some smart-mouthed sumbich said there weren’t no saints as such in that part of the Bible. Fukkim. There will be in mine. I ain’t waitn around for Jesus and nem to come up with the gotdam saints. Besides, can’t nobody understand half the shit in the damn thing nohow. First Befukatheez, though, would be clear. It’d open right up with, “Holy Shit! Behold!” Then it would go on and get better from there.

Just like you, I expect, I have heard plenty of Bible talk and know how they said things back yonder, stuff like: “Lo, what cometh up the roadeth, muthafukka?” and other such old-timey googah. It wouldn be hard to make any of it sound bible-y, just like the names of the new books themse’ves: Befukatheez I & II. You can’t hardly tell the difference in the way that sounds and what’s in the original Bible. Specially in the one them fukkin Cath’lics uses. Oh Hell-o Bill, I seen it! Miss Helena Ferry’s sister Peekie showed it to me. She’d done been a lot of things, but by then she had decided to be a Cath’lic and thought I might want to consider joinin up myse’f. I told her, “No, ma’am, thank you,” and I said I hated church worse’n I hated niggas and bankers—but I didn’t mention planters cause she was one of em—and I guess, because she was, she give me a sharp look and said, Now, Junior Ray, you mussn speak like that about our darkies,” even though she knew sure as shootn-sherry, I didn’t have none.

But now they was one wild-ass book in the front part of that Cath’lic Bible she showed me that stuck out in my mind. It was called the Wisdom of Sirach, Son of Jesus. Kiss my ass. If there wuddn no saints in that part of the Bible, there sure as shit wuddn no Jesus neither. So how’d that sumbich get in there? That’s why I say if them Cath’lic muthafukkas can do it, I guess I could too. Plus, I do like the way the names of my new books sound, and for all I know that’s how the whole thing was wrote up in the first place. I can just hear all them old scribes and Pharisees and fukkin apostles set’n around sayin’, “Hey, muthafukka, what about us callin’ thissun Abbadisticus?”

“Fuk yeah, Mozayuh,” anothern’d say, “And let’s line that coksukka up between the Song of Shazamoab and the gotdam Letter of St. Boogaloo to the Baptists!”

“Suiteth the shiteth outta me-ith, sumbich,” the first one might answer, and that’s how it all coulda went—all the way up to and be-fukkin-YOND the Chevrolation of Saint Cleatus the Frogburp.

I expect I might have to put some thought on what else to include. I can hear a preacher right now, drummin up the spirit and getn into it, sayin’, “Now, brothers and sisters, please open your floppy-ass Bibles to First Befukatheez, chapter 4, verse 6:

“And the Lord did have pity on the po’ sumbich who had tore up his life beyond recog-fukkin-NITION, and the Lord sent-eth forth His angels to flap down and give the miserable muthafukka a gotdam bath and a bottle of Mad-dog 20-20, so he—the aforesaid muthafukka—could get through another day of his knee-walkin, dirt-likkin life up and down Highway 61 as well as on the nasty-ass streets of Meffis, especially after he’d done gambled away all his money at the casinos, and had drank up and pissed away every last no-count gumbo acre of buckshot bean-land his granddaddy left him until he, the dikhed in question, flat fukkin didn’t have nothin to say for his sorry sef but half a lung, a lump of charcoal for a liver, a pulse, and a twenty-year-old piece-a-junk-ass Cutlass Supreme.”

But, like I say, anytime some of these sumbiches around here get all righteous and green-p’simmon-lipped—I’m talkin’ about whenever these muthafukkas jump all over my ass about “the language” in my fukkin books AND about me bringing up the sheep screwin’ and all, I just look at em and say, “You little diklikkers, yawl woulda done it with rats if they’da been tall enough.” Or, I’d add, if they’da been majorettes. By God, you can hear em howl all the way to Itta Bena.

Anyway, I expect even old God Hissef couldn’t do nothin to suit sumneez sumbiches.

But, hot-da-um! Majorettes. I didn’t never love football, but I sure as Shubuta wanted me one nem majorettes.

Back when I was in Mhoon County High School, for a while, the dumbass little football team was called the Mallards; though, later when all the greenheads was just about shot out, some of the men in the town—the Boosters—wanted to switch and call the team the Gadwalls, but them lesser ducks didn’t pass the taste-test one bit, so it wuddn long before the team said to fuk that noise and went back to callin theyse’ves, once again, the Mhoon County Mallards.
However, when all them planters begun to use chemicals to keep the Johnson grass from growing between the rows, some sumbiches on the St. Leo Junior-ass Chamber of fukkin Commerce piped up and said they wanted to call the football team the Herbicides. That didn’t catch on neither, and so they stuck with the ducks. I remember thinkin to myse’f at the time: Well, hell, what’s the matter with callin em the Hoe Hands? I didn’t say nothin about it because hoe hands, black or white, was about to get just about as scarce as mallards was; plus, very few of them little diklikkers that suited up on the high school football team had ever knowed anything about choppin cotton. Not all of em, but a lot of em, was just a buncha townfukkas and one way or another was hooked into them planters.

Finally, though, later on in the 1960s, the niggas come in and took over the public school, and the whites, natchaly, went off and built their own prissy-ass school, which they decided to refer to as a academy, so now if you want to know the truth, I don’t know what none of em call their gotdam teams. Fukkum. I don’t keep up with it. Plus, I don’t know what a bug-bumpin academy is, unless it’s to make them chillun talk right, walk right, and don’t ast no questions.

Anyway, a lotta these old goat-pokers want me to use words nice people uses and would want to read—to other fukkin nice people I guess—but my question is what do nice people say when they want to call somebody a muthafukka or a coksukka, or even just a plain old sumbich?

I sure as hell don’t know. I ain’t growed up around no nice people—I try not to hang around with none, and if there are any out there somewhere, they can kiss my four-wheeler. Fuk emm sumbiches. They ain’t as nice as they think they are nohow.

Oh, I know them planters is supposed to be nice people. Double-fuk emm coksukkas, and the gotdam bankers too. Some of the lawyers is all right though. I’ll give their ass a slide.

The long and the short of it is I like cussin. And I like listening to it as much as I like doin’ it. Shoot, I wouldn mind having me one nem CDs—one with nothin but cussin on it—so I could stick it in the stereo and play it, and I’d just set there and relax.

Some nem sumbiches—out in California, I think—has CDs of birds fart’n, fish jumpin’, and leaves falling, or the sound of waves, like in the Guffamexico, which I am about to get to, and they play em at night to go to sleep by. But I—me, personally—I’d be happy layin’ there in the dark with the window unit on just listening to some muthafukka cuss—real soft of course, I guess you might even say gentle—in one nem Skyway-Hotel-Peabody, uptown radio-announcer voices?

Or I can see put’n a cussin CD on my alarm clock thing: “Good morning, sumbich. It’s time to drag your mean-old worthless ass outta the bed, and go fix some gotdam eggs.”

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF YIP YAP about me having had Shaw’s Note Books and, now, also about me having a good bit of the stuff Mad Owens wrote during the time he was pussywhipped by Money Scatters and afterwards when he tried to lose hissef in the Guffamexico, way-off down there on the fukkin Miss’ssippi Guffcoast, out at the ass-fukkin-end of just about ever’thing, on Horn-gotdam- Island.

By God, next to Arkansas—and to the Yazoo Pass, in the Mississippi Delta, back in 1863—that place was as close to Hell itse’f as a sumbich like me would ever want to get.

People say, “Junior Ray ain’t got no business havin’ nothin to do with litter-ture. I just say fukkum. I AM a historian—and that’s what this book, right here, is about—so I don’t see why me havin’ that other crap around—like Mad’s poems and the book he wrote down there at Horn Island on the beach, in the fukkin sand—is so unusual.

If a sumbich is a historian, that’s part of what it takes to be one. Besides that, in Mad’s case, he knew I would hold on to all the stuff he handed over to me and that I would not let nobody fuk with it unless he give me the word. And in this case he give the word to me and to McKinney, who has already introduced herself to you and who thinks as much of Mad Owens as I do.

Mckinney Lake is my fa-fukkin-cilitator—or whatever you want to call it. The publisher decided we’d call her that because this book ain’t really an actual re-search interview like the first book was, with young Mr. Brainsong who wanted to find out about the Delta and get hold of Leland Shaw’s Note Books. He didn’t want to do it no more, so McKinney agreed to help me while I talk the book. For one thing she’s from here and knows damn near as much as I do about the place. Plus I’ve knowed her since we was both pretty young and went to Mhoon County Consolidated. If all women was like McKinney, there wouldn be no problems in the fukkin world. Plus, people would think a whole lot better of women in general. You’ll see what I mean directly.

Anyway, I got all of Mad’s litter-ture in the closet under the stairs wrapped up in my waders, right where I kept Leland Shaw’s notebooks. I don’t wear the waders no more, cause I don’t go walkin’ out th’oo the sloughs, like I used to, to hunt ducks. If I want a duck, I know a dozen muthafukkas that’d be glad to get rid of some they’ve got, which they shot mostly in Arkansas, just so they could make more room in their freezer for other things, like okra . . . and their special chili which nine times out of ten is made with squirrels and raccoons.

Wouldn nothin surprise your ass down here—they was a nigga one time who made hot-tamales, like you’ll find in all ‘eez Delta towns, and, Oh Hell-o Bill, people couldn stop talkin’ about how dee-fukkin-licious them hot-tamales was. Well, the sumbich was makinem out’a mink meat.

He was trappin’ the mink, like a lotta sumbiches did in those days, right on the west edge of town all down along the Sugar Ditch and selling the hides to old Fess Bright who’d ride the train to Meffis and sellem to a dealer on South Main. Fess was white of course.

I found it all out one time when I knocked on the hot-tamale nigga’s door to ast him if he knew who kilt another nigga the week before in the alley behind the Palace Thee-ater. And that’s when I saw what he was usin’ and knew what it was cause I seen the skins and the heads as well.

I never said one word about it. And I wuddn gon’ fuk up the deal he had goin’ with Fess. It coulda gotten complicated. He gimme the name of the sumbich that stabbed Bob Irwin’s top tractor driver, and I figured me not sayin’ nothin about him usin’ mink meat from the side of what was at the time the town’s sewage ditch was one way he and I could continue to have a workin’ relationship, which, as you know, in law enforcement, is real fukkin important. Plus, I had free hot-tamales anytime I wanted em.

Speakin’ of cookin’, after that first book that I done with young Mr. Brainsong II, it wuddn long before I noticed that books that has recipes in em do pretty well because women seem to go for em. So I decided to th’ow in two or three of my all-time personal favorites, just in case. I had McKinney put the first one of em at the end of this chapter.

But now, back to the ducks. Fuk wade’n around in a swamp wait’n for those little skimmers to decide to fly over on their way to the South Pole or wherever it is nature tells em to go—plus I don’t think very many of em has flew over Mhoon County since the day Voyd pulled out a thing he ordered from a catalog, put it in his mouth, and said he was gon’ show me his “feeding call.”

Whatever that little sumbich told them ducks they was gon’ have for breakfast must have changed their mind forever about set’n their formerly unsuspectin’ duck-butts down in Mhoon County. Well, that and the fact it’s been so hot and dry.

I used to get a kick out of watchin’ nem good-tastin’ little gliders come into the slough on a cold-ass morning, just at first light, when the water was froze over. They couldn tell it was solid, so when they landed on the ice, they’d go “Whump” and skid a few feet. I promise you those little “scofers” actually looked surprised, if you can imagine what a surprised duck might look like when the sumbich discovers things ain’t what they was quacked-up to be. That’s a joke, sumbich. But the ducks slid’n in like that wuddn. They really did it.

Even though they ain’t none much no more around St. Leo, ducks is still serious business down here. People have the impression they’s all these rich-ass doctors out there somewhere—mostly in a lot of landowners’ dreams—and the idea is that when these doctors ain’t busy as a coonass eatn crawdads, they’re killin’ ducks.

It’s like, “Oh, doctor, please he’p my ass!”

“Sorry, son, you look exactly like a duck to me, Blam.” And then, of course, the dumbmuthafukka’s family gets the bill. That’s another joke.

Anyway, McKinney loves the you-know-what outta Mad’s poems. Personally, I think poetry is fulla shit—but, I don’t think McKinney is, so if she likes Mad’s poems, then I know there’s something to the sumbiches, because, as I have indicated, McKinney ain’t just any lil’ ol’ gal—or wuddn, when she was a gal—plus, she lived a long time up the country in New York City at a place called The Barbizon, whatever the fuk that was.

Even though I never saw much need of travelin’ anyplace, I do think it’s good for some people. And I have to admit, I did sperence some things when I went down to the Guffamexico to visit Mad on that dadgum island that I wouldna come up on no where else: like water you can’t see across, jellyfish, and stingarees. I would say pelicans, too, but we got them muthafukkas hanging out around the catfish ponds here in the county, along with the gotdam water turkeys. Although, as somebody pointed out, our pelicans up here is white, and down there they’s a good many brown ones. But as far as I’m concerned a fukkin pelican is a pelican; I don’t give a shit what race he is.

Speakin of that, I know there’s a lot of people that call me a racist. Fukkum. I ain’t. I’m just a sumbich that uses the kind of words people don’t like to hear because the words ain’t long and wiggly the way they want em to be. I mean, I don’t have anything especially against most Peckerwoods, Niggas, Greasers, Chinamens, Jews, A-rabs, Eye-fukkin-talians, and them gotdam Cath’lics, nor boy nor girl Queers, neither. Anybody that knows me, knows me dam well and maybe better than I know myself. Yet I do admit I have said some hard things about Planters and Bankers. But, them, and all the rest of those sumbiches I just mentioned—every fukkin one of em—I reckon they can take care of themse’vs without fret’n over the likes of me. And if they can’t . . . then can’t nothin in this world ever help em.

Okra Winfrey
Take a pound and a half of fresh—or frozen—okra, whole or cut-up, with lots of white and/or yellow onions and canned whole tomatoes, which you can mush up as you go along. Add some chopped, tender, white celery shoots from the inside of the stalk, but th’ow away the leaves.

Dump it all into a big-ass skillet with a little olive oil—not too much because there’s gon’ be a lot of juice from the stuff you’ve already th’owed in there—and cook it for a good while, stirring it around every now and then. Add a lot of garlic. Use the powder.

Later, after it cooks down, and when you feel like it, add two pounds of fresh, peeled shrimp and scallops. You can use frozen crawfish meat. But be sure they’re Americans and not those gotdam Chinese-ass muthfukkas. You can’t tell what them sumbiches are! Plus, if you want to, you can use chicken, but I wouldn because it’s too fukkin ordinary, and you’ll want to avoid that.

Mix it all up and let it simmer on low heat—and even though it duddn take a lot of time to cook shrimp, make sure the shrimp gets down in there and rubs up against the other stuff for at least fifteen minutes, after which, cut the fire down and let everything keep simmering, with a top not on all the way (so some of the steam can get out), for a fairly long time, maybe an hour or two—or more—on real low-ass heat. And don’t mess with it.
Then cut off the stove, unload the whole thing on top of some of that unpolished brown rice from Arkansas, and eat it—with, of course, salt and cayenne or, you know, salt and ... Crystal Pepper Sauce.


I have to admit I wish sometimes I could have learned about writers and historians and all that back when I was younger and just wanted to shoot somebody, but, hell, what the fuk did I know? Nobody I growed up with knowed what any of them things were, except Mr. Brainsong, but I never did see him all that much, and I was too young and too mean for any of what he might have had to offer at the time to rub off on me. Besides, I tended to look up to older men who liked to hunt and spit, and, for that matter, I still do, only most of those tough, strong, tobacco-chewin’, hard workin’, tall, skinny, hard-as-nails and damn-near silent men whose faces looked like a wrinkled pair of briar britches is now dead. And that, I’mo say, makes me a lot sadder’n most people might ever think I could be.

Also Sprach Zarathustra to Dylan Thomas
Intelligence has “no dominion”
And desire no tongue to speak itself
Beyond a reaching after air.
I clung to music of the past
That pulled me into shadows
And the company of ghosts
Where drums are made of darkness,
But the dancer is the light;
Despair can’t stand a dancin’ man,
Nor darkness ruin the night.


The only other woman I ever knowed named Money was a lady professor over at Ole Miss, Dr. Money Burns. She was a doctor of some kind of “ology” which I was never quite clear on, but it had something to do with one nem surveys you hear about, and in this case it was one about the South and about the muthafukkas who live in it. Plus, she was in a wheelchair.

Somebody had done give her my name, I guess, because of the first book and all. Anyhow, she called up on the phone and asked if she could talk to me and if I could come over to where she was, and I told her all that would be fine, so I drove over to Oxford and went to her office, where she and me talked for a long-ass time about everything there was to talk about, pertaining to the South of course.

It was something. I found out I knew stuff I didn’t even know about, till she asked me. That’s the thing, I guess, about them surveys: They show you where the ketchup is on the shelf, and you was looking straight at it all the time but couldn see it—till some sumbich comes up, points to it, and says: “Is that it?”

I liked her a lot—maybe it was because she was in a wheelchair and that made me think she’d done more with her life than a whole lot of muthafukkas I could name. I don’t know. But I liked her, and I could tell she liked me, and, as you are aware, that’s the whole trot line as far as I’m concerned. How many gotdam times do I have to say it: If a sumbich likes me, I like him!—or, in this case, her. It’s the same as what those old philosophers all said, according to Mad, way back in there, somewhere, around Bible times: “Ain’t nothin complicated once you understand how you’d like it to be.”

Anyway, when I was fixin to leave, she looked me square in the eye and said, “Junior Ray, do you like being a Southerner?”

And I answered, “Yes’m, I do, but an awful lot of people might tell you it’s me and what I come from that’s wrong with the South.”

Then, quicker’n you could say Jack Robinson, she come back with: “You’re not what’s wrong with the South, Junior Ray: The South is what’s wrong with you.”

I come close to cryin’, because I suppose I was so glad to hear her say it. It near bout knocked me down. And that surprised me. But there again, that’s the way it is with them surveys. Normally don’t much bother me, but I have to tell you I have always felt the difference between me and those big shot planters was that the only field most of them sumbiches ever drug their ass across on a hot day is the go’f course at the Meffis Country Club, and that little one down there at Clarksdale, too. And, as you know, both those places is made out of cotton.