--Nathan “Hickory” Lickletter
“Who Hank? Naw, they never could catch Hank. Well, actually, I take that back. They did get him once with their helicopter. Shit. Yeah, I remember that’n. He’d so bad outrun the policeman tryin’ to run him down that he’d just gone on and forgot the whole business and parked in his yard. Next thing he knew the trees was bending over an’ he could hear the ‘whup whup whup’ o’ them copter blades. Wrote him a ticket and everything, right there. Course, this was way later on. I don’t remember what year, but it was when he was in that red pickup. They’d long since wrecked that old car, the Killafella, he called it. Shit, who the hell names a racing car after a damn snake? He never once got pinned when he was in that old buggy. Shit, he could have two or three on his tail and hop off in the State Forest and that’d be that. They got to where they wouldn’t even foller him in there. Not after Wayne Frizell got lost a whole day and even run out of gas after chasing him into them damn woods. It was like the trees and hills would just swoller him up and then spit him back out the other end of the county.
“But Hank wasn't really a bad feller. Naw. I mean, he caused us a bit of trouble, but in truth no more than half a dozen other less decent sorts. He did more good for people than probly anybody ever knowed. He'd give out meat or produce off the back his truck if he happened by folks needed it. He didn't go out of his way, I guess. Shame when he died. How he did. I guess you know about that. Some say he'd got the cancer, but I don't know about that. Said he's got too close down to where they shot that bomb. Lot of cancer up there, but I don't know about that. Government men said it was safe. But, Hank didn't go from no cancer. He took a spill off that Monteagle grade. Funny thing was, he was hauling back then for that Smokehouse Meats outfit. Load full o' froze pork chops and tenderloin. Sausage. Sliced ham. Poor folks live out by that gradeway. And it was already cold up yonder. They was folks digging out fatback and ribs from that wreck for days In dying, I guess he fed probly half a county through the winter.
“But, that was Hank a’ight. Only fella I ever knowed that got pulled over from a helicopter.”
Lathan City Mayor, 1977-1984
Jason Stuart is a native of South Mississippi and studied writing at Southern Miss before getting his M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Florida. He now lives just south of Memphis and rides a motorcycle.