Daddy named me Honus, but everyone’s always only called me what he called me: Onus. Lose the “H.” He told me someday I’d get the joke. I don’t. But there’s lots I don’t get. Like acts of God. Like how to do life, nowadays. But I don’t need to understand things to outsmart them, and that’s what I’m gonna do. I tested the harness this morning and it works. The Bambi, a third the size of the Airstream, moves with me when I walk. It’s just a length of heavy chain wrapped around the tow hook, a couple of seatbelts with towels duct-taped around them attached to that, but it works. I’ve outsmarted the next hurricane. I’m not gonna lose everything, not gonna drown when the next levee breaks.
Lunchtime, I’ve only gone fifty feet, but I’m already sweating like a fat fry cook. Sun’s up high. Air feels like a fart. Strip down to just a wife-beater, undershorts and workboots. Undershorts have little pills of cotton on them and they’ve sprouted gills on either side—I’ve got too big for my britches, I guess. Chicken skin of my thighs shows through.
I look back and I can see the cornbread-colored rectangle of grass where the trailer sat for years. When I look ahead, I get dizzy. It’s three-thousand feet up Aucun Hill, but it’s a trip I’ve gotta make. On the news, I saw this child inside its own house, crying up on top of a six-foot-tall bookshelf. Couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl, just looked like a wet cat. Dirty water that looked like old antifreeze still rising. I saw grandmas floating face up and face down. Houses crushed and rubbed smooth like sandcastles at high tide. Siding marked with scum lines, like a nuked Cup-A-Noodles. This last hurricane cancelled New Orleans, and missed Keener by less than a pit bull’s tooth on the map. I ain’t a gambling man.
After beans over Sterno, I yoke myself back up. If I had a car, I’d leave town entirely. But Momma’s debt wiped out my bank account. I don’t understand economics neither. Anyways, this is where I live. So, I’m dragging all three-thousand pounds of my home, my entire life, up the side of the mountain, like some goddamn giant metal turtle.
Wind picked up last night. Gusts that sounded like werewolves in heat. Went on for hours and hours, too. Took healthy leaves along with ones that already changed color. Lying all over the place, overlapping upside-down and rightside-up, the ground looks camouflaged. Like the backs of a thousand dead soldiers. I best keep on. Nature’s making war.
Had to ditch some weight to get up faster. Just a couple of boxes. Kid junk. One-eyed stuffed tigers, Lego bricks, scratched up die-cast cars, that sort of thing. Deflated yellow balloons still tied with grimy strings—the ones they gave me years back, when me and Momma went for breakfast to Shoney’s. Stash it all behind some brambles off the trail. Nothing important. Nothing I need. But I’ll miss it, I think.
Cormac Delacroix, the Bastard Priest, is the son of a French Quarter whore and an unnamed abortionist who died in a clinic bombing soon after his kid was born. Cormac became a priest, I guess, on account of the guilt. Or because he needed God’s help to hate his folks so much. He hates most everyone and he likes to yell, so I’m not happy to see him rolling down Aucun in his wheelchair, flock clomping, heavy-footed, behind.
“Look here, children,” he says, rolling to a stop. “It’s the boy what ain’t got faith to come worship since his momma died.”
Amen, his people say. Hol-ley-lou-yuh. They nod so fast and hard they look like epileptics. Bastard Priest asks me what in Hell I think I’m doing. I tell him my plan. Ask him, please, to get out of the way. I’m not taking any detours with all three-thousand pounds of my life tied to me.
“Goin up the mountain?” Delacroix clucks his tongue and his goons shake their heads with shame. “Ain’t you got no faith at all, boy?” He raises a hand from the muddy spokes of his wheelchair and twists his fingers in the thin end of a Catfish Hunter moustache the color of raw French fries.
“Ain’t got a life jacket, neither.”
“Goin up there gonna lead you to ruin, boy. The Devil works in private places. Ain’t you heard? No man’s an island.” A black woman with a lopsided afro wipes the greasy, thick lenses of glasses on her gold blouse. “No man’s an island. Laws, no,” she echoes.
Bastard Priest says something about trusting God. I tell him God done most everything awful in the first place. He says something about God watching over. I think about those flood videos. Wonder who filmed them. Camera sometimes seemed snuck into places only God could get. Bastard Priest tells me he even without legs he don’t want for nothing because he’s got God. I tell him, “No, it’s on account of the collection plate and your flock.”
“Mysterious ways,” he explains.
“Look I just don’t want to drown. And if God did this hurricane, got Momma, maybe I want to be somewhere He can’t find me. So pretty please, get out of my way.” I’m sweating marbles and all my muscles are trembling. Only thing harder than trudging up the mountain with all the weight of my life is trying to stand still. But Delacroix doesn’t move and he jabbers on about how God didn’t take Momma for her boy to turn his back on Him. So I don’t feel bad when I do it.
“Cormac, you bastard, you need to learn when to keep your mouth shut,” I scream. From the look of his mouth, ain’t no one called him “bastard” to his face in a long while. I only give him a little kick, enough to set him off balance, and rolling into a stump. He flips over, out of his chair. Purple plaid lap blanket hanging over his head, he looks like an ugly ghost. His minions slap me, spit on me, as they rush by to help him. Like I said, ain’t God watching over him, it’s his congregation. Ain’t any lightning. God didn’t do nothing.