Eleben years ago, though it seems like 'lebenty 'leben, when I got my first computer, a 64K Osborne, I wrote Willy Legate a letter using the justified right hand margin feature of Word Star. He sent a typewritten letter back, justifying his own margins with word selection. This seemed like a challenge, so, not to be outdone, I wrote Raggedy Remus, justifying margins and rhyming, and sent it back. I took a few liberties with the language and puctuation to pull it off. It was my first experience with the odd phenomenon of letting absurd restrictions determine the course of a story, culminating in "Dog Moon." Raggedy Remus is, by the way, a disturbing story - as are many of those not so innocent tales of Joel Chandler Harris, creator of Uncle Remus.
RAGGEDY REMUS Strictly two step Raggedy Remus Undeniably a fault filled blues Broken down in the usual places Brimming with neighborhood news Full of I don't know but I been Full of the old familiar flavor Full of the good high time feel Full of natchul rabbit behavior Full of the "Hi Brother Weasel" Full indeed of the "Yes Indeed" Other than that it's got nothin Any tame person would ever heed Other than that it's a two step Like many other two step before No more talkin about it brother No more beating around its door Every bad impulse you can think Of, many that you can't besides Inside the undauntable heart of Brer Rabbit comfortably resides Flick a soft summer switchblade Shaft in the heartache surprise Sort of a maniac running around On the town with pink dead eyes Mama quick call a policeman now He cut the cow down in the corn With a thirty six dumdum bullet I swears it as sure as I'm born Go fetch Raggedy Remus, my girl Fetch him here quick as you can He's the only one ever did cool Brer Rabbit, or so I unnerstand Adalee ran to the swampside hut To old Remus's five sided shack He had two front doors but just One Welcome mat around the back She knocked twice on the window Three of four rings of the bell If old Remus was in or gone out Little Adalee could hardly tell She pushed hard on the latchkey The door swung wide and creaked He must not of oiled the hinges For ninety nine years if a week Inside was only a dampish gloom The cobwebs were never so thick A wicked smell of muck and mold Made little Adalee near to sick Her eye was never accustomed to Judge another's state of repair But still she did have to admit Some reign of disorder in there The terminal kind of untidiness Like a legal search and seizure Though not torn up in no moment This here was a mess of leisure But old Raggedy Remus could not Be found in his pitch dark room As Adalee saw, or could not see For the frightful shadowy gloom "O Remus," Ad cried tentatively And the next thing she knew BAM Brer Rabbit hop from the shadow The same as never gave one damn Adalee tried to scream but Brer Rabbit slapped a paw on her jaw Knocked her hard onto the floor Then proceeded to break the law Speaking of a spit in the ocean Ringantebellum Rhythm and Blues Brer Fox arrive about High Noon Jes lookin to collect his booze "I load 16 tons and what I get? Lookit Brer Rabbit he havin fun I'm gone bash his brains out fo Him, drill his lil ol sugarbun" Ring this curtain on that scene Justice got served of some kind Not the sort dispensed at court More of the kind called "blind" Where was Raggedy Remus himself Who might have sorted this lot? Well he was over in Baton Rouge With a gal name of Polly DuBoit "Ain't no sense in the language Of love" she told Raggedy Remus In French, "So don't dig up old Promises, it's over between us" "Goddamnit to hell Polly, don't Try to find me when you realize How wrong you is to toss me out And starts cryin out your eyes" "C'est ne pas likely m'veilleux Cherie," said Polly as he swore "Sacre Bleu, pauvre Remus, s'il Vous plait alors shut the door" Raggedy Remus, he never learned To let light brown ladies alone They got too much fight in them Yes, too much mind of their own He took that lonesome road back Home and arrived about the time The Fox was skinnin Brer Rabbit Alive, squeezing him into slime Meantime Adalee escaped and hid Watching from behind a sycamore Saw Raggedy Remus give the boys A good old fashioned "what for" She ran home and told her Pappy The thing that had come to pass Pappy looked sour as hell, said "I gonna fix that Rabbit's ass" He loaded a shotgun with powder Rocksalt, staples'n brass tacks "Gonna shoot his prop off Pap?" "Daughter you don't hafta axsk" Remus didn't know that a matter Of a high sensitivity went down Just thought he caught critters Up to their tricks jivin around "Tell us about the time Brer Ox Got set loose in the China Shop Tell us about how old Brer Bear Once... tell us and never stop" "Well sir, well sir, well sir," Oh tell us please what happened When Adalee's Pappy went huntin Brer Rabbit! "Well that depend" Ragged Remus you son of a bitch Got more heart and soul to till Than common sense, the way them Children come to hear you spill "Well sir, I reckon that rabbit Ain't countin on no mo children Than what he's already got born I spect elebenty leben and ten" Elebenty leben and eleben Remus If what we been hearing is true That's what we wanta know about What none would know except you "Well sir, I don't quite cotton To the point your question lead You hafta tell me how you meant Or I can't tell you all I seed" Don't beat about the bush Remus Only makes it the worse for him Why you want to protect him and Put your own self up on a limb? "Jim, that you? Didn't rec'nize Your big black face in the dark How you happen to show up here? Ain't seen you since Hyde Park" I'd rather not get into that if You don't mind Remus old friend I'm assigned to investigate the Sad matter of Adalee to the end Brer Rabbit is your creation if I'm not mistaken? That's right? "Sho as shootin Mr Northern Law Still tryin to pass for white?" Make it easy on yourself, Remus After all I got work to perform It is my line of duty, you know And my trail ain't exactly warm Heard only one part of the tale Much obliged if you will supply A couple of odd missing details Or at least provide us an alibi "On the Lebenteenth of November I was shacked up in Baton Rouge With a gal name of Polly Beloit Which I can quite easily prove" As a matter of fact it was upon That date the trouble broke out Now Remus I been checkin on you There's more you can tell about "Why what you mean? Whatever it Was I didn't do, or see who did Matter of fact, don't even know What you're talkin about I bid" Don't go too far, Raggedy Remus Go flauntin yourself at the law We got ways to find information The like of which you never saw "How can you accuse me of those Intentions, you a pupil of mine Puts me amind of that time Brer Bear went to spy a yoohoo mine" I don't remember that one Remus "Listen, I'll refresh your mind Throw that oak limb on the fire Now the Rabbit he was in a bind "Course that ain't very unusual He's trouble from the old getgo Always was prob'ly still is too A cunning critter you well know "Well sir, here's what happened He was out on Echo Mountain jes Floppin around in that sunshine Wastin time and feelin his best "The way a natchul critter does What don't ask nothin from life Except a fair share of sunshine And a freedom from undue strife "Yes sir, that's the way it was Mindin his own, without no care When all of a sudden out behind A rock pop Brer Fox an the Bear "Gotcha, no matter how hard you Plead you ain't never goin free Says Brer Fox and Old Brer Bear Says "jest hand him over to me" "Brer Fox say: No, last time he Fooled you right got clean away Dat ain't what I call copasetic This time we gwine make him pay "Well sir, Brer Fox tied him up Told Brer Bear to hang in chere Keep an eye peeled, make double Damn sure them knots was secure "While he went to find kindling To prepare a hare roasting fire Last thing he say: Don't listen To him, he's such a clever liar "Soon's the Fox he out of sight Brer Rabbit up and says nothin! Brer Bear he feel ready for any Old trick long as it's somethin "Nothin, he don't figger and it Makes him kind of suspicious so He say: Hey Rabbit, why doesn't Ya try foolin me to let you go? "Because" Brer Rabbit say while He test the knot with his thumb "I done lost my Hoo an I dasn't Say a word or it come out dumb" "Hunh? You done lost your what? Not my WHAT Stupid, lost my HOO Now who you callin stupid, Brer Rabbit? He say "I'm callin you" "If you think about it a minute That's a pretty stupid thing to Do, happens every time I das to Speak since I lost my old Hoo!" Well sir, pretty soon Brer Bear Starts thinkin how everytime he Talk it jes sorta come out dumb & onders where his Hoo might be More he thinks, the likelier it Seems to Bear he must have lost His own Hoo somewhere along the Way so he say: What's one cost? Now, Rabbit keeps his trap shut For once in his life so Bear he Figgers there must be something To it, right sure there must be "Now you tell me Brer Rabbit at Once where you get some of that Hoo before I beat you over your Head and choke de sass out you" "Brer Rabbit do nothin until he Choke nearly blue, then he toss His head in a way to say let me Live and I'll say anything boss Brer Rabbit, he throws back his Head and lets out a big YOOHOO! And about fifteen seconds later It come right back out the blue "YOOHOO - Now you hear that Hoo Brer Bear? It's about one mile Away from here and you can tell Whose Hoo is whose by its style "Mine for instance, sounds just Like me, hear? Now you have at" "YOOHOO" sez Bear. "Well I swan Hey now, whatcha make of that?" "Sound like you got a Hoo down There in the Hoo mine too Brer Bear, course I ain't smart nuf To know fer sure so take care" "Well I reckon you're too dumb To git outa that tieup so I'll Jest zip on over to that there Hoo mine an be back in awhile" Brer Rabbit, he waved so long, Had his left paw loose already Brer Bear took off goin YOOHOO Brer Fox kept on workin steady Pretty soon, Fox shows up with A big fat sack of kindlin wood Wondering what all that YOOHOO Was, figgered it boded no good Well sir, Brer Fox had to work Awhile to crack into that nut, With no help from the Bear who Decided to keep his mouth shut Because he didn't find his Hoo And didn't want to make a dope Of himself sayin anything dumb Til he caught it. He had hope, Which is more'n can be said of You comin 'round to hassle old Remus who never did nothin but Tell the tale you wanted told! "Tell you how I figures, Remus Only one of two things applies Either you're just an innocent Fool or lyin through your eyes "This thing I know for certain Don't deny it I know I'm right Someone was hiding Brer Rabbit An whoever that is ain't white "It ain't such a bad rap Remus Pay your debt and forget, rest I'll come back around tomorrow Take your own time but confess "Seems you want to lay trouble On me to skin the Rabbit twice Look over your shoulder, there he hangs, take your own advice "Don't expect I did that thing No, Pappy's shotgun stepped in But I didn't try to prevent it And it was me as took the skin "Along side is Brer Fox's pelt He tried to stop the shot took That first barrel his own self That you won't find in no book "Other than that it's a 2 step Like many other shuffle before Got our own laws in this swamp Now get out and shut the door" Robert Hunter 1986 ©1997 [Archive] [Index]