A little teaser ...
THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES - Chapter One
Most coming-of-age stories are fraught with symbolism, hidden
metaphors, and a heaping mound of other literary devices. Not this
one. Not mine. You see, I came of age while working at a dusty
Texas feedstore. A place where To Kill a Mockingbird involved a
twelve-year-old and a BB gun. Of Mice and Men was a problem
easily solved with rat poison. And David Copperfield was nothing
more than a dude that made shit disappear.
In the spring of 1989, I was a rosy-cheeked boy of sixteen.
Doyle Suggs was a twice-divorced, thirty-year-old high school
dropout. On the surface Doyle and I had little in common, yet his
involvement in my life changed me in drastic and dramatic ways.
Doyle ran a feedstore in Amarillo, Texas. A joint called Pearl’s
Feed and Seed. Working there provided me my first paying job,
my first taste of how fun life could be, and … my first brush with
Pearl’s Feed and Seed was named after Doyle’s mother.
Originally she ran the place, but by the time I hired on, Pearl had
long since hightailed it back to her ancestral home in Oklahoma.
Nearly all of Doyle’s family hailed from the same rural
Oklahoma town. A town famous for hosting one of the world’s
largest rattlesnake roundups. You have to wonder about an entire
town that considers it high entertainment to track down and capture
vast quantities of poisonous snakes. I don’t know how the practice
got started, but let’s hope it was a group of teenage boys that first
hit upon that idea, since it’s a proven fact pubescent males are the
least intelligent demographic of human beings. A demographic I
solidly belonged to when I hired on at the feedstore.
Even with the ignorance of youth working against us, neither
I, nor any of my high school buddies made a habit of seeking out
venomous snakes. My friends were content to while away their
time with the three F’s – Football, Fighting, and Fornication.
They washed it all down with six-packs of beer.
That brings us to me. Despite the fact that I towered over most my
age, I was too lazy to be any good at football, too accommodating
to get in many fights, and too scared of my female classmates to
find a willing partner for the latter.
But then, in the spring of ‘89, I went to work at Pearl’s.
Like all sixteen-year-old boys, my desire for cold hard cash was
rooted in a swelling appreciation of the opposite sex. Foolishly, I
believed a steady paycheck, and all the imagined things I could
buy with my minimum wage windfall, would separate me from the
pack. In my warped fantasy land, I envisioned hundred dollar bills
bulging from my pockets and girls clamoring for my attention.
Actually, I didn’t care about girls in the plural. I wanted only to
gain the affection of one : Samantha Blake.
I’d been harboring a crush for Samantha better than a year, but
given her elevated stature in the halls of Caprock High School, I’d
never acted upon my infatuation. Samantha was a cheerleader; I
was a cowboy boot-wearing rabbit raiser. She was graceful, petite,
and beautiful; I was a six-foot-three sophomore who hadn’t quite
mastered the coordination of my man-sized body. She was one
of the most popular girls at our high school; I’d lost my bid to
become FFA president.
Turns out not even Scott, my best friend, voted for me. Not
that I blame him. After all, my opponent to head up Caprock’s
Future Farmers of America was Destiny Hayes. Destiny had been
wildly popular with all of the guys since the fourth grade, when
she was the first girl to grow a set of boobs. There we were in high
school, and the other girls had yet to make up for Destiny’s head
start. Scott had been in love with her, or at least her bra size, since
elementary school, but as I said, there was only one girl for me.
Samantha Blake wasn’t like the superficial and pretentious
cheerleaders you see in movies. She was sweet, kind, and possessed
long black eyelashes that left me tongue-tied every time they
fluttered in my presence. Scott maintained that other girls in our
class were just as pretty. A point I might have conceded, except . .
. none of those other girls made my heart accelerate with a single
word. None of them made me lay awake at night thinking about
their big brown eyes. None of them were Samantha Blake. Okay,
so it wasn’t her eyes I stayed up at night pondering. My thoughts
were of a more libidinous and lusty nature. I was a teenage boy
after all. Nevertheless, my sleepless nights and unacknowledged
attraction for Samantha paled in comparison to my boss’s brand
of lady troubles.
Doyle had three women in his life. His first wife and the mother
of his three boys, Pamela. His second wife, Laura, whom he was
in the process of divorcing when I hired on and last, but not least,
Snuggles was an English Bulldog. Her fur was brown and white,
and she was one of the laziest, not to mention nastiest, canines to
ever down a bowl of kibble. Snuggles possessed runny, pus-filled
eyes, a loud, raspy breathing pattern, reminiscent of an asthmatic
Darth Vader. Her stubby, bowed legs that barely kept her flabby
gut from dragging the ground. She also happened to be Doyle’s
most prized possession.
Ninety percent of the time, Snuggles curled up on her doggy
bed behind the counter and refused to move. Too bad for me if
I needed something from the cabinet her fat body was pressed
against. Once or twice per day she would hoist her smelly carcass
from the fleece pad, only to use my pant leg as a depository for
her snot-crusted eyes. A nasty habit to be sure, but that act beat her
other habit all to hell.
Doyle lived for the times when Snuggles went into heat. Having
read an ad in the Thrifty Nickel for English Bulldog pups fetching
thirteen-hundred bucks a pop, mining Snuggles’ ovaries became
his life’s mission. I, however, dreaded the arrival of the dog’s cycle.
For this glorious week, Snuggles wasn’t merely content to wipe
her eye boogers on my jeans. No -- she also felt the animalistic
calling to drag her butt across the store’s concrete floor.
Guess who cleaned up the crimson snail trails. Me.
The only good thing about these visits from Mother Nature was
the entertainment they provided at each failed attempt by Doyle to
produce a litter of grandpups. Doyle whored Snuggles out to every
male bulldog within a three county area. Too greedy to share in the
potential booty of a litter worth several grand, Doyle always opted
to pay upfront stud fees rather than give up a higher share should
she actually conceive by paying with pick of the litter.
For each arranged rendezvous, Snuggles would shack up with
the chosen doggy Don Juan. Three or four days later she’d return
from her tryst looking as happy and satisfied as a fat man leaving
a Vegas buffet. Given the price of bulldog pups, Doyle projected
Snuggles and her uterus to be good for an easy five grand per year
and by his calculations, she only needed to have two litters of two
pups to accomplish that goal.
Along with the dog, Doyle was also raising three boys. Three
mean little hoodlums that I wagered would make him a grandpa
long before Snuggles ever did. Never mind the fact that Austin,
the oldest, was only eleven. Their father’s genes were too strong
for them not to find trouble of some sort and given Doyle’s
track record, some of that trouble was bound to be of the female
To this day I still can’t fathom how Doyle sweet-talked so many
women into the sack. Women you would never expect a man who
lived in a double-wide on the outskirts of town to coerce into a
Women like Dr. Croft.
When pimping out Snuggles failed to work, Doyle turned to
artificial insemination. The procedure was pricey, but each time
Snuggles came into heat, he’d reach for his credit card, load the
pooch into his pickup, and head for the vet’s office. This went on
for better than a year, and I never suspected Snuggles wasn’t the
only one getting her jollies at the appointments.
Then came the day I was in the back, sacking up some hen
scratch for Mrs. Esparza. Doyle had taught me how to up-sell so I
was in the middle of trying to convince the woman a bit of oyster
shell and a bag of laying pellets would raise her egg production.
“As hens get older,” I said, “they really need the extra calcium
they gain from oyster shells.”
“No, no, no. No hay falta con mis gallinas.” Mrs. Esparza
wagged a finger in my face. She was a regular customer, so I
knew my chances of selling her anything extra were over once she
turned to responding in Spanish. Next she would pretend not to
understand anything I said.
“Yo, Travis!” Doyle’s voice came over the intercom, saving me
from continuing what would have been a futile effort.
“Yeah,” I yelled back.
“Hurry up and get Mrs. Esparza loaded. I have an important
mission for you.”
I carried the hen scratch out, loaded it in Mrs. Esparza’s Buick,
and headed back inside to see what Doyle had in mind.
“John’s bringing some papers by for me to sign, so I need you to
take Snuggles in for her AI appointment.”
John was Doyle’s lawyer. Between the divorces, the subpoena
when Doyle’s bookie got popped, and other brushes with the
justice system, they had a close working relationship, so I didn’t
think anything of his explanation.
“Okay,” I said, “But I’m taking your truck. I don’t want your
dog wiping eye snot on my seats.” My pickup had been a recent
gift from my grandfather, and despite the ‘76 Ford’s battered
appearance and age, I was still quite proud of the vehicle. Grabbing
the keys for the store’s flatbed Ford off the pegboard, I snapped a
leash on Snuggles and drug her fat butt out the door.
To read how it all went wrong for Snuggle and me, along with the rest of my comedic coming-of-age tale click here to purchase a paperback copy of THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES.