My Uncle Joe was what a lot of old folks would call a “character”. When I asked Gramma what that meant, she told me that a character was somebody who was usually more trouble than he was worth, and you couldn’t believe a word that came galloping out of his mouth. I wasn’t sure how much I agreed with Gramma, but even as a young boy I had the sense not to say so. One hot summer afternoon at a family get together, Uncle Joe pulled me aside from the festivities.
“Boy, “ he said, “I ever tell you ‘bout the time I married them seven witches?”
He must’ve seen my eyes go wide because he chuckled.
“Guess not. Well, I think you’re old enough to hear this here tale.” He regarded me with the eye of a seasoned gambler. “How old are you again?”
“Eleven,” I lied. (I was nine).
Uncle Joe chuckled again.
“Well hot damn! That’s just the perfect age for this story.”
“One night, this had to be back in ’41 or ’42, I was driving through the armpit of Mississippi, humping a truck full of Sears and Roebuck shit out to some redneck farmers who had insisted on purchasing said shit from me a few weeks back. It was foggy that night, and I could barely see the nose in front of my face, let alone the goddamned road. So of course the good lord saw fit to give me a flat tire. I was plodding along some backwoods excuse for a road and I hear this pop like a gunshot. First thing I think of is some goddamned bumpkin was firin’ at me. But when the truck began to swerve, I knew the hand of fate had saw fit to give me a flat.”
“So I pulled the truck over to the side of the road, made sure all the Roebuck shit was locked up in the trailer and then began to hoof it through the fog. Now this may not have been the smartest idea, but I’ve always been more of a man of action than a feller for ideas.”
“Well, in all the goddamned fog, it weren’t long before I got lost. So I just decided to keep walkin’ in one direction until I ran into some sign of civilization. I’d been walkin’ along for an hour or so when I started to hear this singin’ on the wind. It was beautiful. I hadn’t ever heard the like of it before or since. It sounded like a chorus of angels singin’ one of those old slave work songs. I decided to follow the sound, thinking it must mean people, and maybe they could help me with the flat. But really, I just wanted to find out who was doin’ that singing. I walked towards the sound and soon found myself among the trees that had lined the road. The fog was little thinner in there, and I could see a glow off in the distance where it sounded like the singin’ was comin’ from. I picked my way through the glow and found myself at the edge of a clearing. In the center was a bonfire. Around the flames there was seven women dancin’ and singin’, naked as the day they was born. And let me tell you, son, they was some of the most beautiful women I’d seen in my whole damned life. I just stood there watching them prance around that fire, hair aflyin’, skin shinin’ with sweat. I completely forgot about the truck and the flat. “
“All of a sudden the singin’ stopped and they, all seven of ‘em, was just staring at me. Like deer waitin’ to spook. I just stared back. What else was I gonna do? Then one of ‘em, she had long, blonde hair, came over and took me by the hand. I couldn’t believe it! Well they started singin’ and dancin’ again, and that blonde girl was just draggin’ me around the fire with her. Between the heat and the scenery, I could barely concentrate, let alone follow the dance. After what seemed like a blissful eternity, they stopped again. The blonde turned to me.”
“ ‘You are a gift from the Great Father, she said. ‘He commands us to join with you in the bonds of matrimony as a sign of our devotion.’ Now, as you can imagine. This news came as a bit of a shock. I had never been bonded in matrimony before, and now I was offered seven bonds. Being a traveling man, however, I had heard of the perks of said bonds, and, being a man of action, there was some matrimonial actions which I hoped to get up to. Now I didn’t see no preacher or no justice of the peace lurkin’ around, and I knew havin’ more than one wife was against the Constitution, but I figured I could pretend to be one of them Mormon fellers for a few hours. “
“Before I knew it, they had me naked as a jaybird and the ceremony had begun. I don’t remember most of it because I had a lot on my mind, but I do recall kissing the brides, and the brides kissing each other…and…”
Uncle Joe looked down at me. He must’ve seen something in my face, because he just let that “and” trail off into forever.
“How old did you say you were again?”
“Thirteen, “ I replied (I figured if I was already lying, why not add two extra years for good measure).
“Thirteen…” Uncle Joe nodded absently.
“So, anyways, I woke up the next morning covered in lov-I mean bug bites and with one helluva headache. My clothes was gone and I was back by the truck. The flat was fixed and nothin’ seemed to be missing, well, except the clothes I had been wearin’ the night before. So I pulled a shirt and some pants out of my traveling case and headed off down the road. When I got to my first stop, I found that all the brooms I had were missin’. There had to have been at least half a dozen, and at the time it seemed like a damnfool thing to steal, what with all that other Roebuck shit in the back of the truck that was worth a considerable amount more. I had a hard time explainin’ it to the angry housewives just itchin’ to test drive a new broom. That night, I was driving along and saw somethin’ fly in front of the full moon I stopped the truck to look, and I’ll be goddamned if it wasn’t my wives, on my brooms, flyin’ around. Being a God fearin’ man, I knew I couldn’t stay married to no witches. So I divorced ‘em all, right then and there. D’you know how you divorce a witch, boy?”
I shook my head.
“Well, it’s real simple. All you do is raise your right hand and say: ‘So long witch, my heart belongs to Jesus. Thanks for the memories, amen.’ Just ‘cause they’re witches don’t mean you get to forget your manners. So I took off on down the road, a free man. And may God strike off my dick with a bolta lightnin’ if every word of that story ain’t true.”
Uncle Joe squinted his eyes shut real tight just then. Hunching his shoulders, he shielded his crotch with both hands. Every Uncle Joe story ended that way, with him cringing and cupping his balls.