Looking for Hope
By Dawn DeWinter
8 – Pig and Petroleum
Dawn ducked a rolling pin. A pot zoomed past the left ear of the
diapered teenager, who proceeded to bawl like … a baby. “Enough!” Dawn decided. “I must do something to protect the
child.” She looked around the room to
find the culprit. There he was: a saucy little man in a chef’s apron and
hat, with a bowl of flour that he was about to hurl at the tall, regal-looking
woman who stood in front of him jeering.
“Stop what you’re doing,” Dawn
shouted. The little man was so startled
that he dropped the bowl of flour on his head, so that it became as white as
his chef’s outfit. Stunned, he
collapsed to the floor weeping. His
tears were lumping up, quite ruining his saucy appearance. “That serves you right,” said Dawn. “You shouldn’t throw things at people. It’s not polite.”
“Stranger, why are you buttin” into
our affairs?” demanded the imperious-looking woman. With a sniff she added, “We Hollow people don’t like
strangers. Y’all unnerstand?”
“But, I’m not strange. Not really. Certainly, I have friends who are stranger than me. Hi, my name is Dawn? What’s yours?”
The haughty-looking woman was
visibly upset: “Now why’d you go and do
that? Why’d you tell me your name was
Dawn? Now I reckon y’all are no longer
a stranger. That means I have to be
hospitable to you, because we here in the Hollow are infamous for our
hospitality. Y’all are our guest no
matter how badly you behave. Are you
hungry? Do you want a biscuit,
Dawn? How about some grits? Oh, if you must know it, my name is
Duchess roared. “Hustle some breakfast for the little lady. Be quick about it!”
“Yes dear,” the white little man
replied tearfully. He was cowering,
obviously fearful of the mistress of the house.
“Why, you’re nothing but a big
coward,” Dawn said to the little man.
“Why do you throw things at people?”
“Why? I don’t know. We Hollow men have always thrown
things. My daddy did, and my son
will. I figure he’ll start throwing
the pots and pans back at me any day now.”
“He’d be tossing things back
already,” the Duchess sniffed, “if he didn’t have that playpen for
protection. As long as he stays a baby,
he’ll not turn into a Hollow man.”
Just as the little man slunk off to
prepare Dawn’s breakfast, the teenie baby started bawling so loudly that he
could not be ignored. “He’s telling us
he needs his diaper changed,” Duchess announced. “Will you help me do it, Dawn?
After all, you’re practically kin.”
“Sure, I can help. I’ve changed a lot of diapers in my time,
though,” she admitted, “never on someone as young as your son.”
“Oh, did you work in an old folks
“No, I never did that. Do you know what a fetishist is? No?
Well, let’s just say that I no longer answer personals unless I know
what all the letter codes mean. I don’t
know them all, even now, because there are some very weird people out
there. I’m still trying to figure out
what sort of deviate would be looking for a “lad” to do “BIN” and “EN”
with? Any ideas?”
“No idea now, Dawn. I think I knew the answer once. But, ever since I moved to the Hollow I been
forgettin’things. It’s like time has been moving backwards.”
As they talked, they had been
stripping the teenie baby of his diaper.
Cooing contentedly, the pacifier in his mouth, he looked like a real
dummy, even though the Duchess was telling Dawn that her son had a genius
IQ. To Dawn’s surprise, the diaper was
clean – well, as clean as it could be considering that the boy hadn’t had a
bath in months. There didn’t seem to
be any point in changing the diaper, but Dawn decided not to complain. After all, she didn’t want to offend her
hostess, and the boy seemed to enjoy the way Dawn applied the talcum
No sooner were they done than a foul
smell choked the room. “My goodness,”
Dawn cried out, “what’s that dreadful smell?
Do you keep pigs in the house?”
“Dawn, don’t be silly. I told you we had to change my baby’s
diaper. And now you know why. He needed to make poo poo. See that smile on his face? He’s happy again. Bless his heart.”
“Here are some biscuits and grits,”
said the little man. As soon as he put
them on the table, he hurried off.
“Where’s Sammy running to?” Dawn
asked the Duchess.
“Oh, Sammy, bless his heart, is a
mite agoraphobic.” The Duchess was
proud of her big word. It was quite sesquipedalian
in its pretentiousness. Her eyebrows
arched as she asked, “I suppose, Dawn, you don’t know what that word
means? Few outsiders do. We here in the Hollow have many such words –
words whose meaning we alone understand.
We’re proud of our opaqueness.
Isn’t that another grand word?
It’s almost as good as obscurantism, but I knew that you had no
hope of figuring out that word. I have
mastered many such words, for I am the most learned person in the Hollow. I can even read the good book in its
“Do you mean you’ve read the Bible
in Old English?” asked Dawn, who wanted to prove that she was no dummy herself.
“No silly, I read the Torah in
Hebrew. Now, as I was saying, before
you interrupted me, Sammy is agoraphobic.
That means he’s afraid of the “agora,” which means – as you’d know,
Dawn, if you knew anything about languages – the “marketplace.” Sammy’s afraid of being around people. They make him nervous. So, I’m afraid, that as long as you’re here,
he’ll be hiding in the cellar.”
“I guess that means he’s not
closetphobic,” pronounced Dawn, eager to prove that the Duchess was not the
only one who could use words of more than two syllables.
The Duchess was not amused: “Dawn, shuga, there’s no such word. I’d tell you the real one, but quite
frankly, I’d be wasting my time, as I doubt you’re capable of remembering such
a complex and sophisticated word. I’ll grant
that you have a certain naïve charm, but you’re not likely to grasp all the
nuances of the English language, seeing as how you’re some sort of immigrant.”
“Why yes, dear. That flag you’re waving across those giant
tits gives you away. We old stock
Americans feel no need for patriotic display.”
Dawn was impressed. As she already suspected, the Duchess’s
family had been in America for a very long time. No wonder she was snooty!
Dawn could see that the Duchess wanted to be asked about her glorious
ancestors, so she inquired as to their date and place of first landing. “Why, at Plymouth Rock, my dear. The first of my family line arrived on the
Mayflower in 1620. That’s why I’m
better than you. My forefathers were
eating turkey while yours were still living in some horrid place such as Turkey
– or worse yet, in Ireland. I do hope
you’re not an Irish Catholic, for we have to make our own moonshine, and we
won’t be able to restock until the next new moon.”
Dawn replied that her family came
from all over. “I may be part Irish,”
she added, and I may be not. My surname
makes me think I may be Italian too.
But I haven’t been a Catholic since I was thirteen. I was once quite keen on going to church,
you know. I even became an altar
boy. That was a big mistake. That’s when I stopped attending mass.”
“Poor Dawn, bless your heart, I know just what
happened. Everyone knows. My ancestors used to put men like that in
the stocks so they could be publicly humiliated before being banished forever
from the community.”
“Yes, Father Francis deserved to be
punished. Not only did he refuse to
have sex with me, but he even told me I could no longer be an altar boy. He shouldn’t have treated me so
harshly. How was I to know that he’d
taken a vow of chastity?”
Dawn got teary-eyed at the memory of
Father Francis. God, he’d been a
hunk! She reached for a biscuit, hoping
that Southern cooking would take her mind off Northern beefsteak. But there was something gross inside the
biscuit. She spat it out to avoid
swallowing. “What do you have in these
biscuits? I’ve never tasted anything so
“Chopped liver, of course. Sammy puts it in the biscuits because he
knows I like my food to taste Jewish.”
“Why would you want your food to
“Because I’m Jewish, silly! Really, I thought you knew. After all, you certainly spent a lot of time
verifying that my baby boy is circumcised.”
“But how can you be Jewish? Didn’t you say that your ancestor came over
on the Mayflower? Wasn’t everyone on
board a Pilgrim?”
“No way! Sweetie darlin’, you don’t think they crossed the Atlantic
without a doctor on board? That was
Moshe, the first of my kin to reach America, the promised land.”
“Sammy, is he Jewish too?”
“Dawn, it would kill him even to
know that you asked. Nope, Sammy comes
from the Hollow. He’s as Hollow as a
man can get. His family has lived in the Hollow since time immemorial – so
long, in fact, that no country now admits to spawning them.”
“Is your boy being raised as a Jew?”
“Bless his heart, I try, but he’s
not yet had a bar mitzvah even though he’s sixteen years old. I can see from the look of surprise you
thought he was two or three years younger.
Yes, he does look young for his age.
I think it’s because he’s stayed young at heart. He insists on being treated like a baby
because, he says, he doesn’t want to grow up to be a Hollow man like
Sammy. As this is a child-centered
home, I’ve had to respect my son’s wishes.
However, I did insist on home schooling.”
“How has that been going?”
“Oh, my baby boy is a quick
learner. He’s currently working on
university-level courses. So, I feel
more strongly than ever in the validity of home schooling. Of course, there is one downside to it.”
“And what is that?” Dawn asked.
“Well, the child’s social
development does lag a bit. I think if
my son had been going to school, he’d be out of diapers by now. And I’m sure he’d have had his bar
mitzvah. But the rabbi said the time
wasn’t yet right for celebrating my son’s manhood.”
“You know, we’ve been talking about
your boy for some time, and you haven’t yet told me his name. Please, may I know it.” Dawn was being extra polite, because she was
getting set to ask for directions back to the Interstate; and it was clear that
the Duchess liked people to grovel.
“Dawn, as I think I told you
already, there is something about the Hollow that causes one to forget things
that everybody else knows. And alas,
I’ve quite forgotten what we originally named my baby boy. Sammy’s forgotten so much he’s not even sure
that he’s the boy’s father. So we both
call my darling, brilliant, baby boy by his nickname.”
“The nickname comes from a comic
strip. You must know it – it’s
“Peanuts” by Charles Schultz. He was a
“Ah, you call your son Schroder
because he is so clever? Or Linus
because he’s so sweet? Or Charlie Brown
because he’s such a loser?”
“No way. We call him Pigpen because he’s so filthy. I mean the boy attracts flies. And there are a lot of flies in the
Hollow to attract. At times, I think
the Hollow is one big manure pile.”
“So why don’t you, Sammy, and Pigpen
“Oh, Sammy would never leave the
Hollow. It’s the perfect place for
him. Anyway, I think he’s forgotten
what the outside world is like. It
holds no appeal for him. But, I no
longer care what Sammy wants. I tried
to get along with him, but he’s the world’s worst husband. I’d love to leave and take Pigpen with
me. But Pigpen needs a father figure in
his life if he’s ever going to get out of diapers. So we can’t leave until I find someone to father Pigpen.”
Dawn had a decision to make. “If I don’t take Pigpen and Duchess away
from here, Sammy’s sure to kill one or both of them in a day or two. He can’t keep missing their heads forever. Wouldn’t it be murder to leave them
here? Yes, it would."
So Dawn told Duchess in her deepest
possible voice – a basso falsetto – that Pigpen didn’t have to look any farther
for someone to father him. “I’ll do
it,” Dawn said. “You see, as hard as it
is to believe, I’m actually a man.
Sure, I look like a beautiful woman.
But underneath this glamorous exterior is a very masculine
interior. I’ll take care of you and
Pigpen – provided that you have an ample supply of diapers.”
“Why shuga, I was hoping you’d make
the offer. From the first moment I laid
eyes on you in that cute little jumper, I said to myself, ‘Duchess, there’s the
man who’ll help you escape from the Hollow.’ Do you have a car or should we take my Lincoln Navigator?”
A Lincoln! Dawn was speechless.
These people were living in a hovel in the Hollow? How could they own a Lincoln Navigator? Had they stolen it?
“You look surprised. I bet you thought we were poor. That’s a common misconception, but a natural
one given the way we live. But we’re
oil rich, Dawn, and have been ever since they done struck oil on the Clampett
homestead. Those Clampetts, bless their
hearts, got the foolish notion in their heads to move to Beverly Hills. That was in my opinion an error of colossal proportions,
as they once admitted to me in a postcard, because statistically-speaking there
are more snobs per square inch in Beverly Hills than anywhere else in the
Northern states. I should know – I once
did a study. I don’t like snobs. They are beneath my contempt. So I have long preferred to stay here in the
Hollow where I am respected as a person of quality.”
“But you are rich, even so?”
“Filthy rich. We already have two derricks on our land,
and we’ve got a crew drilling for oil in the cellar even as I speak. With all due modesty, I take some credit for
marrying a man who inherited a worthless farm with an oil deposit underneath
it. I’ve even arranged for half the
money to be in my name. So I can afford
to leave at any time. Shall we take the
Dawn explained her caravan of
Hope. It already had three
vehicles. Did it need a fourth? The answer was obvious: of course.
In America, the more cars the better.
Besides, as Duchess pointed out, Pigpen had better travel in her car
until he’d been potty-trained. “Let’s
find your friends, and when we do, I’ll lead everyone back to the
Interstate. I think I remember where to
“Shall we go?” Dawn asked
hopefully. She didn’t want to wait long
enough for Sammy to get into another one of his rages.
“Yes, but we have, as you know, a
child-centered household here. And so,
we must ask Pigpen if he approves of your becoming his surrogate father.” Surrogate – that was the sort of word that
Duchess loved. When Dawn looked
confused, Duchess explained: “We’ll ask
him if he’s willing to have y’all as his stepdaddy. Now, Dawn, there’s something I should explain, especially after
what you told me about that Catholic priest.
You mustn’t take advantage of Pigpen, you hear? You can’t have sex with him if he’s to be
your son. I don’t cotton to incest you
understand? Now, he’ll be asking you
for sex, because you’re an adult and all, but you must resist. The Hollow men have sex with anything that
has legs, but you’re not one of them.
You’ll do the right thing.
Dawn wondered out loud: “Am I expected to have sex with you?”
“Only after I’ve seduced you. Until then, you are to treat me like a
proper lady. In other words, like a Duchess.
From now on, shuga, I insist that you address me as ma’am.”
“Okay, will do.” There was a withering look. “Oh, I meant to say ‘yes ma’am.’”
Pigpen said just one word when Dawn
and Duchess told him about their plans to hit the road: “Cool.”
And so, two more people joined the caravan of Hope. It didn’t take long for most of his fellow
travelers to have as their main “hope” that Pigpen could be toilet-trained –
Aside from the clothes he was
wearing – the baby bonnet and diapers – Pigpen traveled lightly. For entertainment he brought his pacifier
and a Raggedy Andy doll named Chuckie; for warmth he brought baby booties and a
pink security blanket; and for homework he brought Blackstone’s Commentaries
on the law, Hegel’s Critique of Pure Reason, and Gray’s Anatomy. All three were thicker than a phonebook and
duller than a night out on the town in Saudi Arabia.
“My son’s an odd kid,” Dawn
decided. “And I don’t like the way he
looks at my bust after he’s been reading that anatomy book.” And yet, the kid had potential. For one thing, he could drive the Lincoln
Navigator, which meant Duchess could take over the wheel of the Jeep Cherokee,
Mortimer at her side, while Dawn kept Jim happy in the Chevy on the road to
Memphis and the mighty Mississippi.
They were about a half-mile from the
Hollow when everyone heard a mighty explosion.
“My goodness,” squeaked Mortimer.
“That was a fearsome noise. What
happened? Was it a bomb?”
Duchess looked through her rearview
mirror. It was obvious to her what had
happened: “We struck oil in the
cellar! And natural gas too! Fantastic!
Look at that gusher! It’s got to
be a mile high.”
“What happened to your husband? Wasn’t he in the house?” Mortimer
asked. He did so timidly, not wanting
to upset his newfound lady friend.
“Yes, he’d have still been in the
cellar. He wouldn’t have crawled out of
it for another half hour. So I am certain
that when we struck oil, the house struck him.”
“How awful. Do you mean he’s dead.”
“As dead as a dinosaur. But don’t feel sorry for Sammy. He always loved death more than life, and he
would be proud to know that petroleum, the source of his sustenance, had also
been the source of his demise. It was a
Mortimer was shocked at her
indifference to Sammy’s death, but then he didn’t know Sammy the way she
did. Mortimer might have been half-dead
when he started looking for Hope, but he still had more love of life than Sammy
and the Hollow men had ever known.
Of course, Mortimer had miles to go
before he’d be as crazy for living as Dawn.
It was exciting to be heading down an unknown highway, looking for a
lost friend, and seated beside the first woman she’d ever loved. She’d even found herself a son. Everything was going great, and would have
stayed great, if only Dawn hadn’t turned on the car radio.
Coming Soon - Chapter 9 – The Chevy to the Levy