Tall tales and yarnin' and downright lies: spot the difference.


by Richard S. Crawford © 2003

"What was that word again?"

"Consistency, Jack."

"Hell 's that mean, Ed?"

"It means that the story has to be the same all the way through. Like, at one point, you tell me that Mayor Doug was ten feet tall. But in another place, you tell me that he was only eight feet tall."

"You callin' me a liar?"

"No, not at all. I'm just wondering which one it was."

"Boy, there ain't no consistency about it. When I say ten feet, I mean ten feet 'n' when I say eight feet I mean eight feet. You got that? Now, you want me to tell you this story or what?"

"Yes, sir. I.m sorry I doubted you."

"Yeah, well, another beer could make me feel better about it."

"Right. Miss?"

"Yes? Can I help you?"

"Could we have another couple of beers here?"

"Yes, sir, I'll bring that right to you."

"Hey! That you, Jack?"

"Well, hey there, Pete, how're y'doin'?"

"I reckon I'm doin' pretty well, pretty well. And you? Who's this here with you?"

"Well, hell, Pete, this here's Harold's boy Ed. You 'member Ed, don't ya?"

"Ed? Hell, boy, where've you been?"

"Ed's been off to college these few years. Where'd you say you go, Ed?"

"I was at State, Jack."

"State? You hear that Jack? Hell, Ed, I just figured you'd found yerself a big green booger kept you busy diggin' it out all this time. Y'member how he kept diggin' for gold, don't you Jack?"

"Can we get back to the story, Jack?"

"Ah, hell, Ed, we don't mean nothing. Pete, why don't you sit yourself down here? I was just tellin' Ed all 'bout Mayor Doug."

"Mayor Doug, eh? Now, thereby hangs a tale. Why.d you want to know about Mayor Doug?"

"Well, I'm doing a paper about modern rural folklore for my Master.s thesis."

"Well, you're going to haveta look somewhere else, Ed. Mayor Doug ain't no folklore, he's a real true man. He was eleven feet tall if'n he was an inch."

"'Leven feet? Shoot, last I heard it was ten."

"Eight, I thought."

"Come again?"

"Oh, don't mind Ed, Pete, he's just sour. Hey, here's my beer. You want a beer, Pete?"

"Don't mind."

"'Nother beer for Pete, Diana. You're good for it, ain't you Ed?"

"I suppose I am."

"Attaboy. Thanks, Diana, you go get us all some beers."

"So, Pete, can you tell me anything more about Mayor Doug?"

"Hell, I can tell you everything there is to know. I was there the night he was born, out in that farmhouse offa Tremont Road near that guv?mint research station. Shit, the way his momma screamed t' wake the dead."

"You wanna watch your language, Pete? There's ladies present."

"Hell, Diana ain't no lady. Ain't that right, Diana?"

"You know it, Pete."

"Thanks for the beer, Diana. All right, then, Ed, where was I?"

"Mayor Doug's mother screaming to wake the dead."

"Oh yeah. Well, I gotta tell you, I was working out near that old church yard, cleanin. up a bit after myself, when she screamed."

"I thought you said it was a farmhouse?"

"Yeah, but the old churchyard.s near that farmhouse. Ain't you been out there? I oughta take you sometime."

"Don't mind him, Pete, he's okay. Just went to college a bit too much. Didn't ya, Ed?"

"I suppose I did."

"Well, then, it was the churchyard near the farmhouse. 'T any rate, I was working there that night when I heard the screamin' fit to turn the Devil white with fear. Straightaway I threw down my shovel and my pick, and ran to the farmhouse to see what was t'matter, and I seen what happened."

"And what was it?"

"Well, Mayor Doug's momma had given birth that night. Ain't an easy thing whelpin' you know. Most ladies aren't up to it very much. Mayor Doug's momma was a big girl, tough as the burgers that Diana here cooks, but lord was she fat. If she was less'n five of me, I'll gum my way through FIVE of Diana's burgers. And she was fat all her life; not like any normal fat lady, who started out skinny an' got fat later on. Nope, she was always a fat one."

"Which is why we figured Mayor Doug didn't have no father, Ed. Me an' Pete and the rest of the men figured she was so fat and ugly, ain't no one in their right mind wanted to lay with her. And there weren't no one 'round here who wasn't in their right mind. And she never was married, neither."

"Could it have been a tramp or a drifter, Jack?"

"Hell, Ed, we don't get that kind 'round here. 'Sides, we all know that Mayor Doug never had a daddy."


"Don't you question Jack, son. We all know what we know."

"That's right. And you know, Mayor Doug's momma, she was so big and fat, we never even knew she was pregnant 'til that boy was born. I don't even think she was."

"Me neither, Jack. What I figure is that his momma was just workin' outside in the turkey coop that day and the boy just fell right outta her. No daddy, no warnin', nothin'. Just pop an. plop an' there he was."

"I thought you said she screamed."

"Wouldn't you scream if a baby fell right outta you like that?"

"Well, I--"

"Yeah, you would. Anyhow, so there he was. Biggest damn baby I ever saw, five feet tall if.n he was an inch an' covered in that goop that babies have when they first come outta their mommas. An' right away, he was walkin' round an' talkin'."

"Talking? What was he saying?"

"He was saying that he wanted some milk, and that he was gonna be mayor of this town."

"You're kidding me."

"You want to hear this story or not?"

"Sorry. So go on, what did you do?"

"Well, I saw right then that Mayor Doug's momma needed help and all that, so I told her to go inside to feed her baby and I'd finish up with the turkeys. She said thank you, but she wouldn't let me help her at all. So I left an' went back to the churchyard to keep diggin'."

"Well, what happened then?"

"You tell 'im, Jack. I'm thirsty now, an' I need to drink my beer."

"No problem, Pete. Mayor Doug kept on growin' after that. He started goin' to school when he was just a week old, and already he was smarter than all of his classmates."

"Damn straight. Ed, I tell ya, there was times when we all thought he was crazy or somethin'. Always doin' them weird 'speriments in them science classes, chemistry, ya know. Hell, there was this one time, he took all of the other kids in the school out to that field near his momma.s farmhouse, an. he set up this machine he made out of an old tractor and some radio and computer parts he found, an' he made it rain. This was just before summer started, kids were all in school but it was hotter 'n ' blazes out an' there weren't a cloud in the sky. An' he made rain out in that field."

"Yep, he was always smarter than all the other kids. Skipped all the grades in the school. He started out in kindergarden with all th' other kids, but at the en' of that year, he was graduatin' with them high schoolers. An' he kept growin', too. Shoot, when he got outta school, he was seven feet tall."

"Abnormally tall, eh?"

"There weren't no abnormal, it was plain fucked up weird, I tell ya. But I tell you what it was 'bout Mayor Doug that really scared everyone, and that was his eyes."

"His eyes?"

"Yeah. He had eyes like fire. Were like a house that was burnin' down, or like he didn't have no proper eyes, just holes in his head and a burnin' behind 'em. He looked at you, an' you couldn't help but do what he wanted you to."

"An' if he was angry with you, Ed, he could burn you right up with them eyes. Like that time when that cop pulled him over for goin. too fast on that bicycle of his. Mayor Doug got full pissed off at him, and that cop just burned up to the ground like kindlin..

"Yeah, but he did some good with those eyes, too. Like that time little Kimmy got stuck up in that tree, you 'member that? Mayor Doug just stared at that tree, and it burnt to the ground. Kimmy ended up safe in her momma's arms, not a mark on her."

"But they was scary eyes, I tell ya. First time I ever saw 'em, I nearly crapped my pants."

"You're a liar, Pete."

"I got the underwear to prove it, Jack."

"Well, Ed, it was them eyes was what made everyone know that there was somethin' not right 'bout him. But right after he graduated from school, just a year after he was born, he said he was gonna run for mayor and we'd all better vote for him."

"And so we did. I don't know when was the last time someone ran for mayor or President or anything, and everyone to a man or woman voted for him. He said he was gonna fix up the town, give us all jobs, keep all the tramps out of town."

"I thought you said there weren't any tramps in this town."

"Well, there ain't. Mayor Doug done saw to that."

"But you said--"

"Who's tellin' this story? Me or you?"

"I guess you are."

"Damn straight. So he ran for mayor, and we all voted for him. He was taller then; ten foot tall, with those eyes of flame. No one who worked for the town wanted to stand against him, so he got everyone in the town working together."

"That's right, Pete. An' he lived up to his word, too. The town got rich when he was mayor. Everyone had a job, all of the kids was in school and gettin' good grades, the cops did their jobs and ran the thieves and bums out of town."

"How did he do all that?"

"Hell, people just seemed to like him. Or, at least, they wanted to do what he said. So whenever he wanted to do something as mayor, he'd just tell someone, and it'd get done. Ain't that right, Jack?"

"Oh, yeah, but there was also the times when he was more kind of take charge. Like the time he settled the feudin' between old Gary Hancock and Chuck Koonts, who was fightin' over a patch of farmland each of 'em said they was gonna sell to the government, but neither of them had the deed to the land."

"So what did Mayor Doug do?"

"Well, he went an' took a huge axe he made special for the purpose, and stuck it in the ground, and said whoever pulled it out first was the rightful owner. Well, both men tried a thousand ways, with pullin' and pushin' and even with tractors and trucks, but neither could pull it out. You go drivin' a few miles down Hawkins Road, you'll see that big axe a stickin' out of the ground even today. They say he also used those eyes of his to burn down the field so's the government wouldn't want it anyway. Some say he poisoned that earth. But the point is, he could fix any problem that came his way."

"So what happened to him?"

"Well, I guess there ain't no one so popular that there ain't someone that hates him. Some folks took it in their heads that Mayor Doug was a Satan worshiper or some foolishness like that, and they hated him and made a whole bunch of other people hate him too. Spread lies about him, made him out to be the devil or something. They said he was full of poison, that his daddy was some sort of sky monster -- an alien, like in those TV shows you kids like to watch. They said he was friends with all kinds of bad folks, like them gangsters in that big city, or them ragheads in Iran or something. Soon enough, there were enough people who believed them stories about him. It's what you call a scandal, ain't it?"

"I guess so."

"'Twasn't all scandal, Jack, some of it was true. Mayor Doug was a bad sort, an' you didn't have to see those eyes of his to know that. Sure, he made the town rich, but there was something wrong about him. 'Member, I was there when he was born. I saw it then, and said to myself, 'That boy's just made wrong on the inside.' Wasn't exactly hateful, I suppose, but it was hard to like him."

"But you voted for him."

"Not the second time around, I didn't. Shoot, that time I voted for that Partansky woman that time. She may have been a woman, and crazier than a shithouse rat, but she at least didn't have those eyes, an' you could trust her."

"But I don't understand. If everyone was scared of him, how could he lose the election? I thought everyone liked him, or at least didn't hate him too much."

"That's a good question, Ed. I think it was his momma gettin' sick that did it to him. She didn't die, but she just kinda started to waste away, like she had cancer or somethin'. And Lord, she started screamin' all the time. That farmland they was on started to go sour after he made that rain, they say, and Mayor Doug, he just kinda seemed to go sour along with it. When the next election came along, his heart just wasn't in it, and that with the scandal, he just seemed to give up. I guess he just thought people all loved him, and when they didn't, he just kind of lost heart."

"So whatever happened to him?"

"Well, after he was voted out, he went back and lived with his momma out at that farm near the research station for awhile. But there was still some folks that hated him and hated his momma, and one night in wintertime a bunch of folks went out to that farm and burned that farmhouse down to the ground. Mayor Doug's momma was killed, but Mayor Doug wasn't."

"Well, then, where is he now?"

"Some say he's still around, still walkin' the streets around the town, sometimes growin', mostly just sorry 'bout what he lost, and mournin' for it still."

"Yep. An' some folks say that when the stars are just right in the sky, you can still hear him cryin' up to his daddy."

"I thought you said he didn't have no daddy."

"Well, if'n he did, ain't no daddy like you 'n' me."

"That's a fact."

"So, what do you guys think? You ever seen Mayor Doug since then?"

"Nope. You, Jack?"

"Ain't seen him since the farmhouse burned down, but I reckon he's still about."

"So, Ed, you hear enough about Mayor Doug? We've got a bunch of other true tales, 'bout him and 'bout some other folks, that we could tell ya. Town?s full of them."

"No, that's a fine bit of folklore for my paper. Thank you both very much."

"Well, don't let the door break your ass on the way out."

"Thanks, Jack, I won't. And thanks again. I'll have Diana give you guys another beer."

"Thanks, boy."

"Well, so that was Harold's boy Ed, eh?"

"I reckon so. Hey, what was that?"

"What was what?"

"Didn't you hear that sound outside? Go on and take a look."

"You're just yellow, Jack. I'll be right back."

"No problem. Hey, thanks for the beer, Diana."

"No problem, Jack."

"I'm back. You wanna know what I saw?"

"What'd you see?"

"Harold's boy Ed. He was killed, right in front of the restaurant."

"Killed? How?"

"Looks like he got stepped on or something. Flat as a pancake he is. Bits of him squished out like a jelly sandwich."

"Well, shoot. I guess Mayor Doug done growed some more."

x x x

Mayor Doug reminds me a bit of the mayor of a certain midwestern city I know. Folks around there seem to think of their mayor as being 10 feet tall--but as often with feet of clay as with eyes of flame. Anyway, this dialog-driven story held my interest from its start. How about yours?

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