The farmer laid his weathered hands in the deep soil as he stooped sweating in the midday sun.
He was tanned and his physique was embedded with labour as he toiled beneath the heat in the onion field.
He’d grown onions in the plot of land bequeathed to him by his disapproving father, a relic from the past who ruled his sons with an iron hand.
He said it was his destiny and the destiny of his progeny to raise the crop, that it had mystical value within the hidden meaning of farming.
That farming itself was an act of husbandry that conjured the living forms of mythology, and could cause the resurrection of beings who dwell in the twilight at the edge of man. His hands were stained with the earth, blackened tools for something more than the engendering of a crop.
Jacques Samuels took the farm over and worked it with a dedication that was religious.
Now Jacques stood and wiped his sweat laden brow.
His skin was as thick as leather.
The field looked like a pathway to some unholy gestation.
The soil was hard and arid and it seemed to wait for a birth that breached the world’s shadow, lying dormant between trees that did little to give shade.
The shadow a branch cast slaked the thirst for cool, for sheltering against the sky.
It seemed to Jacques the field was a kiln, existing within the relentless heat of an erotic fecundity.
Sometimes he could hear the sound of a blacksmith’s hammer on an anvil and he wondered what music was being sent to his dutiful soul and what melodies were played at twilight.
Jacques stared at the undulating image of his haze distorted house and crossed the field with heavy steps.
Inside he sat and drank a cool beer.
He wondered what price he’d paid for his dedication to an inheritance he hadn’t questioned. That he might lead another life, and if that existed somewhere else he would be visited by it.
He packed his things and got in his pick up.
He drove it from Oklahoma to the ocean in California where he sat and watched the beautiful blonde women pass by, money written into their sexual allure.
He felt that some mystical event was about to happen and this granted him the right to be elsewhere.
He’d never left Oklahoma and always dreamt of the ocean.
As he sat there that June day he saw a figure rise from the water. He seemed to be on fire.
The women who walked by were covered in onions. Their bodies bulged with them like some agricultural erotic affliction. They adhered to their sweating skins like the corrupted hands of a priapic wraith in some violator’s folklore.
Even their heads assumed their bulbous shapes.
They were denatured and materialised into some vital natural essence that cast the smell of ploughshares heavy with severed soil across the beach.
They seemed part of some farm beyond the measure of their understanding that existed at the edge of perception.
Within this hallucinogenic miasma Jacques knew he had to return to his field. His field was needed.
He knew it was his mission to raise onions.
It was a blazingly hot June whose temperature broke all records.
A parasailing donkey was spotted on the ocean.
In Oklahoma local frogs were seen shooting blood from their eyes at passing tourists.
A meteor fell from the sky and landed in Arkansas.
Wolves were found in Macys.
And Jacques toiled in the parched field.
It was near to the small town of Slaughterville.
It existed like a scar on the map.
The same month saw JJ Cale begin recording a new album.
And Lidia Flake arrived in Moore with her husband Albert, who was visiting relatives.
The first thing she said to him as they got to Oklahoma was ‘I’m an aristocrat, I can’t stay somewhere like this.’
‘Yes Lidia I know, we will only be here for a short visit’, Albert said.
She was in a bad mood because one of her teeth had fallen out.
She began bossing everyone about at the Moore Lodge hotel, prompting one waiter to piss in her soup.
‘Let’s see how she likes a mouthful of that’, he said.
‘I can’t stand it here’, she said to Albert as she sipped it from her spoon. ‘They’re all so common.’
Lidia had one talent, the ability to inspire complete derision for herself wherever she went.
Together she and Albert sat eating like a well-matched pair of grotesques as Moore burned in the tropical heat.
There was little crime in Moore.
It had as its local cop an individual called Jock Rogers, a tall heavy man with a featureless face that lacked all intelligence.
He’d failed as a college campus rapist and joined the police.
He liked to molest women when he wasn’t ignoring the crimes that needed his help.
When Jacques was burgled Rogers never visited him.
Jacques went to the police station to file a report and Rogers sat there picking his teeth and said ‘What do you want me to do about it? There ain’t nothing valuable there anyways.’
‘I’ve been burgled, you’re the police’, Jacques said.
‘I police what I need to’, Rogers said.
Jacques left the police station muttering under his breath ‘You’ll get yours Rogers’.
Rogers had recently arrested a young woman called Katie Svart.
He didn’t like her because she wore piercings in her face. She was a young attractive brunette who was rebellious and wild. She hated snobs and injustice.
He’d smelt dope on her and seized her in a back alley as he ran his hands up her shirt and groped her.
He kept her locked up for a week without reason and she was mad as hell with him.
That June saw a black Zonda turn up in Moore.
Everyone stared as it made its way down East Main Street.
It headed through the town to a petrol station where the manager was arguing with Katie.
He’d short changed her and she wasn’t going until he paid her what he owed her.
JJ Cale’s ‘Lies’ was playing and the manager didn’t see the driver of the Zonda get out.
His shadow stretched all the way from the car to the door of the petrol station as he filled up.
He had a towering figure and his hat sported bulls’ horns.
He removed his shades as he stepped into the cool air.
He walked up to the counter where the manager was arguing with Katie.
‘Get out of my station you little cunt’, he said.
His wife came out from the back and joined in.
‘He don’t never short change no one, you little ho now get’, she said.
‘He did and I ain’t going till you pay me’, Katie said.
‘There’s no call talking to customers like that’, the driver of the Zonda said.
The manager stood open mouthed at the sight of the man.
Katie turned and took a step back.
‘I’ll deal with this young lady’, he said, ‘consider me your Knight.’
He reached across the counter and grabbing the manager by the throat hoisted him over and threw him against the wall.
Then he grabbed the wife and cut her neck open with a curved blade.
She clutched at her throat, blood spraying out from between her fingers in a fine mist before she collapsed.
He walked calmly over to where the manager lay and opened his chest with his knife. He dug his hands in him and cracked his rib cage apart. Then he proceeded to remove his heart.
He dumped this on the counter with a flailing aorta and said ‘This shop needs a little more heart.’
Then with dripping hands he opened the till and gave Katie the contents.
‘Here you are this should remunerate you for your losses’, he said.
He walked outside and drove away.
Katie left the station with shaking hands, clutching the red notes.
She bought some drugs and got arrested by Rogers who raped her in her cell that night.
She lay awake unable to get the image of the Mustard Man out of her head.
The Mustard Man drove a few miles and stopped outside a house in the heart of the Oklahoma countryside.
Night was falling from the sky and he stood and listened to the rhythmic sound of the cicadas.
He walked to the door and knocked.
‘Good to see you JJ’, he said, as it opened.
The sound of two guitars playing bluegrass could be heard deep into the night.
The sky was full of stars and the air smelt of onions.
In California Jack Laretto received a phone call.
‘Jack there’s gonna be some killings’, the Mustard Man said, ‘savage butchery beneath a blazing sun.’ He hung up.
Jack stared out of the window and saw fields and burning soil.
He put his hamburger down. He could hear a laid back Tulsa Sound throbbing rhythmically in the distance.
He was working on a novel about a cop killer called ‘Pig Farm’.
The next day a young man with hair like corn arrived in Oklahoma.
He had no luggage and his eyes seemed to reflect the sky.
He stood in a field and held out his arms.
He had cut his tongue out and mailed it to the White House.
He journeyed through the countryside drinking from streams.
He lay in a ditch and merged with the penumbral movements of night.
He ate from the wilderness.
His name was Julius Pharaoh.
He had flown there alone with only a box of matches.
He feasted on the bleeding remnants of night.
The trees around him seemed like poles on which the blackened forms of charred pigs’ heads sat and lined the shadowed earth.
He coiled some bones around the root of a dripping plant.
He summoned the hidden beings from the tortured silhouette of the perfume laden petals of a wild rose.
He was seeking some object of sacrifice and beneath his ambiguous gentleness lay a world of violence.
That day saw Lidia argue with a shopkeeper who sold clothes.
She was complaining that they were over priced and she left the store in some disarray followed by Albert.
As she walked to the Moore Lodge hotel she passed a car from which some JJ Cale was playing.
‘What a hideous racket’, she said.
She didn’t turn to look as the Mustard Man got out and followed her.
She was standing in the empty hallway of the hotel waiting for the lift with Albert when he approached her.
‘Excuse me do you have a point to make?’, he said.
She looked at him blankly.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’, she said.
‘I play the music I like, if you defame it or slander it in any way things will happen to you that will annihilate your soul.’
‘Get out of here’, she said.
‘I am here to bring you visions. I will turn your dream to a nightmare. You don’t come and throw your weight around a small town like this. There are special things growing here, there is a fecundity rich with decadence.’
‘Albert get this man out of here.’
‘You can call me the breeze I keep blowing down the road I might go up to California might go down to Georgia I don’t know. You’re a used piece of meretricious trash who suffers from delusions of having some aristocratic connections, you sneer at everyone you meet’, the Mustard Man said. ‘Now you’re in a bad mood because one of your teeth has fallen out and you look like a toothless hag when you open your mouth.’
‘Are you threatening me?’, she said.
‘You’re gonna end up where the river runs deep and the water is cold as ice. You will be a sorry bitch when it starts’, he said and walked away.
He went to the police station where Rogers was sitting ignoring the ringing phone.
He jumped up when the Mustard Man entered with his knife in his hand.
‘You can’t come in here like that’, he said.
‘Like what?’, the Mustard Man said.
Rogers reached for his gun and the Mustard Man slashed his arm.
It was a deep gash that splashed blood on the floor.
‘Your level of ineptitude makes all dictionary definitions of incompetence inadequate. You are viciously corrupt’, the Mustard Man said.
He picked him up and cut his head off with his machete and kicked it across the station as Rogers lay on the floor, his neck pumping blood.
Then he got the keys and unlocked Katie’s cell.
‘He won’t trouble you no more’, he said. ‘Get yourself a room at the Moore Lodge.’
She left in a daze.
The Mustard Man cut a deep cleft in Rogers’s head. He inserted his police badge into it and said ‘Penny in the fucking slot machine pig.’
He wrapped Rogers’s body and head in a bag which he carried to the Zonda.
Then he drove to the onion field.
It was evening and Jacques was inside drinking beer.
A golden sun fell like a burning ball beyond the trees.
The Mustard Man cut a few shanks of Rogers’s flesh from him, working his knife under the skin until it scraped bone.
He chopped these into steaks which he sealed in a plastic bag.
Then he dug a hole and buried him.
He dug up some onions.
The air smelt of hamburger and magnolias.
The Mustard Man whistled ‘After Midnight’ into the passing breeze that stopped against the wall of heat.
Then he returned to JJ Cale’s house for some more music.
Blues, rockabilly, country and jazz filled the night. The Travis-like fingerpicking of two guitars arrested the attentions of unknown beasts which stopped by the door and hissed profanities in an unknown tongue.
That night Julius Pharaoh descended on Moore.
He crawled through a hole in some bushes bursting the hymen of an unknown plant.
He removed the nocturnal placenta from the wild and breeding hedgerow of sin.
He dripped with the broken waters of night’s black tide.
He breeched the bleeding flesh of hidden passageways.
He slept beneath a tree and watched the surface of the moon.
He licked the bark and ran his hands across the broken veins of leaves.
He tied a blood red scarf to the tree and filled his hands with air.
Morning broke with pink wash in an intensely blue sky.
The Mustard Man rose early and prepared the dish he intended to serve.
He fried the Rogers steaks in some oil into which he heaped local herbs.
Alligator pepper sizzled next to Brown mustard.
The Mustard Man added the onions which he chopped into small slices.
He cooked them until they adhered to the bleeding steaks.
Then he fetched the ingredients necessary for his sauce.
He pounded Rogers’s skin in a pestle with a large mortar and added oil and Mace and Yellow mustard.
Then he poured in Rogers’s blood which he scooped out of the sack.
He topped it up with cream.
He simmered this before adding it to the dish.
Katie had slept all night at the hotel.
That morning she heard Lidia before she entered the breakfast room.
She was complaining to Albert about how awful Oklahoma was.
Katie took one look at her and hated her. She stared at her all throughout breakfast.
As she got up to leave Lidia said ‘What are you looking at’?
‘An old dog’, Katie said.
‘How dare you?’
Lidia stood up and slapped Katie.
‘You ain’t nothing special’, Katie said.
‘You’re no deal, look at you with your missing tooth.’
‘You common little whore.’
‘Your earrings are wrong.’
Katie reached out and pulled an earring straight through Lidia’s lobe.
She then did the same with the other one.
Lidia stood there with frayed lobes that dripped blood onto her face as Katie walked off.
Lidia returned to her room with Albert to find the Mustard Man waiting for them.
He stood there with his hands on his hips, fingers pointing inwards to the snake’s head buckle on his belt.
She could hear ‘Bringing It Back’ playing on the radio.
‘This is my Radio Show. You don’t hear too good do you?’, the Mustard Man said. ‘Now it seems you lost your ears, you gonna lose much more. Aristocracy, I don’t think so, your father was a costermonger and your momma used to fuck anyone she could for a dime. Now you married Albert here ain’t you a thing? You think you can come here and lady it around? You like to buy designer clothes, you have a penchant for scarves on which you spend a fortune while showing no discerning taste. You always buy the wrong Hermes scarf to go with the wrong outfit and sport these at the wrong occasions, being the butt of endless jokes. Albert is a pretentious status seeker with no talents whatsoever. You are so morally and physically offensive as to cause some people to bring vomit bags when visiting you. You’re both just plain wrong.’
He moved towards Albert and opened up his rib cage with his machete.
‘There are no Corn God sacrifices here. You are in the wrong house. Now you gonna eat bitch. These mushrooms are like human flesh’, the Mustard Man said.
Lidia stared in disbelief at Albert‘s bleeding body.
The Mustard Man brought a burner out of his bag and set it alight.
He poured the Rogers steaks into a pan.
He cooked them and walked over to Lidia with a steaming plate.
‘Eat’, he said.
He pulled her mouth open and pushed meat in, forcing her jaw shut so she chewed.
He watched it slide down her throat as she gagged.
‘You like my Okie Onion?’, he said.
‘What is it?’
‘It’s pig bitch with onions grown in the greatest onion field in the land, a field worked by the man who grows em nice and juicy, he sweats in that field while the pig does nothing and now he’s buried there. The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw phrase okla humma, meaning red people. I put some nice red onions in there. I added some other ingredients too, among them some mushrooms. My mushrooms have special properties.’
Lidia was shaking as the Mustard Man forced the rest of the dish down her throat and he held her mouth shut as she tried to vomit and was forced to swallow her own puke.
He reached down and pulled out Albert’s intestines and wrapped them around Lidia’s neck.
‘Here, there’s a scarf for you you sorry piece of shit. Now pack, I got something in store for you, you’re going to have a vision.’
He threw her suitcase at her and left.
Lidia didn’t look at Albert as she went to wash.
She went straight to the airport where she waited to board the first plane.
As she did so Julius Pharaoh left Moore.
He walked barefoot all the way to the airport with his hair alight with the sun.
He looked like a burning Roman Candle ignited by a deity.
He could smell blood as if the sky was a severed vein.
And Jacques worked his field.
He felt that life was good and his onions were something to be proud of.
Katie left town and went to see a friend.
She took the money the Mustard Man had given her and set up a tattoo parlour.
As Lidia sat on the plane she saw the devil appear at the window.
She ran screaming down the aisle and tried to open the door.
‘I need to get out, I need to get out’, she said.
Julius Pharaoh was in the next seat and as she tried to throw herself out of the aircraft he punched her in the jaw and she fell to the floor where she saw a crocodile heading towards her down the aisle.
She was screaming and he kicked her in the head.
Lidia’s dead body was carted off the aeroplane at the other end.
No one attended her funeral because no one cared.
Back in Oklahoma the Mustard Man finished recording with JJ Cale.
The album was released a few months later and ‘Bluegrass Sessions’ went straight to number one.
Jacques saw unprecedented orders for his onions.
The patch where the Mustard Man buried Rogers bore the richest crop of all.
As the heat continued the Mustard Man stood at the door of JJ Cale’s house.
‘We made some great music, bye old buddy’, he said.
On his way out of town he passed the onion field.
‘Call Me The Breeze’ played on Mustard Man Radio.
He drove out of Oklahoma and changed cars at a dealership on the state line.
He headed North in a black Hummer.
The sky was deep blue as he called Jack Laretto.
‘Done good here Jack’, the Mustard Man said, ‘I’m heading to Montana, I’m starting up a restaurant.’
25 thoughts on “Okie Onion by Richard Godwin”
Holy. Fucking. Shit! Sure, why not start with Longfellow’s meter and vision and then point out that you did that with rich red soil and blacksmith images, then cap all that with one of the best lines ever: He’d never left Oklahoma and always dreamt of the ocean then slowly slip into Hieronymus Bosch onion women in the surf, proceeding to as nasty a string of characterizations as Oscar Wilde ever wrote; all of which brings us to a fast collection of gothic country singer, a hooker with a glowing soul, a hell bound prophet walking a country road, not to mention a crooked sheriff who gets his just desserts (or maybe his just main course) stardom with OF COURSE THE MUSTARD MAN! as chef d’jour ending with a subtle promise Mr Godwin had better deliver on . . . a MM NOVEL FOR CHRISSAKES ABOUT TIME. There! I got it all out (or at least as much as my head could stand today)! Richard old buddy, you DO wear a guy out ya know?
But wait! maybe they were Jacques Brell Onion Women In The Surf . . . maybe . . . AW SHIT! I GOTTA GET OUTTA HERE!
AJ my friend as always your response overwhelms me. You pick up on all the references with more than a journeyman’s mark and capture the dark anthology we strive towards. Hieronymous Bosch is the man.
I think onions should be grown from dry and arid soil. We are all what grew us, whether it be the soil or the weather or the people who raised us.
As always, I enjoyed the great surreal images here.
Charles you are right about the agriculture.
Thank you for all your support.
definitely need to augment with ketchup man..
Now I feel fried. There’s an awful lot of heat coming out of this tale, and I can’t say I wasn’t warned to be prepared to feel it. Not a road I could travel more than occasionally, but I knew I was in good hands.
Killer, for sure.
Good hands are the hands that deal.
Place your deck upon the table Michael.
Wow, what a ride! I had to laugh at the Mustard Man’s morbid sense of humor.
Kristin thank you I thoguht you would like the humour. I’m glad you enjoyed the ride.
What a delightful journey!
Henya thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it, there’s more to come.
In the real world of grays and uncertainty, the Mustard Man is refreshingly severe.
Every line crackles with energy, insanity, and a richly dark sense of humor.
Thanks for another wild ride!
Chris thank you for your appreciation of the energy. More rides to come.
I must be a pervert. This turned me on and grossed me out at the same time. My favorite in the series to date! Loved this line, “”He stood there with his hands on his hips, fingers pointing inwards to the snake’s head buckle on his belt.”
Jodi thank you for your comment I’m glad you enjoyed it. If you thought that was tasty there is a dish that will have you salivating on the menu.
Hey Jodi. I think Richard just said you drool
Bill you know how word placement and prepositional flux can create a tidal discharge. Jodi I am sure you don’t do what our honourable colleague is mischievously suggesting has occurred in a bistro.
Richard, I love the Mustard Man. Then again, I’m not sure what says about me! But he’s so cold and his humor is so dark and biting (no pun intended), he’s a character you just can’t get enough of. Of course, you don’t ever want to run into him yourself, but tagging behind him and observing while he flows through a town and leaves death and fear in his wake is as disturbing as it is exhilarating. It’s bizarre, but you just can’t wait till he shows up somewhere again.
Joyce thank you for your comment. The Mustard Man is a popular figure and he always makes meals for the people he likes to cook for, the restaurant is always receiving orders for his tasty morsels.
It was wild, all over the place. Also liked Katie. And loved how Lidia had to swallow her own puke while eating the Rogers steak.
The Mustard Man rocks.
Cindy thank you you know what rocks means. There’s more to follow.
This one is packed to the walls like Lydia’s throat, only with your narrative magic. You alternately lull me with traditional unfolding and your renowned spicy, dark-seeded recipe. I’m in the field, I’m in the fire. With Roman Candle Julius. If I could feast more with him on the bleeding remnants of night, I’m sure I’d like him as much as I like Tom Spinner in ‘Apostle Rising’. MM’s growing on me more and more, ‘specially now I know he hangs with smooth JJ Cale. Any friend of Mr. Cale’s is a friend of mine. Cajun moon, where does your power lie? And give my regards to Mr. Laretto, a’ight? Cain’t wait for some Montana pork. Maybe with a little apple sauce alongside the mustard.
Miss Alister your pork will be served you just right and it will slip down your throat like an oyster.
He knows how to deliver it and he will from here to eternity within all the halls of mayhem.