May 2002

Frederick Zackel


Frederick Zackel teaches literature, writing and the humanities at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He has written two novels, the first of which, Cocaine and Blue Eyes (Putnam, 1978), was made into an NBC Movie of the Week. Cinderella After Midnight was published by Coward McCann two years later. His short fiction and non-fiction essays have appeared, among other places, in The Mississippi Review, Exquisite Corpse, EnterText, Bright Lights Film Journal, The Alsop Review, The Dreaming Pool: Dreams and Jungian Psychology, The Dictionary of Literary Biography, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction.

Chuck Cody 

I bought him brandy at Enrico's in San Francisco, and so he talked:

My name is Chuck Cody, I'm a fisherman, and I'm 59 years old, but I look ten years younger with all my black wavy hair. I have spent three years growing my beard, and I like drinking brandy.

I have epilepsy because I drink. My hair hides the scars from epilepsy. My hands have large scars, too. The scars there come from stingrays. I got eight stitches here, five here, one there.

That stingray, he slapped me, so I slapped him back with my other hand. He got me again.

That sound—that paddy wagon sound makes me nervous. You know how Indians gets treated.

I am a Sioux Indian. I was born in Texoma. Grew up on the Delta in Louisiana. Grew up fishing for catfish.

Before I came here to San Francisco, I was in the Florida Keys. The sand fleas left me scarred on the knees. See?

When I fish for white bass, I make $45 a day.

I still fish for shrimp. Fat shrimp, that is. I won't tell you my bait. But I go out to the mudflats. Two hours later I got boxes. I caught 180 pounds yesterday.

I know how to cadge a meal. I know where to get loaves of bread free or free steaks, too. A hundred years ago I would have been a pioneer. Instead I was a saddle tramp and a bum.

I drove taxicab in Chicago. Yellow Cab.

I was driving along Lake Shore Drive, got two little old ladies in the back seat. I seen this jetty sticking out. Hell, I did it. I drove off the jetty into eight feet of water.

I didn't get fired. My boss, he couldn't fire me. I owed him a hundred bucks. Boss ain't gonna fire you if you owe him money.

My wife—I was married for thirty-seven years. We worked the cotton fields together. She's dead now. She was riding her horse and my dog ran between the horse's legs. She fell off and started spitting blood.

She and my dog—When she steps on his tail, she would cuss him in Indian and then in Italian. I don't know where the Italian came from.

She likes drinking brandy, too. She'd come on to you, then say, Can you give me a ride to the bus terminal? Then she'd borrow five bucks, but then she would buy you a drink.

My dog was part wolf. Lemme tell you, you treat women like your dog. Not as some souvenir, not as a pet. You treat her as a companion.

I get misty. I'm still repeating myself. I reach out in bed. Aw, forget it. She was gone. I went out and looked at the full moon instead. Yeah, I get lonesome.

I went to a funeral in Diego. Indian funeral. Real rare Indian he was. He was going bald. Going bald for an Indian's like losing your manhood.

He sliced his own throat just for going bald.

No guts to do that.

Bury me standing up and facing east. I want the largest processional of Caddys they can find.

I want an Indian burial. It's in my will that I'll be facing east. It's insured. Eight feet down and two feet from the bottom.

Can you give me a ride to the East Bay Terminal?

(He borrowed five bucks, then he bought me a drink.)

I gotta get home. I'm suppose to show up at Al's Liquors in Oakland at 5 am. I'll be on the boat by 6 am.

Want to know my secret?

Come by the Lorraine by DiMaggio's at Fisherman's Wharf. It's the third boat, the one with LA plates. LA is Louisiana.

My bait is a sardine can slightly opened up. Sardine oil, that's what brings the shrimp.

Come by and I'll buy you a brandy.



Frederick Zackel: Fiction
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