Ric Hoeben


By Ric Hoeben

Some of the guys are wondering if we should get rid of Cinnamon and take us on a new member. If it’s not his moaning, it’s his whining. He refuses to go out and get us flounder, get us eggs, or find us shiny wrapping paper, and for the sake of our wit, we recall the times that we left the couch under the carport—despite our solid luxury, despite our discomfit, and we did what was needed, doing always what had to be done.

Cinnamon has been having his Budweiser. And he has been getting into racy television. If any of the guys has the courage to talk to Cinnamon it would be Howard, Catfish Howard.

Whenever it gets cold under the carport we bring out the space heaters and the mentholated cigarettes and, having thought, begin some level of talk. Some prefer coffee, others prefer tea. Catfish Howard prefers bourbon and Coca-cola. He is strong and he promises salvation.

Cornel Timmons was the only one of us in Vietnam.

Brighton Grey was a fullback for Northwestern for two years.

Dean Reynolds is a retired electrician and he worked for the city, but there is not a pension for him as he expected. His wife works at the Huddle House. If she is not busy, she brings us coffee—but not every day.

Cinnamon claims to have gotten his Ph.D. out in Oregon, at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, he tells us. But, we are liars; all of us are liars and all of us have caught great bass and great mackerel and great dolphin and great marlin even, some of us have claimed marlin even in a state of ecstasy.

Some of us guys feel that Cinnamon has been having far too many Budweisers and he has taken on a nasty paunch, and he has taken on an anger that could bring about much damage.

On a Sunday night, we called a private meeting. Some of us sat on the couches, some of us turned over paint cans; there was bread and there was fish. Howard, naturally, led us into the discussion of getting rid of our Cinnamon Tin’cher. One idea was to drown him. Cornel mentioned ropes and the oak tree on his property, but Dean Reynolds said that a hanging was misguided. Dean Reynolds then said that we would do all right to keep Cinnamon in the cellar behind the carport.

For many days, it was quiet and dismal and rainy. Beyond the patter of falling water on the roof, there was not much to be heard except for the lonesome tiny cries coming from Cinnamon. We took turns feeding him—basic things—frozen dinners uncooked, nutty bars, yard pears. He asked for something to read down there and we carried him Herodotus and Plutarch. He asked for a blanket and Brighton Grey urinated upon him.

There is something okay with lying when it’s lying. And we felt that Cinnamon had gone beyond lying. It was hard for us to bear his cries, knowing that he was going through the DTs, knowing that he missed his ashram and his mother, but despite all of this we could not forgive his transgression, and several votes were conducted to make sure that we indeed felt the way that we felt.

Cinnamon had a blue Cadillac and we decided to smash it with baseball bats. We told him as much. Cinnamon’s daughter came by and asked after him. We shook our heads no and we touched her and told her to bring her friends and maybe we would find Cinnamon after all, like we were performers of some kind of miracle.

Infidels, Cinnamon called us. Traitors and men without luck, without the gospel and men without everyday meaning, he said.

It was getting on to be colder and it was one night a mere 8 degrees Fahrenheit when Cinnamon Tin’cher got to howling. He could be heard well and strong, and in his lupineness we got spine bumps and worries about what to do. Some of us were drowsy and some of us had the right spirit, but all of us journeyed out toward the cellar and knelt down with great agog.

He told us we were hell-bent for destruction. He said that man was opposed to fair play and that our mothers were no better than fourth-world prostitutes—many more things of this nature that humbled us, and silenced us, in the chill of that night.

One of us guys said we should just shoot him. Everyone then began to talk about guns and ammunition and big game hunts and no one was guilty of telling the truth. Below us, Cinnamon looked afraid and confused, his brain peppering up something to get us with, something to get him out of his lacking confines. And he howled.
It was really something hard to listen to.

We decided out of mercy or out of something else to take it to a head and have another vote come to hammer. When the results came in, it looked like some among us had taken on a pity to Cinnamon and his sadness. His eyes looked like blue Easter eggs hanging in brick holes. Brighton Grey got worked up and said that he had several men he knew in mind who should take Cinnamon’s spot. Catfish Howard told him to wait on protocol, and he shoved him, powerfully. And all along, Cinnamon howled from his cellar.

And the truth of it was that he could’ve gotten out whenever he so liked. Only thick mud surrounded the door, but any of us would be able to break through it and return to the world at large. Cinnamon, however, kept a sort of chesty fortitude about him, like he wanted to defeat his plight and defeat all of us, too. Even though he did not say it outright—for he had turned into a savage wolf—he implied that he would like to destroy us each and all.

Some of us wanted coffee, and others of us wanted Budweiser cervezas. It was not until 3 A.M. that someone among us went to the store, and he went for provisions and for girls and for cigarettes. Cinnamon, ever howling, seemed to say that he wanted something as well, seemed to cry in that early morning before the dawn hit the valley.

He then came into a brief moment of sense, mentioning that he wanted to be adored. He wanted to sell us his soul if that might help. One man of our ilk handed him a candy cane from out of his coat pocket—a little move of apparent compassion. And Cinnamon returned to his wolfish frenzy, tearing up the good china in the cellar and the Italian pictures from the 13th century. None of us did a thing to stop him because we felt like he was beating a drum on our heart.

We slept on and off, someone always keeping watch on the prisoner. We all had sleeping bags and lanterns and sandwiches. Some of us talked about stones and some of us talked about roses, some of us said things of the fool and some of us said things of real gold. The Budweiser brought in from the gas station was nice, everyone agreed, and we cottoned to it greatly.

We were almost at the point of getting rid of Cinnamon and replacing him with someone far more upstanding. But no one was willing to make the final cut.

For breakfast we cooked fish and strands of bologna. Cinnamon, down below, went crazy for some of it but we did not take onto his big long waterfall of complaints. Keeping him had become an obsession and someone wrote to our preacher to ask if it was a sinful act or if it was an all right kind of thing we were pulling. Ice had formed around the hangs of the carport.

And it was not that Cinnamon had ever been a terrible or a mean, dirty sort. No, he was kind, and at times he had the heart of Secretariat. He liked pies and America and church, in small doses. But he had come to his time. And things had really come to a head for all of us guys under the carport of the abandoned house we squatted from; some of us were begging for resolution.

As for Cinnamon, he had by noon become more existential and had, oftentimes, come up to the mud and had laid his chin square in the earth, just looking around to see what’d been born, and his usual, customary howling had stopped altogether. In time, he became so brave that he grabbed an abandoned stop sign post off of our dead grass and hobbled over to us all and sat down under the carport and warmed himself by the twig fire. One of us gave him a beer. And the house was still for a while before the snow came on.

In time, Cinnamon regained his true voice and made proud claims about going into town and getting us this or getting us that commodity, whatever we might like. But no one among us would hear anything of it, and we decided on a great collective snubbing. Eventually, no one wanted to talk about new members, yet no one had the pluck in them to talk about the issue of Cinnamon either.

It is something that gnaws on us till the present.

Ric Hoeben homes it in eastern South Carolina, holds an MFA from the University of Florida, and hopes his recently finished literary crime novel, Oceans of Gold, will be a real smash.

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