Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Grrr! (01/28/10)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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My friend’s name is Charles Caldwell, but most of the local good-old-boys aptly call him Chuck. In my opinion, he’s a blend of Lucy’s clueless Chuck (Charlie Brown) mixed with daredevil Chuck Norris.
Neighbors give Chuck plenty of space. He’s a lean-and-mean 200 pounds of dynamite ready to pin an adult hog to the ground in a split second or give an ornery cow some stiff opposition. For miles he’s known for his stellar hunting and fishing skills, outspokenness, and guarded privacy.
Around our township he’s also known for his F-250 pick-up truck – black-as-coal like the backside of the moon when it’s clean, and ominously dangerous-looking when covered with mud. The back window displays defining decals: a pack of howling wolves.
Chuck has his own signature growl, a guttural sound reminiscent of a wild dog’s snarl. It erupts whenever he’s the least bit intimidated, worried, impatient, or displeased, which is most of the time. This makes him seem even more unapproachable, as if a volcano might be grumbling down deep somewhere, ready to erupt.
That growl, even when issued under his breath, effectively keeps people at arm’s length. That’s just the way Chuck likes it. When he shows up for a pre-ordered pizza from the hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the village, he doesn’t have to worry about conversing with the waitress with multiple facial piercings and black make-up.
“Um, your pizza will be ready in about five minutes, Chuck.”
“Yeah…well…(grrrrr!)…alright…I guess.” He mumbles this while slits of green eyes peer over the rims of his silver sunglasses.
Needless to say, she doesn’t initiate further. He’s way too scary, even for her.
Riding in Chuck’s truck is a little like sitting in a “twister” carnival ride, only it’s free. He drives like a maniac Nascar driver on bumpy, uncharted back roads while spitting tobacco juice along the way to mark his territory. He also growls regularly at other drivers.
“C’mon ole’ lady … (grrrrr!) … move it … outa my way …!”
“Stupid teenagers … (grrrrr!) ... gonna git us all killed!”
“Hey you on that tractor … got sense enough to let me pass ya? GRRRRR!”
I’ve talked with Chuck about his growling noises but he’s never taken me seriously. About ten years ago I confronted him nose-to-nose.
“Do you like distancing people, Chuck? Can’t you even give them a chance?”
“I’m jus’ a redneck durn it all…’n that’s wha’ rednecks do, I s’pose. Get off my back, would ya?”
“Chuck, there’s no point ....”
“Back off buddy boy. Ya got no right.” He glared at me like a wild animal in a cage.
“But there’s no reason to sound so hostile.”
He shrugged me off like a humpback camel dumping its loose cargo in one big thump. “Wanna watch Nascar with me tonight?”
I decided to save my breath.
My history with Chuck goes back a long way. We grew up together, so I know more about the real Charles Caldwell than most people. As kids we used to pretend we were on a mission to save the world from destruction by spacemen; we made forts out of hay bales in the barn while corncobs became missiles that impaled the supposed alien barn cats. This was all before the growling began.
I felt sorry for those poor cats although I can liken Chuck’s childhood personality to one tiger-striped tom - an independent, lithe-and-strong, cautious-but-compatible cat. Chuck was selective about his socializing, just like that old tom; I was his only close friend.
When we were teenagers Chuck’s father repeatedly assaulted his mother and ended up in jail. Chuck turned into a tiger; growling became his self-protective wall.
Now we’re both thirty-five years old. About six months ago Chuck’s cousin Ruthanne introduced him to her friend, Annie. On first meeting Annie insisted on calling him Charles rather than Chuck, and said, “You know, I think you’d look just like Prince Charles of England – you know, Queen Elizabeth’s son – if you’d get rid of that beard.” Then she whispered, “The name Charles means ‘manly,’ you know.”
Since then they’ve become just like Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots. I’ve heard it said that love conquers all, and since they’re attending church together, God just might be working a miracle. All I know for sure is that I haven’t heard Chuck growl for weeks, and he’s more like the kid he used to be: a big-eyed, expectant, childlike man relearning what it means to believe and trust.
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