This piece was originally created as a performance piece. It was presented on several stages in the San Francisco Bay Area. Try to imagine it that way.
Saturday Fiction – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part One
Beaver Falls was an interesting place to live. Beaver Falls is located in Beaver County. The County Seat of Beaver County is the Town of Beaver. There is a river that runs through Beaver Falls called the, (EVERYBODY, NOW!) BEAVER! There are no beavers in Beaver Falls. There haven’t been any beavers in Beaver Falls within living memory. There aren’t any real falls either. What there is in Beaver Falls are: five steel mills, air the color of peanut butter, and a gene pool just deep enough to reduce the risk of everyone being born with extra thumbs.
There isn’t a chromosome within thirty miles that hasn’t been put through a genetic meat grinder. Those little strands of DNA twang like cheap guitar strings every time somebody announces their engagement.
Living in Beaver Falls was like a Near Death Experience. Living in Beaver Falls was swooping down dark, sooty, streets like tunnels toward the blinding bright light of the blast furnace. It was encountering the dark, smoky faces of people you knew who had passed on to old age too quickly.
“Hi, your Dad find work yet?”
“Hi, new shoes? Wow!”
“Hi, did you see Sluggo and Peeto last night? Christ, they’re both nuts.”
Sluggo and Peeto.
Sluggo and Peeto were brothers. Sluggo was a rather large man, a bit like a couch. Looking into Sluggo’s face was like looking into an open-face sandwich: meat, nothing but meat, with some kind of juice. Brother Peeto was sans jus. He had a thin, pinched face with dark eyebrows and a vaguely pained expression which made him seem the brighter of the two.
Sluggo and Peeto seemed to be everywhere at once. No matter what was going on in town they were sure to be there and somehow involved. If there was an auto accident either Sluggo or Peeto would be on the scene, usually before the Police, standing in the intersection directing traffic. They would direct traffic even if it wasn’t called for. Those boys just liked directing traffic.
One autumn day, when the leaves were just beginning to turn the same reddish-orange as the glow from the mills, an albino owl, for its own reasons, decided to fly into town and perch itself on a power line crossing the busiest intersection in town. It sat there looking down at the cars and at the pedestrians and at Sluggo who had seen his civic duty and was trying to direct traffic and look up at the bird, all the while smiling widely for the photographer from the local newspaper. When the picture ran in the next edition it showed Sluggo grinning fiercely into the camera and, sitting neatly on his skull was, thanks to the acute angle of the shot, the owl. Peeto was there too, glowering at them both, looking the second most intelligent of the three.
Sluggo and Peeto made the NBC Nightly News one time.
Back in the late 1960’s the New York Jets won the Super Bowl. Joe Namath was the winning Quarterback and Media Darling. Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls.
To celebrate the victory Beaver Falls threw a big to-do. A huge parade down the main street of town with Joe Namath sitting, triumphant, in the back seat of a new Chevrolet convertible supplied by the local GM dealer. The same local GM dealer who had once had Joe arrested for being on his showroom roof at three in the morning and running his football pants up the flagpole.
That evening the whole nation watched the conquering hero’s parade. Joe, smiling, his dimples setting off his hawklike nose. Joe, waving at the Beaver Fallsians as they waved back. Joe, recoiling in shock as Sluggo launched himself from the crowd onto the hood of the new Chevrolet convertible, waving wildly and mugging for the cameras. He rode there on the front of the car for the rest of the parade while Joe kind of slumped back in his seat and remembered why he was now living in New York.
That evening, at a banquet held in Joe’s honor, Howard Cosell, who was there as an honored guest and had witnessed the Sluggo episode, took the dais and in front of the assembled masses called Beaver Falls a “One-horse tank town without the whole horse.”
Sluggo and Peeto were – funny. Funny “Ha-Ha,” and funny in the sense that one sidesteps a strange dog in the streets. The town laughed but never had them over for supper.
At least they had each other. “No-Face Charlie” only had himself.
“No-Face Charlie” was a man in his forties who, when he was a teenager, according to the local legend, flew his kite into some high tension wires. He climbed the pole, reached for the kite and slipped. He was badly burned but somehow survived. His face took the brunt of the damage, leaving him without a recognizable nose, lips or eyebrows.
The accident happened back in the 1940’s and those who were around then said that the state of the art in plastic surgery wasn’t up to the task of giving back to Charlie a face that he could live with comfortably.
He lived alone in a small house way out in the sticks, about 10 – 12 miles outside of town. His baby sister looked in on him twice a week to bring groceries and books and to serve as his conduit to the world.
He stopped attending school after the accident. From the age of fifteen Charlie had educated himself. He read voraciously. He read anything his sister could get for him. By his twenty-first birthday he had run through just about every book in the Beaver Falls Public Library.
Charlie supported himself and lived in relative comfort on royalties from his small, but impressive, list of inventions. Charlie held patents on close to two full pages of the Lillian Vernon catalogue.
Charlie was the inventor of the “Reusable ‘Beauty-Gel’ Facial Pack”. Charlie was the inventor of the “Danish Wrap Electric Hot Towel”. Charlie was the inventor of the “Gentlemen’s Rotary Nose Hair Clipper”.
His first invention, the “Hollywood Contour Bath Pillow”, patented on his seventeenth birthday, sold several hundred thousand units and continued to generate enough income to pay the mortgage on the seventeen acres of land around his house that served as a buffer zone between himself and his neighbors.
Very few people in Beaver Falls knew any of this. The rumors said that Charlie got by on a small pension from the government. The rumors also said that most of the missing dogs and cats in the area were his doing and that they were just delicious, Thank you.
One of the few things that people knew for sure about Charlie was that he liked to take long walks at night along the quiet country roads near his home.