Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Interview with Percival Brownlee

Interview with Percival Brownlee

“Brownlee glanced up and
saw his late co-master and
gave him one defiant female
glance and then broke again…
twenty years later the well-
to-do proprietor of a select
New Orleans brothel”
—William Faulkner,
Go Down, Moses

Q. So how did you end up down here in New Orleans? Running a ho house in the Vieux Carré—here in the French Quarter?

A. Well, I be kinda like on the run, dontchaknow. I be scared of that crazy Mister Buck. Him & his faggy
brother, Miss Billy.”

Q. I thought both Buck & Billy were homosexual?

A. Oh, well, that’s for sure. They were one of them queer antebellum couples—Billy be bottom, Buck be top. You know what I mean?

Q. Well, kinda, I suppose. But what were they like?

A. Oh, the usual thing. Billy be the one doin’ the cooking & cleaning & that sorta thing. She sat in a rocking chair & kept the gumbo or jambalaya goin. Buck did the man-stuff—although there wasn’t much to do. They’d done freed all the slaves before the Yankees arrived. They freed them & let them have the whole goddamned mansion to live it. It was pretty rundown anyway—but who cared? Both boyz hated their grandfather Quintus Lucius Carothers McCaslin—they got tricked into having a kid with Sophonsiba. That be you, Isaac McCaslin…

Q. I know that. That’s why I’m cursed. The whole South be cursed—and all of us who derived from it. Whom it ever suckled, white & black both, both you & me.

A. Well, Ike, that be only half-true, dontchaknow. I wasn’t suckled—I was sucked off. Both of them wanted be bad. But Buck was the worse—he be the worse dinge queen this side of the Mississippi. He be bothering me every time he could get my pants down.

Q. Yeah, I know. My father Buck was queer. Queerer than a Confederate 3-dollar bill. You think I’m proud of that?

A. I dunno. I done gave up tryin’ to figure out you white folks a long time ago.

Q. Don’t you see? That was the curse. My grandfather was the same way—it runs in the family.

A. Yeah, I knows that. He be in love with his black half-brother, Thucydus. Got him a wife down here in New Orleans. Got him a wife so Thucydus could get her pregnant & have a kid. The old pervert wanted a grandkid—he wanted to get his lips on some young stuff. Some of that Thucydus black meat. You know, kid. He wanted some of that Carolina offspring.

Q. I don’t wanna hear it.

A. Yeah, I know Isaac. You don’t wanna hear it. But that’s why you’re down in the Big Easy—you knows I was down here. You knows I live with your Uncle Buck & Uncle Billy back in Mississippi. You know all that—but you wanna know more dontcha?

Q. I’m cursed. I’m fuckin’ cursed & doomed.

A. That don’t make any difference. That’s no excuse. All you Carothers were corrupt—right down to the bone. Eunice done killed herself—drown herself in the river. She had twins. Tomasina called Tomy Daughter of Thucydus & Turl Son of Thucydus. Both of them born June 1833. He went for Turl, of course.

Q. Just like Buck went for you.

A. You got it, smart white boy. I be endowed like a racehorse—the same as Turl. Wanna see it?

Q. No. For gawd’s sake no. I’m not queer.

A. Yeah, well, that’s what you white trash folks always say—before going down on black meat.

Q. What my father Buck did wasn’t my fault.

A. No, you’re right. Go on. Promiscuity. Violence. Instability and lack of control. Inability to distinguish between mine and thing and…

Q. Oh, stop it, Percival. That’s aint what I’m here for.

A. Yeah? For two hundred years your goddamn-family ruined how many lives? Getting’ every drop they could? Every black mulatto high yellow dinge drop of manhood outta us black men. You sucked us dry—and made us slaves doin’ it. Breedin’ just for you—and your goddamn cotton plantation…

Q. (Ike pours himself another drink. Gulps it down. Looks away from Brownlee—out the wrought-iron balcony onto the Vieux Carré rooftops.)

A. That’s okay, Isaac. No hard feelings. You’re the last of the goddamn Carothers—besides Lucas. Your doomed fatal blood that’s destroyed everything it’s touched. It’s ends with you & Lucas. But there’s still a lotta rich Southern cocksuckers around—just like your illustrious tainted father & grandfather. I deal with ‘em every night—dumb Yankee whitey perves & cocksuckers too. They’re dime a dozen, Ike. What difference does it make?

Q. I’m so sorry Buck defiled you.

A. Defiled me? Defiled me!!! Damn it, Ike. I’m free now. Just like all the other black folks back there. Get a grip, kid. I aint no slave no more—I aint no colored kept boy just ‘cause I be well-endowed. I be afraid of Buck that day I saw him. Afraid he’d cut my dick off—and throw me in the Tallahatchie. Along with all the others. Down here in the Big Easy—I be a Creole Whore Master. I be fat & rich & sassy no—I knows the way things get done. I’m just a carpetbagger now—you seen the dumb rubes & hicks showing up around this joint? I be free now—and so are you.

Q. I don’t feel free. I read those ledgers—and all of a sudden I lost my innocence. My respectability—what they did was unforgettable. Unforgivable.

A. Your father, your grandfather, your great-grandfather. Forget them. Your goddamn father was more a slave to me—than I be to him…

Q. I don’t think I’m queer?

A. That don’t make any difference either, kid.

Q. But Buck and…

A. L.Q.C. McCaslin & Buck & Billy—all of them. Your blood-line is dying off. Buck got enough outta me to fuckin’ last a lifetime. He got what he wanted. So did your pervert great-grandfather. Now get outta here. I gots business to take care of, kid.

(Isaac left the ho house—took a train to Chicago. He wanted to talk with Butch Beauchamp—he be in the State Penitentiary. There was something Ike had to know…)

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