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The Rise and Fall
of Fatboy Crumwill

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

I’D BE REMISS in my accounting of the incidents surrounding the theft of Serra’s heart if I didn’t mention Fatboy Crumwill and his family. I knew “Doug,” which was his real name, from school days. Mainly I avoided him, but that wasn’t always possible.
  A literal shit machine, Fatboy Crumwill was a bit of case from the moment he slid into the doctor’s muddy hands. Christened Fatboy by his parents, his nickname was ‘Doug.’ “Don’t call me that!” he would howl. “Nobody calls me that!”
  He was not a simple asshole. Short of fingernail and somewhat at a disadvantage with a little chin-beard and the congenital body fat of a manatee, he was sharp enough to know that nobody should be named after the past tense of what a shovel does. A proto-hominid grunt does not a Christian name make.
  Giving him the name Doug was a shot—innoculation, really—administered by his grandparents to protect him from his given name. But they didn’t come into custody of the young bull until late in junior high. By then the groundwork for his disease had been laid, and likely before.
  Fatboy’s great grandfather on his father’s side was the Reverend Stephen Crumwill, pot hunter and possessor of many dubious titles. He was some sort of PhD., Methodist minister, geologist, curio-broker, and “archaeologist,” tearing the bones of many California Indians from the ground and selling the loot between 1870 and 1880 into the Victorian market. Even American Victorians, in places like Amherst, were decorating their book shelves with dead Indian things, the way militias were killing off the locals while keeping place names, wax mannequins and antlered trophies, naming the states of the growing country etymological constructs like Mississippi, Utah, Indiana and Malibu.
  Crumwill had a few “papers” to his name, both published and unpublished (e.g., “Fishhooks of the Fornioleño” being the cover). His curriculum vitae boasted of removing nearly thirty tons of artifacts from what was in those days well-marked graves—a virtual crapshoot in regards to plundering. Any fool who could find the crossed ribs of a whale with his shovel and day-laborers was an archaeologist.
The reverend was also known for “Crumwill’s Device,” a contraption carried by two men that would beam light accompanied by a humming sound. Designed to impress the local native population with equal parts mumbo and jumbo, the device would follow Crumwill as he made his way across the fields and into town. Above the din of the humming, Crumwill would read scripture in an effort to inspire awe. It took about a month of his dragging the apparatus around the area until the ruse was up.
  One windy night, the lantern blew out in the middle of a campaign, the hum disappearing as Crumwill flew into a rage, berating his two associates. Suffering blows, they ran off, leaving the device broken in the dirt and Crumwill stomping around as he attempted to hoist what amounted to the left side of a pine wagon on to his shoulders. Using words not associated, directly, with the Bible, Crumwill then threw his back out. As this event was witnessed by both the native and non-native population, his efforts to inspire awe simply produced, “Ahhh!” Today, “Crumwill’s Device,” rediscovered in a storage barn, is on display at the historical society. The cause of the humming, though, has never been determined.
  Keeping with the academic dubiousness of his great grandfather, Fatboy ventured to make his cultural mark. At the age of twelve he was the first kid on the block to use the term “fuckhead.” He set a new standard that day. Three years later he blew up the women’s bathroom at school. It was nearly the biggest event of the academic year, but unfortunately didn’t make it into the yearbook. Eyewitness accounts had Fatboy and companions picking through the shattered porcelain of the john with the big adolescent locating what has now been mythically confirmed as Shawna Virago’s fresh brown one (she being junior flags champ last seen running from the girl’s room). Fatboy picked it out of the water and smoke and ran it under his nose as if it were any other afternoon in the humidor. One version says three bites, another says one. It was a bit of philosophical coprophilia the young man was to help himself to repeatedly in the years to follow.
  Fatboy was also a scholar. One of his main interests was Franz Pujol a.k.a. “Le Petoman.” One of nineteenth century Paris’ biggest acts, Monsieur Pujol bellowed tunes of the day from a tube inserted in his rectum while accompanied by a small orchestra (Le Petoman’s only box office competition in Paris at the time was Sarah Bernhardt).
  Fatboy ate it up. Six months after discovering Petoman, he reintroduced danger into rock n’ roll when he founded the band “Anal Wind,” the West Coast’s first and only, it seems, homage to Le Petoman. He celebrated the day by pouring a round of liquid mercury shooters for the whole band.
  The yearbook, however, did allude to Fatboy’s greatest personal discovery—nude modeling. The young Mr. Crumwill discovered this neophyte pleasure his senior year in art class, and what a discovery for him it was, as beyond his lavender-tinged corpulence he had some fine lines and genuinely enjoyed standing in front of the class for all to see.
  Seventeen years old, with a light dusting of golden hair across his skin and weighing in at 265 pounds, Fatboy had a direct influence on the decision many of his classmates would make in regards to their future as artists. And with his grades lower than average, his discipline unexempelary, but “his imaginative heart,” as one counselor put it, “in the right place, toilet episode and all,” Fatboy “Doug” Crumwill had miraculously discovered a career for himself. Picking up a small but steady paycheck for the last four years after high school graduation, he found himself to be in modest demand posing for campus art classes.
  He was a big boy in all respects, but limber, and would often treat the pupils to a little trick he had learned. As a class came to the end, and it was time for him to re-robe, Fatboy would step forward from the platform where he held his gesture and perform a forward flip, putting, they say, the endo back in endomorph.
  It was his interest in poetry and being a poet that led him to get the large letters P-O-T-E across the right side of his belly. He had accordingly been smoking bits of plastic bag mixed with tobacco when he found his way into Hary Ishaal’s tattoo parlor.
  Fatboy’s moist eyes honed in on Hary who was cleaning his needles after having slung his twentieth skull n’ crossbones that evening. His wet lips blared to Hary, “I wantchyou to put ‘Poet’ right across here,” Fatboy having already begun to strip, stopping at just his shirt when he realized Hary Ishaal’s Tattoo Parlor wasn’t “a naked place.”
  “Alright,” Hary shrugged. “Twenny fi’ bucks.”
  “Okay,” said Fatboy, and sat in the chair. The plastic and tobacco made for some pleasant glee.
  What the big man hadn’t figured on was: one, that he would pass out, even with the needle being dragged across his belly; two, Hary liked a little Fernet snuck into his nose drops; and, three, Hary couldn’t read to begin with, as he was a multi-lingual, non-native, phonetic speaker of the language, in English spelling his own name H-A-R-Y. A quick look around the shop and Fatboy would have seen that there were only drawings, not a single word in his examples, although Hary had managed an occasional initial here and there. For P-O-T-E he just slung two sets of initials next to one another.
  “Well, then,” Fatboy reasoned groggily. “ `Pote’ it is. And it still rhymes with `know it’ and `feet show it’ and `Longfellows.’ ” He put his shirt back on. “You got a shitter around here?”
  “Yass, it’z in the back, next to the fish tank.” Fatboy wandered off. “Tell me som’ting first,” Hary asked him.
  “What’s ‘at?”
  “How doz `Pote’ rime with `Longkfellows?’ ”
  Fatboy’s demise came the day of the big brush fire that accompanied El Fornio High’s 2006 homecoming game (known as “The Homecoming Fire”).
  In keeping with the dubiousness of his genetic markers, Fatboy was that afternoon up a ravine digging for collectibles at an old Native burial site off of Fornay land when the blaze started (like his great grandfather, he had connections to sell misbegotten artifacts into the black market).
  Shovel in hand, Fatboy tore into the side of the canyon and filled the Camaro’s trunk with dusty loot. After about an hour, he took a break, relaxing in the front seat of the car where he hit on his pipe packed with the old stand-by of tobacco and laundry bag cuttings. He then ate a bag of oreos, drank a forty-ounce bottle of Old English 800 and fell asleep with his hands in his pants.
  As the fire came down the canyon, pushed by heat and pulled by the vacuum in front of it, Doug Crumill and his big brown Camaro were incinerated, his little chin beard disappearing first and then his pillicock as flesh and bones vaporized. The automobile melted into the rocks, leaving nothing but a big, black mark where the worm of a silvery liquid slid into the earth.


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