Monday, April 16, 2012

Bubba's Karate

Bubba’s Karate
My brother’s real name is Buddy O’Dell, but since we were kids I’ve always called him Bubba.  We grew up dirt poor in a four room shack and most of the time it was just us boys and momma cause daddy was doing life without parole for first degree murder. Even then Bubba never had much to say except “Yes momma, no momma” or “No thank you.”
            Bubba dropped out of school in the eighth grade to work as a farm laborer so that he could help momma with the bills. He grew up lean and muscular and by the age of fifteen stood 6’4 inches tall and could split a fence post with one swipe of an ax.
            People liked Bubba because he worked from sun up to sun down and didn’t steal, but they were cautious not to anger him. Once a local farmer tried cheating Bubba out of a day’s wages and when the argument grew heated Bubba cold cocked the farmer with an ax handle, took what money was his and left.  Word got around you didn’t mess with my brother.
            When Bubba turned eighteen the army drafted him and he spent two years in Vietnam. After coming home he didn’t say much about the war, but at night I could hear him tossing and turning in his bedroom and there were some days when he’d set on the front porch for hours on end, staring off into the distance, never uttering a sound.
            Following the Army, Bubba worked as a farm hand for a year or so then one day he quit, bought himself a piece of land way up on a mountainside and started making moonshine for a living. His first year wasn’t a success, but afterwards his reputation grew and so did business. People from all walks of life wanted Bubba’s shine: politicians, country music stars, the local sheriff, even a few preachers drank my brother’s white lighting.
            Bubba saved his money and bought a small house in the valley below his still and before long he was married and had two kids of his own. Life was finally looking up and every time I saw him he was happier than before. During the spring, summer and fall he made shine and during the winter he hunted. Things couldn’t have been much better. The years passed, Bubba’s children grew up, left home and went to college and before long my brother was collecting social security.
            Just outside town on State Highway 29, there is a small bar called Sammie’s. It is a run down looking place with two store fronts, one of them a bar the other deserted. Ever since coming home from Vietnam Bubba has frequented Sammie’s at least once a week to drink a few beers, watch a ball game or two, and shoot a game of pool.  He always parks his old Chevy pickup in front of the deserted store front so he doesn’t have to walk so far. You see his back hurts him from years of lugging moonshine up and down the mountainside. That’s where the trouble began.
            A week after the New Year Bubba parked his truck in the usual spot and noticed a sign in the deserted store front’s window that said: “Coming soon: Master Jay’s School of Karate and Self-Defense. Enroll now!” Bubba paid little attention to the sign, but later found out that a young man from Wisconsin had bought the store and was opening a karate school.
            Two days later Bubba parked his truck only this time he saw through the store’s plate glass window people dressed in white pajamas and wearing colored belts doing kicks and chops and screaming real loud. One, however, caught Bubba’s attention. He was the school’s owner and his name was Master Jay and him and my brother locked eyes like two bulls stuck in a cattle pen.  Bubba held his glare for a moment then spat some Red Man on the pavement and went inside Sammie’s. Master Jay was offended by the surly old man dressed in overalls and decided to teach him a lesson.
            Never one to miss dinner with his wife, Bubba left Sammie’s after a couple of beers and just outside the bar he noticed a piece of paper stuck to the windshield of his truck. Unfolding the paper Bubba saw that it was a note addressed to him. “Dear Sir, in the future would you please refrain from disgracing yourself by spitting on the sidewalk. Also, since you are not a paying karate student, please park some place else. Respectfully, Master Jay.”
            Bubba crumpled up the paper, dropped it on the sidewalk, looked inside the karate school and shot Master Jay the universal finger then drove off. Jay, being a young man, vowed to get even since his honor had been offended twice that night.
            The following week Bubba parked where he always did, went inside Sammie’s, got comfortable on a barstool and was drinking his first Budweiser when Master Jay crept up from behind and with a loud yell that startled everyone, chopped Bubba on the back of his neck.
My brother never knew what hit him. He dropped to the floor like an old pine tree and was unconscious for several minutes. Worse though was as he lay in that disgraceful state, Sensei Jay said to the bartender. “When the old man wakes up you tell him that was karate from Japan.”
That night Bubba told me the whole story as we sipped Jack Daniels in my living room.
“Dang, Bubba. He really said Karate from Japan?”
“Yep” answered my brother.
“And he knocked you out cold with one chop?”
“Yep” said my brother refilling his glass.
“And you let him get away with it? What’s wrong with you?”
Bubba cut his eyes towards me and I saw the fire he had in Vietnam.        
“Little brother, who said he was getting away with it?”
“Bubba, you ain’t going to kill that boy, are you?”
“See you later,” said Bubba rising from his chair and as I took another drink he disappeared out the front door and into the night.
The next day Jay was leading a class on knife defense when he heard squealing tires in the parking lot. Looking out the karate school’s plate glass window he saw a familiar truck come to a sliding halt. Then Bubba got out, reached into the truck’s bed, retrieved a chain saw and started it with one pull and Master Jay- who previously had seen my brother as an old man- saw instead a homicidal lunatic dressed in overalls, sporting a mouth full of chewing tobacco, coming straight towards the karate school.
Bubba revved the chain saw and it made a loud buzzing sound and with one swipe he split the karate school’s door from top to bottom, stepped inside and yelled “I’m back sum-beech and this here’s my karate.” It was at that precise moment Sensei Jay realized that nothing on God’s green earth had prepared him for what was about to happen next.
Reports vary as to what exactly did happen that day, but from reliable witnesses it is known that pandemonium broke out as Bubba chased Jay round and round the karate school. At one point Jay picked up a long staff and tried using it but to no avail, Bubba turned it into splinters. Then Jay considered using a flying side kick but decided otherwise because the thought of loosing a leg was too horrible. Finally an opening came and Jay ran out to the parking lot with my brother in hot pursuit then into the bar screaming for help, but it was no use because everyone was on Bubba’s side.
Bubba finally cornered Jay next to a pool table. “You’re mine now karate boy” and just as he was going to administer the coup de grace the chain saw ran out of gas. “Oh, Hell” said Bubba and everyone in the bar saw Jay drop down into a low stance and start making loud cat calls, like Bruce Lee did. “Old man, you’re going to suffer before you die,” hissed Jay drawing back his hand, as if it were a cobra. My brother wasn’t fazed though. He just spit Red Man in Jay’s eyes and when Jay flinched Bubba picked up a pool cue and knocked him cold.  After Jay hit the floor Bubba turned to the bartender and said. “When the sum-beech wakes up you tell him that was a pool cue from Sears and Roebucks.”
I knew from the bottom of my heart that Bubba was going to do serious time for breaking Sensei Jay’s face, but it didn’t turn out that way. You see the sheriff found out that Jay had an out of state warrant for writing bad checks and possession of illegal drugs. So that made Bubba a local hero, not a criminal.
More importantly though is that just recently the State of Tennessee passed a bill making it legal to produce moonshine. Bubba, being the astute businessman that he is, took advantage of the opportunity. He bought Sensei Jays karate school, moved in his still and began selling moonshine. Now he parks out front all the time and the sign on the plate glass window reads: Bubba’s Moonshine and Karate.
This article is dedicated to the late and great Popcorn Sutton.
Copyright by Michael Rosenbaum 2012

1 comment:

  1. What a great story. Master Jay sounded like he needed a lesson in humility (and karate history).