Charles “Chuck” Taylor
This is before he met Georgia, this is back in the late 1960’s when Georgia is married to Al and they live in El Paso, this is when Georgia quit working her legal secretary job and let go of the Mexican maid to stay home with her kids while her husband Al worked as a newscaster on KDBC TV.
This is when Georgia believes that marijuana can heal a grieving world, when Georgia believes that marijuana is truth and if President Johnson would only smoke a few joints he would see God and the Vietnam War would blow away in the wind. If people would smoke marijuana they would stop lying and tell the truth, and if people were only honest the world’s problems wouldn’t be completely solved but they’d become much less terrifying.
This is when Georgia has artist friends in El Paso that can’t make a living from their art so they become marijuana dealers, and these are friends who once thought art would liberate the world but now believe marijuana can, they are dealers now with a cause who deal in no other drugs but marijuana and see it as salvation as they slide through remote mountain supply trails across the border into Mexico and come back to knock on strangers’ doors and offer whoever answers a joint as if it were a free Bible.
Madrid’s in El Paso, short and stocky Madrid, he’s at Fort Hood, Georgia’s younger brother is stationed now after his one year tour of duty in Vietnam, Madrid in his mid-twenties who as a teenage boy used to play for hours with knives on his bed, opening and closing the pocketknives, sheathing and unsheathing from leather cases the hunting knives, turning the blades in his hands, over and over, admiring the weight and the sharpness and the glint in the afternoon light through the window.
Madrid the younger brother at Fort Bliss after his tour, after his duty on helicopters that went out and picked up the wounded from the rice fields of Vietnam, after a duty on helicopters where they counted the dead on both sides in the rice fields so there are more dead of the enemy than dead on the US side, this is Madrid after a tour of duty on Blackhawks where they have picked up suspected Vietcong and threw them out in mid air when they failed to confess to questions thrown at them in English.
This is Madrid the younger brother at Fort Bliss in 1972, saying that he was not a coward, that he was a kind of a hero the times he refused to follow the officer’s orders and shoot prisoners, to shoot them in the wind and noise and confusion of the whirling helicopter before take off.
Yes, this is Madrid, still a private, who while coming off a duty flight in Vietnam would walk by the commanding officer without saluting, this is Madrid who found himself in solitary in the stockade, this is Madrid who said he got his mind screwed up doing LSD in Vietnam, or sometimes he said before, while in high school in Oklahoma playing drums in a rock and roll band.
This is Madrid at Fort Bliss and he’s going to be discharged in ten months, he’s met a woman from Juarez, she wants to get married, this woman Erica, she is poor but she is kind and he thinks that she is beautiful, she is working in a glove factory in Juarez and her parents live in Mexico City, she came up to the border to live with a cousin.
This is Madrid going AWOL across the Rio Grande into Juarez to be with his girlfriend, this is Madrid nobody knows where he is, somewhere in Juarez making love to his girlfriend who is 15, he thought she was older, he met her in an El Paso bar on Doniphan, they stay in a hotel off the main square in old downtown Juarez, listening to the children playing in the halls of the hotel late at night, they go to Spanish movies on the square and then make love, make love in their hotel room under a pink light Madrid bought for fun at a Kresge’s store in downtown El Paso.
And this is Georgia worried about her brother who nobody has heard from in ten days, this is Georgia worried he has died of dehydration by a railroad track out in the desert that surrounds the two cities as Neil Cassidy died near San Miguel of exposure, Neil Cassidy being the real person in her favorite novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac, the book that inspired Georgia to race time trials in the Franklin Mountains in the Morgan sports car at times faster than her husband Al’s, and this is Georgia worried her brother’s been locked up in a Mexican jail and where will she get the money to hire a lawyer to bribe him out, this is Georgia with three young children and a husband who broadcasts soldiers missing on TV channel 4 at night at six while she is cooking supper.
Yes this is Georgia, curly brown-haired Georgia, staying home with her children in a small house in Kern Place on Isabella not liking the life she finds herself in, this is Georgia mad at her TV husband who goes drinking on nights in Juarez, who goes to Juarez across the Rio Grande Bridge to the Cadillac Bar with his newsroom buddies and stays with whores, her husband who sometimes passes out at the curb when dropped back off back home in the taxi and sleeps the night till morning in the front yard’s ragged dry grass.
This is Georgia who believes in truth and honesty, who one Monday two years ago took her kids and drove up to see about joining a commune outside Santa Fe but was refused because the kids would drain too much of their subsistence living without making a contribution, this is Georgia believer in marijuana and truth, and her brother Madrid telephones from Juarez early on a Friday night and says he can’t talk long he needs money, he really needs her help.
And this is Georgia saying back on the phone that he needs to be truthful, that he needs to turn himself in, that he needs to come clean, that it’s impossible to win against the US military, knowing that because of the marijuana, because of her friends the artist dealers, that her phone makes odd noises and is probably tapped, this is Georgia keeping her brother on the phone talking, not wanting him to hang up the phone in Juarez, so he can be located and picked up by the Mexican police and brought to the border and turned over to the U.S. military police on the bridge over the Rio Grande where the US and Mexico meet.
And this is Madrid two decades later in a prison in California, and this is not the first time Madrid has been in prison in California, this is Madrid, a Hell’s Angel now that got caught by the California police for shooting an old man in the foot at a corner when driving by on the Harley, this is Madrid doing the initiation ritual into the Angels by shooting somebody.
This is Madrid choosing to shoot an old man in the foot rather than shooting to kill, and being caught by the police and tried and sent to prison, and this is Madrid who has a daughter now by a retarded woman, and this is Georgia going to California by bus, still a pot smoker, still a dreamer, yes this is Georgia visiting her brother in 1994, and this is Madrid asking Georgia to take his son to Texas, and this is Georgia talking to a judge, asking for custody, to take the child back to Texas that is her brother’s home state, and this is the judge listening, ruminating, and then denying her request, saying she lacks the income with only low social security benefits to provide for the boy Lawrence named after Madrid’s father who’d grown up a sharecropper in Georgia, and this is Georgia struggling to tell her brother when visiting him at San Quentin that she did the best she could but must now go back home where she lives outside Austin now on ten acres with her grown children, not knowing for sure how long her brother will remain locked up, if he’ll get parole, or if on parole he might be transferred to Texas, not knowing what will happen to her brother’s child and she’s still smoking marijuana, still believing in peace and love.
And this is her second husband, Chuck, who married her in 1976 and never believed in marijuana and rarely took a drag and then they divorced in 1991. Chuck writes this down because, though he likes the truth he’s found that the truth may not always set you free, and he found it hard to be with Georgia in her chaotic life, but she lives deep within his soul and heart.
And this is Georgia married for a third time, married to another alcoholic named Leroy who spent his time building a house he never finished on their land, yes, this is Leroy who was unfairly charged with murder, the only black man in Caldwell County, but because Georgia worked as a legal secretary long ago and learned to write brilliantly, she knows how talk to the police and deal with the media so the murder charge gets dismissed, and this is Georgia telling all her friends that Leroy was her best love but then Leroy died of a heart attack in the home he built for her, and this is Georgia running a fireworks stand up on a busy farm to market road with her three grown children, having fun making a little money, and this is Georgia who is seventy-nine now and has survived a stroke and later got out just in time when her trailer burned down. This is Georgia who lost her dog and all her belongings in the fire but has insurance and got the trailer replaced, and this is Georgia helping in the day to day raising of two grandchildren, still harvesting marijuana for her own pleasure off of tiny plots secreted amongst the mesquite on her rural land, still laughing and making jokes, carrying joyfully on.
Chuck Taylor lives in the hill country of Texas and spends his free time canoeing spring fed rivers and hiking limestone trails. He’s published two memoirs, two novels, and eight poetry books. His favorite book of poems he’s published is called At the Heart. His favorite published novel, Drifter’s Story.