Father Percy and Milky Steve

Delta Short Father Percy and Milky Steve

WARNING: This story, though ultimately shrouded in redemption, does portray some characters in their basest state, including coarse language, non-gratuitous graphic sexuality, and internal dialogue and behaviors, which include obvious incidents of racism, sexism, and behaviors unbecoming those seen in a moral and polite society.

Please read no malicious intent into the author’s purpose for developing these flawed characters other than to present to the reader believable Delta characters–always fodder for a tale told by an idiot, signifying very little, other than just a Delta tale worth telling.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to people or places, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

William Prentiss, with the assistance of his able and noble bride of mythical proportions, a fine meta-muse named Madge Marley Howell, has begun thinking about the “Great Southern Novel.” He will be describing characters rooted deeply in the Delta psyche.

He knows no more about them than does the reader. They reveal themselves line-by-line and serif-by-serif. William is likely more expectant than the reader to find out how his developing characters will behave.

At what point will plot be made manifest? It depends. In describing the characters and an incident or two from their past and present, Mr. Prentiss believes the story line will become clearer as the morning sun burns away the dross like dew on Saint Augustine.

All characters are fictional, but how could a Delta writer not use real-life folks and genuine incidents as the skeletons awaiting the meat and sinew of prose and verse? For a better understanding of this character, read Carlene and Grinnel.

 Father Percy and Milky Steve

Greenway Johnson, matron and scion of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in the Mississippi Delta, was still re-working her invitation list for the Ides of March fete, held annually at her opulent summer home located on Sun Lake, about 20 miles north of Greendale.

The A-list, as her coveted party lineup was referred to, by her and others, already had more than 200 names on it. One group of folks not in question was the Woodford family. Old man Woodford, formally known as Mr. Owen, had been an interest of Greenway’s back in the day. They had never been tender to one another; they just used each other to meet some base needs, mostly because they were from the same ilk–tough, confident, smart, hardworking and undetached.

He had never been too rough with her, just rough enough. They knew it could never continue–both were married–land and reputations rested on those nuptials. Neither cared for reputation, except when it had a deleterious effect on net worth. Both loved money, but power was the thing. Neither one could understand why their children were so screwed up.

Owen, she would never call him Mr., had one pathetic son living in the area. Big Percy was not overly bright, selfish as hell, detested work of any kind, and was married to Stella, an archetypical airhead, who loved shoes, purses, and the shallowest forms of communication.

Greenway thought of seducing him just for the hell of it, but she knew he was not the man his daddy was, plus he likely would not even work hard enough to please her, he was that shiftless. Big Percy had two sons and a daughter. The oldest was Percy Jr., an imperious, insolent son of a bitch, and a priest with latent homosexual tendencies, maybe without the latent. Greenway could care less what his sexual predilections were, she just couldn’t stand listening to the arrogant, lazy bastard in the pulpit every Sunday.

Henry, the younger, had been an affable, agreeable lad as a child. Greenway would have liked to have been able to ascertain his bedroom muster, but there was almost a 40-year difference in age. Though not as tough as his grandfather, he nonetheless had been winsome and funny. Now, Henry was a pastor with a church full of unseemly folks. She had heard he had found Jesus. Well, she still liked him better than his contemptible brother.

Steve was milky. Whatever the hell that meant. He loved bombarding Percy with thoughts of inadequacy. Percy was a drip, a trip, and a boil on the ass of humanity. Milky Steve was ashamed of Percy. The pathetic peacock made him want to vomit.

Steve hated Percy’s fake religious beliefs. He knew intimately the sickness Percy carried around in his tepid soul. What a fucking loser. The preacher, as he disdainfully referred to Percy, thought God crowned him with an intellect for the ages. Percy didn’t know shit, but he didn’t realize it, too caught up in his own press.

Percy was weak; Milky Steve was strong. They became aware of one another when Percy was about six-years old. Percy had been sexually abused by a visiting uncle, his mother Stella’s younger brother Bruce, who babysat Henry and Percy for over a month while Stella and Big Percy vacationed all over Mexico and Central America.

It began on day one with Unca Bruce tickling him, quickly proceeding to Percy acting like a self-loathing wimp, not able to tell Unca Bruce no. Well, Unca Bruce “got his,” yes he sure did. Milky Steve made sure of that.

Milky Steve relished reminding Percy what a little girl he was, but Percy would never say a word. He took Milky Steve’s abuse the same way he took Bruce’s–silent as a lamb to the slaughter. Now look at him, a lazy, pompous preacher who incessantly lies through his eyeteeth. Hell, he doesn’t even believe the very gospel he preaches.

Percy’s silence had more to do with shame than fear. Oh sure, Percy was “scared to death” of Bruce, but Percy knew Milky Steve’s little whispers possessed merit. He should have said no. He should have…, but he was six. His grandfather would have killed Bruce with his bare hands had he known, but he would have blamed Percy for not raising more of a ruckus when Bruce was messing with him. Percy figured it wasn’t worth the mention.

Percy could let it go, he thought, but Milky Steve kept reminding him of it. In fact, it seemed Percy and Milky Steve’s relationship was based on the abuse. If he would just go away and let Percy live his life, he knew he could be a fine priest, the finest. Even a bishopric was not out of the question.

Percy was smart, socially inclined, and well met, as long as an aloof smugness qualified as well met. Why shouldn’t Percy be a little arrogant? He had a seminary degree, was extremely well read, and came from money–his family still had a working cotton plantation. He loved the liberal spirit that heavy money could afford.

Percy cared deeply for the disenfranchised: preaching about them often, spending time with them never. Other folks, less gifted and intellectual, could do that. Was it not true that God gave different gifts to his people? Percy figured his gifts were not heavily laced with a desire to spend time with the very ones his parishioners were browbeaten into serving. Percy needed to be practicing his sermon delivery during his lengthy, scheduled, daily quiet time. Time used mostly for sleeping, reading, and walking their land.

Henry, Percy’s younger brother, had his own ministry. He didn’t even wear robes and his little congregation worshipped in an old farmhouse on the Percy Plantation. Percy was not a racist, not by a long shot, or so he figured, but he sure didn’t understand black folks, lower-class white folks and a handful of “his type people” all worshipping together under one uninspiring roof.

Hell, tractor parts and grimy chemical buckets were splayed all over one of the bedrooms and not a pulpit of any sort could be found within the whitewashed, old clapboard house. Percy figured Henry just didn’t get how God wants his ministers to conduct themselves worthy of the robes Henry chose not to wear. This same Henry, who had raised more hell than a Huguenot-sized family full of frat boys, would later “find God” after failing out of Ole Miss three years in a row.

Percy knew he had never shamed his parents, not really, not like Henry did, but his folks, including his grandfather had always favored Henry. Percy’s grandfather, Mr. Owen, couldn’t stand Percy, not since he was a toddler. The kids, grandkids, farm help, and damn near anybody with the gift of language called his grandfather Mr. Owen. Hell, Percy’s own sorry-ass dad, Big Percy, called his own father Mr. Owen.

Mr. Owen thought his hard-nosed demeanor and way-overboard work ethic qualified him as a Big Daddy in these parts. Fuck Big Daddy. The worms were going to chew on his ass just like everybody else’s one day. Percy hated him, with a passion, but he didn’t want to stick an ice pick in his eye like Milky Steve kept instructing him to.

Why couldn’t Milky Steve go bother Henry, or Mr. Owen, or Big Percy, or Stella? No, he chose to make it his sole mission in life to keep Percy stirred up. If Percy believed in prayer, he would have asked God to help him, but Percy was more deist than theist, figuring God created the world, but left his inadequate creation in charge of running it. Henry was a theist; the fool actually believed that God really spoke to men and women today who spoke to Him.

Percy could pray a beautiful pulpit prayer and even in his faux quiet time, he meditated about the grandeur of the universe, usually falling asleep quickly while thinking. Over the years, during the few times he actually began to talk in earnest to whatever constituted God, Milky Steve would start in on him, laughing at his reaching out to a myth.

He should take control and tell Milky Steve to shut the hell up, but the whisperer of all things foul knew what had happened to Unca Bruce, and he would not let him forget it. Percy wished he knew how to silence him. If only he knew how!

Milky Steve would tell Percy one minute that he needed to turn himself in, then he would tell him that it was a violation of God’s law to kill a man in cold blood. Sometimes he would tell Percy that what he did was a good thing and he should be proud of killing a piece of shit like Bruce. Percy was confused and it seemed his inability to deal with his past and with Milky Steve’s constant haranguing would be the undoing of him.

He thought about killing himself, often. One minute, Milky Steve would tell him that taking his own life was the only thing that could save him from himself, and then he would tell him that it was a sin to take a life, even if it was his own. Percy just wanted to know what the hell Milky Steve wanted from him. Percy wanted some peace.

Percy knew Henry would turn himself in had he done it. The younger brother’s religious beliefs compelled him to confess all his sins before God and man. Percy just wasn’t up to such a populist notion. Had Henry been six-years old like Percy, instead of two years younger, it might have been him who had the choice to tell a grown man no. Percy figured it was not worth dwelling on, at least not for a few more minutes.

Thankfully, the body had never been found. Alistair’s pond, named for a relative on his mother’s side, was about three acres in size and located on the south side of the 10,000-acre plantation. There was no entrance to it except on an old-logging road that ran through a cottonwood grove laden with deer and wildlife. Rarely used out of hunting season, the single-lane road ran almost a mile before it dead-ended at the pond’s edge.

It seemed a lot farther when he was six. Monroe, Big Percy’s driver who was married to their cook Baby, loaded Bruce’s body in his old pickup and hauled Percy and the lifeless Unca Bruce to the pond’s edge. Monroe climbed into his Grumman canoe, where he paddled the body to the deepest spot in the pond, chaining something resembling an anvil around the dead man’s body. Percy didn’t have to help, but Monroe made him watch and understand.

Percy wanted to kill him, but he didn’t, all at the same time. It was Milky Steve who had him do it. Bruce had hurt him the night before and Milky Steve kept telling Percy that he was girly and that he liked Bruce messing with him. He didn’t like it and he was not girly. He was just afraid of Bruce, and Bruce had threatened to pay some local kids to beat him up if he ever mentioned it. Also, he told Percy he would kill Monroe in front of Baby, and then he would kill her too.

When Baby was in town buying groceries the morning before Big Percy and Stella came home from traveling, Percy–at Milky Steve’s insistence–grabbed an old ice pick out of the hardware drawer. It was about six inches long, rusty, and had a fading, red, wooden handle. Unca Bruce had fallen asleep on the couch in the downstairs den. He had consumed four Bloody Marys before midmorning and probably had smoked some pot on the back porch.

Percy didn’t want to kill anybody, but Milky Steve was insistent and Percy was tired of Unca Bruce using him to meet his needs. Percy was tired of hurting and just wanted to be left alone.

Though Unca Bruce was leaving tomorrow, he had told him that he would be back and often. He had warned him again last night not to tell anybody. Percy just couldn’t envision years of visits from Unca Bruce. Even at six years of age, he knew it would never end. Even at six, he knew he wanted his life back.

Unca Bruce was not messing with Henry, Percy was sure of this. Henry must have been too young, being only four years old. Percy wondered how long his mother’s brother had been messing with little boys, or was he the first. The more Milky Steve scolded him for being a loser, the more riled up Percy became.

Percy paused for a long time in the hallway outside the den. He listened for the longest time for any unusual sounds emanating from the room or from outside the house. It appeared to be just Percy and Bruce.

Upon entering the den, Percy wasted no time plunging the ice pick into Bruce’s right eye. He quickly pulled it out and plunged it into the left eye. Bruce screamed the most ungodly scream Percy had every heard. It sounded like a rabbit he had heard one night that had been snatched out of a cage on their back porch by a raccoon. The sound still haunted him nightly, during even the deepest points of sleep, always leaving him restive and troubled.

The six-year old did not stop with the two ice pick plunges. He grabbed a two-pound jade frog from the end table and began bashing Unca Bruce’s head in with both hands, caving in his forehead like an overripe melon that had been dropped onto the driveway from a second floor window. It was a shame Milky Steve didn’t see it; he was nowhere to be found, but he would be proud, wouldn’t he?

Percy couldn’t seem to stop crushing the melon; his arms would not stop their downward motion. Percy felt his wrists being grabbed. They were pinned above his head by one, large, black hand. The other strong yet gentle hand wrestled the frog from his cramping fingers.

Turning around, he collapsed into the arms of Monroe. The last thing Percy remembers is looking into Monroe’s demonstrably Christian and sympathetic eyes, where he saw no judgment. Percy woke up to the jostling of the springs on Monroe’s only seat in his Ford pickup truck. He was leaning against Monroe’s right arm; his head hurt and everything he saw was shrouded with a clear red film.

Percy asked him what had happened. Monroe told him that he had killed Miss Stella’s brother. He couldn’t remember it, not really. Painful flashes of his red, cramped hands, flashed before his closed eyes. He knew he had probably done it. Percy just needed to know if he should tell Monroe what Bruce had done to him.

He began, “Unca Bruce hurt me.” Monroe interrupted him, telling him that he had suspected Mr. Bruce was not being Christian toward him. Monroe explained to Percy that God does not like men who hurt children and that the Bible says if someone takes your eye out then he should have one of his removed.

Monroe explained to the little boy that what he did was not right, but it wasn’t wrong either. God would forgive him if he asked, but he would have to spend a lifetime trying to deal with it. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was doable. Monroe told him not to tell anybody what happened as long as the earth remained.

The driver and commonsensical mentor prayed with Percy on the spot, then he wrapped up Mr. Bruce in an old horse blanket and easily carried him to the bed of the truck. His wife, Baby, came in and started to fawn all over Percy, but Monroe told her to go back to the kitchen until they had left. Then she was to come out and clean up the mess.

The body had never been found. The pond had 15-20 alligators in it that Mr. Owen brought in from Louisiana back in the early 70’s for beaver control. There was probably not much left of Unca Bruce. Monroe and Baby told Miss Stella and Big Percy that Mr. Bruce had left in a hurry, just saying that he had to go westward. Miss Stella was worried, for a while, particularly when she never heard from him again, but like most simple, sickly creatures with cushy lives, she quickly forgot all about him.

Milky Steve began telling Percy that he should have been able to kill that prick with one stick of the pick. Percy could never win. Later, he would tell Percy that he was a murderer and he had forfeited his right to live.

When Father Percy, as he liked to be called, opened his invitation to the Ides of March party, he felt a sinking feeling deep in the pit of his stomach, the same place he used to feel sick when Unca Bruce would turn the handle on his bedroom door late at night. He knew Milky Steve would have something to say. He always did.


Share and Enjoy !

Friends of the Delta Bohemian®


  1. Just like a car crash. I was horrified, but I couldn’t turn away. Too many F-words. Except for that, it was positively riveting. You’ve got the makings of a really juicy novel . I’m not a book editor or even an english major, but these characters are interesting to me.

    Be careful about using the name Percy. Remember there is a very powerful family named Percy from Greenville. I would hate to see you get sued over some fictional characters.

    • Laz, this is a character tease for the novel. Every week we will post a new character (or two) that is going to be in the book. Glad you are enjoying the setup.

      Percy and Steve are rife with inner dialogue; they are complicated-to put it mldly. Heavy baggage.

  2. They are from Percy,MS. Just south of Hollandale, off hwy 61. Not Greenville. Percy store is still there. Leroy ran things in “The Queen City” but was not from there. Pick up a copy of “Rising Tide”.

    Still developing my response W.P. This chapter currently has me stumped. Gotta re- read and study a little more on this one. Will get back with ‘YA!!!

  3. Renee Fite says:

    Wow! Was intrigued by the “warning” then drawn in as though hearing a secret whispered I didn’t want to know but had to understand. The characters are very real, like cousins we want to know better, but are a little concerned about because something just doesn’t seem quite right. It has the feel of the Delta with universal topics of childhood innocence disrupted and families taking care of their own- no matter what. Can’t wait to read more- delightfully dark.

  4. W.P.
    First off. Steve needs the “shit” kicked out of him.Ta’hell with Steve. I would prefer Percy handle this himself, but Monroe would do a much more proficent job of ass kicking Steve. Monroe and Baby are the Hero’s here. Bruce is worm,crappie,brim, grass carp,bass,gar and flathead catfish-meat! I am not convinced each specie will eat a S.O.B. like Bruce. We shall see.

    The Woodford’s are “F—ed-Up As A Box of Brim Hooks”.

Speak Your Mind