(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator recalls a moment during his childhood in Texas when he and his young girlfriend played under the house, and she gave him his first look at female genitalia. He then remembers his uncle, a man he recalls as “insane, crazy.” The uncle’s madness manifested itself in bouts in which he would yank his earlobes violently and curse at people obscenely while remarking on imaginary scandalous events of their past. The narrator particularly remembers the moment when his uncle called the town mayor “a sonofabitch and a son of a whore, plus a bastard” and then accused the mayor’s wife of being unfaithful by taking up with the mayor’s cousin.

As the uncle’s favorite relative, the boy often saw his disquieting episodes. In addition to being mad, the uncle also had a drinking problem. According to the boy’s grandmother, the uncle’s madness began when he drank the remains of a bottle of beer “that had been laced with a special potion, a potion so powerful it would cause insanity.” At the local bar, which was the uncle’s favorite hangout, the townsmen enjoyed watching his episodes, hooting and hollering as he paced back and forth screaming his insults. Unable afterward to recall what he had done, he quickly became gentle and docile. The man’s behavior naturally embarrassed the boy and his sister—who lost her first suitor because of his lunacy and because the young man “would never call on a girl who had heard so many curse words in her young life.”

The narrator reflects on the joys of small-town life, when things were simple. Even when his uncle died, there was no need to learn the cause. In a small town, people die: That is all one needs to know. While the uncle was alive, he had only one set of tasks...

(The entire section is 717 words.)