I Am Marcus Fox — Chapter One
Today, I am thrilled to share the opening pages of I Am Marcus Fox. The full novel is available at Amazon.com. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the read!
Sensitivity note: I Am Marcus Fox is a novel intended for adult audiences.
I was born in the back of a stolen, horseless horse trailer as it barreled down a bumpy Texas road on a bitch-hot August afternoon in 1967. As the legend goes, my so-called parents were heap deep in the middle of fleeing the long arm of the law for the umpteenth time when I burst into the world, flailing and wailing.
Etched in my memory is the image of dear old dad’s curled-up hook-hands as he clutched an imaginary steering wheel high above my head. I was four years old and this was our nightly routine.
“I turned the truck hard right. You see, Marcus? Like this!”
As he relived the incredible experience of my preposterous birth, he jerked his tight fists hard right and down, snatching his own perception of the past with a firm grip. The mad retrospection shook like a ravenous beast in his hands.
What little light there was in that particular sleazy motel room came from a souring red bulb outside our window. It illuminated the wild, eye-of-the-tiger look my father wore so well.
“Your momma was bouncin’ so fast and peculiar back there. But that didn’t stop her from shootin’ her pistol out the back of the trailer, no sir! I held control of that truck the best I could over all them damn bumps in the road ’til whammo! We hit one hell of a pothole and the trailer went wide and nearly came off her hinges! But you know what? It was that miracle maneuver that fooled them sumbitch cops sure enough so that, Lord have mercy, they veered right at that fork and we soared left! Hooee that was fun!”
Being far too young to appreciate the full extent of idiocy involved, I was swept away by the incredible adventure of it all. Later in life, I would come to picture my mother as she truly was on that day: terrible, foul, and sweating like a sick pig in all her pregnant horridness — pushing me out, hating me for coming, hating him for putting me in her, one hand blasting away with that .44 (shooting wildly through the dirty air-hole slots in the side of the trailer) while her other hand somehow managed to hold on to the rails of that bucking, aluminum bronco. As they made their most infamous of escapes, she’d been doing her best to keep her feet from sliding through loose hay and horse shit.
“So we sped outta there like a couple of crazy cai-otes and by the time them sumbitches turned ’round to get back on our trail, we was long gone.” He paused here. He always paused here. “We was just — that — fast.” His hands slapped together for emphasis.
“Papa, I come then?” I asked in my tender four-year-old voice.
“Almost there, Marcus. Now hush up good and listen!” The man wasn’t much of a father; in fact, he was in the running (if not the hands-down, blue-ribbon winner) for world’s worst dad of all history of infinite time. But I’ll tell you this, he could tell a walloping good story.
“Your momma was screamin’ so loud you’d think the devil himself was back there stickin’ a pitchfork in her buttcheeks. As the police was still scratchin’ their heads and tryin’ to fig’r where we went, I must’ve hit a rock or somethin’ because the trailer, she hitched, jerked, jumped, you know, right off the ground like. In the rearview I saw your momma; she was suspended there in mid-air. It was like time was movin’ in slow motion. And I swear to you, boy, as much as I’m standin’ here tellin’ ya, your momma was floatin’ for five whole seconds. I counted them as they went by. In my head, you know, not out loud. It was like: Tick — What the fuck is she doing in the fucken air? Tock — Holy shit. She’s flyin’ like a goddanged bird! Tick — Oh hell no! What is all that gunk fallin’ outta her? Tock — Baby pops out. That’s you, boy. And she grabbed ya! Tick — Gravity takes over. Yup, there she goes. Tock — Clunk!”
Billy Fox, my first father, laughed his fool head off at the memory of his partner’s body slamming down on the trailer’s floor. I will say this: Calliope Fox, my first mother, held me close, suspended in the air, and protected me during those first fleeting seconds of my life. After that sole instance of forced maternity, she’d had enough.
“Wow,” young me said, humbled, as always, by the story of my birth.
“It was all I could do just to keep the pedal to the metal!” He was usually sweating by now. Intensity drove his pores wild. “I shouted through the truck’s back window, ‘Hey Calliope! How’s that kid of ours?’ And that’s when she told me you had yourself a little pecker and that you was a boy and that I needed to shut the fuck up and keep drivin’.”
“And you went BEEP BEEP!” I exclaimed.
“And I went BEEP BEEP! I laid on that mighty horn all the way to Douglas County! Yeeeehawwww!”
As bedtime stories go, it wasn’t the most appropriate for a young’un. But to my father’s favor, it had a little bit of everything: truth, fiction, comedy, adventure, birth, life, mysticism, a police chase, and animal feces. The only missing element was death. I’d have a lifetime to fill that hole myself.
Billy Fox was comprised of adrenaline, piss, and violence. He lived on the edge. Right there on it. He handled most everything that came at him with a brazen criminality most thugs never dared. By the time he met his partner in passion, he’d already racked up a long list of felonies. He was wanted in a dozen counties for bank robberies and grand theft auto. But none of that fazed Calliope. In fact, she got off on it. She saw Billy’s sinful record as an opportunity for a rush she could really sink her teeth into; he was an aspiration she strived to live up to. They were connected on the basest level of human depravity. In short, they were made for each other, most likely forged in hell.
If he was in fact born in inferno, Billy brought demons, both figurative and literal, up into the world with him. One of his ghouls, in particular, was a moaning, howling ghostly figure of a woman that would visit him throughout his life, whenever death was near. He told me of the time he first encountered his Banshee. She was hovering and crying right outside his window when he was a young boy. The very next morning, he said, his brother tripped and fell down the basement stairs and broke his neck. From that day forward, he prayed he’d never come across the likes of the Banshee again. But she haunted his psyche from time to time, in his dreams and in his life. Hence, she haunted me. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well the night he first told me that tall tale, nor ever since.
Was it true? Was anything that came out of his mouth true? Hard to say. My father was terribly proud of his snake tongue. He said that spinning a “false truth” was in his blood, and I guess maybe it was. The genius of his lies, he revealed, was that he never deviated from them. I must have heard the story of my birth a thousand times before they got rid of me, and the damn yarn was exactly the same on time one as it was on time fifty-six, and as it was the last time. Never a deviation. Which means, either my father had worked up each intricate detail of my birth day fabrication prior to the first telling, or every word of it was true. Heh. Yeah. Try living inside that impossible vortex.
He never lied to Calliope, though. At least that’s what he claimed. During the early days of their courtship, he’d confessed his affection for weaving tall tales and told her that if she didn’t like it, she could “ride a bloated seahorse to the moon.” On hearing this, she proceeded to knock two of his teeth out with a nearby crowbar. Once the stars faded from his vision, she was standing over him with an outstretched hand to help him up.
“And that was the moment I fell in love with her,” he told me. Liar?
I will never forget, though, the most graphic occasion I witnessed of her calling him out for what he was. It was during one of their short, periodic bursts of intercourse. They had their awful trysts at least three times a day in those, my formative years. The bed on the other side of the thin wall separating our rooms bang bang banged into my already-brutalized consciousness. When we stayed at those cheap roadside motels, they would always spring for two adjoining rooms so that she wouldn’t have to sleep near me.
“I love you I love you I love you!” he roared with whatever passed for passion in his mind.
“You’re a fucking liarrrrr, Billllyyyyy!” she squawked back. And he plowed her.
Billy and Calliope Fox were known in the media as the “Texas Terrors” because, well, they terrorized Texas from 1965–1973. An eight-year span of thieving and murder. Six of which were spent hopelessly burdened with an unwelcome, unloved anchor — me.
Just when the legend of Billy and Calliope was gaining momentum as a force you would never want to reckon with, she went and got herself knocked up with yours truly.
On one blessed occasion, my father confided in me while the engine of some recently stolen getaway car purred and my mother robbed a backwoods gas station. He spun the charming anecdote of the Lady Calliope who desired to have a back-alley abortion in order to “rid themselves of the buzzkill growing inside her.” Harsh. Billy said she was convinced that a baby would “weigh them down and slop them up.”
I was born in ’67. Abortion didn’t become legal until ’73. But I’m sure she would have found a way to get the job done, had he not put his foot down and saved me from the most premature of deaths. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for the old man who disallowed some disgraced quack to prematurely cut me out of her. I am living proof that Calliope came to understand that this was the one instance she would not be able to coerce my father into her way of thinking. She resigned herself to carrying me to term and tried not to lend it too much thought. She went about her daily business as if nothing had changed, even though I was an unavoidable reckoning just over the horizon. Four months pregnant and she continued carjacking and robbing liquor stores and delis. At five months, they took three bars and a small-town bank for a sum total of $8,000. The fatter she got, the harder she got. The Texas Terrors were raising havoc from Austin to Houston to some other, lesser-known Texas town and back again. They were unstoppable. Even when she was just shy of nine months pregnant, Calliope insisted on robbing a roadside café. When her water broke mid-robbery, she yelled “Shit pirates!”, accidentally shot a waitress in the foot, and waddled out to the horse trailer they’d just boosted.
“Let’s go, Billy! This son of a bitch baby’s a’ comin’!”
Then I was born on the run. Which I already told you about.
It is a widely agreed-upon fact that we are all, partially or wholly, for better or worse, products of those who brought us into the world. There’s nothing you can ever do to change that. You are who you are. My mother may have been an uncaring tormentor and my father may have been a scoundrel, murderer, thief, and liar. The two of them together could quite possibly have been the worst criminals the state of Texas ever saw … but none of that matters. Because I am not them.
I am not my first parents. I am neither Billy nor Calliope. I am Marcus Fox, reformed big game hunter, renegade getaway driver, your new best friend, and one hell of a son of a bitch.
This is my story. Not theirs.
I’ve got my own problems.
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Thanks for reading! The rest of Chapter One and the entire novel are available at Amazon.com.