Forrest Gump Chapter Twenty-Five
It was a very nice day in June when we figgered it was time to start our first srimp harvest. Me an Sue got up with the sun an went down to the pond an dragged a net acrost it till it got stuck on somethin. Sue tried to pull it loose first, then I tried, then we tried together till we finally figgered out the net wadn’t stuck – it was jus so full of srimp we couldn’t move it!
By that evenin we had pulled in about three hundrit pouns of srimp, an we spent the night sortin em out in various sizes.
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Nex mornin we put the srimp in baskets an took em down to our little rowboat. They weighed so much we damn near tumped over on the way up to Bayou La Batre.
They was a seafood packin house there an Sue an me hauled the srimp from the dock to the weighin room. After everthin is toted up, we got ourselfs a check for eight hundrit, sixty-five dollars! It is about the first honest money I ever made since I played harmonica for The Cracked Eggs.
Ever day for nearly two weeks Sue an me harvested srimp an brought em in to the packin house. When it was finally over, we had made a total of nine thousand, seven hundrit dollars an twenty-six cents. The srimp bidness was a success!
Well, let me tell you – it were a happy occasion. We took up a bushel basket of srimp to Bubba’s daddy an he was real happy an say he is proud of us an that he wished Bubba were there too. Then me an Sue caught the bus up to Mobile to celebrate. First thing I done was gone to see my mama at the roomin house, an when I tole her about the money an all, sure enough, she be cloudin up again. “Oh, Forrest,” she say, “I am so proud of you – doin so good an all for bein retarded.”
Anyhow, I tole Mama about my plan, which was that nex year we was gonna have three times as many srimp ponds, an that we needed somebody to watch over the money an look after our expenses an all, an I axed if she would do that.
“You mean I gotta move all the way down to Bayou La Batre?” Mama say. “Ain’t nothin goin on down there. What am I gonna do with mysef?”
“Count money,” I says.
After that, me an Sue went downtown an got ourselfs a big meal. I gone down to the docks an bought Sue a big bunch of bananas, an then went an got mysef the biggest steak dinner I could find, with mashed potatoes an green peas an everthin. Then I decided to go drink me a beer someplace an jus as I am walkin by this dark ole saloon near the waterfront, I hear all this loud cussin an shoutin an even after all these years, I knowed that voice. I stuck my head in the door, an sure enough, it were ole Curtis from the University!
Curtis were very happy to see me, callin me a asshole an a cocksucker an a motherfucker an everthin else nice he could think of. As it turns out, Curtis had gone on to play pro football with the Washington Redskins after he lef the University, an then he done got put on waivers after bitin the team owner’s wife on the ass at a party. He played for a couple of other teams for a few years, but after that he got hissef a job on the docks as a longshoreman which, he say, was suitable for the amount of education he got at the University.
Anyway, Curtis bought me a couple of beers an we talked about ole times. The Snake, he say, had played quarterback for the Green Bay Packers till he got caught drinkin a entire quart of Polish vodka durin halftime in the Minnesota Vikings game. Then Snake went an played for the New Yawk Giants till he called a Statue-of-Liberty play in the third quarter of the Rams game. The Giants’ coach say ain’t nobody used a Statue-of-Liberty play in pro ball since nineteen hundrit thirty-one, an that Snake ain’t got no bidness callin one now. But actually, Curtis say, it wadn’t no Statue-of-Liberty play at all. The truth, accordin to Curtis, was that Snake was so spaced out on dope that when he faded back for a pass he done completely forgot to thow the ball, an the lef end jus happen to see what is goin on, an run aroun behin him an take the ball away. Anyhow, Curtis say the Snake is now assistant coach for a tinymight team someplace in Georgia.
After a couple of beers, I got a idea, an tole Curtis about it.
“How’d you like to come work for me?” I axed.
Curtis be cussin an hollerin but after a minute or two I figger out he is tryin to axe me what I want him to do, so I tole him about the srimp bidness an that we was gonna expand our operation. He cuss an holler some more, but the gist of what he is sayin is “yes.”
So all thru that summer an fall an the next spring we be workin hard, me an Sue an Mama an Curtis – an I even had a job for Bubba’s daddy. That year we made nearly thirty thousan dollars an are gettin bigger all the time. Things couldn’t of been goin better – Mama ain’t bawlin hardly at all, an one day we even seen Curtis smile once – altho he stopped an started cussin again soon as he saw us watchin. For me, tho, it ain’t quite as happy as it might be, cause I am thinkin a lot about Jenny an what has become of her.
One day, I jus decided to do somethin bout it. It was a Sunday, an I got dressed up an caught the bus up to Mobile an went over to Jenny’s mama’s house. She was settin inside, watchin tv, when I knocked on the door.
When I tole her who I was, she say, “Forrest Gump! I jus can’t believe it. C’mon in!”
Well, we set there a wile an she axed bout Mama an what I’d been doin an everthin, an finally I axed about Jenny.
“Oh, I really don’t hear from her much these days,” Mrs. Curran say. “I think they livin someplace in North Carolina.”
“She got a roomate or somethin?” I axed.
“Oh, didn’t you know, Forrest?” she say. “Jenny got married.”
“Married?” I say.
“It was a couple of years ago. She’d been livin in Indiana. Then she went to Washington an nex thing I knew, I got a postcard sayin she was married, an they was movin to North Carolina or someplace. You want me to tell her anythin if I hear from her?”
“No’m,” I says, “not really. Maybe jus tell her I wish her good luck an all.”
“I sure will,” Mrs. Curran say, “an I’m so glad you came by.”
I dunno, I reckon I ought to of been ready for that news, but I wadn’t.
I could feel my heart poundin, an my hans got cold an damp an all I coud think of was goin someplace an curlin up into a ball the way I had that time after Bubba got kilt, an so that’s what I did. I foun some shrubs in back of somebody’s yard an I crawled under there an jus got mysef into a ball. I think I even commenced to suck my thumb, which I ain’t done in a long wile since my mama always said it was a sure sign that somebody’s a idiot, unless they are a baby. Anyhow, I don’t know how long I stayed there. It was most of a day an a haf I guess.
I didn’t feel no blame for Jenny, she done what she had to. After all, I am a idiot, an wile a lot of people say they is married to idiots, they couldn’t never imagine what would be in store if they ever married a real one. Mostly, I guess, I am jus feelin sorry for mysef, because somehow I had actually got to where I believed that Jenny an me would be together someday. An so when I learnt from her mama that she is married, it was like a part of me has died an will never be again, for gettin married is not like runnin away. Gettin married is a very serious deal. Sometime durin the night I cried, but it did not hep much.
It was later that afternoon when I crawled out of the shrubs an gone on back to Bayou La Batre. I didn’t tell nobody what had happened, cause I figgered it wouldn’t of done no good. They was some work I needed to do aroun the ponds, mendin nets an such, an I went on out by mysef an done it. By the time I get finished it is dark, an I done made a decision – I am gonna thow mysef into the srimp bidness an work my ass off. It is all I can do.
An so I did.
That year we made seventy-five thousan dollars before expenses an the bidness is gettin so big I got to hire more people to hep me run it. One person I get is ole Snake, the quarterback from the University. He is not too happy with his present job with the tinymight football team an so I put him to work with Curtis in charge of dredgin an spillway duties. Then I find out that Coach Fellers from the highschool is done retired an so I give him a job, along with his two goons who has also retired, workin on boats an docks.
Pretty soon the newspapers get wind of what is goin on an send a reporter down to interview me for a sort of “local boy makes good” story. It appears the nex Sunday, with a photo of me an Mama an Sue, an the headline say, “Certifiable Idiot Finds Future in Novel Marine Experiment.”
Anyhow, not too long after that, Mama say to me that we need to get somebody to hep her with the bookkeepin part of the bidness an give some kind of advice on financial things on account of we is makin so much money. I done thought bout it a wile, an then I decided to get in touch with Mister Tribble, cause he had made a bunch of money in bidness before he retired. He was delighted I had called, he say, an will be on the nex plane down.
A week after he gets here, Mister Tribble say we got to set down an talk.
“Forrest,” he say, “what you have done here is nothing short of remarkable, but you are at a point where you need to begin some serious financial planning.”
I axed him what bout, an he say this: “Investments! Diversification! Look, as I see it, this next fiscal year you are going to have profits at about a hundred and ninety thousand dollars. The following year it will bear near a quarter of a million. With such profits you must reinvest them or the IRS will tax you into oblivion. Reinvestment is the very heart of American business!”
An so that’s what we did.
Mister Tribble took charge of all that, an we formed a couple of corporations. One was “Gump’s Shellfish Company.” Another was called “Sue’s Stuffed Crabs, Inc.,” an another was “Mama’s Crawfish ??touff??e, Ltd.”
Well, the quarter of a million become haf a million an the year followin that, a million, an so on, till after four more years we done become a five million dollar a year bidness. We got nearly three hundred employees now, includin The Turd an The Vegetable, whose rasslin days were over, an we got them loadin crates at the warehouse. We tried like hell to find po Dan, but he done vanished without a trace. We did find ole Mike, the rasslin promoter, an put him in charge of public relations an advertisin. At Mister Tribble’s suggestion, Mike done even hired Raquel Welch to do some television ads for us – they dressed her up to look like a crab, an she dance aroun an say, “You ain’t never had crabs till you try Sue’s!”
Anyhow, things has gotten real big-time. We got a fleet of refrigerator trucks an a fleet of srimp, oyster an fishin boats. We got our own packin house, an a office buildin, an have invested heavily in real estate such as condominiums an shoppin centers an in oil an gas leases. We done hired ole Professor Quackenbush, the English teacher from up at Harvard University, who have been fired from his job for molestin a student, an made him a cook in Mama’s ??touff??e operation. We also hired Colonel Gooch, who got drummed out of the Army after my Medal of Honor tour. Mister Tribble put him in charge of “covert activities.”
Mama has gone an had us a big ole house built cause she say it ain’t right for a corporate executive like me to be livin in no shack. Mama say Sue can stay on in the shack an keep an eye on things. Ever day now, I got to wear a suit an carry a briefcase like a lawyer. I got to go to meetins all the time an listen to a bunch of shit that sound like pygmie talk, an people be callin me “Mister Gump,” an all. In Mobile, they done give me the keys to the city an axed me to be on the board of directors of the hospital an the symphony orchestra.
An then one day some people come by the office an say they want to run me for the United States Senate.
“You’re an absolute natural,” this one feller say. He is wearing a searsucker suit an smokin a big cigar. “A former star football player for Bear Bryant, a war hero, a famous astronaut and the confidant of Presidents – what more can you ask?!” he axe. Mister Claxton is his name.
“Look,” I tell him, “I am just a idiot. I don’t know nothin bout politics.”
“Then you will fit in perfectly!” Mister Claxton say. “Listen, we need good men like you. Salt of the earth, I tell you! Salt of the earth!”
I did not like this idea any more than I like a lot of the other ideas people have for me, on account of other people’s ideas are usually what get me into trouble. But sure enough, when I tole my mama, she get all teary-eyed an proud an say it would be the answer to all her dreams to see her boy be a United States Senator.
Well, the day come when we is to announce my candidacy. Mister Claxton an them others hired the auditorium up in Mobile an hauled me out on the stage in front of a crowd that paid fifty cents apiece to come listen to my shit. They begin with a lot of long-winded speeches an then it come my turn.
“My feller Americans,” I begin. Mister Claxton an the others have writ me a speech to give an later they will be questions from the audience. TV cameras are rollin an flashbulbs are poppin an reporters are scribblin in their notebooks. I read the whole speech, which ain’t very long an don’t make much sense – but what do I know? I am jus a idiot.
When I am finished talkin, a lady from the newspaper stand up an look at her notepad.
“We are currently on the brink of nuclear disaster,” she say, “the economy is in ruins, our nation is reviled throughout the world, lawlessness prevails in our cities, people starve of hunger every day, religion is gone from our homes, greed and avarice is rampant everywhere, our farmers are going broke, foreigners are invading our country and taking our jobs, our unions are corrupt, babies are dying in the ghettos, taxes are unfair, our schools are in chaos and famine, pestilence and war hang over us like a cloud – in view of all this, Mister Gump,” she axe, “what, in your mind, is the most pressing issue of the moment?” The place was so quiet you coulda heard a pin drop.
“I got to pee,” I says.
At this, the crowd went wile! People begun hollerin an cheerin an shoutin an wavin they hands in the air. From the back of the room somebody started chantin an pretty soon the whole auditorium was doin it.
“WE GOT TO PEE! WE GOT TO PEE! WE GOT TO PEE!” they was yellin.
My mama had been settin there behind me on the stage an she got up an come drug me away from the speaker’s stand.
“You ought to be ashamed of yoursef,” she say, “talkin like that in public.”
“No, no!” Mister Claxton says. “It’s perfect! They love it. This will be our campaign slogan!”
“What will?” Mama axed. Her eyes narrowed down to little beads.
“We Got to Pee! ” Mister Claxton say. “Just listen to them! No one has ever had such a rapport with the common people!”
But mama ain’t buyin none of it. “Whoever heard of anybody usin a campaign slogan like that!” she says. “It’s vulgar an disgusting – besides, what does it mean?”
“It’s a symbol,” Mister Claxton says. “Just think, we’ll have billboards and placards and bumper stickers made up. Take out television and radio ads. It’s a stroke of genius, that’s what it is. We Got to Pee is a symbol of riddance of the yoke of government oppression – of evacuation of all that is wrong with this country… It signifies frustration and impending relief!”
“What!” Mama axed suspiciously. “Is you lost your mind?”
“Forrest,” Mister Claxton says, “you are on your way to Washington.”
An so it seemed. The campaign was goin along pretty good an “We Got to Pee” had become the byword of the day. People shouted it on the street an from cars an busses. Television commentators an newspaper columnists spent a lot of time trying to tell folks what it meant. Preachers yelled it from their pulpits an children chanted it in school. It was beginnin to look like I was a shoo-in for the election, an, in fact, the candidate runnin against me, he got so desperate he made up his own slogan, “I Got to Pee, Too,” an plastered it all over the state.
Then it all fell apart, jus like I was afraid it would.
The “I Got to Pee” deal done come to the attention of the national media an pretty soon the Washington Post an the New Yawk Times sent down their investigating reporters to look into the matter. They axed me a lot of questions an was real nice an friendly-sounding, but then they went back an begun to dig up my past. One day the stories broke on the front page of ever newspaper in the country. “Senatorial Candidate Has Checkered Career,” say the headlines.
First, they write that I done flunked out of the University my first year. Then they dug up that shit about me an Jenny when the cops hauled me in from the movie theater. Next they drag out the photograph of me showin my ass to President Johnson in the Rose Garden. They axed aroun about my days in Boston with The Cracked Eggs an quote people sayin that I done smoked marijuana an also mention “a possible arson incident” at Harvard University.
Worst – they done find out about the criminal charges I got for thowin my medal at the U.S. Capitol an that I been sentenced by a judge to a loony asylum. Also, they knew all about my rasslin career, too, an that I was called The Dunce. They even ran a photo of me being tied up by The Professor. Finally, they mention several “unnamed sources” sayin I was involved in a “Hollywood sex scandal with a well-known actress.”
That did it. Mister Claxton come rushin into campaign headquarters screamin, “We are ruint! We have been stabbed in the back!” an shit like that. But it was over. I had no choice cept to withdraw from the race, an the next day Mama an me an Mister Tribble set down for a talk.
“Forrest,” Mister Tribble say, “I think it might be good for you to lay low for a while.”
I knowed he was right. An besides, there is other things that been naggin at my mind for a long time now, though I ain’t said nothin about them before.
When the srimp bidness first started up, I kind of enjoyed the work, gettin up at dawn an goin down to the ponds an puttin up the nets an then harvestin the srimp an all, an me an Sue settin at night on the porch of the fishin shack playin the harmonica, an gettin a six-pack of beer on Saturday an gettin drunk.
Now it ain’t nothing like that. I got to go to all sorts of dinner parties where people servin a lot of mysterious-lookin food an the ladies wearin big ole earrings an shit. All day long the phone don’t never stop ringin an people be wantin to axe me bout everthin under the sun. In the Senate, it would have jus been worse. Now I ain’t got no time to mysef as it is, an somehow, things are slippin past me.
Furthermore, I look in the mirror now an I got wrinkles on my face, an my hair is turnin gray at the edges an I ain’t got as much energy as I used to. I know things are movin along with the bidness, but mysef, I feel like I’m jus spinnin in place. I’m wonderin jus why am I doin all this for? A long time ago, me an Bubba had a plan, which has now gone beyon our wildest dreams, but so what? It ain’t haf as much fun as the time I played against them Nebraska corn shucker jackoffs in the Orange Bowl, or took a ride on my harmonica up at Boston with The Cracked Eggs, or, for that matter, watched “The Beverly Hillbillies” with ole President Johnson.
An I spose Jenny Curran has somethin to do with it, too, but since ain’t nobody can do nothin bout that, I might as well forget it.
Anyhow, I realize I got to get away. Mama be weepin an bawlin an daubbin at her eyes with the handkerchief like I figgered she woud, but Mister Tribble understan completely.
“Why don’t we jus tell everbody you are taking a long vacation, Forrest,” he say. “An of course your share of the bidness will be here whenever you want it.”
So that’s what I done. One mornin a few days later I got a little cash, an thowed a few things in a dufflebag an then gone down to the plant. I tole Mama an Mister Tribble goodbye an then went aroun an shook hans with everbody else – Mike an Professor Quackenbush an The Turd an The Vegetable an Snake an Coach Fellers an his goons an Bubba’s daddy an all the rest.
Then I gone to the shack an foun ole Sue.
“What you gonna do?” I axed.
Sue grapped holt of my han an then he picked up my bag an carried it out the door. We got in the little rowboat an paddled up to Bayou La Batre an caught the bus to Mobile. A lady in the ticket office there say, “Where you want to go?” an I shrugged my shoulders, so she say, “Why don’t you go to Savannah? I been there once an it is a real nice town.”
So that’s what we did.