Near the end of October, I sat down with WWII veteran Halsey Pearson, one of two characters in the Jardonn Smith short story, The Caricature. A summer-like day allowed us to chat while on the screened-in porch of Halsey's Appalachian Mountains cabin, where he likes to relax by singing folk tunes.
Jasper: So, Halsey, what made you take up the guitar and singing?
Halsey: Just a late-life hobby for the most part. I wanted to learn songs from the 1930's, my growing up years. Tunes like the Delmore Brothers were doing. The Blue Sky Boys and the Monroe Brothers, you know, Charlie and Bill, before Bill Monroe started up his bluegrass sounds.
J: Are they easy to learn?
H: Some are, some aren't. A lot of them sound simple enough, but they'll throw in an awkward chord to the progression, like a minor third or augmented seventh.
J: Does Floyd enjoy listening to you play?
H: He's usually reading in another room, but if he hears me make a major mistake he'll let me know I hurt his ears. Jokingly, of course.
J: Did the cricket really synchronize its leg rubbing with the tempo of your song?
H: It did, and that's a fact. Exactly on the date of our 25th Anniversary. Next day, he rejoined his other crickets, rubbing legs any old way they liked.
J: You and Floyd first met in 1944, correct?
H: Well, we never met. Never spoke. I just saw him after we rescued him from that Japanese camp, and he was in no condition to be socializing.
J: Did you ever dream it would be forty years before you'd see him again?
H: At the time, I didn't give it a thought. And I sure as hell never entertained any sort of physical attraction to him, just a curiosity as to what the Japanese had done to him during interrogations.
J: What about later?
H: Hmm... well, I suppose it did begin to gnaw at me through the years. Look, homosexuality wasn't part of my thinking. Not overseas. Not when I came home to the States. I got me a job and started ladder climbing. Found me a woman who was beautiful inside and out, and we got down to the business making a home and raising a family.
J: And you never thought about Floyd?
H: All right, you pushy son of a gun. Sure, I thought about Floyd, but in my subconscious. That's where he needed to stay, but then after my wife died, well, I got to thinking that maybe thinking about him wasn't such a bad thing.
J: Still, you never took the initiative to find him?
H: What for? I figured he'd married and done what I'd done. What reason would I have to think that he'd be looking for a boyfriend?
J: And then you saw him at the forty-year reunion?
H: Yep. In 1984.
J: What did you think when you first saw him?
H: I thought, Halsey, you better find out what he's doing here and what his situation is.
J: And what was his situation?
H: Ha! Let's just say he was available, after we worked out a few kinks.
J: And the rest is history.
H: As they say.
J: All right, Halsey, you and Floyd were in your sixties when you hooked up. Right?
J: Now, you're in your eighties. Do you and Floyd still, you know, do it?
H: Like rabbits.
J: Rabbits in lust?
H: No, rabbits in love. Without that, I doubt either one of us could even get it up.
J: Well, thank you for giving up your guitar-playing time for this little chat.
H: Stay right where you are, mister. The price for this little chat is that you have to suffer through my singing.
The full story of Halsey Pearson and Floyd Strick is told by author Jardonn Smith. It's called The Caricature, is available in ebook formats and can be viewed at either the author's web site HERE, or the publisher's web site, MLR PRESS.