Earl of Tennessee By: Shen Wu Tan
I lived in the South for 17 years before moving to Mango Street. My father owned a music store in Tennessee when I was a young boy. And my mother stayed at home, tending to the other children and cleaning the house. I used to help my father repair old records and jukeboxes before his business shut down.
Shortly afterwards, our house foreclosed. Foreclosed
I joined the military after high school since neither my parents nor I could afford to pay for a secondary education. The memories of bloodshed have tainted my mind. The sounds of gunshots firing still ring in my ears. Sleep eludes me, for my mind fears the recurring nightmares.
I started smoking heavily when I was in the military. It helped relieve my stress. Listening to country and western music helped calm my nerves, too.
After my discharge, I packed my things and moved into Edna’s basement on Mango Street. With hardly any change in my pocket, Edna rented the apartment out to me for little to nothing.
I sometimes give away records to the neighborhood kids – all except the country and western ones, of course. I started working night shifts at a local music store as a repairman and collected forgotten, recycled records.
I met Susan at the store. She came in looking for records by Jimi Hendrix. She lost her husband in the war.
The next day, I paid a visit to the pet store and adopted two little black dogs. Their names are Scottie and Dobby. They follow me everywhere. After six months, I got sick of living in the moldy basement by myself.
A few times a month, Susan visits the apartment. We are driven together by our mutual need for sexual gratification. Sex is a means of escapism for us.
Susan never stays long. After she leaves, I remember who I am. I am someone who is living alone in a basement that smells of mildew. I am someone who seeks solace in music. I am someone who is haunted by Death itself. I am the Earl of Tennessee.