Our sex-crazed scribbler recalls how maniacal hillbilly pig hunters cause him to actually refuse sex

 

Hanging above the desk where I am writing this confession is a large picture of my great-grandfather and his children. It’s not an oil painting – he wasn’t quite rich enough to spring for a proper artist – but the black and white photograph shows the Smith family to have been the model of Edwardian respectability. He’s wearing a handsome tweed suit and has a cigar in his hand. Above his lip perches a luxuriant moustache. Seated around him are his four sons. Two of them died on the Western Front in their teens, one emigrated to Canada, and the other, still in toddler’s clothes, was my grandfather. Their faces, caught on that day in the year 1903, are gazing directly into the lens.

I hate this picture. Why? Well, imagine what it’s like to be in your 40s, to be single, to have no proper career, and to see it every day. Tourists at the Louvre often comment that the eyes of the Mona Lisa seem to follow them coquettishly around the room, but the eyes of my ancestors are far more malign. They glower at me, burning with disapproval. “Get the fuck on with it!” they urge. “You’re all we have left! You have to keep the bloodline going!”

I flinch. I avert my gaze and skulk behind my computer screen. But I can never escape them. That old genetic duty… it gets to me every time. Just looking at the maths is horrible. Here goes: unlike me, my father was man enough to settle down and have kids. As was his father. And his. And so on. There’s an unbroken line of men who didn’t quiver at the idea of ‘commitment’, or worry about the expense of raising kids, or baulk at giving up their freedom. And it doesn’t just go back for a few centuries, remember, it goes back through every single generation since we crawled from the oceans. The family tree of my DNA can be traced directly, from son to father, back to an apeman in Africa, and before him to a small furry mammal on the forest floor, and further still to a primitive reptile in the Permian period over 300 million years ago. A billion Smith fathers, each linked to me by a perfectly straight line of inheritance, have done what nature demanded. They introduced their sperm to an egg. And they did it despite the danger of being eaten alive by dinosaurs, frozen by ice ages, or devastated by giant meteor strikes. I can’t help but feel the weight of their disappointment bearing down on me, especially when I split up with a perfectly nice girl just because I don’t like her new hairstyle, say, or the fact that she likes Coldplay. They must look at me, shake their heads, and think, “All that work we put in… and now this idiot…”

The problem is that I once made a promise never to turn down a sexual opportunity. Having been rejected by women so often as a teenager, only managing to lose my virginity at the age of 20, my psyche got bent out of shape. And now, just as old people who lived through rationing can never throw anything away, so I cannot say to a lover, “You are the only person I will ever want to go to bed with for the rest of my life.” Because what if a gorgeous fashion model got drunk at a party and asked me to go home with her? What if two fashion models got drunk? I couldn’t turn them down, not with the damage that’s been done to me.

I realise that this doesn’t show me in a very good light. I probably come across as immature and selfish. But a sick man deserves sympathy and to show you the extent of my disease, this month I’m going to tell you about the only time I actually did reject the chance of an orgasm.

It happened in rural Arkansas, deep in the woods. I was making a travel show for a cable TV channel, working with a skeleton crew of just two other guys, one on sound, the other on camera. They were both gentle, Guardian-reading types, and were a little apprehensive about going into a hillbilly area. Naturally, I did my best to wind them up, assuring them that it was deep Klan country, full of ass-raping crazies armed to the teeth with shotguns and drunk on moonshine.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at our destination, a shack in the Ozark mountains, my joke suddenly didn’t seem so funny. Because the two men who greeted us did indeed look as though they’d been extras in Deliverance. The first was a grizzled behemoth called Buddy. He was about 55, with pitted skin, narrow grey eyes and a ‘Semper Fi’ tattoo on his shoulder. His friend was Roy, fat-bellied but still obviously powerful, like an ageing prison baron. He was holding a snarling hound on a leash, its fangs dripping as it barked at us with homicidal fervour. We shrank into our shoes.

Buddy and Roy were to be our guides when we filmed a hog hunt that afternoon, but before heading out on the scent, they invited us to have a drink. We sat round a camp fire and a keg of what they called ‘cat whisky’ was produced. Not wishing to cause offence, we each took a sip. It was like fellating Satan. My tastebuds and the lining of my throat were scorched off. They might as well have been passing round a blowtorch.

“You like that, English?” drawled Buddy in his rough Southern accent. I nodded, not trusting my voice to come out higher than a squeak. But I could already sense his contempt. He and Roy had served two tours in Vietnam, they were jungle killers, and we were nothing but soft city queers. We wouldn’t last ten minutes in their world.

However, as I was supposed to be joining in the hunt for the TV show, Buddy told me I’d better choose a gun. We went into his shack, which was barely bigger than a caravan. Spread across the table was an array of weapons. There were machine guns, rifles, pistols and boxes of ammo, enough to spark another Waco. He picked up a rifle and threw it at me, just like in the movies.

“You make sure you shoot that hog good,” he told me. “Because when he run at you with ’em tushes, he likely to cut ’em veins in your legs and you bleed to death out there.”

I just had time to work out that “tushes” meant tusks when a young woman came in from the next room. She was about 22, simply dressed in loose jeans and a T-shirt, neither of which could conceal her va-va-voom figure. Her face was pretty but fearful. Downtrodden. She looked like Daisy Duke after six months in Guantanamo Bay. “This is my girl, Annie,” said Buddy by way of introduction. “She gonna do the barbecue.”

As we rode off in the back of a pick up truck – the dog, thankfully, got the passenger seat with Roy – I puzzled over the exact meaning of “my girl”. Daughter? Wife? Slave? They all seemed equally possible in these remote woods. And what was that haunted look in her eyes?

But for a few hours at least, I had more pressing things on my mind, culminating in the assassination of a 500lb razorback hog. I managed to shoot it in the side, but before it was dead Buddy sprang on it like Tarzan, slitting its neck with a serrated dagger. I began to feel sorry for the Vietcong.

Back at camp, he and Roy hung the hog up from a tree with ropes and started to skin it. The dog waited patiently for the guts to spill out, a revolting waterfall of yellow tubes, then dragged them off to be devoured. The crew and I glanced at each other, thinking, “Thank fuck this is over.”

But it wasn’t. Suddenly, with only a cackle of laughter as a warning, Roy threw the hog’s hide on top of me. Its bleeding head rested on my skull, its still warm flanks dripped fat and lung and gore all over me. I lurched up, horrified. “Hur-hur-hur, now you skin-walking!” he announced.

Hillbilly humour… Seeing that my clothes were soaked with blood, Buddy called for Annie. He brusquely ordered her to give them a wash and press. Clearly, there was no way I wanted to sit around naked, so I followed her into the shack to get a towel.

She coyly looked away as I undressed, but when she turned back, I could tell it was there. That jolt of connection. Only this wasn’t like a come-on in a nightclub, it was more elemental. She was trapped in hell with Buddy, we would never meet again, this was our only chance. Simultaneously, we reached for each other. We kissed. It was the most thrilling embrace I’d ever felt. The guns on the table and the madmen outside charged me with adrenaline.

My hands ran over her body, cupping the warm freight of her breasts. Could I go through with this? My brain worked at lightning speed: she was sexy, it wouldn’t take long, maybe Buddy was more easy-going than he seemed…

It was the song that brought me back to my senses. Out by the camp fire, Roy was playing the guitar. The tune was doleful, a lament, and the first line was unmistakable: “Oh, they sold the house next door to me to niggers…”

In an instant, my head cleared of lust. What the hell was I thinking? I was going to end up buried among the snakes and squirrels unless I got out of there right away. I pulled back, tugging the towel around my rapidly vanishing erection, and bolted outside. By the fire, Buddy was slicing of chunks of pork and tossing them onto the grill. He didn’t look up.

The next night, safely locked in my room at the Days Inn motel in Memphis, I replayed the incident in my head. Only in this version, I swept the munitions off the table, tugged down Annie’s jeans and had frantic sex with her. As I day-dreamed it, I pleasured myself. My climax – perhaps because it had been swallowed back into me the day before – was enormous. Wasted seed coated the sheets and pillow case. But for once, I figured my ancestors would forgive me for squandering their precious DNA. After all, if it had gone where it was supposed to, that might have been the end of the line for the Smiths.

And whether they walked the earth in scales, fur or Harris tweed, none of them would want that to happen…