From the December, 1976 issue of High Times comes Joe Schenkman’s completely irreverent exposé into the liquid adhesive-snorting side of society.
Glue sniffing has suffered a rank reputation in the drug world. The huffing craze, which reached its dizzy heights in early Sixties America and is still going strong in Japan, was dubbed “Instant Insanity” by some and characterized by voluminous myth-information: glue is said to rot the brain, turn the user’s bone marrow into silly putty and turn mild-mannered teens into gunk-geeks whose depravity knows no bounds. Picture the glue fiend a rotten half-vegetated geek—sore, runny nose, bloodshot eyes, phlegm dribbling off chin, bony fingers clutching at the crab grass in a last-ditch effort to pick a vandalized body out of the rubble-strewn back alley, with only one lingering thought sloshing around in that scrambled mess of spaghetti that was once a brain: “how to scrape together 15 cents for another tube of sticky glue!” Kill mom and pop, pimp baby sis. and rob the corner candy store for a 15-cent tube of Testor’s glue? Why not? Huff-heads everywhere were doing it—or so said the little green pamphlet in the doctor’s office. If you got caught committing some heinous crime, you just said that the glue made you do it and that you were sorry. On more than one occasion, a glue defense has gotten the guilty party off the hook.
Recently, Joseph Kallinger pleaded insanity to murder and rape charges stemming from a spree that had terrorized suburban housewives in three states. In his preliminary hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Kallinger’s attorneys produced a display of shoe glue and deglazing compounds from the defendant’s shoe repair shop and told the jury, “If we sniffed this stuff for half an hour, we’d be high as kites. Is it possible that the effects of this deglazing compound can send a man off to physically assault a woman at knife point and rob a gang of four women, then return to his home and not remember a thing?” The defense argued that Kallinger’s mind was so boggled by years of sniffing shoe glue in his tiny, stuffy shop that he could no longer distinguish right from wrong. During the entire proceeding, Kallinger remained glued to his Bible.
If Joseph Kallinger did little to clear the tarnished image of the much-maligned glue huffer, Dean Corll did less. Corll, better known as the Houston Mass Murderer, got his young male victims “bagged” on acrylic spray paint before indulging in his warped idea of fun and games: sex, torture and death. Indeed, huffing and bizarre sex have gone hand in gland enough to make us wonder. But as with any drug, it is essential we understand as much about the people involved in its use or misuse as we do about the drug itself.
Most huffers are extremely young: from five to fifteen, with an average age of thirteen, boys outnumbering girls by as much as ten to one. It’s the junior high for drop-outs of same. There’s an economic factor as well: Glue-sniffing prevails in remote pockets of America where real drugs are unobtainable, and where even 15 cents for a tube of Testor’s costs. Huffing is a cheap escapist route on the other side of the tracks from the all-American teen scene: too young for junk, but old enough for gunk—and old enough to know pain.
“Gunk” is slang for a mess of solvents, most of them found on the household shelf or easily purchased at the neighborhood hobby shop, hardware store or stupormarket. A partial list would include plastic model and household cements, polish remover, lacquer and paint thinners, lighter fluid, cleaning fluids, antifreeze, marking pencils, petroleum products, gasoline, most paints and practically all aerosol products; window cleaners, glass-chillers, air “sanitizers,” furniture polishes, insecticides, disinfectants, deodorants, hair sprays, antiperspirants, spray-on cooking lubricants and so on. These all contain hydrocarbons, but the most frequent active ingredients are toluene, trichloroethylene and acetone. Before you go running off to the pantry or down to the 7-11, beware: “DANGER: Vapor Harmful,” it warns on the Testor’s glue tube, and they ain’t just whistlin’ “Dixie.”
Methods of huffing are as varied as the solvents sniffed, but the tried-and-glue classic is the brown paper bag. Aerosol sprays are likewise sprayed into a bag or balloon, laughing-gas style. The hip huffer shuns plastic bags. More liquid solvents, such as carbona (a cleaning fluid) or lighter fluid, are often poured onto a rag and sniffed. I recently received a clipping from a Japanese newspaper, the Daily Yomiuri (April 3, 1976), which headlines a photo story “Toluene Sniffing Latest Fad Among Youth” and details another method of inhalation: “The flu mask is a sign that the wearer is trafficking in toluene. Sniffers also use masks to hide gauze or cotton soaked with toluene.” An accompanying photo shows a couple of shifty youths on a Tokyo street corner, brazenly wearing masks that identify them as members in slouched standing of Japan’s “latest fad.” Some huffers claim that solvents heated in a frying pan increase vaporization and thus hasten the high. Others spray aerosols directly into the mouth. A few go in for mixed drinks: “How ’bout a Coca-Cola cocktail with a shot of nail polish remover?” And then there are those good ol’ boys that huff the high-test right from Dad’s Dodge or the family Lawn Boy.
I huffed about a third of a tube of Testor’s, the gourmet glue, just to see about this junk they call gunk, and was amazed at how much work was involved. A lot of huffing and puffing for a high that hardly blew you away— about worth the price of the traditional brown paper bag. The sensation is pleasant, but the euphoria quickly dissipates into dreamy drowsiness lasting up to an hour, after which the whole silly process is repeated if you’re a real gone gunk geek. Once again, the inhaled vapors pass directly into the blood and brain, producing an initial excitement followed by depression of the nervous system. Frequent, but not yet chronic, huffing can bestow peculiar hallucinations on the huffer.
“One time when I was sitting on the floor, I saw a Greyhound bus coming out of an air vent in front of me,” one huffer told a South Carolina newspaper reporter. “The last time I saw fire and rain, and it was the end of the world.” The reporter entitled her story “Paint Sniffer Has Trouble Thinking,” which reflects the quality of celebrity news in some southern towns.
Worst of the huffing hazards is something Millard Bass, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, called Sudden Sniffing Death, or SSD. Claiming over 110 American lives in the 1960s and many more in Japan, the SSD syndrome was found to follow a pattern: a sudden outburst of physical exertion following huffing would often result in instant death. Bass suggests that the inhaling of certain volatile hydrocarbons sensitizes the heart so acutely to adrenaline that any sudden activity can cause cardiac arrhythmia or heart arrest. One 14-year-old huffer told reporter Jack Olson: “One of my friends huffed for a whole day and night, and he wasn’t hurt a bit. But a 12-year-old kid did some acrylics on Twenty-Third Street and ran around tryin’ to play football and collapsed and died. I guess you can get too much of anything.”
“Too much” can be the wobbly line between huffing and snuffing, as well as other medical malfunctionings due to too much of the huffy stuff. There is some indication that liver and kidney damage have occurred in chronic huffers, as well as deterioration of the bone marrow to the extent of impairment of motor activities in extreme cases, but the singularity of the cases and extenuating personal circumstances make scientific conclusions uncertain. There’s not much evidence that huffing will make you want to kill and rape, either; what does seem apparent is that hydrocarbon abuse accelerates a whole complex of existential degeneracies preexisting in some of the more gone gunk geeks—those who enjoy what toxicologists call an “addictive personality.” There’s no achievement of “equilibrium with normal life” here, as high-class heroin habitués are said to attain. Amnesia, personality changes, depression, irritability, hostility, paranoia, weight loss, nosebleeds, increased salivation, pallor, fatigue, slurred speech and peculiar gait are some of the many other symptoms noticed in chronic huff-heads.
But in moderate use, huffing is for the most part physically harmless (as long as you refine sports activities to games no more strenuous than “52 card pickup”), and even pleasant. Should the casual huffer get so far as the hallucinatory stage, he or she will find that the contents of their visions very much reflect their own state of mind at the time. Greyhound buses coming through the air vent? That’s about par for white trash from the po’ side of town.
Rick huffed glue off and on during his first two years of high school in Greensboro, North Carolina, with no apparent aftereffects. Like so many teenagers, Rick got into glue sniffing accidentally while pursuing his favorite hobby: building model cars. Never one for neatness, Rick eventually noticed that he was using more glue and finishing fewer models. “Finally I said to heck with the models and just bought the glue,” Rick recalls. “At first it was real neat—I’d sniff some an’ lay back on my bed and close my eyes and see all kinds of stuff swimming around in swirling patterns of bright colors. But later it was like nightmare stuff, like out of horror movies.” Rick quit huffing for a number of reasons. “It’d take more and more to get me off, and I was all the time sleepy. Then it got real easy to score weed in my town, and I realized that glue was sort of like a bummer, nowhere trip. They started putting the mustard seed in it too, which was supposed to make you puke, but I know some guys who sniff it anyway, and it don’t hurt ’em a bit.”
When the pot tidal wave broke over Middle America in the mid-Sixties, the glue badness was submerged under tons of reefer madness, and concern shifted from huffing to puffing. The problem of lowlifes inhaling 15-cent glue from brown paper bags was decidedly a lesser menace, but the sticky problem persisted in the back puddles, and continued to figure in the news, almost exclusively in relation to bizarre crimes. A random sampling of even the milder cases of juvenile delinquent huffers turns up the case of the teenager who, after huffing 13 tubes of glue, kidnapped a couple of newlyweds, killed the hubby and raped the wife. Or the 14-year-old Detroit lad who raped and strangled two sisters, aged eight and six, after a huffing party; the 15-year-old who sexually molested a dog after sniffing Mobil Regular; and a 19-year-old boy who thought he was a cat having kittens and slept in a pen with a pregnant sow, mewing all the while, trying to choke his brother and threatening to kill his sister when they intervened.
Indeed, chronic huffers tend to be antisocial individuals from broken homes and backward environs. The back pockets of Appalachia and the South breed huffers the way a swamp breeds mosquitos. Apathy is the disorder of the day, and the more gone gunk geeks sport self-styled ostentations of their antisociality: crude, homemade india-ink and razor-blade tattoos like “Born To Lose,” or maybe even a daring dash of peroxide blond through their dark hair. Criminal enterprise, from petty vandalism to some to the most bizarre sex crimes in history, is the hallmark of huffdom. True glue readygunk geeks squeeze the last bits of morality from their souls as deliberately as they roll down and squeeze out the last remaining drips from Mr. Testor’s: bad to the last drop.
Most huffers prefer to huff alone, and glue sniffing parties, when they happen, are characterized by low—or no—levels of communication. “Sniffing is usually followed by group horseplay, fighting and in some instances homosexual activity. They often commit other misdemeanors while under the influence of glue vapors; i.e., breaking and entering, petty thefts,” wrote Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Mack Shanholtz in 1968. He should know: down South, the carbona crowd amounts to a veritable Glue Klux Klan.
A few years after Shanholtz wrote those comparatively mild words, a young man who ran a candy company with his mother across the street from an elementary school in Houston made Top of the Charts in America’s mass murder records by snuffing at least 27 young boys (Houston police lost interest in uncovering bodies once the old record, set by Juan Corona, had been topped). Dean Corll got his victims wasted on acrylic spray paint, then treated them to his own warped idea of fun and games: incredible sexual tortures, rapes and mutilations. The kind of stuff Mean Dean was into made Fun City’s fist-fucking leather boys look like a bunch of Cub Scouts out on a wiener roast.
The capital of Corll country, Houston, was dubbed “Murder City” in 1957 for having the highest murder rate in the country. Charles “Texas Tower” Whitman, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby helped Houston live up to its name; but Dean Corll opened a whole new game with his homosexual hydrocarbon homicides. Huffing was the high of the crowd that lived in Houston’s Heights, the poor white trash neighborhood where the Corll Candy Company was, and Dean was far gone on snuffing. He’d pick up young boys (about 12 to 17) in his customized Dodge van, induce a slumber number on them with acrylic spray paint bagging parties and, by the time they woke up, their nude bodies securely spread-eagled on a seven-foot plywood pillory with nylon cord loops and handcuffs in the corners, it was all over but the dying. And by the time Dean was finished with them, death was probably a welcome relief. Death on Corll’s custom cross: the ultimate gluecifixion.
David Brooks, who with Wayne Henley, Jr., acted as a pimp and procurer of boys for Dean and actually assisted in snuffing some of the young stuff, offered a depressing picture of their vapor-mad victims in his testimony: “Most of the boys weren’t good boys. This is probably a cruel way to put it, it probably sounds terrible, but most of ’em wasn’t no great loss. I remember one kid, we all agreed after he was dead that he was a super-bad kid, and his people weren’t gonna miss him no way.” Though Brook’s testimony may be the rationalization of a guilt-ridden killer, we suspect a messy truth here: most of Corll’s young victims were willing apprentices for his studies in depravity—it just so happened that by the time they’d hollered “Enough!” the only way out was, literallv, Out.
If bizarre sex and glue are bedfellows, as it were, then Joseph Kallinger, who blamed the loss of his first wife on his undersized penis, takes the undersized tube-steak. Kallinger walked out of his shoe shop in the working-class area of Kensington, Philadelphia, and, aided by his 13-year-old son Mike, went on a series of rapes and robberies that had suburban housewives throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland climbing the walls in the winter of 1974. The crime spree finally culminated in the fatal stabbing of a 21-year-old nurse, Maria Fasching, for refusing to perform fellatio on him. Five other break-ins followed a similar pattern: Kallinger would gain entry to a house, sometimes posing as an insurance salesman, and while he tied and toyed with his victims, young Mike would loot the house for valuables and cash. In one particularly demented scene, father ordered son to rape a woman, but the lad (whom many mistook for a lass with his long hair and delicate features) couldn’t get it up. Kallinger forced most of his victims to go down on him at knife- or gunpoint. When young Maria Fasching refused, he repeatedly stabbed her in the back, neck and through the heart.
Before he went on to become a figure of national fame, Kallinger was already something of a celebrity in the City of Brotherly Love. He glued local newspaper clippings attesting to the state of his shoe-cemented dementedness on the wall of his shop and proudly pointed them out to his customers. In 1972 he was convicted on charges of child abuse, aggravated cruelty to minors as well as assault and battery. Three of his children testified against him. His daughter Mary Jo, then 13, testified that he’d tied her hands over her head and burned her thigh with a hot kitchen spatula, while keeping a knife at her throat to prevent her from screaming. Son Joey, Jr., had a black eye, bruised forehead and hands, and Mike testified that his father beat him with the tools of his trade: belts, leather soles and hammer handles from the shoe shop.
The prosecution pleaded with the court to put Kallinger under psychiatric care, calling him a “walking time bomb.” Kallinger’s sentence required him to receive psychiatric help, but apparently he never did. He served seven months before meeting his present attorney, Malcom Berkowitz, who is currently trying to get him off on grounds of glue abuse. Berkowitz got Kallinger’s three kids to recant their original statements and eventually succeeded in springing him. But within months, there were more clippings on the shoe-shop wall: Joey, Jr.’s body was found crushed under the rubble of a demolition site in downtown Philly shortly after his father had taken out a $59,000 life insurance policy on the young lad and then reported him among the missing. Cause of death: unknown.
By this time, Kallinger was going through a gallon of shoe glue a week, and the smell was so bad that neighborhood complaints made it mandatory that he keep the windows of the small shop closed. Not that Kallinger minded. The shop became a glue-sniffer’s blurry dream of paradise. He often complained of dizziness and hallucinations to his wife, saying that he saw images of his dead father and had visitations with God. Did God tell him to go forth and rape, plunder and kill at suburban bridge parties? Kallinger told his wife that he did. Like Charlie Manson, Joe Kallinger hails from the Bible Belt, and, like Manson, he put his belt before his Bible. Now Kallinger has gone back to the Good Book, at least for the benefit of the jury, and he’s grown a beard and long hair and gotten thin and wan—he looks the way Manson might if he’d sniffed glue instead of dropping acid.
Out of 110 Sudden Sniffing Deaths in the U.S. during the Sixties, all but five were from white, European stock, according to researcher Millard Bass, who adds that, “The ages of the deceased ranged from 11 years to 23 years. There were 13 white females in this study. Unusual identifying features included colorfully dyed scalp hair in two of the male victims and homemade tattoos on the arms and legs of seven others.” Death Before Dishonor; Born to Lose!
The early Sixties glue-sniffing craze continues to daze the back pockets of America. The hip pockets have weed and psychedelics, the ghetto minorities get the hardest drugs they need, E-Z no-credit terms for coke, smack, methadone, Valium washed down with Ripple Pagan Pink. Puerto Ricans walk up and down the aisles of New York’s Edison movie theatre on 103rd and Broadway, calling out “Loose jays! Loose jays!” the way vendors hawk cold beer and hot dogs at Yankee Stadium. Any yoyo can pick up a taste of the weed from a dealer disguised as a pimp in the park by the 42nd Street Public Library, from a pack of Kools crammed with thinly rolled joints. Weed? Speed? Get your blotter acid here! A stroll though a big city’s parks is like walking into a dealer’s convention, but where’s a poor white boy from the sticks going to score to beat the bore? The reason they don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee is that it’s damn hard to come by, and when it does come by, hee haw, why, blink and you miss it. So the young go for the huff-high because of its availability—right off the wall or out of the gas tank.
Huff City is a patchy blacktop, deadend road some 13 miles from Marlboro Country. Macho lives on here, challenging all comers with Plymouth Roadrunners with blown Hemi-engines, wearing “Beep Beep My Ass!” bumper stickers, Saturday night specials, hard fists, cold beers and cool chicks. “White Socks, Red Necks and Blue Ribbon Beer” blasts out of a parked muscle car radio. Turn the engine over every few hours so the battery doesn’t wear down, and check for engine knocks. The good ol’ boys’ main heart throb is the throb of the hotrod motor: Women are only second best, though C&W songster Cledus Maggard listed a more romantic order of priorities on his CB hit, “The White Knight”: “Now ahead of your children and ahead of your wife on the list of the ten best things in your life, your CB’s gotta rate right around number four… ’Course beavers, hot biscuits and Merle Haggard come 1,2,3 you know!” The big jokes around huff town tend to be on the rude and crude side: “We’s going trolling for n!#%rs out of the bed o’ my hot rod pick-up truck… s’ easy… jest ride on o’er to coon town an’ cast ya out one of them big treble-hooked lures. Dayglo spoons with double treble hooks work best — had me a pimp in a pink jump suit other night put up a da’yam good fight—he was flippin’ around like a junkie gone cold turkey ’cuz the da’yam lure matched his jumpsuit! Ah lak to have split mah sides laughin’ but then I lost him—da’yam line snapped. Hail, ah was only usin’ 90-pound test monofilament, ‘cuz ah wanted to be sporting-give the jig a fightin’ chance. Then me an’ Leroy went down to the dump an’ shot rats.” “Ah got a big mean ol’ German shepherd, never feed him—ah jest takes him down to the park once a week or so when jest a few n!#%rs are wanderin’ around an’ let ol’ Rufus take his pick. Won’t eat nothin’ but dark meat.” There’s a .357 magnum laying out on the coffee table. A lot of rednecks grew long hair when they heard that hippies were getting all the girls.
This is Richmond, Virginia, two-fifths black and three-fifths “Rebel Yell.” Once the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond was voted All-American City in 1966, 101 years after its residents burned it to the ground at the end of the Civil War—if they couldn’t have it the way they wanted it, they sure weren’t handing it over to the damn Yankees intact. It’s a beautiful, impressive city with its monuments to the grand old Confederates, baroque turn-of-the-century town houses, quaint cobblestone alleys and rich, elegant suburbs. Home of Marlboros, Reynolds Wrap and Wonder Bread, the huge college community of Virginia Commonwealth University is engulfing the city, making it one of the hipper, more cosmopolitan of southern towns, and most of the old redneck watering holes in the college area known as the Fan have undergone hip facelifts: spaced-out decor, super-loud sound systems coupled with live long-hair bluegrass bands. There are biker bars, bluegrass bars, beer parlors and kick-out-the-jams boogey bars that offer stopless topless, all doing boomtown business.
Bordering the Fan, but set sloppily aside from it, is Oregon Hill. The All-American City’s Hill is a mini-spitting image of the Murder City’s Houston Heights—seen through a Polaroid Square Shooter II, the two communities fit our glue-to-life Huff City image to a “T.” The image clicks, even though the pictures are sticky and out-of-focus, like their inhabitants. The Hill is a backward little cesspool about three blocks wide and fifteen blocks long, which thrives and survives in a space/time warp: a superhighway under construction neatly separates it from Virginia Commonwealth University on the north: to the east is the huge, dismal gray City Prison, off Jefferson Davis Highway, which follows the Robert E. Lee Bridge over the James River to the Southside (a mostly black neighborhood); westward ho is Hollywood Cemetery, miles of it, where ol’ Jeff Davis himself, once president of the Confederacy, is buried.
Between the highways, the prison, the cemetery and the black slums, the citified country folk of the Hill have stubbornly held onto their old ways, only leaving the Hill out of dire necessity: sometimes to work, more often to buy gas for their mean machines—arrival and departure times being broadcast for blocks around by the blast of Cherry Bomb mufflers. The streets of the Hill are lined with ramshackle two-story homes, overgrown back yards, dirt alleys and corrugated tin garages that house junk cars and serve as makeshift auto repair shops. There are two grocery stores, a stationery store that moves a record volume of Testor’s glue daily, one little bar and half a dozen pinball alleys where the kids hanging out usually don’t have the price of a game.
The older boys used to hang out at Trigg’s Grill on the corner across from the Sur Way Supermarket, which was supposed to be the Sure Way, but the owner wasn’t much of a speller and the sign painter didn’t figure he was getting paid for copywriting, too. It hardly mattered—everybody on the Hill knew it as the Sure Way, and if you said “Sir Way,” the way it was spelled on the sign, it showed you were an outsider and a reader to boot, either one being reason enough for the boys who hung out at Trigg’s to lay a taste of the boot up the side of your head. Trigg’s was a forbidding little joint with a window just large enough to shove a head through, which was exactly what used to happen most of the time, so the window was boarded over. The jukebox was stuffed with C&W favorites and the pool table took up most of the dance floor.
On a hot summer Saturday in 1975, the bartender of Trigg’s committed suicide. Big Mac had gotten wasted on yellow jackets and Southern Comfort early in the day and had traipsed all over the Hill telling everyone he was going to kill himself. Nobody believed him, a fact he found further depressing, so he went back home and shot himself through the head. Shortly after, they painted over the Trigg’s Grill “Pepsi” sign and closed the old dump down, while a block south a new bar, John’s Chuck Wagon, was being christened on the same corner on which a black man was hung from a tree some 40 years before.
Mr. Moore lives in a phony brick asbestos shingle house a block west of the Sure Way. I was standing in his next-door neighbor and my friend Andy’s back yard as I watched him do his spring cleaning. Dozens of squeezed-out glue tubes lay scattered about the crab grass and Mr. Moore, a gaunt, animated figure in baggy trousers, dirty T-shirt, sneakers and hard-hat, pounced on each tube like a dog on a bone. He’d roll the already squeezed-dry tube down till the tiniest drop appeared, hold it to his beaklike nose and, after snorting heavily, toss it over in a trash pile by the back steps. Then he’d push his hard-hat back and scratch his dirty white scalp, shake his head in mock pathos, spit and exclaim, “A dunno how in hail them girls can stand thet stuff! H’it’s got to be the worst stuff on earth!” But, he’d add in a moralizing tone, “If they’re gonna do it, though, might ‘swell do it under adult supervision’s what ah say—thet way ah kin git ’em to the hospital case something goes wrong.”
“Them girls’’ were Mr. Moore’s “gluetettes”—a whoresome foursome of junior high dropouts who did odd household jobs in exchange for spare change and tubes of Testor’s glue. Mr. Moore, who’d fuck a woodpile on the off chance there was a snake in it, had tried four wives, a host of hookers, cows, horses, sheep, chickens and even a seven-foot mama bear in his 60-odd years of sexcapades, but found nothing tickled his fancy quite like his harem of white trash teenyboppers who can’t even afford 15 cents for a tube of glue on their own. So Mr. Moore supplied the glue, in exchange for housekeeping. When the girls started huffing it, they began muffing it: socks in the dishrack, dishes in the chest of drawers, TV dinners forgotten and burned to a crisp. But the stickier jobs, like handjobs and blowjobs, they were more than willing and able to perform after bagging a few tubes of Testor’s tried-and-true.
“Some folks think ah mess with these li’l girls,” says Mr. Moore, cross-examining his morals and picking up glue tubes. “Ah wouldn’t dream of it, but they start to sniffing thet glue, they’re liable to mess with me! And the more they mess with me, the more ah lak it!”
“Now the worst thang ah ever heard, ’n ah don’t thank this ol’ boy was lyin’ about it neither—‘Jones Boy,’ his name was. Now he wasn’t a bad sorta fella, but he had him mischievous ways about him—li’l bit of devilment in us all, ah reckon,” Mr. Moore continued, launching into one of his many reminiscences of barnyard sex. Tina, a scraggly blonde freckled lass of not more than 13, came out on the back stoop and sat down. Dressed in faded, tattered and patched bell-bottom jeans (the mid-Sixties Woodstock look is popular on the Hill) and halter top (there was nothing yet to halt), she produced a rolled-down brown paper bag into which she squeezed a third of a brand-new tube of Testor’s glue. Holding the bag over her mouth and nose, Tina began hyperventilating, or “huffing,” as its devotees fondly call it. Mr. Moore ignored her and continued with his tale.
“Anyway, his mama, see, found 14 of her best chickens—dead!—out back of the corn crib. Now she thought a coon or skunk or somethin’ had got ’em, see, but this ol’ Jones Boy, he got a hard-on, y’see, he’d grab one of them chickens by the neck an’ stick it on thet thang, chicken’d go “bah-woooooock!!!! an’ die!… He’d throw it over in the briar patch an’ git him another chicken! Fourteen chickens the boy used up, jest lak that.”
“That s’pose to be true, Mr. Moore?” asks Andy.
“Yup. Ah myself never fucked no chickens, but got into jest about ever’thin’ else, though. Now a sheep got a pussy on ’em jes’ lak a woman,” states Mr. Moore. “You put thet thang in there, they might walk up a couple steps or so, then they’ll settle’back an’ relax an’ you can pump away. Used to have a helluva lotta fun, take a calf, when you was weanin’ em, didn’t matter if it was a boy calf or girl calf. Feed it out of a damn bottle, see, I’d get it suckin’ outta thet bottle, than ah’d slip mah dick in there an’ it’d suck on thet awhile. Ah was havin’ a hail of a lotta fun thet summer! Well, ah was lettin’ this li’l calf suck on mah peter, see, an’ turn around to see this ol’ farmer ah was workin’ fur—he’s standin’ there with his hands on his hips grinnin’ lak a mule eatin’ briars!” continues Mr. Moore, building up to his punch line. “Ah say, ‘jest stand there an’ watch a cow eat a man alive ‘n’ not do nothin’ about it!’“
Tina goes into a giggling fit, pinching her bag of glue tight so none of the huffy stuff will escape. Then, snapping out of it, she vies for Mr. Moore’s attention.
“Mr. Moore, you gotta long nose!”
“Thas from keepin’ it outta other folks’s business,” replies Mr. Moore easily. “Gives it a chance to grow!”
Mr. Moore’s open house is huff-headquarters for Tina and the other gluetettes, Darleen, Bridgette and Essie Mae—they stick together in pairs, these gluetettes. He lives between Jimmy Black, a scrap metal dealer on the corner, and my friend Andy, a displaced Hill hippie who rents a whole house for $65 a month. I guess Jimmy Black hasn’t been laid in years, and it bugs him that his neighbor, crazy ol’ Mr. Moore, is always in and out of the young gluetettes. But the three neighbors share one strong common bond: they love to sit on their porches and talk about nothing as they watch the girls and cars go by. “Over in India they got potatoes big as cantaloupes an’ taste lak shit,” shouts Jimmy Black, which sets Mr. Moore off on a harangue about how he thinks the government will try to irrigate the moon soon by running pipes up from the earth. Andy punctuates Mr. Moore’s punch lines by popping the tops off Sur Way beers and tossing the empties at Mr. Moore’s feet, to be stamped down for the recycling center—a few more pennies for his girls. The gluetettes wander in and out of the house, occasionally traipsing off barefoot to the pinball alleys, or just sit around the porch saying, “You’re common,” to Mr. Moore as he tells tall tales. It’s the worst insult on the Hill. When the hunched-back dwarf lady from down the block walks by, Mr. Moore pauses mid-sentence, wolf-whistles, says, ‘‘There goes your girlfriend, Jimmy Black,” and picks up where he left off. He reads the daily paper cover to cover, reading his favorite rape, murder, auto wreck, theft stories and the Bible, which he frequently misquotes, aloud. He knows a slew of jokes.
‘‘There was these two n!#%rs workin’ in the ditch,” he’ll begin, “an’ one says, ‘Leroy, how come we workin’ down here in the ditch fo’ peanuts when thet foreman’s sittin’ up there under the shade tree drinkin’ his julep and sleepin’?’ ‘Ah dunno,’ says t’other, ‘whyn’ choo aks him?’ So the n!#%r takes his shovel an’ climbs outta the ditch an’ goes t’ask the foreman. ‘Boss,’ he says, ‘how come we workin’ in the ditch an’ you sleepin’ in the shade an’ sippin’ yo’ julep?’ Foreman holds up his hand. ‘See this hand’ says the foreman. ‘Yep,’ says the darky. Foreman holds his hand up in front of the tree. ‘Now ah want you to hit mah hand with thet shovel as hard as you can.’ The darky looks nervous. ‘Go ’head, boy, it’s all right,’ says the foreman. So the darky takes his shovel an’ swings as hard as he can, but the foreman moves it away, an’ the n!#%r hits the tree…’ Mr. Moore pretends to swing a shovel like a baseball bat, hit a tree, and shake like a bowl of jello. ‘Brains is how come,’ says the foreman, ‘now git back in thet ditch.’ The n!#%r goes back down into the ditch an’ t’other n!*#%r says, ‘You find out how come we’s workin’ in the ditch?’ Mr. Moore holds his hand up in front of his face and says, “See dis han”?
Jimmy Black snickers. The hippie tosses an empty at Mr. Moore’s feet and pops open another, but the gluetettes crack up. They’re all sitting around holding their bags tight so the fumes won’t escape and squealing, with laughter.
Mr. Moore is defensive about his gluetettes. “Ah don’t mess with them li’l girls… They jest want somebody to pay ’em some mind, somebody to talk to, y’know’… Parents won’t pay ’em no mind. Hail, ah don’t mess with ’em,” Mr. Moore repeats, shaking his head and spitting off his porch. “But sometimes they mess with me, y’know, ’specially when they’re messed up on thet glue.” According to Mr. Moore, the girls get to huffing and they’re liable to just take off all their clothes and sit on his face, which he also has an opinion on. “Now the first wife ah had, she wanted me to kiss thet thang—y’know, git down there an’ eat her pussy. Hail, this was a long time ago an’ ah’d never heard of such a thang. Ah thought it was the craziest thang ah’d ever heard, and figgered thet was grounds enough for divorce.” With a sly wink he tells us he’s changed his mind about that. “Eatin’ pussy ain’t bad a-tall!”
Mr. Moore likes to take a couple of his gluetettes on a weekend excursion into the hills of Appalachia where he grew up, though they hardly ever get 20 miles out of Richmond. “They’d start squawkin’ an’ fussin’ like a couple of catbirds,” Mr. Moore explains disdainfully, and when that happened he’ll turn around his battered ’63 Chevy sedan with the “I’m Not A Dirty Old Man, I’m a Sexy Senior Citizen” bumper sticker, and head right back to the Hill. But when they do make it out there, the image is comic: Mr. Moore checking into a motel with a couple of his “granddaughters.” Buying glue on the road isn’t like buying it at the stationery shop on the Hill, where the biddy behind the counter can’t see anything peculiar in selling a few tubes of glue a day to the same few girls. Once, after checking into a motel in Winchester, Virginia, Mr. Moore took Tina and Darlene into the local five-and-dime to lay in a weekend stash and ended up buying a model of a Patton tank along with a half-dozen tubes of glue to avoid suspicion. After returning to the Hill, he even tried to put the tank together, but “ah couldn’t seem to keep no damn glue around the house, for some reason.”
What do the gluetettes’ parents think of their offspring hanging around with the “sexy senior citizen” of the Hill? The answer is that they could do a whole lot worse—“Them li’l girls Tina an’ Darlene once run off with ah forget his name,” Mr. Moore relates. “He’s 40 and married, lives up the street. He took ’em down to Norfolk for a wild weedend; wife was pissed as shit. He’s half-retarded, but ah know how he kept them girls—must’ve had a trunkload of glue.” If Mr. Moore is a little off his nut, the Hill folks at least know where he’s coming from, and trust his paternal nature. At least they know where their children are, should they want them (which they don’t). Indeed, many of the Hill folk know exactly where Mr. Moore is coming from and try to make the best of it. “Thet fat lady across the street, she once sent her eight-year-old daughter over here to try to get some money off me. She took off all her clothes, too. Hail, ah threw her right out the door, her clothes, too! Ah weren’t gonna mess with nothing that young.”
“But this other little girl, jest nine years old, cute as a button, she says to me, ‘Mr. Moore, ah’ll give ya the best French kiss you ever had for a dollar.’ Welp, ah don’t usually mess with nothin’ that young, but curiosity got the best of me. Ah jest had to see how she done it. An’ damn if thet li’l girl couldn’t kiss! Ah gave her the dollar an’ said, ‘Lordy, li’l girl, where’d you learn to kiss like thet from?’ An’ she said, ‘Mah mamma!’ ’’
Mr. Moore is somewhat worried abut the gluetettes. Tina and Darleen have run off the Mechanicsville to shack up with some older man, and Bridgette, turned sweet-16 and blossoming into a young lady, was spending more and more time with her boy friend, “Hard Rock,” who was closer to her own age. “An’ Essie Mae, ah believe thet girl’s completely gone on thet glue. She can’t think straight anymore, an’ she goes on these mean streaks. Can’t do the simplest thangs ’round the house neither—forgot all about mah damn TV dinner t’other night an’ near burnt the house down. She’s messed up bad on thet glue,” Mr. Moore concludes with a sorrowful shake of his head.
Ten-year-old Lou Anne and her chubby little bespectacled girlfriend come by and ask Mr. Moore for a quarter for a Mr. Softee, and he suddenly brightens. “Lil girl, ther’ve been five hundred women come by today an’ the first one that come got all mah money,” he tells her. Then he fishes into his trousers and, patting her on the head, gives her a quarter. The little girls run off with glee after the ice cream truck and Mr. Moore stares after them wistfully. “Thet Lou Anne, she gonna be purty as a picture,” he says, probably envisioning a whole new generation of gluetettes he’s already priming with shiny quarters and clever jokes. “But ah wish to hail they’d take that ‘Mister Softee’ off thet truck!” he says. “H’it scares me!”
“Ah eat at Hardee’s every day,” yells Jimmy Black from his front porch, “but it don’t do me a durn bit of good!’’