Edward Vincent Prescott III is a snob in trouble. The elitist ad man has blown a multi-million-dollar campaign for a chain of wholesale consumer stores. His penance is to go undercover to study the ad campaign's target consumer group: the blue-collar society he abhors. Taking on his task with the fervor of a graduate anthropology student, he dives headfirst into a world of trailer parks, macaroni and cheese dinners, stock cars, and ZZ Top.
From the acclaimed author of In The Way That Elephants Do comes a novel that is politically incorrect, irreverent and unapologetic. Undercover White Trash is a story that both tickles the funny bone and challenges the way we think about our society. They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure, and Edward Prescott III learns this the hard way: on the potholed streets of America's forgotten underclass.
She began walking toward the exit, purse in hand. I saw my chance about to slip away, so I got up to follow her. This was a mistake. The tequila seemed to have paralyzed my legs. Unable to move, I watched the love of my life slip away. But fate would once again bring us together, I remember thinking. I managed a feeble wave as she walked through the door.
Leon returned with the tequila shots and sat down. He stared jealously at my now red and swelling forearm; the Princeton Flash had struck again. I picked up my shot and led the three guys in a toast to women. Conley didn't appreciate the toast; as a matter of fact, it seemed to scare him considerably. I had forgotten that he had to go home to Barbie when this was all over. Poor pathetic slob. I patted him on the shoulder.
It was then that I saw her: the woman of my dreams. She was sitting on the other side of the bar. She was a young Hispanic woman with long black hair hanging to her slim waist. Her black satin dress was open in front to an almost obscene degree, revealing an unbelievable pair of breasts. They were truly hypnotic. I don't know why, but an old song from my youth jumped into my mind and I was unable to shake it. "In a little cafe just south of the border..." it began. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was singing out loud. "She gave me a look that made my mouth water..." The others looked at me as I got up out of my chair. "Come a little bit closer; you're my kind of man..." I sang out loud without taking my eyes off her. The guys looked at me, startled. "So big and so strong..." I continued as I walked around to the other side of the bar. "Come a little bit closer; I'm all alone..." I rounded the corner. I stared at her as she sat on the barstool, her beautiful black-stockinged legs beckoning me.
I had to have her; I had never had a girl of a minority persuasion before.
"...and the night is so long..." I finished as I finally reached her. She looked up at me with a come-hither look on her face. I said in my best prep school Spanish, "Buenos nachos, muchacha." The Princeton Flash was about to do it again.
I woke up on the floor of the county jail about four hours later. The last thing I remembered seeing was the word "LOVE" tattooed on the knuckles of a huge fist as it slammed into my face. What happened after that is foggy. I remember falling to the floor and hearing a massive brawl take place all around me. I also remember that the guy who hit me seemed to be the girl's boyfriend. I didn't recall much in the way of details, but there was one thing I knew for sure; I was in big trouble.
From Chapter 5:
"Here we are," the hostess said as she pointed to our booth. The girls slipped in first. I had never seen booths quite like these before. They were set back into the wall behind wooden swinging saloon-type doors. I guess a romantic couple could close these if they wanted a bit more privacy. As I sat down, I noticed that the doors, table, and walls were virtually covered in romantic graffiti; much of it was actually carved into the wood. From the dates that I could make out, there were three decades of platitudes lovingly scratched and left for posterity.
"This is where Conley and me came on our first date," Barbie said with a gleam in her eye. Conley blushed.
"How romantic," I said, trying to hide my sarcasm. This place was about as romantic as a hockey fight. If someone had carved "I Luv Rhonda" into the table of my favorite Italian restaurant, he would probably have found himself on the bottom of the river wearing a cement overcoat.
The waiter brought over the menus and introduced himself. I noted that he was wearing the same kind of tux as the piano player.
"You gonna sing tonight?" Barbie asked him.
"Yes; at seven thirty, eight thirty, and nine thirty," he replied. I sensed he would be a baritone, but I hoped that we would not be in this place long enough to hear him sing.
"Whatcha gonna get?" Gretchen asked me as I scanned the menu. The food selection wasn't too bad.
"I'm not sure. What's good? Have you ever been here before?" I asked. She and Barbie looked at each other and giggled. I guess that she had indeed been to the place before.
"The fettuccini is good, so is the veal," Gretchen said as she pointed to the items on the menu. Conley kicked me under the table and I looked up at him. He was giving me an "I told you so" look; the veal was the most expensive thing on the menu.
The waiter came back to the table and asked, "Would you care for some wine?"
Barbie squealed, "Oooh; let's get some."
Not thinking, I spouted, "What is your best Cabernet Sauvignon? Do you have a Mondavi by chance?"
"I believe so. But I know we still have a few bottles of Chateau St. Jean 1996 left."
"Great. '96 wasn't as good as '95, but I haven't seen either in awhile. That will be perfect. Reserve two bottles for us," I concluded as the waiter left the table. I suddenly felt as if someone was looking at me. Glancing up from the menu, I saw Conley and Barbie gawking at me with their mouths open. Turning to Gretchen, I saw that she was doing the same.
"I was thinkin' more along the lines of a pitcher of Riunite," Conley stated.
I realized that I was very close to blowing my cover. My knowledge of the vino had aroused their suspicion. I had to think of something quick.
"I saw that in a James Bond movie once," I said.
"That was pretty cool, bud," Conley said with an envious grin as he went back to scanning his menu. The girls were not as convinced. They both continued to look at me strangely for several minutes. Luckily, the waiter returned with the wine and broke their attention. The girls liked the Cabernet so much they forgot about their paranoia.
I decided not to smell the cork.
I ordered the veal for Gretchen and me. Barbie ordered this, too. Conley ordered ravioli because it was the only word on the menu that he recognized.
From Chapter 10:
Yuppie Death March had just taken the stage and were tuning their instruments. They must have been a popular band, judging from the number of beer cans being thrown at them; Pap Smear only had half as many thrown at them when they played. Gretchen's brother showed his gratitude by spitting on the people in the front row.
"Holy shit," Leon grumbled. "He's gonna start a freakin' riot." He still did not fathom what this place was all about.
"Wanna dance?" a husky voice said from behind me. I turned to see a woman standing between me and Gretchen: a very large woman. She was dressed in what I can only describe as a black leather executioner's outfit. Gretchen peered angrily around the woman's torso. "I said, do you wanna dance?" she continued as she stared down into my eyes.
"Ah, I ah..." was all I could sputter before Gretchen came to my rescue.
"Excuse me," Gretchen said loudly as she shoved her way around the woman. She put her arms around me and sneered at the hulking figure. The woman gave us both an evil smile and disappeared into the crowd. "Looks like I'm going to have to keep an eye on you, good lookin'," Gretchen said. "Or one of these mamas is going to take you home and put you in a diaper."
I did not like the fact that the woman was still loose out there in the room. I took a safer position on the wall next to Leon.
Gretchen jerked hard on my arm. "Let's go up front," she yelled as Peter Lorre let out his opening scream. The dance floor began to pulsate like bat guano on a cave floor.
"We're not going out there, are we?" I asked.
"No, of course not. It's just more fun if you get up a little closer."
I felt the energy level increase as we fought our way around the perimeter of the crowded dance floor. We were able to get a good view of Gretchen's brother as he postured onstage, oblivious to everything around him. We held each other and listened to a couple of their songs. After awhile, I began to feel more comfortable up there. I guess it was because the people up front seemed to have a single-mindedness about them. They just wanted to groove with the music and express themselves. The people to the rear, however, were a bunch of loose cannons who had no outlet for their frustrations. My chain of thought was interrupted by a large manicured hand that grabbed me by the collar and yanked me backwards. In a split second, I was in the middle of the dance floor. "You're mine now, sugar!" the big leather woman yelled as she spun me around. She meant it, too.
She shoved me into the melee. I began bouncing from every elbow, knee, and forehead in the place. Bobby inadvertently gave me a particularly nasty shot to the groin. I was getting dizzy from the blows and the incessant spinning. But I dared not fall; the spike heels and combat boots could have done some serious damage. I decided to ride out the fracas as best I could until the song ended. Luckily, the songs didn't seem to last very long. Plan "A" ended about five seconds later when the leather woman grabbed me again. This time, she pulled me toward the front. I couldn't get away from her; she was too strong. She threw me into the crowd of people right in front of the stage. I panicked as they took hold of me and began drawing me up to the stage, shouting encouragement. These were the jumpers.
"No!" I yelled, but it was no use. They began pushing me up onto the stage. I could see the leather woman bulldozing her way through them. She had a crazed look on her face. It was clear that I had only one option. Since my feet weren't even touching the ground, I reached up and grabbed the corner of the stage and pulled myself up and over the edge. Someone sprayed beer in my face and I stood up. The place looked completely different from this perspective; it was like Hell itself.
Across the room, I could see Conley and Barbie looking at me. Conley put his hands over his eyes. A blood-curdling scream behind me made me turn around. Peter Lorre was standing just a few inches away; he had the microphone cord around his neck. His face was purple. I had to get out of there. I aimed for a spot away from the leather woman and jumped headfirst. Six or seven thrashers, strangers all, broke my fall and lowered me gently to the floor. In the chaos that surrounded me, I suddenly had a strange feeling of peace and contentment; the jump had been better than a primal scream therapy session.
My solace was interrupted by a tug on my arm. It was Gretchen. She pointed over my shoulder. "We had better get out of here!" she yelled. I looked to where she was pointing. The leather woman was fighting her way through the crowd toward us. She was not happy. I grabbed Gretchen and headed for the door.
Conley and Barbie met us as we sprinted to the exit. Leon saw what was happening and was already halfway down the stairs. We evaded the bottle urchins and broke through to the art gallery. From the cursing coming from the stairwell, I could tell that the leather woman was gaining on us. It didn't look good. Suddenly, we heard a pathetic scream. As we were running to the door, I turned around to see what is was. The leather woman came tumbling down the last few steps like some kind of giant mutant beetle. Bobby emerged right behind her. I could tell from his mischievous expression that he had just tripped her.
"Let's go, bud!" he yelled triumphantly as he flew past us. The leather woman lay sprawled on the linoleum floor, shaking her fists at us and cursing a blue streak. We bolted past Adolph Eichmann and his flag-headed henchman. Leon was holding the door for us already and joined us as we ran past him. We made the fifty-yard dash to the car in no time. I fired up the big engine and we peeled out, almost colliding with the water truck that was spraying the sidewalks. None of us said anything for several minutes.
"How about some music?" Gretchen finally said.
"Only if it's country-western," Leon demanded.
We all concurred. I put in a Merle Haggard tape.
From Chapter 15:
I had a mental image of what an automobile racetrack should look like. Unfortunately, this track did not live up to that image. I was expecting something that looked like the track in Indianapolis; this place looked more like a junior-high football stadium. The track was situated at the far end of a huge muddy parking area. I got the feeling that the entire property had once been a farm. A set of old wooden grandstands stood at the end of the parking area. Beyond these was the track itself. It was a flat, oval-shaped dirt track about a hundred yards across the middle. The circumference of the track must have been about a quarter mile. On top of the grandstands was a small pressbox. The grandstand area was protected from the track by an eight-foot cinder block wall. In front of this wall was a clear area of dirt that had been divided into sections with baseball chalk. Another shorter cinder block wall separated this area from the track itself. I assumed that this sectioned area was the "pit" that Conley had referred to earlier. Each of the dozen or so sections in the pit had its own table. As we checked in with the guard at the gate, I saw that some drivers were already there working on their cars. The other cars looked like they should be in a demolition derby. I had seen better-looking cars at Big Steve's junkyard. Needless to say, my hot rod stock Chevy Malibu with its aerodynamic wing on top turned a few heads as Conley motored it slowly into our assigned pit section.
Conley was in heaven. The girls and I walked behind him and then sat on the table as he climbed out of the car. The other drivers soon lost interest in us and returned to their work. Conley took his flame resistant driving suit from Barbie and slipped it on.
"Yeah," he said as he zipped up the front of the coverall, "I done everything that needed to be done. I adjusted the clutch, reset the idle, rebuilt a couple of wheel brake cylinders, and some other little stuff. I think we're ready, bud." Conley gave me a high five. I looked at the girls. They were excited. This was going to be fun.
Conley and Barbie went to find a restroom, leaving Gretchen and me to wait for the race inspector to come and check the car. At about thirty minutes to race time, he arrived. He walked around the car first, checking items on a clipboard as he went along. Then he stuck his head in the driver's compartment. Next came the engine. This seemed in order, also. He completed the procedure by pasting a huge number 8 on the side of the car. Without a word, he went on to the next car.
Barbie ran up to us. "Conley's sick," she said gloomily. "I think he ate too many calf fries."
That did not surprise me. It was sickening enough just to watch him eat the vile things. We followed Barbie to the grandstand area, where people were steadily filling the place. The atmosphere was festive. "Here he is," Barbie stated as we arrived at the restroom facility. Conley was sitting on the ground with his back to the wall. His face was green.
"What happened?" I asked him.
"It's them calf fries," he moaned. The mere mention of the words sent him dashing to the men's room with his hand over his mouth.
"What are we gonna do?" Barbie whined.
"I guess we'll have to forfeit the race," I said.
"What about you?" Barbie asked. "Can't you drive?"
I had no intention of driving in this race. I had absolutely no experience and would certainly wind up getting killed. The idea of driving at high speed around a dirt track with eleven other cars was not appealing to me at all. No, driving was out of the question.
"You're forgetting about my back," I said.
"Oh, yeah. I forgot," Barbie said. Gretchen looked at me suspiciously; she knew that there was nothing wrong with my back.
"So The Great Fulmer weenies out again," chuckled a voice from behind me. I turned around. A greasy man with a cowboy hat and a three-day growth of beard approached us. He was wearing a racing coverall. Barbie turned red with anger as he joined our group. "So Conley boy is sickie-poo, huh?" the guy said to Barbie. I saw her fists clench. "And his sidekick here is gonna chicken out, too." He pointed a thumb at me.
"You get outta here before I kick your ass, Jimmy John!" Barbie yelled in the guy's face. I would lay odds that she could have done it, too. Jimmy John wisely backed away from her.
He laughed and turned towards me. "Too bad we ain't gonna go for it out there, pretty boy. I'd have loved to drive right up your ass," he said to me as he walked away.
"Who the hell was that?" I asked Barbie. She was so angry that she was shaking.
"That was her ex," Gretchen explained. "She dropped him and married Conley. He and Conley always wind up driving against one another. He usually wins, too."
Conley came out of the restroom at that time. He looked worse than before. "What the hell did that son-of-a-bitch want?" he asked us.
"He's just rubbin' it in that we're gonna have to forfeit the race," Barbie said as tears welled up in her eyes. On Conley's green face I could see his embarrassment and humiliation.
I was feeling pretty bad myself. I had been using this back injury ruse to avoid my weaknesses. And now my friends were about to be completely humiliated by this goon because I was too afraid to face my fears. But this guy had not just humiliated the Fulmers; he had insulted me personally. He may as well have slapped me across the face with his glove; he had challenged me in public. As I looked at the Fulmers leaning dejectedly against the restroom wall, I decided to accept this challenge. My honor was more valuable than my personal safety. "Pretty boy" indeed; The Princeton Flash was about to teach this buffoon a lesson in chivalry.
"Give me your driving suit," I said to Conley. "I'm gonna leave this son-of-a-bitch behind like a fart in a dust storm."
Copyright 1987, 2001 by David L. Kilpatrick
All rights reserved; no duplication of this text without written permission of the Author.