They’d obviously been doing something psychoactive, but there was no nasty reek. They seemed happy enough, and alert, so I figured it was MDMA. I was talking to a slightly haggard man in his fities with a swollen gut and was thoroughly unsurprised when he offered up he was a public school math teacher.  What I took to be his grandaughter wandered up in a demure ankle length Indian skirt and a  crudely woven synthethic leather bodice . She had large sunglasses. and looked like a bug that was in the process of shedding a dried brown carapace. We began discussing the sort of junk we would buy if the natural flow of cash were somehow reversed.

The common ground of the reachers and middle class is the lack of money to build the structures that permit them to keep their junk out of the rain, to defeat the sucking waves of entropy that cut every  personal manifestation of taste off at its knees. And that’s how I knew they’d come into money from the topside. They were selling the whole motherfucker off. Their eyes must have lit up when they saw me, a credulous buyer of bizarre shit , for bizarreness’ sake.  They were very rich, and had stumbled on a period of their lives where they were bored.

I  sensed Iwas very lucky, and about to get myself some cheap furniture.  When they asked me if I’d be interested in looking at the estate, I laughed. “I really can’t afford shit. I’d love to see it, but you’d be wasting your time.” They looked at each other, did high fives, pushed me into the car, and we started off into the barrens of northeastern NC. They passed a pint of Southern Comfort through the divider window of the hearse, ocassionaly pointing out some relic of a house that their folks had owned, or come up in, or foreclosed on. The skeletons of antebellum houses appeared  in recesses of old oak stands, and they knew them – their owners – their provenance. It was family.  When she was driving she was willing to let the math teacher speak uninterrupted. He was the historian of the two, and as the derelict frames pitched into the horizon, he’d rattle off the dates, the peak number of slaves, and the political inclinations of the property holders.

We drove across Indian reservations, huge detimbered areas, and finally wound up at an Italianate house  buried in oppurtunistic growth. It was well off the highway, but used to sit close to the old road, so the owners could sit on the porch and wait for the sun to warm them, then gradually activate the machine that provided them with cash. There were probably about 1400 slaves in the early nineteenth century, but the majority of these people were sold or freed in the wake of severe economic depressions and the realization that the South would never be a breadbasket. Even the cotton gin wouldn’t restore the place to its former population. The family struggled to maintain its public face among a group of old tories who educated their boys at Eton and herded their daughters to marry the local gentry.