27
Jun
12

i still got it, just not that much of it

Coeur de l’Ours, Vermont, population 161, is a town where you can easily walk three or four blocks without running into a single soul, much less one of your childhood idols, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw him in the general store, even following him around for a few aisles to make sure that it was really him.
“Why are you staring at that guy?” my traveling companion inquired. “Is he famous or something?”
“Yeah,” I said, nodding in the direction of a 58 year-old man in a salt-ringed khaki ballcap and a Land’s End jacket filling a paper sack with wood screws. “That’s Lord Cthulhu.”
“No way. How can you even recognize him without the makeup?”
He actually only wore the makeup on his third album, 1981’s Winged Victory, but that was what everyone remembered him for. My older brother had the LP, and when he wasn’t home I would let my friends come into his bedroom one at a time to look at it: Lord Cthulhu covering himself in vampiric glory, spreading his cape menacingly and pioneering the use of yellow contact lenses years before anyone else as blood dripped from his fangs.
Like many of the Vermonters I’ve encountered over the seven or so years I’ve been taking girls up here for the weekend, he was certainly not looking for conversation, but perfectly engaging and gregarious once I introduced myself, letting me know with a smile that that nowadays people called him Doug Shepard and extending his hand. I asked him what he was doing nowadays, and he invited us to his farm to see for ourselves.
“Don’t worry, we have folks out there all the time,” he said. “My wife runs a bed and breakfast and I make custom furniture. Sell it on the internet. You should come out.” I wrote down the address and tried to play it cool.
When I drove up the next morning, he waved to me from his wood shop and indicated a spot where the gravel road ended as a good place to park. He walked out to meet me, then leaned on the opened tailgate of a 1970 Ford truck to clean his glasses with a handkerchief. They weren’t bifocals, I noticed. After joshing me about not getting up early enough to help him milk the cows, he offered me a cigarette. “Free of charge,” he chuckled. “If Carol asks, though, they’re yours,” said the man who can no longer legally enter Finland due to a 1985 heroin smuggling charge.
Doug bought the place after returning from a tour of Japan in 1993, one year after his daughter Jennifer was born, and a few years after his star had fallen in the United States. Knowing it was his last gasp, he hit the road sober for the first and only time and put away nearly every penny. Jennifer is a junior at UVM now, to be joined this fall by her sister Joanna. Lord Cthulhu beamed with pride as he joked that for the rest of the summer, his dining room is serving as “the Official Joanna Shepard Graduation Gift Overflow Area.”
Said he doesn’t think about the old days much, and I believe him. Too busy with work and family. “Little things remind me, though,” he said. “This year on my birthday I happened to be driving into Burlington with the rock station on, and they mentioned me on This Day in Rock History, right after C.C. DeVille and Ian Astbury. That was kinda nice.” He smiled warmly at a barn cat drinking milk out of a bowl. “Of course, they didn’t say how old any of us were.” Who knows, they might have been that new kind of bifocals that don’t look like bifocals.
He showed me his shop, where among the pieces he was working on was a beautifully ornate headboard. Two weeks from now, he told me, a man in Bellemore, Wisconsin, will give this headboard to his wife as a 20th anniversary present. Then he smiled the smile of a man that has found true happiness. When asked of the secret to his happiness, he spoke humbly of his devout religious faith. “Yessir,” he said. “Every piece of furniture I build is to the honor and glory of Satan.”

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2 Responses to “i still got it, just not that much of it”


  1. June 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    You made me laugh out loud. Nice job.

  2. 2 Coryzon
    July 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Loved the story! Is it part of the book project? I’m drawn in now, hehe.


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