One of the best men I know buried his son today.
A few days ago, the news of the son’s death was splattered across Facebook. It traveled on slurred speech across bar tops and on the semi-whispered tones of small-town gossip from behind newspapers and over steaming cups of harshly strong coffee.
And it landed flatly on the ears of the unsurprised.
Those who knew Ricky Clay knew that he had been in trouble his entire life. Those who weren’t aware of his personal misadventures were aware of those of his three brothers. And those who weren’t specifically aware of any of those could still readily accept any dirt associated with that long-sullied family name.
Every small town in America has a family like the Clays. For generations, the males in that family have been at odds with local law enforcement. As young boys, they struggled in school. As teenagers, they missed a lot of school and spent a lot of time expelled before barely making it through or dropping out all together.
They all ended up in jail, usually more than once. Some of the more persistent ones spent time in prison. That was the story more often than not. And no one was ever surprised. They are Clays, and everyone knows the Clay boys are bad.
“It’s in their blood,” the people around town will say with alarming certainty and finality. Just because they know that’s not medically factual doesn’t mean that they don’t believe it to some extent. Honestly, I think that’s a big part of the problem.
From the moment salacious word spreads through town that some unlucky young woman in town has allowed herself to become pregnant with a Clay child, there is nearly unanimous speculation that the potential son she carries will be a hellion.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that this is the result of actively poor or at least neglectful…