John Billy

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Summary

Chuck Nunn Jr. was a local hero of Minogue, Oklahoma. An enormous man, Nunn was incredibly successful in all of his endeavors: he dominated high school football, attracted all of the local women, was heroic in Vietnam etc. Upon his return from the war there was a gigantic tornado that ripped off the satellite dish to his house, which then got hurled into the ground causing the revelation of oil spouting up from his land. Nunn used this oil to fix his ranch, send his mother to a caring institution and make his sheep farm more prosperous than ever. However, Nunn's success with sheep farming, and his marriage to the beautiful Glory Joy duBoise, evoked the jealousy of T. Rex Minogue, a sheep farming mogul and son of the town's founder. After many failed attempts to aggravate Nunn, Minogue hired his brother and two others to blow up a portion of Nunn's ranch with dynamite. The dynamite caused the town to rain sheep parts for an entire afternoon. Furious, Nunn took off to confront Minogue, but on his way to T. Rex's ranch he was involved in a high-speed accident caused by the reckless driving of T. Rex's brother V.V. The accident resulted in a multitude of physical injuries for Nunn (V.V. was in a large truck with airbags and was unharmed in the incident), but they all soon healed. The real problem was that the accident knocked loose a mental tendency toward episodes of violence and evil in Nunn. Nunn was unable to control when and how long these episodes lasted and he (as well as the rest of the town) lived in constant fear of aggravating his own uncontrollable temper. Along with the problem of his temper, the accident left Nunn with eyes that would pop out of their sockets if provoked by a sneeze or a slap on the back, and these two things wore Nunn down. Nunn tried to hide the eyeball problem from Glory Joy out of shame, but one day sneezed, resulting in his eyeballs' expulsion from their sockets and into his cereal. The fury this caused in Nunn led to another episode, and Nunn tore off for the Minogue estate to get revenge on the man that caused him all of this trouble. When Nunn arrived he assaulted a pair of ranchhands and their wives, then continued to break into the house and wreak havoc on T. Rex's property. T. Rex, in an attempt to avoid being murdered, took Nunn upstairs and showed him to the window. At the window, T. Rex slapped Nunn on the back causing his eyes to pop out and dangle from his sockets toward the ground below. Whatever it was that this showed Nunn caused him to refrain from killing T. Rex. Nunn drove off in his truck and did not return. All of this is told in a bar alternatively by John Billy, Glory Joy, and in the end T. Rex himself.

Characters

  • Chuck Nunn Jr.
  • Simple Ranger
  • Glory Joy duBoise
  • T. Rex Minogue
  • V.V. Minogue
  • John Billy (narrator)

Themes/Motifs

Revenge

The theme of revenge is explored throughout the story. Chuck Nunn Jr. is a good-spirited man who appears to have everything that one could want in life. However, when he is pushed too far by an aggressive and envious neighbor, he seeks revenge. This furious attempt at vengeance leads to the true dismantling of Nunn's life and all that he holds dear to him. Despite all of the hostilities of the external world and Nunn's enemies, his undoing is his own inability to control his temper.

Voice

The story is written as an account of a story being told. The narrator is describing for the reader how he told the story of Chuck Nunn Jr. to Simple Ranger and how, throughout the telling of the tale, more people joined them at the bar to add their accounts of what happened. The voice of the narrator is grammatically incorrect and takes on the tendencies associated with old-west-speech. Sentences often begin in a manner such as "Was me told Simple Ranger..." (135).

Context

John Billy, our narrator, is describing to the reader how he told the story of Chuck Nunn Junior's life to Simple Ranger. Simple Ranger is a local man who has some mental handicap brought on by staring into the dust of Oklahoma for too long. John Billy recounts to Simple Ranger stories "only he don't know" about the happenings in Minogue, Oklahoma in exchange for Simple Ranger buying him some beer as they talk (122). In the middle of the story, Glory Joy duBoise comes into the bar and sits down amongst Billy and Ranger. She contributes to the telling of the story, adding the emotional portion to Billy's factual account. Near the end T. Rex Minogue, the antagonist of the Nunn story, enters the bar and sits down amongst them, finishing off the details of the end of the Nunn story.

Criticism