As befits a candidate for the Number Two spot on a presidential ticket, the circumstances of Mr. Orville Slack IV’s lineage and life were of a humble nature.
His great-grandfather, Orville Slack I, was born in a hayloft somewhere in the panhandle of what is now either Texas or Oklahoma. At that time the region was part of Mexico, which would explain why Mr. Slack has a goodly portion of Hispanic blood—or, to be more accurate, he had Hispanic blood before his martyrdom at the hands of mysterious and suspicious forces and his subsequent cremation. But he still drinks a shot of Corona beer every day, save Sundays, when he sips a pipkin of tequila.
Does he speak Spanish? Sí. He is learning the language. Señor Gordo Zapata’s wife is his teacher. He now knows more than un poco Spanish. Señor Zapata’s wife also gives him piano lessons, starting with the scales. So far he has memorized two musicological sentences, which, rendered in Spanish, are: Una vaca come la hierba and Cada buen muchacho multa. Verstehen Sie?
[Guide to the perplexed: “Yes.” (Sp.) “a little” (Sp.) “A cow eats grass.” (Sp.) “Each good boy does fine.” (Sp.) “Do you understand?” (Ger.)] [Explanation: “A cow, etc.” = A C E G; and “Each good boy, etc.” = E G B D F.”] [Further explanation: on the piano keyboard, each octave contains seven notes, which run, alphabetically, from A to G. A piano teacher will often inaugurate a beginning student into the mysteries of Western music by using these pedagogical sentences—phrases, really. Each phrase serves as a mnemonic device to teach what are called the “musical scales.”] [For even further explanation, check your Wikipedia under the phrase “Scale (music).”] [To top off these explanations, the reader might contact a piano teacher, preferably one whose clientele consists of beginners and who is patient, loving, but strict.]
About the hayloft. The candidate’s great-grandfather, Orville Slack I, was a semi-orphan. Upon hearing of his mistress’s pregnancy, his father, a dissolute Englishman and former British M.P. by the name of Jack Ackert Slack, had decamped from Panhandle County and its environs. Abandoned by her lover of three months, Orville I’s mother, a Mexican tap-dancer named Margarita, was forced to fend for herself. This fending consisted of moving to a nearby cave and living on cooked sagebrush, homemade tequila, and the occasional jackrabbit or armadillo she was able to gun down with an amazing accuracy that was then passed along to her son, and subsequently to her grandson, great-grandson, and great-great-grandson. Legend has it that she could shoot the end of a squat cigar out of the mouth of a deputy sheriff at fifty paces. There was not a bank teller in Panhandle County—or so it is said—who did not fear Grass-Widow Slack, as she came to be known. Indeed, a good part of an aspiring Panhandle County bank teller’s training came to consist of mastering the art of petitioning a Supreme Being of his, or, on rare occasions her, choice.
Slack’s arrière-grand-père [Ed. note: “Great-grandfather”, Fr.] himself was born in that cave, which he continued to inhabit, save for forays on his steed Rosinante II into the countryside in search of venison, until his demise. He was an inventor and tinkerer who became famous in that neck of the woods for having come up with the idea of begging off from the con artists who seemed to appear every weekend evening at the local saloon in search of loose paychecks. Not once, it is said, was he beguiled by their evil schemes, and not just because he never saw a paycheck. For him, it was simply a matter of principle, though what principle it was that he stood by has never been determined; perhaps it was the virtue of poverty. After a youth of foraging for food and creating mayhem in a variety of venues and wandering abroad in the hills of Panhandle County and environs, he finally met a woman who could “hold her liquor” and whom he “wouldn’t kick out of bed.” This was Qi Po, whose ancestor, the wandering poet Li Po, received the Chinese equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize in metrical composition back in the mid-Tang dynasty of the eighth century. Qi too was a sharpshooter, and between the pair of them, Orville I and Qi, they reduced the population of antelope in the panhandle area to the status of endangered species. Qi’s recipe for sweet and sour pronghorn won State Fair blue ribbons in both Texas and Oklahoma; she tried for another in Kansas, but was denied by the Dodge County Sheriff, who smelled a rat and escorted her all the way back to Panhandle County and advised her to keep clear of his bailiwick “or else,” leaving the intent of that last phrase to her ardent curiosity. Subsequent to this episode, Qi and Orville the Original eloped to the primitive form of what is currently Las Vegas, returning with a thousand dollars, which Qi had earned with a lucky twist of the wrist at a primitive model of the roulette table. On their reappearance in Pan Count, they lived in the cave of his birth, now empty due to the death of his mother Margarita from food poisoning, that poisoning having been caused by her intake of a kettle of rancid sweet and sour pronghorn. To augment their ill-got Vegas coin, they set up a mom-and-pop market catering to the illiterate crowd. Eventually Qi gave birth to a son, Orville Junior, though it was bruited about that father and son were “cut from different cloths entirely.”
Slack the Second worked himself up from cave life to a sod hut, which in bygone times was considered the American equivalent of a castle. His calling was to further develop the art form he had learned from his father, the art that came to be called “begging off”—a set of techniques the candidate himself was later to perfect. After a down-on-his-luck builder had mounted a sod dwelling atop a sequestered cave strewn with ancient jawless fish (the first vertebrates, according to the canonical/venerable S. J. Gould) from the mid-Ordovician period, Slack the Second refused payment. In fact, he threatened a lawsuit on the grounds that there were several discernible bits of cactus admixed with the sod. The builder, caught in his evil ways, folded and was run out of town, leaving Slack II to live mortgage-free for the remainder of his many years. Not much is known of his first wife, Marie Antoinette du Ojibway, of the Quebec Ojibways, except that she excelled in archery and had one helluva temper. She was probably profligate in her spending, which would explain the rumor, now questioned by micro-historians, that Slack Junior was in no small way responsible for her hanging.
At age eighteen, Slack II then took up with a woman of Amerind descent. It is said that Sacajawea II was to bow-and-arrow hunting as her mother-in-law Margarita had been to bank borrowing. Her other notorious skill was the ability to guide U.S. Cavalry units through rattlesnake country—a skill, they say, that she had learned from her own great-grandmother. On one of her scouting expeditions, Sacajawea the Second came across a large band of Mormon women who had answered a Brigham Young ad and were en route to the Promised Land. From this troop of lustful, lonely ladies she bought, in exchange for a foal of the mare she was astride and as a gift for her husband, a black Frenchwoman who had inadvertently joined that jubilant posse of nubiles. At the suggestion of this woman, Matty II la Mort du Slack II, Slack IV’s grand-père added another bedroom to the hut, though there is no record of how this appurtenance was financed. [Not much is known of Slack II’s second wife, Grandma Maria del Ojibway, of the Ontario Ojibways, except that she excelled in pistol-shooting and had one helluva temper.]
It was in this cactus-enhanced seraglio that the candidate’s father, Orville Slack III, a.k.a. Père Slack, was begotten from a pool of English/Oriental/Hispanic/Indian/black/French/faux-Mormon genes. His birthmother Matty, it was said, was a woman of industry who both believed in and implemented the American dream. Not long after her entrance into the abovementioned ménage-a-trois, she insisted that her swain improve their circumstances by moving from the foul-smelling sod hut w/ fossil-stocked basement to a shed at the center of the town that was destined to become the renowned Slackville, then in the no-man’s-land adjoining Texas and Oklahoma. How she bankrolled this exchange has yet to be ascertained. There are theories, most of them deleterious to her memory. All that is publicly known is that after giving birth to Père Slack, she skipped town with a Bible-toting circuit-riding migratory Methodist minister of the Gospel who peddled copies of the venerable Shankara’s eighth-century commentary on the Bhaghava-Gita, as well as armadillo-armored firkins of spirits, on the side. Not long after this scandalous skedaddle, it should be noted, Sacajawea II yielded to her inbred wanderlust and, one night, hopped astride the family steed, the aptly-named Rosinanta III, and headed north and west to sample the Nez Perce experience, leaving father and son to fend for themselves.
Orville III, or “Papa,” as he was called by his adoring son, was more fortunate, undoubtedly because of his firm commitment to the Protestant work ethic, which he had heard about at a revival meeting presided over by a Baptist preacher who doubled as his (the preacher’s) mother’s secret lover. On one of his infrequent trips to Waco’s dens of iniquity, Orville the Third met and married Sarah Cohen, the candidate’s mother who, it was later learned by reading her secret correspondence with a former yeshiva-attending husband, was of Jewish ancestry. Ms. Cohen-Slack gave birth to Orville the Fourth on Christmas Day, prompting the mother to predict that her newborn boy would “make something of himself,” adding, after giving the matter a moment’s thought, “and I mean in a big way.” Some considered these words a prophecy of the self-fulfilling genre, citing the fact that she had come to the marriage with a small dowry, allowing Papa Slack to work himself up to a shack. It was at this point that the Slack family developed a substantial following. While still at the tin can stage of his life, Slack IV told Talia la Musa that he distinctly remembered that many of his neighbors would miss church on Sunday mornings and come over to Papa’s paint-thirsty shack to ask for his advice on how to deal with medicine pushers and other types of confidence tricksters. They would all sit around the stove and discuss the problem of evil and how to fight it. Papa’s quick mind was always “running like sixty,” as they used to say in those days. His best pieces of advice would invariably cause the advisee to flip a quarter into the ten-gallon hat that abutted the tips of his (Papa’s) five-gallon shoes.
With the money he inherited from his ingenious Papa, as well as the money he earned in court after he was shot in the groin by a disgruntled creditor, Slack IV was able to purchase a small bungalow—ironically, this modest home had belonged to the creditor, who had been hanged by a righteously indignant mob consisting largely of Papa’s disciples. (Unfortunately, the papers detailing this transaction have mysteriously, perhaps surruptitiously disappeared from the Panhandle County Courthouse.)
It was his father’s success that allowed him to finance his son’s seventh grade education.
Shortly thereafter, the present Slack met a charming woman called Akleema—the name, it is said, comes from one of the daughters of Adam. (See Bible, second chapter.) Akleema was a former stowaway on a ship headed from the Arabian Peninsula to Galveston. On the occasion of a series of trysts with Slack IV subsequent to a torrid romp in the dried alfalfa, she urged him to make her an honest woman. But Sarah Cohen-Slack would have none of it. As candidate Slack explained, before his unfortunate disability confounded his mental acuity, “Thus I was forced to apply my family talent to the situation and beg off the proposed matrimony,” proudly adding, “This fact, together with my mother’s longevity, is why I have remained a bachelor to this day.”
This, then, is the brief, official account of the achievements, despite a humble background, of Mr. Orville Slack the Fourth.
What would muh man say to 'is felluh Americans about him an’ his family tree? That he is as prad o' its ethnic di-ver-si-ty as he is of his work in preparation for his long, fruitful future tour uh duty as the vice-president of these United States of America, God bless us every one. And that him an’ his family rape-present the values of the vas’ majority of dignified unemployed hardworkin’ middle-class Americans, being as how they’re jus’ your everday, ordinary folks! [Ed. This paragraph appears to be an interpolation by some wag ignorant of the niceties of the English language.]