Feature Piece, Leticia Ladrona, J.D., Esquire
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.
The candidate’s great-grandfather, Orville Slack the First, was a semi-orphan. Upon hearing of his mistress’s pregnancy, his father, a dissolute Englishman and former British MP 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. In fact, 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 great-grandfather himself was born in that cave, which he continued to inhabit, save for forays on his steed Rosinante II into the countryside in quest of venison, until his demise. He was an inventor and tinkerer who became famous in that region 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 distant 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 anxious curiosity. Subsequent to this episode, Qi and Orville the Original eloped to the primitive incarnation of what is currently Las Vegas, returning with a thousand dollars, which Qi had earned with a lucky twist of the wrist at an alpha 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.”