Let me say this: Everbody makes mistakes, which is why they put a rubber mat around spitoons. But take my word for it – don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story. Whether they get it right or wrong, it don’t matter. Problem is, people be comin up to you all the time, askin questions, pokin TV cameras in your face, wantin your autograph, tellin you what a fine feller you are. Ha! If bullshit came in barrels, I’d get me a job as a barrel-maker an have more money than Misters Donald Trump, Michael Mulligan, an Ivan Bozosky put together. Which is a matter I will go into in a little bit.
But first, let me bring you up to date on my sorry tale. A lot has gone on in my life in the last ten or so years. First, I am ten or so years older, which is not as much fun as some people think. I have got a few gray hairs on my head, an I ain’t near as fast as I used to be, which is somethin I found out straightaway when I tried to make me some money playin football again.
It was down in New Orleans, where I had wound up after everthin else happened, an it was just me there. I had got a job sweepin out a strip joint called Wanda’s, which didn’t close till about three A.M., an so I got my days pretty free. One night I was just settin there in a corner watchin my friend Wanda do her thing on stage when a big fight commenced up front. They was people hollerin, cussin, thowin chairs, tables, beer bottles, an knockin each other in the head, an women screamin, too. I did not think too much of all this, account of it happened about two or three times ever night, except this time, I thought I recognized one of the participants.
It was a big ole feller with a beer bottle in his hand, swingin it in a way that I had not seen since I was up to the University of Alabama way back when. Lo an behole, it was old Snake, the quarterback who one time had thowed the ball out of bounds on fourth down to stop the clock when we was playin them cornshucker bastids from Nebraska in the Orange Bowl twenty years ago. An that, of course, lost us the game an made me have to go to Vietnam an – well, let’s don’t worry about all that now.
Anyhow, I went over an grapped the beer bottle from Snake, an he was so glad to see me he punched me on top of the head, which was a mistake because it sprained his wrist, an he commenced to holler an cuss, an about that time the police showed up an hauled all of us off to jail. Now, jail is a place I know somethin about, account of I have been there at various times. In the mornin, after everbody else sobered up, the jailer brung us some fried bologna an stale bread an begun astin if we want to call somebody to get us loose. Snake is mad as hell, an he say, "Forrest, ever time I come around your big dumb ass, I wind up in hot water. Here I ain’t seen you in years and look what happens. We is thowed in jail!" I just nodded my head, cause Snake is right.
Anyhow somebody come an bail us all out, Snake an his friends an me, too, an this guy is not very happy, an Snake, he ast me, "What in hell were you doin in that dive anyhow?" When I tole him I was the cleanup man, Snake get a kind of funny look on his face an says, "Hell, Gump, I thought you still had the big srimp company over at Bayou La Batre. What happened? You was a millionaire." An I had to tell him the sad story. The srimp company went bust.
I had left the srimp company an gone on my way after a while, cause I got tired of all the bullshit that comes with runnin a big bidness enterprise. An I put the thing in the hands of my mama an my friends Lieutenant Dan from Vietnam an Mister Tribble, who was the chessmaster that taught me the game. First, Mama died, an that’s all I got to say about that. Next, Lieutenant Dan calls me an says he’s gonna quit, on account of he’s made enough money anyhow. An then one day I got a letter from the Internal Revenue Service, says I ain’t paid my bidness taxes an they is fixin to shut me down an take all the boats an buildins an all, an when I went over there to see what was goin on, lo an behole, ain’t nothin goin on! All the buildins are about empty an weeds is growin up around the place, an they have done pulled out all the phones an turned the electricity off, an the sheriff has nailed up a paper on the front door sayin we are under "foreclosure."
I gone around to see ole Bubba’s daddy to find out what had happened. Now, Bubba was my partner an my friend from the army over at Vietnam, which is where he was kilt, but Bubba’s daddy had helped me, an so I figgered I would get the real story from him. He is settin on the stoop of his house, lookin sad, when I walked up.
"What is goin on with the srimp bidness?" I ast.
He shook his head. "Forrest," he says, "it is a sad and sorry thing. I’m afraid you have been ruint."
"Betrayed" is what he answered.
Then he tole me the story. While I was assing around in New Orleans, good ole Lieutenant Dan had took Sue, my friend who was a ape – an orangutang, to be exact – an gone back over to Bayou La Batre to help out with some problems runnin the srimp bidness. The problems was that we was runnin out of srimp to catch. It seems that everbody in the whole world wanted srimp. People in places like Indianapolis who had never even heard of srimp a few years before was now demandin that every fast-food restaurant serve them up big platters day an night. We caught srimp fast as we could, but there are just so many srimp to go around an after a few years, we wadn’t catchin half what we had when we started, an in fact, the whole srimp industry was in a panic.
Bubba’s daddy didn’t know exactly what happened next, but whatever it was, things went from bad to worse. First, Lieutenant Dan quit. Bubba’s daddy says he saw him drivin off in a big limousine with a lady wearin spike-heeled shoes an a blond Beatle wig, an Dan was wavin two big champagne bottles out the winder. Next, Mister Tribble done quit, too. Just up an left one day, an after that so did everbody else, account of they not get-tin paid, an finally, the only one left to answer the phones was ole Sue, an when the phone company pulled out the phones, Sue left, too. Guess he figgered he wadn’t bein useful no more.
"I reckon they took all your money, Forrest," Bubba’s daddy said.
"Who took it?" I ast him.
"They all did," he said. "Dan, Mr. Tribble, the secretaries and the crews and the office help. They was all luggin stuff out of there. Even ole Sue. Last time I seen him, he was peekin around a corner of the buildin, carryin a computer under his arm."
Well, this was all very bad news. I just couldn’t believe it! Dan. An Mister Tribble. An Sue!
"Whatever," says Bubba’s daddy. "Forrest, you is wiped out."
"Yeah," I said, "I have been there before."
Anyhow, wadn’t nothin to do about it now. Let em have it then. That night I set there on one of our docks. Big ole half moon out over the Mississippi Sound come up an sort of hung over the water. I was thinkin that this wouldn’t of happened if Mama had of been here. An also, I was thinkin about Jenny Curran, or whoever she was now – with little Forrest, who is actually my son. An I had promised her my share of the srimp bidness so’s little Forrest would have some money to fall back on if he ever needed it. So what am I gonna do? I am ruint. Broke! An that’s okay when you are young an don’t have no responsibilities. But, hell, here I am more than thirty years old now, an I wanted to do somethin good for little Forrest. An what has happened? I have made a mess of it again. It is the story of my life.
I got up an walked down to the end of the pier. Ole half moon still just hangin right there over the water. All of a sudden I just felt like cryin, an I leaned over on one of the big pilings that holds up the pier. Damn if it didn’t bust right off into the water, rotten, an carried me with it. Shit. Here I am again, a fool, standin in the water up to my waist. I wouldn’t of minded then if a shark or somethin had swum by an eat me up. But it didn’t, so I waded on out an caught the first bus back to New Orleans, just in time to start sweepin up in the strip joint.
A day or so later, ole Snake dropped by Wanda’s about closin time. His hand was all bandaged up an in a splint from gettin it sprained on my head, but he had somethin else on his mind.
"Gump," he says, "let me get this straight. After all the shit you have done in life, you are now the cleanup man in a dive like this? Are you crazy? Let me ask you somethin – you still run as fast as you did in college?"
"I dunno, Snake," I said. "I ain’t had much practice."
"Well, let me tell you somethin," he says. "I don’t know if you know it, but I am the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. And as you might of heard, we ain’t doin so good lately. Like we is oh and eight so far, and everbody’s callin us the ‘Ain’ts’! We gotta play the goddamn New York Giants next weekend, and the way we are goin, we will then be oh and nine, and I will probably get fired."