I met my first crazy person at church.
I was five years old, and my family lived in Vermont. VERMONT-Vermont, not the adorable-little-inns-and-charming-eccentrics version you saw on Newhart lo those many years ago. The Vermont I lived in when I was five was seriously Appalachia, with hillbillies and trailers and no police force to speak of and more guns per square foot than most towns in Kentucky. For real, if someone misbehaved the old farmers would drive over to his shack on their tractors and shoot him.
Anyway, needless to say that in this version of Vermont, crazy people were not sent to hospitals or given therapy. They were given rye whiskey and strapped to the back of the family pickup where we could all keep an eye on them.
The Crazy Man had Tourettes syndrome, which my mother had explained to me. I didn’t really understand it, though. I just thought he was awesome. His family brought him to church with them every Sunday, and I used to wait eagerly for his outbursts.
He’d usually wait until the minister had a full head of steam before he started in. About halfway through the homily, we’d start hearing these weird snuffling exhales. The minister would start looking around nervously, and my Mom would poke me to remind me not to giggle, and eventually, the Crazy Man would let er rip:
“GODdammit. This is the MOST BORING piece of COCKSUCKING CRAP I have ever heard in my entire FISTFUCKING LIFE.”
The minister would continue as if nothing was happening. If he weren’t sweating profusely, you wouldn’t even know that he’d heard.
“Christ on a MOTHERFUCKING CRUTCH. This sermon SUCKS COWS. I can’t believe I’m even here. I would have been better off STAYING AT FUCKING HOME and watching that FAGGOT BILLY GRAHAM.”
And so on.
Later, I discovered that persons with Tourettes are rarely so specific in their outbursts. It’s probably that my childhood hero didn’t so much have Tourettes as he did a bone to pick with the minister.