I overheard this recently in a truck stop bathroom on I-26 near Grey, Tennessee. Two men walk into the bathroom and carried on this conversation to their separate stalls:
“No, man. He’s got to be making this shit up. Every day?” His friend asks.
“Yeah, every day. At least, that’s what my buddy said.”
He scoffs. “Every day?”
“Yeah, man. This guy went out to his dock in the morning—every day—with a thick rope and throws it into Boone Lake. Then, he sat at the edge of his dock and watched the rope in the water. But it’s not that he’s just watching it. It’s like he’s studied it, watching the way the frays of the rope float. The guy did this for like hours on end, very intense and everything.”
“Bro, I think your buddy’s pulling your leg.”
“Naw, man. I trust this guy. He lived in the same neighborhood. He’d wake up and start drinking his coffee, and this guy would be out there in rain or shine watching his rope in the water, every single morning.”
“What was he doing?”
“Well, that’s the thing, man. My buddy never knew. Last Fourth of July, he was invited to another neighbor’s house for a cookout. So, he asks around at the party, ‘Hey y’all seen this guy out on his dock with his rope?’ They all nod. He’s just like a feature of the neighborhood, you know. He’s harmless and everything. All they know is he lives alone and keeps to himself. And every morning he’s out on the dock. It’s like in the South, man, you let your crazies out.”
His friend said, “Oh man, it’s like my Mamaw was telling me when she was growing up, she had a crazy auntie who would sit on her front porch and hiss like a cat at everyone who would walk by. I was like, damn, Mamaw, why didn’t they lock her up? My Memaw’s all like, she didn’t hurt nothing. My Mamaw said everyone in the town was like, oh, it’s just crazy Mildred, don’t mind her and they’d bring their out-of-town friends and relatives to walk by their house just so hissin’ Mildred would do her thing.”
He continues: “Exactly. So, my buddy asks all these people at this cookout if they know why he does it. And you know what’s crazy, it never even occurred to nobody to ask. They’re all like, nope, sure don’t, and they all chuckle and eat their burgers. And the kids run around with their sparklers and shit. But they all know who he is. They all watch him from their windows, too.”
“Well, curiosity gets the best of my buddy. A few days later, he’s drinking his coffee at the window and sees the man come out of his house with the rope over his shoulder. He walks down to the dock, gathers some of it in his hands, starts lassoing it above his head, and throws it in. He sits on the edge of the dock and starts to study it. And my buddy is like, well hell, ain’t no time like the present and walks over to the dock.
“When he gets closer, my buddy sees the guy’s face. He’s like way more intense than my buddy could see from his house. Furrowed brow, lots of tilting of his head, some hms and hrms and all that scratching his head and stuff. And my buddy’s real tentative and is like, pardon me, mister, but every mornin’, I sees you throw out this rope and I was a’wonderin’ if you could tell me what yer’ doing. The guy just keeps sitting there like my buddy didn’t even exist. So, my buddy slowly starts backing away because this is some weird shit. And the guy just sits there watching the rope in the water. My buddy’s like, alright, what the fuck?”
“What the fuck, man. That’s some creepy shit,” his friend says. They flush their respective toilets and move to the sinks. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever heard men wash their hands in a public restroom.
He continues: “Yeah, but you don’t know my buddy. He lives for creepy shit. So, every other day, he starts going over to the man’s house and just stands near him. Each day he gets closer. Finally, he’s sitting next to the rope guy on the edge of his dock. They never breathe a word to each other. Until three days later, my buddy is like, I am with you every morning, sir, and I ain’t got no clue what yer doing. The man turned to him real slow. He said, I’m trying to gather the lake in this rope. I know if I watch it closely enough and the sunlight glints just right and the humidity and the twelve vectors are in alignment, I will pull this lake to the shore.”
“I know, I know. So, my buddy’s trying real hard not to laugh. He’s like, but why do you want to catch Boone Lake? The man turned back to his rope and said, because it’s like fire shut up in my bones if I don’t try. But my buddy can’t hold his laughter in anymore. He’s like, hey, guy, whatever floats your boat but that’s some fucked up shit right there. My buddy gets up and walks home, chuckling.”
“A few weeks ago, my buddy had his nephews staying with him. These guys are around, I don’t know, twelve or thirteen. So, my buddy is like, hey fellas you wanna see something weird? And, you know what it is being that age, they’re hoping it’s a stack of titty mags or a new video game. So, that next morning, he wakes these guys up and gets them to the window.”
“Sure enough, there he is with the rope around his arm, walking down from his house. He twirls it above his head and throws it into the lake. But, then after a few minutes, the rope guy starts swearing. He’s yelling about how he ain’t got nothing but a wet rope. He pulls it back in and marches over to a really tall tree on the edge of his land, right by the waters. He climbs the tree and starts tying the rope to one of these big limbs. My buddy’s like, oh hell no. He tells his nephews to go to their rooms and not come out until he gets back. He runs over to the guy’s place, to the tree. But, by the time he gets there, he can hear the sound of the wet rope creaking. My buddy sees the man’s feet dangling moving back and forth, back and forth in the wind.”
“My buddy runs back to his place and gets a machete from the garage and his nephews. Figured they’d wanna see a dead body. Hell, when I was twelve, I would have loved to see a dead body. So, he cuts the man down. But, then he starts cleaning the rope guy like a deer. His daddy taught him how to field dress when he was just a little kid. He figures It was past time for his nephews to learn, too. So, my buddy starts showing them how to take out the intestines and everything. One of the little nephews would take the organs and drop them in the lake. Then, after the field dressing, my buddy starts hacking the guy into pieces: feet, shins, knees and so on. Both nephews just taking the pieces and dumping them in the lake. It was very efficient until there was nothing left. Finally, they take a large rock and tie the wet rope around it. My buddy coils the rope with the rock over his shoulder and walks to the dock. He lassos it over his head. They watch as it uncoils into the calm waters, before disappearing to the bottom, man.”
“You know what’s really fucked up? My buddy said they looked up from the dock and saw one of the neighbors they met at the Fourth of July party standing at their window, drinking coffee and watching them. The neighbor waves. The nephews raise hands red-soaked to wave back. My buddy said there were like at least a dozen faces in the windows all around the lake, all watching them . . .” their voices trail off in the hallway as the door closes behind them.