The road stretched and bucked for three full days of driving, and eventually unknotted itself outside of The Place. I knew we was there because of the giant neon sign that called it out for miles in every direction, even to the center of the dark universe: THE PLACE. The signage was so bright the shadow it cast underneath dropped over the building like a long, thick shroud. The parking lot was empty except for a couple old trucks and broken down fire truck.
You're about to start your education, Pilgrim George. Keep your eyes open and go with the flow. And for fuck's sake kid... Himself stepped out of the car and stretched and I heard a series of pops that sounded like rapid gun fire... don't screw this up. You do this right and you'll have set your boot on the path towards gen-you-ine enlightenment.
I followed Bill through the dark shroud covering The Place. Once inside, I saw at once that Dolly, Sue, Tex the younger and Rex were indeed waiting for us. I almost didn't recognize Rex for the sequined dress slit way up to his waist. His handlebar mustache and shovel beard still a dead giveaway, but I had to confess I found it difficult to keep my eyes off the rest of him. I never knowed a man with an hourglass shape that would have shamed Marilyn Monroe.
You keep your eyes and your paws ta yourself, there, Georgie! Rex growled at me and downed her shot. Then she called over to the bar. Another Amaretto straight! Stat! Then she smiled at me. Call me Madame Bub, Darlin'.
I followed Madame Bub's painted finger nail to the back of the room, where the bar was. The bartender was a tattooed beauty.. tall dark hair tied back and up, big red lips, and eyes like violet spears that cut through the din and looked right at us. She did not jump to greet us. She smiled a wry smiled, set out 5 shot glasses, and poured 5 neat shots of Kentucky Rye.
Himself smiled large and howled. Good Lord Lena. You know me and what I like. Then He pointed back at me. This here is my driver, Pilgrim George. He looked at me. You go help here with whatever she needs. Just mind yourself. She doesn't talk. Not a whit. Not a bit. So you stay vigilant and be watchful. This is no time to napping. Then he held up his right and and snapped his fingers. It sounded like two tree limbs snapping. At the sound, Madame Bub, Tex the Younger, simultaneously set into motion and started putting the stage together. Tex the Younger strode over to the soundboard and started his fingers dancing over the knobs and switches, adjusting the stage light and sound levels. Dolly and Sue cat off their coats to expose two slinky sequined dresses similar to Madame Bub's. Madame Bub pulled what looked like a guitar case up from under the table she was sitting at and unlocked it, releasing a sapphire blue electric bass.
Where's Mr. RifRaff? Himself bellowed. Leave it to that squirrelly bastard to be late.
He'll be here, Bill, said Tex the Younger, calling from the sound booth. You know his clock runs sideways.
And backwards, Dolly and Sue said together. He's probably still in tomorrow.
But he'll be here, Madame Bub said with conviction. He'd not miss it for something as silly as time.
As I watched the scene unfold, I felt Bop a Lena's violet eyes upon me and could not shake the feeling no matter how much I tried to keep my mind on Julia Dream. Bop a Lena was watching me, waiting. I didn't know what to say to this woman that did not speak, but I felt my feet taking back to the bar.
She pushed the first shot from the left at me when I approached the bar. I drank it down without even thinking. Then she turned her back to me, unbuttoned her shirt, and slid the collar down her back to expose lilly white shoulders. she slip it down to her waist to expose brightly colored angel wing tattoos that covered the whole of her back from her shoulder blades to her waist.
I drank down the second shot and looked at her in the bar back mirror. She was watching me in the mirror, smiling a woman's smile. Then she shrugged and the wings jumped off her back and sprung forth like she'd been born part bird.
It was then I thought of the first thing Julia Dream told me:
Ye will meet angels, George. Be kind, but remember - every angel needs a bad man every once in a while.
Bop a Lena's wings wrapped around the front of her like cloak and she motioned for me to follow her to the back room. Behind me, Himself was yelling at Madame Bub to get in tune for shit's sake, they have work to do. I looked back at the stage as I was following Bop a Lena. A giant man with a drum kit had, in the interim, appeared out of nowhere. This, I would later learn, was Mr. RifRaff the Time Jumping Drummer from Butte. Himself had strapped his cherry red Les Paul special on stood akimbo on the stage, eyes closed, waiting for the downbeat.