Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

20 March, 2020

The undefeated: deadmachine retread fiction




In the spring of 1998, I called home this attic in a 131 year old house in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a decent place. I’d found it when the woman I was living with decided she’d rather fuck my friends and try to make money as a stripper than be my girlfriend. “You’re too moody,” she’d say to me. “You piss and moan like an old man, you read boring books, and you’re when you’re drunk, you get mean and grumpy and you can’t get it up.” I was heartbroken; she’d been my first real piece in two years since my marriage to Rhea’s mother fell apart. She was a full-bodied redhead, and every bit as crazy as people say redheads are. I was living at her place when she broke it off; she tried to convince me to stay and help her with the rent… to be roommates, she said. “I’ll have my life,” she said, “and you can have yours.” Now, I might have been heartbroken, but I wasn’t an idiot. She wanted me to stay because I was the only one of us actually working and earning a weekly paycheck, and she wanted to be able to fuck whoever she wanted while I paid the bills. I left that night and spent a few days with friends and realized that I needed my own space – if only so that I could get my shit out of her apartment before she abandoned it or sold it.

I found out later that my new landlord was schizophrenic and had nasty turns where she’d go through everybody’s apartments and steal things. She even stole a poetry manuscript that I was reading for a poet friend of mine. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for losing it, even though it wasn’t my fault. I don’t remember him giving me any manuscripts after that.

But the rent was cheap enough and mostly I dealt with Frank, who managed the property for her while she was “away.” (I later found out that when she was “away” she was locked in a padded room at Eastern State Mental Hospital.) Frank seemed like a good ol’ guy. He was a retired pipe fitter, and had known my landlady his entire life – his family and her family had been friends. He didn’t care much about what I did as long as I was quiet. A couple of times I was short on rent and he let me make it up. He was a stand-up guy. Frank knew Stanley from his long gone wild boozing days, the days before he found “God and the love of a good woman,” and he let Stanley move in to get him off the street and get him a regular address so he could draw a welfare check. When he brought Stanley in, Frank pulled me aside. He talked with a slight growl – the kind of growl common in men from the Appalachian part of Kentucky. “Watch out for him,” Frank said. “Now, “ he paused. “He’s a drunk. I won’t lie. But he’s HARMLESS. A good guy, really. I’ve known him for YEARS.” I looked at Frank and I saw what might have been a little sorrow in his eyes. “We’ve tried to get him to quit... but….”

My first conversation with Stanley happened about a week later when he bummed a smoke off of me. He bummed a lot of cigarettes in the little bit of time I knew him. I liked him immediately. Once, I was going somewhere or another… to work, I think… and I saw him walking down the side street.

“Where ya going, Stanley?”

He turned and smiled his goofy shit-eating smile. He was shaking and his face that already looked like road kill was twisted pain. “Up the way.”

“You want a ride?”

He hobbled over to the car and got in. Up the way ended up being the liquor store. It was eight or nine in the morning and he needed his morning bottle. The woman behind the counter at the liquor looked down at Stanley over the edge of librarian reading glasses, and she gave me one of those looks, too, that seemed to say How can you encourage him? I wondered if she gave the same look to broken down grandmothers who spent their entire social security check on lottery tickets. Stanley bought his bottle… a fifth of Stoli… and when he got back in the car he cracked it open and took a swig like it was water. The pain was erased from his face. He offered me the bottle. “No thanks,” I said. I have to get to work.” When I dropped him off, he bummed a smoke and hobbled back into the house.

I took him to the liquor store when he asked and when I could. I was working as a clerk at a convenience store and my schedule was flexible. Besides, I liked Stanley; he was a nice old guy in the way old drunks can be nice. He had his moments, usually when there wasn’t a bottle handy, that he could be a real asshole. But he was small and wiry. Eaten away. So even when he got in my face, it was harmless because in that condition a steady wind would have pushed him over. The short car trips gave us time to talk, and Stanley liked to talk. He was touched—afflicted really— with nostalgia. I’d be driving him to the liquor store and he’d point to trees that lined the street. “I planted them trees,” he said. “Had me this job, got paid fity cent an hour. I liked that job. Got to be outdoors, like when I was a kid and all this was open. No buildings. No streets.”

Once when I was bringing him back from the liquor store with his morning bottle, this old guy approached the car. He looked old and tired, too, but he was cleaned up. Shaven. Showered. He was driving an Acura and he wore the ugliest Hawaiian print shirt I had ever seen – which was saying something since they’re all uglier than sin. He knocked on my window. I rolled it down.

“Yeah?”

He talked past me. “Stanley? Stanley, that you?”

Stanley looked up and smiled.

Then the Hawaiian shirt guy talked to me. “I love this guy,” he said. “I’d heard he was living here.” He looked over at Stanley. “We used to run together, didn’t we Stan?” Stanley kept smiling and nodded his head. “Yeah,” the guy said. “I knew Stanley back when I was on the street. Good guy, Stanley. A real good guy.”

I looked at the gold-plated watch hanging on his skinny wrist. “So how come you’re not on the street anymore?” I asked.

“Settled out,” he proclaimed. “Found me a good woman with a nice house and warm bed. She doesn’t care what I do so long as I don’t fuck around and I drink at home.”

Class act, I thought. “Cool.”

“Listen,” he said to me, “you take good care of this guy. Stanley’s one of the best.”

Stanley smiled. The Hawaiian shirt guy got in his pearl colored Acura and drove off. “You know that guy?” I asked.

Stanley nodded. “Yup. He’s WEIRD, though.” Stanley rolled his eyes a little. “WEIRD. If you know what I mean.”

I didn’t ask any more questions. It was the 90’s after all. Don’t ask don’t tell was still an acceptable social concept.

On another one of our jaunts he saw a book laying on car seat next to me. “You read?” he asked me.

“Yeah,” I said. “I like to read.”

“You been to school?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I went. Don’t know that it did me any good, though.”

He looked a little sheepish. “I never learnt to read,” he said. “Dropped out and ran away from home when I was a kid.” He kind of shook his head. “fity-five years old, can’t read shit.”

The only thing that surprised me more than the fact that he couldn’t read was that he was only fifty-five. He looked much older, but a hard life will do that. He’d spent forty years drinking and working odd jobs, failing at relationships and living in alleys and homeless shelters. He never once mentioned trying to sober up. He never once indicated that stopping had ever crossed his mind. I never mentioned it because I didn’t want to be a judgmental prick, and well, it wasn’t like I had any room to talk. So I kept taking him back and worth whenever I could, let him smoke my cigarettes, and when I had a little food left over, I offered it to him. What the hell, I figured. He is who he is.

Eventually he drew some friends. Frank had apparently figured out that if he moved people into the house who drew a check and controlled their money for them, he could actually start turning a profit. He moved in another old buddy from his wild drinking days, got him in the system. I later found out that all the checks went to Frank and Frank’s wife, who “kept” their money… paid the rent and gave them each a weekly allowance, so they wouldn’t “drink all the money up.” The new tenant’s name was Clarence. Clarence was a big ugly drunk, and something of a bully. He liked to push Stanley around when they were drinking, and it bothered me, but I didn’t interfere. He and Stanley were old friends, had done a lot of drinking and sleeping in alleys together. I figured if he wanted Clarence to stop, he’d handle it himself. They even drew a follower – some dark haired kid whose name I never bothered to learn. He tried bumming a smoke from me once after he’d seen me give one to Stanley and I told him he could when he was old enough to buy his own fucking cigarettes. They would give the kid money and send him on errands for booze or food or whatever. They started hanging out on the front porch. Stanley didn’t need a ride from me anymore, but he still bummed smokes when Clarence wasn’t looking.

I started working a regular white collar job – I’d dug myself into a clerical job at the University, the first job I’d ever had with paid vacation days, PTO (paid time off) plus medical and dental. I saw Stanley less and less… mostly because I was working during the day and hanging out with friends at night, spending my new money in the bars. I passed Stanley on stairs sometimes when I’d be stumbling home, and we smiled at each other said hello. I saw him trying hobble down the street towards the liquor store on crutches once or twice. He went through two bouts of TB, one crazy skank who followed him home from the bar, and a few tumbles down the stairs. I was spending less and less time at home because the summer turned the attic into a sauna.

I came home from work one afternoon in late August and Clarence, the kid, and Frank were all standing on the front porch. They had been crying. Or at least, Clarence had been crying. As I approached Frank asked me if I’d heard.

“Heard what?”

“Stanley,” the kid said.

“What about him?” I was expecting to hear that he’d either gotten arrested or had settled out with a nice woman who would dress him up in ugly shirts.

“He died,” Clarence said.

“Huh? How?”

Clarence couldn’t answer me because he was too broken up. The kid was clearly high. Frank broke the silence. “He was walking to the liquor store, and he tripped and fell into the street. He was run over. Dead.”

“Dead?” I repeated.

Frank nodded. Clarence looked at me with deep baleful jaundiced eyes. “Did they get the guy who did it? The car?”

Frank shook his head. “Nope. Probably not going to either.”

I stood there for a couple of minutes. I didn’t know what to say. Death, as an inevitability, usually invites comment – but only because nobody knows what to say. I turned and went upstairs, and took a shower. Then I opened all the windows. Then I sat down at the kitchen table with a bottle whiskey I’d been saving for no particular reason, and drank until it was late into the night.

23 March, 2018

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 9: The Painted Woman

Mick Parsons Fiction
I let her lead the way up the stairs and while we were walking she hummed this funny little tune to herself, and every time I tried talking to her, she just kept shimmying up the stairs and humming that little tune.
That was one hell of a show, wasn't it? I didn't think Ol' Bill still had it in him.

She didn't answer, but as she reached the top of her stairs she started to undo the belt that held her dress together. When she crossed the threshold of her room, she let the dress fall to the floor. The dim candle light of her room cast shadows and light over every curve and crevice of her body, which was covered from collarbone to toe with ornate tattoos. When she turned to face me she giggled.
My my my. She sure was right. You certainly are a shy boy.

The protests started to form in my mouth, wanting to know just who the hell she'd talked to about me and what did she mean shy, I weren't afraid of no naked woman no matter how... beautiful she was because my heart belonged to the most beautiful woman of them all and there wasn't nothing she could do to change  that.
Bop a Lena smiled and shook her head. She walked back towards me -- I hadn't stepped beyond the threshold yet -- and walked out of her shoes. We don't have time for you to be shy, Georgie Boy. We each have our charge and our responsibilities. I have things I must tell you. But those things come with a price.

When she got close enough she reached out and took hold of my belt and pulled me through the doorway and into her room. Then she pushed herself on me. There wasn't an inch of her I couldn't feel through the thin fabric my clothes seemed to be made of. Bop a Lena kissed my neck and nibbled my right ear. Then she sighed and looked me straight in the eye.
She's put her mark on you, Bop a Lena said. I can smell it. But that doesn't change things. I have things to tell you, Pilgrim George. And I, like the Ferryman and like Ol' Bill himself, require a toll.

I didn't know what she was talking about. Himself didn't say anything about a toll. And no one said anything about owing Bop a Lena anything.
If it's a question of  paying for our rooms,  I said, trying to back out, I'm sure Bill has taken care of it. And if he hasn't I can find out.

Tsk tsk tsk. This isn't about money, Boy. What I have to tell you, I can only tell hand to hand, foot to foot, and skin to skin. She knew that when she sent you to me. No money gets exchanged here. That's Madam Bub's realm -- the realm of cash and petty flesh and pretty pats of (what some men take for) wisdom. 

This -- she gestured around the room, which contained only a dressing table with washing bowl and pitcher and a full sized bed -- this is the realm of soul and energy, of light and dark, of life and death. And what I have to give you has a price, Pilgrim. She sighed and looked me up and down. But because she left her mark on you, I make you this promise -- the part I take you will be able to get back, if you want it. 

She leaned in and kissed me on lips, undoing my belt and shoving me onto her bed. You can have it back... if you want it.

But, she said, climbing on top of me, you may not want it back. Not after tonight.

Lena, I said, trying to get in a word while I still had the ability to speak.
Don't call me Lena, she said. That's just a name I borrowed for here. Call me Leda. And you, Pilgrim George, will be my swan.
PD-US



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23 February, 2018

Ethel's Frankie - a short dog fiction (draft)

Mick Parsons, Fiction

Ethel knew there was just something not right about the boy, and she could never quite lay her finger on what it was. He ran around like boys were supposed to. Growing up, he played sports and did ok in school. He wasn’t going to be a scholar or anything like that, but he wasn’t simple, either. 

But dogs didn’t like him. And smaller children at church seemed scared of him, although he was always polite to everyone as far as she had noticed. Bessie, her friend at Wednesday bible study, told her she was looking at him as an extension of his father. There was always something wrong with Big Frank, and when her Stacy took up with him it was all Ethel could do to keep her faith that it would work out in God’s good time. Even after Big Frank disappeared, her Stacy was never the same. In and out of detox and rehab facilities in the city. In and out of jail. It about broke Ethel’s heart and mortified her at the same time when Stacy called from the police station after being picked up for solicitation at that big truck stop on just off the interstate. It made her think about all the men in town and wondered how many of them Stacy had allowed to use her like a cheap sock. The police wouldn’t tell her who the man was she got caught with, only that she was the only one arrested. 

Leave it to a man to get away after getting what man always wants, she thought.

So, when Bessie told her she was heaping the sins of the parents on the head of her Frankie-boy, she tried to take it to heart. She really did. And for a time, it all seemed all right. 

And then all the cats started disappearing. And then Ethel found where the bones were buried behind the compost bin.

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26 January, 2018

New Fiction: Thus the congregation says

Mick Parsons, fiction, Kentucky
I knew something was wrong when Twila gave me the stink eye outside the student union. Divorces are difficult enough. Being young – too young, I remember my grandmother saying – made it that much more difficult. Having a three-month-old daughter made it even more so. Getting divorced while being married with a three-month-old daughter on a small college campus in Eastern Kentucky pretty much guaranteed that only Sisyphus had a more difficult load to bear.

Perverting common wisdom, a divorce has more than two sides to the story. There’s the usual… what one partner says and what the other partner says. Then there’s what really happened, which tends to be somewhere in the middle. And then there’s what everyone else says. And depending on who it is, where their loyalties lie, what their predilections are, and what their own (inevitably skewed) views on marriage are, there are any number of stories, all of which sound true enough to pass the gossip test regardless of how close to the truth it happens to be.

The usual unofficial morning kaffeklatsch of what was then called the Non-traditional Student Union was congregated in it usual corner spot in the upstairs student cafeteria. Woody, Shyla, Tammy, Jack, Ernie, Barb, Babs, and Shane were all in their usual spots drinking their usual coffee and having the usual conversations – all of which can be boiled down to how most college students have it easy. Marie and I gained entry to this group not so much because of our age, as our ages fell within what is (still) considered the traditional age, but because of our marital and parental status. Young marriages were increasingly less common in the 90’s, even in Eastern Kentucky with its sometimes self-proclaimed penchant for the traditional and the morally unambiguous. Both Barb and Babs, both of whom were products of failed marriages forced by cultural shotgun, applauded our decision not to resort to sin by partaking of marital fruits outside the sanctity of the marriage bed. Tammy, Shyla, and Twila didn’t say that in so many words, but Twila – who was a grandmother with granddaughters who hadn’t headed the words of Jesus since being baptized Old Regular Baptist style in a coal sludge dirty creek at the age of seven – demonstrated her clear approval by speaking often about how she wished her Becky and Sue had inherited some stiffer moral fiber like me and Marie.

Ernie, Shane, and Jack had no opinions on the topic. Or at any rate they didn’t express any openly. Woody asked me once when none of the others were within earshot – with no small amount of incredulity, I might add – how I could saddle myself so young when there was a campus full of beautiful young girls to occupy my time. Jack kept his own counsel about anything that didn’t involve the NCAA and Ernie, who was trying to be a writer, mostly talked politics.

Shane never said anything at all. But since I knew he was the guy Marie was currently fucking, I felt like I knew what his opinion was on the subject of marriage.

The group fell silent when I approached. When I sat down everyone but Ernie and Jack moved their chairs back a little… not like they were making more room but like they were afraid that whatever was wrong with me might rub off.

Ernie eyeballed the women carefully before uttering a neutral welcome.

What’s going on, he asked.

Not a thing. Just waiting between class.

Barb made a harrumphing sound and Babs just shook her head. Jack nodded at me, the way men sometimes do to show solidarity right before the bombs fall and its every man for himself.

I tried making conversation, though I didn’t much feel like it. I wasn’t sleeping and even the copious amount of drinking I was doing wasn’t helping.  Going to class was more an exercise of habit than purpose at that point and my professors treated me with increasing levels of shock, annoyance, or unsympathetic pity. I wasn’t doing anything. But I still made it to class. I was still working, if for no other reason so I could give money to Marie for Rhea. After we split up she moved out of the trailer we shared and in with a friend to help defray expenses. I was staying with friends who would ensure that, if nothing else, there would be beer and tater tots to eat and who could give me a ride to campus.

Barb made another harrumphing sound. You don’t need to be here drinking coffee like you have friends here, she said. You need to go and take care of your daughter.

Babs, Tammy, and Shyla all nodded and vocalized their agreement with Barb. Ernie and Woody shrank back into their chairs. Jack shook his head and kept his eyes on his coffee. Shane sat there rubbernecking and waiting for the actual carnage. It didn’t take long.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Barb went on, thoroughly encouraged by the congregation present. Your wife and daughter are living up in some shack with no electricity because you threw them away. And here you sit like you deserve to be around civilized people.

That wasn’t what happened. I knew that. Marie knew that. I’m pretty sure Shane, as amused as he was with the show, knew, too. The only thing that was true was that I left. The arguments and accusations, the yelling and recriminations by both Marie and me weren’t anyone’s business. The misery we’d inflicted on another wasn’t anyone’s business. And it wasn’t anyone else’s business whether Marie or I were screwing anyone else. I wasn’t, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t change the fact that the marriage was over, that my daughter would grow up never knowing her parents as being a married couple. It didn’t matter that nothing in my experience had prepared me for that level of failure – not that anything does, really. But I didn’t even know any kids with divorced parents when I was a kid. My parents were happy. My friends’ parents seemed happy. That was what I expected when I got married, for all of the right reasons. And in spite of what Twila thought, it wasn’t to stave of immoral carnal lust. I was in love… or I thought I was, anyway.

But none of that mattered. Just like it didn’t matter that I had just seen Marie and given her money and asked if she needed anything. No, she said, like I insulted her dignity. We don’t need anything from you.

If there was any real justice in this evil world, Barb intoned, someone would take you out to a deserted holler and show you how we treat men that abandon their babies.

The congregation was silent. So was the entire cafeteria. Ernie and Woody refused to look at me. Jack met my eyes briefly and I knew he knew what was what. But he also knew, like I did, that no amount of words would change anything. Sometimes you take your beatings whether you think you deserve it or not.

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24 January, 2018

New Fiction: The Duke of Donuts

Mick Parsons, fiction
Drunks love chocolate. That’s one of the things they don’t tell you before you show up to a meeting. No one told me I should show up early if I wanted to get one of the limited number of chocolate donuts sitting next to the bottom burned coffee on a rickety folding table. Why it is that the people who run those meetings don’t just buy ALL chocolate donuts instead of that those boxes of a dozen mixed that’s always heavy on plain cake ones that taste like stale ass – or worse, the powdered donuts no eats because they don’t want to leave an AA meeting looking like a throwaway extra from an unaired episode of Miami Vice. Like those rolls of Lifesavers candies that are supposed to be a rainbow of flavors but always mysteriously end up being mostly yellow or green.

The first one to talk to me took the last chocolate donut. He also put enough sugar and non-dairy creamer in his coffee to cover any suggestion that it may have once been coffee at all. He smelled like menthol cigarettes and was wearing a hat that identified him as THE PUSSY PATROL. He told me his name was David W. Just like that. Not all of them talk like that. The drunks who have been in recovery for a long time – a decade or more – will just use their full name. It’s not that they’re bragging as much as they’ve been living in the world of recovery for so long that they don’t care who knows. David welcomed me and asked where I’d heard about the Sword of the Ever-Loving Spoonful of Soul AA group.

On the website, I said. It lists all the groups in the city and this one was closest.

That wasn’t strictly true. I intentionally found a meeting on the opposite end of town from my neighborhood in case the language of recovery didn’t stick, and I ended up going to the bar after. At least, I hadn’t ruled it out as a possibility.

David W. talked a little about his sobriety.  75 days and counting, he said. 75 days THIS TIME, he added. Before that, he’d been on the wagon 9 months. No sponsor. No step work. Just white knuckling his way to sobriety until one day, for no particular reason, he just decided to go to his favorite watering hole. He was just going to pay off his tab, which was outstanding and which he decided was part of his recovery. Walk away clean with no debts or grudges, he said, hand to God, that was ALL I had in mind.

And then, he said, it happened. I ran into one of my old buddies and he bought me shot of Jack before I could say no.

I understood. It would have been rude to turn it down. Right?

David W. told me all of this while eating on the last chocolate donut to be had and drinking his over doctored coffee. Whenever I see another guy drinking coffee like that, I think about this old friend of mine from Phoenix who drank his coffee black because, according to whatever font of wisdom he bowed to, that was how John Wayne drank it. By his logic, if that was how John Wayne did it, then by God that was the only to do it. I remember asking him once if it was true that John Wayne died with 22 pounds of undigested steak in his colon. Do you suppose, I asked, if The Duke had been a vegetarian that he wouldn’t have died from not being able shit properly?

I was going to ask David W. about his hat, but they meeting was called to order and everyone took a seat. He hadn’t managed to finish the donut before it was time for the meeting, but rather than sit down and eat the rest of it, he tossed two bites worth in the trash before sitting down.

Somewhere in the literature of AA, it talks about how, when you go to a meeting, that you’ll inevitably hear your own story. I don’t know if that’s strictly true – it wasn’t in my case – but AA meetings, like Catholic Mass, run on a pretty strict time clock. An hour of testimonials and tribulations and out the door. Of course, if you’re new to the meeting they ask you to identify yourself so people can talk to you after the meeting and get to know you better. I identified myself anyway, though I didn’t plan on sticking around to talk to more people.

I spent half the meeting thinking about David W. and the unfinished chocolate donut in the garbage. And while his story seemed alright enough… it’s no new thing for a drunk to fall off the wagon… it didn’t seem right to me that he didn’t finish the damn donut.

The chocolate donut.

The LAST damn chocolate donut.

When the meeting was over and we all held hands and said the Our Father, David W. found me and asked what I thought.

I told him I wondered what The Duke would do. He told me that the Duke might have lived longer and made more movies if he’d found his sobriety.
That may be true, I said. But he would have never liked the coffee.

On my way out I ran into a guy that recognized me from the bar I used to go to. He called himself Larry G in the meeting, though I’d only ever heard him answer to Squiggy.

People were wondering where you’ve been, he said.

What people?

Oh you know. People. Jack and Tom and Sal and Big Sue. Katie thought for sure your old lady killed you.

Does she strike you as the homicidal type?

He laughed uncomfortably and said Well, you know. Not really to ME, exactly. But you know how people talk.

I told him I did.

How long have you been coming to these meetings, I asked.
Oh, about a month.

Does it work?

Larry G. shrugged. I dunno. It gives me stuff to think about.

Well there’s that.

Larry G who usually answered to Squiggy told me to find him at the bar sometime and he’d buy me a beer. Beer don’t count, he said. It’s like in that John Wayne movie. The one where Robert Mitchum played the town drunk. They gave him beer and it weren’t nothing.

Say, I said. Have you heard John Wayne died with 21 pounds of undigested steak in his colon?
Larry G blinked. Then he blinked twice. No, I never heard that. I never heard that at all.

After a few cursory words Larry G wandered off into the darkness. Then I left. On the way home I stopped off at Dunkin Donut and ordered a chocolate donut.

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27 November, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 8: Angel and the Not Really Bad Man

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5 was into their 5th set in two days.  Himself had not yet slept a wink and did not look the least bit wore out or like he was likely to quit soon. It was common knowledge that Ol' Bill hadn't picked up that red hot cherry in more years than an alligator has teeth. But once the word was out, it didn't take long for The Place to fill past capacity. 

Bop a Lena was slinging drinks faster than people could order them, and they ordered them pretty damn fast. I did my level best trying to keep up. She like to flew back and forth behind that bar, it didn't matter what kind of crazy drink anyone ordered. She made them all and slung them to me without a word or a smile.

Except for Julia Dream, she was the damnest woman I have ever seen.

Himself closed out the final set with a half-time rendition of Just Because. And when he finished he called out

We sure do thank ye for listenin. Be sure to be kind, rewind, and do what the good book says and tip your lovely bartender!
 
As the crowd was shuffling out, Himself called out and ordered an Amaretto Sour, which Lena had ready for him before the last syllable left his mouth. Tex the Younger, Rex, Dolly, and Sue all ordered shots of rye, neat. Mr. Rifraff growled that he needed three ice cold beers and a bowl of maraschino cherries. Lena had those orders out licketysplit and I carried it all over to the band. They was each sitting in a pool of their own sweat. Rex pulled his wig off and fanned himself with his long nails. Madame Bub ordered cold water with no ice and a neat shot of Kentucky Rye. Dolly and Sue howled that they were about to strip down and didn't care two shits whether anyone didn't want to see their whatfor. Tex the Younger told them it would be harder to find someone who hadn't seen their whatfors, given what they used 'em for. Rifraff ate his cherries and drank his beer. 
 
The only one who wasn't sweating sheets was Himself, and he just sat there, leaning back on two legs in a chair, his rhinestone Stetson tipped down over his eyes, a beatific smile on his lips. 

It took Bop a Lena a couple of hours to clean up behind the bar and around the floor. When we finished, Bill nodded in my direction. 

We're going to get some sleep here before we journey ahead, for I am tired and in need of rest in a nice soft bed. Madame Bub and I will retire anon. You have until then to sleep. Follow your better angel, Pilgrim George. She will never let down.
 
I felt a warm hand on my shoulder, and when I turned around, it was Lena. Bop a Lena smiled and leaned over and kissed my cheek. Then she took me by the hand and led me up the side stairs to her room.

Himself must have felt my hesitation because he chuckled at me from underneath his hat. Come, pluck up, heart; let's neither faint nor fear. Better, though difficult, the right way to go.

 
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13 November, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 7: Bop A Lena and Madame Bub

  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.

  

 
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06 November, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 6: The Pilgrim's Process

Stop fighting it, Pilgrim George, Himself. He pushed his keys into my hand. We got to be at The Place three days hence and we cannot linger long here at the foot of the tree.
I asked him what this place was and why we had to get there, and why, on top of that, did Rex and Tex the Younger have to meet us there instead of just going with us. He slapped on the back then reached up and tousled my hair.  Then he told me not to worry and that all my questions would be answered by and by.

 Now you be sure and take extra special care of this Caddy while you're drivin' it. I like you, Pilgrim George, and think you got it in you to become something spectacular. He stopped to finished lighting the cigarette he just rolled and stuck between his clenched teeth. But that don't mean I won't skin you alive. A man don't need skin to drive.
How a man could drive without skin I didn't know, but I had no intention of finding out. But it was all I could do to keep the Caddy on road. The steering wheel pulled against me and the car bucked and swerved... 'cept it didn't buck and swerve like some broken down jalopy. No, sir. That El Dorado bucked and swerved like a horse that couldn't wait to jump the fence and run. All 12 cylinders were working their best to tear me off that wheel. That didn't seem to bother Himself none, though. He just sat in the passenger seatI tried telling him I didn't know where to go. He grunted and pointed towards the horizon. We're goin' that way, Georgie. Don't go losin' you head.
It didn't take long for the Treetop Bar to disappear in the rear view mirror. I still didn't know exactly why I'd agreed to this or what I'd done to deserve being dragged off my chair, away from my beer. Sure, I said I thought I another Rockabilly Billy show would be an amazing thing. And it's entirely possible that I was talking big to impress the company present -- Dolly and Sue, Rex and Tex the Younger, and Julia Dream.

Julia Dream, my dream boat queen. It hard not to think about that kiss and about the three things she told me -- which, I will recount as present, for posterity, if for no other reason, even if it incurs a little of her wrath. I don't think it will, though. Any reason there was for secrecy has long since passed.

So there I was driving the Caddy and Bill Hisself was sitting in the passenger seat, staring out at the road ahead from under his rhinestone stetson. He never said stop nor go. He never told me to turn or that I ought to expect to turn. The road south just unspooled in front of us like an old cassette tape.

Finally, I asked him how in the hell I was supposed to know where someplace with a generic and uninspired name like The Place, was supposed to be. He chuckled a little and told me to keep driving. 

Are you even going to tell me when we're gonna get there?

Bill clicked his teeth. You got to relax some, Pilgrim George. That there is half your problem. 

My problem?

Even though I kept my eyes on the road and the quickly fading daylight, I felt him turn and stare me down. Yessir, Pilgrim George. You got to relax. 

Now I was tired from the drive and from fighting that Caddy to keep it on the road. And I was thirsty and I hadn't eat since that morning. He dragged me away from my beer, from the comfortable confines of the Treetop Bar, and he dragged me away from Julia Dream. It was with the fading taste of her kiss on my lips that  I lifted my foot off the gas and stomped the break pedal. It like to take all of my weight to make that beast dig in and stop in a giant cloud of dust and rock and road debris.

Goddammit Bill! Now I know you're Himself and all that but I really think you made a mistake in dragging me out like this. I know I talked big, and I'm really sorry, but...

I heard him click his teeth again. He pulled his tobacco pouch out of vest pocket and started to roll another cigarette with his long, strong fingers. Then he shook his head and spoke like he was quoting scripture:

"I have it in commission, to comfort the feeble-minded, and to support the weak. You must needs go along with us; we will wait for you, we will lend you our help, we will deny ourselves of some things, both opinionative and practical, for your sake; we will not enter into doubtful disputations before you, we will be made all things to you, rather than you shall be left behind."


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30 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 5: Hot Coffee, Sweet Tea

It's all settled then! Himself stood and crowed so loud it shook the whole bar. It damn near shook it out of the tree.

Now listen here, Bill,  I said.  I have just a few questions to ask before you drag me off from here on some hair-brained scheme.

He looked it me and his deep blue eyes -- eyes blue like winter wolf -- twinkled from underneath the wide brim of his bedecked shit-kicker hat. For a moment those trickster orbs looked ancient -- deep set and full of primordial cold fire. He looked at me and straight through me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up. And I think he knew it, too, because he smiled, his teeth like shiny razors gleaming under the light that shone in his eyes. 
This here ain't no 'hair-brained scheme' Young Pilgrim. This here is nothing less than a divine epic quest thou hast been plucked up and chosen for. Worry not. It shall not murder thee, but thou mayst die at least twice along the way.

As the words rolled off his tongue, he stepped back, crowed again and slapped me on the arm so hard it popped my shoulder out of joint, making me scream so loud that Dolly and Sue dropped their whiskey shots on the floor.
Sorry about that, Georgie, he said. Sometimes I don't know my own strength. He looked over at Tex the Younger. Take care of it, will ye Tex? I'm good at the breakin' but not at the fixin'.

Tex the Younger nodded like he was annoyed, stood up, and lumbered towards me. I thought for sure he was going to break me worse. When he got to me he reached out with one of his giant chicken killing meat hook hands and snapped my shoulder back into place. He grunted. You'll live,  he grunted. But you may feel it when the rain comes.

Himself snorted and nodded at me. Time to go, Young Pilgrim. He turned to Rex and Tex the Younger. You two meet us at The Place three days hence. And don't be late. And Rex darlin' ... he paused, smiled, and tipped his hat... don't forget your trunk.  Then he looked at Dolly and Sue. And you two know what to do, he growled. Don't make me tell you twice.

Come on ahead, Pilgrim George. Let's slide down the rope and get this thing going. Don't you worry about the tab. It'll keep until your return. If you return. He laughed like he'd just told the funniest joke of any joke ever told in the history of jokes.

Himself Rockabilly Billy pulled me towards the exit and it was all I could do to stay on my feet. As we exited the Treetop Bar, headed for parts unknown, I look back at Julie Dream. Her smile was sad as she raised a shot glass and emptied it in my honor.

That was the first and last time I ever saw Julia Dream take a drink of anything besides hot coffee or sweet tea.

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23 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 4: All deals are non-refundable

serial short fiction
Before I could say anything else, Julia Dream was standing next to the table. She smiled down at me, her full lips curled up in a funny little smirk. Here eyes shone like the deepest blue green Gulf waters, taking me in.

Come on with me, Georgie. You heard what The Man said.

I was helpless to resist and unable to find my voice. I wanted to try and explain that there was no need for what I thought was about to happen. I mean, it wasn't that I didn't WANT to. Of course I wanted to. But not like that, like it was some mile marker on The Road to Rhinestone Glory.

You go with her, Kid, He said. You go with her and then we'll hammer out the details.

I let her lead me back behind the bar to the little room where she lived. She opened the door and bid me to follow her in. Her room wasn't no bigger than a medium sized closet, but there was enough space for a narrow bed, a dressing table and mirror, some shelves, a few books, and an old steamer truck. It was the kind that opened up and was a mini chest of drawers, like people took on long boat voyages back when people still traveled by boat for more than just over-priced vacations to foreign port where everyone speaks English and there's a fast food joint on every corner. The trunk was in great shape, too. Like she took pains to keep it clean and in good working order.

She paused in front of the bed. I shuffled in and closed the door behind me. Then I waited.

Then she laughed. You're so funny, Georgie, she said.

How's that? I asked.

She wheeled around on her heels, her hands on her hips, to face me. You're shaking like a rabbit that's about to get jumped by a coyote. You don't need to. What you think is going to happen AIN'T going to happen here.

But I ...

Julia Dream placed her lovely red-tipped forefinger over my lips to silence me. Now Georgie, she chided me. Insulting a woman's intelligence is no way to get to her bed. It wasn't going to happen... not today, at any rate... but still. If you're gonna be traveling with Bill, you need to learn how to act in front of women. She smiled again, and without missing a beat she drew me to her and kissed me. All of her was pushed up against me. Her arms were around my neck. I put my hands on her hips and she swiveled them a little so I'd wrap my arms around her waist.

The kiss lasted for what seemed like hours. Her lips were soft and tasted like strawberry wine. When it finally ended it felt like I'd never breathe right again without her lips on mine.

Oh, Georgie, she said, shaking her head. Where you been hidin' THAT? If I'd a known you kissed like that, I might not have let you run off with Himself. She locked her eyes on me. I could screw you silly, Georgie Boy, she said. I could screw you like you'll never be screwed again.

Then she pulled away and sighed. But not today.

In a fit of kiss-drunk foolishness I opened my mouth and told her everything I'd been carrying around in my heart. I told her I loved her, that all I thought about was her. I told her I'd stay there with her on her narrow bed or I'd sleep in the bar just to be around her. I told her I loved so much it burned me up thinking about what wasn't going happen... and that while I didn't exactly WANT it to happen, I didn't exactly want it NOT to happen either.


Julia Dream just shook her head and rubbed my cheek. You're already promised to Bill, she said. I can't come in between that. But if you go out with him and come back to me... and if you still want me...well, Georgie, I'll make sure you never forget it.

Before I answered she went on. I know what you're thinking. But I haven't had a man in my bed for many a moon. I don't take on lovers lightly, no matter what some of these old hound dogs around here think. 

I wanted to know who her last lover was and how whoever it was could have been so stupid as to leave her in lurch at the Treetop Bar. She shook her head.

Now listen, Georgie, and listen good. I got three things to tell you. They won't make any sense now, but they will. And these things I'm about to tell you are ONLY for you. You got to promise me you won't tell any of them what I'm about to tell you. Do you promise?

I promise.

Do you promise?

I promise.

Do you promise?

I swear, Julia. I won't say word. I promise!

She nodded and told me that I promised three times, which made it three times as sacred and three times as terrible if I was to ever break my promise. Then after she told the three things, she kissed me on the cheek -- there was still just a hint of strawberry wine -- turned me around on my heels and sent me out of her room.

I walked back out into the bar. Rex and Tex the Younger whooped and asked me if that meant I was man.  Dolly and Sue giggled and played with their cocktails. Sue told me I better not have laid the pipe down TOO good, because their drinks were about dry.

Himself told them to shush and he motioned for me to join him again at the table. He admonished me not to worry about them sorry onlookers. The last either Rex or Tex the Younger got it up they were toe up at a leather convention in Waukegan. And he told me not to worry none about Dolly or Sue, either. 'Cause the only reason they ain't screwed Rex and Tex is 'cause their old man taught 'em to sling it outside the family. He smiled at my dropped jaw. I'll tell you that story someday,  Himself said. When you're a little better seasoned.

He slid set of car keys across the table. They were attached to a key chain with two pendants: a crucifix and and a silver lightening bolt. Now before you take them keys, Himself intoned, there's just one thing you have to understand. 

Himself leaned forward and looked me right in the eye. His eyes were pitch black and his voice reverberated down my spine. You take them keys and that's the deal. There's no giving them up until the run is done, no quitting, no second guessing. You take them keys and the deal is made and you are bound by all holy writ and seals until the run is done.

Then he sat back and smiled. By then Julie Dream was back at the bar, only she wasn't looking at me or Bill or anyone else. She went around and refilled everyone's drinks and wiped off the tables. I looked at her, not looking at me, and thought about that kiss and what it felt like to have her body pushed up against mine.

But I could also feel Himself staring at me, waiting. I thought about what Julia said about coming back after and if I still wanted then, well then ok. I reached up for the keys with my right hand, and I asked Himself where we was going first.

If I didn't know better, I could swear I saw a tear trickle down Julia Dream's perfect face.


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16 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 3: The Road to Rhinestone Glory

 Well, I'm no musician, and I told him so. He didn't seem all that concerned about it.

We got all the musical talent we need. But what we lack is exactly the bill you'll fill, Georgie.

Julia Dream smiled and licked her ruby red lips. I was so shocked at Bill's invitation and his dauntless confidence that I had a role to play that I didn't notice that she was smiling at me in a totally different light. Rex and Tex the Younger and Dolly and Sue were up on their feet, up in arms about him inviting me along at all. I can't say I blamed them. After all, I was just some green kid who'd climbed up and wandered into the bar and gone ga-ga for the bartender. To be honest, the Treetop Bar was the farthest I'd ever traveled in my entire life.

When I asked Himself what it was he thought I could do, he told me he needed a driver. But, He said, it's more than just driving.

When you drive for a hard driving rockabilly band,  He said,  you're a driver. You're a roadie. You're security. Sometimes you're an entertainment wrangler. 

 Himself leaned forward and pointed his bottle of Sioux City Sarsaparilla. He smiled and his teeth shone like razors. I ain't gonna lie, Georgie. I won't ever lie and I'll never steer you wrong. There's all kinds of romantic bullshit out there about being on the road with a band. Some of it's true. Some of it's shine. But you'll figure that out for yourself. If you've got the balls to drive a 1959 Caddy Eldorado with more horses than Pancho Villa.

Everyone in the bar -- Rex and Tex the Younger, Dolly, Sue, and Julia Dream -- were all looking at me. Himself took a big swig and drained his sarsaparilla.  It was like he knew before I could chicken shit out and say no.

Get him ready, Julia. Times burning on both ends and the road to rhinestone glory waits for no one.




  

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09 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 2: Skinny Jim

 [If you missed the first part, read it here]


Everyone spent what seemed like forever giving me shit for blushing. Wasn't my fault, and like I said, Julia Dream knew the effect she had on me. I was just about to finish my beer and leave when the bell above the bar rang. The sound of it caused everyone to stop whatever they was doing.

Tex the Younger whistled long and low, and Rex had to pick his slack jaw off the floor twice. Dolly and Sue squealed and ran off to the restroom, squawking about putting their faces in the event that such an auspicious occasion might actually occur.

Julia Dream looked straight at me. Well now you gone and done it, Georgie. She smiled. You're something of a surprise, aren't you?

What exactly did I do?

She pointed to the old bell with one perfectly manicured finger. That bell there only rings when Himself is coming up. Julia turned around and looked at the bottles stocked on the back bar.  She put her hands on her hips like she was deep in thought. We're gonna run out. She sighed and turned back around towards me. I don't know that I got enough in the back, either. Dammit.

She smiled like she wasn't too worried about it though, so I repeated my question.


He musta heard ya, she said.

Who?

She giggled. You're a little thick, aren'tcha Georgie? Himself. Rockabilly Billy. That's his bell. He'll be up here anytime.


Tex the Younger finally found his ability to speak. You remember the LAST time he showed up here?

Rex nodded. Damn near toppled the tree. Took a week to clean the place proper AND I had to carry his boney ass back down, drive him home, and pour the bastard into bed. And you know what he said to me?

Julia Dream shook her head. What'd he say?

He said I was I was too ugly to be a woman but that he'd give it try if got a fifth of Johnny Walker Black and a paper bag.

Confused and wanting to distract the conversation from the impending doom everyone thought I brought down on the Treetop Bar, I inquired as to the purpose of the paper bag.


Julia Dream laughed out loud. For his head, most likely. When he's drunk enough Himself could screw a tree and leave it a pile a sawdust.

I didn't want to know how Julia Dream knew that. It hurt my heart a little to think of her acting like some love starved groupie and I was starting to regret suggesting that a show was a good idea. Not that I thought Himself had actually heard me. But everyone else seemed to.


That was mean of him to say, Rex went on. Just damn cruel. That was back in my cabaret days. Rex's eyes went all dreamy for a second. I performed in drag under the name Priscilla Divina Moreau. I could wail through my rendition of "The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe".  And I was beautiful. Wasn't I beautiful. Tex?

Tex the Younger nodded. You sure was.

Damn right I was. I used to get plenty of phone numbers from people in the audience who couldn't tell. Men AND women. Ain't that right Tex?

Tex the Younger nodded again. Sure is. It fooled me.

Sue and Dolly rolled out of the Lady's Lounge dolled up like it was Saturday night. It's a good thing you put that bitch Priscilla to rest, Dolly cackled. She was making it hard for the real women around here to get any action.

Speak for yourself, said Julia Dream. She looked straight at me, licked her lips a little, and smiled. I get more offers than a respectable woman can take seriously. Hell, if I took up half of them, I'd spend all day and night on my back.

Then you're doing it wrong! Sue broke in and started laughing.

Just then the door swung up so hard that it shook the wall and Himself walked in. There ain't no such thing as doing wrong! Either you're doing it or you ain't. 

Julia Dream smiled wide and waved, jumped over the bar. She met him mid-floor and gave him a big hug.

How's tricks darlin? Damn, Honey. You still know how to show a man you care. You're gonna cave my chest in with those things.

She asked him what he was drinking and did he want his usual.

Not today. You got any Sioux City Sarsaparilla back there? 

The bar erupted into a shocked silence. Julia Dream smiled. I think I got some in the back. She turned towards me, smiled wide, and winked.

Dolly and Sue ran up and hugged him next. He kissed them both, squeezed them close and buried his nose in Sue cleavage. She squealed even louder and turned bright red.

Sorry, Darlin',  he said. I just wanted to make sure you still smelled like cotton candy.

He acknowledged Tex the Younger with a nod. How's the old man? Still kicking it with Redheaded Kate in Coalinga Junction? Tex the Younger nodded in return. Well you be sure and give them my regards. Especially Redheaded Kate. Then he looked over at Rex. Priscilla! You have an off day? Rex blushed and didn't say anything at all, but hid coquettish-like behind his beer.

Then he lumbered over and sat my table. Julia Dream brought him bottle of ice cold sarsaparilla.

You Georgie? 

I answered that I was.

You sure do take after your Granddaddy. 

What?

Sure! Didn't anyone ever tell you that before?

I answered that in fact, no one had ever said I vaguely resembled anyone in my family. As a matter of fact, it had long been a family joke that I didn't favor any of my relatives and so I must have been left on the step in an empty fried chicken bucket when I was a baby.

Well shit fire! Hell, son you're even named after him. Don't you know who he was?

I never met him, I said.

James George. His friends called him Georgie. Women called him Jimmy. Eddie Cochran wrote a song about him. You ever hear Skinny Jim?

Julia Dream cackled and smiled wide. Are you serious Bill? He's related to Skinny Jim?

A regular spittin' image! He looked over at Julia Dream. Probably in more ways than one, I'd bet. He looked at me. I can't believe nobody ever told you. You're practically Rockabilly aristocracy. Skinny Jim was the only guy who ever stole a girl from me. He smiled. It was alright though. She looked a lot like Priscilla back there.

That was first time I ever heard Julia Dream coo like she was melting from the inside out.

NOW YOU HOLD ON THERE BILL...

Rex was up on his feet and about to give Himself a piece of his mind. Bill smiled and motioned for Rex to sit back down. Relax, Priscilla. Don't tie your stage garter in a knot. 

Listen he said, turning back towards me. I need a driver kid. You game?

For what?

He smiled wide. For the last ride of Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5.


[Another installment will drop on Monday 10/16. Please feel free to subscribe to my email list to get this in your email box before it posts.]
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02 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas Five, part 1: chrome rockets and warm beer

 October 1st

We was at the Treetop Bar. The beer was warm as usual, but cooler than it was outside -- in spite of the altitude and preternatural humidity.

I was sitting there talking with Dolly and Sue, Rex, and Tex -- the younger one -- and Julia Dream. We talked about the heat, about the warm-but-still-cool beer, and the usual kind of things you might think to talk about sitting a top the tallest tree in three three counties and maybe in three states, planted near the Red River at the crossroads of Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Julia Dream could just about talk about anything and I'd listen. She knew it, too, and while she didn't take no pleasure in torturing me, she was, at least, aware of the impact she had on me.

Georgie, she'd say. You really need to go find you a nice girl. You tangle with me, you're likely to get spoiled for anyone else. And that would be a shame. You with those pretty blue eyes your momma gave you. You gotta pass them on to a daughter. It's just not proper for a boy like you to have eyes like that.

She worked the bar most days and played the piano and sang most night. The piano was old and out of tune -- no piano tuners would bother to come to The Treetop -- so Julia taught herself to play and taught herself to sing so it didn't sound out of tune.

So we were sitting there talking about whatever we was talking about then someone -- I do believe it was Tex the Younger -- started to complain about the egregious expense of the last music festival he went to.

I don't have no issue with paying musicians,  he said. They earn every penny they scrape together. But you know as well as I do that it's about the promoters. They charge high ticket prices, pay a mere pittance to the talent, and pocket the rest. It's an almighty god forsaken travesty!

 Rex blamed the times. He said it was just to damned difficult to find good music. It ain't like it used to be. Used to be, you could expect that if you showed up at the Treetop on any Saturday night, you'd find somebody playing their guitar or pounding on that piano. Saturdays, the very roots of this here tree used to shake! Now all we got is Julia Dream. And she don't even show her tits to make up for the lack.

The entire company laughed. Julia Dream laughed the loudest. Not in your wildest wet dreams, honey. Then she shook her round, gravity defying tits at the room. These beauties ain't for the likes of you ruffians. She nodded over at Sue, who knew how to carry a tune, and Dolly, who couldn't sing but would -- if pushed -- play a mean drum, and said Get one of them drunk enough and if you're extra specially polite they might just grace you with a little hint of nipple.

Both Dolly and Sue roundly rejected the idea, proclaiming to one and all that they were saving themselves for real men, not the ruffians who hung out at the Treetop.

Rex pointed at me and laughed. But Georgie ain't no ruffian. You all going to deny him?

Aw, Dolly said and walked over and tousled my hair. Georgie is a nice boy. He ain't nothing like you haughty reprobates.

Then she sighed and said all the real rock and roll cowboys was dead had their nuts cut off by commercialization.


All but Rockabilly Billy, Sue echoed.

Just then there was a thundering in the distance. Only it wasn't no thunder. It was the sound of a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible with rocket tail fins and a magic V12 with no top end. We all knew it was Himself, Rockabilly Billy, popping his clutch and digging into Oklahoma dirt.

The mad laughter was also a palpable sign.

Sue got all excited and said Billy was still on a tear and probably wouldn't be worth a damn on stage anyway. Himself had been on tear since Professor Longhair died. He hadn't picked up his guitar nor sang a note since 1980. He stopped in the middle of a show right, declared that Professor Longhair had died, and promptly drank every drop of liquor in the place. No one had heard him sing in recent memory, and the common talk was that he'd drank and drugged the song right out of him.  People lost count of the fans, groupies, and fellow musicians who came by the bar trying to pull Rockabilly Billy out of his tear and put him back on stage.  Like his last show of any memory in Apalachicola. It took two hookers and a considerable amount of effort just to prop him up on a stool with his washboard cherry red Les Paul.

Dolly smiled and laughed so hard her tits jiggled and knocked Sue's beer off the counter. That weren't no dodge, she said. Billy always did favor ladies of the night.

Well a show would be fun, I said. Could all my friends together. A show might coax Rockabilly Billy out of his desert patio home long enough to put on the hell of a show.

They all looked at me like I was crazy... or worse, a tourist.  The only one who didn't look at me that way was Julia Dream. She just smiled. Her eyes twinkled and leaned over to give me partial view of a heart tattoo over her left breast.

Why Georgie, she cooed. I didn't know you had it in you.

I blushed so hard my lips must have looked blue.