An Ozark Hillbilly goes to L.A. to help a cousin in trouble.
| Funny thing about how news travels on the grapevine around here. It aint always verbal.
I knew something was up when Bob Wilson went flying by the house in his pickup, loaded with cans and copper. He was headed to town to cash 'em in at the recyclin' place. So I sat on the porch awhile just thinkin'. What would Bob be trying to make some fast money for?
After a careful study it dawned on me that the only thing he ever got excited about was women and drinking. Puttin' two and two together I had it. I flew in the house and called Sadie Bowels down the road. Now if you wanted to know anything about anybody in the county, you called Sadie. Everything from whose dog was sick to how many times a feller went to the outhouse at night. Sadie never missed a lick. After hearing about everybodies ills for awhile she mentioned Lulu Burnett.
Bells and whistles went off in my head like a fourth of July celebration. Lulu Burnett! Sadie said she had broke up with that ole' boy from town, and was back home staying with her ma again. I casually, but politely, cut Sadie off; cause once she got on a roll it'd be judgment day afore she ever slowed down.
I hung up and started looking through my stuff, what I could sell quick and what not. Bob was gettin' beer money rounded up to get the jump on me with Lulu.
Now everybody knew that if Lulu was in the bar all you had to do was get her liquored up and maybe buy her one of them little snack pizza's and you'd get all the lovin' you could handle for the night. Course you'd have to get liquored up pretty good yourself as Lulu wasnt any county fair beauty queen. No sir. Not by a long shot. Aww, she was pretty back in grade school but developed a taste for candy bars and pork rinds and by the age of sixteen, was a full blown addict. I figgured she'd top out around 300 hundred pounds (Dry) and nowadays she dyed her hair blacker than a gypsy fortune teller. Fake eyelashes so long and thick that ever time she blinked it looked like she was waving at you. And the clothes she wore; usually black halter tops, when she went out honky tonking. After awhile one of her bra straps would slip down over her shoulder and it'd stay there. Kinda like a signal for the fellers to come a running. And she wore these stretch pants Ma called chicken slacks; Nine sizes to small for her. Sometimes when she was shopping downtown Lulu would drop something and bend over to pick it up. The whole town would freeze and look at her just knowing them britches were going to split right down the middle. I know thats a pretty weird thing to say. But you have to understand, entertainment was a mighty rare thing here, and Lulu was our local celebrity.
So we figured what the hell. All in all she was a sweet girl. Maybe a bit on the giggly side when the alcohol started to take effect. It didnt take a hell of a lot neither. She was one of those gals they say could get hit in the ass with a sour apple and she'd be staggering. Then if everything went alright up until then, Lulu would request a visit to your truck and she let you kiss on her, and maybe even let you see her boob's. Thats were Lulu was the most famous in my mind. She had boobies so big you could stand in front of them on a hot day with the sun shining and never break a sweat from all the shade they made. I got Lulu drunk last year after I sold my Honda and we wound up in the back yard of her house and she shucked that shirt right off followed by that gigantic bra and......
Well, I think she did anyway, I was drunker than a shit house rat myself. But I like to think it happened, and you don't mess with a mans fantasy. Especially when it comes to women.
So here it was, Bob Wilson racing to town in that fog bank producing truck of his, trying to get one up on me cause he'd found out about Lulu being available again. I ran through the shed grabbed some rod and reels, a used chainsaw that didn't run if it was cold out, and my momma's VCR player that she swore didn't work. (It did she just hooked it up backwards and was too proud to admit she'd made a mistake.) Wasnt smart to make her think she was stupid though. After 40 years of pounding out bread dough, she could whop you up one side of your head and you'd see the milky way for the rest of the day.
I dropped into my room and grabbed my antique buck Knife and some arrowheads, threw all my booty into the truck and headed for town to the pawn shop.
I passed Bob Wilson at the recycling place and he shot me a go to hell look and I grinned real big at him and waved. We might be in competition for Lulu's attention, but, at least I had all my teeth.
After hagglin' with the guy at the pawnshop and finally settling for a third of what I thought all my stuff was worth, I agree'd on a paltry sum and beat feet back home some thirty miles distant. I ducked into the house, got me a hot bath, put on some new-ish looking overall's, slicked back my hair, poured bout half a bottle of my daddies old spice on and headed for the tavern.
I got too excited I guess, flooded the carberator on the truck, and was sitting and fuming about the delay, (you have to wait for a few minutes so the gas will dry out before it'll start). I reached over to hit the key when I heard Ma hollering at me from the porch.
I got scared then, thinking she was about to pitch a fit over her missing VCR player and I stomped the gas pedal in frustration. Flooding it all over again . Well... I thought to myself, might as well get my ass chewing and head boxing session over with. I crawled out the truck and walked back to the house like I was headed for the electric chair on death row.
Ma was drying her hands on the towel, she said My Cousin Steve had just called and talked to her for an hour or so, and she wanted to talk to me. Now Steve was one of those guys that was strange folk in my mind. Growing up he was always restless, and wouldn't be satisfied, if you hung him with a new rope. He quit school at the eighth grade level and got a job driving a truck back and forth from California. After a year or two we never heard anything from him anymore, until now.
Ma had a seriuos look on her face. I went in and sat down at the table and she sat across from me. After a few minutes of staring at me she announced, "Johnny, Steve called from someplace called L.A. and he wants you to come out there and help with his new business."
Well, you could have knocked me over with a windy word.I just sat there looking stupid, which really isn't all that hard for me to do.
"What in the world does he want with me?. Shoot Ma, we haven't seen him for ten years."
"I know. I know, but, he sounded like he was in trouble, said he needed family. He said he'd pay ya..."
"Yep, put you up, feed ya and get you all set up."
"What's the problem out there, that he needs help with?'
Ma shook her head. "I dont know he wouldn't say exactly." "He did say though, that it wasn't that bad, just that he wanted family is all."
I sat there thinking, Then Lulu came to mind.
"Ma, I'll talk to him tomorrow or something, I have some things to do tonight."
Ma shook her head. "He's calling back later Johnny, and I want you here when he does."
"Well of all the damn..."
Ma's eyes narrowed dangerously, and I backed off quick. "Johnny, you know how things are with this family, always, if one of us needed the other we were right there." I nodded my head. One thing we do take pride in was family and commitment to one another. But nobody asked him to travel halfway to the moon. It bothered me alot but Ma had a point. Sitting there thinking this was the worse day of my life. I got up and poured me a glass of iced tea and stood staring at the door. Ma came up and hugged me and told me I was a good boy and that she loved me. Then went back to the stove. I went into the living room, sat down, and turned the TV on. Somewhere between the jolly green giant and the Oscar Meyer wiener song, I fell asleep and dreamed of dyed hair, black halter tops and avon perfume.
The phone woke me up, it was one of those old fashioned ones. When it went off you could be out in the road sitting inside your truck with the windows up, revving the engine, and listening to Merle Haggerd blaring from the speakers and still hear it. My daddy always said the reason we didn't have rats around was cause of that phone.
I heard mamma answer it and after a couple of minutes she hollered and I went to see what my cousin Steve wanted.
I'll bet I spent two hours on that phone with him. After I hung up, Ma seeing me deep in thought, (which if measured in water would probably make it up to my ankles),put her arm out on mine. I turned to her.
"Well ma, I said slowly, "Guess I'd better get my Sunday go to meeting clothes together."
"So, you two got it worked out then?" " What are you gonna do hun?"
"Head for California I guess." " He said I had a job in a club he bought, and he wants me out there to help him build it, or fix it, or something." " He wasn't very specific about it, but he sounded like he really needed me."
"Okay, when you leaving?"
"Day after tomorrow, I reckon. He's sending me a bus ticket and it'll be in Poplar Bluff in a day or two."
The next morning I was up early getting my stuff put up and draggin out clothes. I locked up all my stuff in my room and thought about my journey ahead.
I hadn't told Ma everything that steve and I had talked about. It was true he needed me and he was in trouble with some fella's about buy options on the place he had just bought. Sounded like a fuedin thing and that was fine with me. Us Talons had come from feuding, a ways back and we knew how it worked. Still, I wasn't afraid to admit, I was a little scared. I'd never been to a city before, and, I heard stories about it. It dawned on me that I knew a man, a friend of mine that knew all about them. Charlie Tucker. He'd went and stayed in Memphis a few years ago, when, his dad got cancer and he had to be near him, until he died. Yep, Charlie would know about things like that, and, I had an autographed picture of Ernest Tubb, that he always wanted. Maybe he'd tell me about the big city. I'd make a few dollars on my picture, and the best part, Charlies wife was one of the prettiest girls in the county, but, one of the dumbest human beings on the planet. She forgot to wear a bra alot, and favored really loose shirts. Add that to the fact she dropped things alot....well, you get the idea.
So smiling to myself, I grabbed Ernest off the wall, climbed into the truck, (it didnt flood this time), and headed for Charlie's.
End Chapter One