by Ron Downing
This is chapter one of an old Manuscript. It is rather long
|Don is sitting at a table in Andrea Sinclair’s, a very posh upscale restaurant in town; with Sally, the love of his life Don is wearing his western cut tan leisure suit that he had worn to work that day; and Sally is wearing a sea foam green evening gown which makes her reddish brown hair stand out. Seeing her in this dress brings back the memory of when they had bought it for her. Don had gone to pick up a car from another dealer in Memphis Sally had gone with him for company, since they would not be back before his own dealership closed. Don had decided to make a day of it. Sally had worn a halter top and a pair of shorts that day and wasn’t prepared to go anyplace nice for dinner. At Don’s insistence, they stopped at the mall so Sally could pick out a nice dress for the evening. Don looks deep into Sally’s hazel eyes while holding her hands. His heart is beating rapidly. And there seems to be a tight knot in his stomach. He knows in his heart and mind that Sally is the one that can make his life complete.
“Sally, I have really enjoyed these last few months. Being with you has been the only thing on my mind.”
“I know what you're about to ask Don,” said Sally while nervously fidgeting with her napkin and wrapping it around her finger.
Sally… dear please let me finish. I love you so much. I can’t imagine what life would be like without you in it.
Sally sits there quietly and looks at Don as she blushes her cheeks are nice and red. She cares about Don a great deal and she does not want to hurt him but she does not want the same things in life, at least not right now. “Well, Don I have enjoyed it too, but I” Don interrupts Sally.
“I know that you do, I see it in your eyes every time that we are together sweetheart. Don reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small box. Holding it under the table and out of her sight he opens the tiny box and removes the ring “I’m glad that you feel that way Sally because I would like to ask you a question.
As Sally looks at Don her eyes start to tear up, she knows what is coming and she has tried to tell him; at least three times in the last eight weeks, that she has dreams. Sally wishes so much that this moment wasn’t happening, and that he will not ask her this because she doesn’t want to hurt him. “Don please Don’t.”
“Sally I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Sally will you marry me? Do me the honor of being my wife.”
Tears, start flowing from Sally’s eyes like a rainstorm she grabs the napkin off the table and begins wiping her eyes. Donald is unaware that her tears are not happy tears but tears of frustration and hurt. Expecting to get an answer of yes he smiles at her.
“Oh Don, I just don’t feel that I am ready for this. I have goals that I want to reach before I settle down.”
Don looks at Sally and she can see the hurt, it was as if the life had just been drained from him. With a quiver in his voice Don replied. “I don’t understand, you love me, and I love you. I would help you reach your goals. We could be a team.”
“Don that is so kind of you, but it just wouldn’t work out. Marriage just isn’t part of my plans at least, not for now.”
“So what are you saying?”
With a very frustrated look on her face, she looks at him. “Don I am saying no…I can’t… I won’t give up on my hopes and dreams to be your wife.”
“Well, I see.”
Sally sets the napkin back on the table and places her hand on his. “I am so sorry Don… I never meant to hurt you…. Had I met you three years from now then perhaps I could say yes.”
Don holds back a tear that is just waiting to make its debut .in to the world and with a voice of confidence he looks into Sally’s eyes one more time. “What makes you think that I’m hurt…? I understand… you have a life to live and I’m not part of it. But hey if you get going now you won’t waste anymore time here on me.”
Sally looked at Don with an irritated glance, but Don just picked up his drink and took a long drink. When he sat the drink back on the table and looked up she was still standing there. He gave her a quizzical look. That she read as did you forget something bitch. Then he pointed toward the door. Sally turned in a huff and started walking constantly picking up her pace as she walked. Watching as the twenty-year-old Georgia Peach from Sunny Side Georgia walked out of his life for the last time. He thought about how he was going to miss her. His thoughts of Sally were interrupted when the waiter came to the table and asked “Sir will the young lady be returning?”
“No Ted she had a dream to catch.”
The waiter took the plates and left he returned only seconds later with the dinner check Don got up and paid for dinner and left.
It’s now mid-June and three months have now passed since Sally walked out of his life. The first month was the hardest, now it is time to get back in the game. It’s a cloudless summer night lit by a three-quarter moon and although the sun has set, Don isn’t feeling any relief. It is still hot and humid. Don had parked his truck in front of Eli’s Cotton Gin. It is one of the few respectable bars in town. As he gets out of his truck he grabs his cowboy hat and gives it a quick dusting off before he puts it on. He looks in the mirror to make sure it is straight and then walks across the gravel and dirt parking lot toward the set of red raised panel doors. A single yellow light bulb under the canopy and the bright blue, red and green neon sign above the canopy illuminates the doorway of the old red brick and frame structure.
As he approaches the doors he can hear the laughter and conversation of the patrons and the sounds of Pool Balls as they collide with each other, just on the other side of the door. Sitting on a barstool by the door was Curly, one of the bouncers smoking on cigarette. Curly, isn’t much to look at, bald head, dressed in blue jeans, and a red tank top. Curly has a scar on his right arm from a punji stick wound that he got in Vietnam. A pretty good sized guy and definitely someone that you would not want to tangle with.
Don opens the door and walks inside; the room is dimly lit by the lights that hang above the bar which extends from the back wall like a U-shaped peninsula, the two large round posts support the overhead cabinets that hold the small lights that illuminate the bar. The pool tables, dartboards and pinball machines are on the backside of the bar room while the dance floor and stage are on the front side. On the far side of the dance floor along the wall are booths that are lit by small hanging lamps photographs and tin signs of years gone by adorn the walls above the booths. The ceiling was flat and planked held up by timbers that are supported by one-foot thick posts.
The building is over a hundred and thirty years old. During the Civil War, it had been used as a temporary hospital for Confederate soldiers. It has been said that it is haunted by the painful sounds of wounded and dying soldiers. Those who have been there after closing and before opening conjured up these roomers. However, these so-called restless spirits have never made themselves a nuisance to the patrons, either they like the company or the music. Only the bartenders had ever seen them and it was suspected it was because they had drank too much joy juice. Brenda, Tacos girlfriend is the first person that Don spots inside the bar. Brenda is sitting on a bar stool just inside the door collecting the cover charge.****
“Hi Brenda looks like Taco has a good crowd tonight.”
“Yeah! He does, it’s a lot better than last Friday night.”
“Do you have the change for a twenty?”
“I’m sure I do, yeah, here you go.”
Brenda was a real dish well built and stacked with her golden blonde hair that touched the top of her skintight blue jeans; her blue eyes were as blue as the Montana sky. With her soft well-tanned skin of golden brown, she could drive a sailor to go AWOL.
“Where is Taco anyway?”
“He’s in the office talking to Ralph the manager, It seems that the band that was to play
Next week called and canceled out, and Ralph wants Taco to stay another week.”
“Do you think that he will do it?”
“I don’t know because he already has a booking for next week at Cotton Eyed Joe’s.”
“Yeah, but that place is such a dump, there isn’t a night go by that someone doesn’t get shot or knifed in that place, why even the roaches have vacated the place.”
Brenda laughed at Don’s description of Cotton Eyed Joe’s
“But you know that Joe gave Taco his start, and you know that Taco doesn’t forget who his friends are.”
“You’re right about that Brenda, Well I will catch you later OK.”
“Sure thing Don!”
Don had spotted Harold another one of his friends that he had not seen in a while, over in the corner with a girl in each arm. This was not at all unusual for Harold. Before Don made his way to the corner of the room where Harold was standing, he heard someone calling his name, it was Harold; when Don reached the corner Harold stuck out his hand and they shook hands.
“Hi Harold I haven’t seen you in a coons age, man where have you been?”
Harold leans over the pool table to take his turn “Just working on the farm, this has been the first time that I have been to town in three weeks. “What about you Don?”
“Well, I’m still working at the car lot; May was a real good month, we sold over a hundred and twenty-five new cars and trucks.”
“Shit I can’t believe I just missed that shot, that’s not too shabby for a town this size?
“Where is that ugly brother of yours anyway?”
“Which one Don, There both ugly as ugly can get that’s why I always have all the girls.”
“Well, I was looking for George.”
Harold looks over toward the bar “Well you won’t have to look far my friend he is at the bar trying to drink away his problems.” Harold puts his arm around the back of Dons's neck and pulls him closer. Picking his bottle of beer up off the table, raising it to his lips Harold finishes it off in one quick swallow.
Don glanced over at the bar and George was sitting there with a shiner on his left eye and a fat lip. “What the hell happened to him?”
Harold leans over the pool table to take another shot and misses. “This game is toast… It isn’t… worth a damn… tonight “Harold stands up and looks around the room to find Tammy who had been waiting on him. He sees her on the other side of the room. Harold then picks up the empty bottle and holds it up. “Hey Tammy” he yells loudly.
Tammy looks around the room to see who is calling her name, she spots Harold “Hold your horses I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Bring me another damn beer and hurry your ass up about it, I’m dry.” Harold turns and tosses the empty bottle in the trash. “See if… I leave that little bitch a tip… can’t do her job and keep the beer coming.”
Don is leaning against the wall just a few feet away watching Harold rack the balls for another game. “What about George.”
“Oh yeah… sorry about that… He put the old man's new truck in the river last night…”
“The old man did that to him after he put that new truck of his in the river last night.”
“How did he manage to do that?”
“I don’t really know; all he would say was that he was driving down Highway 191 headed toward the river and missed the curve, Where it turns to run alongside the river.”
“Was anyone hurt?”
“Not seriously; Loose Lucy broke her arm.”
“What was he doing with her?”
“Well, you know George he never was any good at pickin' the women.” Harold breaks the rack sinking the eleven ball then the six.
“George wasn’t drunk was he?”
“He had been drinking but he wasn’t drunk.” Harold spots Tammy heading toward him with a beer on her serving tray.
“Alright I’m coming .”
“Huh, can I watch.”
“Okay, Asshole you know what I meant” Tammy sets the beer down on the table hard. She starts to leave when Harold stops her grabbing her by the arm. “So is it true that you came home last night and caught your old man doing the girl from the sanitation department in the bathroom.”
“Where did you here that,” Tammy replied angrily.
“Well, in a small town news travels fast.”
Tammy tries to pull away from Harold “Do you mind asshole you're hurting my arm.”
“Hey, Tammy settle down, I just wanted to talk to you. Look at the bright side she knew what room to use. Get it sanitation… Bathroom…”
“Ha..Ha.. I just can’t quit laughing. Now will you please let me go.”
Harold lets her go as she stands there for a moment. “Sorry about that… but hey if you need anything or need someone to take care of your needs I would be glad to oblige.”
Tammy continues to stand there and gives Harold a seductive take me home look.”I’ll think about it.”
Harold smiles at her and she steps toward Harold and kisses him. Harold pulls her close, Tammy backs away. “Not a bad kisser.”
“That’s just a sample baby.”
“I … Can’t wait stud.”
Tammy starts walking away, Harold has a grin on his face a mile long, as he watches Tammy swing her ass. It was as if he had just won first place at the county fair. Tammy stops and turns around to face him “On the other hand if that thing between your legs is as small as your brain… I would get more satisfaction from the miniature poodle who lives next door to me.”
Harold’s expression quickly changes. Don while laughing walks over and slaps Harold on the back. “Crash and burn ole buddy, crash and burn. She shot you down like Japanese zero.”
Harold returns to his game of pool as he is lining up for a shot he looks up and says “I wouldn’t want her anyway too damn skinny. Harold takes the shot and nothing goes in the pocket.
“Yeah, right Harold, looks like your having the same luck at pool as you are with the ladies tonight.”
“The night is still young and there are more fish in the sea.”
“ I hear you, well I guess I ought to go over and say hi, he looks like he could use a friend right now.”
Don walked across the floor toward the bar where George was sitting; He pulled out a barstool and climbed up on it.
“How are you doing George?”
“Oh, give me a break Don, don’t be such an ASS. I saw you talking to
Harold. . And I know that panic of a brother told you everything that happened.”
“Yeah, I was talking to him and he told me that you had put that new truck in the drink last night.”
“And I suppose that you think that eighty-year-old man worked me over all by himself, Right.”
“I did wonder about that, but then Chester is pretty stout for his age.”
“Not as stout as he used to be. Why if it weren’t for the fact that the old coot was my Pa I would have knocked him flat.”
“Yeah, I suppose that you would have! What really happened out there anyway?”
“Well, Harold probably told you all about it.”
“Yeah, but Harold wasn’t there was he? You’re the one that really knows what happened out there last night.”
“Well, I picked up Lucy at work about six-thirty last night she wanted to try the new restaurant that opened up a couple of weeks ago called the Catfish Hut. So I said OK. We were driving along and Lucy was getting kind of frisky; I leaned over and kissed her, trying to keep at least one eye on the road. When I looked at the road again I was already crossing the yellow line and there was a Reeves Minnow truck coming right at us, I was already headed right for the river.”
“Why didn’t you put the truck into a hard right spin or something?”
“I don’t know, she was on the floor board screaming that she was too young to die, and he was blowing his air horns at me. And I was just plain scared!”
“Yeah, I bet you were.”
“I still had my foot on the accelerator when we hit the wooden guard rail. As soon as we cleared it I laid on the brakes. Because of the loose dirt we started to slide; and that’s when we came to the edge of the river and slid into the river. I thought that I was never going to get her out of there alive. That truck filled up with water fast.”
“Hey, I’m glad that you and Lucy are OK.”
“Oh, Don one other thing, them fords make lousy Submarines.”
“Well, tell me George, how in the hell did you end up with Loose Lucy; I thought that you had better taste in girls than that.”
“First of all I resent that last comment Don!”
“Well, George I’m sorry about that, but you know what she was like in high school and the reputation that she had.”
“How long has it been since you have seen her?”
“A couple of years I guess why? Did she change that much?”
“Yeah, she did, Kind of like the story about the ugly duckling that turned into a swan.”
“Come on George nobody can change that much.”
“You want to bet?”
“Do you have a recent picture of hers?”
George rose up off the bar stool and removed his wallet from his hip pocket. He laid it up on the bar so he could find Lucy’s picture. He then handed it to Don.
“Man I don’t believe it, not bad what did she do?”
“Well, braces for one thing, Surgery on her nose and a class in cosmetology, all that and a sun tan and losing about thirty pounds. Looks great don’t she?” George put the picture back in his wallet and then put the wallet back in his pocket.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact she does, where did you run into her at anyway?”
“Well, I was having Lunch at Happy Harry’s with Doug, he’s my cousin from Texas. She was there with her sister and came over to say hello and we started talking and her sister came over to joined us. One thing lead to another and I asked her out and she excepted.”
“Well, I hope that you get everything worked out George.”
Don got off the bar stool and shook George’s hand and made his way through the crowd to a table located in the middle of the room, where he could get a good look at everything going on in the place. He pulled out a chair and sat down. The chair next to him was empty so he put his feet up on it something. that he would never have done in his mother’s home unless he wanted her to raise a knot on his head. He had been up on his feet all day and they were tired.
Don hadn’t been sitting there long before he spotted Taco coming out of Ralph’s office with Ralph not far behind. Taco got on the stage and picked up the microphone.
“Good evening everyone, are we having fun yet?”
The audience responded by slapping their hands on the table and chanting.
“Sing Taco sing! Sing Taco sing! Sing Taco sing!”
In an effort to quiet the crowd, Taco removed his wide-rimmed hat and waved it above his head.
“Members and guest we have a few announcements before we get the band back up here to play for you. It seems that among our members here; that we have some pretty talented people here tonight. Some of you I hear are pretty good singers and that some of you, even write your own songs. It has also been brought to our attention that we have some country comics in our midst. So starting next Friday night, from seven o-clock to eight o-clock, we will have a talent hour. For more details, ask your waitress for a talent hour handout.”
The crowd cheered and started their chant again.“Sing Taco sing! Sing Taco sing! Sing Taco sing!”
“Folks we have just one more announcement and it’s one that saddens me to make because it’s about another band and a good one at that. The Cotton Gin had booked a group called “Bandits of the Rodeo” for next week They won’t be able to make it due to a car accident which has taken the life of their drummer Ray Melone, His brother Jack Melone who played the steel guitar and sang backup, As well as Debbie Melone who sang with the band on occasion.”
The room filled with sighs of sorrow and disbelief that a band with that much promise could be taken away so quickly. Where was the justice? Once again, the room grew quiet.
“The band was a good one and a regular here at the Cotton Gin a lot of you knew the members personally.”
The room was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. But the silence was soon broken as a gentleman in the back of the room stood tall and waved his arm at Taco for acknowledgment. Taco spotted him.
“Yes sir, you had something to say?”
“Yeah, Taco I was wondering if we could take up a collection of money to help the Melones out? You may not know this, But Jack and Debbie had two kids. Their daughter is about two and their son is less than a year old. Ray and his wife Janet just had their first one about three months ago.”
“I knew that Jack and Debbie had some kids, but I didn’t know about Ray and Janet; that’s a real shame.”
Ralph by this time had already gotten back on the stage and was now standing next to Taco.
“I don’t know about that, that would have to be the decision of the manager who we have standing right here.” Taco handed Ralph the microphone and stood there next to him.
“I think that is a great idea and if I could get some of the waitresses to come forward, and we will start the collection up here and work our way to the back of the room. We will count it and give you all a report on what we collected later this evening.”
Ralph handed the microphone back to Taco and Left the stage. Ralph was taking all this pretty hard because not only was Debbie a good singer and a very nice girl, but she was also Ralph’s niece.
“We will start this next set off with a song that the Rodeo Bandits did well. It was also a song that Jack liked to open with, and it was Jack’s favorite; it’s a song about a flower called The Rose, and it goes like this. 1 ana 2 ana 3 hit it boys”
It didn’t take long for the dance floor to fill with couples doing a slow dance to one of their favorite songs. As Don was sitting there the waitress came to the table.
“Hi Don what can I get you to drink?”
Don never looked up at the waitress but he thought that he recognized her voice but then thought otherwise the last time that he had heard anything of Darlene was when she came into the dealership to say goodbye before she had left for college.
“Oh, just bring me a screwdriver and put a couple of cherries in it, please.”
“Can I get you any Nacho’s or some Popcorn? Maybe some Chicken tenders?”
“Oh, not now maybe later.”
“Okay, one screwdriver with cherries coming up.”
Darlene somewhat disgusted that Don hadn’t even looked at her walked off. Darlene had always liked Don. But Don never gave her much attention. Don turned his chair so he could watch the door for the first good looking Doe that walked in. However, as luck would have it this was not a very good night for singles it seemed that all the good-looking Doe’s brought their bucks. And the ones that came alone were either over eighty or under age, and Brenda was sending them back out the door. The girl just didn’t have a sense of humor when it came to minors. Taco had just finished singing “House of the Rising Sun” when Darlene brought him his drink.
“Here you go Don that will be two-fifty please.
Don laid three dollars on the table. “Keep the change Miss.”
“Thank you, Don.”
Don still had not looked up at Darlene, and she was really disgusted and walked off. As she reached the bar Tammy was standing they're, taking a break. Darlene threw the tray up on the bar and turned her back to the bar and climbed on to a barstool. She turned to Tammy.
“I just don’t understand it, he wouldn’t even look at me. I haven’t seen him in two and half years. I had spent my whole senior year trying to get his attention.”
“I hate guys like that, I would rather have a guy tell me to get lost or beat it as opposed to letting me make a total fool of myself. Well, Darlene if he treats you like that he is a real scumbag.”
“Not this guy he’s nice got a sense of humor and knows how to spoil a girl on a date.”
Tammy was smacking and popping some bubble gum that she had.
“I don’t understand: you just said earlier that he wouldn’t even look at you and now you're telling me that he’s up for sainthood, What gives Darlene.”
“I don’t know, all I can think of is that he must really be deep in thought.”
“More like deaf: because as loud as it is how can you be deep in thought about anything. And what is prince Charmin’s name?”
“Don Scott, his family owns the Ford dealership here in town.”
“Don Scott? You should have said something sooner Darlene. You want Tammy here to take care of it for you?”
“How do you plan to do that Tammy? Hit him over the head with a frying pan.”
“No, but that is a thought, I feel like I need to do that with Charlie, that husband of mine sometimes, just to get his attention, I do swear girl the house could be burning down around him and he would have his eyes and ears glued to the television watching, Football, Baseball or Nascar.”
“I’ve met Charlie I think he’s a pretty nice guy.”
“Honey there all nice until about a month after they get you to say “I do” and then everything changes.”
“Well, that might be the way it is for you but my husband won’t treat me that way. Besides what do you have in mind to make him take notice of me?”
“I’ll walk right over and sit down with him and I’ll say hey boy; you see that good looking young lady over there? She is totally mad about you, and she wants you to take her home and make hot passionate love to her. Her name is Darlene Sanders she’s a friend of mine and she says that you have been ignoring her. Then I would ask him if he is dumb or blind or just plain stupid?”
With that having been said, Tammy started walking across the floor to where Don was sitting. Darlene jumped off the bar stool and stopped her.
“No Tammy you can’t do that then he won’t ever have anything to do with me.”
“Well, you want him to notice you don’t you?”
“Yeah, but not like that!”
“Then Girl I strongly suggest that you do something; like go jump in his lap or lay a big kiss on him because that boy don’t even know that you exist right now. And if you don’t, some pretty little thing is going to be taking your place.”
“ I will but I need to do it my way and in my own timing.”
Tammy is standing at the bar with Darlene face to face with her hands on her hips.
“Darlene, from the sound of things, you have been doing it in your own timing since junior high and where has it got you?”
“OK, OK, your right I will take care of it before the night is over.”
“You better or OLE Tammy here is going to do it for you.”
The band was still playing, but Taco had stopped singing and was getting ready to make an announcement.
“I understand that we have a birthday in the house, so we’re going to wrap up this first set with a special song to our birthday girl.”
“Whose Birthday is it?” The crowd yelled.
“Yeah, whose birthday is it anyway?”
“It’s Kim’s.” Someone shouted.
“Well let’s get her up here. Come on up here Kim.” Kim’s fiancé and her friend escorted her onto the stage.
“How old are you Kim?” She wouldn’t answer, but her friends did. “She’s twenty-one!”
“Well, you barely got in the door then didn’t you?” Taco turned to the young man that was with her, with the microphone. “What’s your name partner?”
“Are you Kim’s boyfriend?”
“Yes Sir, I sure am!!”
“What I want to know is. Is this your ring that this young lady is wearing?”
“Yes sir, it sure is!!”
“Well then that would make you Kim’s fiancée now wouldn’t it? It’s OK son you can say it here.”
“Kim’s my only lady I can hardly wait.”
Taco turned to Kim who was trying to keep a straight face. “So tell me Kim when is the lucky day?”
“We have set the day for June 12th.”
“Have you had your first legal drink yet?” Kim was turning so red and laughing so hard that she couldn’t answer the question.
“Yeah, Kim I said legal because Chuck and Kim they ain’t fooling anyone. These two have been down to the river watching the submarine races and sucking on a few Miller ponies. UH HA!! Everyone please join in with me in wishing Kim a happy Cotton Gin birthday. Come on sing with us now.”
After they finished singing Happy Birthday, Taco jumped off the stage and made his way to the table where Don was sitting.