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Rex Sexton
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roadkill.jpg
Art by Stephen Cooney

“ROAD KILL”

 

by Rex Sexton

 

 

 

I sit in my cheap room, watch the raid from the window.  PD flashers strafe the dead zone dark. Vice squad walkie-talkies crackle in the chaos, sirens wail, shadows scurry.

 

They hustle the whores out first, cuffed, kicking – a prima dumba backstreet ballet of fishnet stockings, skin tight shifts, spiked high heels, nightglow flesh – all shrieking, cursing, spitting at the narcs.

 

The John’s follow hard on (no pun on that one) and nightsticks rain down, as the brawl of good ole boy beer guts, biker brawn, lunge, jostle, try to run.

 

I pack my suitcase, thunder threads tossed in the trash, light another Lucky, slug down cathouse Jack.  Paylor the pimp, Bubba the bouncer, are frog-walked out next, sweating bullets in their lounge lizard best.  Back stabbed, double crossed, facing jail, they look like cremating corpses one flame from Hell.

 

Hookers, strippers, poker machines, drugs, booze, dice, ex-cons, thugs – by the time anyone wonders where the bartender’s gone (out the back as soon as the first narc walked in) I’ll be dreaming of you, Ruby (dead drunk on a Trailways Bus).

 

Life goes on.

                                                          ****

 

 

Drifter digs, you open the door and flop into bed.  A single naked light bulb hangs from a ceiling chain.  Devil shapes toss the room as its harsh light swings with the window’s wind. Each night I hear the exiles doing pratfalls in the dark, as  they stagger back and forth to the washroom down the hall, or try to maneuver through their tiny flops.  Across the alley a back street lounge sleep-streams until dawn.  Jazz and blues fill the night with saxophones and wailing songs.  Silhouettes slow dance in the windows.

 

I watch them through my window, pillow propped against a wall, sipping rye and blowing smoke while the demons shift around.  The music wraps the night in dream. Ruby and I dance inside a memory.

 

                                                              ****

 

                    “Into the night riding that mare

                    Man on the run – danger, beware

                      Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide

                    Into the night, grim reaper behind”

 

Eyes heavy from smoke and the long night, fingers furtively stroking the cue-stick, I move, back and forth, around the lamp-lit pool table and study the cluster of brightly-colored balls which seem to float there.

 

The room rocks and creaks around us in the lamp-lit dark, as Johnny Gun and the Rustlers ignite a foot stomping line dance in the rhythm and blues bar upstairs, driven by wailing harmonicas and electric guitars.

 

I lean into each shot like a sleepwalker in a trance, dizzy from drink, playing combinations so crazy they make no sense, lost in some Twilight Zone of hustler Zen which, playing stick for meals and flops in two-bit joints, from time to time, never happened before and probably won’t again.

 

Shadow shapes crowd the smoky cellar, as still and silent as apparitions in a dream.  The usual specters who haunt the gaming dives – grifters, gamblers, sharks and jives, pimps, pushers, and other denizens of the night.  Amidst the jamming from the rave upstairs, the clapping hands and stamping feet, I hear the rustle of money changing hands around the room, like the flurry of wind in a crypt, or the flutter of ghosts in the dark.

 

“Ever make the wrong move,” I hear Johnny sing upstairs, “in the wrong town, cross the wrong path at the wrong time, play the wrong game with the wrong crowd?”

 

                                                           ****

 

There’s a nightclub in a cellar (in my dream) small, dark, empty. A ghost woman in a gossamer gown sits at a piano under a spotlight.  She sings:

 

                    “Man in the moon,

                    lord of the night,

                    talk to the whispering

                    winds in their flight.

                    Man in the moon,

                    tell them to sigh.

                    I have a new love.”

 

The singer’s eyes are like holy mysteries.  Her pale skin is so perfect, it seems painted on.  Her voice is like something you’d hear in heaven, and I’m wondering if she sings her love song to everyone lying on a slab in the county morgue?

 

                                                            ****

 

“Easy does it.”

 

I try to sit up but a big hand pushes me down.  I’m lying on the asphalt looking at the moon.  A PD flasher is circling the alley.  My head is throbbing.  I feel it oozing blood.  A rangy lawman crouches over me, holding a gun.  He is pointing it down the street and whispering “ka boom, ka boom.”  He smiles faintly and then his edgy features cloud.

 

           “Someday I’ll clean up this town.”  He looks down at me and frowns.  He has coal black eyes and a prizefighter’s face, wild dark hair with lightning sideburns.   “Saw them jump you from down the block.” He pushes up the brim of his cowboy hat with the barrel of his gun. “Three. They went at you pretty good with saps, digging in your pockets.  They scattered when they heard my siren. Should of shot the shitheads.”  He looks down the street again. “Let’s see if you can stand.”            

 

The long arm of the law.  I grip onto it and struggle to my feet.  My head is reeling and my legs feel numb.  The lanky lawman towers over me, looking me up and down.

 

           “Better red than dead, I reckon.”  He pokes his fingers through my hair.  “I’ll run you over to General.”  He holsters his gun. “That’s in the next town. We can fill out an official Colsen County police report along the way.  Just for fun.” 

 

“On the run, son?”  The sheriff lights a cigarette as we drive along through the black windowed backstreets of the small tank town, takes a long drag off it and tosses me the pack. “Car break down?” I close my eyes as his Zippo flares in my face. “Seeing the U.S.A. by sticking out your thumb?”  He pulls a clipboard from under the seat and sets it beside him, gropes in his top pocket for a pen.  “Get kicked off the Trailway’s for snorin’ too loud?”  

 

Buildings blur past, crumbling brick boxes, ramshackle houses folding in upon themselves, shanties, shacks, all smothered by tangled trees and dense foliage, and then a dark rush of  nothingness, as the highway comes at us, its white line unraveling in my foggy head like a silk snake from the sleeve of an illusionist. 

 

          “My wallet.” I fumble at my back pocket, try to shake away the cobwebs from my shadowy consciousness.  “They got it.” My head pounds and my back aches.  A couple of my ribs feel cracked. I press around my stomach, under the belt, take a drag off the cigarette, manage not to choke on it and settle back in the seat.

 

“No ID.” The sheriff says flatly and scribbles on his sheet. “Vagrancy?”  He muses. He blows a perfect smoke ring at the windshield.  It floats like a ghost’s mouth over the steering wheel and dash, vanishes when it hits the glass.  “Just kiddin’ bud. Give me a name, where you’re from, where you’re going, what happened.”

 

Paylor, Bubba, Ruby, the raid – there can’t be any kind of A.P.B. out on me.  That would be crazy.  No one back in Maddon even knew my real name, or anything about me, not even Ruby.  All they knew was that Stanton sent me, an old cell mate.  Besides, that was hundreds of miles ago.

 

“Corbett.”  I stub out my cigarette in the ashtray, slide the pack back over to him.  “Jim.” My fingers feel like an assemblage of wooden clothes pins.  I must have really nailed someone. I fold them, stretch them, gingerly touch my swollen face. 

 

Four flat tires seem to occur simultaneously as the squad car bucks, bounces, bobs along the highway and I look out the windshield to see a migration of snakes slithering across the asphalt under the squad’s headlights, trying to shimmy like crazy to the other side.

 

“Snakes in a lane.”  The sheriff smiles as we roll across the road kill.  “Down the road of no return.”  He picks up the cigarette pack with his forefinger and thumb, studies it and puts it in the glove compartment. 

                    

“I feel woozy.”  I remember Billy Landen saying when I clobbered him a good one in my first big fight in the playground after school – which made everybody laugh.  “I feel woozy.”

 

I feel woozy.  Like I woke up in the Twilight Zone.

 

“Gentleman Jim Corbett.”  The sheriff glances at me.  His coal black eyes ignite.  “Heavy weight champ of the world in 1890? 1910?  Sure it ain’t John L. Sullivan?”  He laughs softly to himself, stubs out his cigarette and picks up the pen.  “Go on.”

 

A sign flashes by for SPECTER, five miles down the road.  The sheriff looks at me and clicks his pen.        

 

“I’m just passing through.” I try to keep my voice steady, but I still feel dizzy and the psycho sheriff is driving me crazy.  “I’m traveling to Miami.  I have a ticket on the Trailways.”  I lie (I was dead broke starting yesterday).  “But I guess that’s gone too.”

 

“So what are you doing here,” he gives me a side look, “a snappy stud like you, out in the middle of nowhere, get bored with the Riviera?”

 

“I stopped to visit a friend.”  I feel the pain settling behind my eyes that I get when I have to make up alibis. I’m not fast at it.  “McDonald, Norman.  Couldn’t find him.  Maybe he moved?”

 

“Old guy owns the farm?  Na, he’s still around, Eee-i-o in and Yo in.”  

 

The sheriff chortles as he scribbles something down and then reaches for the intercom.

 

“Cole to Willow.” 

 

“Go Cole.”

 

“Drivin’ a drifter over to General.  Corbett James. No ID. Twenty something. Caucasian. Stocky. Ugly. Got banged up by the boys.  Bar fight.  Back in a jiffy.” 

 

“Copy, Cole.  Hey bring me some Crispy Creams!”

 

          “Snakes in a lane.”  The sheriff winks at me.  “Can’t do nothin’ but run over them.”  He pulls over to the side of the road, reaches in the visor and pulls out another cigarette, lights it.  “Here’s the rest of your report, best I see it.  You won a bundle at Smokey’s shootin’ pool.  Must have been a bundle or the boys would have let it go.  You saw the writin’ on the wall and snuck out the restroom window.  Shoved the money down your pants.  The boys saw the writing too, went out back and waited for you.  They didn’t get to explore down yonder.”  He eyes my crotch.   “Give it to me.”  The sheriff sticks out his hand and blows a smoke ring in my face.

                                                        

          The radio squawks unanswered calls.  Snakes slither across the lonely highway, as I give it to the small town sheriff, over and over again, across his lightning sideburn, with the dropped sap I picked up in the alley.

 

 

 

                                                   End

 

 


rag_dolls.jpg

 “Rag Dolls”

                                                                                                                                                                                  by Rex Sexton

 

 

                                                  PERDITION

 

The morning sun I never see

The evening stars aren’t meant for me

I ride the rode of misery

It just travels on

The world was born to dark and light

Good or bad wrong or right

I took the wrong turn on the road of life

 

The sun comes up to doom and storm

I ride the night and I’m hell bound

I ride the road where nothing meets

It’s a long and lonely road

It just travels on – and on, and on, and on

 

And now another white haze,

another lost day, and I sign

my name to another blank page

in the story of a life. 

lived in every lost lane,

blind alley

dead end

as the game gets out of hand

and the law gets smarter and the

payoffs come harder

and the gravy train I hopped without hesitation

has no destination

and the years disappear

and you don’t stop ‘til you get there

and that’s the end of nowhere

 

                                                The morning sun I never see

The evening stars aren’t meant for me

I ride the rode of misery

It just travels on

 

                                      Tim Holt   1985

 

 

           

“Perdition,” Tim Holt said and shook his head as the CD ended.  He settled back in his dressing room chair, sipped his bourbon and branch water.  “Perdition” was written in Folsom Prison.”  He smiled wryly.  Kit Diamond sat across from him.  The two men were having a celebration of sorts.  Kit Diamond had just bought the nightclub.   Holt and his country band performed there most of the year.  Contract time was drawing near.  They were getting to know each other, or, some might say, taking each other’s measure.   It was a surprise that ole Bob had sold the club.  It was his life.  Diamond must have made him an offer impossible to refuse. 

Why?  Holt knew.  Holt knew dandies like Diamond.  He had met such “gems” in his knock around life.  “Yeah, the one and only Folsom that Johnny Cash sang about.”  Holt tipped his glass to Johnny.  “My cell mate, a guy named Jack Pardee, helped me set it to music.  He was a stand up guy, got me my first gig at the Hayloft Lounge in Rahling, Arizona.  That’s me and Jack, standing up front in the photograph over there, along with the band.  Look at those sideburns!  Always be grateful to old Jack.  Way before your time Mr. Diamond but “Perdition” hit the charts and got me a start.  Not many tunes catch on.  Not many of mine have over the years.  But now and then luck strikes and me and the  boys – girl too, now, right Mr. Diamond?  now that we’ve added our star songstress, Gentry Blue –  can keep traveling on with our music.”

“Cheers to that,” Kit Diamond lifted his glass, “and to me and you and the band, too.”

          Diamond sure did sparkle, rings and cufflinks and a movie star grin, all under a Hollywood cowboy hat that must have cost a fortune.  And don’t forget Gentry Blue, Holt said to himself with a scowl.

“Reason I got arrested,” Holt continued, “way back when, was a B and E in a little town north of Amalay.  B and E is Breaking and Entering.  Got caught right away, did my little time, and the county sent me on my way.  I was already on the run from a robbery me and my buddy Jimmy Taggert pulled in our hometown, a hardscrabble hamlet just west of Flagstaff.   We were born losers, me and Jimmy.  Born losers in a losing town, I might add, Mr. Diamond, and that’s pretty bad.  My old man kicked me out of the house on the day of my high school graduation.   He said he had supported my sorry ass long enough and he had to sell the house to expand his business.  The only business he had to expand was monkey business.  He told me to join the army and they’d take care of me since I would never amount to a hill of beans on my own.   He hurt me deeply, although I should have seen that coming.  There had never been anything between me and him except his legal obligation.  I was less than zero.  He may have warmed up to me if I wasn’t such an ugly and clunky kid.  But that wasn’t the way it was meant to be.  So me and Jim got our fathers’ guns, everyone in our hamlet had plenty of them, put on masks and shot up the liquor store, made the clerk get the cash out of the back and took off.  We got three grand altogether.  Everyone knew it was us and they were pissed.  Hell we escaped in Taggert’s rusty junker.  That’s all forgot now, kind of like a town prank, both me and Jim have given it back in spades.  But you see you get into a bad start in life and who knows what you’ll be?

“My mother died when I was ten, Mr. Diamond.”  Holt rambled on taking note that his “new boss” was quite content for Holt to keep ‘mistering’ him like a hired hand.  Holt could see that coming, and he knew where it would end, which was why it was so important that he fill his new boss in. Diamond was some kind of high finance wizard, stocks and bonds.  He was also a lounge lizard.  He had gotten into Country Music on a lark.  “Country” could be strange and unfamiliar territory to those, like Diamond, who didn’t know its rituals, ins and outs and pitfalls.

Holt wanted to set him straight – before it was too late.  “My father was a rounder, or bounder whatever you want to call a man who never wanted to be tied down by anyone or anything, family, job, commitments.  I figure they had a shotgun wedding because he didn’t much care for my mother either.  She died of cancer.  Her death came swift and furious.  We didn’t have health insurance, no money for doctoring.   There was no remorse on his part that I could see, more like goodbye and good riddance.

 

“Hear me, boy and understand.”  Holt downed his drink and mimicked his father’s drunken banter.  The funeral, such as it was, was over.  “I will do what I can for you, at least to keep you from being an orphan.  I will remain.  You won’t be alone.  Take comfort in that. But you are on your own.”

Diamond glanced at his Rolex.  He looked around the dressing room, at the photographs from the past.  Piled in a corner were a stack of antique album covers and cowboy hats.  He stifled a yawn.  How long would the old yodeler ramble on with his hillbilly tale of poverty and jail?  Nothing Diamond, a rich kid from Manhattan who went to Princeton. could relate to.  He’d been as bored, he guessed, listening politely to the droning of corporation executives who were trying to impress him with their expertise and financial largess.  Fear.  They knew the end was near.  They were trying to talk him into not firing them.   But something was different about Holt and his banter.  If Diamond didn’t know better he’d think the country singer was trying to warn him.  Of what Diamond couldn’t imagine.        

“We lived in a shack in back of the tracks.”  Holt refilled his drink. 

 “My father drilled water wells with his partner, Slim, for the haphazard housing developments that scattered the landscape back then, popping up at random across cheap, scrub land only the poor would call home and be willing to live on.  He had all the equipment loaded on a giant old Merc truck.  A dying trade, they traveled a lot, from county to county, keeping one step ahead of city water and other amenities, like sewage, sanitation, the sprawl of civilization.

“Didn’t see much of them – living wild and crazy I imagine, drinking, gambling, whoring, fighting.  They stopped by now and then, sometimes with their women, left me some cash and took off again.  I could fend for myself.  That was never a problem.  I kept my nose clean, kept clear of the truant officer and any other official that might catch on to what was going down in my home.  No one paid much attention to that sort of thing anyway in that neck of the woods.  Folks left other folks alone.  Now and then one of their women, who were always changing, would come by and do laundry and cleaning.

“Then they disappeared altogether when I was a teenager, probably following their dying trade to the land of never never where they could stay wild forever.  Looking for adventure around every corner, what most any man would go for.  That’s always a temptation: live free or die trying. The call of the wild.  The roar of the lion. They say if you stare hard enough at any critter, monkey, dog, turtle, whatever, you’ll start to see a human face in there somewhere.  I guess you might say the same about Slim and my dad.  Me too, might be hard to find, sometimes.

 

          “My dad did one thing for me.  He taught me how to play the guitar.  He was very patient with my clumsy learning, too, for some reason.  Maybe because he liked music and liked to sing himself when he was drunk.  It put him in a good mood.  He introduced me to country music.  Writing songs became the passion of my life.  I wasn’t much good at singing them and I never did learn to play the guitar as well as I wished, but I had a way with song lyrics.  Hank Williams was and is my favorite: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,”  “Lonesome Whistle,” “Lost Highway”.  Hank could really get down in there where it mattered.  And, yeah boy, I was one lost little fella and I cried all the time and I was scared and I missed my mother.

“My father had plenty of CD’s, all the greats.  Even sheet music, two guitars, harmonicas and other instruments to boot.  Even a flute.  I got into all of them.  I had no one to be with, nothing else to do.   I was all alone. There was a small factory town with about five thousand inhabitants about a mile down the tracks from our shack.  My town soon enough.  I went to school there.  I had a bike.  I’d shop, go back and forth.  Mostly I just stayed away.  The town had become one of those corporate raided places where some big outfit took it, gutted it, fired everyone.  Almost.  Someone changed their mind and kept it running – at poor pay, no benefits, vacation, pension, union.  Got rid of all that.  It was a poor town now, its citizens changing inevitably from middle-class to ‘white trash.’

“There was a cemetery down the road from our shack – the only other way the town made any money, taxes on the plots.  It was a big, sprawling forest, scattered with headstones. Families came in caravans to bury their loved ones.  Had for a century at least, tucking them into the willowy, sweet soft earth.  Or laying them in the burial facilities.

          “Mists, fog, eerie lights, howls, moans filled the days and nights.  I roamed the graveyards.  They were my home away from home.  My friends became the names chiseled into the weathered headstones.  Every day was a dream of Halloween, spooky, mysterious. 

Every night in sleep, the departed would creep from their tombs, vaults, mossy mausoleums, graves and visit me.  I’d visit with my mother, sometimes on warm nights sleep at her grave. 

 

          “Life, death, the mystery of being, joy, sorrow, and everything in between came with them as stories written on the wind between the birth and death dates.   They played around in my head.  Country music filled in such stories for me.  Before I knew it, Mr. Diamond,  I vowed to be a song writer, like Hank Williams or the other great ones.  And I wasn’t going to give up ‘til I got there. Well, that never happened but I gave it a shot and tried my best.  I’m grateful I got the chance.

          “Can I freshen your drink with more bourbon, Mr. Diamond?  Hope you aren’t getting bored with my dressing room story?”

          ‘No.  Quite the contrary.  I have time for a touch more.”

          Diamond  hoped he had just let Holt know the visit would soon be over.

 “I’m nearing the end.”  Holt pored the bourbon.  “I’m a gentle man, Mr. Diamond, always have been.   But creation and destruction go hand in hand.  Since you just bought the club from ole Bob and my contract, which runs for a year, I thought we should get to know one another better.  I could tell you something more about where I came from and what shaped me in my early years.  It may just come into play, someway.” 

          Creation?  Destruction?  What the hell was the old fart talking about now?

          “Take your time, Holt.”  Diamond narrowed his eyes and wondered what was coming.

 

 

“Yeah, well, those were mean streets, filled with hard times, in that little town of HiLo.  That is the odd name of the little berg.  It’s the name of a product, a kind of widget they manufacture.  That poor place couldn’t help being soulless.  We should all forgive each other for our trespass. 

“Night and day, the pounding of machinery from the smoke-stacked factory, the rumble of the freight trains, is the dream-stream that babbled through your brain from waking to sleeping.  Funerals, weddings, the patriotic holiday festivities, varied life some with small gatherings of working class men and women and their children.  But life quickly returned to its ghost-walked dead ends.  The pounding took its toll on your soul because at the end of each day you had nothing to show.

 

          “Life bottoms out, I guess, no dreams left.  Someone with your good fortune, Mr. Diamond – that silver spoon syndrome, and no offence meant, might not be able to relate to that and the hopelessness, misery … But OK, say you lay down a buck and win the lottery, beer, laughs, company 

          I used to shoot pool after school.  I got bolder around HiLo as I got older.  At fifteen I used to use some of my father’s money for gambling.  Not much, but I liked to show off like I was some kind of high roller.  A chip off the old block.  I’d shoot  my friend Jimmy, pay for the games.  We’d spread some of my father’s money on the table, pretend that we were betting each other, just like the big guys.  Actually, I was a pretty good shooter, at least for my age.

          “One day, it was bound to happen, this biker comes in, scopes me and Jimmy out and, maybe just to fuck with us, challenges us to a game.  This incident was a big day in my life, Mr. Diamond, maybe the biggest.  That’s why each word of it sticks in my brain.

          Hey, girlie boys,” the big brute says, “you two faggots want to play for some real money, or are you too chicken?” 

          “I was kind of scared, but I told him I wouldn’t mind playing him.  What could really happen?  I’d lose a little grocery money, maybe.  It was a big mistake.

          “I won the break shot and broke the rack.  Everybody thought it was a hoot, the chubby kid shooting the Hell’s Angel type guy.  He was a big bearded bruiser with a jagged scar on his forehead.  

          “Playing the four ball cross-corner.”  I leaned over the table and squinted at the shot.  Beers tilted, cue-sticks rapped, money changed hands as I banked the four ball shot.

          “Playing the five ball next,” I studied the table, “to kiss in off the eight.”

          Wow, I remember thinking, this was going great. 

          “Wanna call your shot deadhead.”  The biker says.  He smirked and took a pull off his beer, wiped his mouth.

          “He called his shot.”  My buddy Jimmy piped up.  He called four cross-corner, five to kiss.  Everybody heard him.”

 

          “Tell your buddy to call ‘em so’s I can hear him.”  The biker growled.  “If I don’t hear them they don’t count.”

          “I sank the six, nailed the seven, all lined up, a gift from heaven.  I did so with trembling hands.  Looked like the biker was looking for a way to fight with me, slap me around.

          “Beat it, pal.”  The giant said to the shoeshine guy who set down his box near the game. 

          “This is one of my regular shows, bro.”  The shine guy said puzzled.

          “Not tonight, bro.”  The biker snarled.  “You’re bringing me bad luck.”

          “Man, I got nothing to do with you!”  The guy protested.

          “And you don’t want to.”  The biker laughed.

“I calls the eight – side pocket off a ricochet, and the biker says: “You drop that one, punk and me and you gonna do a little funk.”

          “Geometry, artistry, maybe a little black magic thrown in is what it takes to make the eight ball run.  To collect from the biker, I needed a gun.  He was gonna slap me around, most likely, maybe worse.  If I sank the shot I was in big trouble, that was for sure.

“But then something happened.  Destiny walked in. Innocent enough, the girl was definitely an innocent, but one cursed with mortal sin.  

“She was small, flat-breasted, almost like a boy, with thin ratty hair and something odd about her eyes.  I had seen her once before.  I was leaving and she was strolling in.  She showed up out of nowhere, now and then, I gathered,  baggy dress, battered shoes, moving like a sleepwalker through our dead end bar and poolroom.

          “She was all smiles through crooked teeth as she sashayed amidst the mob of drunken men cooing ‘gentlemen, gentlemen.’

          “This way princess!  One of her eager footmen, Bill Crawly said and crooked his finger at her, his face wide open in a shit eating grin, as he led her out the back door.  And if you’re wondering how I remember all this so vividly Mr. Diamond, you’ll see why when I get to the end.  Someone’s junker was being moved out there.  I wanted to leave.  I kind of knew what was going to happen.  Neither me nor Jimmy had had a woman.  Two geeky losers.  I don’t think it’s

 

the way either of us wanted one.  Buck Williams opened the back door.  The junker in the alley ready.

          “Your coach awaiteth.”  Crawly said and bowed.

          “We’ll settle up later, punk.” The giant said, leering  at me as the place cleared out.  And I followed the men like a robot.  Jimmy beat a retreat.  He looked scared.  He’d had enough of the biker and these guys. 

While outside the girl pitched and swayed like a puppet on a string, purring and preening like a cat in heat.  In a blink she pulled the baggy dress over her head.  She stood as naked as a nymph.

“Get your ass in the car!  Nesbit ordered.

          “Her voice was light and lyrical, with a sugary southern drawl, I remember, and it freaked me out.   You boys certainly carry on about a girl! She was saying.  She sat in the back seat, sipped a beer and patted her hair.   

          “Get on your back and spread ‘em slut!  Someone commanded.  Nesbit again, I think. The guys started forming a line.

          “All in due time,”  The raggedy girl said with a sigh, not acting sexy but coquettish, as if her dance card were filled but she would try to accommodate all her suitors.  Shivers were running up and down my spine.  I knew in her mind she was the heroine of some dime store novel.  I found that spooky, her alternate reality.  “The night is young boys,” she said in a flirty way, “ and I am yours.”  

“The belle of the ball, I remember someone say with a laugh.  I got her ball, someone else grunted.”  

          “But I got it first!  The biker roared and shoved his way to the front.  He climbed into the car, grabbed the girl by the hair, gave her a hard slap.  Her head must have been ringing.  He shoved her on her back and pulled down his pants.  The car rocked as he humped her and cursed.

          “I remember hoping they wouldn’t  kill her, accidently.  It was winter.  Night had fallen, I left the alley, no moon or bright stars to guide my way, just broken bottles glistening in street-lit gutters.  I got my bike and rode home through the cemetery.  I thought about country music, and the blues, where there’s always plenty of bad news, which some lost girl at the Honky Tonk piano wails about, tearing your heart out, as she sings her tales of a cold and heartless world, amidst the drunken toasts, smarmy jokes, cigarette smoke, asking what can you do when no one follows the Golden Rule?  Or where can we go when we’re down and there’s no way out? 

Or when will true love conquer all?  Is there any love in the world at all?  Everyone’s been there. 

Maybe even you, Mr. Diamond.   If not you will be someday.  It’s where fog hides when the sun shines. You sit, drink, try not to think. But the lost girl is like the shadow you thought you erased when you slipped into that dark place, crying out to your soul about everything you needed to escape and don’t want to know.  Somehow it makes you feel better, knowing that someone, somehow, cared enough to put all the sorrow into words, as you would if you could.  I wanted to do that someday.  But not tonight. 

          “What happened brought back the way my father treated my mother.  Treated me.  The way men treated women.  The way people treated each other.  The way that biker treated me and the girl.  Wailing words were not enough.

          “I got one of my father’s guns.  Lucky it was one he picked up somewhere that couldn’t  be traced.   I didn’t know about such things at the time.  I knew where the biker would probably be.  There was a hangout, a roadhouse, down the highway.  It took me an hour to get there on my bicycle.  I sat in the lot and waited.  Finally he came out.   

          “Remember when you told me to call my shots?”  I hollered as I walked toward him.  He stared at me blankly at first.  But then he remembered.  “You’re one dead mother fucker!”  I screamed, as I shot him in the face.  Three times altogether before I was done.  ‘Just to watch him die’ I guess.       

          “So that’s my little down home story, Mr. Diamond.  It will be our little secret.  Reason I tell it is because you and Gentry have become an item since you bought the club and own the contract to my band.  “Love is strong as death,” Mr. Diamond, “passion as cruel as the grave.” I read that in the bible.  Lots of great stuff in the bible, Mr. Diamond. 

There are two kinds of love, it says in the bible, the soul kind and the bodily kind.  I saw the bruise you put on Gentry’s arm, Mr. Diamond, showing her your power and grabbing her, hard when you were mad.

 

“Now for the short time you and Gentry are going to be romancing each other, and it will be a very short time Mr. Diamond, I want you to be more gentlemanly when you are around her in the future.  Gentry has a sweetheart, one of the boys in the band.  Someday they will marry and settle down.   

          “Gentry has her demons, sad to say.  We all do.  Gentry is another little rag doll from my home town.  When I went home for my father’s funeral I found this lost little girl and her white trash family living in our old shack by the railroad tracks.  Her mother was a junky and her ole man a drunk.  She ran around in rags and the kids treated her like junk.  Pretend playmates was all she had.  Imaginary boyfriends later on.  Life was a ghost’s dream way back when for Gentry.  I did what I could for Gentry and her family, from a distance, of course, playing gigs from state to state and town to town.  I sent what little money I could spare, trying to make her life better, wrote letters, got her music lessons from a woman I grew up with. 

“And then things changed.  She became a knockout.  Men with money chased after her – life in the fast lane, living large – she still can’t resist the Diamond Jim charge.  Your charge Mr. Diamond.  For love or money?  Right now, Gentry will vanish in a blink.  Same old ghost world, as I see it, ‘cept now Gentry haunts it in mink.  But she’ll go back to her real soul mate when the fever breaks, so don’t get too comfortable.  She gets tired of what you guys have to offer.  Don’t lose your head when it happens.  Stay cool Mr. Diamond.  Remember our little secret.

“I have plenty more of them.”

 

                                                          End



Rex Sexton is a Surrealist painter exhibiting in Philadelphia and Chicago and his writing has that illusory element. His latest book of stories and poems “Night Without Stars” received 5 stars from ForeWord Clarion Reviews, which commented on the “wild beauty” and “joy of this collection … the prose rabid, people hustling to survive their circumstances …” Another recent collection of stories and poems “The Time Hotel” was described by Kirkus Discoveries as “… a deeply thought-provoking …compelling reading experience.” His novel “Desert Flower” was called “ … innovative and original …” by Large Print Review and “ … so skillfully devious it could have been written by Heinrich von Kleist two centuries ago in Germany,” in another Kirkus review. His short story “Holy Night” received the Editor’s Choice Award in the Eric Hoffer Award competition and was published in Best New Writing 2007. Recent poems have been published in reviews such as Mobius, The Poetry Magazine, Willow Review, Mother Earth International and Edge, recent fiction in Saranac Review, The Long Story, Straylight, Left Curve, Children, Churches and Daddies, Art Times, and Foliate Oak.

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