Well, what I could do is become a drifter. I have been giving that a lot of thought lately. jeremiahblatz even recommended this book. I'm gonna have to read that. I was thinking that know how to hop trains would be a useful skill. But if I started Hopping trains, that almost means by default I have to give up the Vagabond, and I really like it. So I guess I'll just have to drive randomly across the country.
In my dreams it works like this:
It doesn't really matter which town it was. It doesn't matter which state either. They're all the fucking same anyway. If you must know, I know that I had left the Appalachians some three weeks and seven towns before and I hadn’t yet made it to the Rockies, so that ought to narrow it down a bit.
What day was it? How the hell should I know? They all kind of blend together after a while. It was definitely a weekday because I had left the highway to avoid the traffic jams caused by morning rush hour, proletariat slaves, all in such a hurry to get somewhere that no one fucking goes anywhere. I don’t need that shit. I saw an exit sign that pointed to a barely paved country road and I took it.
It was one of those small towns that you read about. The ones stuck in the old west, the twenties and the sixties at the same time. The ones they write those high school plays about. The ones that some girl named Cindy-Lou leaves to go off to some big city and become a star and depending on how good her luck is, she either ends up waiting tables at some two-bit diner or sucking dick while she takes it up the ass in some two-bit porno that the producer told her was an art film. It was one of those towns that fifty years ago would have hung a nigga just for being half the man that I am and where old white men sit on their porches or in the barbershop and watch as I drive through. I hear one mumble something about “the good old days” to his friend. This town was going to be trouble. But then, aren’t they all.
I parked near the first open bar I could find. I don’t know how long I had been driving without a break, but I knew I was tired as a shit and more importantly I hadn’t had a drink in at least a day. It didn’t look like the kind of place that would take kindly to people bringing pets in, but I looked at Fenris and she was going stir crazy. She needed to get out as much as I did, so Fuck’em. I look at the outside of the truck and there so much grime piled on it that I don’t remember for sure what color it used to be. I don’t remember the last time I washed it either. I figured it would rain soon and didn’t give it another thought. I let Fenris out of the passenger side of the truck and take a look around. “What do you think? Is this a sunglasses town or a cowboy hat town?” She barks twice and motions her head toward the bar. I could hear Willie Nelson murmuring through the wall. Something about a man freezing to death in a cheap hotel in Cleveland. I sighed, “You’re right” and tossed my sunglasses back on the dashboard. I took the black cowboy hat off the top of my knapsack in the back seat and looked in the mirror. I looked like crap. I hadn’t shaved since the Appalachians and I hadn’t bathed in days. “I’m going to have to find a shower somewhere in this town, Fen.” I put the cowboy hat on, it was the one concession I intended to make for this town, and pulled it down so that it was hard to see my eyes.
I pushed the door open violently and let Fenris walk in first. She looked around flashed her teeth and growled. I smiled. Its best to make an impression first thing when you enter a new town. “Beer!” I grumbled at the bartender and then walked all the way across the room to an empty booth in the corner. I plopped down as loudly as I could and threw my feet up on the table as I lit a smoke. Fenris jumped on the bench next to me and we waited. As I took the first drag from the cigarette I gently patted the back of her neck. It was our little signal. She knew that she had done a good job with the entrance the second she started growling at the door, and the townspeople who were still staring at us without speaking three minutes later had confirmed it.
Betty-Lou was our waitress. No Fucking Joke. That’s what her nametag said. She cautiously set a can on the table in front of me and then just stood there and stared. After a moment she finally spoke up, “You have a name, stranger?” I ignored her and popped the lid open on the can. Old Milwaukee. They sure pulled out the stops here didn’t they? And it was warm too.
I was on my fourth can when I decide to approach the red head sitting at the bar. She had stared at me just like all the rest, but she wanted to play it cool now, so she didn’t look up from her magazine. She had a mid-length tapered hair cut that I’d seen in a Sarah Jessica Parker commercial and that she clearly hadn’t gotten in this town, and wore a short leather skirt and a tight pink and yellow midriff bearing shirt that she had undoubtedly seen on the cover of Vogue or Cosmo some time last year. They had probably gotten Heather Graham or Shannon Elizabeth or someone else who was both taller and skinnier than she was to model it. She didn’t quite have the movie starlet body though, and I could see her belly folding in on itself slightly as it bulged from under the spandex top. She sipped what looked like a cosmopolitan, but I didn’t see any triple sec at the bar. She was too good for this town; or she wanted to be, anyway. I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined that she had about $1500 under her mattress that she had been saving up for her escape to New York or LA for the last year or so. I wondered how she felt about art films.
“I’m looking for a place to crash tonight.”
“There’s a brick wall in the alley behind the bar,” she responded without missing a beat. I let her see me smile. She didn’t want me to know she had noticed, but I did. This was the girl I was gonna lay before I left this town.
“Tom Richmond has a farm about six miles up the road. You can probably spend a night or two in his barn,” the bartender told me without my having asked him. I had noticed the inn across the street on my way in, but I wasn’t surprised that he wanted me as far away as possible. I would have wanted me as far away as possible too.
I dropped fifty dollars on the bar – way too much for the piss warm beer they’d served me. I looked over at the redhead. She was almost done with her cosmo. “Give me that bottle of vodka,” I told the barkeep. The redhead turned to look at me. That got her attention. “And the one behind it.” The bartender looked at me in disbelief but then stared down at the crumpled bills on the countertop, my dirty hand still covering them, and he reluctantly handed over the bottles.
“See you around, luv,” I said and ran my fingers through the back of her hair before snapping them in the air to signal to Fenris that it was time to go. The redhead watched me as I walked out of the bar. I didn’t turn to check, but I knew she was.
As I left bar I saw a cop leaning on the hood of the truck. I knew he was a cop because of the tin star pinned to his overalls. “This your vehicle?” he asked me. Again, I played the silent stranger card. The guy was at least twice my size. 350 maybe? And he had that kind of molded physique that you one can only attain with repeated twelve ounce curls and a diet consisting mostly of powdered donuts over the course of twenty to thirty years. Traces of his sugar coated between lunch and dinner snack remained in his ZZ Top beard. I hoped his fat ass wasn’t denting my hood, but then on the bright side, maybe he’d knock some of the dirt off. “I’m talking to you, boy. I’m the law around here. VAGABND license plates? What’s that mean? Is that some kind of a joke, son? Are you a comedian? I don’t much like comedians in my town. And I don’t much like drifters.”
“That’s OK,” I said. “I don’t much like law”
“Now look here, boy. I don’t want no trouble.”
“That’s OK, I ain’t gonna cause no trouble.” I wondered if he understood double negatives.
“Is that so? Well that’s good,” no, apparently he did not understand double negatives. “So you’ll be staying away from Georgia McDowell, right?”
“Don’t be funny, boy. You think I didn’t see you in there talking to the mayor’s daughter? Now I don’t want no trouble, you got that, son?” It was all I could do to keep from laughing that time. Fenris growled at him, but I patted her head and she quieted down. I walked past him making sure to bump his shoulder on my way to the truck, it wasn’t hard, he was bigger than the “vehicle.”
Fenris jumped in the truck as soon as I opened the door. “Fuck this town,” I thought to myself. I was through making concessions for it. I threw the cowboy hat in the back and put my sunglasses back on. Sheriff ZZ watched as I pulled away.
Richmond told me I could stay in the barn so long as I earned my keep. He put me to work baling hay with his son Junior and his daughter Missy. Yeah, Junior and Missy… I really couldn’t believe this place. It was tough work and I got a really good sweat going. I don’t mind the hard labor. That’s why part of why I do this. Part of the reason I chose the lifestyle. It’s not just the freedom. It’s not just that I like causing trouble. It’s not just the sex with simple and naïve country girls. It’s not just that I lost my job and my apartment and didn’t really have a choice. It is all those things, but it’s more too. It’s the sense of liberation a man gets when he roams the open road. It’s the satisfaction and clarity a man gains from a honest days work. Real work. The kind that makes you sweat and bleed and puts dirt under your fingernails. It’s the peace of mind, body and soul that a man gets when he makes his living with his body and has no one to depend on but himself and his dog. And besides, bailing hay beats the hell out of cleaning up horseshit, which is what I was doing in the last town.
We put in a good nine or ten hours with only a brief break for lunch, which Richmond’s wife brought out to us. I wouldn’t say it was the best ham in the world, but it had been weeks since I had a good home cooked meal so at the time it tasted like heaven. Around seven in the evening, Junior said that we had done enough for the day and that his mother would have dinner ready in about an hour. I asked if there was a place I could take a shower. Junior told me that they had no running water, but that they generally bathed in a creek just over the hill. Missy told me that she’d show me, as she was on her way there to do the same. Junior gave me a harsh look. “Oh please,” I said, “ladies first. I’ll go after you.” That seemed to calm Junior down a bit, and Missy and I headed off.
I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. I was good to my word, after Missy pointed out the creek, I headed back up the hill to give her some privacy. Fenris stayed to keep her company, and I told her to just bring Fen back to the barn and get me when she was done. OK, I admit it, I am a guy and I did stop at the top of the hill to look back and take a peek. And I also admit, that I wouldn’t have minded stepping up in it, so to speak. She was a very pretty sun-bleached blonde, and as she peeled off her tank top I saw that she had the kind of hard toned body that a young woman gets from a life of day in and day out farm work. Almost no tits to speak of but a very toned stomach and long shapely legs. I wanted to go back down there, but I was staying there under Richmond’s hospitality and besides, Missy could have been anywhere from sixteen to nineteen. In my three years on the road, I had been on the business end of a farmer’s shotgun only once and that was more than enough to make me learn my lesson. Besides, I reminded myself, I already had a project planned for that town so I turned back up the hill just in time to see a white BMW driving up the road. There couldn’t be many people in this town who drove a car like that. I made my way back to the barn.
I had time to take two shots before I heard the door creak open. “Hello, Georgia,” I said without turning around.
“I… um… I wanted another cosmopolitan and you have all the vodka.” She had changed. She was now wearing a black sequined gown with a plunging neckline. It was too tight for her, apparently because Cosmo sex tip #3 is that he’ll think you look sexier if you force yourself into a gown two sizes too small. She was also about three inches taller and wobbly because of the heels she was wearing. I’m guessing that is tip #4. I also noticed that she had an unopened bottle of cranberry juice in one hand and a flask that I was guessing contained triple-sec in the other. I guessed that she probably carried it with her every day just so she could drink cosmopolitans. I set down the shot glasses behind me and took a swig directly from the open bottle of vodka. I gave her an obvious look up and down so she would know that I noticed her dress.
“I-I bought it for when I go on an audition,” she blushed through several layers of make-up, “for when I move to L.A.” Damn, and I had pegged her for a New York City girl. I stepped towards her slowly and took another swig from my bottle.
When I was in touching distance she dropped her flask. “Oh shit!” she said and started to lean over to pick it up, but I stopped her and drew her in closer to me. I poured some of the vodka in her mouth. She spit most of it out and apologized as I laughed. On her second try she did much better. From there she held the bottle herself as I ripped the slit of her gown open wider and slid my hand inside. She wore no underwear and we must have been up to tip #7 or 8. I went down on her and she moaned. I noticed my bottle of vodka fall to the ground next to her flask and spill into the dirt. It didn’t matter. We weren’t going to need it anymore. I intended to take my time with this one. And I didn’t want either one of us to be too drunk to enjoy it.
We were naked and I had her bent over a barrel in the corner. I had only been inside of her a moment when I felt the gun against my temple. For a moment I had a shotgun flashback to Alabama, then I heard his voice. “I thought I said didn’t want no trouble, boy! Now turn around slowly.” No sooner that I did, he had pistol-whipped me to the ground.
“Who the fuck do you think you are, nigger?” he asked as I wiped the blood from my lip. Part of me really wanted to make a smart-ass comment, but visions of Rodney King were now dancing through my head. “Now you go on and get yer trousers on and we got a nice little cell to put you up in back in tow---arrrrghh!” he fell to the ground, Fenris scratching at his back and growling in his ear. The gun flew out of his hand and across the room. He must have hit his head on the ground, because the fat boy was out cold. Like I said, a man can count on his dog.
“What happened?” Missy was at the door, her work tank top and cutoffs replaced with a flowery sundress and her still damp hair tied up in a bun. She only then noticed that we were naked. “Oh!?! But Georgia said you’d wait for me.”
I turned to Georgia; she was still shivering from coitus interruptus at gunpoint. “M-M-Missy called… and… and told me you were staying here… and we thought the three of… and… ummm… we didn’t think you’d mind… and she wasn’t here yet… and… and… I dropped the… and you… and… ummm… and… and… that gun… and…”
The sheriff started moaning and rolled over. I pulled on my pants and shoes and kissed both girls and Fenris and I ran back out to the truck to leave that town for good. Both girls. Goddammit! At the same time. Shit! And I never did get my fucking bath either. Lousy sheriff! Maybe the next town.
Special Thanks to jeremiahblatz for having an AIM conversation with me at 2 in the morning which convinced me to spend 4 hours writing the first 3000 words of fiction (even if its bad, I haven't actually read it yet) that I have written in months. Special Thanks to MAYA for firing me and therefore making me bitter enough to get creative again. Special Thanks to Oprah and other talk shows for not hiring me and therefore giving my creative juices time enough to stew and allow me to contemplate my possible life as a drifter. And finally, special thanks to the evil empire for Word, which knew enough to spelling correct "horse shit" to "horseshit"