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"The Black Belt Jones Tale of Terror"


"Being White in Texas"

The whole thing was screwed up. It changed a lot of things, as well.
I don't know that I have ever really gotten over it, although I don't
know if "getting over it" is the right phrase to describe
what I wish I was, or had done. More like I am forever a part of
something that I look at with sometimes longing, sometimes regret,
and sometimes it just sets in with an emotional fatigue that inspires
a blankness of mind and spirit that would almost allow me to do
anything, and anything without caution or regret.

I know it cost a marriage, maybe more down the line. I can't see
women the same anymore, but then again maybe I never looked at them
the right way to begin with. I know to me now they are a strange mix
of honor and danger. Loyalty and cut-throat brutality. And an
addiction. Not an addiction to sex or something so base. An addiction
to women, with all the junkie rationalization and justification. Fucked
up is what it is. Her name was Raylene, and I was a kid. She wasn't,
but wanted to be.

I would say "be again", but maybe she never was. She wanted
to be, though. I was a bright-eyed 22, and thought I knew the world.
And I did, I suppose, to a degree. By 22 I had seen lots of things
that I can never unsee, and tasted of things that had driven me to
the brink of madness, sickness, and made me callous. But I was still
a kid, and my experience with women had up to then been with girls. I
thought I knew women, but Raylene taught me better. Raylene was in
her 30's. Thirty-eight to be exact.

Hanging out was what she did best. This time it was at the local
college campus. Sort of an odd place, and an odder place to start a
tale like this. But maybe its oddness is premonition of what was to
come, and what was to be. All I know is when I sat down across from
her that evening, and introduced myself, I heard her name. A name
from my past, distant and yet close. And I decided I would play my
game, my best game. And that initial roll, that first gambles, has
haunted me to this day.

Raylene was a small town girl, trying to live in the big city. I
almost immediately remembered her, by name, from many stories that my
father had told me about his growing up. She was "one of the
girls" of his youth, and was one of my mothers school friends as
well. I don't think my dad had ever messed with her, and Raylene
later denied that he had. But her sister and my pop was another
story. But, nevertheless, we were connected to each other as only
small town people can be, and it felt like the connection ran deeper,
since we came together in such an unusual time and place. We sat
together in class, and went for coffee afterwards.

I can't remember what the conversation ran to that night, but I tried
to prove my manhood with my words, and she tried to prove her
womanhood with her eyes. I do know that we talked and smoked and
drank coffee for several hours before we exchanged phone numbers and
went our ways. I went back to my beat up trailer to face my dad. He
was staying with me between jobs, and it seemed this between was
stretching longer than the others. He was on the couch drinking a
quart of beer and smoking.

I grabbed one of his Larks and lit it, and told him I had coffee with
Raylene just a while ago. His eyebrow perked up and he asked me if I
had gotten any pussy. I acted disgusted, and told him to fuck off. He
asked how she was and how in the world I had ever ended up having
coffee with her. I laid it out in a general sense, not wanting to
share with him any of the feelings that were generated. He listened,
took a long drink of beer and a quick drag off his smoke. "Be
careful" was what he said, and he said it with a dead
seriousness. I just gave a cool chuckle, snuffed my smoke, and hit it
back to the sack.

My fucking Dad. Parked on my couch and giving me advice on women. I
was a little resentful that he was there, and especially now that I
might be wanting to bring a woman around. I tried bringing this young
girl around a few weeks back, but bringing her through the living
room and back into my bedroom had been awkward and it hadn't made
things very smooth. And since his car was on its last legs, he
refused to take it anywhere he didn't absolutely have to go. That
freaking car. I was still pissed about him and that damn car. Maybe
more than I should be, but pissed anyway. He had called me and told
me he needed a place to stay 'til he got back on his feet again. I
told him to come on, and when I got home from work the next day, he
was there. Only that goddamn car of his was stuck in my freaking yard.

A 1972 Chevy 4 door. I don't even know what it was called. Just a big
damn green Chevy, buried to the rear axle in my freaking yard. Why he
pulled off the driveway into the yard, I don't know. But he did.
Buried that sumbitch in the soft gumbo out by the gas meter. My pit
bull was barking her head off at him, he was sitting in the car
reading a paperback and smoking, and I was pissed off. He was
showing no remorse at the situation, and I was uptight and
pissed. I was covered in dried sweat and dust from driving a tractor
all day. Sun had been beating on my head, and all I wanted was a
beer, maybe a couple tacos, and some air conditioning. Instead I got
a car to be pissed at. I probably could have let it go til the
morning or the next day, but something about it just crawled down my
throat and got stuck in the pit of my stomach.

I didn't say anything, but I drug out the logging chain and hooked it
onto his bumper support. I put the F250 in low and began a slow pull,
dragging the Chevy out into the street, slinging mud and caliche all
over it. So that was the start of his stay at my place. I hadn't
gotten over the holes in my yard, nor his refusal to do much but sit
and drink beer. Maybe I was jealous that sitting around came so easy
to him, when it just messed me up with guilt. Or maybe I felt he
should have been telling me constantly how thankful he was for me
letting him stay there. Or maybe it was just that we had stopped
being father and son, and turned into two men living in the same
small trailer. Whatever it was, I felt I was past needing to listen
to him.

So I didn't, and felt, right then, that I never would again. Too
proud, too old, and too smart. Of course, now I realize that he was a
beat up, dog tired old man for a reason. A reason I was not long
coming into myself. That night I replayed the conversation over and
over again in my head, at least an hour before I drifted off. I woke
up several times in the middle of the night to strange and
disconcerting dreams, and sat and listened to the television drone
from the living room. I didn't know if my old man was still up, or
had just fallen asleep in front of the set. I thought about getting
up and checking to see if he was asleep with a 6" ash off the
end of a smoke, but I thought the chances of him burning the trailer
down were no greater than the leak on the gas stove or the loose
wiring to the furnace. I got up early the next morning, took a
shower, and headed off to work.

Raylene was heavy on my mind all the way. Even as I prepped my
tractor, greased the brush-hog's drive shaft and u-joints, to topping
off the gearbox. I got my location assignment, threw on my orange
vest, grabbed a water cooler, and hit the road. I kept replaying and
manufacturing cool and seductive lines to say to her, and thought
about feeling her up til I got a half hard on that made it
uncomfortable to sit in the seat. Sitting on a tractor all day is a
dangerous thing for the mind. Many of the men I worked with had given
up on thinking long ago. They just drove and mowed, and when the day
was done, buried the noise of the mower in beer or whiskey. Me, I
listened to it. The mower will talk to you if you aren't careful.

The sound of the shaft, the blades, and the grass set up a soft
rhythm that purrs out a song. It releases the soul to float on a
seductive sea of whispers and incomplete thoughts. I have literally
jumped out of my seat, as if awakened by the obscenities it spits
out, when it consumes a tree stump or a hidden tire. Today, the mower
spoke of Raylene, and her and me, and me and her. At lunch time, I
found the rest of the drivers at the A&W Burger Barn, back in Barret
Station. I ordered a cheeseburger basket, and hopped on the payphone
while my order was cooking. I called Raylene, half hoping she
wouldn't answer, but she did.

I lit a Redbird, and leaned against the wall. Muttered some
non-committal inanities, and got around to asking her what she was
doing tonight. She told me her husband was working graveyards and her
daughter was likely going to be with her boyfriend, so she was free
for the most part. My heart jumped at that, and so I asked her if she
would care to meet me at the Morgan’s Point docks. She agreed, and we
set the time for "after eight o'clock, but before nine",
and I hung up. I grabbed my burger, and tried to occupy myself with
the conversation the rest of the crew was having on Operation Desert
Shield and what Bush ought to do. But my mind kept coming back to
Raylene, and with a strange mix of excitement and foreboding. When I
got home that afternoon, I had some time to kill before heading out
to see Raylene.
My old man's car was gone when I pulled into the drive, so I assumed
he was either making a beer run or looking for a job. Hard to tell
which, as both were equally plausible reasons for his absence. I took
Elsie, the bulldog, off her chain and let her into the trailer. Made
us both a baloney sandwich, and sat down at the table. With nothing
else better to do, I went to the bedroom and brought the Winchester
12 ga. and the .357 to the table and laid them down. A Winchester
Defender with the 18" barrel and a Taurus .357 were among the
first things I had bought when I turned 18 and 21, respectively. I
finished the sandwich, played with the dog a few minutes, and broke
out the cleaning kit.
The guns didn't need a cleaning, but then cleaning a gun was for the
gun like getting a back rub from a good looking woman was for me. Who
ever got too many back rubs? So I cleaned and oiled them again, set
them back down on the table, and looked at them for a minute. I
picked up the .357 and took it back into the bedroom, put it in the
nightstand and grabbed a couple boxes of buckshot. I emptied one box
on the table and loaded the shotgun. Took two out the second box,
threw them in there too, and put the remaining three in my pocket.
Then I took the gun outside and put it in the back half-seat in the
F250. Took the shells out of my pocket and threw them in the glove

Grabbed the last Redbird out of the pack and lit it with a Diamond
and sat back on the tailgate. Elsie had come out with me, and jumped
up into the back of the truck. We sat and I smoked while she
scratched, got her head rubbed, and snapped at flies. I looked at my
watch and saw it was only 5:30 yet. So I sat back and started to
think about what tonight might bring. I laid back in the bed of the
truck and took a long drag off the smoke. I felt secure, knowing the
shotgun was back there. I didn't know why, though. I didn't know if I
could shoot someone, even in self defense. I had waved the magnum out
the truck window at some drunk Mexicans once. And I had even chased
the ex-boyfriend of a girl I was screwing at the instant around a
trailer park with the shotgun once. But I didn't know if I would
really have the courage, or stupidity, to finalize an act like that.
Sometimes I felt too unsure about things. Afraid to commit, and
worried that I wouldn't commit in time, either. Elsie’s ears perked
and she raised her head.

Then I heard the pop of the gravel and caliche under the tires of my
old mans car. I took a last drag, flipped the butt over the bedrail,
and rose up to a sitting position. Elsie jumped down to greet him, as
he had taken to bringing her treats from his beer runs. He unwrapped
a Slim Jim and gave it to her, and tossed me a Miller High Life. It
was fairly warm, but at least he thought of me, so I twisted the cap,
and tossed about half of it back. It was foamy from the heat, and
about gagged me, but it went down eventually.

He lit a Lark, and I motioned for the pack. he tossed it to me, and
as I fished one out he asked what I was doing tonight. I allowed as
how I had some plans for the evening. "Raylene, eh?", he
said. I tried to give a cool laugh, and asked him how he figured on
that. "I just know", is all he said, and pulled another
Slim Jim out of the bag and gave it to Elsie. He then reached through
the passenger side window and grabbed a twelve pack of beer and
headed into the trailer. I hung around outside long enough to get my
coolness back and finish the Lark. The Lark was one strong smoke, and
it made me a little dizzy. I walked to the front of the truck, threw
a t-shirt over the shotgun and walked inside, calling Elsie in behind

My Dad motioned for me to have another beer, but I passed. One beer
would lead to another, and I didn't want to be buzzed tonight. I
killed time til about 7:00, and then hopped in the shower. Took a
little time to find my best t-shirt and polished up my cowboy boots.
Told my old man I would be back late, told him to feed the dog for
me, and climbed in the truck and started to back out the driveway.
When I passed his Chevy I stopped, and threw it in park. I hopped out
and looked inside, and sure enough found a half pack of smokes.
Goddamn Larks, but they would do. Besides, the old man looked semi
cool smoking them, so maybe I would, too.

I climbed back in the truck and headed to Morgan’s Point. By the time
I rolled through Four Corners and in to the 'Point, it was pretty
dark. Driving along the channel into the docks, you could look across
the rip-rap and see the moon shining on the water. If you discounted
the accumulation of litter strewn in the rocks, the sheen of oil on
the surface of the water, and the, undoubtedly hundreds, of skeletons
and crab gnawed bodies laying at the bottom of the channel, it looked
almost, but not quite, beautiful. The lot to the Peg Leg was full of
the usual assortment of cars, trucks and bikes. Most of them dusty
and beat up, like the patrons inside. I saw where the local
contingent of Bandidos had pulled their scooters up, and I parked
next to them. I could get away with that for only one reason, and
that was because I had picked up a bro called Rooster, who had been
stranded on the wrong side of the Lynchburg ferry. He had blown an
oil line, and nobody in the lines would help him out for about 3
boats past. I had Elsie in the back, and he ambled over and admired
her, and we struck up a conversation on bulldogs. He told me he had
been stranded for a while, so when my truck advanced in the line far
enough, he rolled his bike over and we hoisted it in the back with
help from two high school guys in a jacked up Maverick.

I gave him a ride to his old ladies house where we dropped off the
bike, and then to the Peg Leg so he could pick up her truck. He
bought me a couple beers and tried to sell me some crank, which I
politely declined for reasons of personal preservation rather than a
dislike for speed, and in that process enough Bandidos had seen me
and heard the story so that I was accepted as an all right cat. Not a
friend, an associate, or anything like that. Just a guy who might
rate half a cut of a slack if the shit flowed on accident.

I shoved the shotgun under the back seat, locked it up, gave a few
casual nods and eyebrow raises to a few prospects who were watching
the bikes and drinking beer, and walked to the door. I stood on the
front porch and lit a smoke and scanned the lot for Raylene's VW. I
couldn't see it, so I walked in. The place was as crowded as usual,
and I saw some familiar faces at the pool tables and the bar. Kenny
"Butt" Buttler was screaming at the top of his lungs at a
cue ball that was getting ready to scratch. A Viet Nam vet who played
it for all the angles he could, Kenny was also a damn good pipe
fabricator and a serious weed smoker. Probably the only guy in the
joint the the Bandidos would second think on messing with. We were
semi-tight, since he knew my dad, and had bought some weed from me on
several occasions back when I was just out of high school and thought
I was going to be the marijuana Tony Montana. I walked up and told
him he couldn't shoot for shit. He told me he was
feeling too good to kick my ass like I deserved, but if the
lady-who-was-in-the-back-over-there's husband found out she was
looking for me, he would only save my ass from the kicking it was
going to deserve if I bought him a beer.

I figured it wouldn't hurt, just in case he meant it so I bought him
a Pearl, since they reminded him of 'Nam for some reason, and went
back to where he pointed. And she was there. Raylene looked a little
different than she did the other night. She was a tall girl, a little
taller than me, and thick. Not fat, not a hog, but thick. She was
wearing tight blue jeans and a low cut sweater that showed cleavage
like a bird shows feathers. I immediately felt a little nervous and
exposed in the crowd. It had to be obvious to anyone who looked, and
every asshole in the joint was now looking, what was getting ready to go
down between us. If she had been sitting there anytime at all, she
had already fended off several beers and invitations to dance.

The fact that I was getting her attention spelled one thing to
everyone, and it didn't make me feel tough, or cool, or even bad.
Just nervous. Real goddamn nervous. I was being marked already as the
guy who "met the big titted chick at the Peg Leg", and that
kind of stuff moved fast in town. I didn't know if anyone there knew
Raylene, but I assumed some did. Small town, good looking woman, and
somebody had a marker on her. And they now had one on us. I figured I
could make a play like it was some sort of deal or something else.
Anything but what it obviously was to anyone watching. I told her to
grab her beer, and lets move it outside. "Whatever you
want", she said with a wry smile, and we walked through the
crowd to the front door. Raylene led the way out through the crowd. I
stopped at the bar long enough to get a Miller High Life for me and
another Michelobe for her. She had made it to the front porch,
outside, when I caught up to her. Two men had her semi corralled
against the railing, both a little drunk and loud. "...king nice
tits!" is what I heard as I came out.

I walked in between Raylene and the loudmouth. I handed her the beer,
and hooked her arm and led her down the steps. "Hey mothefucker, what
the fuck you think your doing" was yelled out after me, and I
picked up my pace as I heard them coming down the steps. They stayed
about 15 feet behind us through the lot, as we headed toward my
truck. I got Raylene in the passenger side and locked her door. I
walked around the back of the truck and got in the front seat, as
"mothefucker" came around the front. I locked the door and
started the truck. By this time the prospects by the bikes were
checking this out with interest, half looking to stomp the hell out
of whoever came too close to a bike, and half looking to see someone
get their head knocked in. "Motherfucker" hit my window with his
fist, and then managed to push the broken wing vent open and stick
his hand in. It doesn't pay to be a dumbass, so I handed Raylene my
beer, and grabbed his wrist with my left hand. "Mothefucker"
outweighed me by about 50 lb., and was probably generally meaner than
I was in most cases. But I had worked with a yo-yo 2 years before
getting my own tractor form the County.

I was a hard and wiry 145, and my grip was about like Elsie’s and I
was getting pissed. He tried to jerk his hand away, but wasn't having
much success, and I clamped down tight enough to feel his forearm
give a little under the pressure. I started the truck, and stomped
the gas a few times. The 390 roared as the Holley opened up its
secondaries. The glass packs popped, and the bikers were starting to
perk up, as they knew what was fixing to go down. "Mothefuckers” eyes
got wide and he started to really twist and pull. I slipped her in
reverse, and eased slowly out of the spot. "Mothefucker" was
crying now, and apologizing. I was too wired and caught up by now to
hear him, and I was starting to smell the scent of Raylene as she
began to breathe hard. I pulled straight into the aisle, and threw it
back into neutral. I stomped the gas long and hard, and felt like I
was in a goddamn Stephen King novel. I dropped
it into drive and held it with the brake.
I slowly turned to "Motherfucker" through the glass and saw tears
in his eyes and he shook his head "No". I let off the
brake, and hit the gas. The truck fishtailed slightly and then got
traction and took off, catching rubber after about 10 feet.
He was being drug now, and I could hear him hitting the
door as he was being pulled. It was surrealistically wonderful, as
the noise was overwhelming, but I could distinctly hear the sound of
that beautiful eight cylinder engine roar, his
, and the panting breathing of Raylene. After
about 80 yards, I let go of his arm, and swerved to keep him from going
underneath the wheels. The truck slid in a lazy half turn and
stopped. I power braked her around to put him in the headlights. He
was laying in a crumpled heap.

I started to pull forward to him, but he got up and ran into the
ditch and took off towards the Peg Leg in the grass. He was limping,
but making good time, so I turned her back around and headed out of
the 'Point. Raylene didn't say anything. I was so jacked that I could
hardly sit still. It was the most amazing and crazy thing I had ever
purposely done, and it went so perfectly that I felt it was destiny.
I was in a euphoric state, and feeling like I never had before. I
reached over and got my beer from Raylene. I took a swallow, and
pulled out those goddamn Larks. I stuck one in my mouth, and Raylene
lit it for me before I could reach for my matches. I looked over at
her, feeling about as cool as I had ever tried to be before. She
looked back at me and said "My husband will never forgive me for
letting you do that." Fucking Raylene.

Raylene's Story

Raylene was named for her daddy and her mother, all in one. Ray and
Earlene Justis. So she got Raylene.

She was the oldest, followed by Sissy and Marilyn. Raylene was
stubborn all her life, and growing up she stayed in trouble with
folks for it. Her folks owned a juke joint down in Kemah, and stayed
down there most of the time. Raylene raised her sisters, and Raylene
was raised by her daddy's parents. All in one. Raylene raised her
sisters, because that was part of the deal. the deal being, unspoken
of course, that Grandpa Justis could, and would, feel up, kiss, and
otherwise abuse

Raylene and none of the other girls, and Raylene wouldn't tell Momma
and Daddy. Grandma didn't care, so long as Grandpa wasn't trying to
feel her up, so everyone was satisfied with the arrangement. Not
happy, except for Grandpa, but everyone understood how it worked.
Raylenes momma and daddy didn't care, or maybe they would have if
they would have cared to care, but they weren't around enough, so it
all just fell in the same old rut. Raylene kept on getting felt up
and groped until she turned 18 and got out of high school.

Then, the day after diplomas were passed out, she got up and packed
Sissy's and Marilyn’s clothes in some baskets and grocery sacks and
told Grandpa to fuck one of the goats next time he got horny because
if he ever touched her or one of her sisters again she would cut his
balls off. The fact that she said this at the top of her voice in the
front yard on Sunday as everyone in the neighborhood was leaving for
church didn't help to keep things civil. She walked down 8th street
with Marilyn and Sissy, now 14 and 16 respectively, and made it to
her Aunt Pearls, who owned a beer joint in town. There they all lived
until Raylene had pulled enough beers and gotten enough tips to move
into a garage apartment in Shoreacres.

From there it, was a few moves to other apartments and attics and
spare rooms until Sissy quit school at 17 and rode off with a guy on
a Norton (to return a few months later with Hepatitis C, a tattoo,
and a heroin jones) and Marilyn moved back in with Grandpa and
Grandma Justis (and claims she was never bothered at all). Raylene
spent the next 15-20 odd years of her life listening to Janis Joplin,
having 2 girls of her own, getting married a few times, patching up
Sissy when she would get her head beat in by a series of bikers,
cowboys, and hippies she would fall in love with (and sending her
cigarettes and socks when she would go to jail.) Raylene was a good
wife when she was paid attention to, and a bad wife when she was
ignored. She loved her girls, loved her sisters, but most of all
loved being loved back. And she had a mean streak deep inside for
anyone, bar none, who crossed her, hurt her, or stepped on her pride.
But most of all, Raylene wanted to be a girl again. She had spent all
her girl years being screwed by a dirty old man she hated, and then
raising two sisters like they were her daughters. She wanted to be
taken by the hand and drug around from one adventure to another.

She wanted someone else to take control and let her go for the ride.
She wanted someone who was strong enough to hold all the energy and
emotion that was Raylene. Strong enough to hold it, harness it, and
channel it. But gentle enough not to bruise it. And somehow, and damn
sure unknowingly, I had become that person. We drove around after
that, 4-5 hours just on the road.

We would talk for a while, listen to music, and then talk again.
Still nervous and wired up as hell, I smoked the Larks up, four of
Raylene's Benson and Hedges, and was fixing to fish a butt out of the
ashtray before remembering that I could stop and buy a pack. I
stopped at the Pack'em Up Partner and ran in to get a couple decks.
When I came out to the truck, Raylene was holding the shotgun in her
lap, pointing it at me. It is amazing how fast your mind moves in
those situations. I didn't know if she was fixing to kill me for
dragging her husband, or if she wanted to hold up the store. I was
too shook up to speak, so I played it cool by looking at her with
raised eyebrows, then climbing into the seat. I could only hope she
didn't know how to jack one in the chamber, and that both I > and
the clerk at the Pack'em Up were safe.
In a quiet whisper, almost too low to hear, she asked "Why do
you have this"? “No special reason”, I replied, “just in case,


Over the years I had gotten strangely paranoid. Between whiskey and a
general sense of foreboding, I had taken to carrying firearms with me
everywhere. The shotgun, the aforementioned .357. Sometimes both at
the once. I had seriously considered purchasing a “throwaway” .25
auto to carry with me on my tractor at work. I often felt as if the
world was closing in on me, and that I was not up to the job of
pushing it back. The guns didn’t really provide any security to speak

I think I subconsciously acknowledged that by the time it came to
using guns, the factor of security was already well down the road,
and total chaos of an emotional and intellectual nature was fast
approaching. And that was what worried me the most. I worried that if
I came to the time and place of having to shoot another man that it
would be chaotic. Worried that it would suddenly be very easy to do
it, that I would almost relish the thought of going all the way and
not figure any consequences until it was too late. And maybe that
just my little existential death wish thing working.

So I packed weapons. Packed the everywhere I went, with no real
purpose. Packed them for the sake of packing them, and hoped that I
wouldn’t have to use them, and yet wished that I would have to. “Just
in case what”, she asked? “Hell, Raylene, I don’t know. I just
carry it. I like to have a goddamn gun. I ain’t the biggest
sonovabitch in town, and I seem to attract bullshit wherever I go. So I
got a gun. Just in case”. I threw the truck in reverse and backed out
of the spot. I just looked straight ahead, but peered out of the
corner of my eye at her. I was hoping she would get a sense of my
frustration and break the ice, but she wasn’t. She was just holding
that shotgun in her lap, fondling it like some fertility icon.
I grabbed it, one handed, from the barrel end and placed it back in
the back seat.

Stopped at a stop sign, and covered it up again, and put my eyes back
on the road. I packed the cigs on my forearm, driving one handed.
Pulled off the cellophane, briefly thinking about sucking chest
wounds and cellophane off a pack of smokes, courtesy of Kenny
Buttler, and opened the pack. I popped a smoke in my mouth and
Raylene reached over and took it out. I was fixing to say something
smart ass when she put it in her mouth. But she lit it and reached
over and gently placed it back in mine. Softly she said, “I didn’t
mean to upset you, baby.” With that, the tension came out of me in
the way only soft words from a woman can do. “S-arright”, I said.
“Lets go somewhere.”

We rode around for another half hour, ending up at the Sylvan Beach
boat docks. We parked out by the water and rolled the windows down
and I popped in an old Rolling Stones tape. Raylene moved over a
little closer, and her scent rolled into my nose and through my body.
I thought what the Hell, and reached out and pulled her closer to me.
She folded into my side and pretty soon we were going at it. I don’t
like hearing it when the guys at work want to tell me the play by
play of their in-and-out, so I will stop it here.

But I think we were both so hungry for something that we fed on each
other. I mean it wasn’t really making love so much as it was that.
Feeding on each other. When it was over, I just lay back in the seat,
waiting for the satisfaction to come. I got release, and it felt
good. Damn good. But satisfaction never came around. Instead, just
more tension and a gnawing feeling. A feeling that maybe was trying
to tell me to cut it loose here, right now. But I couldn’t let it go
just yet. Damn, not just yet.

Later, I took Raylene back to the Peg Leg to pick up her car. The
parking lot was clear for the most part, and I could now see her VW
over in the corner. I pulled up next to it and shut the engine off. I
was kind of at a loss for words, so I sat there and kind of hoped she
would break the silence.

I guess she was waiting for the same thing from me, so after a couple
minutes I figured I better break the ice.

“You gonna be all right tonight? I mean with your husband and all?”

“Yeah”, she replied, “It ain’t no big thing. In fact, it has been
coming a while now. He should have expected it. Hey, by the way, I
had a real nice time tonight.”

I looked over at her. She had a crazy grin on her face, not exactly
what I had expected. For some reason I had to laugh, so I did. I was
laughing from pent up tension, fear, and confusion. But I suppose
that she thought I was laughing because I was crazy or something. And
maybe I was, only crazy didn’t feel like I thought it would. But
anyway, she took my laughter as confirmation of something she must
have been feeling, because she leaned over and gave me a kiss. She
held her face real close to mine and smiled. “See you tomorrow”, she
whispered, “Okay?”. “Okay”, I replied, and with that she got out and
climbed into the Bug. She started it up, and with a wave and a smile
she was gone. I sat out there in that parking lot for another 15
minutes. Smoked yet another cigarette, and listened to a Rush
Limbaugh recast. Only I wasn’t hearing much of Rush. I was reliving
the evening in my mind over and over. I finally reached over and
fired up the truck and headed back home.

I lay in bed for a moment trying to determine if I was going to be
hungover or not. Before I could make a final determination, I was
accosted by 72 lb. of flying pitbull. Elsie had taken to doing that
on occasion. It was some sort of game for her to take a flying leap
on the bed when she sensed I was awake. I obviously had no way of
knowing, but I suspected she watched me closely in the morning,
trying to detect when I was coming out of my slumber, judging with
preternatural senses the opportune moment to make the leap of faith,
where her open mouth and wet tongue would hit me at the exact moment
my eyes opened. And, as usual, she was right on time. Hangover or
not, it was not wise to lay naked in a bed with a prancing pitbull,
with only a thin Walmart comforter between your family inheritance
and happy paws.

I took a shower and brushed my teeth, and went back into my room and
put on some old cutoff shorts and a t-shirt. When I walked down the
narrow hallway into the living room, the Old man was still on the
couch with that blanket wrapped around him. He was awake, and looked
like some old Indian warrior with it all wrapped around his shoulders
and the top of his head. He had no peace-pipe, but instead a modern
day Lark. I plopped down on the couch beside him and looked at the
program he had on TV. I had hijacked a cable line running behind my
back fence, and had plugged it directly into the TV.

Somehow, I was lucky enough in my larceny to manage some basic
package of channels, HBO, Cinemax, and a couple porno channels. The
Old Man was watching some bearded guy going on and on about
Lebenswelt. “Lebenswelt? What the fuck is Lebenswelt?” I asked the
Old Man. “You don’t wanna know”, was his reply. I looked at him and
said “Don’t be an ass. You been watching the show for all of 15
minutes, so you ain’t no goddamn expert on Lessonshelt”. “It is
Lebenswelt, not lessonshelt.”, he rejoined, “and you don’t want to
know what it means. I wish I wouldn’t have turned on the goddamn show to
start with, but it is too late.” “C’mon, what does it mean,?”, I

He looked at me, and took a long drag on the Lark. Then he squinted
his eyes up, like only a burnt out old man can do. He blew out a thin
stream of smoke and gave me the straight on look. The fucker could be
intelligent when he had to, and I could see he was doing so now. He
slowly gathered steam and began to speak. “Lebenswelt. Life World. It
means all that you are and all that you will ever be. But more than
that. Damn existential stuff. Look around you, son. Lebenswelt. This
goddamn trailer. The dog. You and your fucking guns. That tractor you
drive. Lebenswelt. This is what you are, and what you will always be.
No matter how far you go, and what you try to be other than this, you
will never make it. You will always be this, and this life will
always be the only life to you.” I wasn’t really expecting all that,
and I didn’t have a good response. I wasn’t real sure how serious he
was, and it was sort of a messed up thing to hear first thing in the
morning. I couldn’t think of a good comeback, and I couldn’t be sure
he wasn’t right about the whole thing. But I felt stupid just sitting
there with nothing to say, although I had been effectively silenced.

So, instead, I reached down and wrapped a corner of the blanket in
Elsie’s collar. I walked to the door, and said “C’mon, Elsie”. She
took off like a rocket pulling the blanket off my Dad. It unwound
from around him, whipping around his shoulders and waist. As it came
off his head, the Lark flipped out of his mouth, showering him with
sparks. Then it caught his coffee cup and sent it to the floor. He
sat there Indian style, not quite knowing what had happened, watching
Elsie run out the door with his blanket. I left him there steaming. A
sorry revenge for ruining my morning, but the best I could do at the
spur of the moment.

I walked outside and took a look around the yard, as was my habit.
Walked through the side yard and to the burning pile. I heard the
door open as the Old Man came out. I heard his car door open and
shut, and then I heard him call out to me. I walked around the house,
and found him kneeling by the drivers side door of my truck. You
could see several handprints and scuff marks in the dust and a small
swash of blood. “What the hell? Did you run over somebody last
night?”, he asked looking at me wide eyed. “Nah, nothing like that.”,
I replied. “Then what the hell is this?” he asked. “Look, man. You
ain’t hardly my Dad no more”, I replied, my voice starting to rise,
“Don’t start in on me. Just let it ride, ‘cause it ain’t got nothing
to do with you. Drop it, okay? Just fucking drop it.” I walked to the
side of the house to get the hose. I grabbed an old t-shirt that had
been used to wash the truck several weeks back, found lying on top of
the spigot.

I sprayed the side of the truck, and started to wipe on the blood.
“Look, man”, the Old Man began, with a little softer tone, “I figure
you met up with Raylene somewhere last night. And you came in late,
cause I fell asleep sometime after the 11 o’clock movie, and woke up
again around one or so, and you still weren’t in. Something went down
last night, and you were in the middle of it. All I want to know is
what it was. I know Raylene, and I know her husband. And I know by
the way you are acting that you and Raylene are screwing around. You
are still my son, even if you don’t think so, and I think you need to
fill me in. You don’t have no idea what kind of shit may be coming
down from the cops, her husband, or whoever. And you may end up
needing my ass before it is over. “ I finished scrubbing the truck

I got rid of the blood, and the handprints were gone. I went back
around and shut the hose off. Then I reached inside the truck and
grabbed a smoke and lit it. I popped the tailgate and sat down on it.
The Old Man came around, lit a smoke of his own, and sat down on the
other side. Elsie jumped up between us, and faced out, as well. We
probably looked like them three damn monkeys. Hear No Evil, See No
Evil, and Speak No Evil. I smoked that cigarette down about halfway,
looked up at the sky, and started letting it out. Told him about the
evening, lied a few times, and then went back and corrected the lies.

He just sat there stone faced, and didn’t say anything. Didn’t ask no
questions, didn’t make any comments. When I was done, we sat there in
silence for a few minutes. Then he looked over at me. “That woman is
going to get you killed, boy. Either that or you gonna kill somebody
‘cause of her. “ I just stared down at the ground. I figured he was
probably right. Or at least, what he was saying had some real
probability to it. I looked over at him, and gave a sideways grin. “I
am going to see her again tonight, too.” He looked at me, and shook
his head. He looked away, and it looked like he was scrying the goddamn
moon he was looking so far away. “I know, son.”, he replied. “I know
just what you mean.”

We sat out there for a few more minutes smoking and watching. Then I
noticed Elsie’s ears perk up, and I noticed the phone was ringing. I
jumped down off the tailgate and ran into the house. I figured it
might be Raylene, but it wasn’t. It was Sam.

The Repo Story

Sam was a
guy who had been a neighbor a couple of trailer parks ago. Not to
bright, but very industrious, he seemed to have lead on every shit
job and backbreaking labor stint in town. He was the same guy who got
me to work on an oyster boat one winter morning a year or two back.
The boat pilot was an old bastard by the name of Homer. If it wouldn’t
have been for the fog and the fact I didn’t know how to pilot a boat,
I would have thrown Homer overboard in the first few minutes.

Because of the fog, we dredged several illegal oyster beds. I still
didn’t think the days work was worth the fifty bucks it netted, and I
have a feeling that Homer screwed me big time on that job. Sam wanted
to know if I wanted to go on a Repo trip. Sam had recently gotten in
with a used car dealer. One of those “your job is your credit” and
“first, second, and third chance” places. The guy sold primarily to
Blacks and Mexicans, and usually had it repo’ed back again in four or
five months. He probably sold the same car an average of 4 times
before it was totaled out or torched by the buyer. Sam had started
doing repo’s for the guy, who was saving money by keeping a spare set
of keys for each car he sold. He would send Sam out with the keys,
rather than hiring a professional with a tow truck. Sam needed a
partner to drive him out and take one of the vehicles in. I told Sam
to come pick me up, as it was good for a quick hundred bucks if we
were able to get three or four in an afternoon, and the dealer would
always spring for a case of beer at the end of the day. About an hour
later Sam rolled up in his new-used pickup, which I presumed was
being bought from this same guy.

Hell, Sam may have repo’ed it last week, and took a liking to it. It
was a 1962 Chevy Stepside pickup with a 283, a 4-barrel carb and dual
exhaust. A four speed transmission and a primer coat paint job topped
it off. Sam hopped out, and started to say something, and then
noticed the Old Man watching. He motioned me off to the side,
presumably so the Old Man wouldn’t hear what he had to say. “Hey,
man,” he whispered low, “we need your gun for this job.” “What the
fuck you talking about Sam?. I asked, “is this a repo or a killing? I
ain’t gonna shoot no one for no hundred bucks.” “Naw man, it ain’t
nothing like that. It is just in case we got to make a show”, he
replied. “We got to go into goddamn nigger town today and repo a
Caddy. Coke Street apartments, man. We don’t want to be fucking around
in there, man.” “Fuck, Sam. This sounds bad.”, I said. But I
was already committed, so I tried to decide what to bring. The shotgun
seemed the logical choice. It was legal to transport, and would look
pretty menacing to anyone looking.

But, I had to get it out of my truck and into Sam’s in front of the
Old Man. I thought about it for a minute, and thought, “Screw this. I
am an adult here, and the bastard is living at my pad.” So I went to the
truck and pulled it from the back seat. I motioned for Sam to get in
his truck, and I hopped in the passenger seat. The Old Man just shook
his head, looking at me like I was an idiot, and at Sam the same way
because Sam was an idiot. I just smiled, and lay the shotgun on the
floor and lit a smoke. As Sam threw I in reverse and started backing
out, the truck sputtered and stalled. I looked over at Sam, who
shrugged his shoulders and shut the ignition off. He jumped out and
popped the hood, and fiddled around for a second. He shut the hood,
and hopped in and started her back up. “What was all that
about?” I asked. “Carburetor linkage slips off sometimes”, he replied
sheepishly. I just closed my eyes, sensing that somehow this was
going to be a messed up afternoon.

We rolled down the freeway in a hot silence. The truck windows were
down, and the air whipped around us in a carbon monoxide tornado. I
leaned back, wedged between the seat and the door, and closed my
eyes. Sam didn’t try to make any small talk, so I drifted off into a
half conscious daze until I could feel us slowing down. I opened my
eyes and saw that we were entering 5th Ward. 5th Ward sits just east
of downtown Houston, and is known by the locals as “The Bloody
Nickel” for the shootings and criminal activity in its sordid
confines. Shotgun shacks, liquor stores, and rib joints co-exist with
rangy dogs, abandoned and stripped vehicles, and the ever-present
sparkle of broken glass that litters almost every street corner and
sidewalk. Crack heads and whores, syrup drunks, and the working class
men and women, and elderly folks who held onto the last vestiges of
decency in the community.

Trying to hold on long enough to get out or die in peace, unconvinced
by the local activists who insisted in “cleaning up the area” without
living in its decadent purity. Sometimes, 5th Ward looked dirty,
sometimes it looked tired. Today it just looked mean. I reached down
and checked the chamber of the shotgun, easing the slide back to see
if I had a round in the pipe. I looked up and saw we were turning off
Waco onto Coke. We got here a lot faster than I had wanted, but maybe
it was good to get it all over as quick as we could.

When we pulled onto Coke, Sam eased over to the curb. “We gotta find
a ’76 Caddy 4 –door. It’s gonna be tan, and all niggered out.” He
explained. “ Here’s the keys. You want I should drive, or you want
her?” I thought for a minute. Something struck me as infinitely cool
about me driving out of the Ward in a damn Caddy tricked out with
shine and doodads all over it. I grabbed the key chain, and checked
the chamber again. Sam eased off the curb and we rolled into Coke
Street Apartments. The complex looked beat to hell, but things were
strangely quiet. It may have been the time of day, the heat, or both,
but hardly anyone was out.

We rolled through the aisles looking for the Caddy. Sam slowed down
and pulled up next to a guy walking down the sidewalk with no shirt
and wearing a wave cap. He looked up and a slight grin crossed his
face. I started to tell Sam to keep going, but the guy had already
started walking over to the truck. He must of thought we were looking
to get high, because he started right up with some nonsense rap about
we had come to the right place. The guy kept getting closer and I
kept thinking how fucked up things were fixing to get. Sam sticks his head out the window and tells the guy we are looking for a dude who drives a tan Caddy, and does he know where the guys stays? The guy peeps in
the window with a smile until he sees me sitting there holding a pump
shotgun. In my mind I am going “We are fucked, we are fucked.”, and the
guy takes off running through a breezeway. Sam looks over at me like
“What the Hell?!” “Get the hell out of here, get the hell out of
here.” I am saying through clenched teeth. Sam looks over at me and
says “We ain’t found the Caddy yet, dude.”

He pops the truck in gear and rolls around the corner and down the
next aisle. “Things are fixing to get hot, get the HELL OUT OF
HERE!!” I am practically screaming now. “Dude, chill out. Don’t be
cussing me like that, either”, Sam says. The truck makes it to the
end of the aisle and Sam makes the corner. Down the middle of the
driveway came about 6 ugly Black bastards, shirtless and 3
carrying pistols. Sam stopped the truck and stared open mouthed.
“GET! THE! FUCK! OUT! OF! HERE!” I was yelling by this time. They
started running toward us, and one began to raise his pistol. I
leaned out the passenger side window, tried to point the gun
generally over their heads, and pulled the trigger. The goddamn safety
was on, and nothing happened. But the sight of the shotgun slowed
them all down, and two of them took off running. Time had slowed down
til it was like individual frames in a movie.

The Brothers remaining stood there indecisive for a minute. And the
eager one raised the auto again. It seemed like it was pointing
directly at me, which it probably was, so I pushed the trigger safety
and pulled the trigger, and the shotgun roared. The blast hit the
ground about 15 feet to the front and side of the group. The shot
pattern hit the pavement and squirreled up, peppering them with
gravel and glass and loose shot. They all jumped straight in the air,
and Sam came out of his dreams and sprang into action. He floored the
accelerator and popped the clutch. The truck took off like a scalded
ass cat, nearly throwing me from the window. Sam was now actually
trying to get the fuck out, and the way the fuck out was directly
through the crowd. I somehow managed to jack another round in the
chamber, and looked up to see the Blacks were at full speed running
for the sidewalk. Except one. The eager one, again.
He stood his ground slightly to the right of the truck as it passed.
He raised that big chrome auto and pointed it right at me. I raised
the shotgun and managed to get it pointed at him. Sam was probably
doing close to 35 miles an hour by now, but time was till ticking
slowly as me and Mr. Automatic made eye contact as we passed. He
smiled at me as we passed, but I didn’t smile at him back. I looked
back at him as we passed, figuring he was going to cut loose once he
saw I couldn’t hold the bead on him.

But he just stood there smiling as we made the next corner into a
dead end.

Sam stood on the brakes and, as the truck skidded to a stop in the
broken and powdered asphalt and limestone, looked out the rear view
mirror. I turned around, and no one had followed us around the corner
yet. There were apartment buildings on either side of us and just in
front of us, as well. Just to the side of the building ahead was a
small playground that opened up to the parking lot on the other side.
I looked over at Sam and saw he was looking at the playground, too.
He then glanced over at me, and grinned crazily. I turned around, and
the group of Blacks, in full force again, was rounding the corner at
a casual pace. Hips swung low, and carrying knives or pistols, they
were sauntering to the back of the truck. I started to roll the
shotgun out the window, when Sam stopped me. I looked over again, and
he had that same wild grin on his face. As the group got about 20
feet from the back of the truck, one began to raise his pistol. As
the pistol came up, Sam hit the gas and popped the clutch. The truck
came alive, and the mud tires on the back caught pieces of broken
asphalt and gravel and flung it straight backwards in a hurricane of
shrapnel and parking lot fleschettes. Again, the pistols came down
and the hands went up over the faces. The truck caught traction, and
Sam aimed it between two parked cars and through the playground. We
shot through the swing sets like a marshmallow through a water hose,
Sam double clutching like Junior Johnson Bonner, and plowed out in a
power slide into the next lot. Sam threw it into 3rd, and screamed
down the parking aisle back toward Coke Street, passing a tan ’76
Caddy with the windows down and no-one around. We made another power
slide onto Coke, and Sam dumped it into 2nd, and plowed into the gas.
The truck roared, sputtered, then stalled. We coasted to the stop
sign, and Sam got out and flipped the hood. I thought what the Hell,
and hopped out myself. I stood pissing in the middle of the street,
still holding the shotgun and the keys to a Cadillac.

Sam fixed the carb linkage again, and we hit a local burger joint and
had lunch. I got Sam to let me out a couple blocks from the
apartments. I left the gun with him, and walked through the
neighborhood to get the Caddy. Old folks and little kids looked at me
like I was insane, but didn’t say anything as I passed. I got to the
apartments and peeped around a security fence. The Caddy was still
there, and still no one was around. I fast walked to the Caddy,
hopped in, and turned the ignition, knowing it was going to be a
bitch to start. The radio came on at full volume, blaring the
phunkadelic sounds Magic 102 FM at my young, white ass. But she
started right up, so I threw her in reverse and backed her out. I
left the radio on as I threw her in drive and headed out of 5th Ward.

We rolled the Caddy back to the car lot, and got paid. The owner
asked if we wanted our “beer ration”, and I told him to get me a
quart of Courvosier instead. I was feeling magnanimous, and figured I
would give the old man a bottle of cognac, since he liked the stuff,
but rarely got to drink it. I got the bottle and the cash, and Sam
took me back to the trailer. As I hopped out of the truck with the
shotgun and bottle, I told Sam to fuck off and never call me for a
job again. He laughed and told me he would call next week for sure,
and left. I walked into the trailer, and the Old Man was back on the
couch. He had a funky look about him, and the vibes were cold. Not
cold directed at me, really. Just cold in general. I walked over and
sat the cognac in front of him, and stepped back and smiled. He
looked at me, looked at the brandy, and got up without saying a word.
He walked into the kitchen and found my classiest jelly jar. He sat
back down on the couch, and cracked the bottle. He poured the liquor
about a third of the way to the top, and swirled it, taking a sniff.
He then took a mouthful, swished it in his mouth, and swallowed. He
did the same again, and then lit a smoke. I reached over and took a
drink from the bottle with a straight swallow. He looked at
me like I was a Mongol raider raping his daughter, and I laughed. It
did nothing to break the ice.

“What is with the blues, my man?” I asked. “Why you so uptight?”

He looked at me for a long time, and pointed with his eyes to the
kitchen table. I looked over and saw there was an envelope and a
letter on it. I glanced back at him, asking permission with raised
eyebrows. He nodded, and reached for the bottle. I walked over and
picked up the paper. It was letter headed “Lyndon Baines Johnson
County Hospital”. Below that it identified it was from the Pulmonary
and Respiratory Center. I looked over at him, and he was laying his
head back on the couch with Elsie sprawled across his lap. I looked
back down at the letter, and it was a list of diagnosis with
accompanying checkboxes. I scanned down the sheet and Emphysema and
Asbestosis were checked in red.

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