the coolest little town this side of Pluto, part i.

16 May 2011 § 1 Comment

Remember when Mike went up to Leroy with the screwdriver and said “you’re welcome, sir, and if you ever want to screw again, just call me?”

He meant it as a clever pun, of course, but didn’t think of what it would sound like out of context, but none of the men in the room could ever think of Mike as the same football-watching, dick joke-making know-it-all again. Esther was either too air-headed or too apathetic to pick up on the change in behavior in her husband as his cronies rejected his manhood.

Maybe she was both. Or maybe she agreed with them.

We can sit around and talk about people all day long. Jessie was at the store today, amd told me that LeeAnn said she might be pregnant. Can you imagine who with? What about that boy who works down at the tavern? Oh, no, it couldn’t be him. No one’s seen that cat of his for years, He always had it with him, and then about two years ago, it disappears. Haven’t seen it since. Can’t imagine what he mighta done with it. Wouldn’t want my daughter with a guy like that, making cats vanish into thin air, he probably burined it in the back yard…

Oh, Carol, calm down. It’s not so bad. They could be doing much worse things, given their age. Remember what we did in high school?

Right. That’s how it goes. In Blackwater and Moriceton, along the oddly fitting serpent-shaped Bible belt that flows so readily across the nation, making its way through cornfields and over interstate bridges on dirt roads that go on into that periwinkle forever, which happens to be powered by windmills, or so they’d lead you to believe.

But not here. Here, the lady walking across the park to get to the outhouse waves to the guy playing fetch with his dog in the trafficjammed street. Or, as much of a traffic jam as a town with an almost equal human:bear population ratio can have on a shiny Saturday morning in early May.

She says to him, you can tell someone’s not a local around here. She points at one of those dreadful new Thunderbirds painted some indiscernible pastel color rolling past the elegant boardwalk in front of Nagley’s, the general store. The deck was built thirty-five winters back and you could hardly tell it was wood holding an idea of a deck together like that.

All the restaurants had new decks. They were expansive, like entire front yards, in front of at least three of the four restaurants in town, with aluminum chairs and umbrellas, like this was Hawaii or Florida and Alaska had so much sun that we need to be protected from it. It might rain though, and that rainbow will keep your plate of seared swine from being baptized so soon after birth. We forgot to give him Last Rites anyway. Fuck it. The joke went, Whose got the biggest deck in town? You can imagine how that went down with Lonnie, the vicious lesbian owner of that fourth and decidedly deckless restaurant in town whose main attraction was that the pre-11 a.m. drinkers would often close down the bar later that night.

She was actually quite good-looking, and earned compliments on her looks from men. They often came in the form of whistles, the “magic eye” (which is always ridiculous, so don’t ever do it), or hands going where none with their chromosomes are welcome. She was nice the first time, she smiled and actually felt complimented, probably, her smile was that real. The second time, if a guy made it obvious he was hitting on her, she’d just knock him out. She owned the place, she pointed out to me one day after she ejected someone ravishing his girlfriend. She could do whatever she wanted. She had the only liquor license in town. Whoever holds the whiskey holds the town. And she held it down, she did.

Hippies hulahooped in the middle of the main drag while people listened to bluesoaked jazz from inside the tavern. The sax player tore it up. One of the hulahoopers I recognized from last summer. Her name was Skye, and on one of my hitching trips up to Talkeetna to get ice cream from her, I had decided that her parents were the festival-circuit type that named her just so they could say “good morning, skye” every day. I didn’t talk to her, though. She didn’t even look at me, which was a change from the last time I saw her, to say the least. Maybe it was that I was socializing with the dancing goon and she didn’t approve of my teacher. He took my hand on the dancefloor and showed me good footwork. The whole bar watched. I was sober and suffering until the sax came in again. That guy could throw it down, and I grooved to it with less liquid confidence than Bill Wilson in his later years. “So two bottles, and oblivion.” He had that part straight.

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