This is the second installment of a short story derived loosely from a song I wrote.
Red Hawthorn’s relationship with his won was not the best, but his former wife was, quite possibly, the worst. She thankfully wasn’t home, which he knew because, after he pulled in the driveway, and waited five minutes or so, when Andy finally stumbled out, carrying his Telecaster and shoving the case rather imprecisely behind the seat, it was obvious he was stoned. His eyes were watery and bloodshot, and the cheeks had a pinkish hue, as well.
“Where we playing again?” Andy asked.
“Huey’s. Just the other side of Preston. I’ve played it before. I don’t believe you come with me. It’s about par for the course. Honky tonk. Rough, but I’ve seen a lot rougher.”
“They got sound?”
“Hell, no. We’ll have to set up. I got the speakers in the back.” Red had a rollback bed cover, air-tight, in his Silverado.
In other words, son, straighten up.
He didn’t say much for several miles once they pulled out on the highway. Finally, though, he felt the need to preach, even though it wouldn’t do any good. He just had to get it off his chest. He meant well.
“You know, Andy, I’m one to talk,” he said. “The hardest thing about being a father is that you feel like you gotta be a hypocrite, too, and I ain’t no good at that. You’re grown, what, nineteen years old, now?”
“When I was your age, it was legal to drink beer at eighteen. I think it’s right ridiculous an eighteen-year-old can’t drink now. I ain’t judging you. I don’t reckon you’ve done anything I didn’t when I was your age.”
Only I didn’t ever get busted for it.
“What I want to know is just for information purposes,” Red said. “When you got fucked up before I got to the house, did you do it just to let me know, and see if it pissed me off, or did you think it wouldn’t be obvious?”
He didn’t answer.
“It’s all right. I’m your daddy, but you ain’t my responsibility ‘cept when we together. I just wanted to know because, goddamn it, you reek. I ain’t never got a contact high from the smell before.” Hal reached in one of the slots in front of the truck’s console and tossed a pack of gum into Andy’s lap. “Chew some fucking gum, Andy.”
He laughed. That broke the tension a little. Andy smiled. He didn’t say anything yet, but he wasn’t sulling up. Hal let the miles pass a while.
Performing with Andy wasn’t easy. The boy was talented. He’d had lessons on the piano first, then given it up when he became proficient on guitar on his own. Red had just picked up a guitar and started figuring out how to pay it. His lessons had come from the boys down at the Elks Lodge – it wasn’t even around anymore – who used to sit around in a circle, playing old country songs and drinking beer after the mill let out on Thursdays. There wasn’t a mill anymore, either, and it’s closing had played a role in the lodge’s demise.
Andy’s music was store-bought. Red’s was natural. Flawed but natural. He did things differently because he didn’t know any other way. He and his son were equally in awe of each other, but they went about playing music, and living life, for that matter, by separate methods. Red was mainly a singer who used his simple guitar skills to write songs. Getting Andy to sing was harder than getting him in a dentist’s chair, not that Red had tried lately. Red liked a good drink of liquor every now and then. Andy was bad to smoke weed, and he’d been busted to prove it. That escapade had cost Red five hundred dollars he’d barely had at the time. He didn’t know how much it had cost Eileen. Andy not having a driver’s license didn’t help, and that was one of the reasons why Red brought him along and paid him to back him up. Red had smoked enough weed to know it wasn’t that big a deal. He wasn’t averse to splitting the occasional joint with some old boy out back of a club, but it wasn’t his thing. He’d have probably been better off, all things considered, if it was, and Andy would argue that if Red pressed the issue. He didn’t want to press the issue. He just wanted his son to know he wasn’t fooling anybody when he came sashaying out in the fresh air thinking he was cool. A man could get away lots of times if he acted like he knew what he was doing, but this wasn’t one of them.
“Gotta be careful, Andy. Gotta be careful.”
Red hadn’t realized he’d said that out loud.
TO BE CONTINUED