On the Monday after he won the all-star race, The Winston, for the third time, Beau was tied up and ornery. He taped a commercial that would be adapted to sell Chevrolets for dozens of dealerships, the worst part was customizing a few words for every damned one of them.
“So stop on by Jimmy Dabney Chevrolet on the Motor Mile, and tell ‘em ol’ Beau sent you.”
Beau also took part in a call-in press conference, taped two radio shows, and flew down to Spartanburg to sign autographs at a barbecue joint. In Spartanburg, one fan brought an ugly, shellacked plaque, and Beau said he couldn’t sign it.
“That’s one of them cheap, bootleg knockoffs,” Beau said. “It ruins the value of the legitimate, licensed collectibles.”
“But my wife made this here plaque herself,” the man said, wearing a look of disbelief.
Beau fixed an icy stare on the man for five full seconds. “Ah,ight,” he finally said, and signed it. He hated those instructions from his business manager, but he hated not getting a piece of every damned tee shirt sold, too.
It was dark when he got back to the dark, lonely mansion, inhabited only by himself and several of his wayward children who informally rotated in and out from time to time. Beau wanted to get away from all the rich assholes, overlooking the fact that he was one of them. He decided he was going to take off, not to some high-dollar retreat where he could hunt mountain goats or caribou accompanied by a team of guides, but, rather, the type of place he used to go, back when he didn’t have his far-flung empire. Occasionally, Beau just liked to go somewhere and not tell anybody. All the suits were used to it. It happened once or twice year. None of his wives had liked it. It was part of the reason none of them were still around. Beau wanted to find a place where a man could catch a few bass, then go get them fried up in a place where they watched black-and-white TV and drank beer out of a dirty glass. He could leave at the crack of dawn Tuesday and get to the Speedway in time for qualifying Thursday night. They’d known he was gone when somebody tried to find him.
One summer when his daddy had been running the National Sportsman circuit, Beau and he had been fighting, so Felton had shipped him off to a little crossroads in South Carolina, near Sumter National Forest. Cross Anchor was the home of a legendary old dirt tracker, Wendell Adkinson, who was half Cherokee, crazy and literate. He’d made some money, though, slinging that red clay around, and Wendell Jr., “Waddy,” had become Beau’s best friend. They’d lost touch over the years. Beau had lost touch with most people who didn’t make him money, but they talked on the phone a few times a year, and when they saw each other once in a blue moon, it was always just like old times, and right now, that was exactly what Beau needed.
Old times. All that money and fame were driving him down.
Waddy Adkinson was a little bit farther down the road now. He had a bait-and-tackle shop on one side of Greenwood Lake, not too far from the dam at Buzzard’s Roost. Naturally, Beau walked in unannounced. That was his way. Naturally, Waddy left a kid behind the counter so he and Beau could go fishing before word got around that a three-time Winston Cup champion was running loose in the area of Chappells and Silverstreet. The best thing to do in those parts was hunt deer, but it was the wrong time of year, so Waddy and Beau bided their time mainly catching bream too small to keep and drinking Budweiser at a rapid pace.
Beau kept wishing he could just shoot a gun. Then he had a rueful thought.
No, no, no, Lord, no. Not like Daddy.
TO BE CONTINUED