The Tuesday-night attendance at the Moose Lodge was nine. Five were sitting around in folding chairs, playing music. The weekly jam sessions were on Tuesdays. The music stopped when Beau Farnsworth and Waddy Adkinson walked in. Beau ordered Budweisers for him and Waddy. He curled a hundred into the bartender’s palm.
“How about keeping a lid on me being here?”
“Why, yes, sir, Mr. Farnsworth, I’m a big fan of your’n.”
“I’ll be a big fan of your’n if you’ll keep people off my ass,” Beau said. “I just don’t want to turn this into no autograph session, know what I mean?”
“Other’n’at, everything’s on me. Anybody who’s a member happens in, they on my tab, too, ah’ight? I just don’t want no mob showing up.”
He picked up the two bottles. “Call me Beau.”
“Yeah. ‘Preciate it, Beau.” The bartender couldn’t wait to tell everybody about how him and Beau Farnsworth were on a first-name basis. Of course, Beau didn’t actually know his name.
Mainly, Beau just listened to the old country music being played by old men who had little else to do now that the cotton mill was shut down. There were two exceptions. One was a wild child: unruly blond hair, probably hadn’t seen a schoolhouse door past the age of fourteen, and now Beau reckoned the boy was nineteen or twenty. He was playing a righthanded guitar lefthanded, which meant the chords were all upside down and so was the way he strummed the strings on those rare occasions when he wasn’t picking them. It was fascinating to watch for everyone other than the other pickers trying to follow all those upside-down chords, but he didn’t require accompaniment. On the guitar, he was bad-ass, and he’d been stoned when he got there and wouldn’t have had to pay for a beer even if Farnsworth hadn’t shown up. As a matter of fact, when he finished moaning the blues, the boy pulled a joint out of his shirt pocket and lit it. Nobody said a word. They’d have beaten the hell out of any other kid who smoked weed in the parking lot, but there was a general, drunken consensus that the kid was so damned good, he could do what he wanted. Give me some of what he’s smoking. The kid passed it around. All the old bastards took a hit. So did Beau. Several, actually. They’d all talk about the night NASCAR’s greatest driver dropped by the Moose Lodge, bought their beer, even smoked a doobie with them, but no one would believe it. They’d nod halfheartedly, otherwise it might be a fight, but they’d just think it was one of those quaint rumors that spread in small towns.
Oh, yeah, Beau Farnsworth hangs out at the Moose Lodge all the time. I done seen him. He bought me beer.
The other exception was just as wild on the womanly side as the wild child. Her name, she said, was Darla, and like most dirt-poor country girls, she was inclined to fall in love with a rich and powerful automobile racer, particularly one who was inclined, by reason of beer and smoke, to fall right back in love with her for a night or two.
It was just one more thing nobody would believe about Beau Farnsworth.
Beau awakened in Darla’s trailer. He’d closed his eyes and imagined Amy Gilliam while he was screwing her. That was unusual. What wasn’t was dreaming about Amy afterwards. That had happened a hundred times. Darla was pretty in a trailer-trash kind of way. She had a beautiful voice. Beau thought of a young Loretta Lynn. Beau thought of the words to a song his daddy used to play in the shop. Loretta and somebody. Might’ve been Ernest Tubb. Baby, who’s gonna take your garbage out when I packed my bags and gone? Whoever it was had a job on his hands. Darla had cans of beanie-weenies piled up in the kitchen sink. Roach bugs grossed Beau out. They hadn’t been strangers, though, when he was a young’un. It was Wednesday morning. He didn’t have to be back at the Speedway still middle of the afternoon Thursday. If he didn’t get there sooner, it wasn’t a big deal. Billy Hargitson would be there to shake it down. Beau didn’t have to prove to nobody he was ready. He figured it would be good for his soul to spend all day getting laid. Darla fit him about as good as the seat in his Monte Carlo. Good and snug. Thank God he’d brought some rubbers. He was a whole lot more likely to leave his toothbrush home. Nail her about three more times, and then, oh, about the middle of next week, she’d wake up with a Camaro sitting in her front yard to remember him by, and the word would spread and so would the legend.
Most of the people in these parts wouldn’t believe a word of it. They’d just figure little Darla had done started dealing dope. Bless her heart.
TO BE CONTINUED