Tattooed Gal

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I never liked tattoos / Or bright-red hair / But I love women / Somehow I came across a gal / Who had both of those things …

Call me Ishmael. Just kidding. I read novels a lot, but I’ve only seen a whale once, let alone hunted one. I’m Rusty, and not just where reading novels is concerned. It’s my name: Russell Thomas Freeland. My hair’s not even red. Rusty comes from Russell, which, of course, my mother calls me when I see her three or four times a year.

Every time I think I’ve grown up, one of those nights happens. I can’t take maturity but so long. Like most great disasters and near-disasters, this one was a comedy of errors, a series of bad rolls of dice. I seldom have mediocre days. The dice usually fall one way or the other. They keep drawing you in and drawing you in.

Damn it. I could stand a little boredom every now and again.

The day began with me breaking up with Elisabeth, who awakened on Friday morning with her ass on her shoulders. Sometimes she does that. She’s a singer, a damn good one, but damn good singers are as common in Nashville as kindling, and sometimes they never catch fire. I sing, too, and the advantage I’ve got over Elisabeth is that I make a little here and there on songs I’ve written, and it really just pisses her off that, even though she sings a lot of my songs, it’s usually someone else who makes money off them. I’ve told her a thousand times that I have no control over who records my music, and it’s a nice consolation when some hack I can’t stand turns one of my songs into a minor hit or includes it on his or her album. Elisabeth had it in her head — apparently she dreamed it because it was damn sure there when she awakened – that I’m some sort of music guru, churning out songs that immediately have magical effects on those I personally deem fit to perform them, whereas, in truth, I churn them out because they rhyme. There isn’t much magical, and I’ve got the tax returns to prove it.

“When have I ever written a song that I didn’t offer you before the goddamned ink was dry?” My language didn’t settle her down any, but I was angry.

“I never saw ‘Goat Roper Paradise’ till I heard it on satellite radio.”

“It’s about a fucking retarded cowboy, Elisabeth.”

“Just saying. You said you offered me every single one of your songs, and I’m just pointing out you’re a goddamned liar.”

“I think I’m willing to make a defense of that one at the Pearly Gates,” I said. “I’m satisfied St. Peter is more lenient than you.”

What you won’t find on Wikipedia is that her real name is Elisabeth Ann Daufuskie and she grew up in Oneonta, New York, and arrived in Nashville at the end of a string of beauty pageants and American Idol knock-offs, and when she got here, she knew more about chamber music than country.

Like several hundred others, her first Nashville act was giving herself a last name that was a first one. Now she’s Libby Elisabeth, and sometimes she tells fans, in her fake Southern accent, that she’s from Elizabethton, Tennessee. If this were the forties or the fifties, the bygone equivalent of me would’ve described her as “a big-thinking, high-tone gal” and she probably would’ve called me “a trifling man.” I made the mistake of thinking I could settle her down by pulling out the water bong, which led her to call my work ethic into question, but then, while I was showering, she sucked down enough weed to stop a rhino mid-charge and then stashed most of what I had in her purse and walk out, leaving a note to the effect that we were through and the only way she wanted to see my sorry ass again was in the event that I’d occasionally like to kiss hers.

She didn’t get all the weed, though one of the reasons for my coming adventures was a desire to find some more.

Lower Broadway, Nashville
Lower Broadway, Nashville

I spent the rest of the morning smoking pot and drinking coffee, and then I stopped drinking coffee in the afternoon. When the band showed up and we took the stage at the OK Corral around six, I wasn’t high but I had that cumulative effect, and I was just about right because I’d drunk several beers at the bar. I hate to perform songs sober, and I don’t think I’ve done it since Billy Partee, the bassist, died, and my hands shook the whole time I was trying to play my guitar at the funeral.

I won’t make that mistake again. About all the musicians I know use marijuana, well, all except for the gospel singers. I’d say only about half of them do.

Anyway, I don’t really have a band. It’s just that there’s a pile of pickers, specializing in various instruments, probably enough to fill all the jobs at a Ford plant if Ford didn’t have a lick of sense. It’s easy to round up a band, and we all make weed money playing for tips at all the honky tonks that thrive on cheap labor.

It’s cool, though. I seriously love it.

I worked in one of my songs out of about every five. Other than that, we mainly took requests because it was common courtesy to tip the band when it played a request. It’s lot better living knowing what Johnny Cash sang than what I wrote. I can’t always come up with the specific song, but I usually can do something pretty close from the catalogues of Hank Williams Senior and Junior, Lefty Frizzell, Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Buck Owens and others. On Lower Broadway, they love their traditional music. A mile away and the targeted demographics kick in. I’m one to talk. I’ve shot at a few demographics in my day.

Elisabeth still had me aggravated. It probably didn’t help when a few of my buddies from Dana Montana and the Sagebrush Rangers started sending up shots just for amusement

Alcohol’s not like weed. You can’t depend on it. It takes you whichever way you don’t need to go. It’s that way with me. I try to avoid it, but an inferior buzz is better than none at all.

Anyway, as noted, I was low on the green stuff, thanks to that bitch Elisabeth, so I hung around and tried to get myself in a better mood watching Dana – real name Clarence Parsons of Ardmore, Oklahoma – and his band of chaps-and-bolo-tie-wearing stoners playing Roy Rogers and Gene Autry songs. I think I may even have sung “Back in the Saddle Again” with them, but that was about the point where my memory starts getting sketchy. I do remember leaving the bar to take a leak, and then walking out the back door to smoke a cigarette – and maybe find some weed – in the alley, and then, for what reason I don’t know, walking upstairs where there’s a balcony consisting of seven or eight tables and another bar.

That’s where I found my tattooed gal.

Obviously, I was really under the influence because, let me tell you, tattoos are not my cup of tea. Lots of good-looking women got them, and there are obviously lots of men and women who get seriously turned on by them. Not me. I like that girl-next-door look. I want a woman to hide that naughtiness that lurks within, but not too much.

But I was drunk. And she was friendly, even though she looked a sight. And, unfortunately, she had a man with her even though she made it very clear with the damndest set of green eyes I’ve ever seen that she was interested in me.

She had a man with cold, mean eyes / They were bad to fight / He stomped away / She turned and asked me / If I had a light.

Even I had enough sense to realize this was a potentially perilous situation. Guitar pickers have been getting their asses beat for generations because drunk women got a hankering for them. Let’s be honest. That’s the reason most fellows pick up a guitar in the first place. Personally, I’ve never been that turned on by a woman playing guitar. A good-looking woman playing a fiddle barefoot … that’s what gets my member throbbing.

Libby Elisabeth, for instance, can halfway play fiddle, but I bet she hasn’t walked across a lawn barefoot since her daddy paid Chuckles the Clown to show up at her birthday party.

Tattooed Gal introduced herself as Daphne Toussaint, thus making it obvious that she was from somewhere in the area of New Orleans. When I speculated thusly, she acted as if I were a soothsayer, and I’d say she knew her soothsayers. She was just delightfully weird, and I followed her out to the alley and we smoked cigarettes and talked about how much we wished they were of the marijuana variety. She also said that the man who had recently left in a huff was named Bobby and he was not the kind of man she was likely to write about to Mother. She said one of the reasons they were in Nashville was that he’d cut a man in Memphis.

Well, all righty. I can sure pick ‘em.

I felt sorry for her, though. And I was rethinking my position on tattoos and candy-apple hair. I told her I’d marry her if she had some weed. She said, “Well, hell, son, you in business,” and she had that Cajun lilt. “I gyah-rawn-tee it.”

I didn’t love her / It wasn’t right / But I tried to help her / Just for one night.

Daphne was sweet. She had a little witch in her, but she was a good witch, not as wholesome as Glenda, but the same good heart. She was also very athletic, I discovered, once we got back to my apartment, conveniently located just across the Cumberland River.

She said we’ve got to go / Or else Bobby, he’ll be back / Next thing I knew / We left the bar / And wound up in the sack / When she was nude / I found that she / Had many more tattoos / She taught me a new way / To observe the Golden Rule.

In marked contrast to the way my day had begun, it ended rather spectacularly. It could hardly have been better. Well, her weed wasn’t that great, but she had lots of it. I wouldn’t have carried that much, but, then again, she wasn’t from Nashville, and I wasn’t from New Orleans. It occurred to me that the reason she and Bobby had been in the OK Corral was most likely to sell some of it, and that somewhere, Bobby was probably searching seriously for his accomplice.

It’s funny how sense can occasionally materialize during a morning-after wake and bake.

When she awakened, I noticed a certain sense of urgency, that and the fact that those bright-green eyes were trimmed delicately in red. We enjoyed another sweet, intimate interlude, and I fixed her an excellent breakfast, and she complimented my choice of coffee, and before I could mention it, allowed as how it was really time for her to be going.

“Where?”

“Why, New Orleans, sugar. I gotta work Monday morning.”

“And you ain’t got no way?”

“Not yet,” she said, “but I’m guessing Nashville’s got a bus station.”

I put her on a Greyhound bus / Bound for New Orleans / I hope that Bobby followed her / But didn’t follow me / It goes to show what happens when / Liquor leads the way / I asked Jesus for forgiveness / But He turned and walked away.

Not even Jesus would put up with me being that stupid, but I reckon He looked after me. I sure hope I don’t run across that Bobby fellow again, though. Damned if I know what happened to Miss Daphne Toussaint, but she’s a sweet girl, and I hope, wherever she is, she’s happy and not having to run around with lowlifes like Bobby.

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