SOMEWHERE IN TEXAS, SOMEWHEN IN THE SEVENTIES
“A man is born to drive, and a Texan is born to drive forever; an American is born to drive Cadillacs. Mustangs is for sissies and actors. A Ford is for the working man, but I tried working on several occasions, and it did not suit me; many co-workers were bitten. Buicks are driven by alcoholics.
“My accountants have always owned Lincolns.
“Growing up in Cascabel, there was a paucity of Cadillacs, but a surfeit of word-a-day calendars. All the cars in town was heaps and Frankensteined pick-ups; Leprous Hank got around with a team of armadillos harnessed up in manner sled-doggian, which worked poorly at best, plus the leprosy. These were mechanical beasts of burden, and a few armadillos, with neither glamour not gallantry! Their purpose was transport, but Roy Head wanted to travel. Yes, that Roy Head.
“You should’ve heard of me.
“I was too damn big for that little town, and its hardscrabblerousers! My kooky legs straddled the highway like the Colossus of the Roads! Daddy needed a caddy, to carve my thesis down to the ineluctable kernel of truth. Fancy-dancin’ would be the down payment, and my storied voice–which once caused the Lord Jesus Christ hisself to come to me in a dream and offer me money and sexual contact–would pay that car note.
“Finance packages were much more flexible then.
“That first record contract got signed at ten A.M.; by noon, Big Bucktoothed Pete, Skippy Joe, and myself were at the nearest Cadillac dealership kicking around paint schemes and the benefits of the Landau roof. Myself and Skippy Joe was for said roofing, but Pete always did like to drive through the monkey enclosure at the local zoo after church. ‘Monkeys need the Good Book more’n anyone,’ Pete would say, and he would run over the fewest monkeys he possibly could. That ride home from church was never the highlight of Pete’s week.
“Though not a Papist, Pete held communion wine as a sacrament.
“Now, as I have brought up the Whore of Rome and her heresies and contrafibularities, I must now make a confession: we didn’t get to no Cadillac dealership by noon. That high-toned car bazaar was three towns over from Cascabel, which in Texas means it was 800 miles. Skippy Joe had borrowed us a 1949 Oldsmobile Holiday 88 with the Hydra-matic four-speed and 5 liter rocket V8 and we intinerized our arrival at that particular American heaven known as the floor of a Cadillac dealership first thing in the morning.
“The plan was to take turns letting Skippy Joe drive.
“The trip was to begin presently, but our throats were coated with the dust of our beloved Texas: we were proud, but dry! Also, Big Bucktoothed Pete had been lettin’ out chimichanga farts all morning and the car smelled like an illegal Mexican hospital. We decided to stop at the establishment outside of town for a road soda, and also Skippy Joe needed to see a guy about a thing.
“The Worst Bar In Texas was a place to find what you needed, plus things you had been avoiding.
“No idle boast was the name! It was a tavern not of ill repute, but no repute at all: no one would talk about the place. The pool table was surly, and picked fights with the jukebox regularly. Your quarters bought you not an occasion upon the back of leather and steel bull, but a mechanical bear: it would throw you off, and then maul you. It was a miracle of a machine.
“The bathrooms were racist, even for the time.
“Fights were settled out back, the Texas Way: by havin’ your buddy hide ’round a corner and shoot the bastard as he was walkin’ out back. Fights were also settled in the hallway, but much more awkwardly: ain’t no room to deploy your rubbery crazy-legs like nunchucks. During slow times, the staff would punch and gouge one another’s eyes in the back office.
“It was the kinda place you didn’t wear a watch to.
“Skippy Joe disappeared into the darkness of The Worst Bar In Texas: that place had more than its share of darkness; in later years, the owner would title his oral history of the bar Darkness at Noon, and lawyers became interested. Never did take Skippy Joe long to find the drug dealer in the room: we conjectured he had some sorta internal Heads Up Display like in them Terminator movies. Big Bucktoothed Pete and myself made our way to the bar.
“We always could find the bar.
“In honor of my impending entrance into high society, automobilically speaking, we decided to honor the motor industry and its proud history in our beverage selection. We drank Auto Worker Unions, which are strong at first, but weaken significantly throughout the drinking. James Deans were served, in which a German liquor is lit on fire. Big Bucktoothed Pete’s contribution was the invention of the Nascar, which is when you get a regional hardware store to sponsor your next drink, and two parts moonshine.
“Some of the blame lies upon us for losing track of Skippy Joe.
“With the right knowhow and tools, anything is possible. With the right knowhow, tools, and enough speed to kill a bison, everything is possible. Out in the parking lot, Skippy Joe had took off his shirt. It was a hot one, with not a cloud from there to Amarillo Now, I don’t got to tell you about Skippy Joe: he liked feeling good and he liked that Texas sunshine beatin’ down on that shallow chest of his.
“Skippy Joe was a heliotropic hedonist, if you’ll pardon the parlance.
“The roof of that Oldsmobile Holiday 88 had, in Skippy Joe’s reckoning, shown him its ass, and Skippy Joe only did one thing to ass, and that was kick it. Me and Big Bucktoothed Pete would get up to all sorts of unwholesome dealings with behinds of all of all sorts, but Skippy Joe would have no truck with the buttocks.
“Skippy Joe stayed up front.
“Convertibilizing a hardtop ain’t as tough as you might think, especially it you’re doin’ it to a borrowed vehicle. Niceties can be ignored in favor of velocity, and nobody was better at ignorin’ things in favor of velocity than Skippy Joe. My beautiful friend went so damn fast!
“His speed was the constant and we were relative to it.
“All I know ’bout cars is I gotta have me the biggest, most expensive one: Roy Head ain’t no grease monkey! But I do know enough to know that I don’t know how Skippy Joe managed to cut the brake line while removing the roof. Plus set the gas tank on fire. Them three things is in entirely different sectors of the car.
“It’s your classic three-body problem is what I’m gettin’ at.
“No one in the bar had a chance! The rumormongers, the whoremongers: the monging was to be concluded that day by the runaway ball of death Skippy Joe had loosed that day! Knife fighters, sword swallowers, pickpockets, lockpickers, and all the county’s policemen! Were it not for Big Bucktoothed Pete’s timely theft of a 1951 Chrysler New Yorker, we would have rotted in prison for our natural lives, and I would not get the Cadillac the Lord had promised me! The New Yorker was a convertible!”
“I just asked if you wanted paper or plastic, sir.”
“THE ENTIRE SITUATION COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED!”
“Y’know what: you can bag your own groceries.”