SOMEWHERE IN TEXAS
“You can chase the world, or produce your own gravity. Texas does the latter. My land is a black hole, and all that venture too close get slurped into her maw. Where is the event horizon of Texas? No one knows, and it has not been discovered by scientist or Christian Scientist alike. Everything flows into Texas, except shit: that stops in Oklahoma. Hollywood makes the movie, but they send it here. New York has the money, but they call Texas first.
“New York also provides us with Jewish people.
“In a perfect world, I would’ve stayed on the family parcel, and taken over the farm, but it was not a perfect world. Occasionally in my youth, my father would leave a football outside overnight, during the winter. Then, he would chuck it at my face, sneaky-style. “World ain’t perfect, boy,” Daddy would say. I must forgive his harsh mastery: he had been bitterized after being pauperized. My people had raised longhorns, and oil derricks, and alfalfa for generations, but all in the same field. Finances were not robust. None of them things like being around them other things: it was improper resource allocation. I could have worked an honest day and taken in a follie-type extravaganza in the evening.
“A quiet, normal life.
“Was it the Holy Father imparting His divinitaciousness upon me, and concentrating his mojo in my audacious vocal stylings, and my bodacious hair stylings, and my undulating undershanks? I have always believed so, and many preachers and psychics and bartenders have agreed with me. Was it my mortal father, more earthly and earthy than the Man in the Penthouse recognizing my various geniuses and driving me out to Miss Rosa’s to sing for nickels that fateful night Roy Head began his conquestification of the music business, America, the world, and even Texas? Perhaps, and: yes, I’m that Roy Head.
“You should have heard of me.
“It was Tuesday night, and that was Audition Night at Miss Rosa’s, for talent of both the public and private variety. Rosa was a matron of the arts, and she was no slackadaisy! That woman ran the tightest ship since the USS Missouri went on a diet. Her tastes were both catholic and Catholic; though she peddled flesh upstairs, she would tolerate perversions neither linguistic nor conceptual from atop her stage. A juggler of low skill once saw one of his bowling pins go skittering out of his grasp, and he responded with the mightiest of all foul oaths. A year later, he was booking himself as Texas’ only one-armed juggler.
“In the long run, it was good for his career.
“Though times were tough, Mama Head would never pawn the piano. Two of my brothers were sold at far-below market value, but the piano stayed. She would play spirituals, some of which were of the negro persuasion, and I learned of my gifts perched beside her; when I would sing, Mama Head would smile at me and no boy from Texas needs more encouragement than that. You show me a man what doesn’t love his mama, I’ll take off my boot and hit him with it many times.
“Roy Head brooks no mama-directed insolence.
“My legs were shaking, and not in the spectaculating way I later came to rely on as a trademark: fear had me. The bar was full, it being a Tuesday night, and all manner of citizen was present: pimps, and gimps, and women with limps. There were wheelers, and dealers, and dirty dog stealers. More than several local politicians were there. The women in attendance were all of Miss Rosa’s employ, and they were clad scantily. They were sweet, and felicitous: many pinched my cheek , but none dare tussle my hair, as glorious as it was.
“No matter that I was eight: youth is no excuse for an untended coif.
“The church folks had heard my singing before; they were naturally and of course astonished, but these were people prone to speaking in tongues and french-kissing rattlesnakes, so I took their opinions with a pillar of salt. These were high-toned gentlemen and high-dollar ladies in the room: the best of the best. One man who came in regularly was reputed to have met Frank Sinatra, but he was not there that evening. I swallowed hard and looked at my daddy; I had to do well for him. The year had been rough. The oil derricks had poisoned the longhorns, who had knocked down the derricks as they died. The alfalfa, needless to say, failed to even sprout.
“Farming may not have been in the Head’s blood.
“Daddy had wandered away, possibly to spend the paltry sum he had been squirreling away from my mama, and I did what any eight-year-old in the oldest established semi-legal cathouse in Texas would do: I found the bar. Miss Rosa had an odd staffing policy. Women in her place had only one item in their portfolio; the field of bartendery, for example, was closed to those of the curvacious persuasion. Rosa also preferred to employ no adult men, as their presence led to foolishness and skullduggery.
“The solution was eunuchs, but Miss Rosa had priced it and it was cost-prohibitive.
“Her enemies, both legion in number and Legion in intent, would say that she bought orphans. Lies! Miss Rosa gave those boys homes! And she was no grasping pinchpenny: they were always allowed to keep their tips. Those young men learned a work ethic. They learned about the workings of the human heart, and about the doings of the human body. Miss Rosa permitted them to be schooled by both the government and the girls: they studied geometry, and would occasionally see a boob. Rescued from the austere awfulness of the orphanage, those tykes had a fighting chance growing up at Rosa’s, and many people loved her for that, among them Cascabel’s police chief and the school principal.
“Miss Rosa had friends in high places, until one day she didn’t.
“I lifted myself onto a stool; the bartender was a whippet of a whelp: his shoulders wasn’t the width around of a fancy lady’s wrist, and he had straw for hair, ends all raggedy, and longer than was the fashion at the time. He was also shirtless and I asked him if he was the one what met Frank Sinatra. He said he was not, so I introduced myself as the greatest singer he had ever met. And then I shook the hand of my beautiful friend, Skippy Joe.
“He palmed one of my rings, thus beginning a pattern.
“Skippy Joe called across the room to the piano player; he was five years old, 6’2”, and paid two separate alimonies. Some folks are just born grown, and this man I just heard immolating the ivories was one of them. His teeth got there before he did, as they were the size of tombstones, and not regular tombstones: these were like the big ones rich and powerful people get. I produced sheet music, and he glanced at it, handed it back, smiled. His name was Pete, he said.
“Pete said that I looked nervous, and then Pete smiled.
“Skippy Joe got to concocting and conceiving: he could mix five drinks at a time, as long as four of them were beer. We sensed something, a mutual attraction between men, but not in a sissy way. There was a frisson of friendship around that bar that evening, and it was charging us up! The night was young, and so were we. Skippy Joe was a libationary librarian, hunting down recipes in the stacks, and we commenced to drink in honor of youth. We had Terrible Twos, which is half-tequila/half-red wine, and then you hurl the glass at a loved one and vomit. We drank Roman Polanskis, which is a cocktail most find unpalatable, but is defended by an uncomfortable amount of people what should know better. We drank First Loves, which is equal parts whiskey and dry-humping.
“Somewhere between the third and eighth drinks, Pete acquired a nickname.
“We were brazen in our booziness, and from the back of the bar, Miss Rosa whanged that ring of hers on the table; you could hear it halfway to Amarillo. It was time to go on stage, but there were at least two of them dancing in my vision like Rockettes shot with a tranq dart. They wobbled to and fro! I had no chance to make it, and the farm would revert to the bank, as would the scrap metal that used to be oil derricks and longhorn corpses! My daddy, who had had just enough money for a tugger from the ugly girl and was upstairs trying to talk her into doing him a mouth favor, would be a bankrupt; my mama would need to sell the piano, and possibly me.
“I had no confidence; I should have had faith.
“Under my left arm weaseled Skippy Joe, and Big Bucktoothed Pete took up the weight on the right. They bore me like a father would his child, weaving and parrying with the crowd to secure me purchase to that place where my star shines the brightest: the stage. The adrenaline hit me with the lights, and Big Bucktoothed Pete started hammering away, and my slithery, slippery super-legs went into hyperovermegadrive. The integrity of my slacks was in question, but the crowd acted as a jockey, and spurred me on. I sent my singing at their ears, and my fancy-dancin’ at their eyes; was I able to make them smell stuff, I would have; from the beginning, Roy Head has been the total package! I secured a contract with Miss Rosa, and found my destiny, and the men I would share it with.
“I also negotiated a weekly freebie for my daddy.”
Don’t these usually end in chaos and failure?
“Everybody gets to win one now and then.”
Yeah, all right.