This story is a chapter from a 200 page book titled Wanderin & Wonderin. It originally appeared over the last several weeks in a serialized version in the "ARTICLES" section here on the DEN. Several reviewers questioned why it was in articles rather than "STORIES" prompting me to re-think that decision and I post it here as a result of those comments.
“BEYOND MARDI GRAS” - In Full
I bin a telling about a situation I was mixed up in back in New Orleans, after a lucky streak at the card table. Well, once I got out of that situation an got my bankroll safely deposited, I decided to head toward Vegas. I wasn’t really in no hurry cause I still had plenty of time afore the Series (World Series of Poker) would be a startin, so I figured to take my time gittin there. I’d been holin up in cheap motel rooms long enough an even though I now had plenty of cash, I had me a hankerin to spend a few nights sleepin under the stars. I’d been on the road fer days an it was beginning to feel like the handlebars had done growed fast to my hands…. An the seat was beginning to feel like my second skin. My ass was completely numb and I had to piss like a race horse. On top of that, I had jist passed a semi a few miles back and he covered me with so much sludge an slime that it felt like I hadn’t had a shower in a Month a Sundays. I hadn’t slept mor’n 4 hours a night in nigh on to a week now and I hadn’t had a hair cut ner shaved in so long even my own mother wouldn’t a recognized me.
I was six er seven days out of New Orleans travelin the back roads an had jist pulled out onto the 4 lane, so I decided to open er up and git the clogs out. As I pulled out to pass some redneck with a confederate flag in the back winder and a Georgia plate on the back of his pick em up truck, I’ll be damned if he didn’t pull right out in front of me.... Didn’t even use his signal, jist come a whippin right out there. Well I damn near had ta take the ditch to avoid running right up his tailpipe. Lately, I bin a tryin to turn over a new leaf by doin a better job of keepin my temper under control, so I tried to let it go an not let it git me all riled up. My blood was jist a boilin, but I was fightin the urge to wrap that damn flag around his neck and drag his ass down the road a piece.
Well, when I got myself under control an things settled back down I began to take notice of things and I got a better look at the driver, turned out is was a chick and she was totally unaware of my presence. The way her head was a bobbin around, seemed like she was a jammin to the radio, totally unaware that anyone else was even on the road. Well, I fell in behind her and we was a haulin ass down the road makin damn good time when I caught a glimpse of blue lights up ahead. I began to slow down an I noticed that she was a slowin down too. Then she put on her signal (at least now we know they work) an began to pull off to the side of the road. Well, bein the gentleman that I am, I slowed down even more an decided to pull over behind her.
When we got stopped she come a flyin out a her pick-em-up truck like her clothes was on fire. Course, that would assume that she had clothes on, which she didn’t…. Not a stitch…. Guess it took her a few minutes afore she realized that I was even there an when she finally did notice me she seemed a bit embarrassed. Well, not knowin exactly how to react, I introduced myself an asked her if I could be of any assistance. That was the beginnin of one of the strangest tales I’ve ever been apart of.
She seemed to take to me right away. Don’t know that I can explain that, but it seems I’ve always affected people that way. Instinctively, they seem to know that I ain’t no danger to them an that I mean em no harm. She came up to me, looked me straight in the eye an said I need some help. Well, I may have thought some things right about then that would seem to be quite obvious, but I held my tongue, kept my thoughts to myself and repeated my offer to be of assistance. Now, bear in mind, I’ve bin on the road fer over a week an by now, I’m smellin like an old grizzly, but bad as I looked an bad as I smelled, she found me preferable to whatever it was that she might a bin a runnin from.
I pulled an old dirty shirt out of my saddlebags an offered it to her, whilst I apologized fer the way it likely smelled. She didn’t seem to understand the gesture at first, then this look of realization came across her face and it seemed like that was the first time she even realized that she was stark nekked. She grabbed the shirt, threw it over her shoulders an effortlessly stuck her arms into the sleeves. She was such a short, skinny little thing that my big ol shirt was plenty a cover fer her.
Lookin around, takin stock a things an tryin to figure out what our next move should be, I said to her, “They call me “Wanderin Man,” or sometimes jist “The Wanderer.” I ain’t bin called by my own name fer so long I ain’t sure I kin remember it, but you kin call me Bud. What’s yer name an how kin I help?” Well, bout that time she started in a bawlin an a whimperin an I couldn’t make out a thing she was a sayin. I tried to comfort her the best I could an jist kinda let things run their course, til she settled down some an was able to say jist what it was that was a causin her such distress. Seems that she an a “boyfriend” had bin on the road fer a few weeks an they’d run out of money…. Couldn’t buy no gas fer the truck an hadn’t eaten in 3 er 4 days. They’d already hocked everything they owned of any value, tryin to keep gas in the truck, an were downright desperate when some guy approached them about a scheme he had to make them a few bucks. Well they was to the point where they was willin to do jist about anything, jist to get some food in their gullet an they agreed to go with him to see what his plan was.
The next thing she knew they was with a whole bunch of guys who was a fixin to have their way with her. She was hungry an desperate, but not quite that desperate. She was a tryin to back away from the deal, but her “boyfriend” didn’t seem to be all that bothered by it. In fact, he seemed to be very much in favor of it. Long about here is when she tole me that this here “boyfriend” had picked her up at a bar where she had been a slingin drinks somewhere in the Dallas area, bout a month er 6 weeks back. They didn’t really have no real connection, ceptin fer the fact that they was both originally from Georgia an that they was both high on life an was looking to have a good time. Apparently her view of a good time parted from his long about tha time it came to satisfyin the sexual desires of half a dozen hard asses who didn’t smell a whole bunch better n me.
Parently she was in the process of figurin out jist how the hell she was goin to git herself out of the fix she was in when one of them big ole greaseballs decided to take her into another room. Well one thing led to another an she reluctantly went along with him, all the while lookin fer some way to escape an get the hell out of there. As she was undressin, he was pullin down his pants an he pulled out his pistol an laid it on the night stand by the head of the bed. Well, she took her time an when the opportunity presented it’s self, she grabbed his gun, cocked it an stuck it in his back. She told him if’n he made a sound, it would be the last sound he would ever make an she jabbed him with the gun an asked him if he understood her. Parently he took her at her word.
Somehow she managed to gag him and tie him up before she snuck out the winder, hopped in the truck and got the hell out a there. She was haulin ass down the 4 lane when she saw the blue lights an decided to pull over. Not that she’d done nuthin wrong, but she wasn’t sure how to deal with things an she didn’t have a clue as to what had happened to her “boyfriend.” All she knew fer sure was, she wasn’t ready to face the cops.
Well, after some contemplatin, we decided to leave the pick-em-up truck there by the side of the road an haul-ass on my hog. She was real reluctant to go past the blue lights, so I made a u-turn and we went back down the road to the nearest motel to figure out our next move. I went in, signed up fer a room fer the night an picked up some snacks to take to the room.
I asked the desk clerk if there was any places close by where I could pickup a few women’s clothes. She asked if they needed to be nice clothes an I told her my lady friend had met with some misfortune an the only outfit she had with her had been ruined earlier in the day. We jist needed something decent enough to get her by til we could do some shoppin.
Well, she says, we have a couple lost-N-found baskets that’s got all the stuff people left behind when checkin out. Yer welcome to anything in there that might fit. So, I sorted through the old clothes an picked out two er three outfits that looked like they might fit, threw the desk clerk a ten spot an headed fer the room.
Once inside, I gave her the snacks an the clothes an told her she could use the bathroom first. That I would be back in bit, but I was fixin to go out an take a quick peek around the area to sorta git the lay of the land and see what I could see. She gave me a look, but I wasn’t quite sure jist what it meant. She said you have been so wonderful to take me on without even askin any questions an I don’t know if I kin ever thank ya fer what yer a doin fer me.
I said, “Don’t worry about it, we all do what we kin when there’s a need” an she certainly looked to be in need. I told her to git a shower an see if any of the clothes were fit to wear while I was out gassin up my hog an scoutin us up something to eat.
Well, I found a town about two miles down the road an decided we could git jist about anything we’d be a needin. I pulled into a truck stop, bought us a couple burgers an some soft drinks, gassed up my hog an headed back to the motel. By the time I got there, she had showered an tidied herself up an I’d have to say she was about the purttyest little gal I’d ever seen.
She was real tickled when I came back through the door an she said that she really hadn’t expected that she’d ever see me agin. She had figured I’d make a run fer it rather than have to deal with her problems.
Well, I told her, I ain’t the best that there ever was, but my momma taught me better’n that. Ya don’t never leave no lady stranded an in need without doin everything within yer power to see to her needs. I tole her, like it er not, yer stuck with me until we kin get ya on yer feet and able to fend fer yerself.
Well, she jist about melted into the mattress with relief as I handed her the burger an soda an we polished off the food before I took my turn in the john. When I came out of the john she said to me; "I declare, yer cookin is finer than a skeeter's eye lash" an right then and there I knew that we was a goin to be gittin along jist fine. I liked her sense of humor. She knew dern well that I didn't cook that food, she jist wanted to show me that she weren't skared no more, by makin a little joke with me.
Before getting in the shower, I brung in every piece of clothing I had in my saddle bags, sorted out my cleanest dirty outfit an took the rest along with the extra clothes from the lost-N-found basket down the hall to the laundry room. I threw them all in the washer, dumped in some soap an started them a washin afore I went back to the room to take myself a shower.
When I got out of the shower, she was sound asleep, so I went about the task of scrapin off a weeks worth of whiskers an trimmed up my hair a tad. Then I went back down an put the clothes into the dryer.
When I came back into the room she stirred awake an sat up in the bed an at first she didn’t recognize me, all freshly shaved an all. She looked a bit like a caged animal as she cowered there on the bed. After I spoke to her, she figured out who I was an settled back down. She said I’m so sorry to be a puttin ya through all this, but I sure do thank ya fer a doin what yer a doin fer me. I’m feelin much better now, it’s amazin what a shower, a little food and a few minutes of shut eye will do fer ya when you’ve been a goin without fer so long. My name is Rebecca, but jist about every body calls me Becky. I sure do wanna thank ya fer all ya’ve done fer me.
I said, You don't have to keep thankin me an don’t be a worrin yer pretty little head (an she sure did have a pretty little head) about it. We’ll git this all figured out in due time. In the meantime, I ain’t had much sleep in the last few days an we need to figure out some sleepin arrangements. I ain’t one to take advantage of no lady, but there’s ain’t but one bed. I’m use to sleepin on the ground an I’ll sleep on tha floor if’n ya prefer, but I need to catch me some shuteye. So, what’ll it be?”
Well, she said I’m not some innocent little girl and though I ain’t been a knowin ya fer very long, I already trust you a lot more that that feller I been a travelin with fer the last month er so. I don’t think there’s any reason fer ya to be a sleepin on the floor. We’re both adults an sleep seems to be more important to both of us right now then most anything else, we’ll make do with jist the one bed.
Well, thet suited me jist fine, so I went back down to the laundry room, latched on to our clothes an headed back to the room to catch me some shuteye.
When we woke up in the morning the world looked a whole bunch better to the both of us. She had already gone down to the kitchen an fetched us back some coffee an sweet rolls, complements of the house of course, an we had an enjoyable breakfast snack an began to catch up with each other.
Well, I tole her enough about myself so’s that she knowed thet I wasn’t some pervert an I learned enough about her to know that she was just a youngster out to learn about life an take as much pleasure out of livin it as she was able to. She’d made a mistake by hitchin up with the asshole, but by the time she figured that out, she was already a long way down that road.
Home, as it turned out, was back in Georgia, though it had been several years since she had been back there. She’d been makin her way the best she could by waitin tables an tendin bar, which wasn’t so different than me. She wasn’t “hardcore,” but she had done some hard livin an had learned to roll with the punches. This little setback wasn’t going to define her life, she’d be back on her feet in short order, she jist needed a little boost.
Well, I tole her I was a headin fer Vegas, hopin to git into the series an she was welcome to come along fer the ride, iffin she was a mind to. Told her she should give it some thought an iffin that’s not to yer likin, we’ll figure something else out fer ya. I said, “I know some people in Vegas that I kin introduce ya to and I kin prob’ly git ya set up with a half ways decent job.”
In the meantime, there’s a little town a couple a miles down the road an I’m a fixin to take ya down there to git ya some “possibles. “They’s a Wal-mart er somethin like it there an I’m sure we kin find whatever it is that ya need to make ya feel human agin. I didn’t spend much time a lookin around, but I do most of my shoppin at Goodwill an there’s usually one in every town of any size. So, I’m a fixin to see if I can replace some of the rags I bin a totin round fer clothes.
She said, “Goodwill had been her salvation a time er two an she was sure she could make do with a couple outfits from there.” That said, we packed our possibles in my saddlebags an cranked up my hog.
When we got to town, I pulled into the truck stop again an we went in an had ourselves a decent breakfast. I asked the waitress if this little town happened to have a Goodwill store and sure-nuff it did. Well, we spent the better part of the mornin pickin out clothes and tryin them on an in general jist gittin to know one-another.
She’d left home the day after she graduated an hadn’t bin back since. Her ma had died when she was still in grade school an her dad an two older brothers had pretty much left it up ta her to keep the house a runnin. By the time graduation came, she’d jist about had all she wanted of that set up. She packed her possibles, grabbed the stash she’d bin a building up an hit the road. She’d called home a day er so after she’d left, jist to let em know that she hadn’t been kidnapped er nothin like that an that they prob’ly wouldn’t be a hearin much from her movin forward. That had bin jist over 3 years back an she’d bin on the move ever since.
Bout then’s when I told her. “I write songs and poems from time to time, jist fer something to do. I don’t claim they’re any good, but yer story reminds me of one I writ somewhere’s along the way. If ya remind me tonight, a fore we settle in, I’ll see if I can’t find it in my book an read it to ya." Well, that jist about floored her. She said that she too was entertained by writin stuff. Said she had never shared any of it with anybody an she was more than a little disturbed by the fact that we’d left her journal in that old pick-um-up truck. "They ain’t much in my past that I care to re-visit, but I’m gonna miss that old book of my writin."
Well, that sparked a thought in my head an I got to figurin how I could get a couple hours alone to put my plan to work. We’d both been on the road fer a good long stretch an I suggested that it might be a good idea to get us a room early so’s we could rest up before headin out the next mornin. She seemed agreeable to that, so bout 3 in the afternoon we checked in at the local Motel 6. I told her I wanted to get some work done on my hog an I’d be gone a couple hours, but I’d be back before dark.
With that, I jumped on my hog an headed back down the road to where we’d left her truck. I figered it might be 20, maybe 30 miles back down the road, but since nobody was lookin fer us, I thought it might still be a settin there where we done left it.
When I came upon it there wasn’t nobody around, so I jist pulled up beside it and reached in and grabbed everything layin there loose on the seat. Turned out she had a little possibles bag and by the heft of it I figured it must have the book in it. A quick check confirmed that it was there as well as the pistol she had used in her escape,,,, still cocked. I was just telling myself how fortunate I was that it hadn’t gone off when I saw a back pack layin there on the floor. I latched onto it and kicked my hog in gear an got the hell out of there.
Within another half hour, I was back at the Motel 6 an when Becky saw me a carryin her bag into the room she broke right down an bawled. You’d a thunk I had jist gave her a million dollars, she was so happy. Well, after she was able to compose herself, she told me that my goin back to get her book was jist about the nicest thing that anybody had ever done fer her in her entire life an she’d never forget it.
“Somehow, someway, someday,” she said, “I’ll figure out how to re-pay you fer all yer kindness to me, but fer now, I’d like to give you a big ol kiss right smak dab in the middle of yer lips.”
“Well now girl, much as I might like that,” I said, “yer young enough to be my daughter and I ain’t a fixin to take advantage of yer situation. Yer purtty enough to melt the coldest heart still a beatin, so it might be best if you didn’t tempt me too much. I been beatin that old hog a mine down the road fer quite some time an I ain’t been with no woman in so long I ain’t sure I’d know jist how to handle myself. My resistance is mighty thin these days an I ain’t so sure that kiss wouldn’t get you into more of the trouble ya jist ran away from.”
Well, she thought about that fer a spell an I could see the wheels a turnin in her head. Finally she said, “A feller I once knew told me, 'Age ain’t nothin but a thing.' He said, 'There ain’t no rules when it comes ta fallin in love.' “Now I ain’t sayin I’m in love with ya, but I kin tell ya that in the day an a half that I’ve been a knowin ya, I kin already tell that ya stack up better than any man I’ve ever spent any time with afore. I know ya got a lot more trail dust on ya than I do, but I’ve covered some trails of my own an I’ve learned a thing er two along the way. I ain’t sayin I know everything, cause I dern sure don’t, but I’ve always bin one to pay attention to things an I’ve learned to put 2 an 2 together an it always comes up ta 4. Now with all that said, ifin my heart decides to fall fer ya, my age, ner yer age ain’t got nothin to do with it. I may be young, but I ain’t no virgin…… an so far, I ain’t never bin in love. Now you can take that to mean what ever ya want it to mean, but ya need to know that I ain’t no school girl no more. I bin purtty much on my own since my maw died back when I was still in the grades. I bin lookin after my pappy an my two brothers ever since the day she died an I bin makin my own decisions an pickin my own friends too. I’m a purtty good judge a character an when I tell ya I’m a fixin to kiss ya right on the lips, ya kin bet I’ve already considered all the consequences an I’m ready an willin to deal with em. Now pucker up!”
Well, suffice it ta say, we got acquainted purtty good that night an we got re-acquainted many times after that night. The road to Vegas became a lot more enjoyable even though the average daily mileage took a terrible beatin, but eventually we got there. I took Becky to meet some friends of mine who were a part of the “in-the-know” people around Vegas an could help her git set up.
Becky hit it off real good with my Vegas friends and they all took a real likin to her southern accent. They got her a nice job slinging drinks in a high classed casino an helped her out with some nice clothes until she could afford to do some shoppin on her own.
That was a few years back, but any time I’m in Vegas, we renew our acquaintance an I know I’d only have to ask an she’d be on tha back of my ol hog headin to where ever the wind might push me next. The problem is, I’ve got a lot more wanderin to git done afore I settle down. There’s always another game to play, more cards to deal and more balls to break. Besides that, much as I care fer Becky, my heart always yearns to get back to Atlantic City. Iffin I ever decide to end my restless, ramblin ways there’s a heart there that belongs to me. My sweet Mary knows that and I like to think that she knows that I know it too.
....when it’s time fer me to settle down….
Copyright © 2011 Richard Lee King. All Rights Reserved.