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Tennessee or Bust - Part 5

Posted by Admin on August 23, 2015 at 2:05 PM



     We heard Mick come rolling up outside. A big cloud of yellow dust rolled up with him. He got out of the car waving a twenty dollar bill. “I sold her,” he said.

     “Sold who?” I said.

     “I sold the car, dang it!”

     “For twenty dollars?” I squawked.

     “Price of a bus ticket home – for you. I got enough for me and Leon. Jackie has enough left out of what Pop gave him.” Leave It to Mick to have all the angles figured. He seemed pleased at the turn of events. “From here on,” he said with satisfaction, we leave the driving to someone else.”

    The first thing Mick had done when he got to the bus station (which also housed the local post office, as well as a convenience store and a restaurant) was to ask if anyone knew where he could sell a car. The proprieter, as it happened, had been looking around for a set of wheels for his teenage son. He stepped outside to take a look. Mick got in and spun the little Ford around in the loose gravel a couple of times, and concluded the sale. At a price the guy couldn’t refuse. But I don’t figure we took too bad a fleecing. Pop didn’t give but $35 for the old clunker to begin with.

    We could have had a yard sale with the items we left in the car or threw away. I chose to leave everything but my guitar, books and clothes. Leon refused to part with anything except his basketball, which he punctured with his pocketknife rather than give it to some poor little Indian kid. We pled with him to leave that moronic scooter. Mick even offered to buy it from Leon, so he could junk it, but Leon stubbornly declined. For the second time me and Mick looked at each other and considered whether it would be right to leave Leon and his stupid scooter with the unsuspecting folks of this friendly little town.

    But we finally got ourselves divested of extra weight so we could travel light – all except for Leon – and when that big air conditioned Greyhound bus pulled out of Moriarty, New Mexico, we were all four on board, our dusty carcasses sprawled in luxury on deep cushions. I don’t know what the others did for the first hundred miles. I slept.

     When I finally came to, I sat up and taken stock. Jackie and Leon lay stretched out asleep on the back seat that went across the width of the bus. I stretched and scratched, relishing the feel of a dry shirt. It was nice on that bus. We didn’t have to soak our shirts and roll a window down to stay cool. Man, I could live on this thing! It was only the second long bus ride of my life. I had no idea how luxurious a ride could be.

     Three or four seats ahead of me, Mick had found another sailor boy to sit with, both of them dressed in their navy blue sailor suits. They were smoking and talking. I noticed the other guy look over his shoulder and nod his head in my direction. He said something to Mick and laughed. Mick flicked the ash off the end of his cigarette and nodded agreement. I couldn’t hear his reply. Mick filled me in later, when we went into eat at the next rest stop.

     He and the other sailor had been talking abut where each other was from. When Mick said he was from Tennessee, near Memphis, it made the other guy think of Elvis, who was just getting to be popular at that time.

     But let me pause here to give you an idea of how I looked when I got on that bus. I was tall and skinny, with dust streaming from my clothes. I had a beatup guitar slung over one shoulder and, I’m ashamed to admit, long hair. Collar length hair, and it was going in all directions. And this was before the days of the hippies. It was just that I didn’t like barbers, and hadn’t been sighted by one for over two years. Let me put it this way…if I stood on one leg I looked like the kitchen mop.

     So this other sailor says to Mick, “Speaking of Elvis, have you noticed that bushy-headed so-and-so sitting in the back?”

     “Yeah,” Mick agrees fervently, flicking the ash off his cigarette. “Looks like the devil, don’t he?”

     And him my own brother.

     We got off the bus at Little Rock, Arkansas, and called our sister Ramona. She and her husband Ralph were stationed at the Air Force base in Jacksonville. Mona came and got us and took us to her house to spend the night. You’d have thought we had come back from the dead, the way Mona took on over seeing us again, and when I laid eyes on her and Ralph and the kids, I began to feel like I was home.


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