“Jack,” I said, “I’ve been reading this article about honky-tonks . . . “
“You shouldn’t read things like that,” he said, turning his head from a football game to growl at me. “It always gets me in trouble.”
Jack is my first cousin, a really great guy and the only friend I have in the family. We’ve seen one another through thick and thin. I helped him back up on his feet out of a really bad marriage, and he rescued me from a crack house in Atlanta. We take care of each other, Jack and I do, but lately he’s been feeling like he’s doing all the work, which isn’t fair of him at all. For one thing, I’m always the designated driver, and if it weren’t for me, his jeans would look like denim accordions.
“What’s that place you always go to? ‘Hippy Dick’s’?
I could hear Jack groan all the way in the kitchen. “No!” he said.
“You said it had a juke box?”
“It doesn’t have any ABBA on it!”
“You can’t play mahjong on a pool table!”
“Pickled eggs, pigs’ feet and jerky?”
“Jack,” I said, “Be fair.
I heard a long sigh. “What are you wearing?” he asked.
“I thought khakis and a button-up Oxford, hushpuppies . . .”
Jack held his hand up. “If you go in there looking like a reject from Rush Week at Ole Miss, you’re going to end up in the Yalobusha River with a trot line tied around your feet.”
So I left the house wearing jeans, flannel, a pair of Jack’s old boots and a cap that said “Embry’s Bait Shop” with a Marine insignia. At least he let me pick out which of his flannel shirts to wear.
“Lucky for you pink don’t look good on me,” he said. Jack’s got a weird sense of humor.
Hippy Dick’s was on the side of a long winding road that twisted through the backwaters of a nearby reservoir. It had big a gravel parking lot that Jack said the county kept up because Dick was the supervisor’s second cousin. It had a neon sign on top that said DICKS and a bait shop on the side. The bar had a big mirror behind it, and two television screens; a large one near the back wall, which seemed continually tuned to ESPN, the other, smaller one, set up near one end of the bar tuned to “E!” with a bucket of iced beer on a towel in front of it. The jukebox was blaring out Faith Hill. It was crowded, about forty people. You had the sports guys crowded around a big screen television, about a dozen guys playing pool and a little more than that bellied up to the bar.
Jack ordered our drinks: a Miller Lite for him, an O’Doul’s for me. “He’s driving,” Jack explained to the bartender, a drop-dead gorgeous ginger with a gambler’s spade beard.
“Is this your date?” he asked Jack with a wink.
“Rick, this is my cousin Andy,” Jack said. Rick reached a muscular arm over the bar, smiled and shook my hand. I couldn’t help but giggle. Jack punched me in the arm and dragged me over to a table.
“You’re going to get my ass kicked if you don’t straighten up. Why don’t you sit here and try not to fluff your hair while I play a game of pool?”
“Now I’m going to have to go to the men’s room to look at my hair.”
“Make sure that’s all you look at,” he said.
Having checked in the rear view mirror before I got out of the car, I knew my hair looked fine, so I wandered over to the jukebox. Sure enough, there wasn’t any ABBA, but a couple of tunes did stand out: “YMCA”, “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” and two tunes by Madonna. I saw Jack looking at me from the corner of my eye, played it safe and picked out Reba. I was just straightening up when this woman at the bar said, “Yeah, he gave me a little rock and a little cock!”
Naturally, I froze, but nobody else seemed to notice. I turned to look at her. She was in her mid-30s, brunette, big tits, freckled cleavage. I turned to Jack, who shrugged and sank the three ball in a side pocket.
“Hey, you at the jukebox!” she said. “Come here!”
Jack miscued and stood up, glaring at me. I just shrugged at him, turned to the lady at the bar, smiled and walked up to her.
“Are you Jack’s cousin?”
“Yes, I am,” I said. “His momma is my daddy’s big sister.”
“Well, y’all sure do look alike,” she said. “Just handsome as you can be!” She laid her hand on my arm. “I just want you to know that song you played is my favorite one in the whole, wide world.”
“Yes, honey. And do you know why?”
“Because my husband had a little cock, and he gave me a little rock.”
“That would piss anybody off,” I said.
I heard someone behind me choke on a beer, but I paid no attention, went to the other end of the bar and asked for a refill. Rick obliged with a stunning smile, but before I could thank him, a guy on a stool next to me poked me in the ribs.
I turned and found myself facing a rakish blond wearing a Saints jersey. “I like them jeans you got on,” he said. “What size you wear?”
“Uh, on a good day, a 32,” I said.
“I used to be fat, too,” he said, and before I could protest, he said, “But I got on that Atkins diet. You know, the one that Ozzie’s wife is always doin’ ads for.”
“I’m not fat!”
“Oh, I didn’t think I was either, but you got this here,” and he patted my stomach and started rubbing on it. “Nice little beer belly …”
He let his hand linger a little too long. “Yeah, well, that’s mostly pizza,” I said, shifting away.
“Hey, I like pizza, too, but I really like them bratwursts,” he said, with what can only be interpreted as a leer.
“ANDEE!” Jack’s voice thundered across the bar. “You’re UP!”
I certainly was. “Be right there!” I said over my shoulder. “I’ve got to go,” I said to the dirt road d’Artagnan.
“Maybe you can come over for a brat sometime,” he said.
“Sure!” I caught Rick smiling at me in the mirror.
Jack soon decided it was time to go. He’d lost forty bucks at pool and Lady Little Rock had her hand glued to his arm. I was ready to go myself. As we were driving off, Jack asked me if I had a good time.
“I sure did,” I said. “Rick gave me his phone number.”