Dallas Dave

Beauregard Noell Jr. woke up to a searing pain in his left quadriceps.  He had no idea where he was, he had no idea why he was in pain, and his mind was beyond in a fog; it was more like a tabula rasa, a blank slate, like it was starting up all over again after a shutdown, like they do on nuclear power plants.  Beauregard actually thought of the “tabula rasa” phrase; it was probably the only Latin words he remembered from his brief tenure in Faye Friday’s first year Latin class at Durham High School in the ninth grade.  He dropped out of high school after the first quarter, having reached the ripe age of 16 and being in the ninth grade; a couple of failed grades had greased the wheels for his exit from secondary education. 

As he lay in this dazed state things and events started to filter back into his mind.  The “tabula rasa” thing pretty much got it going and he started remembering his childhood.  Beauregard was right about Durham, he was right about there, growing up in the tobacco capital of the world; scenes from being seven or eight and coming home from a cowboy movie and finding his momma and daddy fighting. 

The Noells lived close to the Webb Theatre downtown and a lot of times on a Saturday afternoon they would give their kid thirty-five cents and let him go to the movies; then they could drink and fight and do whatever else reared its head all they wanted to. 

It was on one of these Saturday afternoons that young Beauregard had rounded the corner of 2nd Avenue just in time to hear two shots.  He was only half a block from his house and it sounded like it had come from that general direction.

As he approached 118 2nd Avenue he noticed that something was very different.  Almost always when he returned home from seeing Lash LaRue or Roy Rogers his parents would be drunk and raising Holy Hell, cussing and fighting and even tossing an occasional punch or chair or frying pan.

But this balmy Saturday afternoon in May of 1950 his house was eerily quiet – total silence after the shots.  The only activity was the emergence of both next-door neighbors, the Thornburgs and the Butlers.  2nd Avenue was part of the many mill villages in Durham, everybody working in the tobacco factory. 

As Beauregard got close to the front door he heard Wallace Thornburg, who had gone into the house, holler, “Oh no,” and come running out.  When he saw Beauregard he told his wife, Mary, “Don’t let the boy go in there,” and ran into his house.  Mary Thornburg stood in the middle of the sidewalk, arms akimbo, blocking Beauregard’s way.  But Beauregard was way too quick for the stout woman and just dodged her like he was playing touch football.

The front door opened into the small living room, there being no foyer in the little mill houses.  As Beauregard rushed in he stopped quickly after a few feet, seeing his momma and daddy lying on the bare pine floor.  He looked at his momma’s big brown eyes, which were wide open, and then noticed the red spot about the size of the end of his little finger; it was directly in the center of her forehead.  Then he looked at his daddy.  Beauregard Noell Sr.’s eyes were closed, his right hand clutching his .32 revolver; the revolver was encircled by his lips, and Beauregard noticed the red spot on the back of his bald head.

Beauregard emerged from his dream-like state, once again feeling the horrid pain in his left leg.  He instinctively reached down to touch the affected area, halfway between his hip and his kneecap.  He could only feel heavy bandages, and when he brought his hand back to his face he saw his fingers stained pink.  But he was in a fog, and he knew it.

“I must be hurt purty bad,” he thought, realizing that whatever drugs he was being given were really strong.  Beauregard had taken plenty of Seconal, Tuinal, Quaaludes, and even heroin a couple of times, but this stuff put it all to shame.  Beauregard wondered what magical drug he was being influenced by as he drifted away once again.

He thought about the days after that Saturday, thought about how his Uncle Harold Bailey, his momma’s baby brother, took him to his house over on Evans Avenue.  Uncle Harold and his wife lived there alone; they had no children.  Beauregard was brought back to his house only once, when Uncle Harold came with him to get all his stuff, clothes mainly.  There were few toys, very few for a seven year old boy.  The two of them maneuvered around the yellow crime tape to collect everything.   Beauregard remembered wondering why they even bothered with cordoning the area off.  “Hell, Ray Charles coulda seen that shit,” he had thought as they exited the house.

The next afternoon Beauregard Noell Jr. donned his navy blue suit his momma had bought for three dollars at Goodwill and was driven to the double funeral by his aunt and uncle.  He sat between them on the right front row of the Gethsemane Freewill Baptist Church.  Gethsemane had received the honor because that was where Harold and Ernestine Bailey had attended for years.  Every third Sunday Harold would help with the collection as an usher; he was an ex-officio member of the Official Board.  Ernestine sang in the choir and was a teaching helper every June at Vacation Bible School.

Beauregard remembered that everybody was standing when he walked in flanked by his aunt and uncle.  The two plain caskets had been closed by then, which was fine with Beauregard; the three of them had viewed the bodies at Drum’s Funeral Home last night prior to the crowd passing through.  His aunt and uncle had graciously allowed him to play outside with the other kids as they dutifully stood by the caskets greeting the sparse crowd.  As he ran around on the lawn he remembered looking at his parents for the last time; Beauregard took note that the funeral director had removed the pistol from his daddy’s mouth and had closed his momma’s brown eyes.  “They covered up that hole in her head purty good,” he had thought, figuring that they did not worry too much about that hole in the back of his daddy’s head, since you couldn’t see it.

Beauregard’s mind fell away from his dead parents and tried to clamber into the present, but the best it could do was a semi-conscious state.  Even that was a little improvement over the other times “he kind of halfway woke up.”  He could see that he was in a small room.  He wondered if he had just gotten real drunk, wherever he had been, and had rented a motel room. 

Then he noticed he felt a sensation in each arm at the inside of the elbow.  When he looked there his vision was fuzzy, so he reached with his hands, the right one to the left arm, and the left one to the right arm.  At each location his fingers encountered the insertion of a needle.  Then he noticed that his pecker felt funny.  When he reached down there he discovered a small tube leading from the head.  “Maybe I killed somebody and they are fixin’ to execute me by lethal injection,” he thought through the maze.

This idea gave him a little solace; at least he sorta knew what was going on.  “But why in hell have they got the pecker wired up?” he mused, then passed out before he could consider the question.

Uncle Harold and Aunt Ernestine had decided to take little Beauregard Noell Jr. in as their own.  It seemed like a no-brainer, what with their having no children of their own and there really being no other alternative than Social Services.  Uncle Harold approached the boy about it.  He explained that they would treat him as if he were their own son, and love and take care of him.  He would not even have to change schools.

Beauregard took all this in until Uncle Harold brought up the last item of consideration.  “Now son,” he had said, “we are going to do all the things for you that I talked about, and all that we require is that you follow our rules.”  This last statement really got the boy’s attention ‘cause everything was sounding super good until the rule thing came up.  Beauregard didn’t like the sound of this and his eyes narrowed the way they always did when he resented or didn’t understand something.

“What kind of rules?” he asked deliberately, looking kinda hard at Uncle Harold.  His uncle looked at him earnestly, like it was a teaching moment and said, “Well son, just the normal kind of stuff like, being obedient, respectful, and doing a few chores for allowance, and of course keeping up with your school work.”

The boy thought about the items his uncle had laid out, and as he ruminated for a bit he realized he did not like the sound of any of them.  Rules had been few and far between at his house; the most important one being to stay away from both of his parents when they had a snoot full, which had become increasingly frequent in the last year.  It was truly a matter of survival, for once his mother had thrown a porcelain wash basin at his daddy and Jr. had the misfortune to be rounding the corner of the kitchen when it popped him flush on the face and knocked him to the floor.  He had survived it with only a bruise on his forehead, but he had learned a valuable lesson, so he steered clear of them when they were drinking and fighting.

All these rules were quite foreign to him, and he was satisfied that he would not abide by any of them, but when his mouth opened he said, very politely, “Yes sir Uncle Harold.”

Beauregard knew things would go south pretty quick, so he did not even try to change his behavior from the way it had been, a wagon train of not doing homework, skipping school, getting in fights, shaking down kids for lunch money, cussin’ his teacher, and getting caught smoking a Lucky Strike in the back yard.  The smoking episode was discovered by Aunt Ernestine, just as he had fired one up, one he had pilfered from his Uncle Harold.  Aunt Ernestine had given him “down the road” for quite a while, and finally Beauregard had all he could take.

“You dumb bitch,” he had snarled, “you don’t even know what L.S.M.F.T. stands for.” 

She recoiled from his language but recovered momentarily to say, “Of course I do, it means Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.”

Beauregard grinned at her slyly and shouted, “Dumbass, it means Loose Straps Mean Floppy Titties.”

At this point Aunt Ernestine had been pushed beyond her limit, and she expressed this violation by backhanding Beauregard a good one, knocking him to the ground and bloodying his upper lip.  She then pulled him up and dragged him to his room, threw him inside, and locked the door.

She had caught him smoking right after school, so he spent a good two hours locked in his bedroom until Uncle Harold got home about five-thirty.  As he lay on the bed waiting for his uncle to come in Beauregard remembered one of his late daddy’s favorite expressions – “Well, I guess the shit is about to hit the fan.”

When Uncle Harold came in it was about what Beauregard had imagined it would be; he recounted the multiple, multiple “sins” perpetrated by the boy, and then, at the end of Uncle Harold’s monologue, the ultimate, the reciting, verbatim, of the nasty little jingle about Lucky Strikes.

Beauregard had been sitting on his bed impassionate, not saying a word, but when Uncle Harold said the words “loose straps mean floppy titties,” he could not help himself, bursting out laughing.  If young Beauregard thought he had received a wallop from Aunt Ernestine, it was nothing compared to the smacking haymaker that Uncle Harold unloaded on him.  Then he left the boy lying on the floor; an hour later he unlocked the door and placed a plate of food, a glass of milk, and a slop jar inside, then locked the door once again.

Harold and Ernestine talked quietly that night, and came to the same conclusion; the boy had to go.  They felt they had done their best, had treated him like one of their own, but it just was not going to work.  Then they decided it would be best to keep Beauregard at home from school for about a week; Ernestine would visit the teacher and explain that the boy had the croup and that Doctor Will was afraid it might turn into pneumonia.

That was plenty enough proof for Mrs. Payseur; if truth were known, she would love having a week of respite from the worrisome little beggar.  Additionally, Harold and Ernestine figured that he would heal up okay by then, the time when they would bring in the Social Services case worker to visit, and spill their hearts ‘bout how they had given it their best and it just wasn’t going to work.

Beauregard was pretty much locked in his room for that week, and when the case worker came he kept his mouth shut like had had been ordered by Uncle Harold and Aunt Ernestine, only speaking to agree with what his aunt and uncle said.

The Social Services lady had seen hard cases like this before, and she knew it was hopeless to try to place the boy in a foster home; the recidivism rate for his type was astronomical.  The only option was the Big L, the orphanage at Loxford, just up the road.  She pointed out that he would be close, so they could visit; this comment was greeted with blank stares from the couple, and the deal was struck. 

Thanks to a revelatory conversation between the case worker and Aunt Ernestine the transaction was done that afternoon.  Beauregard was a bit surprised that Aunt Ernestine had his suitcase ready to go, but not really; he knew she had written him off after that L.S.M.F.T. moment, and Uncle Harold was just as ready to get rid of him. 

As Beauregard rose to leave they both sort of feigned hugs, and Beauregard stifled himself from recoiling; there was no reason to make an even worse impression on the DSS rep.  Besides, he was getting kind of fired up.  “Gonna be a big adventure,” he mused to himself as he was led to the car and driven to the Loxford Orphanage.

He sat the entire trip mute; Ms. Social Services offered no conversation.  She was close to retirement and had seen so damn many like this boy that any feeling she had before was pretty much gone. 

When they got to the orphanage Beauregard was impressed with the large, handsome brick buildings.  Most of them had been erected in the first quadrant of the twentieth century, and there was quite a bit of decorative masonry work exhibited.  He really thought the way they could edge the bricks out a little at a time, making each course stick out further, was interesting.  He thought they called it corbeling.

Once they got inside he noticed the high ceilings, and there was a big chandelier mounted in the ceiling of the Administrative Building.  The DSS lady quickly got rid of him, handing the paperwork over to a heavyset dark haired woman of about forty-five.  She had short chopped off hair that was straight, but she did smile at Beauregard as the case worker left without a word. 

She put the paperwork aside and looked at him and said, “You know, it is almost eight o’clock, and I am guessing you have not been fed yet, right?” she asked.  Beauregard grinned a little and nodded.  “Come on, son,” she said, and took his hand. 

They walked next door to another large building, but it was totally open inside and filled with row after row of tables and chairs.  “This is the cafeteria, it is where you will eat all of your meals.  Breakfast is at seven, lunch at twelve, and supper at six.  And I am Miss Costner,” she said, smiling at him again.  “Sit down, and I will bring you some food,” she told him, and he sat obediently, being quite hungry.

She returned in about ten minutes with a large plate of meat loaf, green beans, mashed potatoes, and two biscuits.  Beauregard dug in quickly, and a minute later Miss Costner reappeared with a cold glass of milk.  He ate ravenously, and the lady watched, showing a faint smile. 

She had seen hundreds of them come through, boys and girls, and she knew that they would be in a kind of culture shock for a couple of weeks, until they figured out how things worked at Loxford, and what was expected.  She also knew that when they got their feet on the ground was the important time; over the years, she had discovered that that particular period tended to be a make or break moment.  Miss Costner kept a log of when kids arrived, separate from the official records, and she carefully watched as their third week there came around.  “It’s uncanny,” she thought to herself, “most always by two weeks after that benchmark I can tell which way they are gonna go.”  She figured her batting average was about 80%.

When Beauregard was finished eating, she took him over to the Broughton Dormitory, named after a former governor of North Carolina.  The Broughton, as they called it, housed all one hundred sixty of the males at Loxford on its two floors.  There were twenty suites on each floor, each one housing four boys.  At the end of each floor were the common bathrooms, complete with good -sized community showers and adequate lavatories and toilets.

Miss Costner led Beauregard to Suite Number Four on the first floor.  She knocked on the door and announced herself, and after hearing the expected “Yes, ma’am,” she entered the room.  It measured about sixteen feet square and had double bunk beds on opposite walls and a couple of deal dressers, on the other walls.  Four straight- backed chairs completed the furnishings.  Lights out was not until ten o’clock, so since it was only eight-thirty and she had the time, Miss Costner went ahead and made the introductions. 

Beauregard Noell Jr. once again felt that “twilight zone” kind of consciousness that he had experienced a few times before.  This time when he started to come to a little he was able to remember some things from his last attempt to make some kind of sense of things.  For example, he already knew that he had I.V.’s in each arm, and he could still feel the discomfort from the tube in his pecker, but this go-around his vision was almost back to normal, and as he peered around he saw that he was in a hospital room.  He noticed the ivory colored call button lying on the bed, well within reach. 

“Maybe it was there before, and I just didn’t see it,” he thought, then quickly pressed the button with his left thumb.  After a couple of minutes a heavy set woman of about forty-five came in and said, “Yes, Mr. Noell,” what can I do for you?”

Nurse Hunnicutt, identified by her badge as E. Hunnicutt, R.N., was wearing white hosiery and the traditional white starched uniform and hat.  As she smiled at him he asked, “What is wrong with my leg?” 

As she was taking his blood pressure she said, “You have a serious wound on your left quadriceps, a portion of the skin and some of the muscle have been damaged beyond saving.  Dr. Glenn will tell you more when he makes his rounds in about an hour.”  Then she left quickly.

Beauregard pulled back the sheet and looked at his heavily bandaged left thigh.  There was pink coming through the dressing, and when he touched the wound or moved his leg it felt like an electrical charge was hooked to him.  It was then that recollections started coming back to him, trickling, and then building steadily.

He had been in a redneck/hippie bar outside San Diego, doing his usual thing, which was drinking lots of Budweiser but keeping his eyes open for potential marks.  His woman, Katrina, or Kat as she was called, was there with him, lookin’ good like always.  She was a titty dancer at the Bright Spot, a joint just down the road, but her workday, or evening, did not begin until ten o’clock, so there was plenty of time for seeking other avenues of income. 

Beauregard liked all of the avenues of his woman’s income, ‘cause that allowed him to drink and smoke dope all day long.  Life was good.  One of his favorite ploys was for him and Kat to go to bars, where they weren’t known, to exercise their options.  Like most titty dancers Kat was in “sales” also, which Beauregard was most eager to help out with.  Sometimes he would just let her work on her own, with the strict ground rules that she never took the guy back to their single wide, that they always went to a cheap hotel and not to the guy’s place, and last, and most important, that she bring every damn red cent back to Big Daddy Beau.

Additionally, it was indelibly etched into Kat’s dense and small brain that it was to be, under no circumstances, less than fifty dollars, and that the time was never to exceed more than thirty minutes.

This working relationship had gone on for two years, and pretty successfully.  Beauregard had just goofed around back in Durham after getting out of the army in 1976, when he had read some articles about California and how strong and cheap the pot and cocaine were, so he just had a wild hair moment and took off in his van to California, by happenstance winding up in San Diego.  He thought that was okay, having read about the great climate there.

At the “Bright Spot” he had met Katrina, or Kat, or, as she was known on stage, “Cindi Buck.”  She dressed in a tiny bikini and a cowboy hat, and after many “yeehaws” and customary material removal, she ended her performance by riding a stick with a little horse head on it all around the stage, while shooting a thirty-two pistol loaded with blanks into the air.  She was one of, if not the most popular girls at the Bright Spot.  So between the dancing and the ancillary money from “sales” she had made a good living for them over the past two years.

If Beauregard wanted to dice things up in their afternoon carousings he would do his pimp routine, picking out lonely looking guys from the crowd and chatting them up about women and such, and then pointing toward Kat and asking if they would like to have a little of “that.”  Most of the time the answer was a lusty yes, for she was hot looking, and tended toward little, short sun dresses with no back and very little to leave to the imagination from the front side; additionally, she never wore panties, and delighted in crossing her shapely brown legs in the direction of the “mark,” once Beau gave her the high sign.

He typically notified her by just arching his eyebrows and looking at the guy; that was enough, for Beau had trained her to glance in his direction about every five minutes.  Even this small bit of training had taken a while with Kat, for she was not the brightest bulb on the tree, and diminished her brain power more by smoking weed all the time. 

But Beau had kept her at it, and it was paying dividends now; for when he talked up the “mark,” he would always get a twenty dollar “finder’s fee” from the guy before he took him over and introduced him to Kat.  So at the end of the day, in that scenario, Beauregard would be up at least seventy bucks, maybe more if the guy tipped her, for she would always dutifully deliver this to him also – he had her where he wanted; essentially he was in total control of Kat.  She seemed to need it, or at least that is what Beau told himself in the rare moments when he felt a little guilty, like he was taking advantage of her.

“But hell,” he would think, “I treat her good, rarely hit her, and keep her in beer, weed, coke, and sundresses.”  When he thought this it always made the guilt dissolve instantly, and be replaced by an almost smug sense of good will and benevolence.

If Beauregard grew a bit bored with Kat working her own deal, and a little weary of playing the pimp, he always had the ace in the hole; in fact, it was his favorite modus operandi, probably why he did not use it so often, keeping it special.

Early on in their relationship Katrina had revealed that she was bisexual.  Beau didn’t care as long as she kept working and bringing home the bucks.  So on occasion he would take her to a dike bar and let her circulate for a while, chatting up different girls, until Kat found a girl that would work – verified bisexual.  Beauregard had told Kat this was most important, and that she also needed to be attractive.

Armed with these criteria Kat would move around and then give Beau the nod when she connected.  So, going by Beauregard’s careful plan, Kat and the girl would go to their trailer and “get on with the program.”  Beau would always wait for about an hour, just to make sure things had time to progress to critical mass, and then he would burst in the door, bare chested, rip his pants off and jump in the bed between them. 

Invariably things went his way, for Beau was very careful to drill into Kat’s little brain that the bisexual mark needed to be plied with plenty of coke.  This third little exercise he and Kat engaged in he found very rewarding, although the Kat income machine was not producing a red cent.  In fact, Beau was out the price of the cocaine, but he was satisfied that the boost his male ego received was well worth that price.

Beauregard’s meandering mind moved from California back to the hospital room as he looked up from his bed to see Nurse Hunnicutt insert a hypodermic into one of the I.V.s, and then suddenly he was gone again.

“Now boys,” Miss Costner said, this is Beauregard Noell Jr., and he is going to be your new roommate.  Now I want you all to be nice to him and begin by introducing yourselves.  Larry, you go first.”

The tallest boy said, “I’m Larry Buffaloe,” and grinned.  Larry was slender but strong, a good soccer player.

 Next was Ed, “I’m Ed Waltz, like the dance,” he said, and they all laughed, even the newcomer.  Ed had dark hair and very hazel eyes with long eyelashes.  He was very popular with the girls. 

Then Les.  “I’m Les Leonard,” the skinny boy with glasses said.  I’ve been here the longest of any of these guys, and I know everything there is to know about Oxford Orphanage, for example it was established in 1915 by Reverend Horace Washburn, who had moved down here from Utica, New York and had seen the need for an orphanage.  Furthermore…” – but Miss Costner held her hand up as the other two veterans were giggling. 

“Now Les, how about we have the history lesson later, okay?” she said smiling.

Beauregard would soon learn that Les was a talker, and self-professed knower of all things.  Beau would also figure out that a lot of the time Les just made it up as he went along.

“All right boys, you all get acquainted and remember, only a little while until lights out at ten o’clock. 

“Yes Miss Costner,” they said in unison, even Beauregard joining in. 

She left, closing the door behind her, and Beauregard went over and sat down on the unmade bed.  It was the bottom bunk on the side of the room with the window.  Beau looked at them a little blankly, not knowing what to say.  Larry, the tall athlete broke the uneasy silence. 

“Where do you come from, Beauregard,” he asked, with the beginning of a grin at the corners of his mouth.

“Durham,” Beau answered.

“Oh really,” said Larry, and the other two boys watched ‘cause they knew Larry well and they figured something was coming.

“Ain’t that where they make all them cigarettes, even them Lucky Strikes?” Larry queried slyly.

“Why yes, it is,” answered Beauregard.  He thought he had an idea where this was going and he planned on being ready for it.

“Well I reckon you oughta know what L.S.M.F.T. stands for,” Larry Buffaloe said, stringing things along nicely.

“Of course I do,” said Beau, “Lucky Strike Means Fine tobacco.” 

Beau paused for only a second, not long enough for Buffaloe to intercede, and then quickly blurted, “but it really means Loose Straps Mean Floppy Titties.”  Before Beauregard had gotten to the last word of the naughty little jingle the three boys were hee-hawing and slapping their knees.  Larry looked at the new kid and said, “Beauregard, you are gonna be alright, gonna be just fine,” and the three boys helped Beau make his bed.

As it turned out, things did go okay there and Beauregard stayed out of trouble, made some pretty good friends, including Larry, Les, and Ed, and even had some fun before he was able to escape at the age of 17 courtesy of the U.S. Army.  He had signed up and he was legal, so off he went.

But the good times he had were courtesy of Larry Buffaloe.  Larry was a natural leader; people migrated to him and more times than not they were not disappointed, whether it be just plain friendship or more prurient interests. 

Speaking of the the latter, Larry was the unofficial conduit of sex for the boys at the Oxford Orphanage, being a very skilled talker and having a sufficient amount of charm to attract girls and, even better, to talk them into things they might not normally do.  Larry Buffaloe was able to perform these works of sexual wizardry for his buddies over the years that Beau was there, the couplings taking place in the warm season in the large grassy area that separated the boys and girls dormitories.  These liaisons were incredibly satisfying to the participants, and also made Larry the most popular guy on the campus.   As Ed Waltz had lustily proclaimed to the world one night after an hour session with Trina Oxendine, a gorgeous Lumbee Indian from Lumberton in Robeson County, “Larry Buffaloe for President, Larry Buffaloe for President.”  That outburst had almost gotten them caught, but after a stern lecture from Buffaloe it was never repeated, and Ed was able to contain his rapture inwardly.

By the time that Beauregard Noell Jr. was about to depart to the army, Larry Buffaloe was gone, having gotten a soccer scholarship to Elon College near Burlington.  The new tryst master, surprise, was the handsome Ed Waltz, and as a surprise going away present he gave up, just for once, his sweet Trina Oxendine to Beauregard.  It was a night Beau would never forget, and the next morning found him boarding a bus to Fort Jackson for basic training.

Beauregard woke with a start from his time traveling slumber to see a middle aged man taking his pulse.  It was Dr. Charlie Glenn, a short, fat surgeon who always smoked a cigar.  Sometimes it was lit, sometimes not, but this day he had it fired up, and as Beau watched him an ash would fall onto the sheet from time to time.  Dr. Glenn paid no attention to this, and neither did the nurses; it was just accepted.

Dr. Charlie Glenn looked down at Beauregard and smiled.  “Well son, you may have dodged a bullet, so to speak, but you didn’t quite dodge that shotgun.  An inch different and your femoral artery would have been interrupted and we would not be having this conversation.”  Dr. Glenn was known for his sense of humor, and at the end of this statement he laughed heartily, and even in his pain Beauregard was able to muster a weak chuckle.

When Dr. Glenn mentioned the shotgun the circumstances started to filter back to Beauregard.  Beauregard had been in one of the bars that he and Kat hung in, but it was not a good day; in fact, it had not been a good day for four days, ‘cause Kat was on the loose, missing all that time, with only a drugged up phone call ‘bout once a day. 

She never said where she was when he asked her; she was given to little sidetracks once in a while, usually when she met an especially cute girl that she was taken with, but it had never, never gone over two days, that is until now.

Beauregard Noell Jr. had taken it upon himself to drink as many Budweisers, smoke as much dope, and snort as much coke as he could in the interim, trying to chase away the shame of her infidelity.  Beauregard was far from puritanical, and he certainly did not mind her dalliances; my God, he had set most of them up.  The problem came when she did it herself, with Beau out of the loop, where he was out of control.  That circumstance, and that only, was the rub.  The idea that she would operate outside the sphere of his control absolutely infuriated him, and when she did crawl back there would be hell to pay.

So on this Wednesday afternoon at four o’clock he found himself at Mary Lou’s Tavern, one of the joints they frequented, and as Beau would say, after it was cleaned up a little, he was as f—-d up as a ten eyed man of color.  Beau tended to get mouthy and loud when he was that way, especially if he had a couple hundred bucks in his pocket; the term for that situation was what the guys back in Durham call ni—r rich, and it fit Beauregard perfectly. 

So as he was runnin’ his mouth and acting like he was super bad a guy who had been there for an hour or so walked up to Beau.  He had been watching him and when he approached him was truly trying to get him to settle down. 

“Hey buddy,” he said softly, “Why don’t you take it easy with all the hollerin’ and come on over here and let me get you a drink.”

The stranger was stockily built and had the typical dress of a California biker, down to the chained billfold and the skullcap.  But Beauregard was pissed at the world, and particularly at Kat, and the last thing he wanted to hear was soothing advice from some asshole he didn’t even know.

“F—K you, and the Harley you rode in on,” he shouted at him.  Beau could exhibit a mean look, and he had it on big time now.  “You need to tend to your own business, sonny, and leave my ass alone, or I’ll blow your friggin’ head off,” Beau shouted, delighting when the biker backed up for a moment.

The biker looked at Beau and calmly said, “So you mean that, huh?” and looked steadily at Beau.

“Damn right,” hollered Beau, and took a step toward the stranger.  The biker turned and walked out of Mary Lou’s.  Then Beauregard really cut loose.

“Look at that S.O.B. run; I can tell every time when they are all talk.  Look at the friggin’ lil’ twit.  Bet you never see his sorry ass around here again,” he shouted, very bravely.

Beau, even in his condition, noticed that the group in the bar were not paying a lot of attention to his rant, and were actually keeping some distance.  Beau just figured that they realized how bad he was and just didn’t want to piss him off any more than he was.  So he just kept it up, running his mouth, and downing beers, plus a couple of trips to the bathroom to toot up a little. 

It had been about a half hour since Beauregard’s run-in with the biker, when all of a sudden Mary Lou’s went deathly quiet; Beau was watching television at the time and it took a few seconds for him to catch the sudden change.

When he looked around he saw everyone looking at the front door.  Beau was about twelve feet from the door where the biker stood square in the middle of the opening.  Seeing him did not disturb Beauregard Noell Jr. too much, but when he saw what he had leveled straight at Beau he froze – the biker was holding a sawed off .410 shotgun, and it was pointing straight at Beauregard’s general midsection.  Beau saw the biker tilt the weapon a little down and to his right, and Beau instinctively put his right hand on his left thigh, up past halfway.  Then Beau saw the fire from the barrel, felt the impact to his left thigh, and the next thing he remembered was waking up in that room, which he had eventually figured out was a hospital room.

Beau looked up and remembered that Dr. Charlie Glenn had been in his room, but he was nowhere to be seen now.  “Guess I drifted off again,” Beau thought, touching his left thigh and again getting a pink stain on his fingers for his trouble.

As Beau lay in the hospital bed he felt lower than he could ever remember.  Even when his parents had died he had not felt this forlorn; of course, they had been so mean and uncaring toward him, it had been a strain for Beauregard to shed even one tear.  But now it was clear that Katrina, his love, his meal ticket, was never returning.  Beau knew that she would have heard about what had happened to him by now; he figured it had been at least five days since he had been shot.  That time combined with the four days she had pretty much been out of contact prior to that made a nine day absence seem pretty imposing.  Beau was ready to move on.  “F—k that sorry bitch,” he said aloud. 

It was morning and a candy striper brought in a breakfast platter, which he devoured ravenously, the first time he had felt a good strong appetite.  He was gobbling his food so quickly that he was nearly finished before he realized that the candy striper was still standing by the bed.  Beauregard pushed the tray back on the table and took a good look at the girl.  She was blonde, like Katrina, but had a little sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose. 

He smiled at her and asked, “What is your name honey?”

She looked at him pretty hard and then smiled and said, “Natalie, but you can call me Nattie.”

Beau gave her the head to toe once over as she took the tray away and placed it on a dresser, returning to stand where she had been, at the side of the bed, but it seemed a little closer to him.

“How old are you, Nattie?” Beau asked, his eyes narrowing a little as he watched her. 

“Every bit of eighteen,” she giggled.  “I heard you got shot in a bar by some biker.  I bet you woulda taken care of his ass if he hadn’t brought that shotgun,” she said, her eyes looking excited and sparkly.

Beau was feeling a little excitement himself, as he sized up her ample bosom and favorably evaluated her shapely brown legs.  “Oh yeah,” he said, talking louder now and much more confidently.  “Why if I had gotten my hands around his neck he would have been a goner.  Unfortunately I passed out from loss of blood as I charged toward him.”

Natalie reached down and grasped Beau’s right hand with both of hers.  She was beaming, her eyes gleaming, and Beau had a feeling, and it was a feeling that he had had before.  But it was even stronger this go round.  The first feeling was when he had met Katrina, and when he had realized that she was someone he could mold into his dream girl, his lover, his paycheck.  But the feeling he was getting with Nattie, as she gazed at him adoringly, was twice as strong, maybe even more.  And when Nattie told Beauregard that she had run away from home and was living with a girlfriend, and that she had brought him ice water while he was in and out of consciousness, and that she felt like he may be her soul mate, and that she had dropped out of school in the tenth grade, and was a bad speller, a broad, broad smile came to his face. 

And one phrase was in his mind – “trainable, very trainable.”  Beauregard Noell Jr. squeezed Natalie’s hand tight, and when she looked longingly into his eyes, he thought, “Showtime, baby, it’s show time.”

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