Dallas Dave

I was standing behind the bar when Carol came through the double doors and walked over to the box sitting on the pool table.  The juke box was finishing up with the latest Rebel Son song, a delightful little ditty, something about “eat shit and go fuck yourself”; it had been agreed by unanimous committee vote to shut the music off at eight o’clock sharp and it was a minute before.  The box was made of ¾” plywood and was sanded and stained with a light walnut hue.  Two door hinges mounted on the back supported the lid that covered the length of the box.  There had been a lot of discussion in committee about whether to have a more conventional lid that just exposed the upper portion or have the full view.  In the end several of the ad hoc committee members brought up the fact that Billy “sure nuff loved to wear his shorts and comfy loafers” and the rest relented and the full view box was chosen. 

L. B. had crafted the box; he was a pretty good carpenter, what with working on bar renovations all the time, so it was a no brainer to have him do it.  Personally I have done quite a bit of carpentry in my time, and thought about taking it on myself but with all my new responsibilities I knew I would not be able to fit it in. 

The plywood coffin was sitting on one of the pool tables; the bar had two pool tables, and for the present occasion the other one had been shoved all the way over to the right near the bathrooms.  In addition to being available for billiards Billy had always used them to put covered dishes on when there was some cooking goin’ on or one of the denizens was havin’ trouble and Joe would have a benefit—usually chicken and boiled potatoes.  Joe would drink half a Busch Light and then shove the can up the vacuous area and set them on the grill.  I tell you it is a funny sight; I reckon it kinda favors an aviary rubenesque chorus line.  Quite a sight.

But right now the pool table was placed at the front of the bar, only a few feet from the entry.  This location had been decided by the committee also; we all figgered that it would be by far the most respectful spot for the departed to occupy.  I watched as Carol walked over to the coffin and placed a single lily on Billy’s chest and then came over to where I was standing and ordered a Miller Lite.  I gave her the beer and then shook my head when she reached into her purse.

“Remember, he wanted it to be a party, on him”, I said to her, watching as she swept aside a tear.

The Bar was starting to fill up; of course free beer will bring in a crowd, but Billy had been well liked.  He had known about everybody and spent all his days taking care of the bar.  Billy had been an exemplary “inventory man”, and you would find him at The Bar every morning counting cans and bottles with his flashlight in hand.  In fact that is where Roy had found him; Roy performed a very cursory cleaning job on The Bar and collected all the aluminum cans.

“Yep, dere he wuz, pitched forward in the cooler, his little skinny legs ‘bout a foot off the ground”, Roy had told the policeman.  “Cold as a cucumber”, he had added.  When Roy had come in and found Billy that way he got a little spooked and figgered that he had better get the police involved.

“I learned a long time ago that if sumpin has gone wrong and dey is a man of color around den dat is who they gonna blame”, he had told me after the police had left.  I had showed up at my usual time of noon to do the afternoon shift and of course discovered all that had gone on.  That was when we had the idea.

Slash, Wanda, and Dennis were sitting down at the corner of the bar; it was sometimes called the “conservative corner” by some of the regulars of The Bar, particularly Ron, an attorney from Billy’s hometown who worked as a mediator.  Ron was in his late sixties and had suffered from acute heart failure until he went over to Duke and got fitted with a “left ventricular pump”. 

“It’s taking over the industry; while I was over there they did two heart transplants and 200 of these”, he had told the crew.  Ron had gone to UNC and was thought to be “beyond the pale in the liberal camp”, especially by the “conservative corner”.  I am a little liberal myself, but I can’t hold a candle to Ron.  I remember one day I was working and Ron and the conservative bunch were talkin’ and Slash brought up somethin’ ‘bout a “level playing field” and how it wuz so unfair that some people made so much more money than others.  Thinkin’ back on it I am satisfied that ol’ Slash was settin’ a trap for Ron, but as smart as Ron is I reckon he didn’t see it comin’.

“I am totally in agreement, Slash, it just is not right for things to be that way.  Why, a lot of people make a lot more money than they need, and then others can hardly make it”, Ron said, his mellifluous voice rising.

That wuz when ol’ Slash pounced. 

“Hey Ron, you do real well with that mediation gig, don’tcha?” Slash said, and Ron nodded in agreement.

“I bet you are way yonder into six figures, ain’tcha?” and Ron nodded again and added a big smile.

“What about all them struggling young attorneys, scramblin’ to make fifty grand a year.  Maybe you should divide your money up among them, just to make it equitable, ya know, like that level playing field”, Slash said.  It was at that point that Ron quickly remembered that his left ventricular pump battery pack he carried on his side was low and he would have to retrieve the other one that was in his Buick and it was getting late and quite a drive to Sanford and he would see everybody later. 

Like I said I wuz standing behind the bar that day after the police had left and the place was full.  Billy didn’t have any family so there was a lot of confusion about what to do.   Slash, Wanda, and Dennis were sittin’ in their usual spots so I walked down there to see if they had a thought on the subject. 

“Ya know Billy didn’t have no family; what do you think we ought to do about the body?” I said.

Slash spoke up right away.  “We need to form an ad hoc committee to deal with this crisis”, he pronounced and looked around with a look of pride on his face.  “How ‘bout us three and you, Mikey; I think that would be a good decision making crew”.

So while Billy was still halfway in the cooler we started talkin’ about what to do. 

“First of all, he’s chillin’ where he is so I don’t think we need to take any immediate steps—maybe turn the air conditioner up”, Slash said. 

Without thinking I blurted “Billy don’t like us turning it up so early in the day; it costs too much”.

“Don’t reckon it matters too much what ol’ Billy thinks, now does it?” Slash said, and I realized my blunder.

“How ‘bout that that body farm they got over in Tennessee; I still think that is where I am gonna go,” Dennis said.  Dennis blew hot and cold on the body farm idea, where they just laid you out on the ground and monitored rate of decay and whatever.  Lately he had blown a little cold on it since he found out that they would not pick you up, that you had to pay to have your dead body shipped.

This idea was quickly shelved by the other ad hoc members, and they looked over at Billy’s spindly little legs hanging in the air.  The EMS guy had been able to determine death without removing the body, something about “rigor mortis” startin’ to set in, so they had just left Billy where he was.  Somebody said that it was way too early for that to have happened, but I explained that it was not unusual for Billy to come down at four o’clock in the morning to inventory if he was having trouble sleeping.

I wasn’t surprised when Slash had the committee idea; he was kinda all ‘bout contingency plans.  Like when Billy had been in the hospital for two weeks with bleeding on the brain.  The doctors said that he was withdrawing from cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine, “simontaneously”, as they say down in Harnett County.  So when Billy was in such bad shape Slash had announced that we all needed to have a “contingency plan”, an idea of where we could go to drink if Billy “tapped out”.  Tapping out was a phrase Billy used all the time.  It had become very famous after Billy had used it at a rather inopportune moment. Here’s the way it wuz.

There had been one of them long races, marathon or half marathon or sumpin and the bar was full of people showing up after the race.  There wuz a girl, a looker and a nice person, who had run in the race; she and her husband who drove a beer truck came in.  The looker sold medical equipment.  Billy knew the both of them and said hello. Then he committed his faux pas.  So happened that two people had died as they approached the finish line and of course it had been all over the news.  Billy sidled up to the girl, Lisa, and said “Lisa, did you have to step over those two guys that tapped out to get to the finish line?”  Man, did she get upset, I’d say incensed.  She hollered “you disgusting boor” and she and hubby left and didn’t darken The Bar door for a year.  Billy had just shaken his head, smiled, and said “well I was just wonderin’”.

Taking his role as committee chairman seriously Slash got with it.  Standing up quickly he thrust his right index finger into the air and shouted “Eureka”.  Slash did this a lot when he got what he thought wuz a real good idea and it usually worked out that they were good, at least as far as we could tell.

“Who’s got Johnny the Embalmer’s number?”  Now that’s a whole different story.  ‘Bout two weeks before Billy tapped out a new guy came in the bar.  The whole gang wuz in there, including the liberal heart pump guy from Sanford.  Left ventricular pump guy always made it a point to introduce himself to new people and soon we learned that the guy was from Boston and worked as an embalmer.  Seemed that the national trend was for large corporations to buy up the small mom and pop funeral homes.  That is what had brought Johnny to the triangle.

This revelation brought about a flurry of questions from the crew, ranging from how long it took to embalm somebody to “I always heard they wired dead people’s mouths shut so they wouldn’t hang open”.  Johnny the Embalmer was a patient man and didn’t seem to mind the curiosity; I reckon he musta been used to it.  Being an embalmer wa’nt exactly like workin’ for the state or sumpin.

“Nope, we sew it shut”, Johnny the Embalmer replied to Wanda who had asked the mouth question.  And then “it’s all over the map; could take a couple days if they have hardening of the arteries” in answer to how long it took.  I ‘member we all had a big laugh when Mark, a quiet carpenter who worked on Victorian houses, blurted out “Hey Johnny the Embalmer, maybe you can enroll Ron in the lay away plan”.  Even the liberal got a kick out of this .

Anyhow turns out Dennis had Johnny the Embalmer’s cell number and it wa’nt long before he came striding in The Bar.  He ordered a Yuengling and sat down on a stool, peering over the bar at Billy.

“Thought I would stop by for a cold one”, he deadpanned and the place erupted.  Then he followed up with “I’m your friendly undertaker, the last one who will let you down”, to more laughter.  Slash got things going.

“Johnny, we got us a little bit of a curious circumstance here.  Billy ain’t got no family and he always said he wanted to be laid out here in the bar and we wanta see how much it would cost to get him taken care of”, Slash announced. 

“You know ain’t nothin’ cheap, but since I like you guys I can take care of the customer for eight hundred dollars, in advance”, Johnny the Embalmer said, grinning at the conservative corner as he drained his beer.  “Who is gonna pay for it?” he asked and the quick witted committee chair rose to the occasion. 

“I’ll pay it, but ya’ll got to get Joe to have a benefit, and I mean right quick, to pay me back”, Slash said, and everybody could tell he meant business. 

“I’ll be needing that before I take him”, Johnny said, and watched as Slash pulled a roll out of his pocket and peeled off eight one hundred dollar bills.  Everybody was staring at Slash ‘cause we all knew he had money but nobody had ever seen him flash it around.  Johnny the Embalmer shoved the bills in his pocket and said “you know I have to play it this way, cause they ain’t much demand for embalmed corpses”.

Everybody on the corner agreed that he had him a point and Johnny went over and extracted Billy from the cooler and carried him out and stashed him in the back of his station wagon.  Good thing too, ‘cause Billy had been blocking me from getting’ to the king size Buds and they were on sale for two dollars.  Johnny the Embalmer came back in The Bar and asked for a piece of paper and a pen and wrote out a receipt to Slash: “Received from Slash, eight hundred dollars for embalming Billy” he scribbled down and handed it to Slash.  Slash looked at it and nodded his acceptance.

That was on a Saturday, so we asked Johnny the Embalmer how long it would take and he assured us he would have him ready for the viewing on Monday night.  “I’ll go ahead and use the high pressure pump on his ass; if I’m not mistaken he’s probly got little bitty veins, if them legs are any indication”, Johnny said.  “It’ll be purty simple, not much cosmetically to deal with.  In my career I’ve had to fashion ears, eyes, and one time the whole side of a face on a man who came in second place to a chain saw”, Johnny the Embalmer said and grinned at the committee.  “Be sure and don’t mention who is providing the service ‘cause this one is going to be off the books; I’ll be doin’ it in a little back room that nobody ever uses.  Billy won’t tell a word about it, that’s for sure”, Johnny the Embalmer offered, and with that was out the door, promising to have Billy back by noon Monday.

The next couple of days were busy ones.  The committee contacted L. B. the carpenter and agreed to pay him out of the bar funds.  Joe was contacted and agreed to have one of his famous benefits on Sunday, the following day, and the committee decided that The Bar would just keep rolling along since they weren’t sure what to do, what with Billy dying intestate.

“Reckon the state will wind up with it, but I don’t see no reason to do anything right away”, the committee chairman had said, and everybody had agreed.

They wuz always a bosomy girl workin’ on Sundays, either Black Rene or that new girl that wuz even bustier than Black Rene, Laura or sumpin like that.  Tell you the truth that Laura was plenty endowed, and actually put Black Rene to shame, a far distant second place finish.  By the way, Black Rene ain’t really black, it’s just a way to distinguish her from blonde Rene, a friend of L. B. the carpenter’s; ya see Black Rene had black hair.  She wuz a wild one; think she had a little injun blood in her. But she sure knew how to handle herself.  I wuz down at The Bar a couple of months ago on a Sunday when this turble fight broke out between Dwight and Joe.  They are both big boys and good friends but something one of ‘em said about some slut that wuz in there wuz not received well by the other one.  A hell of a fight; they were all over the little bar knocking the hell out of each other; every time they would wind up on the floor Black Rene would douse them with a pitcher of water.  I timed it so I know it went on for a good ten minutes, which is a long time for a serious fight .

Anyhow, that Laura girl wuz workin’ so I sat down and got a beer.  Ya know I wuz talkin’ ‘bout my added responsibilities; the committee had decided that I wuz in charge of The Bar.  “Now don’t go crazy and start hirin’ and firin’ people, but you will be the one ordering beer and making out the schedule and everything”, Chairman Slash had told me, and I took him at his word.  Plus I would never go crazy like that anyway; I am purty laid back.  Actually that is literally true, since I spend the majority of my off time laying on the couch watchin’ tv and smoking dope if I got any.

Joe had the chickens goin’ good and of course the committee was present.  It wuz about time to bring the birds off the grill when Johnny the Embalmer came striding in; he immediately went over to where Slash wuz and since I wuz sittin’ behind the bar right by them I could hear every word.

“Gotta problem”, Johnny the Embalmer said in his clipped Boston accent.  “Got caught embalming Billy at the funeral home and got kicked out of there.  Was lucky to keep my job”, Johnny the Embalmer announced.

“So what you tellin’ me that for; you got my eight hundred bucks, so I reckon you better come up with a purty good plan B”, the chairman said and looked right hard at Johnny.

“That’s why I’m here”, Johnny said, “thought maybe I could do the job over at your house.  I rent a room so there’s no way I can do it there”.  Slash laughed out loud and told Johnny the Embalmer to try again, and then stuck his index finger in the air like he did before and shouted “Eureka”.

“You can do it right here”, Slash said, “back there in the furnace room.  Since I am chairman of the ad hoc committee I have every right to make that decision and I have just done it”.

I started to say a little something ‘cause I really thought that the whole committee ought to make the move on that, but then thought better of it.

“Well where is the dear departed?” Slash asked.

“Wrapped up in a blanket in the back of my station wagon”, Johnny said.  “I was able to escape the funeral home with the super pump and I had already drained Billy and started loadin’ him up but I tell you it was a mighty slow go.  His arteries are like hard spaghetti.  Don’t you worry though; I’ll hang with the job and we will be ready at the appointed time”.

The look of concern left the Chairman’s face then and Johnny the Embalmer left to retrieve Billy and me and Slash moved the mops and mop buckets and a couple of garbage cans out of the furnace room so Johnny would have room to work.  Johnny brought Billy in through the back door; the door to the furnace room wuz right there so nobody even noticed anything.  Then Johnny the Embalmer snuck in his super pump and some tubing and a couple of jugs of embalming fluid and got set up.  Me and Slash stood inside the furnace room and watched while Johnny got everything ready; it took about fifteen minutes to get things rolling.  Reckon Johnny had already sewed Billy’s mouth shut cuz it wa’nt hangin’ open, and when I asked about it he verified that was exactly what he had done.  Johnny had Billy laying on his back and had pulled his shorts up to get a shot at the femoral artery.

“This is usually the best chance at getting the job done; seems to run in better down here”, Johnny said as he plugged in the pump.  The pump wuz not so awful loud and people were eatin’ and drinkin’ so nobody really paid any attention; ‘course we had the door shut tight.

“I’ll check back on him periodically, but right now I am gettin’ mighty thirsty”, Johnny the Embalmer said, grinning and showing missing teeth in the upper left corner of his mouth.  I kinda wondered ‘bout this, ‘cause I figgered an embalmer would make plenty of money and be able to take care of things like that; I even started ponderin’ if Johnny the Embalmer wuz really who he said he wuz.  Thought about bringin’ it up to Slash ‘bout maybe asking for some kind of proof that he wuz what he said he wuz, but then figgered it wuz a lil late in the ol’ game to worry about it so I went over and sat down.  But before I done that I did go behind the bar and get the key to the furnace room soz Johnny the Embalmer could have a secure situation.  The bunch at The Bar were purty accepting of most things, but havin’ somebody embalmed while they were munchin’ on Joe’s chicken just a few feet away might be a bit much, even for them.

Johnny the Embalmer would get up and go check on things in the furnace room ‘bout every thirty minutes; man could that boy drink.  He would down four beers in that thirty minutes and not even act like he had drunk anything.  I just sat quietly and thought about everything that had gone on and how Billy had always said that he wanted to have a huge party when he was gone and how he wanted it to be at the bar and how he wanted all the beer to be free.  Kinda got me to thinkin’ ‘bout somethin’ else, in particular that big ol’ bag of cocaine that he had in his office across the street.  More I thought about it the more I knew what was the right thing to do and also knew that Billy would surely want it that way soz I busied myself with retrieving that big ol’ bag.  When I got back I locked the door behind me; this special treat would be only for the ones in the bar, most of whom were long time regulars.  I am tellin’ you this was a big ass bag.  What I did was tear a little hole in the bottom corner and then I announced that I had a little treat but everyone needed to step away from the bar for a minute.  When the crowd cleared I walked down the short side of the L shaped bar and then turned the corner to the long side, all the while dispersing that purty white stuff in a line.  When I say it wuz a big bag I mean it; that line went a total of at least thirty feet, and it wa’nt no little skinny line.

That bar got awful quiet and then I pulled a dollar bill out of my pocket and rolled it up and snorted about two inches of that stuff and the party was on, everybody rolling up bills and following suit. Think about it—free beer and cocaine—just think about it.  Didn’t take long for things to get rollin’, and I mean rollin’ good.  For example, Johnny the Embalmer, who it turns out was quite a talker and especially with the women, had three girls around him and he was explaining how he “was a medical school dropout but had two years of study in the discipline of ‘Endotwotterology’”.  Lots of giggles on that one.  Then I had me another idea and I went over across the street again and returned with Billy’s “Nekkid Twister” game and set it up over in the corner.  Didn’t take long for that to get started; cocaine will usually get the clothes to flyin’. 

After a while Johnny went back in the furnace room and then came back and got me to help him.  When I went back there he wuz pulling the line out of Billy’s leg and wrapping the hole with duct tape, explaining that he normally sutured it but didn’t have his “sewing kit” with him.  Then he looked at me and said “why don’t we let Billy join in on the fun” and I agreed with him.  Hell, after all, it wuz Billy’s cocaine and beer.

“Bring me that straight backed chair over there and we’ll get this done”, Johnny the Embalmer said. I retrieved the chair and helped Johnny the Embalmer pick Billy up and set his ass up in the chair.  Ol’ Billy wuz purty stiff but every time we set him up he would slump over; Johnny stood back a few seconds and then said “hand me that roll of duct tape” and I give it to him. 

“Hold him up straight”, Johnny said, and I held Billy as Johnny made two runs around Billy’s torso with the duct tape.  “Reckon that’ll hold him”, Johnny said.  “Hell, if it’ll hold Junior’s fender together at two hundred miles an hour it’ll probly keep Billy erect”.  I nodded in agreement; if Billy was always about anything it was staying erect.  Haha..

Tell ya the truth I wuddn’t sure where ol’ Johnny the Embalmer wuz goin’ with this chair thing but it soon came to light as he said “grab the other side” and we hoisted the chair up and carried Billy out the door.

“Here, set him up on the pool table”, Johnny said, and when the people playing pool heard what Johnny said they cleared the table for us and we set him right up there in the middle of it.  We faced him toward the bar soz everybody could see him.

A big cheer went up from the crowd; nothin’ like lots of free beer and cocaine to make people happy.  The “Nekkid Twister” game was in full swing, two girls and two guys spinning the little dial and then contorting themselves into whatever spot it sent them to.  That game wuz always Billy’s favorite; he loved doing the spinning and stopping it in places where somebody’s head would be in a bush and such.

Black Rene and that Laura girl came walking over to the pool table and done something that I had never, ever seen before and most likely will never see again.  Billy had a habit of trying to entice gifted women to allow him to “peruse” their boobies.  His usual ploy wuz to get them over to his office and get ‘em likkered up and then get this big grin on his face and yell out “showmeurtitties”.  Both of these endowed ones had been exposed to this treatment to no avail but I guess they thought it would be kinda funny to finally let Billy have a look.  Black Rene and Laura looked at each and grinned, then “simontaneously” pulled their tops up, shouting “heresdatitties Billy”.  You talk about hoopin’ and hollerin’; the girls got a standing ovation as they pulled their tops down and went over to the bar to do another line.

Then Dennis, who had “lined up” a number of times, decided that the committee needed to address something, so he corralled Slash and Wanda and me and got us over in a corner for a little meeting.

“So what’s on your mind, Mr. Happy”, Slash said.  Slash wuz all the time fuckin’ with Dennis ‘bout his “overly optimistic outlook”.  Now we all like Dennis but he is the ultimate “glass half empty” fella.  Left Ventricular Pump Ron, the Sanford Mediator, said it best.  We had all been in the bar one day when Dennis wuz goin’ on ‘ bout something, ‘bout how he hated Dr. Pepper or some such shit, when Ron held his small hands up in the air the way he does when he is tryin’ to make a point and said “I swear Dennis, if you won the fuckin’ lottery you would say ‘now I gotta spend all this money’”. Everybody thought that was funny as hell, even Dennis.  So that wuz why Slash said what he did.

“We gotta figger out what to do with Billy after the viewing tomorrow night”, Dennis announced.  Dennis was wired up, his pupils looked like saucers. 

“You got a idea?” Slash asked.

“Sure as hell do; how ‘bout that body farm in Kentucky.  I got all the literature on it in my truck”, he said, grinning widely.  Dennis gets awful excited when he figgers he has got him a real good idea.

“You damn dumb ass, they don’t want no body that’s been embalmed.  What they do is monitor how they decay and weather conditions and such and him bein’ embalmed he wouldn’t decay naturally.  I swear Dennis, I’ll be damned if sometimes you don’t beat all, you know it?” Slash said.

A downcast Dennis sulked away over to the bar and ordered another beer. 

I know I said Billy had wanted everybody to have a real good time when he wuz gone but I must say I had to put my foot down that night.  Like I said the party wuz ragin’ and all was fine until the endowed girls came up with their idea.  Now I am not a prude but there is such a thing as respect for the dead.  This is what happened.

I seen them talkin’ together over there by the furnace room and wondered what in the hell they were up to when they rolled over the two mop buckets that had been taken out when Johnny the Embalmer wuz juicin’ Billy up.  The buckets were on wheels and were the long oval kind.  Next thing I know they had enlisted two of the larger guys in the bar to hoist Billy from the pool table.  Then they shoved each side of the chair legs down into the buckets; it worked out that it made a tight fit.  Then they started pushing Billy all over the bar, and I mean fast—so fast that I noticed his wispy strands of hair kinda blowin’ back over his head.  That wuz when I stepped in and made them put Billy back on the pool table.  And I let ‘em know that I wuz real disappointed in ‘em but they wuz so fucked up all they could do was laugh.

Funny thing about that cocaine; as fast as everybody got fired up, they came crashing down just as fast.  When that happened of course they wanted some more, and of course they wa’nt no more so they went on home.  The beer had run out too so I locked up when the last few went out the door.  We decided to leave Billy on the pool table and get things together when L. B. brought the box over the next morning.

I came in early, ‘cause the last thing Slash had told me the night  before wuz that we were gonna have a meeting of the committee at eleven o’clock Monday morning.  When I got there Slash, Wanda, and Dennis were waiting, sitting on the chairs out front drinking beer.  So I opened up and we all went inside.

“We gotta figger what to do with Billy”, Slash began, and we all nodded in agreement.

“Well you know they got that body”——Dennis started, but shut up when Slash shot him a withering look.  Then Slash threw his index finger into the air and shouted “Eureka”, like he always does when he thinks he has got him a humdinger of an idea.

“After the viewing tonight we can load him in the back of my pickup and I will haul him up to the mountains with me”, Slash announced, grinning broadly.  We all thought it wuz a fine idea; Slash told us he had a small backhoe at his mountain house up near Waynesville and that he could dig a nice hole and say a few words over him and that would be that.  We all agreed and then things got busy.  Two beer trucks had pulled up so the committee helped me stock.  Then L. B. showed up with Billy’s box and we got Billy all situated in that.  Wanda had gone to the K Mart and bought Billy a new shirt and a new pair of shorts, so they changed him into that.  Wa’nt nothing wrong with his “comfy loafers” so we just left them alone. 

The committee had agreed that the viewing would be from six to eight so I just locked the door and we all sat around and drank beer and smoked dope and told Billy stories.  It was a grand few hours.  A little before six I went over and unlocked the door since it wuz “getting’ down to the nut cutting”.  That wuz another of Billy’s favorite expressions, along with tappin’ out.  Anyway, people started filing in and standing around the coffin.  Of course the beer wuz free, but I noticed the atmosphere to be quite a bit more subdued than it wuz the evening before.  Reckon that cocaine crash had taken a toll.

Like I said, people were considerable more respectful, even saw a few tears wiped away.  There wuz one episode that kinda took people aback.  Black Rene and that girl Laura had been out drinkin’ all day at the White Oak Grill and when they come in you never heard such weepin’ and wailin’.  Reckon they wuz feelin’ guilty ‘bout ridin’ Billy around on the mop buckets.

So at eight sharp I shut off the juke box and the committee and L. B. carried the box out the front door and pushed it into the bed of Slash’s truck.  As the crowd walked out to wave goodbye to Billy Slash took me aside and said “play B 4 on the juke box” and then went on out and got in his truck.  Then the sound of J. C. and the Cavemen wafted through the air;

“Went to the front door to get a shine

Then go to the back door and get it from behind

Tappin that thing, great God almighty

Tappin that thing , great God almighty” It was Billy’s favorite song and as Slash pulled away the gathered crowd waved goodbye and the Cavemen sang “every morning and evening you can hear me tapping that thing”.

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