Dallas Dave

Ricky Hague was plodding down Crescent Lane, heading to the bank up on the main road through town, Highway 9. It was a hot August afternoon, so he was properly attired in a tank top proclaiming the great time to be had at the Meadowbrook Supper Club, workout shorts, and very worn Teva flip flops. Ricky was sweating profusely; he was 5’10” and 260 pounds, the stellar high school football player body a distant memory. He had made this trip from his rent subsidized little house down at the end of Crescent Lane in Ranlo to the bank every month now for over three years, ever since he had turned 62 years old and had become eligible for social security. The check was not much, only $700.00. ’cause Ricky had mostly worked odd jobs and he had taken his pay in cash. He was also carrying his wife’s check with him, her endorsement on the back.

  Ricky looked at Jane’s check; pay to the order of Jane Pickler $605.00– the absolute minimum social security payment. As he looked at the check, Ricky got real pissed off; her keeping her maiden name and not taking his was a sore spot with him. “If she truly loved me, she woulda done it, like she should have,” he said out loud, no one hearing him except the old lady sitting on the porch at the house on the corner. It was not a problem because she knew him, and often heard him talk to himself when he walked along the road, either going to the bank once a month, or walking to the little IGA grocery store, about a half mile up the road towards Highway 9. Ricky would stop at the store on the way back, and buy a few groceries. He never bought too many, for that would require a taxi ride; the loving couple did not own a car- another bone of contention in Ricky Hague’s mind.

  When Ricky and Jane had gotten together three years before, she had been driving a respectable looking Chevy Nova. Ricky had been rather impressed; he had not owned a vehicle for decades, except for a used moped that he had for six months a few years ago. When it died, he had just left it on the side of the road up near the Lowie Ice and Fuel Co. So, when the two had become re-acquainted at a high school reunion and Ricky saw what Jane was ‘toolin’ around in, he “went for it”; a month later they were married and living in his house on Crescent Lane. Everything rocked along fairly good, that is till Jane’s sister Jean showed up and took back her Chevy that she had loaned to Jane.

“Well, I never said I owned it,” Jane Pickler had told Ricky. “I reckon you done PRE-sumed sumpin.” she had said. This really pissed Ricky off, ’cause she said it all haughty and everything.

  So, Ricky Hague was walking to the bank, instead of riding high in a ten year old Chevy Nova. “Bitch” he thought to himself and at the same time rubbed the three inch long scar on the right side of his forehead. It had been there a long time,

since he had gone down on his 650 BSA motorcycle trying to beat a train across the tracks in downtown Dallas.  The good news was he won the race with the train; the bad news culminated with a head on helmet to tree trunk meeting with a large Sycamore tree after he lost control of the chopper on the other side of the tracks.

When Ricky Hague had awakened in Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, he was told that he had been in a very serious accident and that he had just emerged from a coma that had lasted two months.  When he babbled questions at the ICU nurses, he was told the neurosurgeon would be in to speak with him later that day.

  Ricky Hague trudged along while he thought of this, knowing that he was now only about a block from the little grocery store where he knew they would give him credit for a six pack of Icehouse ’cause they knew he was on his way to the bank with 

both checks.  When he got to the store, he went in and hit the beer cooler for the beer and told Becky at the cash register that he would be back in a while and asked if she would put four of ’em back in the cooler off to the side and let him take the other two with him.  She smiled and agreed and he left with two 16 ounce Icehouse beers in a poke.  He knew where to go, and walked behind to the little grove of pine trees at the rear of the store and sat down on a big rock and popped a top.

  It was hot as hell, and Ricky was sweatin’ like a big ‘ol’ hog as he drained the first pint.  He slowed down a little and sipped on the second one at a more leisurely pace, and thought about things. Ricky thought about when he had come out of the

coma, and he was told where he was and how the doctors would come to see him later that afternoon.  He had fallen asleep after getting that news and was awakened by a gentle touch on his knee by a pleasant looking fellow with nicely combed salt and pepper hair.  He was wearing a long white doctor’s coat and a nice smile.  Ricky remembered that the neurosurgen, Dr. Tyner, reminded him of Dr. Woody, the family dentist, who had a little office on Second Avenue in Gastonia.  Ricky also remembered how his momma, who had small gapped teeth, often times would lament to Dr. Woody that “sometimes I just feel like gettin’ you to pull out all these snags and fit me with some purty false teeth.”  Dr. Woody, the dentist, always gave her the same response, “Well, Sara, it would be a poor substitute, a very poor substitute.” That would do her for awhile, at least until the next appointment.

     Dr. Tyner began to speak.  “Ricky, I am Dr. Tyner, your neurosurgeon.  I understand that you already know what happened to you and that you have been in a coma for quite awhile,” Ricky nodded and Dr. Tyner continued.  “Now you will feel that

scar on your forehead and there is also an area on the back of your skull where we had to drill in to relieve pressure on your brain, but all of that went quite well; that is why we are able to have this conservation, for it was touch and go for quite awhile.  I must say, young man, that you are a pretty lucky fellow.”  At this point Ricky Hague engaged a weak smile. “You are going to have some things to deal with, Ricky, and at times it may be frustrating because you have experienced a quite severe brain injury.  You see, the brain, if dramatically jarred, undergoes changes; this is what has happened to you, and we never know under these circumstances exactly how the patient is going to be changed.  Sometimes it is very subtle, almost like nothing had ever happened, but this circumstance is rare.  More than likely, you will have some memory loss; typically this is more of the short term variety rather than the long term type,” Dr. Tyner said, pausing to hand Ricky a glass of ice water with one of those straws that flexed near the top so a patient could drink easily while slightly elevated.

  “What I am getting to, Ricky, is that your mind is going to work but maybe not as quickly as it did before.  I consulted with your family doctor, Dr. Will in Dallas, to get a little background, and he told me that you were a bright boy.  The bottom line is that things will probably not come as easily to you as far as your thinking ability is concerned.”  Dr. Tyner paused again and looked at Ricky to try to evaluate if his

speech was sinking in.

  “I always made good grades and I was a good speller too; you mean I won’t be as smart, don’t you?” Ricky asked, a tear forming in the corner of his left eye.  “I am telling you straight, Ricky, Dr. Tyner replied, “that is probably true, but you must remember that brain injuries are curious, and unpredictable.  So you must persevere and keep trying to do the best you can.  I want you to come see me once a year, and in

between, if you have a question, you can call me.  I am a busy surgeon, but I will return your call.”

   Ricky Hague stiffled a sob and thanked the doctor for all he had done.  “Now you will be discharged from here pretty soon, but I want you to take to heart everything I have said, okay buddy?” Dr. Tyner said, flashing his Dr. Woody dentist smile.

“And remember, you can call me,” the doctor said and exited the room.

  Ricky Hague drained the last of the 16 ounce Icehouse beer and sat on the rock at the little pine glen to rest before he resumed his journey.  He thought briefly of going back inside the IGA and taking another Icehouse for the road to drink along the way, but was sufficiently afraid of the Ranlo Police to abandon that idea.  He was halfway to the bank anyway, so he got up and set out once again.  After a little ways, he started thinking about his wife, Jane Pickler, and how she didn’t do nuthin’ but complain about her aches and pains and walk around the house with her loose housecoat on with nuthin’ and I mean nuthin’ on underneath.  In fact, just the other day, he had said something to her about the way she dressed.  It had been about ten o’clock in the morning, and they had both got up at their usual leisurely hour of nine, always staying up to watch one of the late night shows. Ricky had been sipping on his second cup of coffee and watching an old western on the TV when he noticed he hadn’t seen Jane for awhile.  It was about that time she came sashaying out of the bedroom, her lips all painted with some tube called ‘Chocolicious’, her cheeks rouged and garish, and I do mean garish, blue eye shadow on her eyelids.  She went right in front of the TV screen at a very important time, which had prompted Ricky to bark, “Move the hell out of the way!”  It was then he noticed all the makeup.  She had sat down and opened her housecoat up and everything else.  Ricky Hague looked at her; at her breasts that looked like deflated balloons, her beer belly protruding down below, ’bout where her tits stopped just short of her navel.  “Jane, you need to cover up,” Ricky had said derisively.  Jane had pulled her robe around her and stomped off back into the bedroom, leaving a chuckling Ricky in her wake.

  He was laughing ’cause it was the latest in a series of attempts by Jane Pickler to “spice up” their relationship.  Ricky’s interest in her, or for that matter, any woman, had waned greatly over the last few years, so Jane kept plotting new ways to entice Ricky into bed.  She had tried all kind of lingerie she had bought at the K-Mart, but it did not get a rise out of Ricky Hague. It was then she decided that it may be a bona fide medical problem, so she harangued him until he got checked out for “low T”.  When he came out okay on that test, she told him to ask his doctor about Viagra when he went for his annual physical.  “It don’t matter if it don’t work, at least we will have tried,” Wanda pleaded.  “Plus, Medicaid will pay for it,” she added. Ricky agreed, and the next time he went to see Dr. Fesperman over in Stanley, he asked about the “blue pill”.  Sure enough, the good doctor wrote a prescription for the maximum Medicaid would cover– ten pills a month.  Dr. Fesperman winked at Ricky Hague when he handed him the ‘scrip, “Now don’t get

carried away, Ricky, never more than one a day, and take it a half hour before.”  Ricky had nodded and left, not sure how he felt about the whole matter; however, he did know that it was what Jane wanted and she had been dead on right about asking the doctor for it.

  And all that had led up to why Ricky had made the sarcastic “cover up” comment.  The night of the day he got the Viagra, Jane Pickler ushered him off to bed, after being sure he took the 20 milligram blue pill thirty minutes before the planned “take off,” or “re-entry”’, or whatever it turned out to be.  Jane had watched dutifully as he gulped down the medicine, sending it away with the help of a half bottle of Icehouse.  Then they had watched a porno movie for the next half hour: this was another of Jane’s ideas- she had read about it in some magazine. Ricky watched the clumsy show, some remake of the naughty farmer’s daughter and the horny farm hand thing coming to a frenzied climax in the barn loft with the girl bent over a bale of hay.

   At the thirty minute mark, Jane turned off the movie and snapped her fingers, nodding her head toward the bedroom.  Ricky Hague got up slowly and tried to hide his annoyance at Jane’s manner.  “Why does she have to be so damned bossy?” he thought to himself as he followed her into the presumed love nest.  Then, of course, she made him help her take the twelve friggin pillows off the bed, (when it was over, he would be required to assist her in putting them back in a special stupid order.) “Control Freak” crossed his mind as Jane mercifully turned off the overhead light mounted on the fan.  That was another thing that bugged Ricky about his “bride”; she was so hot natured. Every room in the little house had to have a ceiling fan, and in the summer, she insisted on keeping the thermostat set at 70 degree, while Ricky wore a sweater.

   So, they plopped into bed and Ricky did notice that there seemed to be some unusual activity “down south”, something that had not happened in a very long time.  Jane Pickler had also caught wind of the action and immediately told him “Get on top.”

Ricky Hague followed her orders and climbed up, coming to rest on her ample beer belly. Ricky thought, “guess this is not so bad,” but that was about when Jane started giving orders like a drill sergeant; “Faster”, she shouted, “more to the right, no left,” she continued, finally telling him “slower.”

  Ricky Hague was having a little trouble processing all of the different things he was supposed to be doing, and he soon became frustrated, and as always, anger came fresh on the heels of the frustration until he grumbled, “this is too much like work”.  Ricky felt Jane go still, then she shoved him and shouted, “Well then, get the hell off!”

 After that episode, the pills were not mentioned again.  Ricky mulled this over as he got closer to the bank, thinking again how he had gotten ol’ Jane back with the “cover up” comment.  He was in sight of the Ranlo First Trust Bank when he got tired again and sat down on a bench at the bus stop.  Ricky started to think back to his accident and how Dr. Tyner had told him he could call him and how one morning Ricky had experienced something that he just had to check out with the neurosurgeon.

 Ricky’s thought processes were slower after the accident; he could tell this, even if Dr. Tyner had not warned him of the possibility, and he had come to terms with it.  That morning he had wound up calling the doctor he had been sitting out on the small deck at the rear of the house drinking coffee, not thinking much of nothing when he suddenly realized that he felt very very different. He felt like he used to, before the accident, and it was instantaneous!  Ricky couldn’t believe it, so he tested himself with spelling, something he used to be really good at.  He chose the first word that came into his mind–punctilious. “Punctilious” he said out loud. “P-U-N-C-T-I-L-I-O-U-S”.  Then just for good measure, he recited the meaning. “It means prompt,” he said to the stand of pine saplings in the rear of the yard.  Then he really got going. “Antidisestablishmentarianism –A-N-T-I-D-I-S-E-S-T-A-B-L-I-S-H-M-E-N-T-A-R-I-A-N-I-S-M,” he caroled to the back yard.  Getting absolutely giddy, he recited the definition.  “Opposition to

the withdrawal of state support or resignation from an established church, especially the Angilican Church of the 19th Century England,” he chortled to a pair of Blue Jays that were crapping on the worn deck.  Ricky then thought back to his favorite subject in high school -Latin- and his favorite teacher, Mrs. Ethel Faraday.  “She was a tough one, but a great one,” he said out loud, thinking of some of her favorite “threatening phrases” she would use when she was really trying to drive a point home.  “A word to the wise is sufficient”, she would say in a loud voice.

  Mrs. Faraday had silver grey hair and black eyebrows.   In the final analysis she was respected – she COMMANDED it, and she got it, or your ass was out the door.  Mrs. Faraday’s other defining characteristic, this one an audible one, was the swishing sound she made when she walked.  And she walked up and down the aisles a lot while the students were reading over something or doing an in-class assignment.  It was generally accepted that she wore pantyhose, and with her chubby thighs it was inevitable that they would rub together and create a distinctive nylon noise.

 The other phrase that had stuck in Ricky Hague’s formerly fertile brain was what she would say when she was really pissed-off, like if a bunch of the second year students had flunked a pop quiz.  Subsequent to announcing a “real test”’ to take place the next day, she would pause and say “and I expect great improvement or heads will roll.” Fortunately, everybody would bear down and study and do well on the test.  So Ricky and his fellow 2nd year Latin students never were subjected to the “head rolling”’.

     Ricky had been quiet while thinking about Mrs. Faraday and the two years of Latin as he sat on the deck reveling in his clear mental condition.  Then spontaneously, he started declining the Latin verb amo amar, properly speaking the infintive after the verb.  “Amo,Amas, Amat, Amamus, Amatis, Amant”, he literally shouted  towards the blue sky.  “I love, you love, he, she, it loves, we love, you (plural) love. they love”, Ricky screamed to the heavens.  Then he caught himself and realized that he needed to try to calm down, for he felt an urgent need to share what he had experienced with someone who would understand it – Dr. Tyner, his neurosurgeon.  “He did tell me to call him anytime, he really did!” thought Ricky as he dialed Dr. Tyner’s number.

     True to his word, the neurosurgen called Ricky back within the hour.  At the moment Ricky Hague heard the doctor’s voice, he talked non-stop for five minutes; recounting the clarity of mind and how quickly it had come on him; he even told him about the spelling and the Latin conjugation.  When he finally paused, Dr. Tyner calmly said, “Well Ricky, this incident is most extraordinary, but not unheard of, and I can tell that you are extremely excited to have experienced it.  I must caution you, as quickly as this crystal clear thinking, the kind that you had prior to the accident, descended upon you, it can disappear in the same fashion.  Although there have been documented cases of full recovery of the faculties that last forever, it is extremely rare; overwhelmingly the experience is fleeting.  That is not to say that it doesn’t return, and typically with the identical clarity as the previous episode.  Ricky, you may remember that I once compared the mental changes you could have with the focusing of a camera lens; the way you have been since the injury is comparable to a camera lens that’s a little out of focus, but what you are experiencing right now is akin to that lens being turned until it is in sharp focus, perfect definition.”

     Ricky continued his babble about how excited he was and the doctor listened patiently.  Finally he said, “Ricky, I won’t give you false hope, but you could be that one in a million patient that becomes completely restored, but please don’t count on it.  Enjoy how you are now and, again, call me anytime, okay?”  Ricky thanked the doctor and hung up.

     He was still sky high when somehow the song “Blowin’ In The Wind” rolled through his mind . “Oh yeah,’ he thought, ‘that’s by Bob, uh, Bob,uh, Bob”.  Then he stopped and tried to remember anything about Latin Class in high school and came up blank.  Finally, he had tried to spell the word “inexorable”- “I-N-E-C-K-S-O-R-A-B-E-L”- he had said out loud, and then he had gone tearing into the house to get his dictionary, only to realize on his way back that he was helpless.  He was sure that his attempt was not even close and that looking in the book would be a total exercise of futility.  It was at that moment, sitting on the back deck of the little rent subsidized house on Crescent Lane in Ranlo, that he understood that his clear thinking had subsided – more like vanished.  He did remember the camera lens comparison offered by Dr. Tyner, and nodded his head in agreement with what the doctor had suggested more than likely would happen.

     Ricky was pretty much rested up after sitting on the bus stop bench while he had recollected the “clear thinking” episode.  It made him feel sad when he thought of it, and he felt worse when he recalled what had happened subsequent to that curious experience on the deck.  Ricky had become so profoundly depressed that he did not leave the little house for a week.  He slept…a lot— and occasionally watched a western on TV, but mostly slept.  The “clear thinking” high had been so intense and the plummet after it had gone away so devastating, that the only thing he could compare the feeling to was one time when he was in service and had gone on a two day cocaine binge.  It had been the most fun he had ever had in his life; what power and joy he had felt.  After the three hundred dollars worth of the white powder was gone he had slept for 36 hours and had been sooo lethargic and depressed for three more days.  That was how it had been after the “clear thinking”, except worse, more intense.

     Ricky trudged the last half mile to the bank wondering if the “clear thinking” episode had been worth it.  After pondering until he got close to the bank, he finally concluded that it was worth it; he was sure it was and he knew he would be ever vigilant to the “spells”, watching for them tirelessly.  After cashing the checks and putting $300.00 in their paltry savings account, Ricky Hague resumed his trek.  This time he made it all the way to the IGA grocery store and went in to retrieve the four 16 ounce Icehouse beers and buy a twelve pack of the elixir.  He thought of buying some groceries, but ‘membered that there was enough food at the Crescent Lane abode for several days; cereal and milk for breakfast, sandwich stuff for lunch, and the cheap ass Swanson frozen dinners that he and his bride had virtually every night. “Looks like the sorry bitch could cook once in awhile!” Ricky complained to himself as he went back behind the IGA and sat down on the big rock among the little grove of pines.  He thought of Jane Pickler’s “busy, busy days” as she called them.  Near as he could tell, all he ever saw her do was drink beer and watch soap operas and shit like Judge Judy and Jerry Springer.  As he drained the Icehouse and popped the top off another one, he thought how he had become acquainted with Jane…really acquainted, and he had company.

     It had been a Saturday night when they both were still in high school.  Ricky had been hanging out at the “Shamrock Grill” down there at the Dallas crossroads.  It was run by a nice old guy from Lincolnton, Harry Fox, who was a great short-order cook, his specialties being burgers and dogs, and the “creme de le crème”, a thick sliced baloney burger with onions.  The Shamrock Grill was a great late night hangout for the high school guys.  They would get down there about 10:30 after taking their dates home, if they had one, and get something to eat, then occasionally go out back to the gravel parking lot to drink beer and “shoot the shit”.  On the night of the “communal acquaintance”, Ricky got there at the usual time after taking his date home; it had been a girl from over near Stanley named Myra and he had been “less than lucky”.  This had really pissed him off, since the word was that she would “do” anybody!

      While he sat on the ancient revolving stool, upholstered with mangled green plastic, he realized he was hungry and ordered a cheeseburger.  “Foxy”, as the proprietor was known, immediately caroled out “cheeeeeeeseburrrgerrrr” and headed to the grill.  This was a habit the restauranteur had and the guys got a kick out of it.  Whenever anyone ordered, he would call it out drawing out the syllables; thus”’cheeeeseburrger, hot dogggg, bulllonney”, etc.  Foxy was in his mid sixties and always wore a Holsum Bakery hat cocked back on his bald head.  The second thing he was famous for was his “party records”.  Late at night, if he knew all of his clientele, he would give them a treat by locking the doors and playing his “party records”.  These records were a couple of very bawdy 45s filled with sexual innuendo; for example, The Golf Game (a favorite with the group), featured a man and woman talking about playing golf.  The woman says “Well you hit that ball and it soars and soars and soars”, then the guy says, “Well I reckon if my ball gets hit, it would be sore too!” This commentary would be followed by a lot of raucous canned laughter.  There was another record they all liked, but Ricky could not recall the name of it.  It was things like that that frustrated him.  He could remember some events and circumstances, but not others.  It was at times like this he hoped and prayed as hard as he could for a “clear thinking” spell. Ricky was not real sure which was the best way to go when you wanted something real bad, hoping or praying, so he figgered he would do both.  He seriously doubted he would have another “spell” soon, but if he just let things flow lightly, like he was doing about the Shamrock Grill, he could typically recollect some things.

     Ricky took down the last of the second Icehouse and went back to enjoying his “light” remembrances, going back to the Shamrock Grill and the times they had there.  It took him a minute to remember where he had left the scenario, but then recalled the “Golf Game” record and got back on track, though at times it was a fuzzy one.  However, one memory stuck purty good, and it was about Regis Harwood and his sexual exploits.  Regis was a tall, dark, good looking boy of seventeen.  He had enough Cherokee Indian in him from his momma’s side to give him two things…high cheek bones and a high susceptibility to hard liquor.  Regis would go crazy if he got drunk on liquor, but this particular night, he was only a little high when he pulled up in the parking lot sipping on a “Blue in a Bottle”. He was in a bragging mood and right away set to tellin’ how Roy McGunt had given him ten dollars to go off and give him a blow job.  Roy was a notorious local homo, surpassed only by the more infamous Archie Winston.  While Regis Harwood was very popular with the girls (and got plenty of their stuff), he still got a kick out of goin’ off with Roy.

    Regis was a good story teller and reveled in telling of the encounter with graphic accuracy.  Lots of laughter, and “you don’t mean it!” were supplied by his audience.  Ricky Hague remembered that he was no different from the other guys that hung out at the Shamrock; they all kinda figgered that getting paid to let somebody “blow you off’” was pretty cool!  It was years later, when Ricky thought back to those days, that he came to the realization that Regis was describing a homosexual act that he played a part in.  Ricky wondered if Regis Harwood thought back to those days, and if he did, if he looked at the circumstances any differently.

    Regis Harwood’s recounting of his jovial “experience” was not the highlight of the evening, for while everybody was standing around drinking beer and bullshitting Zeke Taylor rolled up in his daddy’s old Rambler station wagon.  Zeke was a quick witted good looking fella who went with one of the prettiest girls in the high school, but he also was a wild ass.  Tonight he had brought a female “wild ass” companion to the grill— Jane Pickler.

     Ricky Hague knew who Jane Pickler was and her reputation.  The word on the streets of Dallas was that nobody was turned away (she had even done several black football players).  So, Ricky was not shocked when a drunken Zeke Taylor rolled out of the Rambler and very gentlemanly opened the passenger door to escort Jane Pickler to the rear of the station wagon where he opened the back, dropped the tailgate, spread a blanket on the surface (with the back seat folded down it was a good nine feet deep), and in typical Zeke Taylor comedic fashion, he turned toward the gathered crowd, bowed at the waist and crowed, “Have at it boys, I’ve had all I want tonight!”  These words prompted a cheer from the gathered.  At this point Jane Pickler pulled up her skirt showing no panties, giggled, and hopped into the back of the station wagon.  Naturally, of course, Regis Harwood ran to the Rambler and was inside with his pants off and rocking that Rambler before you knew it.  After about five minutes and some hollering by both of them, Regis emerged pulling up his pants and sporting a big grin.  “Well boys, you can’t be first, but you can be next!” he chortled and then killed a proffered longneck PBR.  This pronouncement was greeted with more cheers and the immediate formation of the ten guys that had not yet partaken of the Pickler “stuff” that eve.

     Ricky Hague had just watched, reluctantly settling in the back of the “Jane” line; this carrying on was well beyond his normal sexual experience.  That was due to the fact that Ricky had never had any real sexual experience.  About the time the line was half diminished, Zeke Taylor, (comic that he was), addressed the group.  “Fellas, I was reading a National Geographic story today about the endangered Red Wolf.  They have been trying to re-introduce these wolves back into the wild and they are doing it by breeding the wolves in captivity then turning them loose when they can fend for themselves.  They had this stud wolf only known by a number, 414, and he had sired a bunch of these wolves.  The thing that caught my interest was that they mentioned he had a ‘stud card’, which reflected each time he mated with a female.  What I am thinking is, we oughta give Ol’Regis here a ‘stud card’, and number one on the card will be Roy and we’ll install Jane Pickler in the number two position, since ole’ Regis Harwood got a double header tonight”.  All the guys hee-hawed at this speech, especially Regis, and it got even funnier when Zeke produced a little notebook and inscribed the two names under the heading ol’ number 414.

     Ricky Hague popped the top of the third Icehouse as he sat on the rock enjoying his “flow lightly” recollection process, sorta marveling that it was going on for so long.  Then figgerin’ he best not tempt fate, his mind went back to the parking lot at the Shamrock Grill where he had arrived at the tailgate of Zeke Taylor’s daddy’s old Rambler station wagon, (which was also the gate to the mystery of coitaldom with JanePickler).  By this time most of the guys had gone home, only Regis Harwood and Zeke Taylor remaining.  As Ricky stood there and looked into the back of the station wagon, he had a sudden urge to flee, but was saved from that ignominious moment by the following words from Jane Pickler, and she said them soft and low.  “It’s your first time, ain’t it sugar?”  Ricky’s first impulse was to deny it, but that quickly passed as he said “Yes” in a low, apologetic voice.  There was enough light from the parking lot for Ricky to see Jane’s face; she had applied fresh lipstick and was smiling sweetly at Ricky.  He remembered thinking that Jane had probably gone through a whole tube of lipstick with all the activity tonight, but he said nothing and climbed in the back of the car.  Jane was very patient with him as he fumbled with his pants, even helping him take them off, and helping even further by making sure he “got to attention”.  Customarily, first experiences for men are short lived, and Ricky was no exception.  Jane Pickler hollered and moaned like a hellcat, just like she had done with every other guy that night.  Then she held him, very lovingly, for a long time, and was still doing that when Zeke Taylor came over and shouted “Y’all get some clothes on, I gotta go!”  Ricky and Jane were quietly getting clothed in the back of the Rambler when she murmered “Would you take me home?”  Ricky Hague readily agreed and they went to his car quickly; Zeke Taylor said nothing, only waving as he sped out of the gravel parking lot.  Regis Harwood had also departed, and Foxy had already headed home to Lincolnton, so the two of them were alone.

     Jane Pickler’s house was only a few miles away, over near Harden School.  The car was cloaked in silence as they neared her house, Jane being a little “fuckered out”, and Ricky basking in the glory of the loss of his virginity.  When they got there, Ricky walked Jane to the door and kissed her goodnight.  She looked at him, smiling, and said, “Congratulations!”  Jane looked at Ricky Hague; a knowing look.  Jane Pickler could smell “shy” at a hundred yards, but had vanquished that emotion countless times; Ricky proved to be no exception.  “You’ll be alright Ricky, ’cause that was the best stuff you ever had!”, Jane said laughing, knowing full well it was the ONLY stuff Ricky had ever had.

     After that memorable night, Ricky rarely saw Jane Pickler, and never went out with her.  Shortly thereafter, Jane got hooked up with some nerdy guy from Gastonia who drove a hot 57′ Chevy, and before you knew it, she was married.  Ricky Hague went off to college, floundered around, droppped out and joined the Air Force to avoid the draft.

     Ricky finished his Icehouse and thought about how it was just after he got out of the service that he had the accident.  He was twenty three years old when it had happened and Ricky often thought of how he would give anything to alter that life changing moment.  “Lot of good it does to think about that” he said out loud as he resumed his trek, remembering the time honored aphorism “shit in one hand and wish in the other one and see which one fills up first”.  Ricky tried real hard to remember where he had heard that, but the beers and the muddled thinking joined forces and he only got a headache for his trouble.

     Within sight of his little Crescent Lane hovel, Ricky started to feel the beginning of the “clear thinking” feeling once again; he actually visualized a camera lens being out of focus and then being turned ever so slightly until the picture was perfectly clear and the definition flawless.  He made it to the front stoop of his house and plopped down, his mind racing.  “If used adjectivally, the word separate means not connected to anything else, but if one were using it as a verb, it means to keep things apart.  The adjective is pronounced sep-a-rut and the verb is pronounced sep-a-rate,” Ricky chortled as he opened another Icehouse.  Ricky had always loved words, especially the words that seemed contradictory, like the words flammable and inflammable.  These were two of his favorites.  Ricky stood on the stoop and recited “How curious that the words flammable and inflammable mean the same thing, especially since the prefix ‘in’ means not.”  Ricky was grinning from ear to ear and thrusting his finger into the air as he rambled on about these two words, stopping periodically to spell something.  When Ricky got in the mode he would stand erect, recite the word, spell it, give the definition, and then say the word again.  “Equivocate”, he shouted, near a state of delirium,” E-Q-U-I-V-0-C-A-T-E, to change one’s mind repeatedly, to be indecisive, Equivocate.”  Ricky dared not think about it too seriously, but he could not help wondering if he were going to be that “one in a million” patient that would fully recover from a brain injury.

     Jane Pickler had heard the commotion outside and had come to the front window.  It was there she saw her husband, Ricky Hague, shouting and gesticulating wildly and spelling and hollerin’ some stupid shit ’bout flammable and inflammable meaning the same thing.  “Humph”, snorted Jane, “even I know that “in” is a prefix meaning not,” she thought to herself.  Ricky had told her about the possibility of the “clear thinking’” spells before, but she had never seen him have one, and had never heard of him having one.  “I’m sure he woulda told me about it,” she said aloud as she stood and listened to Ricky go on.  She had not seen him act like this since high school.  She knew he was smart then, but she knew that he purty much didn’t give a shit about anything other than football and trying to be the “baddest ass” around.  She remembered he had whipped Clark Walters, the golden glove boxer, but he had also taken some pretty bad hits at a Stanley baseball game, being ushered out of the small stadium by a uniformed security officer.  So, after listening to him go on for a little while, she concluded that he was having one of those “spells” Dr. Tyner had spoken of.  The thought of Ricky acting like he did in high school and having a mind like he had then gave Jane pause, a very long pause, for thought.

     “If he stays like this, he’ll never stay with me”, Jane said out loud.  Jane knew her mental capabilities, knew them well, and was totally aware of her intellect.   “Guess my sisters got all the smarts, and I got all the horny,” she thought to herself. Jane wondered how to deal with this, since Ricky had told her everything Dr. Tyner had told him, including the remote chance that if he ever had one of those “clear spells”, it could last forever.  Jane thought of what Ricky Hague would probably do, and she did not like the conclusion she had reached.

     “He’ll leave my sorry ass,” she figgered as she watched her husband pontificating on the front porch.  “He sure is goin’ on somethin’ fierce,” she thought, as she heard him shout, “and, oh yes, separate can also be nominal, meaning an article of dress designed to be worn interchangeably with others to form various costume combinations.”  Jane watched her husband cavort about on the front porch; it made her want to puke!  “He is thinkin’ he’s so friggin’ smart, and I guess he is, compared to how he has been,” she decided, trying to figure out how to handle this crazy situation.

     Jane sensed she needed to do something, and actually sat down and tried to do something very, very difficult– think in a logical fashion.  She sat there in her chair in her worn housecoat and gave it a shot, (a very trying ten minutes), and finally came up with a plan.  She went to the door and called to Ricky Hague, “Sweetheart, it’s almost time for ‘Jeopardy'”.  Jane knew he could never resist this moment.  At this time, he was going on about the word “sanction”, and how used one way it essentially meant to condemn, and used another way it meant to endorse.  When he heard the word “Jeopardy”, his wild, wide eyes lit up even more and he headed through the door.  Jane was standing three feet inside.  As he entered, Jane. wound up and came around with the 8″ cast iron frying pan that she had been holding at her side and cold-cocked Ricky Hague on the exact spot of his brain injury scar.  Ricky went down immediately, lying on his back in the living room.  Jane looked at her work approvingly for a few minutes, then went to the bathroom to retrieve a small round mirror, the kind that has the magnification on one side.  She placed the mirror under his nose and watched the mirror fog up.  She then went over to her chair to think for a while.  For the next half an hour she got up every little bit and checked on Ricky Hague’s breathing with the mirror, and smiled each time when she confirmed that she had not killed him.  When she was not checking on hubby’s respiration, she reflected on her decision.  She had done a little reading on brain injuries, and had paid special attention to the sections concerning the possibility of frustrations, belligerence, and even violent actions on the part of the victim.  Those words had given Jane her “out”.  If Ricky continued on his “clear thinking’” forever she was satisfied she was a goner, but Jane thought that a well-placed blow to the same spot on his head might impede, or eradicate, any chance of his going back to the way he was before the motorcycle accident.

     Jane smiled as she tore her house coat in several places, then balled her fist and hit herself in the face several times, rejoicing in the fact that a little blood dripped from her lip.  Jane was now ready.  At eight o’clock, she would make the 911 call and tell all about the “attack’” perpetrated by her brain injured husband.  But now she turned on the television to ABC, for it was 7:30 and time for Wheel of Fortune…

5 Responses

  1. Hi Dave, You are very good with the technical aspects of writing. You are also very good at creating atmosphere and setting. I can feel the weight of the environment on these characters and I feel depressed just reading about these characters and their lives. You give a good portrayal of character flaws, but I also want to see some redeeming qualities in Ricky’s and Jane’s characters. Given how these characters are portrayed, why do either of them want to stay with each other?

    From a woman’s perspective, I question what Jane derives out of serial sex in the back of a car? What is her background that she would be willing to let every man have her?She is certainly not deriving any sexual pleasure. I wasn’t sure if I missed something but did Zeke collect money from the other men after sex? What is his motivation to let the men have sex with her? Also, what motivates her to want to have sex with Ricky? He does not seem physically or emotionally appealing, so why is she so desperate to have sex with him. You would think given her promiscuity that she would look outside the marriage if Ricky did not want a sexual relationship, but she obviously has not. These things happen, but as the reader, I want to understand why they are happening.

    I have never met a patient in all my years of neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation that had spontaneous, temporary return of their cognitive functioning? Improvement is usually gradual and can even come in some leaps, but I have never seen a brain injured person respond the way Ricky is responding. That said, you are writing fiction and you do not have to adhere to reality all the time. That’s why fiction is so wonderful, because it lets you tell a story that nonfiction would not.

    Let me repeat, you are excellent at the technical aspects of writing. I wish I was as good as you, but i”m not:) You are very good at creating atmosphere and portraying flawed characters that are really down and out. I would encourage you to think about any redeeming qualities you can give to Jane and Ricky. Did he just marry her for her car? Why did she marry him? I want to understand what positive feelings if any are between Jane and Ricky and why do they stay with each other despite the apparent hatred for each other.

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