The Hoodoo Honky Tonk

The Hoodoo Honkey Tonk

for Stev Jam*

Taking the backroads from Allendale
to Statesboro, I spotted
a hand painted road sign that read

“Hoodoo Honky Tonk two miles ahead.”

Beneath it, nailed to the same post,
a smaller sign, with two words:

Cold Beer.

It was just now getting dark.
I was about halfway there.
Hey, why not? A couple of beers
might do me good, so I
slowed down so not to hurtle
past and have to turn back around.

There it was, just ahead,
on the right, a tar paper
shack with a rolling sign up front,
a couple of letters missing:
Ho Doo Honk Tonk.

The door was propped open
with a brick and a window
with a lit-up Bud Lite sign.

Dark inside, a roughhewn bar
in the back. Against a wall sat
a conked-out jukebox you could tell
quit working a good whiles back.

One customer on a stool.
A fat boy behind the bar.
The customer a woman
facing out. Couldn’t
of weighed more than eighty pounds.
Something bad wrong
with her, late-stage cancer
I would guess.

“Hello, stranger,” she said.

Her voice – how to describe
her voice? – imagine two sheets
of sandpaper soaked in ‘shine
scarping against one another
rasping raspier than a rasp.

She wore an Atlanta Braves cap,
her stringy grey hair pulled back
into a ponytail, a fashion faux pas
cause you could see her jug ears
sticking out like a satellite dish.

“Good evening, Ma’am,” I said.

“All we gots is beer.
Pabst, Bud Lite, Miller, Miller Lite,
and Schlitz Malt Liquor in a can.”

“A Bud,” I said, “that sounds alright.”

“Lonnie” she rasped, “get this gentleman a Bud.”

“I ain’t deaf.” he snarled.

“You own the place?’ I asked.

“Yep, but not for long. Doc says I got days left,
a week or two at the longest.”

Damn, what do you say to that?

“Damn, sorry to hear,” I said.

“Look, Mister. I need a favor, a huge one.
I wouldn’t ask if
I wasn’t desperate.”

“Oh shit,” I thought, “stopping here was a mistake.”
I could see now she was all drugged out
or drunk or both.

“I need you to make love to me,
a man to make love to me
one last time, to remember
what it feels like. Ain’t no one
come in here no more. I ain’t got
to kin, no friends, just Lonnie
over there who is as sick and tired of me
as I am of him.”

Damn, what do you say to that?

“Um, I wish I could, could accommodate you,
but I have this fiancée. (A better lie
would have been that I was gay,
but I’ve never been too good
at thinking on my feet).

She sort of snarled a smile.
“It would be a saintly act,
but I understand.”

In the long silence,
a couple of trucks swooshed past.

“How much do I owe you,” I asked.

“On the house, baby doll. Money don’t
mean nothing to me no more.
Nothing means nothing
to me no more. No friends,
no kin. In a year my memory
will disappear, nobody will
remember that once I was a pretty
good looking redheaded gal.
No trace of me left.
Nobody will remember me.”

“Wait, a minute,” I said.
“I’m a writer who sometimes
gets shit published. I could write
this story, and in the story
make love to you, pick you up
and carry you like a child
to that trailer across the road.
People would read the story
for years maybe. You’d be
remembered.”

She looked at me long and hard.

“Fuck you,” she said.
“It’s time for you to run along.”

So, I left but halfway wished
I’d given it a try.

“A saintly act” she had said.


  • I.e., the blues guitarist Steve James

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