Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Redneck, The Pre-Op Tranny, & The Pool Shark Who Never Was

Every single word written here is an extraordinary exaggeration of events that have played out in my head... based on the stories I have heard from people I have met in jail or while I was dealing with my own stupidity and carelessness, resulting from my own addiction to alcohol and drugs. This is in no way a glamorization of drug use, but a tool to lend some humanity to a subculture that has been demonized and written off as a hopeless and worthless part of our human family. I do not condone or promote any of the behavior or activities herein.

Chapter Sixteen

            Our day developed quickly after Milly came and went, or it developed in a complicated way, and it got complicated very quickly.  
            Milly’s visit was short and to the point.  Nobody really talked about what had transpired at her house earlier that morning, but nobody really had to.  Milly didn’t stick to the plan of cash only transactions, and left the house with close to 4 grams after having only given us twenty-five dollars and close to eight boxes of various kinds of pills containing pseudoephedrine. 
           I looked questioningly at Bull as he accepted questionable payment, and then I found myself busy popping the pills out of the blister packs onto the table and then sliding them off the edge in front of me and into a plastic zipper baggie.             Bull’s phone lit up and vibrated with an incoming text message.  Bull slid the phone open, read it quickly, texted a couple of quick words, and then slid the phone shut again.
            “I guess the word must be out," Bull said vacantly.  "That was my cousin, Dale.  I guess he’s on his way out here with some cash and trade.”   
            The only thing I knew about Dale was that he scrapped iron for a living and that his wife was blind, and so big that she rarely got out of the truck that they drove everywhere.  The truck actually leaned towards the passenger side when Dale made a rare solo-appearance to the farm.  Sometimes he would sit in the farmhouse with us for hours getting high while his wife sat idly in the passenger seat of their pickup truck in the driveway.  Once in a while we would here her scream something from the window of the truck, or Dale would get a text message on his phone and he would run out there with a loaded pipe to get her high in the driveway, and then he would be back in the house for the remainder of his visit.  
           He was kind of a strange guy, but we obviously weren’t being real picky about who we unloaded our product to today.  Incidentally, Dale’s son had just gotten sent to prison for the part he had played in stealing some anhydrous ammonia from a local farmers co-operative and "transporting it illegally"... a felony.  Personally I thought the kid was lucky to be alive, as the car he was running from the cops in had gone off the road into a newer area of a cemetery and destroyed 5 large monuments.  The crash tossed everything in the car and ruptured the compressed-air tank he was using to transport the juice.  If he had knocked himself unconscious in the collision he would have surely died from breathing the toxic fumes.  Sometimes I guess you got lucky... and only get sent to prison.
            After Dale’s text came another text from a woman named Charlene who was one of Bull’s longest associates.  Bull told me that Charlene was also coming out with her new boyfriend, Ron.  New people were always complicated, but since it was Charlene bringing this guy out here, I guess Bull didn’t think twice about it.  What Bull and I didn’t know is that I was already familiar with Charlene’s boyfriend.  
           I thought Charlene was interesting because she was dating this guy Ron, whom I had met several years earlier in a bar I was at with my wife.  Charlene’s boyfriend, Ron --the first time I met him-- was dating a peculiar friend of my wife who just so happened to be a pre-op transsexual (meaning there was still a package, as the envelope hadn’t been opened yet) named Bobbi Lynn.  Bobbi Lynn was an oddity in rural Southern Illinois, exaggerated and overstated by her affinity for dressing like an eighties groupie… and Bobbi Lynn had no shame about who or what he/she was.  Personally I thought Bobbi looked like a member of some glam-metal rock band from a bygone musical genre.  This was comically illustrated by the fact that she was dating and living with a guy like Ron --a man who for all intensive purposes seemed as though he was as close-minded and rednecked as every other proud, pickup-truck owner in the area.  

          This was a man who attired himself in cowboy boots, Stetson hat, starch-stiffened-button-down shirt, vest and --no shit-- a bona fide bolo tie.  When he talked, he talked with such a frustratingly tooth-deficient, quick southern drawl that I could only understand every third word of what he said... if I was lucky.  

         In order to absorb what seemed to me like brazen audacity --in the form of this twilight-zone inspired romantic pairing that I had come to recognize in a reputably rough-n-tough bar that night-- I intentionally asked the guy to shoot pool while proceeding to pound shots of whiskey and slam countless beers in my hopes of avoiding any awkward conversations about a lifestyle situation I had always claimed tolerance of, but given wide-berth to for my own comfort.  I found that being drunk and having to listen to Ron’s hyper-ridiculous drawl was amusing enough without having to get an unsolicited lesson in redneck, white-trash, sexual deviance... while my wife and her peculiar and out-of-place friend, Bobbi Lynn, uncomfortably ogled us from their seats at a lonely table on the far side of the bar.
            Years later, when Charlene walked through the farmhouse door with Ron, there was an immediate and uncomfortable silence between Ron and I that must have been confusing to everybody but he and I.  Bull took vocal notice of the awkwardness between Ron and I without hesitation.
            “Have you guys met or something?” Bull asked the three of us, the question taking Charlene by surprise, as she had no idea that I knew Ron.
            Ron turned and cocked his head towards me, acting as though he was trying his damnedest to place me… but I could see frightened and suspicious recognition behind his stare.  Recognition and something else I was familiar with… a silently pleading hope that I wouldn’t out him right here in front of his new girlfriend and their dope cook.  
           As they each sat down at the round table, I turned my head towards Ron so that Bull and Charlene couldn't see half of my face and winked with the eye only he could see.  I was letting him know that if he was keeping a secret that I was the only person in this room who knew, it was safe with me for the time being... as I had no intention of trying to out him or embarrass him today.  In fact, it was usually helpful to have some kind of dirt on just about everybody who Bull or I conducted any kind of business with.  From the first desperate look in Ron’s eyes, this was just the kind of dirt that I liked to play in.
            “Yeah… yeaaaaah..." I nodded and turned back towards Bull.  "I met this fucker a couple of years ago at that Clown House of a bar in Littleton.  He lost his ass to me in pool that night, I think… That was you, wasn't it Ron?”  I stuck my hand out to shake his and reassure him that he was safe for the moment.  He was quick and relieved to shake my hand.
            “Yep… I sure did… yessiree mister.  Lost my ass reeeeeeeal good, I reckon.”  He still hadn’t lost that ridiculous way he talked, but it was a little easier to understand him now.  It appeared as though he had gotten some replacement teeth for the ones he had been missing on the night that I had met him years ago.
            “So, what’s with the air being so thick around here?” Bull asked me directly.  I wasn’t sure he was gonna buy any story I told, but any story would at least buy me some time so I wouldn’t have to drag Ron’s past out right here before a dope deal.
            “Well, honestly, I think it’s probably because ol' Ron here never paid up on the last game we bet on that night...”  I was laying it on pretty thick, so my only hope of not raising any red flags with Bull was to lay it on even thicker.  “See... I sharked ol' Ron here pretty good that night and he called me out on it after that last game.  As I recall, and correct me if I'm wrong Ron," I glanced over at him, "I finally got him to go double or nothin' on twenty-five bucks after we had traded a couple of five-dollar bills back and forth all night on previous games.  Ron was pretty tipsy by the time I dropped that twenty-spot on top of our five-dollar bet..." I paused and lit up a cigarette, then continued, "you know, to 'make things interesting?'  So, anyways, we had been drinking shots of bourbon between games... well... to be honest," I winked at Ron again, this time everybody could see, "mostly ol' Ron was drinking the bourbon, I was spitting mine back into my beer bottle." I laughed as Ron's head suddenly snapped to watch me spin this outrageous fabrication about events that had never transpired... but I was pretty sure he wasn't going to dispute my recollection of events at this point.  In fact, he was probably wishing my tall-tale was true.  
          "Continue..." Bull beckoned as his eyes widened and a grin spread across his face.  
          "Indeed," I said and carried-on.  "Well, I guess Ron never noticed that I had been nursing that same beer most of the night while we played... and he was pretty buzzed when we played the first game for twenty-five bucks... which, you know, he won... as I seemed to be getting pretty sloppy myself.  We went back to the bar and ordered a few more shots.  Ron must have been feeling pretty confident when I pulled out another twenty-bucks... which I sadly reported was all the money in my pockets, and insisted he give me one last chance to win my money back." I was rolling now, and having fun too.
        "Oh Ron... you didn't?" Charlene asked him.  Ron only shrugged and kept watching me lie.
        "Well, sure he did," I said and laughed.  "At that point he had won a couple of games in a row, and I was missing some real gimme's... and looked pretty faded." I took a deep breath.  "I made a stupid mistake though..."
        "Yeah, what was that Pool Hall Paul?" Bull asked.
        "Well, I let ol' Ron rack 'em up for me without seeing his money." I sighed dramatically and shook my head feigning shame.  "You know what happened next?"  Bull and Charlene began shaking their heads silently, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Ron shaking his too... So did Bull. His attention swiftly fell on Ron's mistake and his brow furrowed before he looked back at me.  I winked at Bull and said, "Eight-ball break."
        Charlene gasped, snorted a giggle, and asked, "You're kidding me?"
        Bull shook his head in frustrated disbelief and turned towards his safe, where he was muttering something under his breath while he went about retrieving his dope box.
        "Yeah, I'm kidding around, but I did run the table on Ron that game... before he ever had a chance to cue up.  Ron cussed me a little when he realized what I had done, but we shook hands and agreed that there were no hard feelings... but I was pretty sore when ol' Ron said he had to get his money from the truck and never came back." 
       Bull looked up from what he was doing and smiled deviously.
       "So, that must have been why the air got thick for a second," I said and laughed.
       "Yessir... guilty as charged," Ron was shaking his head and looking around with a look of worry and hope melting over his face.
       Bull frowned and shook his head and looked over at me as if to ask What the FUCK was that all about?

        "Water under the bridge though, right?" I asked. "It was a long time ago. No worries."
      “Let’s see if we can't clear that debt right now, shall we Ron?”  Bull dropped a bag of dope on the table.
            “Nah, no, no, no… ain’t no debt here to be reconciled… me and him are gonna let bygones be bygones, right Ron?” I asked. 
           "If you say so..." Ron said questioningly.
            After that we all sat and smoked dope while he and Charlene dicked around with Bull about how much dope she wanted to get for what shit she brought to trade.  She ended up dropping cash for a gram, but was trying to swindle another gram out of Bull for a working video camera that was so old it used VHS tapes to record.  Bull was interested in it, but only to serve as a monitor camera for one of the outbuildings on the property.  They finally settled on a half-gram for the camera, and Charlene and Ron sailed out the door as Bull’s cousin Dale’s pickup truck ambled onto the road in view of one of the cameras pointed that way.  I knew it was Dale’s truck because it leaned towards the passenger side, where his fat, blind wife sat.
            When Charlene and Ron were in their van and driving in the opposite direction of Dale’s approach, Bull punched me in the arm and asked, “Wanna tell me what the fuck just cost me ten minutes of my life that I won't ever get back while I was listening to that bullshit story so you wouldn’t have to talk about whatever it was you wouldn’t talk about in front of Charlene?”
           "What?" I asked coyly. "What gave you that idea? Ron shaking his head like he didn't know what happened next? Fucking dumbass tranny fucker."
           "What?" Bull shook his head like he had just gotten smacked.
            “Sure, Boss… Ron used to fuck a pre-op tranny that my wife is friends with.  I met him in a bar where my wife wanted to meet up with her friend, the tranny."  I quickly drew in an exaggerated breath as if I were gonna have to hold it in for a second.  "I never sharked that guy in pool.  Hell… I haven’t played a decent game of pool since college.  But ol' Ron probably would have paid me that twenty-five bucks that I lied about him welching on to keep me from blabbing about his freaky past.”
            Bulls jaw dropped, and he slammed his palm into his forehead.  Like I said, people like Bobbi Lynn were a rarity in these parts, and people like Ron were even rarer.  I was spastic waiting to see how Bull would respond to this knowledge.  In typical Bull fashion, instead of re-stating the obvious about Ron, he laughed and said, “Fuck you, man… your wife is friends with a tranny?  That’s just fucked up, buddy.  I don’t know if we can be friends any more…”
            We laughed so hard we were both crying when Dale pulled into the driveway and let himself into the farmhouse.  He stood at the table, looking confused until we collected ourselves.  He sat down and put five new one hundred dollar bills on the filthy round table.

            "I'd like that much of whatever did that to you guys."  

            Bull and I stopped laughing immediately.

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo

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