I sat there a long time listening to a Pepsi-Cola sign squeak like the very devil playing harmonica on a rib cage. Truth is I couldn’t pay for the pie, I was real poor. I didn’t have no money or nothing. I’d got liquored up back of a town hall in Grassville — fine upstanding folks in their spot dresses and beekeeper veils were having a dance to raise money for the Gun Lobby — when about midnight some sheriffs run up and tell me, “We don’t allow that here.” I had to cool my heels in the lock-up there or else give everything in my pockets to the Gun Lobby — they have some effective means of persuasion in Texas, a lotta Western charm you might say. So they took all of my money — but they let me keep my guns.
That is why I had to hitch a ride with Billy Bob in the end; I’d done got in too deep.
In the total of all, there’s seventy nine thousand, five hundred and thirty-five old miles of public highway in Texas. I guess Billy Bob and I drug over every one. He talked the whole time. I don’t know how he talked so long that he did. It was just a real living hell.
“Everything’s bigger in Texas–” he said.
“I know,” said I. Texas folks keep saying that but what they mean is ‘Texas is just a real living hell.’
“I was sure glad to meet you in Amarillo,” he said. “Honey I’ve been awfully lonesome and blue…”
“Eyes on the road, Billy Bob,” said I.
“Hell I don’t need eyes,” said Billy Bob. He done showed me that he could drive without hands; the roads were so straight and empty. At night you could see the silver light of a gas station miles away, throbbing like a spaceship. “Sure is lonely out here on the road,” he said. “Sure get’s lonely, trucking… I been out on the road a long time…” he said. “Not much chance of company…” he said. “Fine company, like yours… pretty girl like you… Honey you’re a knock out… Hell what’d that sign say back there?”
“Did you miss it?”
“No, I can’t read.”
“Last Christian Toilets Praise Jesus.”
“Hell I don’t need toilets. I’m out here all alone, all the time… Makes a man think… Makes a man feel sorta… Ain’t nothing to keep a man from… ain’t no one to keep a man company… Out here in the desert… Everything’s bigger’n Texas…” he said. “Sky’s bigger in Texas… big desert… big mountains… Makes a man feel sorta… I mean a man starts to feel… Ok so I like company from time to time… Hell I’m out here driving all the time, nobody to talk to or nothing… That’s why I stop in the towns awhile, meet a pretty girl like you, nice folks, always meet nice folks in Texas… Sure I always stop back there, chance I ain’t so lonesome, someone to talk to, someone… Hell it ain’t no kind of a life for a man out here in the desert all the time…” he said. “Makes a man… You gotta… You start to… Lotta mad folks out here in the desert.”
“Hell, Billy Bob,” said I.
“Sure honey, can drive a body mad, the desert… being out here all the time… Injuns are mad… Mexicans are mad… Negroes, they’re all mad…”
“How long you been out here, Billy Bob?”
“I been out here, oh, twenty five years…” said Billy Bob.
[Continued next post: Awfully Lonesome and Blue Part 2]