Finally I run on into Shitsville, which as you know, was all wood, all sort of sagging in the middle — there was saloon with board walk and swing doors, a Chemist’s shoppe with a banner that wrapped around three sides — just about everything was short of plank and a few nails. Opposite was the Whorehouse, which was the best kept joint in town. It was an ornate 1870s confection with white lacy woodwork & green tiled roofs and turrets for a touch of chalet Romance; inside everything was polished redwood and porcelain and silk like a Chinky puzzle box; the front door with the knob in the centre kept shiny without a lick of paint on it.
In the afternoon the girls stood out on the second storey balcony to smoke & look over into the quiet street, made of fine red dirt. About the same time every day regular as a cuckoo the swing doors of the saloon would snap back like the catch on an empty pistol, and there would stand the first drunk of the day with his chin tucked into his neck & his head at an angle like he’d just been strung up going blub blub blub into his too tight neckerchief. His eyes were purple & had been closed over for him, his legs spread & bowed in a U, and then he would begin to stagger across the street like he’d only just come offa his hoss after a twenty mile ride. He looked like a revenant, but his sideways grin had that softly cretinous, beatific light seen in children in the peaceful slumber of death, the row of evil little teeth showing like they knew they’d got out in time. Then he would try and cross the street, while the whores called down to him. “Come on honey, you can do it honey.” They were always whooping and laughing. Fact is, if he couldn’t cross the street without falling face first into the dirt, the sheriff would haul him on into the County lockup for being drunk and disorderly – a man was only safe from the law inside the line of the picket fence ( a sweltering magnolia & young lemon trees, humming with bees, leaned over it). In fact most often the sheriff would be standing on the whorehouse porch with his hands in his pockets and his coat tails flung back, star glowing on his chest; the sheriff watched with an amused paternal interest (in fact some of the whores were his daughters). If the drunk made it the whores above would start whooping and calling, “Heyah boy!” which was as good a signal for the girls inside to know someone was coming; if he fell over in the street there was a moment before the sheriff stepped down from the porch, or pulled himself up outta the wicker rocking chair (however reluctantly) while they pelted the wastrel with fag ends and speculations about his masculinity.
First night in Shitsville I got chucked out of the saloon and while standing on the boardwalk looked across to that fairytale confection, which had a phosphorescent glow in the big Texas moonlight; Jack Daniels had told me it was the pride of Shitsville; the picket fence had a banner & expensive bunting left over from fourth of July celebrations saying “Real Southern Comfort”, and as soon as I stepped down offa the boardwalk it was inevitable I was taking that long walk across all sixteen feet of silky red road, which shifted like quicksand under my heels.
I was of course drunk on Shitsville’s finest which induces a level of sickness that can actually only be physically borne if one tries to enact the traditional Judeo-Christian separation of body & spirit; I was trying to push myself out of the top of my head with a passion corresponding to the will to vomit in the regions below. Every step echoed back, clacked like the Chemist counting pesos on his abacus; every step seemed to push that glorious castello vision further away into a swamp of blue darkness, while I could feel the infinity of hell quietly opening up beneath me.