Next thing I knew it was three a.m. and we were all standing on the porch — old toothless Jeffrey, Jack Daniel, Texas Strauss, Miss Summertime, the redneck cripple-leg guy, the crazy Baptist and his tambourine, Louella Jones and Evelyn Einstein, the biggest whore in Texas — and Roger, leaning wildly from side to side, was gearing up to take that long impossible walk across the shifting sands toward the gentle red light glowing in the top window of the World-Famous Shitsville Whorehouse. If Texas has any ritual approximating bah mitzvah or the casting off of adolescents into bachelor tribes in the desert in order to see if they can return, a man, this is it; ‘Don’t worry, Roger,’ said I. ‘Nobody does it first time.’
I slapped him on the back and shoved him into the street — and then we all watched — with baited whisky-breaths, and everyone leaning slightly over, while the whores on the other side of the road did the same, and in that space of pure time didn’t even move to take a drag of their cigarettes — while that young purebread in his too-high heels and long-fringed jacket and Nudie Cohn chaps with huge pink roses embroidered over them skittered like a newborn on an icy lake [Bambi reference] and then — step by awful step — in shoes he couldn’t stand up in sober — launched himself like a giant reeling spider – all — twenty five — fucking–abominable– kneeless–sinking–paces — across that dark dirt road. He landed face first in a pile of green horseshit — just inside the fence line of the whorehouse.
Afterwards I often thought it was that moment which marked the end of Shitsville: Roger being lifted unconscious with a mouthful of shit by two whores and being carried like a sack of scarecrow clothes to wild applause up the steps into the whorehouse, whose lights were shining through the panes of different-coloured glass (and my drunken tears) like, oh, the finest Arabian jewels.
Jeff spat happily into the street. The crazy Baptist pamphleteer banged his tambourine and quoth: “For God so Loved the World that he sent his Only son…” Louella Jones and Evelyn Einstein swooned and beat their fans real hard against their flushed cheeks. Jack Daniel, always an aloof sort of fellow, simply stepped backwards into the striped shadows and raised a fat cigar to his fat lips, eyeing me strangely.
I felt like I should say something. After all, as mayor of Shitsville it was my job to say if Roger was alright.
‘A fine job!’ I said. ‘I didn’t think the boy had it in him! But when real talent comes along, well, we can all admire it!’
‘Sure,’ said Jack Daniel.
‘Hallelujah!’ said the pamphleteer.
Cont’d here: Scotch is an Unkind Mistress.
Now as you know my object (however misguided) in enduring all of this suffering, camping, the company of strangers etc. etc. was to get to Shitsville. About Shitsville the tourist guide was remarkably restrained: Sh*tsville (possibly derived from Shotsville) [it says, incorrectly]; Established circa.1920s; twin industries of blue films and drinking. No notable landmarks or noted citizens. Hotel: *
To this I would like to add my piece.
Shitsville’s propserity continued into the 1940s, as it was the hub of a circle of small towns so isolated they had never been informed when Prohibition was repealed, or that the Second World War had started. Possibly my grandfather Jack “Washington” Shitsville was well aware that this was the case, but he thought it prudent not to appraise anybody of these distressing facts.
Even in the middle of Prohibition, Shitsville made it a point of pride to be liquored up at all times, the duty of citizens to be a lushes with the grace of the great Irish poets. There are no ugly drunks here but magnificent men, humped like wildebeest, or floating like turtles on the vista of the curved mahogany bar, while the water evaporates around them. When the bartender calls last drinks they lift their heads and look at you sightlessly out of round, black eyes on the side of their massively deformed heads and one is reminded of the cumbersome antlers on the heads of steer — lifted as though weightless in the clear desert morning, as they listen for a sound coming up from far away, over the hills. –So the Shitsville men carry their liquor all in the head, and minding the step. Meantime the bar man stands dispensing drinks under a tinkling vision of hanging glasses and refracted light, dispensing pots like it is communion.
Image credits: http://emmapeelpants.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/inspirational-editorials-the-rest-of-the-picture/
So we rolled on back into town in time for the nine o-clock news and after all of that it was not as though the town was waiting breathless for news of our safe return, in fact I had begun to suspect that we could have perished on the mountain and it wouldn’t have made the six-o’clock news next morning or even the seven-ten mini news update brought to you by Demerol, which is entertainment news mostly, and which yesterday spent six minutes interviewing college football players about a muck-up day incident with a greased pig. HILARITY as you can be assured INSUED.
In the clear Texas morning light I was feeling a little more kindly disposed toward the man who had driven us off the mountain and so allowed him to shout me a craptastic Texas diner breakfast with the coins we had scavenged like cheap-skate carrion birds from between the rocks while awaiting our doom. I mean could there be anything more awful than the sight of a waffle crisped into the shape of the State of your nightmares and the implications which come with being served a child-sized tub of light yoghurt alongside a pre-packaged apparently Swiss bagel, and filtered coffee with a peel-back lid.
Outside there was a family of umpteen children like babushkas in evidently hand-me-down clothes (and even the parents seemed to be dressed in versions of the same thing: checked shirts, shorts, brown sandals and fanny packs) toddling around with bewildered expressions directly related to the ice-creams which they had been gifted. It was an overcast day and a weird town in which nobody really ever expects to enjoy themselves; even the penguin on the side of the ice-cream shack looked bewildered if not traumatised by his ice-cream, as if wondering how the fuck it (looking like the bloodied sawn-off horn of a unicorn) was supposed to make up for the millions of square miles of melting ice bergs now drip drip drip dripping like an air-conditioner and forming a warm dirty pool at his feet, and what the fuck an Arctic animal was doing at all deep in the heart of Texas.
We had reached the top of the spur – cruised for an instant into a flood of untempered Texas sunlight and a clear view across the vast rolling plains of dry hideous weed and coyote traps – then began twirling down again.
We were cruising at 10mph under the safe advisory speed when I felt the back wheels begin to slide across a spray of fine gravel – and then just like that the car drifted over to the edge of the road, and tipped over onto its roof. All of the change went flying at me like bullets, the glove box cracked open and the tapes flew out, then as we hung upside down strapped into the seats the car continued to slide down between the trees for about 40 metres, until it came to a stop against a bank of velvety pine needles, at which point it occurred to me that arguably all pines trees are inherently lonesome. They do not have leaves but needles and they spread their branches in rather a standoffish horizontal fashion. So there you are.
We were hanging upside belted into our seats peering back up the hill. Now a trail of obsolete plastics and useless coins marked our trail from the road into the piney woods, shining and absurd like leprechaun money amongst the rocks and pine needles. Chip took his belt off and went crashing down to the roof; I put my hands up and manoeuvred my legs out and performed a weird kind of hanging handstand, and then we had to crank the windows open and slither out on our stomachs.
The car had dragged a great mass of damp dirt and pine needles down the hill. For a while we lay rescuing random objects from the roof of the car. In this careful magpie manner we managed to rescue a few cassettes, a pair of trainers and a single glove; then climbing back up to the road Chip began picking change for the Laundromat out of the pine needles because he said we might need the money.
Taking stock, the only water we had was the filthy fag-water in an old Coke bottle we’d been throwing cigarette butts into; and now it was about six o-clock. Night, as they say, was falling fast. How literally night falls in Texas – like theatre curtains – but on the Spur night didn’t fall from the sky as much as climb up from the base.
We waited and waited on the road. I don’t know how long we waited. We had not passed another vehicle on our way up or down, only evidence of them, like an armadillo smeared across the road, or a splatter of feathers, but in an act of faith, in a civilised country, we waited by the roadside never doubting that help would come. It did not suit me that I should die like this, moronically, on a mountain, especially when there was so little sense in me being there in the first place. If Chip had been some kind of star footballer or promising cadet – sure, the movies could make something noble and tragic out of that, I guess, but there was little about him that hinted at anything other than a lonely masturbator, complexion milky with the blue glow of gaming computer screens and Saturday nights spent in Batman pyjama bottoms. He had that undeniable scent that boys have when they don’t wash their clothes, like the stems of broken weeds. I couldn’t believe his own family would to mourn the loss of someone so unattractive. If we perished together here they would be tempted to guess that we were dating, just to redeem the misery with romance; and I hated him for it.
Now Tripp or Chip was talking shit, trying to make plans, to calm himself, to be a man, or what have you, and I resented every fucking word. I smoked all of the cigarettes we had left and made a point not to offer him one. After an incredibly long time he got the idea and went over to wait for a car coming from the South, looking like a dog who at last had given up on the ball, which, if you know dogs, can only mean they are moments away from death.
Finally I heard a car coming from above us. Chip stood waving so his big unclean shirt flapped and he looked like a scarecrow. Then a glossy new midnight blue SUV with a huge glittering front drew to a stop. There was an oily reflection of the yellowish sky and the black tree tops in the windows.
The driver was a huge man in a collared shirt and navy suit jacket; his fat florid wife lay sleeping in the seat beside him. The whole car gleamed with new fine leather, glossy speckled wood finish, an odometer the size of a grandfather clock; a little paper pine tree dangled from the rear vision mirror, flipping in the breeze, and they were playing some pleasant twangy voice who rhymed wrong, song and so long…
We made our pleas. “Our car has gone off the mountain,” we said. “Can you give us a ride back to town?”
Perhaps it was a mistake to pose it as a question. I could see the man considering. In Texas, thoughts cross a person’s face like the shadow of clouds. His eyes flickered across the his obese recumbent wife, as though she was the picture of loveliness, of innocence in sleep, then he looked at us – our wild, disarrayed, dirty clothes, our hands full of cassettes, loose change and a single glove – as though there was no limit to the shit which we in our deranged youth would steal.
It was clear as day he thought we were murderers. He said, “Sorry, no room,” and just like that the window slid up and the break released, we stepped back as he rolled away – he had never taken his hands from the wheel. We watched the big glare of his red tail lights disappear round the bend and once they vanished we were in total dark.