Now he looks very uncomfortable. “Not a good idea.”
“Why not?” I demand. “You were gonna throw me to the rednecks?”
“No, you’d be fine. But I . . . can’t go in there.” He takes a deep breath
and won’t look at me. “I’ve been banned for life.”
“You’ve been banned for life from this roughneck shack of a bar?”
“I shot up the place one night. Lucky I didn’t kill someone.”
I can’t believe it. “You shot up this place? You did?”
“Yep, the things we do when we are fucked up.” His face, underneath
the fine long hair, is turning red, and he runs his hands over the steering
wheel like a prayer.
“I’ll be damned.”
“Yes, I was that, too.”
We get out of the car. Jesse is indeed sitting on the dock with another
man. A couple of shadowy people appear to be on the screened-in porch.
I hear the sound of pool balls clacking on the table and music, George
Jones, coming from a jukebox inside.
When we get to the end of the dock, the other man squints up at us.
The sun is slicing in from behind us. He has a fishing pole in one hand
and a Budweiser in the other. The can is cold and sweating in his hand,
and I wish for just one long swallow. There are half-a-dozen empty cans
clustered around his chair and Jesse’s as well. A half-empty pint of Jack
Daniels sits beside a cooler that undoubtedly holds more cold beer. There
is a galvanized bucket holding three or four silver fish.
The man says, “You two tourists must be lost. I believe I’d be for get-
tin’ back in that fancy car of yours and beatin’ a trail out of here. You
ain’t welcome at the River.”
Jesse gives us a glance. “No, Walt, these are mine.”
“Hhrmmp,” says the man. He’s rather large, and he groans as he
heaves himself out of the lawn chair. He finishes off the beer in one gulp,
glaring at us, then tosses it down to the empties. One of them rolls off
the dock. “Gotta take a piss, then.” He lumbers off.
“How many juke joints did it take you, Andy, to find me?”
“Well, bully for you. Only three. And you, Cool Girl Dee, what’re you
doin’ hanging out with Andy Sloth?”
There is, of course, confusion on that—that I told Jesse my nickname
for him, that he would be mean enough to say it out loud. Andy’s face
registers a question, then realizes the answer. I feel bad.