The evening ended with me flipping over playing cards and telling fortunes to my hosts in the kitchen. Everything has an opinion on the future, if you know how to discern it. Cooks can get a feel for a burning fire long before the milk scorches just by reading the flames. A farmer can tell a future crop by rolling his dirt through his fingers. Mrs. Coble can tell the rain long before it comes by reading the aches in her body. And I, the girl of the long vacations full of rummy and squeak and euchre and solitaire and the school years full of flashcards can read the general outlines of a person’s worries in a deck of cards.
We had spent all day touring dead towns and cemeteries.
What’cha gonna do when the State runs dry? Drive back roads watchin’ small towns die. Honey, pretty baby mine.
And there was the river, that muddy god who lays in between the middle of the country so easy you can almost imagine him sliding his tributaries up Illinois’ shirt and singing softly, “… them men don’t know but the little girls understand.”
We stopped in a cinder-block box full of bearded bikers and their cigarette smoke. On the wooden railing was a small stack of Avon catalogs. I didn’t notice anyone taking any, but I was distracted by my admiration for all the kinds of facial hair on display.
The bulk of the evening, though, was spent at the bar sponsoring a dog’s gubenatorial candidacy. And it’s difficult to explain when the mood in the bar changed from one of bored folks sitting around drinking to one where someone–and I’m not mentioning any names–was flashing her bra at the camera. Though it may have been the camera flashing, in both senses of the word, that changed the mood.
Suddenly, an ex-Army Ranger arrived at our table, eager to slip out of his shirt to show off his tattoos. More beers arrived. Out of nowhere, an ex-Memphis cop and his girlfriend arrived. With little warning, the ex-Army Ranger was putting music on the juke box and he began to slowly and rhythmically slither around a pole in the middle of the bar. Then, he came back to the table and humped his chair in time to the music. And then, he danced over and repeatedly pushed his hips into the cigarette machine.
It was, of course, hilarious, but it was also surprisingly graceful and awesome and charming. Maybe it was all the beers, but it was a treat to see a guy take such joy in his body.
We kept waiting for the recipient of the picture full of my bra to respond and as we waited, one of the girls at the table said, “Well, if he says anything about the picture, just tell him that’s nothing. He should see what happens when we go to Cooterville.”