The Hazeltown Holler surpassed daily circulation and printed an evening edition for the first time since Nixon was impeached. Chester Hook’em Hanks nabbed the last one from a paper box outside of Murphy’s Mud-Cat, a beer joint and bait shop over in Alice where he served his community service (for fishing drunk without a license for the fourteenth time) by polishing a barstool with his back pockets. He ordered a can of Schlitz and smoothed the paper flat on the bar. He read no farther than the headline about Boss Gabardine and stopped to drain half his beer in one long swallow. The fat cats that scavenged the ponds around Alice were not the only ones Chester was inclined to angle for. He’d overheard a bit of information concerning The Boss and that pretty film critic for the Holler. Being a married man himself, he figured The Boss would rather his wife remained unaware of such information. He also figured the Boss might want to hitch a new Ranger bass boat to the back of his pickup. When it came to figuring, Chester’s calculating could be ponderous. Boss Gabardine was the biggest fish in any pond at anytime. His headline worthy woes could only serve to make him cranky, cautious and likely even more dangerous. Another man might sum up it was time to cut his line. Chester Hook’em Hanks determined it was time to dangle bigger bait.
Hook’em walked over and unplugged the juke box to silence Molly Hatchet. He had a plan to hatch and damned if their infernal caterwauling was helping him think. He successfully warded off any objections from the whelps at the pool table with a practiced stink eye that seldom let him down. The three of them, still too sober for pressing the point, broke eye contact first and went back to their game. Hook’em raised his can and gave a nod in their direction showing his support for the unspoken treaty. Long as he had the can in his hand, he went ahead and polished off the suds. He set the empty on the bar, pulled his note pad from his back pocket and began bullet-pointing his plan.
Ruby picked up the empty can and set a fresh cold Schlitz wrapped in a bar nap in front of him. “What you studying on so hard tonight, Hook?” the rotund Ruby inquired. Chester closed the pad quick and smiling up at Ruby said, “Darlin’ I’m composin’ a sonnet for the prettiest barmaid I ever did see. I’m a little stuck right now though, maybe you can help me. I need something that rhymes with Ruby and all I can think of are boobies.”
Ruby rolled her eyes, sifted the pile of change from Chester’s twenty, extracted two ones and offered, “How about Doobie? As in, I find your sincerity to be dubious. Or maybe try Scoobey, as in you are a damn dog! Then there’s always Newby, as in you are one naive son of a bitch if you think you are ever sweet talkin’ your way up next to this!” Ruby stepped back and presented with a sweep of her hand just what it was Chester would be missing out on. Then she turned on her heel in an exaggerated huff and rang the register for Chester’s two dollars.
Chester couldn’t help but grin. He loved getting Ruby going and he loved it even more when she got the better of him. Truth be told, Chester loved Ruby. He plucked a five from his diminishing pile, folded it lengthwise so it would stand and balanced it on the edge of the bar.
Chester had just reopened his note pad when the door opened with a jangle and he looked up to watch Boss Gabardine’s no account nephew Eugene, shamble into the bar. He wondered if this night could get any better.
This is a small bit I wrote for a collaboration with A*K that we started last year and will resume sometime soon. In the meantime, you can play catchup beginning here: http://bit.ly/gA4cGm if you are so inclined. H