Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The winter of what's comin

Those years I was always fightin somethin
Come home bloody-nosed and chip-toothed
like a runt who can't stop runnin his mouth
Ellie wanted nothin to do with me most nights
Victorious or not, blood was blood, she said 
ain't no difference whose it is
I still gotta get the carpets cleaned.

She watched me piss away most my paycheck
always hollerin bout 
your body is made for more than transportin whiskey from Mick's to my toilet!
but I wasn't in no mood to pay her any mind
I had some chip on my shoulder, those days

Our divorce wasn't clean like smart folks do
we had all kinds of circling back, double checking, 
fallin in, fallin out
it was a hard knot to untie

she let me bloody that first boy she brought around
she knew he had it comin since he works for Randy
and I caught him soakin up my shade when she thought I was headin to Galveston
Sure, she made a nice little performance piece out of the whole thing
but women is women 
and they love to be fought for
So she took me back in the house while he hobbled off
cleaned me up good and let me make love to her standing up, in the parlor

Things didn't do so good with that second boy;
he worked at the bank and maybe he wasn't much tryin to make her the way I first thought
but she had on her Sunday dress on a damned Tuesday
she fixes him a lemonade and serves him right out there on my bench
I come tearin through the yard like a fist river
laid that boy out flat before I seen the papers he'd set out on the picnic table

Well that was that
she boxed my ear with a rake handle 
sent me off in the truck 
head ringing like a chinese fire drill
and I spent the night at the lake in the truck bed
cursing God and all his falling stars 
through a whole bottle a' Maker's

Prolly wouldn't'a heard from Ellie again 'cept Ant Bee took ill
Ellie rang me at Billy's and laid it out:
Wayne I want nothin to do with your sorry ass
but Ant Bee is dyin and I don't expect I could live with myself if I didn't give you a chance to see her
After all…

right there she got quiet and sniffly, breakin
the way women do on the phone

Ellie, you don't have ta ---- I tried

I will see you at the Wayberry's place at five tonight
and you will not be late.  And Wayne...
try not to look like shit.

We both had a sweet spot for Bee 
who'd taken us in when Ellie's folks'd run us off
and then given us our first truck
that old Chevy
with the football hanging from the rear view mirror
still there today, I reckon

I came round the Wayberry's at quarter to five
dressed in my office suit, with a bouquet of daisies 
If she was impressed, Ellie didn't show it, or take them flowers neither
Bee will like those, she said
and I knew it wasn't no use romancin her under such circumstances
She pointed at my guitar case:
Good idea, Wayne
those words were like sun to a eskimo 
and I held the door for her   

We shuffled into the bedroom and Ant Bee was propped up on forty or fifty pillows, 
all shapes, sizes, and colors, like some kind of arabian princess
We each hugged her and then took our places bedside
She would not let go of Ellie's hand 

Well dear, I'm so glad to have visitors, she beamed at Ellie

Yes, it's so good to see you, Bee, we answered

Are you friends of Roger's?

Ellie flinched. No Bee, it's Ellie, your niece.  And you remember Wayne

Oh yes, yes, it's so good to see you both, dears, she patted Ellie's hand.

She rolled her head to me: pleasure to meet you, Wayne. 

And then she pulled Ellie close and made her hand as if to whisper 
Is this handsome "Wayne" your boyfriend, dear?

No, Ant Bee, he's a friend that came to visit you!  You remember how you loved hearing him 
play guitar for you most nights at the old place?

Bee turned to me
Wayne, I LOVE the guitar.  Do you play well?

I do ok. Don't play much these days.

Oh, Wayne, you MUST play. I do love guitar!

I got the guitar out and strummed somethin senseless
she smiled and smiled

When I was just three words into a Guthrie tune, 
she grabbed Ellie's arm and asked
Is this handsome fellow your boyfriend, dear? 

No, Ant Bee.  No, he's a friend who came to visit you. 

Oh! You're so kind to visit me and play that guitar, dear.

It's nothin, Ant Bee, glad to give it a workout, s'been so long since I had it out.

Are you a friend of Roger's, then?

Ant Bee, that's Wayne. You remember, we used to stay with you when…

You gave me that '88 Chevy, remember, Bee? We used to live---

Oh dear.  I gave you a car? I must be awfully fond of you, dear, She laughed. 
Are you getting much use of it?

I'm afraid that was a while back, ma'am. I swapped it in a few years ago.

Oh my. Well, that sounds nice, then. I hope you got yourself a nice replacement.

Are you her boyfriend? She asked me, 
poking the air between Ellie and her

Ellie cut in: Ant Bee! He's just a friend came here to visit you and see how you're doin. You know Wayne! We came to see if you got everything you need.  Are you in much pain?

Oh no, dear. I'm fine. They have such wonderful folks here bringing me my things. My son should be by soon to take me home. 

I put the guitar down, tried to put my arm on Ellie's leg, but she stood up and shooed me

Ant Bee, we buried Richard two years ago.  You know that! I'm going to go to the kitchen for a drink, would you like something? 

Oh no, we buried Richard? That isn't so, is it?

Ellie left the room and Bee put her hand on my arm, 
Now who was that lovely girl? She reminds me of my Rebecca. 

That's Ellie, Bee. She's your niece, remember?

My niece? That's Rebecca, is it? She's so big now!

Ma'am, Rebecca is your sister, and that girl there is Rebecca's daughter, Ellie, your niece.

Oh dear, you've got me so confused, young man, 
she was barely laughing,
Can you tell me, is this Ellie your… have you been together long?

Well, we---

Ellie returned with a tall cup of water, 

Nothin for me, thanks dear! I shot her a look

Ellie dear, I was just asking your… your...

Wayne, ma'am

I was just asking Wayne when he… now he, Wayne, the two of you will get married I hope. Have you been together long?

Ellie wouldn't let the woman have it, even so close to the end:

Ant Bee, Wayne is a friend of yours come to visit and play guitar for you. Now don't be makin assumptions bout the two of us, we ain't together anymore… 

Hell, if she weren't so embarrassed by it all, she might'a found some pleasure in reminding me of where we stood, every forty seconds or so.

Well, he's quite a handsome one
she sang in a whisper
You ought give it a try with… what was your name, dear?

We left soon after
didn't see much point in stayin long when we just kept startin over every few minutes, and the Ant Bee we knew was long gone.

And maybe that trip to Bee's is what done pulled me out
cause after that I just didn't have the fight in me
not for Ellie, not for no one
ain't never stepped foot in Mick's since

I cut me a straight path with this Julie
On Thursday nights when she stays over
after I done her halfway to a crippled
I lay out across her spilling bosom,
and ask her questions about being a little girl
try to find the safest place in that head a' hers
and hunker down there
for the winter of what's comin

1 comment:

Christine said...

Beautiful. (Not that I'm surprised.) Cormac McCarthy meets Radiolab's "Memory and Forgetting" episode.