Fiction

Here are some chapters from “Last Set At The Pressure Drop.” There’s more to it.

email: bartbartbecker@gmail.com

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
I Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky

This all started right around Easter with a song I couldn’t get out of my head –“Casanova” by LeVert. I was sitting on a green park bench singing it when he sat down next to me and struck up a conversation so familiar you would have thought we knew each other from kindergarten. It couldn’t have been even five minutes before he turned and said, “Hey, Sweet, knock me a kiss.” After that we just kept on going. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
Try a Little Tenderness

At Tiny’s Fruit Stand, a disintegrating tin-and-plank juke joint, it is after hours, which means only that we stop drinking B&B or Blue Ribbon –what we call “legal” — and start on the homemade — “corn” or “jar.” This is Tiny’s idea of protocol; she won’t serve the lightning during business hours. She is huge, beautiful, and counting cash at the bar with her stoic boyfriend Dimples; “cute” is the word women use about him. A couple of half-drunks with bleached bouffant hairdos start singing pretty harmony on “Try A Little Tenderness,” Tiny makes that delicate little movement with her mouth, and pulls Dimples in close.

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
She Was Kind of High

She says, ‘I got a date.’ I say, ‘Where your date at, honey? Your date in the building anywhere? ‘Cause I don’t wanna blow your date just sitting here talking to you ’cause your date might wanna be talking to you.’ She says, ‘No, he’s supposed to come by my house and pick me up. We’re gonna go to the movies.’ ‘Movies?’ She says, ‘Yeah.’ I say, ‘Who you gonna see?’ She say, ‘No, we just going out for a movie. I met him up in the Pressure Drop and we started talking and everything. He supposed to come by and pick me up.’ I said, ‘Hey, you never saw my picture did you?’ ‘No, where you playing?’ I said, ‘Remember this picture,’ I said, ‘I was playing this picture, “Get ‘Em If You Can & Catch ‘Em All.”’ ‘She was kind of high, she said, ‘ . . . No.’ I talk to her a bit. I said, ‘Hey, honey, I tell you what, we can drink some,’ I said, ‘since you don’t smoke.’ She said, ‘Well, I’m high now.’ I said, ‘What are you high and you keep drinking this motherfucking beer?’ I said, ‘You driving?’ She said, ‘No, I’m not driving,’ she said, ‘I’m riding my bicycle.’ I said, ‘Well, you might break your motherfucking leg.’ She said, ‘ ‘Scuse me?’

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
Guy Shot at Him, Got Me Right There

“It was on a Sunday afternoon at the Pressure Drop. Band was playing ‘Messin’ With the Kid,’ fight break out. Everybody was running, I ran, too. Guy shot at him, got me right there.”

“Jesus Christ!’

“Bust that big leg bone. Laid me up for about six months, then on crutches. I ain’t doing too bad now. Leg give out now and then.”

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
Hot Hot Hot

The Pressure Drop was hot, hot, hot. Cuban music, barbecue, Red Stripe, lime slices, rubber flip flops, day-glo summer undershirts: by the time you made your way across the sweaty room you’d be wearing somebody else’s makeup. Packed hip-on-hip with sweet-tempered hillbillies and the tape came on Best of Don Cornelius Soul Train, Earth Wind & Fire, Teddy Pendergrass, and “That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it.” That ended and the stereo cranked in with “London Calling.” Old-timey. People were feeling so good that a bunch of women went out on the porch to shoot off their guns. The only glow was a string of Tiki-god lights and ripples of heat lightning way across the prairie. A big argument started up inside. When it died down, somebody cut the main lights in there and Nat King Cole came on the box singing “Mona Lisa.”

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
Corrugated and Buzzing Hot
The air was corrugated and buzzing hot. We were out under the grape arbors, eating cold fried chicken and throwing the bones in the bushes. Even the old people had on bikini shorts and undershirts, and wet hankies tied around their heads. The baby twins, the domineering little nippers, had quit playing in the Water Wienie and were just sitting bare-ass in the mud drinking warm orange pop. Nothing moved. Then the radio played “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” my sister flopped on her back to do the Alligator, and the little kids careened around her in those crazy tight circles, screaming the way they do.

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
I Asked So He Told Me

I asked, so he told me: “You’re never gonna guard your heart. You’d better make other plans.” When I finished welding we sat and stared at the truck. There was a crummy little record player in the garage and he put on an old jazz album of Ben Webster playing those sad, beautiful saxophone ballads. About a minute into it I started bawling. He knew what was up because he just dug around in the cooler for another couple of beers, and when the record finished he turned it right over and started the other side

LAST SET AT THE PRESSURE DROP
I’m Gonna Talk A Whole Lot of Shit, But I Ain’t Gonna Drink Any More Liquor. What Are You Gonna Gain?

Peachy: That’s what fucked them up.
Butcher: Hey, that’s all right, man. That’s the best whiskey. Pucky was telling me that Sam just drank, you know, he didn’t eat. Drink and not eat did him in.
Peachy: I don’t know. He died of a heart attack. Sittin’ at the table.
Butcher: Well, I’m bullshittin’. That’s just what I heard.
Peachy: His wife had fixed dinner for him, he was sittin’ down to eat, he just fell dead.
Butcher: Huh.
Peachy: Scared her. ‘Cause they started saying that she poisoned him. ‘Cause they didn’t get along good. (Coughing)
Butcher: Don’t give her no more.
Lee Baby: Hey, Peachy, you like to jive.
Peachy: I was just gonna cuss. I gonna said when they come to Omaha we fucked ’em up. (Laughter)
Butcher: We had a time.
Lee Baby: Yeah, we went down to Florence’s. Some heaven sent stuff there.
Butcher: That shit.
Lee Baby: Isn’t that smooth?
Butcher: It don’t matter. You know how it goes. Fast. (Laughter)
Peachy: He said, she was sitting down, what her name? I forget her name now. Anyway, he said that she love me. Talking about Daddy Rabbit. Said Daddy Rabbit might be down.
Butcher: He’s down there.
Peachy: I know it. Said, ‘I went home, and I got clean.’
Butcher: He’s clean. He got on a three-piece suit, man. He got on his sunglasses. (Laughter) He’s talking some Hollywood bullshit. He’s everywhere.
Lee Baby: I never seen a man meet so many people in one day.
Butcher: I bet right now he got some girl over in the booth.
Lee Baby: He do that everywhere.
Peachy: Ain’t nowhere we go he that same way.
Butcher: That man, that what you call a whorish man. I ain’t kidding, that what you call a whorish man. Yeah.
Peachy: Naw, you don’t call that whorish. You call that a cockhound. (Laughter)
Butcher: But he got women in Omaha the same way.
Peachy: Daddy Rabbit said when he was here before he was here as a dog. And I believe he still got some of that dog in him. That man know he crazy about the women.
Butcher: That’s him coming now. Talk about the devil, he always appear. That motherfucker. Got on his Hollywood clothes, talking his Hollywood shit.
Daddy Rabbit: Anything you want. Ain’t nobody told me you all was coming up here. Nobody said, ‘Daddy Rabbit, we going upstairs.’ Left me down in there and I don’t like this bullshit. When the bush shake, get goin’. (Laughter)
Butcher: Daddy Rabbit, you didn’t try to take my friend’s woman, did you?
Daddy Rabbit: No, goddammit. I don’t have no one. A girl down there a little while ago say, ‘Daddy Rabbit?’ I say, ‘What the hell would you call me a rabbit?’ She said, ‘It’s on.’ Said, ‘Yeah, you want to talk about it?’ She said, ‘No.’ I put it out.
Butcher: He always talking shit, buddy. Talk more shit than anybody.
Daddy Rabbit: She said, ‘Daddy Rabbit.’ (Laughter)
Butcher: Hey, I gotta go now, you gonna blow my high, man. Oh, man.
Daddy Rabbit: Hey, I’m not lying. She said, ‘Daddy Rabbit?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ Said, ‘They call you Daddy Rabbit?’ ‘Yeah. Where you get that shit?’ She said, ‘Hey, wow, I see you picture up there.’ I said, ‘I didn’t put it up there.’ She say, ‘Well, it up there.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know it. I saw it.’ (Laughter) I’m not lying. So she said . . . I said, ‘Hey, man.’
Butcher: Every time I get a high going that sucker there blow it.
Daddy Rabbit: I talk to her a bit. I said, ‘Hey, honey, I tell you what, we can drink some,’ I said, ‘since you don’t smoke.’ She said, ‘Well, I’m high now.’ I said, ‘What are you high and you keep drinking this motherfucking beer?’ I said, ‘You driving?’ She said, ‘No, I’m not driving,’ she said, ‘I’m riding my bicycle.’ I said, ‘Well, you might break your motherfucking leg.’ She said, ‘ ‘Scuse me?’
Butcher: Blow my high, man.
Daddy Rabbit: Hey, gonna blow my whole motherfucking cool. She says, ‘I got a date.’ I say, ‘Where your date at, honey? Your date in the building anywhere? ‘Cause I don’t wanna blow your date just sitting here talking to you ’cause your date might wanna be talking to you.’ She says, ‘No, he’s supposed to come by my house and pick me up. We’re gonna go to the movies.’ ‘Movies?’ She says, ‘Yeah.’ I say, ‘Who you gonna see?’ She say, ‘No, we just going out for a movie. I met him up in the Zoo Bar and we started talking and everything. He supposed to come by and pick me up.’ I said, ‘Hey, you never saw my picture did you?’ ‘No, where you playing?’ I said, ‘Remember this picture,’ I said, ‘I was playing this picture, “Get ‘Em If You Can & Catch ‘Em All.” ‘She was kind of high, she said, ‘ . . . No.’ (Laughter)
Lee Baby: What time is it, Peachy?
Peachy: Eight o’clock.
Daddy Rabbit: You feeling all right?
Lee Baby: I feel nice.
Daddy Rabbit: You do. I’ll see goddam about an hour if you feeling all right. I just got started.
Lee Baby: Time the whistle blow, we’ll just be gettin’ in it.
Daddy Rabbit: I ain’t started either.
Lee Baby: Yeah, but I can last.
Daddy Rabbit: We gonna do this together.
Peachy: You all fuck around and get drunk.
Lee Baby: When we left last time I was drunk.
Daddy Rabbit: That right. Tell ’em, Sheik.
Lee Baby: Daddy Rabbit was drunk.
Daddy Rabbit: I was drunker than a one-eyed Russian.
Lee Baby: He said, ‘Hey, Sheik.’ I got out, got back in again and lit me up a cigarette. Woke up again, the sun had rose up.
Daddy Rabbit: You know what Sheik-Daddy told me. Said, ‘Daddy Rabbit, you kind of wobbling.’ He said, ‘Pull this motherfucker over.’ I was high, I admit. When he said pull over, I just pull over. I didn’t say I could drive. We drove from here to Omaha in two hours. We was there. Not in the suburbs or nothing. We were already there. We were sitting at Florence’s drinking whiskey at 3 o’clock.
Lee Baby: That right. I said, ‘Stop by my house.’
Daddy Rabbit: Joe Feeney pulled up and we looked at his watch. He pulled a half pint of Crown Royal. I’m not lying. Ain’t nothin’ to worry about. We going to live it out, that’s all.
Peachy: You better get downstairs. Show starts at 9 o’clock. By his clock. His clock 15 minutes fast.
Lee Baby: Lady who works down there said 13.
Daddy Rabbit: By her watch?
Lee Baby: No, by the clock.
Daddy Rabbit: So what time we start by his clock?
Peachy: Nine o’clock. It’ll be a quarter ’til.
Daddy Rabbit: Quarter ’til by mine.
Peachy: Yeah.
Daddy Rabbit: Oh.
Peachy: And stop at 1. 12:45. But, see, it’s 1 o’clock by his clock.
Daddy Rabbit: It’ll be a quarter ’til on mine.
Peachy: Right.
Daddy Rabbit: I bet you I ain’t gonna miss a motherfucking key tonight. Not nohow. I’m gonna bullshit but I ain’t gonna drink no more. I’m gonna talk a whole lot of shit but I ain’t gonna drink no more liquor. What do you expect out of life? What are you gonna gain?