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Strange Doin’s in Savannah

Had my head ever hurt worse than this?  Yes, one morning after getting my skull cracked outside a titty bar in Newport News by a gang of drunken bikers who didn’t like the way I was eyeing their bikes.  But this one was a close second.  There were bikers this time but they were “friendlies.”  There was also a wicked combination of Ritalin, Atavan, grass, tequila, and Wild Turkey over a period of ten days.

Jesus!  Ten days??

Is that how long I’ve been locked into this ride?  No.  It’s been longer than that.  It’s been three months since I left Hampton and ten days since I’ve been holed up in the Barstow Quality Inn where I started in on the alcohol/chemical ride.  I think subconsciously I’ve been searching for the perfect Lethal Dose, but it keeps eluding me.  “Why?” would be mere speculation.

The real ride began in Savannah.  That’s where I was when the text message came.  I should have thrown the damn cell phone into the Savannah River before I read it but I didn’t have the guts.  And what the hell was I doing in Savannah in the first place?  After nearly fifty years of setting lofty goals and trying desperately to win love from others I had fallen flat on my face a good half dozen times.  I’ve been called and felt like a loser on more than one occasion, but final judgment on that charge is still pending.  Now there I was in Georgia binging for the past seven days in a river-front hotel.  For the final three days of the seven I had the distinct impression that I was being savagely pursued.  But, by whom or what?

By my creditors?  Nah, fuck ‘em.  Let them try to see how much blood they can squeeze from a turnip.  By the law?  Wrong again.  Except for a couple of petty misdemeanors (before I left Virginia) I had long since paid all my debts to society, and I would be damned before I let myself get a federal rap for fleeing across state lines to avoid prosecution—not when all I had to do was be back in Virginia by court date and accept a slap on the wrist, a fine, and unsupervised probation.

Then from whom or what?  From Myself?  That one is a more recognizable possibility.  And yet no matter how far or how fast I run and come to a place where it appears that I have eluded my “pursuer,” I eventually  come to a point where I can feel relentless eyeballs boring into the back of my skull.  No matter how far or fast I’ve gone and no matter how quickly I glance over my shoulder to catch a glimpse, it is always only myself I see looking back.

There is no such thing as paranoia.  All your worst nightmares, if allowed, will come to pass.  You must in the end stand your ground and come eyeball to eyeball with your demons even if it is only into a Mad House Mirror that you gaze.

Ye Gods!  What means this soliloquy?  All this introspection by that point in Savannah was mere psychoanalytical, pseudo-academic bullshit, because there at the eastern terminus of Sherman’s Bloody March I was far from doing battle with any demons.  Indeed, I was whole-heartedly feeding their fetish.

When I left Hampton there was a raven perched on the gutter of the bus terminal.  I locked eyes with him and as I stepped aboard the bus he croaked at me.  I wouldn’t bet the farm, but I’m pretty sure he said, “Nevermore.”  When the bus pulled out and I began my own flight, I looked out the window and saw him rise from his perch on jet black wings and begin to follow the bus.

Here in Savannah, I figured I was many miles ahead of him on my first day.  But it had been a week now.  How many miles per day can a raven fly as the crow flies?  The croaking black bird knew where I was, of that I was sure.  Yes, I was sure and equally so that he knew that I knew.  He was riding a stiff-tail wind.  The time had come for action.

So I called Jerry.

Jerry and I went way back—more than thirty years.  We met in high school and immediately hit it off.  My older sister, Deidre, taught me how to use illegal drugs—marijuana and hashish at age eleven and mescaline and LSD at age fifteen—but it was Jerry who introduced me to the blessing and the bane of my adult existence—alcohol.  We had many a hell-raising and life-threatening experience both during and following high school.

Road trips became our specialty.  One memorable trip was a brain-bending jaunt from Norfolk, Virginia to Providence, Rhode Island and back in less than twenty-four hours.  The purpose of the trip was merely to freak out a mutual friend who was not expecting us.  The trip was in winter and by the time we returned our airport rental car it was nearly a wreck.  For old times sakes during the trip I practiced liquor bottle hook shots over the sides of bridges from the moving passenger side of the car.

After high school he followed his father into bail-bonds and I followed mine as a welder into the shipyard.  Our times together began to come less frequent and by the age of thirty we had drifted apart.

As I entered my forties, I began becoming involved with the law from the offender point of view and all as a result of my love/hate affair with alcohol.  Drunk in Public offenses were handled by sleeping it off in the city jail and the payment of a fine.  When offenses were connected to the operation of a motor vehicle however, I naturally turned to Jerry’s professional services as a means to get out of jail.  Thus we renewed our relationship.

Now here it was late afternoon on the seventh day and we were sitting at the hotel bar.  The bar was one of those upper-middle class businessman establishments—lots of chrome, glass, and blonde wood.  I was on my fourth Glenfiddich.  We were watching women on the River Walk through the large plate-glass window.  The bartender had gone back to the storeroom.  Jerry was trying hard to cop a feel off the crack-whore waitress every time she walked by, but he was on his fourth Jack and Coke and was failing miserably.

“Hell man,” I finally said, “slip her a ten and she’ll probably blow you in the Men’s Room.”

“Naw,” he slurred, “it’s the challenge, it’s the challenge . . ..”  That’s when the phone beeped.  I picked it up and saw the I.D.

“Shit!  Not him.  Not now.”

“Who?”

“Uncle Vernon,” I said, flipping the phone open.  “I wonder what the fuck he wants this time.”

Text Message.  “Come 2 Barstow.  Bad Evil.”  Was all it said.

Jerry was looking over my shoulder.  “ROAD TRIP!” he bellowed, slipped off his stool and fell into the waitress.

“Hell No!  That warped fuck is up to something and I’m not getting within five hundred miles of him.  Besides what the hell could he want from me in Barstow that he can’t do himself without getting myself fucked right where I am?”

“What?”

“Never mind,” I said.  “I ain’t going.  Not without cash and brother I am BROKE.  I got just enough to stay drunk and get back to Hampton without landing in jail on vagrancy charges, and that’s just fine by me.”

“But,” Jerry said, “it would be our greatest Road Trip ever and lest you forget I can have you busted right here.  You are in violation of your bond by leaving Virginia.  It is my duty as a fully licensed and insured bondsman to apprehend vile and degenerate criminals who leave the jurisdiction to which they have been assigned.”

With considerable difficulty and not a few curse words he remounted his stool.

“I ORDER you,” he said, “by the Authority granted to me by the Commonwealth of Virginia to message him back and demand money for the trip, under Plenty of Law.”

“’Penalty’ of Law,” I said.

“What?”

“Never mind.  That’s pretty slick talk from someone who can’t stay on their stool.  You Evil Fuck!  You sit here and drink on my tab after I paid for you to come down here and save me from these twisted crackers and THIS is how you repay me?  Alright.  I’ll give it a shot.”

I messaged Vern back, “Snd cash 4 trp or get scrwd.”  Ten minutes later a message came back to pick up a money order at any Western Union in Atlanta. He wanted to make sure I was on my way before he shelled out the cash.

Jerry asked the waitress if she wanted to go to Barstow.

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