5. Laugh at Life

The following passage was paid for in cash by anonymous, but hilariously happy, members frequenting the Ponderosa Gentleman’s Club, and includes an excerpt from the end of Chapter Five in The Gates of Pair O’ Dice.
Right about then my other cousin, Pharr Jr., Pharr’s older son, came driving up in his pickup truck, and asked, “Hey Jessup, you mind if Billy goes with me for an hour or so?”

“Sure, that’s cool. We’re pretty much out of gas here anyway.”

“See ya,” I said as I killed the engine in Jessup’s truck, this time on purpose.

“Later,” Jessup said as I climbed into the cab of Pharr Jr.’s brand new Chevy truck, which of course featured an automatic transmission. What a terrible waste of gears.

“You been taking care of yourself?” Pharr Jr. asked.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Where’re we goin’?”

“To the Ponderosa.”

“Wow, like the ranch on Bonanza, the TV show?”

“Not exactly.” That not exactly answer I’d been hearing so much of lately sure did leave a bunch of room for a wide variety of outcomes.

Pharr Jr. and I lit out for the Ponderosa, which amounted to a shabby, if it wasn’t for bad luck you wouldn’t have no luck at all, rundown rusted out single wide trailer on an old oil dirt road near the outskirts of Pair O’ Dice where some of the local menfolk went to play cards, and drink cheap whiskey.

When we entered the Ponderosa, we spied two men hunkered down at the dining room table in the little area off the foyer of the trailer playing cards. “Gimme all your threes,” the first card player, one Eustis Bodine Peabody demanded of the other card player.

The second card player, an elderly man named Fred Glover, who owned the feed and seed store in Pair O’ Dice, responded with a great deal more adversarial glee than one would have expected given the low stakes penny ante card game in progress. “Go fish,” Fred said.

“All right boys, that’s enough of this foolishness. Let’s play a real man’s card game…poker,” Pharr Jr. said, because he was having none of that parallel universe type shit. To Pharr Jr.’s way of thinking you could play cards or you could go fish, but you couldn’t do both at the same damn time. The two men tossed their playing cards into the center of the card table covered in faded green felt scarred with a well-earned assortment of stains and cigar burns.

Plying her trade there at the Ponderosa was an ever so pleasingly plump, forty-something year old working girl by the name of Mavis Buncombe, who turned tricks out of the skinny bedroom at the back of the trailer. Mavis had a prior career singing lead vocals with a Patsy Cline tribute band called Still Crazy, and acted in a few regional theatre productions, like playing Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, so she went by her stage name of Rose Flowers.

Pharr Jr. reshuffled the deck of cards and said to me, “Go on back there Billy, and get you some of that Vitamin P. It builds strong bones.” The other two guys grinned and winked at me knowingly, which made me feel kind of creepy.

I spotted Rose Flowers standing in the bedroom doorway, leaning against the doorjamb and offering up her best come hither look. I took a step or two in reverse, which I recalled at that precise moment, was down, way over to the right, and back on the stick shift.

“Go on now, Billy,” Pharr Jr. said. “We ain’t got all damn day. Listen up boys, this here Texas poker game is called Dr. Pepper: tens, twos, fours and one-eyed jacks are wild.” Dr. Pepper, the quicker picker upper, originated in Waco, Texas. They claimed if you drank a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4 o’clock, you’d be rocking for the rest of the day. I have no idea what the one-eyed jacks thing was all about, but I liked it anyway.

When I crossed the threshold into her bedroom, Rose closed the door, removed her chewing tobacco and plopped it into an empty coffee cup on the dresser. The room appeared to be a shrine of some kind, the walls covered with pictures of Elvis and Jesus. Rose noticed me checking out the pictures on her walls.

“Yes, I love Jesus, but I love Elvis too,” Rose said with a delicate almost lisping emphasis on the s at the end of Jesus and Elvis. “They’re kind of alike if you wanna think about it. When Jesus first started out preachin’ about love he had followers called disciples. Elvis sang about love and he had followers too, devoted female fans like me who they’re callin’ groupies nowadays. Disciples, groupies, it’s all about love in one form or another.”

“I’d never thought about it that way.”

“We followed Elvis from hillbilly music, to rockabilly, to rock and roll. I love Jesus. I also love rock and roll, and I love sex too. I try to go to church and even a tent revival now and again, but sooner or later the preacher always tells me rock and roll is bad for me, and sex is even worse, or is it the other way around? I can never remember. They say you can’t find Christ in the back seat of a Chrysler, but I bet they never spent an hour in the back seat of Bobby Joe McAlister’s Chrysler Firedome convertible with Elvis on the car radio. Now I ask you honey, how can two things that make me feel so good, be so bad?

I figured that she called everybody honey, and I didn’t think Rose really expected me to answer that last question, so I kept my mouth shut. Rose peeled off her tattered pink terrycloth bathrobe to reveal lacy red and gold lingerie underneath, a frayed seen a better day bustier garter belt and stockings get up. The lingerie probably fit her ten years ago, but not so much anymore, so Rose’s extra flesh erupted up and out of her undergarments like hot, soft, pink lava from a vast, but not so virginal Vesuvius, the once lovely lava seeping out of the many well traversed cracks and crevices on her Krakatoa.

She was probably pretty in her twenties, but a few bad breaks and a tough life left her with some hard edges, and a weary countenance. Alas, the bloom had long since faded from the petals of this rose, but then again, she did have gigantic jugs. I’d perused a few girly magazines, but I’d never seen a real pair of headlights before, up close and personal like, and hers were bright enough to blind a boy.

“Is this your first time, honey?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said respectfully as I swallowed hard and stared at her colossal cans. After all, she was kind of like a school teacher, and Miss Rose deserved the proper respect. Think of it as though I had brought her an apple, and she was going to polish the apple, my apple, the only apple I really cared about to be truthful, before she ate it. The lessons I expected to learn on that day weren’t on the curriculum in your average school. Rose admired herself in the mirror, taking a deep breath which swelled her bust, as she fussed with her hair.

She squirted a generous swish of Enchantimar perfume on either side of her neck, and a double splash right between her massive mammaries. That Enchantimar perfume, according to company legend, was conceived while reflecting upon a butterfly alighting on fragrant flowers in a golden garden by a peaceful pond in the remotest region of India on the enormous estate of the famous Princess Ashwagandha, said to be the most beautiful woman in all the world.

Rose adored her some Enchantimar perfume. She delighted in repeating the word to herself in a sexy whisper, “Enchantimar,” as if the word itself transported her far away from Pair O’ Dice and the shabby singlewide trailer called the Ponderosa to that special garden in India.

I guess even a mental journey from Pair O’ Dice to India and back again amounted to a trip around the world so once again, Rose quietly spoke to her reflection in that who’s the fairest of them all mirror as she murmured, “Enchantimar.” Sometimes, Rose would lean over so close to the glass when she whispered, she fogged up the mirror with her, “Enchantimar.”

“Smells nice.”

“Don’t you worry, honey, this is gonna be like a hot knife through butter. You ready to butter Rose’s biscuit?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said as the butter began to churn inside my loins.

“Well, welcome to Pair O’ Dice, Texas. This could be your lucky day, cowboy.”

Rose glided over to a window air conditioning unit that appeared to have been haphazardly cut into the wall of the trailer, so as to adjust the fan and temperature to compensate for the human heat about to be generated. Rose sashayed back over toward the dresser, her butt moving around in her undergarments like a red and gold burlap sack full of rambunctious pussy cats, and turned on a small black and white television set. She cranked up the volume, and adjusted the tin foil on the rabbit ears to get the best reception.

“I hope you don’t mind if I put on the wrestlin’?” Rose asked, pronouncing the word more like rasslin’. “These walls are thinner than the plot to a porno movie, and a girl needs her privacy for some things. You see, you got your moaners, and you got your screamers. I’m a five alarm screamer. Understand?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said with a quivering Adam’s apple, even though I didn’t.

“Are you gonna wanna blow job, honey?” Rose asked caringly, like we were talking about whether I wanted more gravy on my mashed potatoes.

“No ma’am.” I’d heard about such things, but figured this graduate school MBJ part of my sexual education could wait a while.

“Well then, I won’t take my teeth out,” Rose said as she parted her candy apple red lips, and tapped on her appliance white front teeth with one of her unnaturally long lacquered fingernails. The index finger of her right hand to be exact, the nail of which was also painted candy apple red. In retrospect, I should have been thankful her teeth weren’t harvest gold, avocado green, or coppertone, those other popular appliance colors in the 1960s.

“They’re real white, sparkly almost.”

“I ordered these store bought choppers out of the Sears & Roebuck catalog. You know what? They’re guaranteed to grin,” Rose said with a big smile. “You sure you don’t want me to take my teeth out, and give you a BJ? It’s my special gift. That’s what all the boys say.”

“No, ma’am, I’m sure.” I stood firm on the point, but by then, I’d become firm somewhere else as well, which confirmed my suspicions that any teenage boy would screw the crack of dawn if given the chance. I waited expectantly on the side of the bed, as Rose moved over in front of me. She slowly unhitched her bustier, which one would have to assume existed somewhere on the scale of words between busty and bustiest, and let it fall to the floor. However beautiful I may have thought her breasts were when hidden partially by the lingerie, after being released from captivity, this pair exceeded all of my extremely high expectations.

“I bought these twins from a couple of doctors up in Houston who invented this whole, why shouldn’t a girl make improvements on what God gave her thing. You see, when I was your age I wanted to be a big band singer and a famous actress. I had these two enormous talents for singing and acting, but I also had two itty bitty teeny tiny titties. Why shouldn’t a girl try to improve on what God gave her in terms of her natural assets? I mean, it ain’t like that’s a sin or anythin’. Nowhere in the Bible does it say one single solitary word about anythin’ being wrong with a girl gettin’ bigger boobies. Now does it?”

“No ma’am, it doesn’t.”

“That’s right. It doesn’t. So, I figured if I was gonna buy a pair, they might as well be whoppers, real show stoppers. Hell, I always figured I’d marry me some rich ass horny toad sumbitch wildcatter oil man who liked big tits, and needed him some good pussy. Then I’d live out my gravy days and golden years on his big ol’ Texas ranch. You know, three thousand acres out in the middle of god damned nowhere, way the hell and gone west Texas…but somewhere for me to be, a place where I belonged. The closest I ever got to that big ol’ Texas ranch was dippin’ my Kentucky Fried chicken fingers in some ranch dressin’.”

Rose latched onto her bosoms, one in each hand, and commenced to rubbing those knockers all over my face. My head virtually disappeared between her twin peaks, the two mountains of fun bag flesh. The fragrance of the Enchantimar perfume on her rack washed over me like a scintillatingly scented tsunami.

Down at the other end of that rusted out singlewide trailer known as the Ponderosa, the north forty you might say, Pharr Jr. hunched forward with his elbows on the card table playing Dr. Pepper poker with his two friends. Eustis Bodine Peabody expressed his concern as to my whereabouts, and the progress on my journey toward manhood as he asked, “Most young bucks are done in less than a minute. What do you ‘spose is takin’ Billy so long? ”

“Fellas, that boy there comes from a long line of stud horses. Why as we speak, he’s pro’bly back there right now getting the last inch or two of Rose’s virginity,” Pharr Jr. said as he eyed his cards favorably by way of his best Panhandle Pete poker stare. A brief siren blast startled them as the sheriff’s car roared up in front of the singlewide.

“Fred, did you remember to take that bribe over to the sheriff?” Pharr Jr. asked.

“I knew I forgot something,” Fred said, as he slapped the card table hard.
“Well, I can’t take a chance on old Joe Buford. That boy’s crazier than a pet raccoon. He might decide to haul us in for spite, and Miss Kathleen’d skin me alive with a dull rusty pocket knife if she found out I brought Billy over here.” Pharr Jr. leapt up from the table, and rushed over to the door where he slotted a two by eight pine board in between two metal brackets on either side of the front door to the Ponderosa.

“That won’t hold him for long,” Fred said.

“You boys talk to old Joe, and keep him busy while me and Billy slip out the back.” Pharr Jr. put his cards down on the table, and said, “Five Jacks.” True enough, by Dr. Pepper rules he did have five jacks, but it was really just a jack of clubs, two red tens, a four of spades and a deuce of hearts. In his haste, Pharr Jr. haphazardly counted his precious little ill-gotten gain scattered on the table, and proceeded to stuff it randomly into his various shirt and pants pockets. “Let’s see here, a dollar and…eighty-seven cents. Thanks, boys.”

Sheriff Joe Buford tried to open the door, but the two by eight brace prevented entry. He stood on the ramshackle front porch of the trailer fashioned from discarded shipping pallets, and laid down the law in plain English so all present should be made aware. “You’uns listen up. There hain’t no other way out’n this here trailer. You boys come on out now, peaceable like, so nobody gets hurt.”

Back in Rose’s room at the other end of the trailer, I’d stripped down to my underwear, and a huge package bulged up in my tightie whities. Pharr Jr. busted into Rose’s bedroom, threw a twenty dollar bill on her bed, and eyed the large window AC unit built into the trailer wall, as he said, “We ain’t got time for you to motor boat them melons, son. We got to go. Rose sweetie, we’ll take a rain check.”

Pharr Jr. thrust his shoulder into it, and shoved the window AC unit out of the wall of the trailer leaving a big jagged rectangular hole. The air conditioner fell to the ground outside with a thud. Pharr Jr. grabbed me, and pushed me out the hole in the trailer wall. He tossed my clothes out the hole in the wall too, smacking me upside the head with one of my black and white high top Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars. Then all 250 pounds of Pharr Brenham Jr.’s once athletic body jumped out the hole in the wall his own self.

Rose watched us depart the premises posthaste by way of the hole in her bedroom wall as she picked the twenty dollar bill up off the bed, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, me oh my, how do ya like them apples?”

According to Pharr, Jr. there was no such thing as bad pussy, but he did allow as to how there were gradations of pussy, and the most appropriate way to classify those world class assets would be as good, better, and best pussy. While I was fully prepared to lose my virginity to one Mavis Buncombe, aka Rose Flowers, I would have to say upon reflection, Rose was as good a way as any, not to lose my virginity.

After our escape, we tramped down that oil dirt road on our way back into town. We must have been quite a sight, two desperados who’d been thrown from, and then somehow inadvertently misplaced, their horses somewhere out on the lonesome prairie. Given the events of the day, Pharr Jr. felt compelled to treat that juncture in time as a teaching moment, a learning experience as it were, so he said all scholarly like, “Billy, let that be a lesson to you. Always be on time with your bribes to the local po-lice. You remember that now, you hear?”

***

The last person I ever expected to see sitting on that front porch at the Old Gates Home in Pair O’ Dice was my mama, Mary Jane Lide Waters. But there she sat, dressed to the nines, in one of those freshly painted sky blue rocking chairs.

Then again, mom didn’t really sit in a chair, she perched out at the edge of the seat, hovered above it almost, back so ramrod straight she could have easily balanced a book on top of her head, knees so close together she could have tightly gripped an aspirin tablet between them, and ankles crossed just so: prim, proper, perfect. My first thought was, how in the world did she find out I’d been to the Ponderosa? She hadn’t of course, but she did have that, don’t try to lie to me because I know exactly what you’ve been up to radar like so many moms do.

I was glad to see her, even though she surprised me. Mom gave me a hug, always a little awkward for us, but heartfelt. Then I think she smelled the Enchantimar perfume on me as she asked, “Have you been enjoying your summer down here in Texas?”

“Sure, just working and fishing.”

Her nostrils flared as we talked, and she rolled her head back, turning first one way and then the other, nose up in the air to catch any slight breeze trying to nail down the indeterminate odor, when finally she asked me, “What’s that smell, cheap perfume or…”

I couldn’t help but glance over at the Truth Tree in the side yard, and hoped the thought didn’t occur to her, you know, to march me over to the Truth Tree, make me put my hand on it, and ask me where I’d been. I noticed the honeysuckle vines along the front porch rail and went for it, big time.

“Naw mom, you probably smell the honeysuckle.” My mouth went real dry all of a sudden. I reached over to pluck a handful of flowers, crushed them in my hand and held the honeysuckle under her nose, hoping that would throw her off Rose’s scent. “What brings you way over here to Pair O’ Dice, from Raleigh?”

“I was traveling through Texas on my way to El Paso,” Mom said as she kept working her olfactory talents twisting her head first one way and then the other, attempting to figure out what she smelled.

“El Paso?”

“Yeah, I’m visiting a friend out there, a new friend. So, I thought I’d come by Pair O’ Dice, and check up on you,” mom said sweetly, too sweetly, as if the Enchantimar or the honeysuckle had pushed her sweetness button, so now my radar was up and running too.

“What’s up, mom? Are you gonna level with me, or what?”

“I’m dating again. I wanted you to hear it from me first,” mom said as she primped her hair self-consciously and fumbled through her purse for a compact to powder her nose.

“Really? Who’s the lucky guy?” I suppose I asked that second question with a little more sarcasm than was necessary, but I couldn’t help it.

“A man who lives in El Paso. He’s in AA too, and owns a chain of three hundred convenience stores all over the southwest called Ball’s Bounce In and Out.”

“What’s his name, mom?”

“His real name is Harold, but everybody calls him Harry, Harry Ball,” mom said as she winced, bit her lower lip, and peeked over at me for my opinion.

“You’re kidding right? Harry Ball’s Bounce In and Out?”

“He’s a good man, and our relationship is getting kind of serious, so I wanted to talk to you about it. How would you feel about living in El Paso?”

“El Paso? Sounds like El Asshole to me.”

“That’s not fair, you don’t know anything about that town. It might be real pretty out there for all you know, a regular garden of paradise.”

“I doubt it. There’s no beach right, like they’ve got here in this Pair O’ Dice?”

“Well, they’ve got plenty of beach in El Paso…but no ocean,” mom said with a handful of hope, and a spoonful of verbal dexterity.

“Are you gonna get remarried?”

“Maybe. Is that such a bad thing? You don’t expect me to be alone for the rest of my life do you?”

I had to admit, when she put it that way, being alone for the rest of your life sounded…pretty lonely, but still I said, “So, then we’d be part of the Harry Ball’s family?”

Her lips began to tremble, almost imperceptibly at first, and she rubbed at her dampening nostrils as her nose reddened, then the floodgates opened and mom started to cry. It’s not fair when they do that, women in general, and moms in particular. We hugged a long hug, a mama bear hug as she sobbed into my shoulder, a longer stronger hug than we’d experienced in a long, long time. She kissed me on the forehead, then wiped the lipstick off with the same tissue she’d used to blow her runny nose, and we agreed that this would all work out, someway, somehow, someday, Harry Balls and all.