Saturday, February 23, 2013

I Hear The Train A Comin', It's Rolling Round the Bend

Under extreme duress, I am participating in Nicky and Mike's 30-2 Days of Writing. Nicky and Mike hang out at We Work For Cheese. You need to visit them often...even when 30-2 Days of Writing is over.

If you haven't been reading my series of stories, this post may not make much sense to you. Maybe you want to catch up with my country fried tale? Of course you do. I'm not pressuring you or anything (but you better catch up). You can go back if you want (and you do) and read the first story HERE, the second story HERE, the third story HERE, the fourth story HERE, the fifth story HERE, stories six-ten HERE and the eleventh story HERE. There now. You are all caught up and exhausted (but you loved it, I know you did). Now that you are caught up, you need to join us every day because 30-2 Days of Writing ends at the end of February. You also need to go HERE and read all the other participants' entries for today.

Speaking of catching up, I'm doing just that. My post today covers three writing prompts. Life is so challenging.


Buck couldn't wait to get out of town after he graduated from Ima Hogg High School which was named after the famous daughter of the late Texas governor, "Big Jim" Hogg. Buck was a four year letterman on the Ima Hogg Javelina state championship football team. He was naturally bright and never had to crack a book to study.  Although he was a star athlete and excelled in academics, Buck was never voted Most Likely To Succeed because he was a rebel. He didn't like to follow rules and that was considered a cardinal sin at IHHS.  Buck held the record at Ima Hogg High for the student who had received the most swats with a paddle. Hardly a day passed that Buck wasn't sitting in front of the principal's office awaiting  his daily dose of corporal punishment. Although he was the object of many school girl crushes, Buck was banned from dating most girls in school. Mothers were aware of his reputation as a rebel and whether they wanted to admit it or not, most of the mothers were keenly aware of Buck's sexual vibes.

His rebelliousness wasn't confined to the boundaries of the school campus. Even though high school students were not allowed in Cool Breeze's Domino Parlor,  Buck practically lived there after school. He had become Cool Breeze's honorary intern who entertained the old men with his stories while harvesting life lessons from the old timers. Buck also had quite the reputation with all the pretty married and widowed women in town. He would have preferred to give his attentions to their daughters, but the mothers had made the rules and  Buck had decided to take what he could get.  He kept his black and turquoise Chevy El Camino washed, waxed and ready to go. He was famous for pulling alongside ladies at the town's only traffic light with his windows rolled down and a cigarette dangling from his lips. If the woman didn't immediately give him her attention, Buck would pump the car accelerator pedal to make his glass pack mufflers sing his song of love.  The gossip at the Tuesday Morning Bridge Club often revolved around the topic of spying Buck's El Camino parked in front of this or that woman's house.

While Buck's classmates chatted incessantly about their plans after graduation, he remained silent. Some said he had no ambition and would probably just end up playing dominoes for the rest of his life. Others speculated that he would probably end up married to some rich widow lady. But Buck had plans. On graduation day, Buck finally told his classmates that he had been accepted to attend a technology school. After his announcement, his teammates slapped him on the back congratulating him while all of the girls took the opportunity to get an extra close full frontal hug. Buck knew that all of his classmates assumed that he would be moving to Big Spring to attend TWC, Texas Welding College and that was fine with him. As soon as the graduation ceremony was over and his classmates were headed over to the graduation party at the First Baptist Church,  Buck hopped into his El Camino, drove out of town  and never looked back.

After he graduated with honors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Buck packed up the El Camino and drove home. He hadn't been back since the day he graduated from high school. He thought a short visit at home might be a relaxing break before he had to start his new career with Houston's most prestigious engineering firm. However, his plans changed after he discovered that Cool Breeze had died and left him the domino parlor in his will.  Buck tried to walk away from the domino parlor, but he couldn't bring himself to destroy the dream of his mentor. So Buck permanently moved his belongings into the old unoccupied family homestead. He sold his El Camino for cash so he could renovate the domino parlor to include a bar and pool hall. Buck took his diploma from MIT and hid it in  the back of his underwear drawer and never mentioned his academic achievement to a single soul.


Buck was polishing the bar and looking at Ethyl sitting across the bar from him. She was smiling sweetly and singing along with Garth Brooks as The Thunder Rolls  was playing on the jukebox.  

Every light is burnin'
In a house across town
She's pacin' by the telephone
In her faded flannel gown
Askin' for a miracle
Hopin' she's not right
Prayin' it's the weather
That's kept him out all night
And the thunder rolls
And the thunder rolls

Buck couldn't believe how his life had changed since the day she walked into The Rack 'n Roll Pool Hall. Life was beginning to make sense for him. There was no doubt about it, Buck and Ethyl were in love. Ethyl insisted that they keep their romance secret until Cooter won his bid for mayor. Buck was fond of saying that they were keeping their affair "under the covers."

The ceiling fans in the pool hall provided the only breeze in town. The air was hot, heavy and still. An approaching thunderstorm rumbled along with the tune on the jukebox. It was a perfect Texas afternoon except for the intense heat. Buck was hoping that the clouds which were moving in would bring much needed rain.

"Do you smell rain, Buck? Look at that dark cloud coming in. I hope it rains cats and dogs."

"What we need right now is a big old turd floater."

"You have such a way with words, Buck."

"Yep. We need it to rain like a cow pissin' on a flat rock."

Cooter and Bobby Lee were playing pool at the table in the corner. Bobby Lee hadn't been in the pool hall for a while. It seemed that he had just dropped off the face of the earth. Unbeknownst to him, Buck had started a pool to place bets on why Bobby Lee  had gone missing.

"Ethyl, give me your dollar and tell me your guess on where the hell Bobby Lee has been."

"I'm putting my money on Barbara Sue finally putting her foot down and making him get that vasectomy she has been threatening him with. What do you think, Buck?"

"Well, I started the pool, so I took the obvious choice. I'm betting that Barbara Sue caught him with another woman.  I just haven't figured out who the other woman is, but I  sure have noticed how nervous Bobby Lee is around Cooter."

The stained glass beer lamp hanging over the pool table flickered off and on twice as Buck made his statement.  Buck and Ethyl looked at each other and laughed.

"Do you think that's a sign, Buck?"

The lightening bolt struck the fire hydrant right across the street from the pool hall. When the lightning hit, a glowing blue mass in the shape of a ball zipped through the pool hall leaving behind an acrid smell of ozone. Cooter and Bobby Lee dropped their cue sticks and jumped back from the pool table.

"What in the world was that, Buck? I swear the hair on the back of my neck is standing straight up."

"I'm not sure. My asshole is puckered too tight to think."

The conversation in the pool hall stopped suddenly as the sound of big raindrops began hitting the tin roof. There was no time to rejoice in the rain because hail stones the size of golf balls began bouncing off the roof.  Then the wind hit.

"Do you hear that, Buck?  It sounds like we have a train coming through town."

"Ethyl, you know damn well that the last train that came through here was in 1953."

At that very moment, the train arrived.


Barbara Sue was compulsively pacing the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. She couldn't help it. It was a compulsion she had inherited from her mother who was deathly afraid of storms. As a child, Barbara Sue grew accustomed to her mother's hysterical behavior when a thunderstorm was approaching.  When she would see her mother looking out the window and begin pacing, Barbara Sue would go to her room, put on her  yellow raincoat and galoshes, pick up the little suitcase that her mother insisted she keep packed for emergencies and go sit in the chair by the back door waiting for her mother to grab her by the arm to run to the storm cellar.

If her father was home when they darted to the cellar, it was a little less hectic, but when her mother had to herd her and the neighbor kids into the cellar by herself, it was a nightmare. The metal cellar door was too heavy for her mother to handle alone as it was tethered by a metal cable to a large concrete block. By the time her mother reached the cellar, she was always in a state of pure panic and was usually sweating and shouting orders as though she was a captain trying to save a sinking ship. Once the group  had succeeded in opening the cellar door, her mother would command everyone to run run run into the shelter even though the storm had not yet reached the city limits. It was a routine that started every spring and lasted late into the summer months.

Barbara Sue hated going into the cellar. Her mother would hold the flashlight from the top of the flight of the concrete stairs to project a small beam of light into the pit of pure blackness. When Barbara Sue descended from the last step, she would stand in the dark while her mother came down the stairs and fumbled to light the kerosene lantern with the matches she kept in a Mason Jar. The cellar was a spooky place for Barbara Sue. The glow of the lantern illuminated the small concrete cell filled with cots, old lawn chairs, spiders and row upon row of Mason Jars filled with water or canned peaches. Barbara Sue could never make the connection between tornadoes and peaches, but her mother obviously believed that peaches were a cellar staple. More often than not, Barbara Sue and the other  prisoners in the cellar would sit in silence for an untold time and then exit from the cellar into sunlight and clear skies. At other times, the kids in the cellar would sit in horror and watch the adults anchor themselves to the rope which was attached to the cellar door and play tug-of-war with Mother Nature  to keep the swirling winds from blowing open the cellar door and sucking the occupants and canned peaches right out of the ground.

As an adult, Barbara Sue had vowed to not be like her mother. Unless the tornado siren was wailing, Barbara Sue would not go near a storm cellar. However, after her kids were born, Barbara Sue found herself pacing back and forth as a storm approached. On this particular night, Barbara Sue was pacing even more frantically, not only because of the thunderstorm, but because this was Bobby Lee's first night away from her since that awful scene at the Cut 'n Curl. Now he was at that damn pool hall. Or was he? She knew where he better not be. She wondered if Cooter knew what she knew. She was getting herself good and worked up. She was home alone with his kids in this damn storm and he was out having fun.  She was sick and tired of Bobby Lee making her sweat and pace and pray.


Buck had grabbed Ethyl and pulled her over the bar, threw her on the worn, wooden floor and shielded her body with his when he realized that the sound they were hearing was actually a tornado. They had just hit the floor when all hell broke loose in The Rack 'n Roll Pool Hall.  Buck could barely hear Ethyl screaming over the loud roar which enveloped the building. Liquor bottles were flying off the shelves behind the bar and dropping like glass bombs all around them. Large objects were being tossed against the outer walls while some of the flying  missiles came crashing through the front windows. Everything inside the pool hall was in a state of motion. Then there was silence. A deafening silence interrupted only by the settling of the flying objects and Ethyl's continuous screams.

Buck lifted Ethyl from the floor and quickly checked her body to make sure she had not been wounded by flying debris. He calmed her and then they allowed their eyes to drift through the pool hall to assess the damage.

Buck and Ethyl could not tear their eyes away from the disastrous scene in front of them.   A pickup truck lay belly up on the sidewalk in front of the pool hall while a bewildered dog limped around the truck in circles. A metal street sign stuck straight out of the wall right beside the undisturbed girly wall calendar. The stained glass beer lamps which hung over the pool tables were still swinging from the wind that had passed through the building. Both front windows were blown out and clouds of red dirt were floating around the room. Strangely enough, none of the furniture in the pool hall had been disturbed except for a few overturned bar stools and cue sticks which were scattered around the room like Mother Nature had been playing a game of Pick Up Sticks. Standing right in the middle of the pool hall was a pink, vintage refrigerator that looked like it had been carefully placed there.

"Buck, have you ever wanted a pink Philco refrigerator 'cause you've got one now."

"Yeah, I see that. I'll have to call Doris Upham and tell her that her refrigerator is over here."

"How do you know that is Doris Upham's refrigerator? When have you ever been in Doris's house?"

"Back when I was in high school."

"Why did you go over there when you were in high school?"

"Uhhhhhh. I'd rather not say."

"Oh, never mind, Buck. I'll just ask Cooter."

It was at that moment they both remembered that Cooter and Bobby Lee had been playing pool when the tornado hit.  Together, they bolted toward the pool table in the corner where the men had last been seen. Sitting in the corner with his head covered by his arms and shaking like a leaf was Cooter. On the top of the pool table was one of the big gas pump neon crosses from the Washed In The Blood of the Lamb Church. There was no sign of Bobby Lee and Ethyl was getting panicked until Buck finally spotted him. They stood there in disbelief staring at the absurd tragedy. Bobby Lee was  underneath the neon cross with only the tips of his fingers and the toes of his boots peeking out from beneath the cross.