Bridge is washed out, can’t swim, and my baby’s on the other side. I could buy a little boat with an outboard motor and cross over. I could get off this porch and take a severe action.
Truth is, I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling. My wife says I should stop staring at some girl who lives across the river, that I’m not ever going to Memphis to sing the blues. She says this girl needs to hang her laundry in peace without some coot staring at her.
I’m not a coot, I say.
You’re the reason our kids are so ugly, she says.
I go to town and instead of a boat, I buy a gun. Before this wife, my first wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him. Carter was a boat man, a doer, a singer of the blues. Carter would have crossed that river already, brown water and snakes and all, helping that baby with her laundry, separating brights and darks. Carter sent me a postcard once from Hattiesburg telling me he liked my first wife better before he got to know her. That’s when my second wife was my baby who lived across the river.
Home is nothing but ticks and dust so I go to check out Yankee women at Padgett’s Pit Stop. They all drive Cadillac Escalades on road trips from New Jersey to New Orleans and need gas. They like to go to the French Quarter and drink Big Ass Beers and forget about air pollution. At Padgett’s I spot a live one drinking a tall boy in her front seat. She has red hair like a shrub all around her head and a gold shirt stretched across two buoys. She nods to the passenger’s side.
Don’t expect valet service, she says. You better carjack my ass like a man.
I forgot I was holding a gun. Miss Jersey points to four tall boys on the floorboards. They are still in the plastic rings with sweat trickling down the sides. I crack one open for me and another for her even though she’s still drinking the first one.
We cruise around running the air conditioning with the windows open and she tells me about Jesus. Jesus is a black ocean of sharks. Jesus is tiny purple bug that lives in her medulla oblongata. Jesus has diamonds for back teeth. She’s going on about Jesus driving at light speed as she waves at Tunston Hellums, a state trooper who parks to the side Highway 72 so he can write out speeding tickets to women from New Jersey driving Escalades, drinking tall boys on their way to New Orleans, but Tunston just waves back. I guess that’s how life is for women with giant boobs and Jesus.
We toss our empty cans out the window and crack open another round.
I shoulda remembered cigarettes, she says.
I shoulda remembered bullets, I say.
Now Jersey tells me someone took her joy. She’s been out looking for it–Shreveport. Nashville. Now New Orleans. At least she goes places. Maybe Jersey could take me with her. Jersey puts Escalade in park but keeps the engine running. She stops talking and the quiet is lonely.
Well? she says.
What? I say.
Get in or get out, because I’m getting on, she says.
Jersey presses her hard, big boobs against me and grabs my face. This takes some doing, reaching across an Escalade, but her boobs and arms are long. The tree-shaped air freshener smells of vanilla perfume. It makes me want cake. In that second I think about cake instead of Jersey and she feels the shift. Jersey and I, we’re over now. I look out the window and I’m back home. The river is still brown and my baby is taking down the laundry now that it’s dry. I keep forgetting I am supposed to forget about her.
I’ve got this boat I’ve been meaning to fix up, I say.
I can’t believe I shaved my vagina for this, she says.
Across the river my baby’s carrying the laundry on her hip, swaying back and forth. She has trouble balancing her load with the screen door and I hold my breath.
You never even called me by my name, Jersey says.
Baby, I say.
Get out, she says.
Jersey hits the gas and the Escalade turns into an orange cloud flying down the road. The wife and kids are running for me now. They want meat and candy but my pockets are empty. The last I see of Jersey is the barrel of my gun looking back as she fires in the wind. Then the kids are on me.