Joe Wright said, “Marty you oughta do that White Sport Coat.” Marty shook his head,
“I ain’t a kid, if you ain’t noticed your boss is getting a little long in the tooth.” Joe countered, “Marty, nobody watches a record. It’s like magic man. Look, you want girls in the seats as far as the eye can see? Screamin an’ hollerin? You want them clutching their breasts and crying in their hankies? You gotta get as teenaged as your 31 year old ass can get. Shoot who thought Elvis was black? Who thought Little Richard was a woman? You can be a young stud again.”
“You sound like you’re selling snake oil.” Marty said between sips of 7-Up.
“I am man, they spin it into wax.” Joe said.
“Well,” Marty shucked, “I’m still a young stud.” And he punched Wright in the arm. When he returned to Nashville, Marty went to Levy’s and strolled through the front of the store. Cock-sure and wicked grin, his hair greased he was making a line for the suits and sport coats. “Mr. Robbins what brings you in today?” Marty sang, “I need a white sport coat, as many as you got.”
Marty looked in the mirror. He crooned. Marty hiccupped. He did a new dance called,“Elvis my ass.” He did rabbit punches on Fabian. He kneed Paul Anka in the nuts. He cried all the way to the bank just like Mr. Teardrop should. He cashed that check. He bought a white sport coat. He played, “loves me, loves me not” with pink carnations out his Chrysler window letting the petals go in the breeze. He made girls think he wasn’t even old enough to buy them a beer.
He pulled into the driveway and just sat in his car singing to himself. He sat in the driveway for 20 minutes before he thought to go inside. He got out of the car. He looked at the house. No one was at the door. “Well don’t everyone come out and greet me all at once,” he said to himself. He shut the door with quick pitch of his wrist. It made a deep metallic thud. He walked up the drive singing to himself. He never put the keys in his pocket. He swung them from his finger to his palm and took them with his other hand stabbing the key lock. The door was already open. He supposed she never locked the door. He wished she would. He didn’t like her being alone at the house. She was in the kitchen. She smiled at him. Her long black hair took his breath away.
We stopped driving home for Christmas in El Paso one year. Me and the wife and kids. It was Rosa’s Cantina. They made sopapillas for the kids. We drank Coco-Colas. I had a Torta. My wife had a few tacos. We showed the kids the map to show them how far we had to go to Arizona. They were about to cry till they got that Sopapilla. Sweet stuff made them forget all about it for a while. The waitress was pretty. Her skirt clung to her hips. The ruffles at the bottom danced around her legs. She had on black shoes. I thought to myself, I’m going to make a cowboy record. Not only will I tell all of Nashville screw you and your country club, I’m going to do it playing music that is nobody’s but mine. I done Rock-A-Billy, I done teen queen, I done Honky Tonk. But I got a new thing. All men, he thought, want to be a cowboy. They want to walk into the bar, throw a woman over their shoulder and go upstairs. They want to deal with all problems with a gun or dynamite. They want to smoke and drink. They want to spit on the ground in front of their detractors. Deep down this is the truth.
Marty slid on the vinyl seats and they creaked and moaned. He thinks of all the piece of shit cars he drove before he could buy a car without thinking twice. He put his hands on the wheel of the Dodge Charger. 10 and 2. He smiles. He runs his hands around the wheel and laughs. He feels a tear in his throat. He loosens his face and looks down. He looks backward along the side of the car thinking of getting the doors welded shut. He turns back to the car and pulls the door shut like the hatch on a tank. It thunks and holds him in its grasp. He turns the engine on. A bark and belch made of galloping horses and roaring lions, turned into a song of ferocious speed. He laughs without a twinge of sorrow and puts it in drive. Save for a few other men and a handful of women, he is alone at the Tennessee State Fair Motor Speedway. He steers the car onto the track and starts down the straightaway gunning the engine. He brakes slightly for the turn not going as fast as he would if he was racing. He just wants to let the car run. He comes back around and the hangers on are in mock race mode. A girl has her handkerchief out waving it, a few men make keep going motions and laugh. He blows by them. A man puts his hat in his hands and throws it in the air. Marty scoots up and looks at the hood. He already sees the car in purple and gold. He begins to work out the details for placement as he has done on other cars he has raced. Gold numbers, purple bodywork. He brays a loud whoop and a rebel yell.
Here in my hand is this little golden record player like the one that was in the Sears catalogue. Like the one at the dime store. This token seems to say that everything was worth it. You crossed the desert and were left standing in the spotlight. I looked across the desert and thought I saw the edge of town. I saw a well with a rope and a wooden bucket. I stood there with nothing but sand blowing through my fingers. Somehow this small golden record player does not quench my thirst. I don’t feel safe here. I need to get moving. I’m followed by a shadow. The shadow of a cowboy with a gun. I’m riding across the desert and I see it out of the corner of my eye like the shadows of corn stalks blowing in the breeze. A voice whispers in my ear to just lie down and go to sleep. The voice tells me I am tired and I have too far to go. Now I have the golden record player and the shadow is ever closer. He is in the hallway when I turn out the light. He is in the kitchen window when I go to bed. The heat never lets me go. The thirst is always turning my blood to sand. My head is a cobbled radio and I run through a department store full of stereos in my mind, turning them on as I go looking for a song. Lo a creaky old man speaks, he pleads with me from the small mesh box. He leads the choir in a common melody, in common language, and piss poor singing. I like to be preached to. I nod my head in recognition as if I opened a box from Ireland or England, some place where my great, great, great, grandfather fell on the marshy land with a knife in his teeth ready to catfish an invader. Something truer than time passes over my soul. Something that masters all time.