Thursday, October 16, 2008

Excerpt: Crossroads

This is available here, for $1.29

Johnny Cotton had to get out. Out of the Delta, out of Arkansas, out of the whole lousy South, if he could manage it. So, one fine fall evening, after the cotton was in, when Daddy was drunk and Mama was over visiting at his grandma's, Johnny slipped out and hiked along route 50.

The moon rode fat and full through scudding little ghost clouds and he didn't need the flashlight. His backpack felt easy on his back and his guitar case banged softly against the backs of his thighs. He'd pick up 149, get down to US 79 at Hughes and hitch a lift into Memphis and from there to Nashville.

But Johnny been up since before dawn, and put in a full day's work getting in the cotton. His legs felt like they were slogging through bayou mud, and more than once he drifted off the shoulder of the highway and nearly stumbled into a cypress slough as he dozed while walking.

He made it as far as Greasy Corner, a crossroad where 50 and 149 came together. Years ago, there had been a couple little country stores. Now the kudzu choked the deserted buildings and the plywood over the door was long gone.

Johnny let himself in, figuring to take a little nap and make the last three miles in the morning. More traffic by daylight anyway, he decided. Tomorrow, he'd be in Nashville, on Music Row. He spread out his blanket and was asleep almost before he had lain down.

The harsh cough of diesel air brakes and the whine of the engine woke him. He looked out of the broken window to see a big black Peterbilt stopped in front of the building. The moonlight glinted off the chrome smoke-stacks and bumper and tanks, and picked out the silver scroll-work that read “Speed Demon, Lou and Lil Schiffer, owners,” on the door. Bettie Page in a sexy devil costume smiled from the side of the sleeper.

The woman opened the driver's side door and climbed down. She stretched, and Johnny could do nothing but watch. All long legs and long black hair in a ponytail; her skin gleamed ivory in the moonlight. She looked around and her eyes landed on the abandoned gas station. Johnny couldn't tell their color, only that they looked like dark pits that could swallow him. He was ready to be swallowed up.

When Lou came around the front of the truck, Johnny got a shock. With that name, he'd been expecting someone short and dumpy, like Lou Costello or the cartoon mouse version of him that Johnny was used to seeing. Lou was as gorgeous as Lil, tall and saturnine, a dark beard and mustache framing a fully and sensual mouth, nicely built under the tight T-shirt and tighter jeans. The silver edge of moonlight seemed to caress that bulge as he came around and kissed Lil.

They both smiled at the old gas station. Johnny knew they couldn't see him, but it sure felt like he was naked in front of them.

“Hello, Johnny. Why don't you come out and be social?” Lil's voice was honey and velvet and all the sexy things that Johnny knew he'd never get back on the farm. His cock stood right up and took notice, but he didn't move. Midnight at the crossroads, whispered a little voice that sounded like his late grandpa, the preacher. You know what that means, boy. Oh fucking hell, Johnny thought.

And that sentiment grew very literal as Lou got hold of Lil again and kissed her harder, stroking her curves and opening her shirt. Her pale white breasts almost glowed in the moonlight. She turned to the station again, letting Johnny have a good look at her.

“So, Johnny, are you coming out, or shall we come in?” she asked

“I'm coming out,” he said, the words out before he realized he was speaking.

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