“You shouldn’t go,” she laughed, “what is there for you out there?” She had an accent, a deep French-Canadian seriousness, that made everything she said feel like I’m back in high school talking to a teacher.
“I don’t know.”
“No, stay for another,” she said already filling another tumbler with ice, “I wanna know about you.”
“I,” instinctively I went to grab my phone before remembering it was back on the bus, with the battery taken out, the way I usually travel when I cross the border. But that also means I don’t have a clock and I have no idea how much time is left until the show, “alright,” I conceded.
The sun was still out… I should still have time.
She set the drink in front of me, put her elbows on the counter around it and leaned in. Settling closer to talk.
That was when I noticed how long her fore-arms are. I mean she was tall. And big, so maybe it stood out more to me, but I remember her arms looked like two of my arms. Still everything about her seemed gentle and friendly.
“Do you want to see my baby?” she asked as I was mid-drink.
And before I could answer she was scrolling through her phone showing me pictures of a small dog. I’m not one for knowing breeds, but it had that grey-short curled hair all over it, small face. She had a photo of the dog tucked in between her arm and all I could see was the end of his little face.
“Do you?” she asked.
“My wife does. She’s more the animal one,” I answered.
She raised those pencil thin sculpted eyebrows with a look like, ‘Well?’
“Ah, yeah, no photos on me. She has… I forget what its called.”
The bartender made a stern face.
“The breed I mean. Looks like a little jumpy fox. Jack.”
“Sounds right,” and it does, I think Jack is a Sheltie, “The other was a hound dog, Lucy, she passed away, not too long ago.”
“Oh,” she sighed and looked like she was genuinely hurt by the news.
She reached behind the counter and pulled out a ten. I know cause it’s the purple one. “Make some choices,” she pointed to the jukebox, “Music man.”
I hate this game. I was never good at choosing music for other people. But I agreed and smiled took the bill and began searching for anything 50’s. Elvis, The Imperials, Everly’s, The Champs, trying to burn through this.
And I was picking the songs, I cracked the knuckles on my left hand, tucking my thumb right underneath my wedding ring. Right where my hand has a callous from wearing the ring and playing bass.
But a few weeks before I left on this tour my whole hand was busted. When Lucy passed we buried her in the yard, but everything in South Texas is hard Limestone.
The shovels, the long metal pick, just strike after strike of cutting the rock back. Little pieces falling off at a time. Taking the earth out in handfuls. I don’t know why we didn’t have gloves.
Soon my hands were filling up with blisters, and that metallic sting just kept spreading along my hands as we carved out a spot for Lucy.
Oh Lucy. “Got to make sure it’s deep enough, she’s a pretty big girl…” my father in law said.
“… and the width. Do you think it’s too narrow?”
I stepped across the hole. “Looks pretty good. Maybe a couple more inches down.”
And we went back to it. My Father in-law, was talking stories of Lucy and when they got her, and how crazy she was, and how sweet she was, and how she loved to lay on her belly, and how she would squeal as if she was telling you how good she felt. All as we kept pulling out more and more rocks.
“Music man?” the bartender called me.
“Did you pick?”
“Just a few more.” I took another drink feeling the glass against my hand. “Almost done.”
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