Jack Wesley Hardin’s
THE ONE THAT GET AWAY
THE ONE THAT GET AWAY
Call it Extreme Weather, Climate Retribution or Global Swampocide, but whatever you call it it’s obvious there is no debate over whether or not Mother Nature is seriously pissed. “She comin’ to clean out the good, bad and innocent alike tonight,” Little Lorenzo the Rubberlegger told himself as he looked fearfully into the face of his own reflection staring back at him from the window of the prefab studio precariously wobbling too much for comfort up on the bluffs overlooking Big Muddy. One little slide and he’d be swimmin’ wit’ ‘de fishes before he could get his flippers on. The little voice inside his head told him to run, but there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, so when the music on the turntable wound down Dylan’s apocalyptic Hard Rain he turned away from the bone crushing storm outside, switched on his mic and went back On The Air.
“You don’t need a weatherman to tell you who been blowin’ what on this brutal springboard night, chil’en. Once again, it apparent mighty Muddy’s locked down in a no-holds-barred smackdown with the elements; powerful westwardly thunderstorms out of northeast Arkansas are grinding against the black water like a bow across a cheap Walmart fiddle. If you unfortunate enough to be stuck crossin’ the bridge over these troubled waters tonight you can witness Old Muddy spitting huge-spiked-geysers of thick brown glop from the top of the swirling whitecaps straight up at the got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-their-clouds-again-Gods. Who, as you can imagine, are pissed-to-the-bone as-usual at this interruption in the normal flow of bumbling entertainment provided for them by we humble thespians bungling along down here below their lofty perch. So if you unlucky enough to be out in the soup tonight, baby, you don’t have to be told this toxic brew of critics and crucifiers alike are not pissin’ chicken soup for the soul down on WKIKA’s 24-hour-never-sleep home of the blues. All you gotta do to understand the setup bestowed on all us poor wretches is watch the waves of rage exploding out over the high bluffs above Old Muddy’s north bank like an epidemic falling off the wagon of sobriety into such hard times it explain why the abandoned site of our Egyptian namesake has been uninhabitable for centuries after its glory days as Top Dog of the Delta, capital of the Ancient 6th Dynasty and the center for over eight consecutive Dynasties dedicated to the worship of Ptah, the great God of all creation and artwork — who many of you know-it-alls swivelin’ blissfully along on Midtown barstools still believe came back lives later as The King hisself, before getting whacked by derelict-hangers-on addicted to the sweet drugs of his suc-suc-success. . .
“Despite that glorified rise & fall from grace, my chil’en’, this tsunami of internal rage and urgly truth always guarantees delivery of reality along with its cargo of mud, farm chemicals, driftwood, upriver raw sewerage and unattached lost dreams. Like an out-of-tune blue moon valentine from the home of the blues we just can’t throw away, despite knowing better we’ve got to righteously celebrate that old my baby left me on the night train to nowhere, just goin’ somewhere else with somebody else ‘til the bottom dropped out beneath me — and other songs of blood & guts betrayal, heartbreak, dislocation and drunk-with-loss assassination splattered around the world — like no other place in this whole wide world. All while, right ‘til the bitter end, we, all of us, are still in exile out here – out there – all alone, baby, dreamin’ of scarfing up on genuine Memphis, not imitation Memphis style, bar-b-que, from where else but the ghost of Brady & Lil’s — your commercial host for the next hour of rantin’, ravin’ and rockin’ out on this storm of life and life only. . .
“Now before we get any deeper in a deal we can’t get out of, we’ll get it on with Alex Chilton’s Sweet Cream Ladies right after I ask you a little, but no small, favor: What I wanna know from you out there is, even though this apparent baptismal of legendary local pig is just another long cool glass of sweet iced tease to appease the resident Devils that flourish here in the Bluff City present as much as it is to lure back the ghosts of Beale Street’s scarily gloriously irreverent ode to what lurks beneath the city’s seriously flawed mask of respectability, what I wanna know from you cats out there is, can I get me an Amen right now? Can I?”
Three square miles of buildings and deserted streets atop the bluff cry out to echo back cleansing blasts from past oldie-but-goldies catastrophes with everything they got on tap, but all that comes out is Ah-muted silence.
Waves of water and debris gobble up all sound as they rush over the bluff, seeking lower ground to throw down an answer to the cosmic request from all comers, goers and dirty birds alike — like that fancy metal STOP, DON’T GO traffic sign with its attached iron pole spinning out of the vacant grass lot on the northwest corner of the bluff. Bobbing and weaving above and below the surface, it flips up and down like a lucky two-headed double-crossing George Raft coin-of-the-realm, then takes a precarious if not downright disastrous dive down to the less official lower bowels of the city limits without once slowing to offer a ticket to ride to its drowning boosters screaming the gospel of Armegdumbass to their followers stuck out in the surreal world of so-called reality with nothing more substantial to cover their asses than a cheap-overpriced Mississippi-made bootlegged Korean umbrella that won’t open in the rain.
A half-mile down stream, a blue and white police cruiser manifests out of the mulch just as dull static replaces Little Lorenzo’s reassuring the world ain’t ended yet radio gospel. Turning off the wide wet avenue into a narrow two-lane cesspool of darkened street corner, the front wheels submerge into an ancient overflowing gutter — that like gutters all over America ain’t had their drains cleaned out since they traditionally began pocketing the money they allocated to clean ‘em out, close to a full century ago — bringing the vehicle to a sudden rocking halt as a humongous blast of rain suddenly crashes into the windshield, splattering upward like bullets in a wild ricochet borrowed from an award winning mobile Special Effects Department on temporary leave from recreating Katrina for Showtime.
The tilted weary headlights reflect off the street, barely bringing to view a wooden sign set on a mound of red clay bricks. A sputtering florescent light above it gives warning to all who stupidly or bravely plan on entering this hallowed gangland no ho’s land with a WELCUM TO MOKEY SITY, MOT R FUK RS, intentionally (or not) misspelled out in bold black letters.
Inside looking out of the cruiser, two proud uniformed bros, an unlikely black Laurel & Hardy contradiction of Memphis’ finest, lean forward in their seats, squinting their eyes, hoping to see nothing out of the ordinary on their beat. Slave made cobblestones exposed by the worn asphalt appear in front of them then disappear like small refuges bobbing up and down with the current as they swim across those hysterical rapids toward cheap promises of freedom. The multiple green and red lights of their interior equipment glows across their chocolate faces like a message from Father Christmas to the Easter Bunny. The squeaky windshield wipers struggling across the glass reveal faded wooden and brick single story shotgun shacks that look like rejects from a grade B horror flick on one hand, and a last resort for Takin’ Care Of Business as usual on the other. Even if it all is at a standstill now. Though if you know what you know you know white line fever is there waiting behind the facade. And always will be. Down to the very last line.
The hardy Sergeant behind the wheel would rather not lecture the neophyte partner he’s been punished with for indiscretions better off left under the bridge for now, but, ”Yo, this our ground Rook,” his words attempt to instruct the young cringing uniformed shorty sitting next to him. “Rememba three things, Rook: First you a Vice Lord, then and only then you a city pig. . .”
“Wha’s the third?”
“Hell boy, can’t you count? We worked damn hard to get yo ass in this blue uniform, don’t make me sorry I stick mine out for yours by askin’ me dumbass questions that won’t answer without signifyin’ like a monkey.”
“Shit, we got this gang thing really runnin’ smoove down here now. What they don’t know never killed as many as what they do. If it not for yor baby momma’-Aunte Rue, yo’ family still be getting’ fucked back side up by the system. But she bein’ Murder Ts’ woman didn’t hurt you ass getting’ in none either.”
” I ain’t forgotten, Uncle Buck.”
“Nigger, call me Sergeant in this car! Remember that, hear me?”
Sarge hated raising his voice, but incomprehension, in part due to the curse of the lifelong dumbass, but now more from the continuous hammering of the hard rain on the roof above his brain, made his blood boil and trigger itch.
Suddenly a loud metal bending CRASH explodes on the hood!
Both men in chorus scream, “WHA’ TH’ FUC!” as they fumble for their guns.
Youth be served, Rookie’s draw faster, his shaky fingers frantically tugging at his strap-fastened-holster, accidentally pulling the trigger all-in-one-move.
The explosion is deafening in the closed cruiser. Smoke and flame spiral upward out of his seat.
”Goddamn my ears!” Sarge hisses, clasping his thick hands over his eyes as flames leap up to the roof.
Meanwhile Rookie flaps his arms like a chicken swimming in a sizzling, deep fat fryer, then grabs the door release and falls out backwards into the overflowing gutter, unleashing a resounding splash followed by a wave of dirty water crashing inside and blessedly snuffing the flames. A cloud of white smoke fills the wounded cruiser with river stink.
Chocking and teary-eyed, Sarge has had enough of this shit. Reaching across the smoldering upholstery, he grabs the only part of Rookie’s body not submerged by his left boot. ”Motherfucker, you heavy and way past stupid,” Sarge growls as he tugs desperately, pulling his new partner up and down like a Dunkin’ Donut.
Though he always thought his parting illumination would be painted in black, or at very least muted brown, the submerged rookie is beginning to see that ole white man’s white light at the end of the tunnel shit in his mirror just as a loud flapping noise on the hood startles Sarge so bad it breaks his vice-like grip on Rook’s boot, dropping Memphis’ newest and wettest back into the ditch head first. Fanning the still lingering smoke away with his hand around the windshield, he cautiously leans forward. But what he sees he cannot believe!
”Rookie, Rookie quit yo’ swimmin’ around and git to the hood. Moby Dick is waitin’ to have dinner with us, boy. You hear me? Rook, Rook?”
By this time the Rookie resembles a plastic float now stretched out half way over Niagara Falls, his hands locked in a death grip holding on to the bottom of the door for sweet Jesus’ redemption.
Once again Sarge reaches across the seat, down into the gurgling water, and grabs hold of a patch of wet-nappy hair, jerking it violently upward, he slams the chocking, gurgling skull against the doorframe with a WAM-BAM-THANK-YOU-MA’AM reverberation. ”BOY,” he yells into the face of the storm, “this ain’t no kiddie pool. Get up and grab that motherfucker off the hood!”
The white light goes out as Rookie hand-over-hand climbs up the outside of the door. As his head reaches hood level, he stares in fucking amazement. There in a large pool of water caused by an even larger indentation in the center of the hood is a three fucking foot very pissed to the prehistoric bone catfish doing its best imitation of the shark from Jaws.
Sarge beats on the glass, yelling, “Grab that bitch, now! Don’t let it get away!”
Rookie’s shaky hands lurch for the catfish at the same time the Big Fish lurches for the little him. Both fall back into the gutter, the fish in frenzy escape mode, except for its razor sharp teeth snapping furiously on the four fingered feast in its mouth.
Determined not to let his mentor down again, Rook rips the catfish hunter loose from his prey, along with several sets of his own fingerprints. Jamming the motherfucker face-down into his pants pocket he begins to climb back into the car.
Mr. Big Fish bein’ in new territory here, got a better idea, and zeroes in on goin’ in deeper after what appears to be a rather large shrinking chocolate worm. Screams suddenly fill the cruiser as Rookie tears into his pocket, locking into a life and death tug-of-war over children he ain’t even dreamed of bein’ Daddy to yet. Ultimately, his pain outweigh the fish’s hunger and with a ripping of both pants and underwear, along with small pieces of the rapidly disappearing worm, the monster emerges. But with escape still paramount on what’s left of its twisted brain and vengeance filling its slimy heart, it blasts off like a roman candle, bouncing off the windows and ceiling.
The still screaming fish-gatherer is helpless and too frozen in terror to even acknowledge his own pain now, but Sarge is determined to put an end to this tall tale once and for all. Picking his automatic up off the floor he draws a bead on Senor Moby Dickhead and reels off four shots, blowing out the back window in the process.
Except for the rain coming through the roof there is nothing but silence on the soundtrack. And there, laying motionless and headless in the back window, is their antagonist, with bits of shattered safety plate and hard rain taking on the role of masseuse and marinade at the same time.
Sarge falls back against the door panel, drops his smoking gun in his stinking lap, and almost but not quite takes a breath of relief. He looks over at his battered whimpering fishing partner holding his trembling bloody fish bait for all his future is worth, and calmly says to the boy, ”You be all right, Rook. Everything come back together in time. But I ain’t sure how we gon’ explain this goddamn disaster down at the station.”
The boy looks over at his Uncle, and with intestinal fortitude his mentor don’t know he holdin’, says, “At least we won’t have to tell’em ‘bout the one that get away.”
They do, of course. Tell’em about all the raging out-of-control gang violence in MOKEY SITY. About how they were attacked for being in the wrong place at the right time, or right place at the wrong time, merely by crossing over the line into enemy territory. And of course, after blowing the shit out of their now worthless cruiser, the perpetrators of all this for certain bad karma, get away into the storm. That version make a much more believable story.
© 2015 Jack Wesley Hardin
|Jack Wesley Hardin is the nom de plume for a legendary Private Investigator involved in some of the biggest and most controversial high profile criminal and civil cases in the United States. Both a feature film and tv series called Memphis Blues Again are presently being developed based on Hardin’s writings about his exploits and involvement in those cases. A one time college football star, gonzo NFL line-backer, Green Beret, soldier of fortune, and hippie John Wayne on the Mexican side of the law (in the good ole days of his spent youth), an abbreviated version of Mexican Sweat (the anatomy of a dope deal) has been serialized and is available on Smoke Signals as a memoir from his early years out in the wild-wild west.#1 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=10
#2 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=1340
#3 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2090
#4 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2286
#5 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2741
#6 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2776
#7 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2882
#8 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2985
#9 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=3180
The full version of the book will be published next year by Blacklisted Books.
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