Barbara was no dummy, and she really didn’t want to know, nor did she care about what her husband was doing with me and Kim, and she genuinely liked me and Gerry, although she could not stand Kim, mainly because he was not good with animals, especially Charley-the-cougar, not to mention she just didn’t like his arrogant personality.
Barbara was a vivacious redhead, bright green eyes, slightly stocky, about five-seven. And she had a temper. Best not to fuck with Barbara. Her husband loves telling a story on her. While she was still working the oil rigs and had just started dating John, they went out to eat one evening after flying in from a rig. The establishment was just a hole-in-the wall bar on the coast. Barbara ordered a double cheeseburger, an order of fries, an order of onion rings and a pitcher of Budweiser. (“That Gal can put away some groceries!” John would say.)
They were seated at the bar, John on the left and another roughneck on the right of Barb. When the food arrived and Barbara was flooding her fries and onion rings with ketchup, the roughneck (who should have known better), thought he’d fuck with Barbara. He picked up her cheeseburger and feigned taking a bite.
“Look you son-of-bitch,” she said, “Put my burger back on my plate right goddamn now.”
The guy switched the burger to his right hand and said, “Or what Barb?” He had his left hand resting on the bar top.
In a flash Barbara grabbed her fork and stabbed the guy’s hand, damn near nailing it to the bar.
“Or that!” She said.
The burger fell to the bar top unharmed.
Having come to the agreement with the Mexicans, all we had to do was wait for them to prepare the shipment for pickup. John and Kim would fly to McAllen, pick up the marijuana (125 pounds) and fly it back to Lake Charles where I would be waiting with the Impala to transfer it from the plane. We could not find a good landing zone in Lake Charles after several days of diligent searching and heated debate between me and Kim. Out of necessity I decided we would land the plane behind the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s department. There was a very large empty field there, nice and flat and good enough John said to land on. Now, you may wonder why land right in the backyard of The Law, but actually it made good sense. No one in his right mind would try to land a plane full of pot behind the Sheriff’s Department. No one except us. They would never suspect a thing. (I hoped not anyway).
Everything was ready on our end. It was now mid-summer. We waited for word from our boys in McAllen/Reynosa.
We had several telephone conversations with Pablo during this time and he kept assuring us that things would be just fine; just a little longer… perhaps mañana …
Things were beginning to become unbearable around the house for Barbara. She did not understand (and rightly so) why Kim and Gerry and I were living there and not working (Me and Kim anyway)–just hanging out—waiting on some ‘business deal’ to come through.
The waiting was killing me and Kim. The two of us, and with our history, just hanging out with nothing to do, was a recipe for all sorts of boredom induced mischief and it didn’t take long to become manifest.
One night as we were all leaving an Italian restaurant and heading toward the car parked out back, Kim says, “Hey Lance, Y’all wait up.”
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Just hang on a sec,” he said, as I saw him heading back over to the building and a small door off to the side.
As I watched him disappear into the building, uneasiness came over me. “Now what?” I whispered to myself.
Kim reappeared, or at least his head did from behind the door (Kim had red kinky hair and he kept it long in what could best be described as a ‘Ginger Afro.’) and motioned for me to have John bring the car around. After our car pulled up, I followed Kim back inside the building and discovered I was in a storage room of the restaurant. There must have been fifty cases of Italian wine. Just sitting there. With our names on every box. I don’t have to tell you the rest. One thing you may be curious about however, how did Kim know of the place and why wasn’t it locked? During the course of our meal, Kim had excused himself to go to the bathroom. He was gone for quite a while, but no one noticed (or cared). Apparently he had discovered the storage room entrance when he had gone to the bathroom, had gone in and broken the lock to the outside. After that everything else was a foregone conclusion in his mind and I didn’t chastise him about it either. Money was, after all, getting very tight and good wine is always appreciated.
During the long hot summer days Kim and I would play chess, watch Daytime TV (The Gong Show became our favorite and we never missed a single episode), go to the gym, play with the cougar, and otherwise just wait for John, Barbara, and Gerry to come home in the evenings. I hate to say it, but Kim and I had become ‘housewives’ to the other three. We just didn’t do any of the housewife stuff, although I did mow the yard from time to time. It was certainly a strange situation and actually, aside from the uncertainty of what we were waiting to do, it was a calm period in my life. Well, sorta…
Our friend and partner, Joe, had been stricken suddenly with some horrible medical malady and he damn near died. They put him in ICU at one of the hospitals in Lake Charles and as soon as he was well enough, Kim and I made plans to go for a visit. We finally got the go ahead late one afternoon, but just before we had planned to set out for the hospital we began drinking some more of the wine we had liberated from the Italian restaurant. Several things happened to delay our trip, not the least of which was about 3 bottles of good red wine. Along about midnight, we decided to go and visit Joe. We were slightly inebriated. Actually, we were shit-faced, but still full of the pent up energy from our ‘waiting game’ with the Mexicans.
We arrived at the hospital, carrying one of the bottles of wine we had not finished off, and as we were walking toward the main entrance it dawned on me that visiting hours were probably over for the night. I told Kim we would have to wait until morning to see Joe. He would have none of that, so I said, “Well, Einstein, what do you want to do, sneak into the hospital to see him?”
He did, in fact, intend to do just that. So, being the veterans we were of breaking into Honey Grove High School upon numerous occasions, we reconnoitered the building for access points and quickly found one that seemed suitable. We gained entrance to a room which was slightly below ground level. Turns out it was a storage room for hospital uniforms and scrubs. We made our way out of there and stealthily to the third floor where we knew Joe’s room was located. To that point, we had gone unnoticed and were quite proud of ourselves and we still had the wine we intended to share with Joe. As we were walking down the empty corridor counting down the room numbers looking for Joe’s we came upon something that made our hearts sink: There was a bloody nurse’s station just across from what we determined must be the room we sought. We did an about-face and hid behind a corner.
“Shit!” I said, “Now what?”
“Why don’t we just casually walk on in?” Kim said.
“Yeah, right. We’re drunk; we have a half-gallon of wine, and we’re Texans in Louisiana. Any more brilliant questions?”
Kim was quiet for a minute. I took a slow drink of wine from the bottle. Then he announced, “I got it! You remember that room we came into on the bottom floor?”
“Kim, no, no, No. Hell no!” I said, a little too loudly.
“Don’t you see? It’ll be perfect. We dress up like orderlies from the stuff in that room, you hide the wine underneath you outfit, and we’re good to go. We just waltz right on past those nurses. Easy.”
“Why do I have to carry the wine?” I asked, and by so doing, de-facto agreed to the foolish plan.
“You’re bigger than me. Easier for you to hide it.”
ving inLake Charleswith one of my best friends from high school, his Girl Friend, a Vietnam Vet (who did three tours with the First Cav as a chopper pilot), and his wife. The husband and wife owned a pet shop. The wife ran the place and the husband flew roughnecks back and forth to offshore oil rigs.
One day the wife, let’s call her Barbara, since that was her name, brought home a cougar. She had named him Charley and he was the size of a large house-cat. It was love at first sight for me as Charley was the only pussy I had yet seen or would see, turns out, during the entire six or so months I spent in Lake Charles.
Charley and I started sleeping together since the other two beds in the house already had reached capacity and since I was so very good with animals and since I really wanted a roommate. Therefore I took over the care and feeding and raising of Charley the young ‘un Cougar.
Charley grew rapidly on a steady diet of raw hamburger, flank steak, catfish, eggs, tennis shoes, and the occasional Budweiser. We would wrestle and play tug of war for several hours every day. The house had a long narrow hallway leading to the three bedrooms. Our favorite game was “Charley The Flying Cougar.” I placed an ottoman at the entrance to the hallway and Charley would stand at the other end. On my cue he would race down the hallway and Mary-Lou-Retton-Like, hit the ottoman like a launch pad seriously becoming airborne and landing on my shoulders.
We continued refining this sport even afterhe had grown to about a hundred pounds. Of course at that point when he hit my shoulders we both tumbled to the floor. He was always gentle with me and I never felt his claws or his teeth. Sorry to say I cannot say the same for my old high school buddy. He just did not understand animals. When Charley was still house-cat size he would play too roughly with him.
So, I warned my buddy one day, “You’re gonna make that cat hate you, and when he grows up he’s gonna seriously tear you a new asshole, Asshole.”
“Naw, he likes it.”
“Okay, but you’ve been warned.”
Sure as shit, couple of months later, said high school buddy got his ass handed to him by Charley. Buddy only bled for a little while, but that ended their relationship as far as ‘heavy petting’ was concerned. When Charley got to be upwards of 120 pounds he started taking his half of our bed out of the middle. Barbara suggested we make a bed for him in the garage, and since I was not getting enough sleep anymore, I concurred. She brought home the biggest doggy bed she had in her shop and we laid it out for Charley in the garage along with his favorite toys, food and water dish and a small portable radio thinking he might get a little lonely at night.
‘That radio will keep him happy,” Barbara said.
That night we put him to bed in the garage just before we all retired; he was fine. For about thirty-five minutes. Then the Cougar Wails began. If you have never heard a hundred-twenty-pound cougar cry late at night, well you have missed something of nature. Everyone got out of bed and Barbara said, “Let’s just let him cry for a bit. I’m sure he’ll give up and go to sleep.”
About an hour and two bottles of wine later… We all gave up. Charley just would not shut up. I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“Please let him in Barb,” I said
She opened the door. Charley came bolting in; knocked me down, pinned me on the floor with his big paws on my shoulders, licked my face, then ran into our room and jumped into the middle of our bed.
“Well, we tried. Goodnight y’all,” I said as I picked myself up and headed in to join Charley.
Barbara had provided a collar and leash for Charley and we used to have great fun taking him out to the night clubs in Lake Charles. (Lake Charles was a really cool town back then, and Louisiana folks really did not seem to find it at all strange when someone walked into a bar with a cougar. But I will say this: when we did, the crowds always parted, making it very easy to belly-up to the bar. Charley became a regular guest at our most–frequent hangouts.
And he was the most awesome chick magnet in Calcasieu Parish.
But I still never managed to get laid in that town—very puzzling to me—but I did have a theory:
Since all the places we hung out were Greek Joints (My high school buddy was a Kappa Alpha, and insisted we only hang out with the ‘Brothers’ an’ ‘Sisters’), and since I was an ‘Independent’ and actually despised everything “Greek,” there was just no way any self-respecting sorority girl was gonna give it up for me, Cougar or no Cougar.
“Well, screw ‘em,” I finally decided. (Although, I was a little disappointed, ‘cause I found some of girls very appealing & screw-able in demeanor.)
If I could have just found Farrah… We had Cougars-in-Common.
Summer turned to fall and one day my buddy and I had to leave Lake Charles in a hurry (forreasons I cannot discloseuntil I check the ‘statute of limitations’), and head back to Texas. I hated to leave Charley and my other good friends, but I had a mind to leave the U.S. altogether and there was just no way I could take Charley with me.
I reapplied for theSinai Field Missiongig I had wanted ever since I was eighteen and had first heard of it. As luck would have it, they agreed to hire me (Since by then I met their minimum age requirement of twenty).
About a week later, Halloween 1977, I arrived in the middle of the Sinai Desert.