Shonnie The Biker’s Wife Part IX: “Counting Down the Deck” or “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways”

Early the next morning, I ordered coffee and then waited outside to catch the room service dude/dudette before they could knock on the door and awaken Sleeping Beauty.

(Yes, we had that coffee maker in our room but I wanted ‘real-brewed, bona-fide coffee’ for us and not some Taster’s Choice shit.)

Presently the coffee arrived and I laced mine with Jim Beam, poured lots of sugar and lots of cream into hers.

Very gently, I woke her.

“Ahhh, what time is it?” She said while yawning and reaching for the ceiling, stretching her slightly freckled arms, splaying her fingers, undulating her hips and moving her head round and round as if she were performing some exotic aboriginal dance to summon up a God or maybe a lessor Daemon.

I sat down on the bed close to her, preparing my aim to land a kiss on her lips.

“I smell ‘real’ coffee. You got us some real coffee!” she said, quickly sitting up as my aimed kiss landed on the pillow where her head had been just a moment before.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I was hoping to get at the very least, a kiss out of the deal.”

“I need to pee. Be right back,” she said, jumping up from the bed. “And while you wait, lots of cream, lots of sugar, ‘Sugar,’” laughing at her own joke all the way to the head.

“I Already Did That!” But she didn’t hear as she entered the bathroom and slammed the door shut.

Shonnie, in case you haven’t noticed by now, never, ever does anything delicately, daintily, half-way, or without lusto-gusto.

After what seemed at least an hour, but was more like six minutes, she marched out of the head. The sleepy look had vanished from her eyes, her body language was all energy now. She planted herself in the chair by the bed next to the night stand.

“Here ya go Darlin’,” I said as I handed her, carefully prepared by me, the cup of real, bona-fide coffee.

“Thanks Lover. Now, if you’d be so…”

“Yes yes, I know,” I said, as I lit two ‘Cowboy Killers,’ passing one to her.

“Much obliged,” she giggled, laying it on really thick.

Nervous apprehension descended upon me as I got up and dropped some already queued up, soft and low music into ‘lil boom box’:

The first few notes of Kris and Rita‘s ‘Help me make it through the night’ began. Satisfied it was still queued properly, I immediately shut it off.

“Name that tune Shonnie Girl.”

She took a sip of java, a slow, deliberate drag off her Marlboro, levelled her eyes at me, and said while exhaling, “Uh… ‘Goodtime Charley’s Rag-Tag Band with Tacos and Tamales on the horns section’. Song is called ‘He’s just another dead fish goin’ with the flow’.”

“That’s not even a ‘real’ song. You just pulled that outta your ass,” I protested.

“Of course I did. You wanna a ‘real’ woman in your life or you want one who wastes her time getting ready to be on lame-ass TV game shows?”

“Perfect Segway into something we need to discuss.”

“Perfect…’sledge’…what?!”

My so well-rehearsed plan was coming apart at the seams. I had not meant to push the Red Shonnie Button. I had meant to push the Blue Shonnie Button.

Obviously, I had missed.

Trying to recover lost ground, aiming at some humility and some seriousness, I broached,

“Shonnie, I’m sorry. But I want you to indulge me for a few minutes. Can we shelve our little ‘word trysts’… sorry, our little ‘romantic word battles’ for a moment. I want to talk to you serious. Have a seat on the bed please.”

Suspiciously, she moved her props (ashtray and coffee cup) to the side of the night stand closer to the bed. Then she lay down stretching out and crossing her legs, seductively opening her bath robe as she did so.

“Ok, you have my attention. Do I have yours?”

*This Woman! ¡Ay, caramba!!*

“Shonnie, Baby, I want you to listen to this entire song without saying one word. It is a song I am sure you have heard many, many times, even several times while with me. Pretty certain you know it by heart, but this time, try to listen as if this is the very first time you have ever heard it. And then allow me to say something before you say anything. Will you do this for me?”

With a raised eyebrow, she said, “Uh, sure. Light it up.”

I got up from the other chair in the room, walked over to lil boom box and pressed ‘play’. Then I got into bed, lying close to Shonnie, reached out and grabbed her left hand, entwining my fingers with hers.

The beginning piano chords… as I lay there, using my fingers to tenderly stroke hers.

Kris began the duet:

Take that ribbon from your hair

Shake it loose and let it fall

Layin’ soft against my skin

Like the shadows on the wall…

As the ‘duet’ part of the duet began I stole a glance at her eyes…

 I don’t care what’s right or wrong

I won’t try to understand

Let the devil take tomorrow

But tonight I need a friend

And discerned some tears welling up in them.

Shonnie knew where this ship was sailing.

Sailing headlong into dangerous unchartered waters.

And it’s sad to be alone

Help me make it through the night

I don’t want to be alone

Help me make it through the night

The song ended. Shonnie was weeping.

And so was I.

***

I sat up and pulled her into an upright posture. I faced her and took both of her hands in mine, looked straight into those intensely blue eyes,

“My Darling, I don’t want you to help me make it through a night. I want you to help me make it through a life. Our life. Together.”

“I love you Shonnie.”

Through blinked back tears she said, “Yes yes, I know. Have known. Just did not know how you were gonna deal with it. Were you gonna run away scared? Or were you gonna stay not scared?” She tried to produce a laugh as she said, “I gave the ‘stay part’ forty-sixty.”

I drew her close and kissed her very lightly on her neck, then deeply on her mouth.

She continued as I kept her locked in my embrace, “Lance, you know I love you too. Have loved you ever since…”

“Ever since our first night?” I interrupted. “Me too. I loved you from that night.”

***

Joni was well into the next song on my homemade cassette,

Help me, I think I’m fallin’ in love too fast

It’s got me hopin’ for the future and worryin’ about the past

‘Cause I’ve seen some hot, hot blazes come down to smoke and ash

We love our lovin’ (lovin’)

But not like we love our freedom

Neither Shonnie nor I suffered fools lightly, but we knew we were both fools whenever we were together.

How could we even dare to hope for a happy ending to our story? Both of us so headstrong and so independent. She of course not quite as subtle in showing her traits as was I with mine.

And not to mention the two other salient realities:

  1. We were both married, but not to each other.
  2. I was a sailor, and would be compelled to leave her for recurring lengthy deployments at sea.

Liberally and loosely stealing from Shakespeare, we were ‘Star-Struck’, ‘Love-Struck’, ‘Star-Crossed Lovers’ living in a stolen season.

But at that moment, we didn’t care.

We made the most tender, yet passionate, slow passionate, if there is such a thing, love we ever had.

It was, to tritely yet accurately describe it, ‘Heaven on Earth.’

***

We lay there in the warmth of each other, knowing full well our relationship had been forever changed. And I am certain she, as did I, hoped it had changed for the better.

It was already perfect, but now it had the potential to become ever ‘more’ perfect, which I suppose is impossible grammatically, kind of like being ‘more unique’ or some such nonsense, but damn it all!

If we could form a ‘More Perfect Union’ then by God we would! Come Hell or Rapture!

Just hoping we hadn’t fucked up what we already had.

***

After lying there for half an hour, wrapped around each other and not saying even one word, just listening to Joni, we got up silently and sat down in our respective chairs.

Shonnie lit a cigarette and took a big sip of what had to be by now, horrible-tasting cold coffee.

I took a sip of mine, but it had been perma-warmed with Beam.

We exchanged loving, lustful, provocative looks.

But…

Not being able to stand the silence or the exchanged and corny goo-goo eyes any longer, she blurted out, “You gonna teach me that Goddamn card-counting shit or what?!” Then she laughed loudly and hysterically.

And so did I.

Our previous rapport had been spared from our love confessional and thankfully remained fully in-tact.

“Drag your ass and your chair over here while I drag the coffee table between us,” I said.

“Fix me a drink while you’re at it will ya? This coffee tastes like shit which hasn’t even been warmed over.”

“You got it, Darlin.’”

“And stop callin’ me ‘Darlin’ all the damn time. Come up with something new, will ya? You’re wearing me out with that Texas Darlin’ shit!

I had to laugh. See why I loved her so? What the Hell is not to love about a woman such as she?

However. I think she was trying just a little too hard to make sure that I knew and she knew that our previous tête-à-tête way of banging our respective relationship heads together remained firmly grounded and fully preserved. In other words, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

***

I began teaching her how to count down the deck.

“Shonnie,” I said. “Aces count as zero. Two through nine count as plus one. Tens and the rest (face cards) count as minus one.”

You’re gonna sit there and keep a running count in your head while you place two-dollar bets. Don’t get fancy. Just use the basic strategy I taught you.”

“When the count goes hot, I mean, when the count goes real positive, anything over plus five, you light a cig in your left hand. I’ll be at the bar and come on over, playing a drunk with a lot of money. Should just be a bit-part for me. No acting required. I can do ‘drunk’ slicker than owl shit.”

“Wait a minute!” She said. “You’re gonna ‘play’ a drunk?”

“Yeah. So what?”

“Never mind. But you probably might need to ‘rehearse’ a little bit.”

“Funny. Anyhow, we’ll go to the El Cortez this evening and you’ll go in first. Take a seat at the blackjack table closest to the bar. I’ll come a few minutes later and park my butt, watching you from the bar.”

When you signal, I’ll stumble on over and start throwing black chips around. You hand off the count to me by stacking some chips to your right. Five six, seven… Whatever it is. I’ll pretend not to know you while I pick up your count.”

If all works well, I’ll score a grand or two or three, then feign needing to move on, color my chips and bug. You stay for another twenty minutes or so and then meet me back at The Plaza. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Great Girl,” I said.

“Oh Yeah? Fuck you! If we get into trouble, it’s on your ass.

“Honey, nothing illegal ‘bout countin’, but they do frown on it. We’ll be fine. Just lay off the sauce a bit.”

“Double Fuck You!” she said.

“There’s that Girl I love.”

Love? I thought we had already settled that issue.”

***

For the rest of the morning and slightly into the afternoon we practiced her ‘counting.’ She was surprisingly adept and dare I admit, picked it up much quicker than I had back when I was floating around in the Northern Indian Ocean trying to teach myself.

I pronounced her ‘Ready for Prime Time.’

“Ready? I was ‘ready’ two fuckin’ hours ago. I’ve just been humoring you. Can we have some food now?”

Love is a Many-‘Splintered’ Thing… and a Double-Edged Sword of Damocles.

And absolutely extraordinarily exhilarating with Shonnie.

***

Previously:

Part X: “Shonnie The Biker’s Wife, Chapter X: Dalliance (and loyalty in Las Vegas)”

Coming Very Soon

Update: Part X is UP

***

If you are new here, or a long-lost returning Pilgrim, you may want to begin your Shonnie Journey Below

And then simply “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” i.e., The Lancelot Links:

***

Below You Will Find Most Of The Original Posts. Once / If You Arrive At Thirteen There Are Links To The Final Few Chapters. Please keep in mind however, that each and every one of them is in the process of being rewritten: first to last. This will probably take at least two or three weeks.

But if you can’t wait… Here ya go!

Parts One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten  Eleven  Twelve  Thirteen

***

Commentary Section from Original Post.

For continuity, please read from the bottom up.

12 THOUGHTS ON “SHONNIE THE BIKER’S WIFE, PART IX: COUNTING”

LAMarcom July 18, 2014 at 10:05 Edit

Pretty sure you could. Just takes practice.

Thanks for reading Teela!

Teela Hart July 18, 2014 at 09:59 Edit

I couldn’t count cards if I wanted to.

Looking forward to reading the rest.

T

LAMarcom July 1, 2014 at 21:01 Edit

Problem with me being ‘Lance Corporal’ is that I am a Sailor, not a Marine. 😉

There are many different levels of skill in card counting. I had honed my skills on a six month Western Pacific deployment. I also read Thorpe’s book and Kenny Uston’s.

http://www.amazon.com/Million-Dollar-Blackjack-Ken-Uston/dp/0897460685

(This book must be a later edition. The one I worn out reading, I purchased from a book store in Hong Kong. Same title, but published in the late Seventies if memory serves. Was not aware of any later editions. Might be the same book, just a reprint.)

I taught Shonnie just the basic count. Not as powerful as the more sophisticated ones (for example keeping a side count on Aces). The thing I learned from Uston was the concept of the ‘Big Player.’

The easiest way to get spotted as a card counter is to be betting small, then suddenly when the deck goes ‘hot’, start betting large. Sure tip off. Having someone else counting, then walking up and immediately placing big bets is safer. Usually.

Thanks for your comments and for the visit. You are correct. I need to finish this up. I aim to.

Cheers,

Lance

Exile on Pain Street July 1, 2014 at 06:24 Edit

You make counting sound so easy! If you don’t have a brain for numbers or, like myself, a functioning brain at all, you get pretty tripped-up in the pluses and minuses. But that’s a pretty concise explanation.

I know my way around a craps table but don’t know nuthin’ ’bout no stinkin’ cards. I’ve sat at black jack tables and fucked it up for everyone. Boy, do they give you dirty looks!

I think it’d be cool if your last name was Corporal. You’d be Lance Corporal. See what I did there? Finish this up. Did you get busted?

LAMarcom June 30, 2014 at 18:22 Edit

It’s a grind if ya do it right Sadie. More and more difficult these days. Most of the Joints deal from a six-deck shoe and reshuffle halfway into it. Tough to get a real advantage.

Thanks very much for reading and commenting.

Peace,

Lance

LAMarcom June 30, 2014 at 18:21 Edit

Laughing my ass off!

Thanks Annie.

Cheers

LAMarcom June 30, 2014 at 18:20 Edit

You could be right Mark.

Thanks for the read and your comment. I appreciate it.

Cheers

LAMarcom June 30, 2014 at 18:19 Edit

Yeah, I think I know that guy.

Hahaha.

Thanks My Friend.

Cheers

happierheathen June 29, 2014 at 22:26 Edit

One of my cousins is a nice guy who dresses well and speaks softly, and if you aren’t careful about counting cards in certain Vegas “properties” he’ll drop by and invite you to take a walk with him. Good thing you didn’t get to meet him.

markbialczak June 29, 2014 at 19:14 Edit

Somebody’s gonna end up either beat to a pulp in the back room of the casino or bloody face down on the pavement in front of the joint, and I sure hope it ain’t Shonnie. You know how to build the tension, Lance-a-rooney.

Mad Annie, Bronwyn, Ann June 29, 2014 at 19:12 Edit

“There’s that Girl I love.”

“Love?”

Methinks the cat just landed amidst the pigeons!

Loading…

~ Sadie ~ June 29, 2014 at 18:42 EditDamn – you can get an education anywhere 😉 I want to try that card counting shit, now!!! Thanks Lance for teaching me something new & the continued saga . . . great writing & storytelling!!

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”–W. Shakespeare

Author’s Note 27 June 2021:

I am not ‘Re-Writing’

Not ‘Re-Working’

Not vanity editing

Not Expanding

Not ‘Jazzing’ up

Not Elaborating

Not Ruining-with-superfluous shit

This Original Post

My Heart was ‘All-In’ when first I wrote it.

I refuse to taint those original emotions now.

I am just fulfilling a promise I made years and years ago:

“Ronnie, I will Never allow your memory to die.”

******

In 1971 when my step-sister Madelyn and I were fourteen and thirteen respectively, my parents would often go out of town on the weekends. My father and stepmother seemed to always have some magic convention or gathering to attend in Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, or any number of other venues.

My father knew all the local high school kids from his directing of the senior plays every year. Two of the former graduates, Ronnie and Doug, then about twenty years old, remained very good friends of my father and particularly Ronnie, (who was Peanut’s Uncle). My father decided that Madelyn and I needed a ‘baby-sitter’ while he and Gloria were off on their long weekends, so they paid Doug and Ronnie to look after us.

Now mind you, Madelyn and I were both pretty certain we were over-mature for our age and could easily fend for ourselves, but we loved having two “big brothers” to help us throw the greatest parties in the history of Honey Grove while under their tutelage. We used Marcom Manor as our venue of course and were always in a rush to get the house back into some semblance of order before the folks returned, usually on a Sunday, but occasionally on a Monday or Tuesday.

During Labor Day Weekend of 1971 my parents were off to a big convention in Houston and we had a great party planned for Sunday the Fifth of September. We were to have ‘The Mother of All Parties’ out at Lake Coffeemill, north of Honey Grove. (The party was going to serve double duty for me, as my fourteenth birthday was just five days away.)  Right up until the night before, I had no date lined up for this all-day Blow-Out, and I was in a panic.

Around about eleven, I saw and old ex-classmate of mine from the sixth and seventh grade who had moved away the year prior, slowly driving past (we were all on the town square, sitting on the car hoods, drinking beer and planning the next day’s activities). I figured she was in town to visit some of her family who lived between Honey Grove and Lake Coffeemill. I chased her down (literally), stopped the car and asked breathlessly if she would like to come out to the lake the next day for the party. Happily she said “Yes.” And that made my night. Her name was Chrissie.

Semi-Early the next morning Madelyn, Gina (Ronnie’s girlfriend) Ronnie and I (along with some other hanger’s on) were busy gathering all the items for the picnic/party and loading up ‘The Magic Bus’ which was what we called Ronnie’s 1957 Chevy Station Wagon. Some other folks arrived (mostly ‘twenty-something’ folks) with their cars and trucks. All the vehicles were loaded with beer, wine (Cheap Mogan David, Spanada, Boone’s Farm, etc.) hot dogs, buns, hamburger meat, condiments, and on and on. As I said, this was going to be the last big party of the summer and we were going to do it up right. Madelyn and I were to start High School the following Tuesday.

Ronnie loved The Beatles. He once told me, “The Second side of Abby Road is the best side on the best album, by the best band in the history of the world.” Even today, I cannot listen to any Beatles’ music without thinking of him and all those wonderful times we all spent together. He was a good kid, and always looked out for me. Gina was the same, and I have to admit I had a not-too-secret major crush on her. I had been dating her little sister off and on during the previous year, but she and I never could get our act together. She was my very first blonde girlfriend and to tell the truth, I’ve never had any luck with blondes ever since and have historically shied away from them.

Ronnie taught me how to smoke pot, be cool, and turned me on to all manner of wonderful music. He coached me all that summer in my soon-to-become burgeoning High School football career. Most important, by his example, he taught me to be compassionate and patient and tolerant and kind. In short, he taught me how not to be an asshole, which as an arrogant, wet-behind-the-years, knows everything about everything, little shit of a teenager, I was all too good at. Ronnie saved me from that.

He was an easy-going, good-looking kid with a toothy smile and a joie de vivre that made a room light up whenever he walked in. He had unlimited optimism about everything and everybody. Never once did I hear him say one unkind word about anyone, even though there were some in our circle who deserved an unkind word upon occasion (including yours truly). Ronnie saw nothing but good in all people. Absolutely everyone in Honey Grove loved him, old and young alike.

He didn’t even mind that every time we were all together I would invariably find ways to sit next to Gina and just fawn. He laughed that off like everything else. He knew Gina loved him dearly and nothing on Earth could ever separate those two. Gina had a soft spot for me as well, but more in a ‘Big Sis’ kind of way, but try explaining that to a thirteen-year-old with romantic ideas, puppy-dog eyes, and raging hormones.

Once we had all the vehicles loaded, we began our ‘convoy’ to The Lake with The Magic Bus leading the way. Ronnie driving, Gina riding shotgun in her ‘Lake-Party Uniform:’ cut-off jeans, halter top. Situated between them was a gallon of Mogan David, which, as we pulled out of town, Ronnie grabbed and thrust out the window, pumping it up and down for the rest of the parade to see. It was on!

I had the back seat to myself and was in my ‘uniform’ cut-off jeans and t-shirt, hippie sandals, and behind me a huge beer cooler, all the cookout stuff, and about a thousand eight-track tapes that Ronnie kept in the car always. Music was the defining force in all of our young lives and The Magic Bus had the best ‘rigged’ stereo in Northeast Texas and was as close to a mobile concert hall as I had ever seen.

Ronnie had installed some kind of colorful strobe light contraption on the dash over the glove compartment that pulsated with the beat of the music. The Magic Bus was indeed, Magical. There was no ignition switch, just a couple of wires hanging down underneath the steering column which had to be united to start the car. Anyone with a mind to could have stolen that car at any time, but of course no one was ever of a mind to.

Many times during road trips to Commerce to see Gina’s Hippie friends, or to The Lake, or Bonham to the drive-in one time to watch Woodstock, or once to Dallas to see Led Zeppelin, I would love the getting there more than the arriving there. I loved to ride in that car with the good company, the camaraderie, and all the great music and I felt so wonderfully alive. I always hated it when we did finally arrive to our destination of the day, because for me, the best was in the getting there; the riding in that car, grooving to the music and watching Texas roll by.

Lake Coffeemill lies about twenty miles north of Honey Grove and for once I was anxious to actually arrive at a destination. This would be the Best Party Ever. We stopped about ten miles from the lake to pick up Chrissie and she and I spent the last ten miles chatting and holding hands in the back seat.

Chrissie was always an elusive butterfly and I was so proud she was with me on that day. Of course I tried to show off by talking to Ronnie and Gina about ‘older things;’ things like some of the concerts we had been to, parties we had thrown, et cetera. Mostly I ended up looking and sounding like an idiot, but Chrissie didn’t seem to mind. I do think she genuinely was fond of me. She was a long and tall dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty and actually quite different from any other girl I had known up to that point in my life. We were a good match and seemed to have great potential as a couple, but we would never get to explore that potential.

We turned off the paved two-lane and onto the gravel lake road. There are actually two lakes in this area separated by Bois d’Arc Creek and a long gravel road. The other lake is Lake Crockett and is slightly smaller than Coffeemill. The entire area is very heavily wooded with pine, oak, and cedar; all part of what they call ‘The Caddo National Grasslands’ and one of the few national parks in Texas (Texas is unique in that she kept most of her public lands when she joined The Union in 1845 instead of giving them all away to the Federal Government like all the other western states).

The road to ‘Gate 10’ on Coffeemill was the last part of our journey. Now, I say ‘Road’ and I use the term loosely. More like a trail, barely wide enough to navigate the Magic Bus through the trees and certainly better suited for Four-Wheel Drive vehicles. The trail winds around through the woods for about two miles before actually ending on the lake. Gate 10 was our turf. No one ever went there except our crowd, and possibly the occasional hunter. Everyone knew this; even the tourists knew this. By spending so much time there coupled with the fact that most didn’t even know the place existed made it ours. We must have been quite a sight on that day: no less than twenty cars, trucks, vans, all slowly bumping along single file down to Gate 10.

Soon after we arrived and got all the vehicles parked in the only clearing (about 25 yards from the water) everyone got busy organizing all the myriad items we had brought along. Grills were set up, beer coolers strategically placed, plastic-ware and paper ‘wine’ cups and tablecloths and folding tables appeared and of course the big speakers inside the Magic Bus were brought out and positioned on top of the hood, blaring music. Picture a Mini-Woodstock, Texas Style. It was about one o’clock in the afternoon.

Everyone spent the next few hours drinking beer, munching on hot dogs, shooting the shit, swimming in the lake, and lighting up the occasional joint. Doug arrived around two o’clock and he had some unhappy words for Ronnie. Apparently Ronnie had promised him he would stop smoking dope. The two of them were occasional ‘Youth Ministers’ at one of the churches in Honey Grove and Doug was, shall we say, a bit more fervent in his religion than was Ronnie. The two of them were most assuredly best friends and it pained me to see them argue over this. Doug got so pissed off that he just left shortly after he had arrived and I don’t believe he even had one beer while he was there. This dampened my spirits a little, but was soon forgotten. I knew they would work it out later and all would be normal again.

The afternoon was going by and things calmed a little as people gathered in small groups to drink, smoke, and chat. I took Chrissie by the hand and grabbing a blanket off the hood of one of the cars, led her into the woods. She carried a bottle of wine. We spread the blanket under an oak and made love, or what passed for making love then for us. Mostly just heavy petting, kisses, and arms and bare legs wrapped around each other. We could faintly hear strains of Carole King singing ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ back at the party:

Is this a lasting treasure

Or just a moment’s pleasure

Can I believe the magic of your sighs

Will you still love me tomorrow…

We remained secluded there for some time, getting reacquainted, talking softly about nothing in particular. It is so easy to fall in love when you’re thirteen. My heart was in serious mortal danger. Falling hard for her. She was so sweet and so soft and so stunningly beautiful, with sloe gin eyes and all that implies… But I was prepared, eager in fact, to fall, to fall headlong, and all else be damned…But not yet: There was a party to be attended and tended to…

As it was growing late afternoon, we gathered up the blanket and the almost empty bottle of Spanada and headed back to join the others. I needed to pee so I headed to the lake and saw Ronnie, Jimmy Max, John David, Jackie, and several others climbing a dead tree about twenty yards off-shore. I swam out (after relieving myself in the water) to join them.

They all had towels fashioned about their necks and were acting out ‘Superman,’ climbing the tree and diving in: much rowdy laughter as they critiqued each other’s performance. We played at that for quite a while when my stomach reminded me that I had forgotten to eat anything all day.

Ronnie must have had the same stomach, because we exited the water at the same time and immediately headed over to the Magic Bus to see if there were any remnants of the ham that Gina had brought for us. Not much, but I grabbed a hunk of it, slapped it on some bread and starting wolfing it down. Ronnie and I were standing there, eating, while digging through the rest of the stuff looking for more food. We both obviously had the munchies.

“Jimmy Max is drowning!” someone was screaming.

Ronnie shot away from the car toward the bank and I stuffed the last bit of ham and bread into my mouth chewing and trying to swallow and almost choking as I ran after him. There was a large group of people standing there yelling and pointing out towards where I could just barely make out a figure bobbing up and down in the water. I estimated about fifty yards away. Everyone was yelling, “Ronnie! Save Him! He’s been down twice now! Save him! Save Him!”

Ronnie grabbed an inner tube while running to the shore, threw it into the water and jumping into it began paddling furiously, using his arms and hands like oars in a rowboat, turning his head to mark his course toward  Jimmy Max. He actually left a wake. I have never seen anyone move that fast before or since.

I jumped into the lake and tried to keep up with Ronnie. I was a decent swimmer, but he soon left me far behind. I saw Ronnie get to Jimmy Max and watched as he was pulled off the inner tube. Jimmy Max had about twenty pounds on Ronnie and of course he was now strong in a panic.

The inner tube was swept away instantly (it was very windy that day). I continued swimming as fast as I could to get to the two of them. I saw Jimmy Max go under and Ronnie pull him up, his arms flailing about. When I was about ten yards from them Jimmy Max went down again, but this time Ronnie apparently couldn’t pull him up.

Things suddenly got deathly quiet. I could no longer hear the people screaming on the shore. The wind actually seemed to stop. Honestly, I didn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation. Things had just happened too quickly. I stopped about ten feet from Ronnie, treading water, not sure what to do next.

Ronnie looked right into my eyes and almost inaudibly said, “Help.” It was the weakest voice I had ever heard. I immediately swam over to him and tried to grab him around the waist. He was limp. Ronnie, who had always been so strong, was now completely weak and helpless. I struggled with trying to hold onto him, but it was no use. I just didn’t have any strength left myself.

Our eyes met again, but he said nothing as he slipped from my arms and sank. I saw bubbles come up from beneath me after his head disappeared. Nausea washed over me like a rolling wave.

Not knowing what to do, I dove down (the water must have been twenty feet deep there), but could not find an arm or a leg or anything to grab onto. After what seemed like five hours, but in reality, probably only five minutes of this, I started making my way back to the shore. When I got to within about twenty feet, I got cramps and collapsed. John David waded out and half-dragged, half-carried me back to the land. I was too tired to utter a word. Everyone surrounded me, yelling and asking, “What happened? What happened?” My mind cleared enough for me to think, “What the hell do you think happened? Ronnie and Jimmy Max drowned while all of you stood here and did nothing. That is what happened,” but I did not say it out loud.

Gina came running up in tears screaming, “Lance, where’s Ronnie? Where is he?” She was obviously in shock and hysterical.

“He’s dead Gina.”

I tried to take her in my arms, but she flung me aside and starting running up and down the shore looking out at the lake. I was too exhausted still to follow her. I collapsed down on a beer cooler and wept.

Everyone was jabbering away. Someone said, “This is just another joke. Any minute now they’ll come walking out of the woods, laughing at us.” I wished it were true, but I knew better.

The authorities came about an hour later with boats and starting dragging the lake. Close to dusk they found Ronnie. It would be another twelve hours before they found Jimmy Max. I got into the Magic Bus with Calvin and he starting driving us back to town. The same eight-track tape had been playing over and over again since the drownings: Moody Blues, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.

We just left it in as we drove, not saying a word. After we had cleared the gravel road and were back on the highway, a car came speeding up to stop us, horn blowing. We pulled over and Chrissie came walking up, opened the back door and retrieved her purse. I couldn’t ever speak to her. To this day I do not know why, but I am sorry I didn’t because she probably thought I was evil for just sitting there with not a word for her. I never saw her again. And I never listened to that Moody Blues album again either.

I promised myself that day no one would ever drown in my arms again because of my inadequacies in the water. And some years later, I took action to ensure that I would always be able to keep that promise.

It goes without saying that Ronnie was the hero that day, but I am going to say it again. Why he was the only man out of the dozen or so equally capable just standing on the shore urging him on, to without hesitation risk his own life to save his friend, I still cannot comprehend. And yet when I try to, I just get pissed off all over again. Most of these men were my good friends, and I did remain friends with the most, but I no longer held any respect for a single one.

Even though this tragedy occurred over forty years ago, my memories are still all too much vivid. My great good friend and mentor heroically gave his life to save his friend. There is no greater testament to heroism. He died as he lived, with a passionate love for life and for everyone and for everything in his life. He will always be remembered. That’s another promise I made that day. It’s an easy one to keep. “Peace to You, My much missed Great Friend Ronnie; We remain here still, soldiering on. We hope you still smile at us and our folly.”

A Very Young Ronnie.
Only Photo I Have

***

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

–A.E. Housman

Shonnie The Biker’s Wife, Chapter Two: “You Look So Good In Love”

“Well Shonnie, was nice of your friend to introduce us. Did Y’all come here together?”

“Yeah, we come here two, three times a week.”

“I didn’t catch her name.”

“Layla.”

(Well, I guess ‘that’ fits, I thought.)

“See seems like a real nice Lady,” I lied.

“She’s a good friend. We work together.”

“I see. Do you need a fresh drink?”

“Uh, yeah I do. Thanks.”

I managed to get the attention of one of the Serving Wenches, a slightly chunky Brunette, wearing too-tight jeans, and rockin’ a Neon-Green ‘Cowgirl’ Hat, with little flashing lights adorning the brim. (???) Other than the hat, she seemed fit enough for her duties.

“Shonnie, what ya drinkin’”

“Jack and coke,” she said. (A kindred spirit? Well, if you lose the coke, but what the hell, right?)

To the waitress I said, “For the Lady a Jack an’ Coke, and for me a shot ah Beam and a Heineken.”

“OK. Be right back with those. Wanna run a tab?”

“Sure. Thanks. Nice hat, by the way.”

“Thanks, uh… Cowboy’.”

The word ‘Cowboyseemed to get caught in her throat. Likely her first or second night on the job here at… still cannot remember the name of the joint. Oh well. She was probably a refugee from some higher-end beach bar in La Jolla.

The band started up with “You Look So Good In Love” (George Strait)

Vid Share Cred: ‘asphyxed’

“I love this song,” Shonnie said.

“Wanna dance?” (I knew I could manage a slow dance and that was about it. My Two-Step resembles a blind turkey caught in a rain storm)

“Sure,” she said, standing up. Wow! I thought, she really is tiny, as I took her hand and led her to the floor.

We began our dance and her head barely came up to my chest. I estimated she was about five foot nothin’, maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet. She held me very tightly as we slowly moved back and forth to the music.

She smelled sweetly of some perfume I could not identify. Not surprising, as I am not really a connoisseur. Whatever it was, it was very alluring, and seemed ‘perfect’ for her.

To any Ladies reading these words, is it common to ‘fit’ the perfume to the ‘venue’? Certainly it must be.

Her semi-long blond hair just covering her shoulders was somewhat unkempt and slightly askew. Well, that may be unkind. Let’s call it ‘Country Casual’.

She had a very nice figure, breasts just about right (far as I could tell) for her frame, nice ass (Yes. Yes. I know. I am being sexist, but I suspect she was ‘checking me out’ as well.

And at one point she actually put HER hand on MY ass. So there!

As we danced I admitted to her that slow dancing was all I could muster and that I had never even mastered the simplest dance of all: ‘The Two-Step’. She giggled in my ear and offered to teach me. Told her I would have to think on that.

As the song finished, we stood there momentarily to see if they were going to play another slow song.

They awarded our wait by busting out with ‘Cotton-Eye-Joe’, a song I remember far too well from the Seventies and the line dance that went with it.

No way!

I hustled us off the dance floor mucho más pronto.

***

Below is How One Dances to ‘Cotton-Eye-Joe’

(It is requisite that one be ‘at least’ four sheets to the wind before performing this dance. In fact, that is a State Law in Texas. Though probably not in California)

Surely you can understand no way I’m gonna attempt THAT, making a fool out of myself in front of a Potential New Girlfriend. Uh Uh. Nope!

Texas Style Cotton-Eye-Joe

“The Bullshit Song”

“Texans don’t like line dancing, with one exception. When this song is done at the end of the night it is a real crowd pleaser. If you don’t know how to dance the Cotton Eyed Joe yet (the real way)  you will, two and a half minutes from now.”

Video Content & Quotation Credit: ‘Wisegeorge’

***

Happily our drinks had arrived while we were dancing and we settled back down and began to get to know each other over booze, Marlboros, and Country Music.

While we were continuing our small talk, Layla suddenly (and loudly) reappeared.

“How’re you kids doing?” She shouted over the band.

Just as I was about to say “Fine,” Shonnie said, “Great!”

(Hmmmm…. ‘Great?’ OK, I’ll take ‘great’.)

“Uh, Layla… That’s your name, right? Would you like to join us for a drink? Take a load off?” I asked somewhat disingenuously.

“Love to!”

(Damn!)

“Well, name your poison,” I said.

“Wine cooler, white.” (Go figure)

I decided to just go to the bar to place the order, as our little wanna-be Honky-Tonk venue was now just about completely full and I did not want any delays in getting Miss Layla her (hopefully) solitary drink, and then her continuing to make her ‘Rounds’.

I took the liberty of ordering drinks for me and Shonnie while I was at it, returned and sat down.

Shonnie and Layla had their heads together and were giggling over something. (Probably my ‘dancing’).

“Drinks on the way,” I announced, thus interrupting their little giggle fest.

“Oh goody” (goody?) Layla exclaimed.

“So, Layla, Shonnie tells me Y’all work together.”

“Yep, and we’re best of friends, so you better take good care of her,” she said, still in giggle mode.

(Good ‘care’ of her? Hmmm…)

The drinks arrived and I decided to kick it up a notch, so I proposed a toast: “Here’s to new Friends,” I said, raising my shot of Beam.

The ladies followed suit and two glasses and one shot glass collided with a soft ‘clink’.

“Hear! Hear!” Layla giggled (what is with this woman? Drunk or stoned, or both?)

We tried to settle into some conversation, but Layla clearly was not interested, as she spent more time perusing the other tables and the dance floor than she did ‘focused’ on the ‘conversation’. I could see she was as anxious to extricate herself from our table as I was to see her succeed.

Thankfully, a California Cowboy finally came over and led her out onto the dance floor. (“Keep her as long as you like Cowboy.” Of course, I only said that inside my head.)

***

Shonnie and I danced every slow dance song that came up for the next couple of hours (between several more rounds of drinks).

About every twenty minutes or so Layla would pop back by, ostensibly to be ‘social’, but methinks, to ‘check on us’, as if we were her charges.

Good Grief!

Finally, as it was getting up along twelve midnight, and Shonnie and I had, indeed, seemed to find some mutual attraction, I broached:

“How ‘bout I give you a ride home? And Layla can be freed of her chaperone duty?” It was a gambit and I gave it fifty-fifty.

“Sure,” she said instantly. “Just let me tell her what’s up, okay?”

“Of course.”

I watched as Shonnie tracked her down and gave her the happy news. I could see they were having some discussion over this, but it did not seem ‘too’ heated, only ‘marginally’ heated.

Shonnie returned to me and announced gruffly, “Let’s go.”

“Yes Ma’am. Just let me settle-up with the bar, and we can split.” (Not really a Cowboy term, ‘Split’, but hell! I was in Southern Cali after all.)

We walked to my Toronado which was parked way in the back of the parking lot, by now pretty much emptied out. After we settled in and I was about to start the car, Shonnie said, “Ya wanna smoke a joint?”

“I would love to ‘Darlin’, but you know I’m in the Navy, and they have random piss tests all the time, so I just can’t.”

She looked a little disappointed, but it was a fleeting look. I turned my attention back to the keys in the ignition when she put her hand on my arm and said, “Well, would you like to fuck me then?”

Bam!

“Love to.” And it was definitely ‘On’. Since she was so tiny and my car so huge, with front seats that could be moved way back, we had no trouble with her straddling me on the passenger side.

The sex was passionate, slightly drunken, and fucking great! Seems there was much energy stored in that diminutive frame of hers and she unleashed all of it on one unsuspecting Cowboy.

After we had finished and I was back in the driver side seat fishing for two Marlboros, she started crying. (Crying??)

“What’s wrong Honey?” I sincerely asked.

“I’m married,” She said.

Almost laughing as I said,

“That’s okay Baby, so am I.”

She stopped crying and started laughing, laughing really hard and loud. She had a great laugh, by the way, boisterous, loud and proud, not even an ounce of pretention–seemingly impossible to be emanating from such a petite, sweet, lil’ thang.

And I joined in with her laughter.

We found time to fuck again.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – Pride And Joy (Live at Montreux 1982)

Shonnie & Lance:

Keepin’ it Real”

Reasons Explained as to why I am Re-Working This Old Series:

Chapter One Below:

Chapter Three Here:

Below You Will Find Most Of The Original Posts. Once / If You Arrive At Thirteen There Are Links To The Final Few Chapters. Please keep in mind however, that each and every one of them is in the process of being rewritten: first to last. This will probably take at least two or three weeks.

Parts One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten  Eleven  Twelve  Thirteen

Sexy Goddess Elizabeth: My Last Wife, Chapter Two: In France We Kissed On Main Street

In France we kissed on Main Street

Video Credit: MysticPieces

********

I was Free To Follow My Desire In Paris

We spent an inordinate amount of time in our lovely, comfy little love shack of a hotel room.

I had fetched along some of my most – favorite movies to share with Ela—Yes, at this point, she had instructed me to call her “Ela” because that was the moniker she went by, but reserved for her ‘closest friends.”—I figured ‘Lovers’—but whatever. I had made it to “Ela Status.” Hoped this boded well for our relationship.

Got one of the Hotel Staff to hook us up with a DVD Player so we could watch the movies I had brought to the soiree:

‘Cabaret’, ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Macbeth.’ Midnight Cowboy,’ ‘Henry V’–Just some ‘Light-Hearted viewing! HAHAHAH!

She loved ‘Henry V’ and ‘Cabaret.’

‘Macbeth’ and ‘Hamlet’ not as much.

We wasted (well, not wasted to me) a lot of time holed up in our little room watching these movies, drinking vin rouge, and making love. I was in Heaven. I had already seen much of The Paris I was interested in seeing (This was not my First ‘Paris Rodeo’—Had been to Paris several times already. As had she.

So we just drank, made love, watched movies, and fell deep IN-LOVE (for the most part)

We did go out, usually in the late evenings to stroll down the Champs-Élysées and hang out at the Café George V.

We were having a wonderful Paris Experience.

But, it was rapidly coming to an end.

She had to return to her ‘Main-Mundane’ in Springfield and I had to return to ‘Le Sandbox’ that was Iraq. We kinda grew morose.

Then I had one of those ‘epiphany things.’

“Ela,” I broached. “Why cannot we just extend our stay here a few more days? I can change our plane tickets, sort things out with the hotel. My job won’t fire me. I am too good at it, as I am sure you are at yours. Let’s stay a few more days.”

She blinked at me through teary eyes, embraced me, kissed me and said, “Oh Yes! Oh Hell Yes!”

Then I got on the telephone to sort out all the logistics and the dice were cast.

It turned out to be a not-so-very-good crap-shoot, but it took some time for that realization to make manifest.

To be continued…

Chapter One Here

Shonnie: Just Some Last Thoughts & One “Reminisce”

I killed these posts, this Series.

Pretty Certain Alcohol was involved.

Anyway, I brought it back, if for nothing else, my own edification.

And every word I wrote, everything I recounted actually happened as I described.

(And of course, because I love Sheryl Crow. And of course, as a vain writer, I just cannot cotton to killing my own words, once written. Hahahaha! Writers, Y’all know what I mean.) 

Please Bare er, ‘bear’… with me on this one Y’all.

***

Time always makes things (memories) better. This is how I cope. As for me and Shonnie, memories are multiplied–super-sized, if you will. The words I wrote of our relationship are all too true. I do hope she never reads those words, as neither she nor I are strong enough to re-live those heady days. This is how life is.

One is young once, (and older more than twice) and youth does stupid shit based upon that ‘youth’, and then, if lucky, one has a chance for redemption later in life.

(Not religious redemption: human redemption) I don’t apologize for my youthful indiscretions. They belong to me alone. I will carry. If anyone has in their head after reading my story of Lance and Shonnie, that I did not truly love her, that I allowed her to set me free for my own self-preservation, that I did not want to fight for her, then you may want to go back and read between the lines.

And with that ‘mini-rant’ spotlight shined into my soul, I leave you with this idealized and fantasized version of what Shonnie meant to me.

(Ms Shonnie’s part played and well-acted by Sheryl Crow.) And as good as Sheryl is, she could never be as good to me as was Shonnie. Ever. (But, I’d grant her an audition, none-the-less)

And it shames me now to admit this but I was, back then, not strong enough to be Shonnie’s man.

If you are new here and confused, here is the beginning of this little story: Shonnie

Go there with my Blessings… and Sympathy

In My Time Zone…

It remains Thursday.

Some bug in my head reminded me as September rapidly  approaches…

An anniversary 

As we celebrate freedom…

Well, Here is a video preamble:

And I aim to keep my promise.

(This one is personal, and no need to read. Just a thing I do as September crowds me, and bad dreams haunt me)

***

Here:

In 1971 when my step-sister Madelyn and I were fourteen and thirteen respectively, my parents would often go out of town on the weekends. My father and stepmother seemed to always have some magic convention or gathering to attend in Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, or any number of other venues. My father knew all the local high school kids from his directing of the senior plays every year. Two of the former graduates, Ronnie and Doug, then about twenty years old, remained very good friends of my father and particularly Ronnie, (who was Peanut’s Uncle). My father decided that Madelyn and I needed a ‘baby-sitter’ while he and Gloria were off on their long weekends, so they paid Doug and Ronnie to look after us.

Now mind you, Madelyn and I were both pretty certain we were over-mature for our age and could easily fend for ourselves, but we loved having two “big brothers” to help us throw the greatest parties in the history of Honey Grove while under their tutelage. We used Marcom Manor as our venue of course and were always in a rush to get the house back into some semblance of order before the folks returned, usually on a Sunday, but occasionally on a Monday or Tuesday.

During Labor Day Weekend of 1971 my parents were off to a big convention in Houston and we had a great party planned for Sunday the Fifth of September. We were to have ‘The Mother of All Parties’ out at Lake Coffeemill, north of Honey Grove. (The party was going to serve double duty for me, as my fourteenth birthday was just five days away.)  Right up until the night before, I had no date lined up for this all-day Blow-Out, and I was in a panic.

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