It is a long drive from Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana to the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Especially when you are driving a white 1968 Chevy panel truck with a corny red lobster painted on the side and “Junebug’s Seafood” displayed prominently above the snapping claws of the lobster. The motto “Freshest is the Bestest” painted below the tentacles of the cartoon creature ensured that nobody could miss us. It was hot and air conditioning was a luxury that Junebug didn’t provide in any of his vehicles. The smell of various fishes and sea critters had seeped into the pores of Julie’s and my skin. At least I had company. Julie had sworn off the carnival again, but once again I had my doubts. There was wanderlust in that girl as well as a genuine fondness for the 5 legged steer. It was the only pet she had ever had. Rich girls had horses, Julie had a five-legged bovine. I had managed to get out of Lake Charles without her getting a tattoo of the creature’s hooves planted on her right butt cheek. Bob Marley’s face already adorned the left cheek. Dreadlocks and hoof prints was more than any man should have to endure. “Why don’t you just get a heart or the Rolling Stones lips like every other girl.” “Because I am not every other girl and besides sometimes I feel like he is my only friend.” she replied. Julie was soft hearted beneath the tough exterior. Only Julie could feel a motherly instinct for five legged cattle. “Just think on it until the next trip,” I finally said.
I ground through the gears as the old truck rumbled north to deliver fresh seafood to the rich and pompous of the small burg I inhabited in northern Arkansas. Junebug and I had formerly made a decent living running bootleg beer from the Missouri state line to the dry Arkansas County we lived in. Unfortunately retired transplants from Chicago had overwhelmed the significant political clout of the Southern Baptist’ and had voted the county wet. Junebug and I had given a valiant effort to stop the influx of liquor stores that put an end to our business. We had both voted ‘No’ six times on the same day. The voting booths were at the Baptist Church and no disguises were necessary. But in a democratic country, if it is cheap beer they want it is cheap beer they will get. Junebug and I were a lot like Al Capone in Chicago during Prohibition. Well, maybe not. Anyway, they had closed Alcatraz down so I wasn’t afraid and Elliot Ness and Sheriff Tommy Dutch, the local constable, weren’t exactly birds of a feather
I saw Dooley Burdine standing in the doorway of Dooley’s Crescent Liquor Store with the brand new Schlitz sign glowing brightly above his head. He was pointing and laughing at the lobster truck. I would have thrown a red snapper at him if I could have reached it. I drove on in to the parking lot of Junebug’s Lobster Hut and was surprised to find a pickup full of lumber parked at the rear entrance and the sounds of hammering and drilling coming from inside. I walked in and saw two carpenters sealing off a back room from the kitchen under the watchful eye of Junebug Meyers. “What in hell is going on?” was my response to Junebug’s proud grin. “This is going to be the Baptist room.” What,
do you mean,” I said with my draw dropping. “Well I thought it would be nice, in other words profitable, if we had a little room back here where the leaders of our town’s Baptist society could gather and enjoy our fine seafood as well as maybe a little shot of Crown Royal in relative anonymity, you know. Mix only with their kindred souls so to speak. I even got a plastic Jesus on the Cross from the flea market to hang on the wall. Remember from the grape comes the wine. Julie will be the cocktail waitress and you are going to be the matter de, or however they say that in French.” “We can’t get away with this,” I said. “You know who runs this town and it sure as hell ain’t Dooley Burdine,” was Junebug’s reply. I could only concur.
Two weeks later I opened the Daily Ridgerunner and next to the advertisement for Dangerous Dan’s Funeral Home was this week’s social calendar:
Baptist Men’s Social, 10:00 PM Saturday Night at Junebug’s Lobster Hut.
Don’t miss a night of fun and fellowship.
I did have a suit. Every once in awhile I had to go to court and Junebug found me a red bow tie, again at the flea market. It had kind of a musty smell, but we had to send to the lingerie store in Kansas City for some fishnet stockings, black high heels and a sort of maid looking out fit for Julie. It promised to show plenty of cleavage. At exactly 10:00 PM on Saturday night, I heard a knock on the door. Baptists’ are prompt, if nothing else. I slid open the hatch in the door and saw the required Southern Baptist Association membership card. I promptly open the door and welcomed in the first guest. “Good evening sir and welcome to the Baptist Room. Feel free to tip your hat to Jesus on the mantle as you make your way to your seat.” He gave me a sour look. By 10:15 PM we had a full house of 12 of the Baptist elite. They all were rather subdued glancing furtively at each other. I guess nobody wanted to be the first to sin. Julie went around and took orders for meals, making sure to bend over and show ample cleavage. Instead of reducing the men to ordering liquor, Julie just went around and placed several bottles of Crown Royal and shot glasses on the tables.
The men got increasingly jovial and increasingly flirtatious with Julie as the night wore on. If only their wives knew. I recognized lots of faces but never having worshipped with the Baptist before, the only name I knew was the Mayor, Clem Hawkins. I was getting rather irritated with the men’s flirtations with Julie and finally it went to far. Julie passed by Mayor Clem and he ran his hand up Julie’s dress and grabbed her left butt cheek and Bob Marley in the process. I stepped across the room and planted one on Mayor Clem’s nose. He was down and then up again and Julie and I were facing twelve angry men. Twelve angry Baptist men. I grabbed Julie’s hand and we headed out the door to the lobster truck with twelve of John the Baptist’s disciples in hot pursuit. Fortunately the motor turned right over and we were on our way.
We turned the corner onto Main Street just as the patrol car of Sheriff Tommy Dutch was coming in the opposite direction. I swerved left on to the sidewalk and the lobster truck came to a halt. However, on an ironic note, the top of the panel truck caught Dooley Burdine’s new Schlitz sign and smashed it to pieces. “What the Hell are you doing. You can do about anything in this town except punch the Mayor in the nose.” Jesus Christ Tommy, he was playing grab ass with Julie and in the process pulled Bob Marley’s dreadlocks.” I replied. “I don’t doubt that.” Tommy said. “Get in the back of the patrol car. I am going to take you two to your house and you had better get out of here until things cool down.”
Julie and I packed our clothes and necessities, including an autographed picture of her and the five-legged steer, and headed north to Branson. The Jaguar purred contentedly and Julie was quiet for the first 45 minutes. “That guy at the restaurant was an asshole. He could have grabbed my ass, if he would have asked first. The Carny is in Springfield. Do you think we could swing by so I could see my pet.” “No.” I replied.
© Kevin D. Burgess 4/27/08