I screeched into the gravel parking lot of Junebug’s junkyard in the old Jaguar. No I didn’t. It just sounded like a good opening line to a story. There hadn’t been any new gravel in Junebug’s lot since 1957 and the Jaguar sat so low to the ground I had to jack it up to change the oil. I slowly and carefully negotiated the potholes in Junebug’s parking lot, braking every time I felt the front end dip. “Why don’t you get some good Detroit Iron that you can drive somewhere instead of that sissy British thing.” Junebug remarked as he walked out the front door. “Junebug, there are certain things a man like you will never understand,” I said. “A God Damn good thing,” he replied. “I would pay you two cents a mile to drive that thing to the line to get beer but I don’t think there is enough room in the trunk to make it profitable.” “It’s called a boot, Junebug.” “Boot, my ass. I wear a boot and I am about to plant it in your ass if we don’t start making some money. Have you heard from Julie.” “Yeah, she will be down next week. She’s still mad about the mayor grabbing her ass at the Lobster Hut.” “Yeah, well the mayor is damn well mad at you for belting him. I imagine we would both be living in a different town if hadn’t been for the sensitive nature of the circumstances. Is she in Branson?” “No she took the Greyhound to Memphis. The Carny is there and she went to see her pet, the five legged steer.” “Don’t you think you could do a little better than a girl with Bob Marley tattooed on her ass and a malformed bovine for a pet.” “Junebug, it’s what makes me love her. She is a sensitive soul.”
Junebug and I were in dire straits financially after the county had voted wet and ruined our bootleg business. The Lobster Hut had been somewhat successful until the night the Baptists had chased Julie and I out of town after I clobbered the mayor for grabbing Julie’s ass. Junebug had tried to hang on for awhile, but without Julie and I helping him he was doomed. That and the fact that people avoided the place like toxic shellfish after the rather sensitive incident. You couldn’t even get a traveling atheist in that place after the Last Supper Julie and I had served the mayor and his fellow Baptists. We needed a new plan to get us fat and happy again. In other words to make enough money to get the lights turned back on in the junkyard. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a voice saying, “Go Southeast Young Man.”
Since we had no source of income after the county voted wet and the Lobster Hut fiasco I had been thinking long and hard about a new source of revenue. “What is the one thing that all Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals need to go along with their now legal alcoholic beverage that they can’t get around here,” I asked Junebug. “You are going to need a lot more girls than Julie to accomplish that.” “Oh Christ Junebug, not that. Cuban Cigars! The Baptist men could just pick them up at the at the back of the junkyard and the Baptist women could order them from us by mail.” “Hmmm. Where do you get Cuban cigars at.” “Good grief Junebug, the same place you get Fidel Castro at, Cuba.” “Hmm. I don’t know if I can get a passport or visa or whatever you need. I think I got a felony conviction that time I got caught pissing in public with the giant penis.” “Christ, we are already breaking the law. Cuban cigars are illegal in this country.” “I see your point,” Junebug finally relented. “All we have to do is drive to Miami in the Lobster truck. You can wait in Miami with the sun and the dames. Julie and I will boat down to Cuba, buy a load of cigars for ten cents a piece and then we will come back here and sell them for two dollars a piece. The Baptists will think they are getting a bargain and we will be making a 190 percent profit.” “The only problem is we have no money to start with.” “Listen you have title to the junkyard right.” “Yeah, Dooley Burdine owned half but I won it from him in a poker game. That’s why he is still mad at me.” “Right, the bank will at least give us a couple of thousand on the place.” “If you defaulted and they got the junkyard, they know they could sell it to the Baptists for at least ten times that much. The Baptists would pay it just to get rid of you.” Yeah, spose you are right.”
We left the Ozarks a few days later in the Lobster truck, a 1968 Chevrolet panel truck with no air conditioning. Junebug had applied some bondo to the roof of the truck where Julie and I had crashed into Dooley Burdine’s Schlitz sign after the Baptists had chased us out of the Lobster Hut. It had a fresh coat of white paint and Junebug had painted Junebug's Fine Tobaccos on the side. It’s also really not that hard to turn a lobster into a cigar with some brown spray paint. Other than sweat pouring down our faces, we were riding in fine style. We stopped at the Carny in Memphis to pick up Julie. “Please bring her back in a few weeks,” the Carny Master pleaded. “That God Damned steer pines for her every time she’s gone.” “Maybe you could find him a five legged cow.” I said. “It’s not that fucking easy, smart ass.” I felt bad about making light of his predicament. Julie had boosted a couple of blocks of dry ice from the fog-making machine so at least the ride was cooler.
When we got to Miami we dropped Junebug off at the Sexy Seniors Resort and Spa. There were so many widow women in Florida that even a drunken junkyard owner could score here. He had the necessary quality. He was standing upright. “Where are we going to find a boat to take us to Cuba,” Julie asked. “Well I heard there was this place here called Little Havana where all the good people of Cuba went after Castro kicked them out. Once we get there, we just ask a cab driver.” I said. “Do you know how to get to this Little Havana place,” Julie asked. “No, I just figure we find a car with some Spanish bumper sticker on it and we just follow it until we get there.” “I didn’t know you speak Spanish.” “Si, mi amor,” I said.
Sure enough it wasn’t long until I saw a bumper sticker in Spanish. “What does it say,” Julie asked. “Ohhh, something about Castro’s wife is a donkey. I think this is probably a good one. I’m going to follow it.” In thirty minutes we were in Little Havana. I parked the Lobster truck and Julie and I hailed a taxi. Once inside the taxi I asked the driver if he knew where we could find a man and a boat to help us with a little smuggling. He laughed. “You two are too stupid to be cops. Try Manny’s Underwater Exploration down at the harbor. Tell him Pedro sent you. That will be five dollars for the ride and fifty dollars for the tip.” I grudgingly handed over the fifty-five and yelled at him “You wait until the Indians get here. Then you will be pushing a broom and praying to Buddha.” He squealed his tires as he sped off.
The next morning we were at the harbor at Manny’s place. I asked to speak to Manny and was shown to an office where a brown skinned man sat at his desk. I saw no reason to beat around the bush. “We are looking for someone to help us do a little smuggling.” The man frowned. I hated to invoke the bastard’s name but finally I said, “Pedro said to tell you he sent us.” A big smile crossed his face “Oh it’s OK. Pedro knows idiots when he sees them. I am sure we can help you. What is your desire? Cocaine. Marijuana. Jewels.” “No, cigars” I said. Manny looked puzzled. “You are setting your sights kind of low my friend.” Manny offered. “Listen buddy, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know what I was doing.” “Oh yes. I agree my friend. Now how much do you have to spend on a boat, five thousand, ten thousand.” “Uhh, actually about five hundred.” Manny frowned. “Well, my friend that will get you a 16 foot skiff and a 30 horsepower Evinrude.” “It’s OK. I’ve been on the water since I was three feet tall.” “Yeah, you and Jimmy Buffet are like peas in a pod.” The dockhand was smirking as we climbed in the boat. “You two probably don’t need life jackets. The sharks would eat you before anyone found you.” I gave him a hard look. “Goodbye shark bait,” he quipped. “Kiss my ass,” I yelled over the roar. Well it was actually the screech of the little outboard.
I held a flashlight over the compass as Julie and I headed out into the dark. The asshole dockhand had been kind enough to give me the compass bearing to Havana. We were traveling lights out in the dark to avoid the Feds. Five hours later we were bearing down on the lights of Havana. It was as easy as taking candy from a baby. We slept in the boat until morning and then just walked up the streets and found a cigar vendor. “Hablo English” I said. “Si” he replied. “I want all you got. Ten cents a piece.” “No two cents apiece is fine and I will take them to your boat.” I realized he wasn’t even looking at me. “Muy grande pechos blonde senorita,” said the cigar vendor. “Oh, does he like my blonde hair,” Julie said. “Uh, no. He said the blonde girl has really big tits.” “Deseo sentirlos ir al cielo.” “Uh, he says if you let him touch them he will go to heaven.” “God damn it, every time we go to make money some private part of me gets squeezed,” Julie said. “Two cents a piece,” I said. Julie gave me a dirty look and then stuck out her chest. The guy acted like he was kneading a loaf of bread. I finally had enough and pushed his hands away. “OK buddy, now get the cigars in the boat,” I said. The guy pushed his cart down to the boat and loaded the cigars. We now had 6,000 cigars to sell for two dollars a piece. “Uno mas,” vendor guy said. “No mas” I said. “What did he say,” Julie asked. “He wants to touch them one more time and I said no.” “Oh it’s OK. It felt pretty good the first time.” I stood red faced as the guy went to town like he worked in a bakery. I finally had enough and pushed the guy’s fat ass back on the sand. “Let’s blow this place,” I said as I started the outboard. We were about 30 yards off the beach when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head and then a clunk in the bottom of the boat. I looked down and the asshole had hit me in the head with a conch shell. Before we were out of earshot I yelled back, “Castro’s wife is a goat.”
We pulled into the dock at Manny’s place early in the afternoon. “I am very surprised to see you two back. Manny was just getting ready to make an insurance claim on the boat,” the dockhand said. “Yeah well, you think you could help me get this load in the truck, lard ass.” “Not my job, buddy,” he said. Julie did a game job of helping me load the cigars. Manny came out with a big smile as we were getting ready to depart. “My friends, so glad to see you back. I hope you return. Next time when you come back ask for our discount for the mentally challenged.” “I saw Castro’s wife in Cuba and she looks like a Playboy model. She also said Manny in Miami has a dick the size of a shingle nail,” I replied. His face turned red and the veins in his forehead bulged as he began to chase the Lobster truck. I drove just fast enough so he couldn’t catch us.
We pulled up in front of the Sexy Senior Resort and Spa. Before I had a chance to turn the truck off Junebug came barreling out the front door. “Don’t shut it off,” he said as he headed for the truck. Shortly thereafter six octogenarian women came rushing out the door after him. “Hit it,” he said as he piled in the truck. I don’t know what he was so worried about. Four of the six were in walkers. “Worst three days of my life,” he said once we had pulled away. “I had to push the bed in front of the door,” he said. “I don’t know. It sounds kind of romantic to me,” Julie replied. “It was to keep them out of my room,” Junebug said.
I turned the truck northwest towards the Ozarks very content in the fact that we were sitting on 12,000 dollars. We could pay off the loan on the junkyard. Get the lights turned back on and have six months to figure out where our next source of income was coming from. “I guess I had better stop in Memphis before that lovesick steer and the Carny Master both have a heart attack,” I said. “We could also use some more dry ice.”
To be continued . . .
© Kevin D. Burgess 10/31/2008