Sopping up a puddle of spilled beer with a week-old rag, the young bartender heard a gravelly voice and thought the customer had lost his mind. Skeeter sat on his barstool repeating his name over and over.
“Skeeter Dillon. My name is Skeeter Dillon. Hi, I’m Skeeter Dillon. Skeeter Dillon’s my name. Outlaw country music’s my game.”
The bartender expressed genuine concern.
“My name is Skeeter Dillon.”
“Like Bob Dylan?”
“No, like the marshal.”
“You playing here tonight?”
“No, I’m just drinking here tonight.”
“So why you got your guitar case with you?”
“You never know, do you?”
“Marshal Dillon’s your stage name, right?”
“That sounds real good, son, but I’m sticking with Skeeter Dillon, my born-at-home Christian name.”
“Skeeter’s your real name?”
“Yessir, my ma says mosquitoes coming in through holes in the screen door buzzed all around her head while she was giving birth to me on the kitchen floor.”
“And you’re still buzzing right along,” the bartender said with a big grin.
“Got that right, boy. I’m planning on making it big at the Grand Ole Opry. I’m practicing how to introduce myself to the audience.”
Despite the record company brush-off, Skeeter was still trying to figure out how to get his first gig.
He told the bartender about the record company executives and how they didn’t care about hurting his feelings when they told him his song was no good and that he shouldn’t quit his day job.
“Damn, I got a day job and a night job,” he said.
Skeeter always showed up with his tow truck. No wreck was too big or too small on the back roads or on Route 11 & 15. Persistent to a fault, he just kept going.
“Let me buy you a drink, mister,” the bartender said.
Four beers, two shots and nine Slim Jims later, Skeeter was back in the truck looking at the cowboy boot he wrapped in a black garbage bag after finding it in the back seat of the vintage gray GTO the driver wrapped around a telephone pole the night before. Mangled and mashed, the dead man’s body took a lot of extracting with a piece here and a piece there.
Cutting through the side of the boot with his Buck knife, Skeeter opened up the fine black leather with purple stitching and exposed the human foot. Intact and discolored in hues of yellow and blue, the first responders missed that fresh body part when they were picking up the pieces after the wreck.
Skeeter only found the expensive hand tooled western wear by accident. Why he didn’t just call the cops he didn’t know. Maybe because the radio in the car kept going on and off, a short in the wiring probably, and Skeeter took the loud country music as a sign that maybe he should keep trying, keep singing and writing songs about life as he saw it, maybe one day making it to Nashville after all.
The last song he heard reminded him of a tune that came to him like a religious vision in the shower a week or so ago, a song about dying and asking God in heaven for a two-headed hound dog so the pooch could lick Skeeter’s face with twice as much love as the dog gave him here on earth.
Skeeter knew “Double Dog Dare You, Jesus” would be a hit. He just knew it. Those shit-kickers at the record company already knew his name so he might as well try them again.
That’s when he saw the green roll of bills thick as a moldy cinnamon bun. Not bloody but secure inside the boot, the cash showed a crisp hundred on the front. A gold money clip with the ace of spades engraved on the exterior secured the folded money snug as a bug in a rug.
When he got home he counted the greenbacks, spreading out thirty 100 dollar bills on the table in the kitchen in the double-wide he got to keep in the divorce. Popping a fresh can of Pabst, he sat alone with his thoughts for about an hour. Then he grabbed the notebook he bought six months ago at the Dollar Store and picked up his plastic pen he stole from the finance company when he borrowed money for the T-shirts to promote his first song, “Hello Ma.”
Skeeter began to compose.
“Ain’t asking much, Jesus, just a two-headed dog
To lick my face in heaven
Double dog dare you, Jesus, a two-headed dog
To give me twice as much love in heaven.”
When he finished, Skeeter jumped up from the table and ran to the refrigerator for another cold one.
He grabbed two cans – one for him and another for him, too.
“Sonofabitch, I think I’m on to something here,” he said.
“Nashville here I come.”