Mole stood grimacing at the bar and blocking the waitress station at Clayt’s Horseshoe Tavern. Taller than a gun cabinet and just as broad, his stringy, greasy hair the color of fresh-poured asphalt hung below double-wide shoulders. The beard looked like a bramble bush with dead sparrows trapped in its branches. Mole’s nose looked like a snout that protruded small, sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes.
The colors he wore on the back of a cutoff frayed denim vest identified him as president of the Crushers, a ragtag bunch of outlaw bikers from California trying to expand the club into Pennsylvania. The Crushers were undergoing a restructuring after their last president quit the gang and the club enforcer died when a giant coyote tore his ass up outside a Shell Beach liquor store on the Central Coast. At the time it never crossed Mole’s mind the Pagans would kick his ass as soon as they heard he was in town recruiting prospects.
Andy Liddick gave the big man a smile.
“What can I get you?”
“My brother Lester’s foot.”
The bartender backed up.
“Is that like a Tom Collins?”
“You trying to be funny?”
Mole leaned over the bar and whispered.
“Lester totaled his GTO last week coming here on club business and died in a pile a mile down the road from here. His left cowboy boot and matching foot is missing. My mama can’t bury his personal parts without his foot. Mama says you got to be whole to get to heaven.”
“Sounds like a Skeeter Dillon song,” Andy Liddick said.
“I’m gonna ask you one last time. You seen Lester’s foot?”
“Skeeter towed in the GTO. I’d ask him.”
“Where’s this Skeeter bug live at?”
“We had a party for him here last night. He left for Nashville this morning.”
“We’ll just go get him.”
“Welcome to the Crushers, brother. You’re our first member on the East Coast.”
“You got a motorcycle?”
“Me, neither, I left mine back in California to fly here. We’ll steal a couple when the bar closes. Now let’s rip the sleeves off your Wrangler jacket and let me spray paint CRUSHERS and PENNSYLVANA across the back.”
By that time Skeeter was crossing the Mason-Dixon Line heading for Virginia singing his song:
I hope you’re well
Don’t worry ‘bout me cause I’m going to hell
I’ll know a lot more people there
You might go too
So you better beware
Singing so hard he started to choke, pounding the steering wheel to catch his breath, Skeeter knew he had a hit. That’s what he had on his hands, a living, breathing hit song that would take the country scene by storm whether they knew it or not down there in the grit-sucking South. One thing about being from up North is that you always came away a winner. The Civil War settled all that. The North won. The South lost. End of story. Northern rednecks hated Southern rednecks. You didn’t hear much about that rivalry.
Southerners he called “rebnecks” ate grits with their eggs. Northern Pennsylvania Dutchmen rednecks ate scrapple with ketchup. That’s all a Perry County boy needs to know about American history.
Skeeter hated everything from the South – even South Philadelphia – especially Dr. Pepper. He once told a state trooper at the scene of a triple fatal accident that the driver died because he was drinking Dr. Pepper. The guy was just holding a bottle of that soda when he hit a 10-point buck and the deer’s antlers smashed the bottle and sent shards of glass into the man’s brain.
Dr. Pepper killed him, Skeeter told the cop who wrote that fact in his official report.
All Skeeter needed was a cooler loaded with cans of Reading beer. Normally a Pabst drinker, the Reading was on sale. After 12 beers Skeeter lost control of the tow truck on a curve when he stared too long at a faded chewing tobacco ad painted on the side of a barn and wondered too long why these crackers in the Confederacy or anywhere else for that matter chewed the stuff.
The truck rolled and rolled some more, crumbling like a Reading can, a dozen of which flew from the cooler and rolled with ice cubes down a dirt and gravel hill on the other side of the guard rail. Lester’s boot, foot included, that Skeeter placed gently for safekeeping on top of the beer and the ice in the cooler, landed in a stagnant gully, killing a frog that was so sluggish from pollution he just couldn’t jump fast and high enough to escape its maker – just like Skeeter, whose head squashed on the windshield like a mashed West Nile Virus mosquito hitting a Mack truck grille doing 90 miles per hour.
Back up North, Andy Liddick couldn’t get over his good fortune to be chosen the newest Crusher vice president. That night after work he stole Candy the barmaid’s Harley and met Mole at midnight on the highway. Hiding something behind his back, Mole smiled a barbarian smile and asked Andy to come with him because Mole had something to show him.
Andy complied. After all, Mole was the president. When Mole said “look up, Andy, there’s a bald eagle in that tree,” Andy didn’t even think that it was midnight and how could Mole with those heavily-lidded squinty eyes see America’s big bird symbol of freedom even at noon let alone at the darkest time of night. So Andy looked and Mole whacked him in the back of the head with an ax, knocking Andy Liddick out colder than a couple of leftover pizza slices in the freezer at Clayt’s. The plan came to him when Andy Liddick told him about the brand new black Tecova cowboy boots he bought for the trip down South. Andy’s boots didn’t match the beauties Lester wore, but Mama was losing her eyesight and wouldn’t know the difference.
Raising the ax over his head, Mole swung, first hitting soft leather, cutting past unwashed white sweat sock, pale, pimpled flesh and right through the bone at the ankle. The body part easily separated from the leg, dropping like a felled redwood at the hands of an expert lumberjack.
That scum Skeeter had a day’s lead on him and Mole would never find him anyway. Mama was still crying her eyes out waiting for her boy’s foot so she could find peace of mind with one last piece of body for one full dress funeral. With Andy’s foot replacing Lester’s, the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.
Mole rode fast into the sunset heading west with one slightly used Tecova and a foul-smelling tootsie wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag tied around his waist. He and Mama would have a big California biker funeral for Lester. Mole would recruit dozens of new Crushers from the mourners’ ranks.
Screw the East Coast.
He was afraid of them Pagans anyway.