County Lines by Bob
After stopping at a traffic light in Livingston last week, I couldn't
remember where I was going when the light turned green.
Just drive, I thought. It will come to you sooner or later.
Where I intended to go still hadn't came to me when I stopped at
a Shoney's in Memphis. Maybe food will jog my memory, I thought.
I ordered the breakfast bar. Nothing better than plate after plate
of pancakes, bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, grits and biscuits, covered
with maple syrup and ketchup.
"Can't get the breakfast bar," the waitress said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"It's 10:30 at night," she said.
"That explains why it's dark," I replied. "But if
we were at the North Pole, where the sun doesn't shine this time
of year, it could be dark and still be daytime."
"Want something else?" she said.
"Except for onions, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce,
the secret sauce and cheese, bring me a cheeseburger all the way,"
"You want a hamburger with ketchup and tomato?" she said.
"That's right," I replied.
"Why didn't you say that?" she asked.
"I'm a writer," I said. "I get paid by the word.
I'm stretching our conversation in case I use it in a story."
"You want French fries or hash browns?"
"Neither," I said. "I'm trying to lose weight.
I'll have a chocolate shake. No, two chocolate shakes and a slice
of peach pie with a double scoop of chocolate ice cream."
"Nice diet," she said.
"I like it," I said. "Want to hear a Buddhist joke?"
"Might as well," she replied. "I've put up with
you this long. I can stand a few minutes more."
"What did the Buddhist say while serving tea to a friend?"
"I don't know," she said. "What?"
"Would you like cream or would you prefer reincarnation milk?"
The joke either whizzed over her head or she didn't laugh for
fear she couldn't stop once she started. Whatever the reason, I
didn't see her again.
I was going to complain to the manager. But I fell asleep while
thinking of the best way to express myself.
The smell of bacon sizzling woke me up. A new waitress asked if
I wanted the breakfast bar.
"I thought you couldn't order the breakfast bar at night,"
"You can't," she said. "But this is morning."
Stretching my arms out, I leaned back and said, "Nothing
better than a good night's sleep in a restaurant."
"You want the breakfast bar?" the waitress asked.
"Please,Ó I said.
I shoveled in plate after plate of pancakes, bacon, sausage, ham,
eggs, grits and biscuits, covered with maple syrup and ketchup.
I washed my meal down with two pots of coffee, paid the bill and
started driving back to Overton County.
Anyone else would have used a map to find the shortest way. But
I didn't need to. My head has a built-in compass.
After swerving to miss a bear in the Smokies, I glanced to my right.
A woman and a little kid were sitting beside me.
"Where'd y'all come from?" I asked.
"You picked my son and me up," the woman said, "after
my car broke down."
My memory must be going, I thought. First I forget where I'm going.
Now I'm riding with strangers I don't remember picking up.
Maybe I should have been more careful of what got into me during
that Hendrix concert. "Actin', funny. But I don't know why.
'Scuse me, while I kiss the sky."
I was passing a semi, when the kid started in. "Tell me a
story. Come on, mister, tell me a story."
"Okay, but you have to be quiet," I said. "Once
upon a time, Alice, a Mary Fay cosmetic representative, lived in
a place called Wonderland. Whenever Alice ran out of money to purchase
illegal pharmaceuticals, she would wear tight leather pants and
walk the streets, yelling at men in expensive cars to pull over
and give her a ride."
"Stop," the little kid said. "I heard it before."
"Impossible," I said, "I'm making it up as I go
The little kid pulled a .25 caliber pistol from his pocket and
waved it at me. "Pull over," he said. "Be cool and
you might keep breathin'.Ó
I should have known. A midget and his sidekick posing as a little
kid and his mother. It happens all the time.
I reached down beside my seat, grabbed my Ruger .44 with the nine
inch barrel and pointed it at the midget's head. "Now we both
have guns," I said. "The only difference is you're afraid
to die and I'm not."
"You're crazy," the midget said.
"Probably," I replied. "Drop the peashooter and
Raising his eyebrows like midgets do, he said, "But you're
"In 10 seconds I'll be doing 85," I said. "If you're
not gone, I'll pull the trigger."
The midget and his accomplice jumped out.
After stopping in Myrtle Beach to surf the big ones, I drove through
North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Illinois, West
Virginia and Oklahoma.
Following a rest stop in Idaho and Missouri, I drove to Overton
County, stopping three times for gas and six times at Shoney's.
Anyone else would have relied on a map to find the shortest way
back. But I didn't need to. My head has a built-in compass.
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570