Reads: 506

“Holy hell. Look at all the signatures on that George Jones guitar. I wonder who’s all on there.”

“I’d be concerned about the ink coming off on my arm when I play it. Then again, I don’t think you’d be able to see it with all the tattoos.”

Tucker glances down at my arms. “I’m sure The Possum wasn’t too worried about it.”

Right now, we’re in the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville. We left Evansville around seven after checking out of the hotel. We arrived in Nashville shortly after ten, and it’s eleven thirty now. My stomach grumbles, and Tuck looks in my direction.

“What? I’m hungry. If I wait any longer to eat, I’m gonna fit in that blue dress of Loretta Lynn’s we saw back there.”

“You’re fine.”

“No I’m not. I’m gonna starve because you’re too busy looking at guitars,” I whine, pulling on his arm.

“We’ll leave in a little bit. Have some respect for classic country.”

“Yeah, because the pink fringe suit Shania Twain wore is such a classic.”

Tuck throws his hands up in the air and starts stalking away. “Fine. You win. Can we at least stop at Elvis Presley’s Caddy, or are you going to start gnawing on the tailpipe?”

“Whatever floats your boat.”

When we arrive at the pearl white Cadillac, Tucker’s instantly got his phone out, snapping a shit ton of pictures. “It says here that the car was painted with forty coats of paint, made from crushed diamonds and fish scales. It’s called ‘diamond dust pearl.’”

“I’ve always wanted one that was long and black.”

Tucker glances over to me, a smile curving on his lips. “You can find that variety over on Pornhub.”

I reach over and smack him in the arm, pissed. “It’s Johnny Cash, you asshole. ‘One Piece At A Time.’ He’s talking about a Cadillac, not a dick, for fuck’s sake.”

“I know. I knew it would irk you, that’s why I said it. It’s a joke. Don’t take it so hard.”

The bastard has the balls to grin.

“Honestly, penis jokes? What are you, twelve?”

“You need to decide whether I’m old or not. Your indecision is messing with my mind.”

“It might just be the Alzheimer’s,” I shoot back, rolling past him and trying to find the exit.

“You need a Snickers. You’re not you when you’re hungry. You’re actually a downright crabass.”

Flipping him off, I wheel out to the parking lot and locate the truck, waiting for him to catch up.

“Maybe you should have eaten more than a banana for breakfast,” he says, unlocking the truck.

“Maybe you should suck my dick.”

“Whip it out.”

“Don’t tempt me.”

We stop for a late lunch at the Midtown Cafe, where Tucker orders the shrimp and grits, and I go with a reuben. When our food arrives, I spear a shrimp off his plate before he even takes a bite. I watch him as he scowls and begins to eat, watching me through narrowed eyes. Popping it in my mouth, I end up burning my tongue and spit it back out on my plate. Tucker roars with laughter, loud enough to make everyone else stop and look at us.

I feel my cheeks flame under the dim light above our table.

“Tuck, put a cork in it. People are staring at us,” I hiss as I kick him under the table.

He automatically stops laughing when my foot connects with his shin. Jesus, he must have legs of steel.

“Did you put a lead pipe up your pants? Jesus man, I feel bad for whoever kicked you when you were a kid. They probably broke a foot.”

He shrugs, and continues eating his grits. I lean over and scoop a spoonful off of his plate, taking a bite.

Almost immediately, I start gagging. These are horrible. Why would anybody deliberately eat this? With a little more tact, I spit it out into a napkin, Tucker watching me the entire time.

His deep voice rumbles across the table. “I think you should stop eating stuff off my plate. You’re not doing very good today.”

“How was I supposed to know it was gonna be hotter than hell? Not only that, whatever else you’re eating has a weird ass texture. How can you eat that shit?”

He laughs again, his black curls bouncing. “I grew up below the Mason Dixon. That’s how.”

“What, being southern makes you invincible to shitty food?”

“It’s all about what you’re used to. When I first moved to Wisconsin, I thought pickled herring and cheese curds were disgusting.”
“That’s sacrilege. We obviously have better taste up there.”

“Ya’ll have nothing on sweet tea or cornbread.”

Rolling his eyes, his snags a fry off my plate and dips it in the ranch cup on the side. Some of the ranch drips off the fry and lands in his beard.

“Hey, you have ranch in your beard.”

He looks down, trying to see where it is. Running a hand through his beard, the only thing he accomplishes is smearing it.

“Here, hold still dumbass.”

Leaning over the table, I take a napkin and wipe it off, conscious of his honey brown eyes on me the entire time. His face is only a foot away from mine.

 It would be so easy to brush his lips with mine. All I’d have to do is close the distance.

But I don’t.
Instead, I sit back down and try to calm the frantic beating of my heart. Sure, he’s handsome, super nice, and patient, but the last thing I want is feelings. Feelings suck.

Grabbing another fry off my plate, he forgoes the ranch this time and instead shoves it in his mouth, talking around it.

“What’s the deal with you showing your affection for everyone through crass and vulgar language? Riddle me that.”

“Sometimes things can’t be expressed through ‘Jiminy Crickets’ or ‘fiddlesticks’. For that, you need a more colorful term.”

“You seem to drop the F-bomb pretty often.”

“Sometimes you just need a good ol’ “fuck” to cover what you’re feeling.”

Tuck raises his eyebrows, looking down at me while a lazy smile curves across his lips.

Groaning, I smack my forehead with the palm of my hand. “Jesus, you perv. Not like that. You need a swear word like ‘fuck.’ Not the actual intercourse.”

“You walked right into that one.”

“Fine. I’ll give you that. I’ve got a question for you though.”

“Shoot.”

“I’ve only ever heard you swear once. What’s the deal?”

Sighing, he drains the last of his cherry Coke before answering. “It’s just a personal choice. Unless I’m very angry or feeling emotional, I try not to. I don’t know. It’s just something I try to avoid.”

“Why?”

“I don’t find it very attractive. Why use an ugly word when you can find something more appropriate?” He makes a point of avoiding my eyes when he says this.

“Huh.”

The rest of the meal is finished in relative silence, except for the scraping of silverware on our plates. When we’re done, he pushes himself away from the table and stands up, grabbing our bill.

“We should hit the road. There’s one more thing I want to see today.”

“Sounds good.”

***

Thankfully, my residual limb doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as it did the first day of our trip, because at the Mammoth Cave National Park, there’s a fuck ton of stairs. Actually, there’s a lot of walking in general. Tucker told me I had to wear the leg, and I was a bit apprehensive, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

 It’s chilly down in the caves, and I’m thankful I had enough sense to grab a hoodie before we left the truck. Tucker wasn’t so lucky. He’s in just a t-shirt, but he’s nipping hard enough to cut glass. He’s had his arms crossed for at least half of the Historic Tour.

“Do you wanna borrow my hoodie?”

Snorting, he rolls his eyes. “Yeah. I’m sure that’ll fit just fine.”

“It’s enough to cover up your indecency.”

“You need to cover yours more than I do.”

“That’s such a double standard. Fuck wearing a bra. Free the nipple.”

“You’re the one who told me to cover up,” he grumbles, rubbing his arms to warm up.

“It was supposed to be funny. Shut up. The tour guide is talking.”

The Historic Tour is about two hours long and has almost five hundred stairs, making it moderately difficult. The view is absolutely stunning though. Some of the cave ceilings expand at least twenty feet above my head, and the walls differ in colors, some rocks appearing more yellow or red depending on what part of the cave we’re in. One of the sections we see is called The Bottomless Pit. They’re not shitting when they say it’s bottomless.

I take that back. It probably has a floor, but I couldn’t see it. The Pit is literally a gaping hole in the middle of the cave, and is a little over a hundred feet deep. There’s a catwalk off to one side, but other than that, it suddenly drops off. It would suck to drop a cell phone or small child down there.

Beside me, Tucker hums softly to himself, but the cave has great acoustics. It takes me a second to pin what he’s humming.

“Are you really humming ‘Down In a Hole’ right now?

He stops, and his cheeks flush as he turns to look at me. “It seemed appropriate at the time.”

“Do you even know the lyrics?”

“Sure I do.”

“Okay Layne.”

About two minutes later, he’s back at it again, this time humming ‘Black Hole Sun.’

“Tucker, if you don’t shut up, I’m going to push you down INTO the hole. Shut up and listen to the fucking tour guide,” I hiss, smacking his arm.

“She’s not even talking right now,” he whines, kicking at an imaginary rock.

“Shhhh.”

My favorite part of the tour is the Mammoth Dome. It makes me feel like I’m in a humongous, naturally made cathedral. The sheer faces of rock overwhelm me, and remind me of the fact that I’m just a tiny, mortal human in such a vast world. From the top of the tower, people on the staircases look like miniature statues, slowly advancing up towards us. Red and yellow light filters softly through the cave from the lights on the sides of the rock walls. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

When we reach the surface at the end of the tour, I’m surprised at how quickly time has flown by. I felt like I could be down in the cave forever and never see everything. If Tucker ever takes me back there, I’m not gonna leave until I’ve seen every part of it. It’s probably actually a good thing that we left when we did, considering he’s being a little bitch about it.

“Thank God. I didn’t think we’d ever see the surface again.”

“You’re fine. That was an awesome tour. I wish we could have gone on a longer one. What was your favorite part?”

“When it was over.”

I smack him again, rolling my eyes.

“What? I’m being honest. I wasn’t the biggest fan, probably because I forgot a jacket. And stop hitting me. People are gonna think we’re married or something.”

Flipping him off and walking past, I snatch the truck keys out of his hand. “You could only dream.”

“Dream of my life being stuck with you? Wonderful. Sign me up. Do I get a complimentary ball and chain?”

“God, you’re such a smartass sometimes.” Unlocking the truck, I slide into the driver’s side and start it. “I’m not that bad.”

He snorts. “Right.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re the type that would throw a plate at your husband’s head for forgetting an anniversary, or make him sleep on the couch because he forgot to let her know he was hanging out with the guys that night.”

Lighting a cigarette and blowing out a puff of smoke, I turn to face him. “I have a temper. So what? It’s not even a temper. It’s called passion.”

“Yeah, well, sometimes your ‘passion’ is terrifying.”

“No it’s not.”

“You almost ran a guy off the road on 69 the other day because he didn’t use a blinker.”

“People that don’t use blinkers are assholes that should be run off the road. Plain and simple.”

“You also threw your leg at my head on the first night of our trip.”

“I was tired and you wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“All I’m saying is that your future husband is gonna have to have the patience of a saint to deal with your fun size crazy ass.”

He takes the cigarette from my mouth, surprising me. Taking a drag, he flicks the ashes into the ashtray between us.

“Good Lord woman. Did you make out with the filter? This thing is sopping wet,” he complains, handing it back to me.

“Yeah. Cancer sticks are the only things I’ve ever kissed with tongue,” I shoot back, pulling onto Interstate 65.

“Interesting choice of words. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman admit to Frenching anything other than another person. Or a pillow.”

“My only true loves happen to be coffee and Camels.”

Selecting a cigarette from the pack on the dash, he steals the lighter in one of the cup holders and lights up, letting the smoke roll off of his lips.

“What are you doing? Those are mine. I didn’t say you could have one.”

“You smoke a pack a day, and you’re gonna gripe about me having one? That’s a tad hypocritical.”

“Do as I say, not as I do. Funny. That was Pa’s favorite thing to quote at me.”

I watch as an orange Chevelle flies past us doing at least eighty five and promptly gets pulled over by a state trooper on the side of the road. That’s gotta suck.

“You should quit anyways. These things aren’t good for you,” Tuck replies after a minute, taking another drag.

I throw my hands up in the air and glare over at him. “Jesus Christ. Who’s the hypocrite now?”

“Hey, I smoke maybe once every couple of months. I was never a heavy smoker, only a social one. Or when it sounds good, like today. A pack could last me an entire year, but they’d be pretty nasty by then. I didn’t even have a cigarette until someone offered me one at the bar when I was twenty three or twenty four. I almost died that night. Felt like my lungs were on fire.”

“I started smoking when I was fifteen. Fell into the wrong crowd in high school. Didn’t start smoking heavily until I was sixteen or seventeen. I know I had a car by that point. I used to keep a bottle of Febreeze in my car so I could spray my letterman’s jacket down before walking into my Ma’s house.”

Tucker grins while surfing through a playlist on my phone. “You definitely were the troublemaker, weren’t you?”

“Yeah. Not like a super bad kid, but bad enough that my parents got called into the office at least once a year.”

“What’s the worst thing you ever did in high school?” he asks, his eyes burning with curiosity.

“Let me think for a minute. It’s been awhile since I’ve thought about high school.”

About five minutes passes before I think of a good story to tell him, one that doesn’t involve complete corruption or anyone getting hurt.

“Okay. So, we used to have a teacher no one really cared for. He had a really dry teaching style, and played favorites pretty badly. His daughter was in my grade, but that’s besides the point. Our class was divided into the goody two shoes, and the rowdy kids. You can guess where I landed. Anyways, the teacher had a goldfish tank in the back of the classroom. One class period, before he came in the room, we wrestled a goldfish out of the tank and put it in the water bottle on his desk. When he went to take a drink, he almost swallowed it.”

“That’s pretty evil, you know.”

“I know, but we were dumb high school kids. He never caught who did it though. He’s retired now. What’s the worst thing you ever did?”

Tuck shifts uncomfortably in his seat and looks down at his boots. “When I was in high school, I had a girlfriend for almost two weeks. We never made it past the texting and holding hands phase, but when I was younger, I wasn’t as...nice as I am now. I was pushy and asked her for pictures. Real great camera quality on a Motorola Razor, let me tell you.”

“You guys sent nudes back and forth. So what?”

He looks over at me, his face somber. “I’m not finished.”

“Go ahead.”

“After I got the pictures, we ended up breaking up. But some of the guys wanted to see the pics, so I showed them while we were in our shop class. Low and behold, one of them texted the girl about what I was doing. She went to a different school ten minutes away, but she skipped fifth period and drove to my school. She proceeded to rip me a new one right next to an open classroom door. By the time lunch time came around, the three surrounding area schools knew. I’m not very proud of it, but it really opened my eyes. I’ve never done anything like that since.”

I snort, glancing at him in the rearview. “Serves you right.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“Did you at least apologize?”

“Of course I did.”

“Good. Do you wanna spend the night in Kentucky, or do you wanna continue driving?”

He thinks about it for a minute before responding. “Why don’t we spend the night in Lexington? We can figure out what we wanna do in the morning.”

“Fine by me. My legs are sore from all the fucking stairs anyways.”


Submitted: July 04, 2018

© Copyright 2023 A. R. Currson. All rights reserved.

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