Monday, March 27, 2006

Joe's Crab Shack

The last few days have been almost dreamlike. It seems so long since I was able to spend consecutive days with Jess & Tabby. Not through choice, you understand; it’s just a simple fact of life that if I don’t work, we don’t eat or have a roof over our heads.

Since I walked out on him, Robbie, the girl’s father, has not contributed a rusty dime to the runnin' of this household. Everyone says that I should divorce the loser and get him to pay maintenance for the girls but I can’t be assed to go through all the legal bullshit; especially when I know that he’ll never pay anything anyway! I can’t remember the time when he last actually worked. His mother still gives him pocket money for booze and cigarettes. Although he won’t admit it, I know damn well that his mother pays the rent on his trailer and the note on his truck. So what’s the point?

I first met Robbie, while working at Wal-Mart in North Houston, almost ten years ago. I had been living and working in Houston ever since I finished grade school. There’s no work for women in small town Texas, so you either get married, get pregnant (not necessarily in that order) or leave town. The future for most of my classmates was pretty much mapped out long before any of them were even thinking about leaving school. Nobody was under any illusion about goin’ on to High School, let alone College or University. Occasionally, one of the Farm boys would go to Texas A&M but you have to wonder what sort of degree they would study when most of them could barely write their name! But I guess that’s why everyone makes fun of the ‘Aggies’.

Living in the country meant that you had to grow up real fast. Most of the kids had some kind of responsibility by the time they were nine or ten. For the boys this would entail working on the farm, either in the fields or helping to maintain the farm machinery. For the girls, it was washin’, cookin’ and general house work. By the time a girl was in her teens, she was expected to play her part in what my Daddy used to call, “ …..keepin’ those workin’ boys happy.” A country expression for what the city folks call fuck-buddies.

Most of the folks that I grew up with would probably never live more than ten miles away from the town they were born in. Maybe one in five would venture into the city occasionally but this would be treated like a major expedition. One in fifty would eventually go live somewhere else in Texas, probably Houston. Not by choice but simply because there was no work/women/men (delete as appropriate) available locally. One in a hundred would eventually go live in a state other than Texas but nobody would ever consider leaving the good ol’ U.S. of A. ………. even for a vacation! After all, this is God’s chosen country, so why would they ever want to leave? Fuckin’ losers!

As the School Bus pulled to a halt, I could see the girls jumping up and down with excitement ………. just because I was there! Of course, in many respects this is real sad but a girl’s gotta do ………what a girl’s gotta do. I could see the girls reaching up to the rack above their seats, grabbing hold of their school bags and start running down the aisle of the bus, all in one movement. I heard the Driver shout, “No running on the bus.”
I saw the driver reach for the handle to open the doors and the next moment the girls were leaping at me from the step of the bus.
“Mommy, Mommy …….. you’re home,” Tabby screamed as I caught her in mid-air.
Jessica face was covered with a smile that went from ear to ear. I felt a tear welling up as I appreciated the magic of the moment combined with the realization that regardless of my good intentions, this was still going to be the exception ……… as opposed to the rule.

As we walked back to the apartment, the girls were both telling me what they had been doing at school. Jessica had been out walking in some fields and looking at all the Bluebonnets coming into bloom. Memories came flooding back; memories of running through the fields and the woods, seeing nothing but bluebonnets for as far as the eye could see. The State flower of Texas is stunning at this time of year. Tabitha had been model making and was describing the Native American teepee that she had been building. They were soooo excited.

Back at the apartment, I ran them a bath and told them that we were going to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner. Their excitement reached fever pitch as they splashed around in the bathtub; water pouring over the side of the bath ........ but I didn't care about the mess. I looked at them and realized how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to raise the girls. Most girls I know look upon motherhood as a chore or an endurance test but I see it as an honor and a privilege. I may not be a text book Mom but I give it my best shot.

Joe’s Crab Shack was heaving. At least twenty people waiting by the Greeter, trying to talk above Bluegrass music blaring out over the P.A. I had invited Monika to come along and she was keeping tabs on the girls while I was getting a table organized. As Joe’s was a regular eating place for us, I knew the guy on the door so we managed to jump the line. When the people waiting showed signs of annoyance that we were getting in ahead of them, he just turned to them and lied,” I’m sorry…….. but they booked ahead.”

We had a really great evening; soured only by a guy who recognized me from the Club. Dressed in typical Red-neck evening attire of neatly pressed jeans, western shirt with bootlace tie, shiny shit-kickers and topped off with the ubiquitous Stetson pushed back on his head. He had obviously had about three margaritas too many had reached the stage where he thought that he was six feet tall (he was actually barely five feet six) and bullet proof. I had seen him earlier out of the corner of my eye but he had now spotted me, on the way back from one of his many bathroom trips. I could see him lurching towards me, looking for all the world like a man on a mission.

“Hey, Tallulah-Sue,” he slurred as he leaned over and wrapped an arm around me.
“Hey Billy-Bob, how y’all doing,” I knew what was coming next.
“You wanna come party with us tonight?” he drooled.
I could see the look of horror on the girls faces as the thought flashed through their minds that I might be about to leave them. They had good reason to be concerned because on many other occasions the invitation to party had been all it would take for me to head out the door…….. but tonight was different.

“You know, I think I’m gonna take a rain-check on that invitation, Billy-Bob.” I replied as I tried to look sweet ……… if not particularly innocent.
“Ah, come on Tallulah-Sue, you know you wanna get some of this.” He said, leaning back, legs askew and grabbing his crotch in his right hand and shaking it up and down. So much for Texan courtship!
I leapt to my feet.
“You’d better get the fuck away from, you drunk son-of-a-bitch. Can’t you see I’m with my family?” I spat.
The Manager came rushing over and asked whether there was a problem.
“Too fucking right there’s a problem,” I shouted so that I could be heard above the incessant Bluegrass ……….Flatt & Scruggs had a lot to answer for!

The Manager didn’t wait for any further explanation; he got in front of Billy-Bob and started maneuvering him towards the door. Billy-Bob’s protest soon subsided when he saw the size of the gorilla on the door. His attitude changed immediately. I saw him attempt a smile and wave towards me but I ignored him and sat back down, heaving a sigh of relief that it didn't get too ugly in front of the girls.

The Manager came over a few minutes later and apologized for the incident; asking if the girls would like to have an ice-cream …….. on the house.
The girls screamed with excitement at the thought of imminent ice-cream; whilst Monika leaned over and with a deep frown on her face said,
“Teeze, you really know how to attract the drama …….. you need to be a bit more selective in choosin’ your friends!”
I nodded but decided that I best not say anything.

When we got home, there was a drunken voicemail on the phone, from you know who but at least he seemed to be trying to apologize. That’s the problem with the frickin' Rednecks, nice as pie one minute; monsters possessed by a rampant hard-on the next; then back to sweetness and light once the alcohol wears off.

As I tucked the girls up in to bed, I was determined that I would not work for a few more days. A commitment that I was able to sustain until Sunday night .........but then I got a call inviting me to join a private party with The Rockets!


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