I remember the first time I walked into Big Rosie’s place. The jukebox was playing Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man. I wanted to walk up to those flashing lights and educate Mr Twitty on what Louisiana women could do. Some of them, not all of them.
I wore black to my interview: black jeans, black cowboy shirt, black boots, black hat. Hell, even my underwear was black for the occasion. I remember stretching out my legs and crossing them at the ankles and thinking The Black Cowboy. What a goddamn joke.
That’s the first thing Big Rosie said to me, you know, like she read my mind or something. I mean, I was afraid the chair wouldn’t hold her when she sat and turned those black holes of eyes onto me.
“This ain’t no place for none of that Muskrat Ramble horse shit.” That’s what she said. I mean, no “hello” or “My name’s Rosie” or anything.
I downed a gulp of Jack Daniels – you know, trying to play the part – and smiled, remembering how many times I danced with my instrument. It was like it breathed, you know? Even played it a few times with that kid, that singing-piano-playing-prodigy who was the son of a New Orleans Important. Muskrat Ramble was the music of my life.
“Just give me a minute.” I said it into the microphone.
Big Rosie heaved herself to her feet. “Jesus-God. Spare me from another country singer who is tem-per-men-tal.” She waddled off behind the bar and poured herself a jam jar full of something clear and slugged it. I mean, slugged the whole damn thing.
I watched her to make sure she wasn’t going to, you know, spontaneously combust or something. And, I dug into the front pocket of my jeans. It was where I always carried it, a stained envelope that was split at the creases. It was her last letter, you know, over a year old, but I blinked my eyes and tried to focus on her cursive scrawl.
Dear Daddy My Dearest Daddy!
I write you every day. Life without you is no fun. Aunt Bertie tries to sing me to sleep when she’s not busy at my bedtime, but her voice isn’t pretty like yours. Sometimes, I sing with her and pretend my voice is yours, because it came from you, didn’t it?
It doesn’t help. Nothing does.
I hope you will come for me someday and take me away with you. I’d do almost anything to see you again!!!
I love you Daddy.
Well, I had to wipe my eyes, about the time Big Rosie’s voice boomed out of the back.
“Sing it. Sing. It. You take all that crybaby horse shit and channel it into a goddamn song in exactly three seconds, or I will personally pick up your skinny Black Cowboy cliched ass and throw it into the street out there.”
You know, she could do it, too.
Anyway, I stuffed Emmaline’s letter between the strings of my guitar, right there at the top, and I strummed a chord, and I sang. I mean, I don’t even remember what song it was, but when I finished, Big Rosie stood back there, her hands on whatever accounted for her waist, and I think she was smiling. It was always hard to tell with her, you know, but I think she was.
To read the first post in this series, click here. I hope you’ll see it again someday.