Well now...isn't this something.
After that loss to Ole Miss earlier on the season, who would have thought that we'd find ourselves at this particular junction...awaiting another run at Tide greatness on the eve of the National Championship Game?
No, many among our faithful probably thought, after that one loss, that this would be another in a long string of great seasons that fell short of the championship bracket. Ye of little faith. For when Football Loki stands with you, no one can stand against you. That one loss was a galvanizing event for this group of Crimson Tiders to be sure, the baptism of fire which tempered their mighty steel. And with a few akido flips of Football Loki's quick wrist, the path was laid bare for the Tide to become the only team featured in the first two incarnations of the College Football Playoffs.
So now, with his eternal gridiron favor, we stand upon the cliff's edge overlooking the Football Promised Land (which oddly resembles the god-awful desert of Arizona), the proverbial Land of Milk and Honey spread out before our very eyes. All that remains is one final conquest, one additional obstacle, one solitary remaining test...the Clemson Tigers.
Now, the Tigers have been a laughin' stock of some degree in recent years, posting stellar records only to choke unceremoniously before propelling themselves into the national championship spotlight. With a sometimes-goofy coach named Dabo and a penchant for "Clemsoning," few expected this year's incarnation of the Tigers to step into the aforementioned limelight. But they are there nonetheless, having run their own gauntlet...flawlessly, I may add. Indeed a worthy opponent for our beloved Crimson Tide, but one that must too fall at the blade of our vaunted conquering army in crimson.
All that flowery stuff said, we must get down to business, kind folk. As you well know, this here ain't no literature (pronounced litter-a-tour down here in these parts) club...this ain't no poetry readin' to be sure. This ain't yo mama's sewing circle, and this ain't no ESPN Pundit-O-Rama, neither. What we do in this here space is a conjurin'...a callin' forth of the gridiron spirits of yesteryear to stand beside our patron Football Loki and strengthen his resolve against our enemy of the occasion. While the game itself will be played out on some artificially lush patch of grass in the middle of yon desert, the real battle will be won here in the theater of the Dark Arts, in this lil' ditty we refer to as the Hoodoo Thread.
Make no mistake, Football Loki can't stand ‘im no Tigers. Just look at what he's done to all striped comers in this season alone. Those Voodoo-lovin' Bayou Bengals got their asses handed to them by the Crimson Tide, and then there was that beatdown of those Tigers-Whose-Name-Shall-Not-Be-Spoken from across the state. It's clear Loki does not jive to critters of the feline persuasion, as he much prefers pachyderms.
But this Clemson unit is the superior of both the aforementioned varieties of wampus-cat. They are the Tide's equal in almost every way, and while I have the utmost faith in the boys donning crimson, I know that it is ultimately Football Loki who will be the determining factor in this brutal contest.
That said, let us not disappoint him with our offerings in this space this week. It is my sincere hope that you, the faithful, have been saving your best and brightest (read: most embarrassing and shameful) admissions for this particular time and place. As official mortal spokesperson and chief summoner for our mighty patron, I must demand that you place your not-so-humble sacrifices at his feet. Bring him your shameful, your wretched, your debaucherous, your incriminating...as these are the things that whet his palate and satiate his appetite for destruction. In other words, this is the time for that Hoodoo you've been saving, as there are no more moments to follow this one in this campaign. This is the end, the omega, the football Megiddo of this particular season. There's no use in savin' what you got, so lay it all on the line, leave no Hoodoo stone undisturbed. The moment of truth draws near, so do what must be done.
With that foreword offered, I must lead this championship-caliber Hoodoo charge myself as Loki's previously-described representative right here on good ole terra firma. I can't truthfully say that I've been saving this one all season, so deep is my well-spring of Hoodoo experience that new instances bubble into mind on a daily basis. I'll pass a forlorn solitary oak in a local park, and recollect, "Ah yes, I ensnared my first young maiden with a kiss under yon Quercus virginianis." I'll hear a song on the local classic rock station and remember, "Oh, this was the song that was playing on the radio the night I drunkenly plunged my friend's Buick off of the Causeway into Mobile Bay while attempting to cut Julios in the parking lot of the boat launch." I'll sample a kindly offered piece of apple pie, only to have my memory jarred to "That time I found my uncle's apple pie moonshine stash and consumed nearly all of it with my cousin...at the age of 11."
Yes, I have many a reel to unwind, as you folk have seen here in these parts for the last several years. But this here particular story yarn shot to mind like the first shot fired over Sumter in the final clear moments before the din of battle. During the Christmas holidays, someone (during the course of the traditional Christmastime bullshit chit-chat) mentioned a name I've not heard since before you were born...Hammond, Louisiana.
Now if you don't know anything about Hammond, Louisiana, please allow me to illuminate for a spell on your behalf. Fortunately, I can do so in a few words (stop gigglin'): if appointed an anatomical likeness in a metaphor that uses the Sportsman's Paradise as representative of the human body, Hammond, Louisiana would be the "taint" of the Pelican State. Not familiar with that anatomical landmark? The "taint", also known as the "gooch," is that nefarious few inches of skin on the human body that spans the distance between one's genitals and B-hole. (Think of Hammond as the Dothan of Louisiana, in other words.) Hammond is that space in the middle, geographically as well as metaphorically speaking. As in the case of the anatomical metaphor, it holds neither the tender carnal excitement of New Orleans to the South, nor the taboo, forbidden swamp-deviltry of its sister city to the west in Baton Rouge.
"What in the hell could this little strip of land in Tangipahoa Parrish have to do with the life of OWB?" you may ask. I'll tell you, friend: it was a waypoint on my own trek into the heart of Louisiana darkness...quite literally ("Wait, is that what he calls foreshadowin'?").
Allow me to set the scene. So as a college feller of wild spirit, outstanding musical affinities and great tolerance for substances, I was fond of hitting every live music venue I could find on my beloved Gulf Coast. Whether it was catchin' a local guitar-picker at a roadside gumbo shack or heading to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for a White Zombie concert, I liked to get loaded and go listen to live music of meandering genres at high volumes. Pretty standard, right? True, I wasn't that different from a cluster of friends with likewise pursuits, and together we traveled across this here coastal plain, from New Orleans to Pensacola and up to Jackson and Montgomery, to hear bands play and drink the duly-offered select liquors (and cans of PBR) of these various communities.
Counted among my most loyal compatriots in this quest were my buddy Mook and his girl J-Thin, as well as a high school buddy of mine who I'll refer to as Flow (not "flow" with a long O like "the water flows," but Flow as in Fl+ow with a short O.)
Now Ole Flow was an odd one to be sure, a quiet reserved fella for the most part who did well enough in school and was constantly haunted out of committing bad deeds by his overbearing Marine Corps father. Flow was the guy who wanted to raise hell, but could only raise as much hell as possible before 10 p.m. so that he'd have time to sober up get clean before heading home for his midnight curfew. It was sad in a way, as these reins upon his bit kept him away from a lot of the "fun" I enjoyed with my less-tethered friends. However, when the time was right, this ole boy would cut loose with the best of them, at which time he converted from a reserved, bespeckled, owlish creature into doppelganger of Ogre from the Revenge of the Nerds films.
These transformations were oft entertaining for the rest of us, as we had sport with his Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde routine. I mean, by day, this boy was an overly shy, yessir-no ma'am-in' young Baptist on the deacon track...but once the sun set and the Southpaw began to perk, he turned into a bare-knuckle brawlin', club-dancin' honey-chasin' mo-sheen who could match even your humble narrator in liquor-drankin', head-bustin' and bird-doggin'.
Enough character development...let's get to the crux of this here Hoodoo tale. Now, one of our favorite musical ensembles as a group was the band known by the simple name Tool. For us, Tool's lyrics were the gospel, and my man Maynard James Keenan was preacher of the faith, a metal, new-age version of Robert Duvall's character in The Apostle. Tool combined every fiber of my life at the time into a heavy, angry, complex musical tapestry: rage, confusion, lust, desolation, curiosity...all of that "Teenage Wasteland" kinda shit.
Needless to say, my tight little clan and I spent more than one night with one Tool album or another winding away in the background, providing the soundtrack to our misdeeds. The Tool album "Aenigma" was the score to that particular era of my life, to be sure. So when it was announced they would be performing a show in New Orleans...well, shit, I don't even have to tell you fine people that we snapped up four tickets and made arrangements to be in the Crescent City for that blessed event.
Plans were made, and excitement began to build. The band would be playing at the legendary State Palace in New Orleans, a smallish old theater that held about 3,500 people upon on Canal Street. It was perfect: a small venue that was within walking distance of Bourbon Street. This set the scene for a fantastic night...well at least most of it ("There he goes doin' that whole foreshadowin' thing again, y'all...RBR must pay him a nickel every time he does it.")
The decision was made that Flow would be the Charon for this particular trip, his trusty Volkswagen Jetta our ferry across the River Styx (Really, it wasn't the River Styx, but rather the Escatawpa that forms the border between Alabama and Mississippi...River Styx is in the direction of Florida.) His selection as designated driver was almost by default. You see, my whip at the time was a '85 Chevy Nova with no AC and only one window that would roll down. Not particularly one's chariot of choice for highway travel in the Deep South. Mook had a Nissan 240, but that would not have made for a comfortable trip in the two-door sports coupe, with both Flow and I standing in excess of 6'2" (not to mention that Mook's driving "skills" were ill-suited for the highway, but were rather better suited for a racetrack, or better yet, a wide-open desert with no other drivers or otherwise stationary obstacles. Boy drove like a bat outta hell...given the choice of riding with my brother B-Rad or Mook, I'd have laced my shoes up and just hoofed it. But I digress...)
So Flow picked up our group at Mook and J-Thin's apartment, and we set out for the two hour into the west, early enough that we'd be able to get a bite in the Quarter and pour enough liquor down our throats before making the walk to the State Palace for the show. A college friend of mine from Chalmette told me about a great spot to have a bite (Felix's in the Quarter), where I scarfed down a shrimp po-boy with about a quart of beer before we moved on to the official drinking portion of the evening.
Now, being the "designated driver," Flow decided to pace himself. Also, knowing that he'd likely turn green and bust out of his clothes with too much consumption (and Bourbon Street is one place a man don't want to find himself angry and/ or nekkid), he elected to play his proverbial alcohol-related cards close to his vest.
Not me, however. I was there to have fun, and had no responsibility. Mook had a brilliant idea.
"Let's go to the Tropical Isle and try to break the Hand Grenade record."
Now, allow me to illuminate the uninitiated here on the topic of the aforementioned watering hole and its signature beverage. The Tropical Isle is renowned among alcoholics for its fruity concoction known as the "Hand Grenade." Everyone knows about Pat O'Briens and the Hurricane, but that frou-frou imbibement has nothin' on a cotdang Hand Grenade. This drink in citrusy in flavor, but don't you let ‘at shit fool you... a girly drink it is not. This devil-serum contains every form of liquor known to mankind, by my estimation, and plenty of it, too. There's a sign on the wall at the Tropical Isle that has a rule of thumb for newcomers to this concoction, an enumeration of what to expect with each progressing cumulative Hand Grenade in an evening. I forget the particulars, but it did say something about the standing (at least he was standing when he started) record-holder having consumed six hand grenades before needing to leave on a stretcher. I read the sign.
"The record is only six? Really? Hell, my grandma-ma can drink six mixed drinks." My bravado poured forth, as I was sure I would reign supreme as the new record-holder once the night was over. So confident in my skills of consumption I was that I decided to "double-fist," our term for the practice of drinkin' a liquor drink in one hand and a beer in the other.
After three of these combos, it became clear to me that six would probably, indeed, put me in an early grave. It was like these damn things had heroin or absinthe or somethin' in ‘em, I swear I was hallucinating in no time. Time wore on, three of us got completely loaded, and Flow sipped tepidly his drinkee like a woman on her first date with one Thomas Ruffi.
Not knowing exactly where we were going upon leaving the Tropical Isle, not to mention the fact that three-fourths of the contingent had our navigational intuition blunted into non-existence by vociferous amounts of alcohol, we began to walk. Now, if you know anything about walking while drunk, you know that nothin' speeds up a buzz like ambulatory drankin'.
If you know Bourbon Street, you know that one can barely take a step without tripping over someone selling Jello shots from one stand or another. "What are Jello shots?" you may ask. ("Have you been living in a cave outside of Sarajevo?" I would retort.) For those not in the know, a Jello shot is a particularly conniving configuration of alcohol that tricks the consumer with easy-to-go-downedness and a sinister delayed effect. The uninitiated will suck down shot after shot without feeling anything or tasting strong liquor, only to have the fruits of their innocence come home to roost with an immediate, mind-blowing drunk in about an hour.
I have a philosophy in life, and it's pretty simple. Words to live by, if you will. "If someone offers you a Jello shot, you take a Jello shot." It's served me well to this point (well, I reckon that depends on your specific definition of "served me well.") So as we passed these street-side purveyors of gelatinous liquor, we partook. Often. Having great experience with the aforementioned, I encouraged Flow to take advantage, as by the time they hit him, we'd be safe in the State Palace, and he'd be able to enjoy the show with a buzz. Trusting chap, Flow was. He began shoveling them into his gullet-hole like the Cookie Monster eats cookies. Every stand we passed, he'd grab another handful.
"Things are good, man," he said. "You know how to make these?"
"Yeah, pretty simple. Pour liquor into Jello. Ain't rocket science."
"We gotta make us-summa-dese..."
Wait, is that a slur I detect? Surely he's not already feeling the burn.
"So Flow, how many of those did you have so far?"
"I'ont know..." He began to rather clumsily fumble through his fingers as if counting. "Ummm, five six seven...23, 24, 30...yeah, 30."
"30! Seriously man?"
"Yeah think so..."
This was not good. Our DD was shit-faced, and we still had blocks to walk. Not to mention, a drunk Flow often got rowdy and loud, and that was the last thing we needed in the world's loudest and rowdiest street. We shepherded him through the crowd, and decided to take an alternate route to the State Palace, which, given the fact said route was delineated by three people who had collectively broken the Hand Grenade record and then some, resulted in a rather circuitous path through somewhat questionable neighborhoods.
Finally, we reached the shining palace at Canal and Rampart, and saw the accompanying crowd waiting outside for the doors to open. We decided to walk around to the side where we saw a bus parked, thinking maybe we could catch a glimpse of the band.
There, Flow did his best to smoove-talk his way past a couple roadies and into the backstage area in hopes of meeting the band.
"Ay, aaay, ayyy...s'where you guysfrom?" Flow said, channelling SNL's Drunk Uncle. "Lookahere...we reaallly want to go backstage, so is that like cool?" This was going nowhere. I pulled Flow to the side.
"Man, you're embarrassing yourself. Roadies like to see titties and stuff, or they like drugs. You have neither. Let's just go on in."
"NO! A MARINE NEVER GIVES UP!" he shouted, all militant like. "J-THIN, SHOW THESE MEN YOUR TITTIES!" J-Thin was not amused, nor were the roadies. Mook shot Flow a skunk-eye, while I grabbed him by the arm to drag him away.
"NO, OKAY, THEN I WILL!" Flow snatched up his Tool shirt to reveal his own less-than-ample, hairy bosom. Needless to say, this was not the "Open Sesame" moment that gained us admittance. If anything, it sealed our fate for the night.
We finally made our way inside the theatre and found a good row to occupy, far away from the phalanx of police officers lining the back wall. Lights went down, and some horrific opening band (The Dead Cows or some such shit) came on, which the audience roundly booed and chanted "TOOL TOOL TOOL!"
Finally our boys were on stage, and it was worth the wait. They performed every song from "Aenigma," complete with large screens and a Maynard who was painted half black and half white to illustrate the "duality of man" or some high-minded philosophical bullshit. Hell, I didn't know, I was drunk...seemed cool at the time. About five minutes after the lights went down, the supple smell of sweet leaf hung heavy in the air, and using her feminine whiles, J-Thin was able to procure a joint for us, seeing as how the cops were evidently cool with it.
The concert was a transcendent experience, by far the best show I have ever (and likely will ever) see. Small theatre, intimate setting, complete metaphysical (and a good bit of physical) intoxication...one of my favorite memories from my college years.
Afterwards, we staggered out of the theater for the walk back to Bourbon Street, where we planned to get a few more drinks and then find the car for the two hour ride back home. We had elected, given the short jaunt from NO to Mobile, against getting a hotel room for the night, being college students with little money (and what money we had was reserved for food, gas, and alcohol).
When we got outside the theater, I could tell Flow was three sheets to the wind loaded. Those Jello shots had hit home, all 30 of them, and he was on rubber-band legs, a man trapped within the inescapable depths of a brutal Jello shot overserve. Inescapable, because once those puppies hit the digestive tract, there's no way to retrieve them or reverse their effects. Can't vomit them away, and drinking water or eating doesn't have an impact for hours. One must simply ride the wave, even if said wave bashes one's head on the rocks and makes one puke a Technicolor rainbow.
Given Flow's state, and the fact that none among us were really prepared to drive, we decided to skip further alcoholic self-immolation on Bourbon, instead returning to the car. By the time we reached the Jetta, Flow was swearing he was okay to drive, though my gut instincts told me otherwise. But honestly, even in his compromised state, he was probably the most able amongst us. And after all, what could we do? We had little remaining money, his car, and that was it. Couldn't get a hotel, couldn't sleep on the street in the quarter. So against better judgment, we piled into the car with Flow behind the wheel, and set off for the trip home.
We were about halfway over Ponchartrain, still revelling in the musical excellence, when the Jetta exercised one of its many electrical quirks. As had happened at times in the past, suddenly, without warning, the headlights and dash lights shut off. Given our collective mental state, it took a moment on the well-lit bridge for us to realize what had happened.
"Uh, something is different." I said in my intoxicated stupor.
"Yeah, did the lights on the bridge go off?" said Mook from the backseat, raising his head from J-Thin's chest where he had been doing God-only-knows-what.
"Aw shiyutt man, damn headlights went off," Flow said. He pounded his fist on the dash in anger. Because there isn't much of a recovery lane on the bridge, and because the bridge itself had plenty of light, he elected to wait until getting off the bridge before stopping to fix the problem. Once in Mandeville, he pulled over to the roadside, popped the hood, banged on something with the backside of a socket wrench, and came back to flip the lights on again. They worked, and we got back underway.
Given the state of intoxication, Mook and J-Thin drifted off in the back seat, and my head was lolling in the passenger seat, eyes heavy, dozing in and out of consciousness. The last thing I remembered seeing was an interstate sign that read "HAMMOND" next to an adjacent sign that read "BILOXI GULFPORT."
The next thing I remember was Flow elbowing me in the ribs.
"Dude, wake up...WAKE UP!"
I jostled back to consciousness, unsure of my surroundings but figuring that we were nearly back to Mobile. I looked at the clock to reaffirm, and the timeline seemed about right to my cob-webbed head.
"I don't know where in the fk we are," Flow said. "I've been driving for two hours and haven't seen the first thing I recognize." Not that his drunk ass would have recognized anything any-damn-way.
Certainly there was an explanation for this. I grew more alert and we began to look for landmarks. All we saw was swamp and woods. An occasional country gas station, darkened given the fact that it was well after midnight.
"Uh, dude...where the fk ARE we?" I asked in earnest. Then, I noticed something was amiss that complicated the situation...THE HEADLIGHTS WEREN'T ON!
"DUDE, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DRIVING WITH NO LIGHTS?"
"Oh, I don't know, didn't realize they weren't on." This in and of itself was not reassuring, but even more disturbing was the fact that we literally had no idea where we were, or where we were headed. We could have been in Topeka, Kansas or El Salvador, for all we knew.
Flow pulled to the side of the road. In the days before smartphones and internet connectivity every-damn-where, we had these things called maps....printed on paper, had this crazy ink on them in squiggly lines. Anyway, one could use one of these "maps" as a navigational aid, since there was no GPS to speak of. Of course, there were no maps of Louisiana in the glove box (sidebar, has anyone ever really kept gloves in a glove box? I know I haven't. They should call that mug a "useless paper and pistol box" if they want to be accurate.)
We trudged on in hopes of finding some establishment open at the hour that could at least provide some indication of where we were, so we'd know whether we needed to back-track or continue pushing forward on an alternate trajectory.
Finally, in what appeared to be some podunk backwater in a state of Podunk backwaters, we saw the familiar golden glow of a well-known sign, that beacon of the highway known to all weary travellers of the Deep South's roads and byways, that warm, comforting bosom of fried potatoes and bacon, where coffee is hot and the waitresses, are, well....it was a Waffle House, okay, a Waffle House.
Overjoyed at this familiar sight, we whipped into the parking lot. Surely, not only could we get the information were craved here, but also a warm bite and a cup of joe to propel us on the remainder of our journey, however long it may have been. After all, the presence of a Waffle House at least all but guaranteed we were still in the noble South. Granted, we'd be some kind of sight for this frontier town...a group of black-tee clad, alcohol-scented metropolitan metal types staggering in for waffles at two in the morning. But despite the risk of looking out of place, we knew what we had to do.
We entered and sat at a nearby table, as a dusky-hued ginger-haired waitress approached and set silverware out on unfolded napkins. We placed our orders, and asked her where we were.
"Aw honey, you in Hammond, Looziana. How you get heeyah and not know where you are?"
"Long story," I said, to be polite. Truthfully, I myself had no idea how we'd gotten there, but I'm certain that whatever the cause, there was a long story behind it. We asked her how to get back to I-10, and she told us to just go back the way we had come a couple hours, and we'd run right into it.
I glared at Flow. A couple of hours? Seriously? How the hell had he driven us all the way to Hammond before realizing he had made a wrong turn?
"Are you fkn kiddin' me? Dude, you had one job...ONE JOB!"
"Shut up, nunna y'all wanted to drive. And, you know, road signs are confusin' an shit." I didn't prod him too much, as the mofo was still drunk and last thing I wanted was for him to Hulk out in a liquor rage in some backwoods waffle shack.
In other words, I would have gotten louder, but I didn't want to cause a scene. And, doing so would have stolen said scene from the loud rednecks in the corner who were, at that moment, intent on makin' a scene of their own. There were four of them, flannel-wearin', cowboy-bootin' types who I figured were affiliated with the two diesel pick-ups in the parking lot I saw on the way in. Oilfield workers or roughnecks or ne'er-do-wells of some kind, but they were likewise seeking the solace of Waffle House in the early morning, which likely meant they too were intoxicated. Their volume and demeanor only backed up said assumption.
"You say ‘at again bo, and I'll whup yo ayuss," the biggest one said to one of the middlin' fellers. A moment later, he leapt up from the booth, snatched the other guy up, put him in a headlock and performed a vigorous "noogie" technique on him while the victim flailed and hollered. Wrasslin' like a bunch of testosterone-addled frat boys, for crissake, and in a fine establishment like this here Waffle House, to boot. Heathens.
Then, of course, they noticed us, and decided we were fair game.
"Oh, lookie here boys, we got some devil-worshippers." Though my first instinct was to shout back, for whatever reason, discretion overtook valor and I kept it buttoned. After all, we were strangers in a strange land, far from home, and in the midst of native heathens. There were few positive outcomes that could arise from this circumstance.
But these grumbling beasts weren't satisfied by our silence.
"That'un wearin' a shirt says Tool...bo I bet you ain't never held a tool in yo life." Oh, the urge to impart a "Yeah you look like a tool-handler" retort was strong, but again, I denied the ill=advised impulse.
Emboldened by the silence, another one piped up, seeing J-Thin's presence as the only girl.
"Ay girl, what you doin' runnin' ‘round with a buncha whammers like ‘at? Why'ontcha come sit at the men's table?" Mook was boilin' mad, but he wasn't a fighter. I knew he wouldn't buck the big country fellers in the corner booth. Flow looked at me as if waiting for my signal. I decided to continue to ignore.
They chattered on, and we finished our food. Sucked down black coffee for the long ride to Mobile. I decided, given my hood sense, that the best course of action in light of native aggression would be to send the rest of my party outside, while I paid the bill and handled the tip. That way, Flow could have the car runnin' in case we needed to make a quick escape, and the non-fighters among us would be safely out of the fray.
Flow, Mook and J-Thin made their way to the car and I went over to the register to pay our tabs. I could tell the rednecks had noticed our departure, and as they hunched and whispered, my aforementioned hood sense was a'tinglin'. As I turned to put the tip on the table, the big'un and one of his cohorts were standing between me and the door.
"Ay bo, I reckon maybe you could pay our tab for us, be right nice of you, whammer. Do that and maybe we won't kick yo ayuss."
Now, usually, under such circumstances, I'd pull my pistol and engage in "aggressive negotiations." After all, such drunken tomfoolery amongst rednecks has a way of dissolving at the end of a barrel of a gun, as I'd experienced many times before in my previous years. But because we had been in New Orleans, I had made the decision to abide by local regulation and not carry my gun, only a knife. And knowing what I know about the blade-totin' habits of Cajun good ole boys, I knew my knife against their four wasn't the kind of math that favored this old boy from Alabama.
Therefore, I took a pre-emptive action. Peaceful resistance, if I may. Henry David Thoreau would have been proud.
"Listen guys, you ever hear of the AIDS? Yeah, I thought so. Well, I got it. All eat up with the AIDS. So if you punch me, and I bleed, you're also gonna have the AIDS. Sabe'? Is it really worth it? You don't want the AIDS, bad stuff, hurts bad."
(I know, I know. Horrible of me to prey upon their ignorance. Unethical to further propagate such feeble-minded prejudice amongst the uneducated. Trust me, I wasn't proud of my mental gymnastics and Jedi mind trick. Well, maybe a little proud.)
It had the desired effect of freezing them in their tracks and wiping the grimy grins off of their grizzled faces. It bought me a second, and a second was all I needed. I smashed the big one over the head with one of those ivory Waffle House coffee mugs with which I'm sure you are all acquainted, and he went down like a sack of sweet potatoes. The other one was still a little awestruck, and I slipped past them while yellin' "LATER HILLBILLIES!" out of the door, where Flow had the Jetta running.
"GO GO GO!" I said as I dove into the passenger seat. Flow leisurely tooled through the parking lot, approached the highway, applied his turn signal, and lurched out onto the rugged, ill-kept black-top road.
"DAMMIT FLOW, I SAID GO!" I knew the backwoods troglodytes had been fooled for a moment, but that they would soon recover and be behind us.
"Nah man, don't worry about it, it's cool."
What was wrong with him? I'd seen enough B-movies to know what happens when a bunch of drunk hillbillies chase city-folk...there's lotsa crashin' and liberty-takin' (to be delicate...think "squeal like a pig, Piggy-boy") and such as that that ensues. And I'd be damned if one of those toothless fkers was gonna Ned Beatty my ass over a stump on the roadside. Not gonna happen.
I kept looking through the rear window, expecting at any moment to see headlights behind us, weaving lane to lane with trucker-hatted, bat- and shotgun-wielding Neanderthals hootin' and hollerin' from the truck bed. However, no such lights were spotted.
"Man, I'd sure feel better if you'd just FKN MASH IT!"
"Nah man, we're cool. I knifed their tires while you were paying. All of ‘em," Flow said coolly.
Well I'll be damned, that was a right fine move on his part, indeed. I was shocked at his bravado...impressed, even. Kinda made up for the whole DRIVING US FOUR HOURS OUT OF THE FKN WAY INTO THE HEART OF THE HILLBILLY JUNGLE thing.
With the black coffee and adrenaline pumpin' though me, there would be no dozing for the remainder of the ride back to Mobile. I co-piloted us back to I-10, where we hit the fast lane and with the help of German engineering, we were home in about another hour and 45 minutes. Just in time for the sunrise, driving right into that mofo as it climbed over the horizon.
In the meantime, seeing as how we were supposed to be back in Mobile by 2 a.m., our families had put out the APB to all friends and family. My mom was cool about the whole thing, of course, as she trusted me to stay above-board most of the time. Not to mention, by the time I arrived home, my drunk was all but completely gone.
But ole Flow...let's just say that wrong turn was one of the most costly mistakes of his early life. He may not have lived that one down to date. Definitely put his deaconhood in jeopardy, if nothing else. I do remember there were many months that elapsed before we could once again count on his chariot for transportation. There were several weeks of personal penance he had to do at his pops' warehouse as well, to be sure. (Good ole Papa Flow was hard man, but he was fair.) Given the events of the evening though, I reckon if that was the worst that happened to any of us, then we'd call it a win.
At least it made for a hell of a story. Roll Tide.