asked, the majority of adults living in
Kisatche Parish back in 1968 would have
claimed to be devout, anti-drinking,
teetotalers. A surprisingly large percentage
of these God-fearing, north Louisiana folks
would have been telling the truth.
About ten percent of the rest would have
called themselves social drinkers. Such
citizens might take a discrete sip from an
occasional glass of wine or even a cocktail.
These activities occurred most often at home,
but were sometimes seen at the local country
Then there was everyone else. These folks
suffered the misfortune of living in a parish
that was, with one exception, dry. In some
mysterious way, an obscure clause in an old
state law concerning veterans bonuses allowed
Hawthorn to be a“wet” town. It was the one
place on an otherwise arid landscape where the
sale of alcohol was legal. As a result,
Hawthorn was a very “wet” town.
There were many watering holes in Hawthorn.
The Rooster, located just inside the
protective city limits, was the busiest.
Depending on one’s attitude towards
drinking, the place was either an oasis or an
The building resembled a weathered cigar box.
A large assortment of signs covered the
unpainted, windowless front wall. Some were
sheet metal painted in vivid colors. The
dominant motif however, was garish neon. Day
and night, the signs extolled the virtues of
beers such as Jax, Pabst, and Falstaff plus
cheap bourbons and blended whiskies. To some,
these signs were just decorative. Others
suspected they were all that kept the walls
Even the bar’s most loyal patrons would
admit it possessed little charm during the
day. A few might argue that things improved
after dark. Then the lighted signs, the
constant flow of cars and trucks, the sounds
of country music coming through the
building’s thin walls all combined with an
occasional brawl to give the place a
The Rooster’s rundown exterior gave
potential patrons fair warning about the
interior. There was a jukebox next to the
front door. A short bar with several worn
stools occupied the opposite wall. Smaller
versions of the outside signs plus a string of
Christmas lights provided most of the
illumination around the bar. In the dim light
next to the cash register was an old, printed
sign. “You’re white today because your
ancestors practiced segregation.”
This same lighting scheme extended into the
large dance area. It was lined with plastic
covered booths and small, scarred tables. The
place had a pervasive odor of beer, cigarette
smoke, hair tonic, cheap aftershave, and
The bartender and owner was a thin, balding
man. According to the framed, honorable
discharge certificate on the wall behind the
bar, his name was, Sam No Middle Initial
Spillers. If asked while in one of his rare
good moods, he might explain that he picked up
those unique middle names in the service.
Before then he’d never worried about his
parents not giving him a middle name. But
during World War II, the Navy insisted he
adopt at least a middle initial. Sam refused.
No one, including the damn U. S. of A. Navy,
had any right screwing around with a man’s
name. This obstinate defense of individual
naming rights moved the Navy to award him
three middle names.
For a successful bar owner, Sam had a
remarkably sour outlook and viewed everyone
with suspicion. To those who would listen,
he’d explain that all customers were
potential trouble. “It’s like this. Guys
get into fights and tear up the place. And
often as not, gals are why guys get into
fights. And fights are bad for business
‘cause everybody always stops drinking to
It was his long-standing policy to stop fights
as soon as possible. To do this, he invoked a
crude but swift form of justice. The moment
someone threw a punch, Sam would reach for a
very large blackjack. He’d then apply it,
with considerable force, to the head of the
The law of averages being what it is, about
half the time the blackjack connected with the
wrong skull. The victim being some otherwise
innocent customer trying to defend himself.
This might seem like an injustice to some.
However, it never bothered Sam. “You see,
odds are they’re both at fault. This way
I’m protecting my other customers and my
Moral arguments aside, the threat of this
arbitrary approach to peacekeeping served its
purpose. The well-grounded fear of Sam’s
blackjack justice meant most would-be warriors
took their disputes outside to the parking
When he noticed Bebe at the door, Sam paused
behind the bar to light a Camel. Out of the
corner of his eye he watched her check out the
place, then come towards the bar. Why was she
wearing that sexy little party-type dress
instead of her usual boots and jeans? But it
didn’t matter what she wore. Guys always
stopped drinking and stared whenever she came
in the door.
Sam liked to think that, unlike other men, his
appraisal was more professional than
glandular. To him, Bebe Boudreaux was a short,
cute, package of walking trouble. It was even
worse if she and Darrell Ray were fussing.
Somebody once said she and Darrell Ray had
never been on a real date, much less gone
steady. That seemed strange. But it didn’t
change things. Everyone knew they’d spent a
whole lot of time together over the last few
years. That must mean something. And with
Darrell Ray’s reputation as a fighter, plus
the Rhodes brothers to back him up, no one
wanted to risk hustling Bebe when the two of
them were all lovey-dovey.
Of course, if they weren’t getting along,
all that changed. The other young bucks would
start swarming around her like damn flies to
honey. Sooner or later, and most of the time
it was sooner, the redneck Romeos would start
fighting. Every time she showed up there’d
be another fight. It was terrible for
business. But then she and Darrell Ray would
make up and it’d all blow over.
Sam couldn’t remember hearing any talk about
them squabbling. On the other hand, it’d
been weeks since he’d last seen them
together. So he wasn’t sure what to expect
as he watched Bebe pause to talk to someone.
Bebe’s name came up often during afternoon
bull sessions. Whenever it happened, Sam would
always grouse that women like her were more
damn trouble than they were worth. Despite
this jaundiced opinion, he couldn’t help but
like the little coon-ass.
Not a lot of gals with her kind of looks came
in. The few that did always acted like they
were too damn good for his joint. Most of
‘em just ignored him. Those that didn’t
were even worse. They’d act like he was a
damn house nigger.
Bebe was different. She never pulled any of
that high-tone shit and always stopped to
talk. Just like now.
“Hi Sam. How’s business?” Bebe gave him
her brightest smile.
“Worse than ever. Guess nowadays
everybody’s doing dope instead of
She motioned toward the crowded dance floor.
“Looks like a pretty good crowd to me.”
“Yeah. But it would be even better if I
could ever get the place fixed up.”
“You’re right, Sam. And I’m doing my
best, I really am, to convince Daddy to extend
you that credit.”
“Thanks for the help.” The local banks
didn’t want to lend him the money to
re-model. Sam kept hoping Jack Boudreaux would
let him have the building supplies he needed
He reached for a glass. “You want your
“You always remember my bourbon and Tab.”
She beamed and began fishing around inside her
“Some things are hard to forget,” he said.
To his way of thinking those things included
her fine, young ass and this disgusting drink
she always ordered.
He set the plastic glass on the bar and waved
away Bebe’s feeble attempt at paying.
Leaning close, he spoke in a low voice so
other customers wouldn’t hear. “Keep your
money. Put it in the jukebox if you wanna. But
for God’s sake, don’t play anything by
There were three things Sam couldn’t abide,
uppity niggers, guys with long hair, and music
by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. No one,
including Sam, knew for sure which was first
on his list.
Bebe laughed and agreed. Picking up her drink,
she said bye and turned away. Sam watched as
she gazed through the thick smoke to where
Darrell Ray was sitting. For an instant they
looked at one another. But instead of going
over to him, she must have decided he should
come to her. After giving him a nod and a
little smile, she moved, slow and sexy as
hell, over toward the jukebox.
Sam’s face broke into a rare grin. He
didn’t know whether to envy Darrell Ray or
feel sorry for him. When Bebe reached the
jukebox, he turned toward another customer.
Copyright Bill Fullerton
* * * * *
Bill Fullerton has been a
country grocery store clerk, oil field
roustabout, infantry soldier, paper pusher,
out-of-work, and a newspaper columnist. He's
now trying to add published novelist to his
resume. His short fiction has appeared in such
otherwise respectable publications as: Rose
& Thorn, Deadmule, New Works Review, USA
Deep South, Chick Flicks, Writer's Resources,
Nibbler, and Muscadine Lines.
A humor submission of his was named
"Story of the Month" by Long Story
Short which also ran an excerpt from his
second novel, We Danced to Ray Charles, a
coming-of-age, mainstream love story, that was
named a semi-finalist in last year’s
Visit his blog at: http://billsbilge.blogspot.com/