Next week, we are re-publishing Daniel Woodrell’s three Rene Shade novels, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do in one beautiful package called THE BAYOU TRILOGY. We will be excerpting the first chapter of each of the 3 novels here over the next few weeks. We began with Under the Bright Lights and continued with Chapter 1 of Muscle for the Wing. We conclude with The Ones You Do, which the Chicago Tribune praised for its “Fine writing…. Deeply atmospheric and oozing with the mojo of the swamp… Woodrell’s work echoes that of William Kennedy, William Faulkner, and Walter Mosley.”
AFTER HIS wife stole the gangster’s money and split on him, she wanted to rub his nose in her deed, so she sent him a note. John X. Shade was sitting on a stool behind the bar in the main room of Enoch’s Ribs and Lounge, his gray head bowed, his lean shaky fingers massaging his temples. The safe gaped open and empty behind him, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark, sour mash salvation, sat sealed and full on the bar top before him.
The note that was meant to make him feel pitiful as well as endangered was delivered by his ten-year-old daughter, Etta. She came in the side door and through the sea shell and driftwood decor of the lounge where her mother had been the musical entertainment before taking up thievery, carrying a small pink vinyl suitcase that had a picture of Joan Jett embossed on the lid. The girl had thick black hair cut in a fashion her mother, Randi Tripp, considered hip, this being a feminine sort of flattop with long rat-tail tresses dangling down the back of her neck. She wore a green T-shirt that was pro-manatee and raggedy jeans that were hacked off just below the knees. A black plastic crucifix hung lightly from her right ear. Her actual name was Rosetta Tripp Shade, but she preferred to be called Etta.
“Mail call,” she said and tossed the envelope onto the bar beneath John X.’s chin. She climbed up onto a stool across the rail. “She said you should read it pronto.”
Enoch’s wasn’t a popular spot until late at night when last-call Lotharios from along the Redneck Riviera would fill it up, rooting around after pert and democratic Yankee tourists whose off-season dream vacations had yet to be consummated. It was not open at all this early in the day, so the two were alone. Hot Gulf Coast sun beat in through the smoked windows, warming the joint. On the walls there were community bulletins announcing upcoming fish frys, Gospel shows, ten-K runs for various Mobile charities, and several large, glamorous glossies of Randi Tripp, the ’Bama Butterfly.
John X. started to rip the envelope, then saw the sweat on his daughter’s face and felt a trickle stream down his own temples. He shoved the shiny beverage cooler open and said, “I ain’t King Farouk, kid, but I’ll spot you a bottle of RC.”
Etta grinned and grabbed the cold bottle of Royal Crown Cola that he slid to her.
“Well, I ain’t Madonna, neither,” she said, “but I could drink one.”
He opened the envelope and unfolded the letter. It was on yellow paper scented with lilac, and he spread it flat on the bar to read.
Continue reading “Continue reading The Bayou Trilogy”