The lead of night

The ground pulled my boots into it with every step I took. The air was thick with the smell of smoke. The hooded men chanted and cheered as the house burned. Their white costumes glowed from the fire. We walked carefully but quickly as we made our way from the burning home. I could hear his soft tears as we made our way through the small pond. We find a small clearing and rest. “Well, fuck! My damn guitar was in there!” Lead said as he sat. “Shut it, we’ll need to be quiet for a little while, I’m not looking to get lynched here.” I said. We sat in silence as the faint cheers died.

I introduced myself as a scout for Victor Records. Lead as he would like to be called welcomed me in his home without question. This man was a well endowed embodiment of what delta blues was. We got to chatting, he played a couple of songs for me and I was wooed. After such he cooked up some wonderful southern food for us to enjoy, we ate and talked. I discussed with him the similarities between his and Lead Belly’s name, he conceded that he was a great mentor of his and that’s why he plays the 12 string guitar. This was another unusual case; this man never let his guitar out of arms reach like a parent with a new born child, emotionally attached. He poured a mason jar of whiskey for him and me. It had the taste of piss and the burn of gasoline but I drank it regardless.  We were two more drinks in when the front windows shattered. Lead jumped up and grabbed his double barrel and made his way to the door. His hand was on the knob when I stopped him. “Fuck- what you do that for?” He asked as be both tried to get up. “There’s too many of them out there, you’ll be killed.” The racial slurs flew through the window from several different voices. “God be dammed, I can’t just sit here and be a fool.” He said as we peaked through the window. At this time the molotov cocktail flies through the window and crashes on the floor. It does nothing due to the flame extinguishing in flight.  We both looked at it in a confused faces when the second comes flying through. It lands on the first ones remains and flames erupt. The hair on my arm singes as dash from the fire. The house is a blaze, dazed and confused I yell to Lead for an exit. He leads me to a backdoor, that didn’t have a door on it. We make our escape as the house burns.

Lead said he knew of a house we could go to. We walk for several miles on a poorly paved road, ducking in the bushes every time we saw headlights. The full moon joins us again, giving the night an awkward glow.  We make our way to a pleasant white washed home, I try to clean myself up but there really isn’t a point. Lead gently knocks on the door when an attractive woman opens it, her pale skin radiates from the moons glow.  “Beth- they found out, I’m sure of it.” Lead said. She looks him up and down and hugs him. “You’re a mess; who’s your friend?” she points to me as they separate from their hug. “Oh, shoot, yeah, uhh.. he’s Karl and he’s a recording man.” Lead said with a sound of embarrassment. “Rich and good-looking, I think you’re making better friends Roy.” Beth said as she turned to walk back inside. Lead gives me a “Don’t even think about it look.” So I stop thinking about it. We make are way inside as well “Take your boots off there please.” She said as she walked around the house aimlessly while biting her thumbnail. My boots were a mess, muddy and still wet.  Beth comes back to where we were standing and looks us over once more. “Gosh you boys are downright filthy. Karl I think you’re about the same size as my husband so I can find you some clothes. And Roy honey, I think you left some clothes the last time you were here.” She buggers off for a bit and shuffles back. Lead and I stand awkwardly in our underwear when she returns. I quickly dress as she hands me the clothes.

We sit at the kitchen table as Lead recaps the events, leaving out the part where I tackled him of course. Beth sits with her hands over her mouth giving a “Oh my” every minute or so. Lead finishes the story when I ask “What did you mean by ‘they found out” earlier?” He grins at me then takes Beth hand- it was so obvious I felt like a fool for asking. Beth answers the question “Honey, well you see, my husband died and all. He was in the war. I was alone and such, when I found out Roy here. Well, needless to say we kind of fell for each other. The problem is this is the South, and my husband’s dumb redneck brothers don’t like the fact that I’m getting on with a colored man.” I nod my understanding. “Them fuckers ruined my guitar! What the hell am I going to play on now, my shoes?” Lead said with anger. “We’ll get you a new one sweetheart sit down.” Beth said as she gently ushered Lead back down to his seat. “I have been looking to leave this place anyhow; it’s too big to live her by myself. I guess we have our push to run off together” Beth said as she took Lead’s shoulder. I begin to nod off slightly at the table when it’s decided to call it a night. Beth shows me to the guest room; I am telling her goodnight when she hugs me and whispers “Thanks for bringing my Roy back…” I lie on the bed and instantly fall asleep.

I wake to the sound of shouting; I stumble my way to find Beth standing on the porch with the headlights of a truck pouring through. Lead hides to the right of the door with a shotgun in his hands. I duck and hide on the other side of the door and listen. “If John was alive today and knew you were with a nigger he would kick your ass!” The unknown man yelled “If John knew you were pointing a gun at his wife he would beat the living shit out of you!” Beth yelled back. “Shut it, you fuck’en whore! I know he’s here! Just out with it! The whole damn town knows, how am I supposed to be respected if you’re out getting dicked by niggers!”  The unknown man yelled. I could see that Lead had enough of this hate speech. He turned on the door frame and pointed his weapon at the unknown man. “Now, I don’t take very kindly to you speaking to Miss Beth like that.” Lead said this has he continues to advance on the unknown man. “Fuck you, I’ll shoot you, I drop you right here boy, put that gun down!” The man yells as Lead continued his decent off the porch. I was standing in the doorway now, Beth was still and quiet. “I’ll shoot you dammit, step ba..” Lead smacks him in the face with the butt of the shotgun cutting off his sentence. The air is still and moist, when the unknown man body flops to the ground. Lead runs up the steps and grabs Beth by the hand and they run inside. He gives me a grin as he passes the doorway.

They packed what they could in a hurry, I had nothing to pack so I helped. We loaded what we could into Beth’s car. The unknown man had crawled his way under his truck when we pulled out of driveway. We drove north while the sun rose. We got to Memphis when I decided this adventure was over with. I wished them luck in Chicago and gave them what little money I had. “How you going to pay for the bus?” Beth asked, I made some story about being wired money and not to worry. I waved goodbye as they drove off. Once their car disappeared I walked behind a gas station and hit my device.