I flipped a dime and it came up heads. Stay there. The motel out of Clarksville had tidy rooms for a few bucks, and the fill-in receptionist was eye-candy. No rings on either hand. I purchased a six-pack from the store across the track – and invited her for dinner.
She gave me a cute smile. ‘I’m not sure my boss would permit that,’ she said. ‘He’s kind of strict.’
‘Well that makes two of us,’ I said. ‘Tell him your cousin’s passing through, and just called in to say hi. No harm in that, is there?’
Her laugh tickled my tonsils. ‘Tall, dark, and handsome you ain’t, but I like your style. I finish up at nine. Okay?’
I could have settled down with her, but man, the highways were my home, and the cops were on my tail. I figured a one-night stand, then hitching a southbound lift on the 41 into Nashville. All I had was my six-string guitar, and a gravelly voice like Merle Haggard.
And the clothes I wore.
‘Money’s no object,’ I said, when she asked me where I was heading. It was true. I had none. ‘I’ll hit Nashville, pick up a few gigs, then across country to Memphis and south to New Orleans. Anywhere there’s music. You want to hear me sing?’
‘Later, ‘she said.
I never got around to that.
At sunrise, a fine morning and her shift started early. ‘Next time,’ she said, dabbing at her eye. She gazed at me and gave me a half-smile. ‘When you’re passing through.’
I looked away. At my crumpled clothes on the chair beside the bed. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Damn sure.’
She really should have heard me sing. I’m a lonesome fugitive, a rolling stone, the highways are my home.
She’d have liked that.