A pickup, a dog and a former lover.
I tore the page out of a mashed up spiral bound note book and threw the crumpled paper into the general vicinity of the trash can. This song was going to be my ticket outa South Dakota, only it couldn’t be as trite as anything I’d ever heard on the tractor radio. How many times had this formula been tapped into, until it was just another flavorless plug of tobacco in the spittoon of Nashville?
I stepped out into the moth filled entryway of Motel 6, just off of the interstate. Now that the bypass was in, no one drove highway 9 anymore. This made the night still except for the sound of moths diving head long into the bare light bulb above the doors. Micro-thuds making plink, plink, plink sounds to mark the night. I pulled out my wallet and took out the pictures. There was one of Margaret on our prom night in her pink taffeta gown. I knew it was taffeta cause she told that dang story of having to drive into Billings to pick it up at J. C. Penny’s. On layaway. We had our one glorious night of bliss before I joined the marines. Semper Fi don’t mean a thing to a pretty young filly like Margaret. By the time her Dear John letter reached me overseas she had married Bart from the feed store. I bet she was still telling Bart the taffeta dress story even now.
Stuck to the backside of Margaret’s picture was another picture. This one of King standing proud in the bed of my pickup truck. The faded red 1974 International Harvester stood out against King’s curly white coat. Against the cobalt blue of the sky it looked as if the picture was America all rolled into loyalty, Detroit steel and Dakota sky. That dog would chase me all over creation till I threw down the tail gate and let him in.
I sat down on the bench outside my motel room and took a slug from the 64-ounce bottle of Coors I hadn’t bothered to take out of the paper sack. Raising that hound from a pup was more fun than bedding Margaret on Prom night. The image of King barking down a brown bear north of Rapid City made me feel so proud. Never mind King barked at the falling leaves in autumn, no one could convince me King didn’t know what he was doing. Saved my life that dog did. But he was gone now, Same as the pickup. And Margaret.
Grand Dad wasn’t in his right mind when I went off to the Marines and sold the pick up to some guy in Montana without asking me. I bet that dog is still chasing after it, thinking it was me driving it. I thought about the spiral notebook. A hold over from high school. The spiral all flattened down and every page dog-eared, and the back cover long ago used as a makeshift funnel when the pickup needed oil.
A pickup, a dog and a former lover. Maybe they’re all the same thing, I thought. Memories that trip up my heart for a few beats. Skipped heartbeats. Now, there’s a song title if ever there was on.
As best I could I opened my spiral notebook to a fresh page and took up my pencil.