Bobby B – My Little Honey B

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – May 2006

Bobby pushed the last of the papers back across Aunt Liz’s shiny desk, ran his finger around inside the collar of his starched shirt. Carrie’s pink pen he’d used all afternoon had left a red canyon in his finger. He looked up at Carrie Louise, she loosened his tie.

“S’up Bobby? Why’re you lookin’ at me that way?”

“I hate to keep askin’ you for help, but can I change my name? Not all of it, just the last three? Without a lot of questions and BS?”

“I can have a look. Why?”

“‘Cause if I write Bobby Beauregard Barthelemy Buisson one more time my fuckin’ hand’s gonna fall off. And Ms.V, is there somewhere in all this paper that will get CL paid for helping me? Or she can send me a bill or something?”

Carrie punched his arm. “Goober. I’m already on your payroll. You work me harder than my retainer and you’ll get a bill, and I’ll pay myself. And in all that paper somewhere you have bequeathed to me an education in law at the college of my choice. Providing can I get in and all, and have proven myself to be a good steward of your financial interests between now and then.”

“Be –queathed? That sounds like –”

“Carrie Louise?” Liz Vernier didn’t look up from whatever she was signing. “Let go of his tie before you strangle him.”

“He was gonna say –”

“I know what he was he going to say, sweetie. Let him go. You train men the same way you train dogs. Once they stop peeing on the floor and you have their undivided attention you start on manners. He’s housebroken and you have his attention. He’s got this one. Let him go.”

Carrie Louise released Bobby’s tie, smoothed it. “That was lesson number one, buddy.”

“But I thought you thought –”

“I did think. ‘Cept funny is funny some places and not funny in others. Haha pizza and beer and sex during the Saints game commercials, not so haha in here. This is like a church, only better. So no sex noise jokes. Got it?”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear most of that.” Aunt Liz dropped the last of Bobby’s paperwork in a cardboard file box. “We’re finished, you two can go. Keep your eye on the mail in case they forgot something.” She watched them take a sloppy, arms around each other shirt tails out teenage stroll toward the door. He pinched her butt, she smacked his and glared. “Carrie Louise, are you on the pill?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

***

Houma, Lousiana, May 2006

“We’re home for only two days and you got ‘er done? That’s it? Dayum. You for certain sure there’s no more forms I need to sign like this?”

“You’re being a waste of skin, Bobby. All we did was change your name, not start a country. The court will send it to Social Security and the Parish and the State and you’ll get your new driver’s license in the mail. Tomorrow we’ll go to the bank and give them the card. You’re done with everything name-wise after Bobby.”

He held up the bank signature card. Bobby B. “What do you think, legal beagle? I do okay?”

“The old-time scroll-y thing underneath needs work. I just…I’m not sure. I liked Buisson.”

“It’s called a flourish. Come on, Roche. What’s the prob?”

“Ro-shay, Ro-shay, Ro-shay. Goddammit, you can’t call me Ro-shay like that whenever we get married. And now it’s just B? CL…B? Something you pour in a septic tank or a coffee pot to clean ’em out? Carrie Louise…B? I can’t ‘B’-lieve you’d do this to me, Bobby. Even if I hyphenate it with Roche it sounds like I’m the fucking mascot for some kind of honey.”

“Then I’ll call you ‘honey’.”

“Don’t be a shit, Bobby. I’m serious.”

“My little Honey B. That oughta be okay, ‘cause you’ve been named after a foil wrapped chocolate thing for sixteen-and-a-half years anyway.”

He felt it in his teeth when she slammed the screen door. He clicked the TV back on.

“Hey, Honey B! You’re gonna miss Murder She Wrote and all those great Eighties perms you like.”

Bobby ignored what she said about selfish assholes and what they could do to themselves and to each other in their curly perms and how the fucking candy ended in R and what sort of douchebag he was all the way down the steps and across the front yard. He picked up the signature card, touched it to his puckered lips. Some ideas nobody agreed with came with some honkin’ hidden benefits. Like quiet.

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Looney Lunes #116

Holy Mackerel – Seriously?

“Let this socialist country resound with Song of Big Fish Haul and be permeated with the fragrant smell of fish and other seafoods!”

official Kim Jong-un slogan

I’ll bet it was just the rockets that made you think he was a whack job…

Bobby B – Only Half Stupid

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – July 2005

Elizabeth Vernier waved off one assistant, handed another a china coffee cup and saucer and held up two fingers before she got back to the man sitting across from her.

“We’ll take fifteen grand as good will to recoup the funeral and sixty days living expenses. Six grand a month maintenance, post taxes and fees, until we put an offer together we can both live with. Say ‘yes’ or he’s a traumatized minor, and you’re a big, bad oil company.” She leaned back into the uncomfortable Victorian love seat, drummed her fingers on her knee. “I can have this in front of a sympathetic judge tomorrow morning.”

“Six grand?”

“It’s low, but acceptable.”

“What I should be asking is why.”

“So you’ll take it and look like a hero with your homies at Magnolia and buy your child bride something pretty with your bonus.”

That was low. I can go twelve without touching my phone.”

“I don’t want twelve coming back on me. When I bend you over for the settlement next spring I want you to look like the cheap, uncaring bastards you are. Sign it at six, Brad. Or go to court in the morning where we both know twenty will be a gift and hero goes out the window along with your bonus and happy trophy wife.”

“You’re a gold-plated, sapphire crusted, oil dipped bitch, Liz Vernier.”

“Thank you, Brad. That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me this morning.” He signed, pushed the document her way, she flipped it up with a polished nail. “Leave the doors open on your way out.”

***

“Two coffees, straight and strong.” The assistant set the coffee on an antique table between the curved Victorian love seats, pulled the office doors closed behind her.

“Any questions, Carrie Louise?”

“Why did you go low?”

“Keep them over a barrel, anywhere they look. He can’t argue with us or we go to court. He’s an oil company, your Bobby is a damaged waif kept alive by the charity of neighbors. Court is the last place they want to be right now. We know Bobby’s liabilities and he can live on six grand, easy, and you can give your mother more than enough to feed him.”

“But you said settlement in the spring and that’s all court, ain’t it?”

“Isn’t it. And yes, it’s all court. I’ll ask twenty-five, we’ll puff up and sit on it down to the wire. I know they’ll waste both of our time fighting anything over twenty. When they finally lose we’re a year further down the road, they’ll go buy us a bunch of crap financial instruments that won’t mature until doomsday…” She waved her hand dismissively, tested her coffee, set it back on the table.

“On the courthouse steps I’ll deal us down to seventeen to keep them out of a drawn out court battle with pictures of Bobby dressed like Huckleberry Finn everywhere they look. But only if they’ll write us a check. They’ll bite, I’ll take two off the top and buy that house I’ve been looking at in the wine country. You and I will go shopping for institutions to act as wallets for Bobby’s money that you will learn to manage. We’ll cross those bridges when the time comes. In the meantime, go to the library and read what you can stomach on long-term and short-term interest only payouts from various financial instruments, and the tax burdens on those payouts. Put some scenarios together, see what Bobby’s allowance would be living on the interest. Call me with any questions.”

“Okay.” She closed her new leather folio, dropped it and the $200 pink Italian fountain pen, both gifts from Aunt Liz, into last year’s school backpack. “Shooo-eee, Aunt Liz. Was Bobby’s daddy really worth seventeen million dollars?”

“No, it’s worth seventeen million for Magnolia not to look like shit in the press and have OSHA up their asses for a couple of years levying millions of dollars of fines every time one of their platform workers sneezes.” She tested the coffee again, drank half the cup. “Bobby’s daddy, from what I gleaned, wasn’t worth much of a shit for anything but roughneckin’ and keeping Budweiser in business.”

“He wasn’t mean, though. He just kinda left all that up to Bobby’s momma.”

“And she kinda said ‘fuck this’ and handed it all back to him. And didn’t get a damn thing for eighteen years of indentured servitude but a trash bag full of cheap clothes, a son who won’t talk to her and a pansy greeting card artist.”

“That’s why I’m going to law school? So when me and Bobby get married and he fucks up I get half?”

“So you get it all.”

“All seventeen million?”

“Fifteen, sweetie. I’ve got a house to buy, remember?”

***

Bobby’s Living Room Houma, Louisiana – July 2005

“But you won’t will you? Fuck up and make us get divorced?” Carrie Louise switched off the Charlie’s Angels re-run and shook Bobby’s knee again, harder.

“Hey! Come on –”

“Bobby, you need to be listening.”

“It’s okay. Only the half stupid one would have made it twenty minutes in a real swamp. Fifteen million dollars, that’s what you said? No shit, CL, that’s honkin’. When?”

“April. Maybe May. Nobody stalls Aunt Lizzie much. And you still weren’t listening to me.”

“Yes I was. You wanna know will I maybe have a girlfriend on the side ‘cause of you not sexing me up like a millionaire deserves. And the answer is no.”

“Good. Because –”

“I’ll sure as hell have more than one, CL. That kinda money? I can afford a butt load of girlfriends, spread out all over.”

“Bobby, you listen and listen good. I won’t –”

He reached around, pulled her into him on the couch, kissed her.

“Well gawl-damn, Bobby Buisson. Why didn’t you just tell me to shut the hell up?”

“’Cause I’m only half stupid?”

She chewed “Right answer” out on his lower lip and smashed him into the back of the couch.

***

Houma, Louisiana – September 5th, 2005

Bobby, Carrie Louise and Momma Roche, all in new rubber waders from the WalMart in Meridian, Mississippi where they’d waited out the hurricane, stood in the street in front of their houses. Momma tried to cry, was so shocky she couldn’t. Carrie Louise was about to squeeze Momma and Bobby’s hands off. Everywhere, houses were covered in a chocolate pudding mud, like the sky had taken a giant shit and covered their town with it. Windows broken, chunks of roof gone. The bayou behind them was still sloshing out of it’s banks, choked with debris and dead livestock. There was an upside down cow where Bobby’s detached garage and his daddy’s workshop had been. His car, like Carrie Louise’s daddy who’d decided to ride out the hurricane in place, were nowhere to be seen.

“Eldridge Junior said his front loader came through okay. He’ll be by in a day or two to carry off the cow.” Bobby had a hard time believing what he’d just said. “I heard they’re truckin’ plywood all the way from Montana. We oughta have it all fixed up by Mardi Gras. Christmas, maybe.” Bobby wasn’t sure he believed either of those, what with having to live in one of Aunt Liz’s condos with Carrie Louise and Momma Roche and go to school somewhere outside of Phoenix. He shook CL’s death squeeze. “We ever do get married, and have us a daughter? Katrina is out of the name pool. Just sayin’.”

Momma Roche broke, hugged them both like they would blow away, and cried so hard they were afraid she might choke on it and die.

Almost Halloween 2005, a golf resort condo outside Phoenix, AZ 

Bobby pulled his phone out of his jeans. Unknown and an area code he didn’t recognize. All the calls from insurance companies and contractors over Katrina, he answered it anyway, listened, stepped out on the balcony. He talked for a minute, left his phone on a chair, slid the door closed when he came back in.

“Momma R? Mr. Roche turned up. Passed out drunk in my car at a rest stop outside Memphis. The cop said it looked like he’d been living in it for at least six weeks. Puke and vodka bottles and trash all over, gone to taking a leak and laying cable in the back. He’s in the hospital, crazier than a hoot owl, might not make it. I told them to burn the car and I’d get online when they told me it was scrap and kill the title. He said they’d had him about a week and apologized, but what with Katrina fucking everything up…Sorry. What the cop wanted to know from you was did you want to post his bail and claim him, in case he makes it?”

“Is the policeman still on the phone out there?”

“Yes ma’am. He said he’d give you time to –”

“You go back out there and tell him no. I don’t mean any kind of maybe no, or polite no, Bobby. You tell him Virginia Roche is on record saying Fuck. No. That miserable son of a bitch can rot in hell and don’t anybody need to apologize to me. His sorry drunk ass is Jesus’s problem now, not mine.” She waited, caught Bobby’s hand before he left. “When I’m gone and folks talk about all this, you tell them Katrina might have fucked up a lot of things, but she fixed a few things can only be fixed by a hurricane.”

Looney Lunes #115

I’m sure it does…

Former Vice President Joe Biden – addressing a group of student athletes while campaigning for President Obama at Newport HS, New Hampshire: 

Football, soccer, lacrosse, and cross-country. Any others?

Students: Cheerleaders!!

Biden: Guess what? The cheerleaders in college are the best athletes in college. You think I’m joking. They’re almost all gymnasts. The stuff they do on hard wood, it blows my mind.

Bobby B – In the Beginning

Several times in my vocational career I traveled the two-lane, one-lane and no lanes of southern Louisiana. I’ve helped make drilling mud movies, serviced music stores and eaten things I still don’t know what were. The stereotypes are far more sanitized than the reality, and to remain sane on those long, lonely swampy drives I talked to a micro cassette recorder. About Bobby B and CL Roche. Here they are.

Houma, Louisiana – Late May, 2005

“That pipe joinin’ chain let go and popped your daddy’s head clean off, Bobby. Rolled around on the platform some, kinda crazy like that bowling ball y’all took a blowtorch to a while back…” Gardner Dupont kept taking his cap off, putting it back on. He’d worked next to Bobby’s father on the offshore rigs for years and the two men were closer than most brothers. Aside from Mr. Dupont being black, they might have been. “Don’t know no other way to tell it. Sorry.”

Bobby buried his face in Mr. Dupont’s starched overalls, and stayed there. Dupont put an arm around him, set a big, rough hand on Bobby’s head. “Things gonna be okay, son. The oil company, some insurance. I’ll help with cleanin’ up your Daddy’s business, gettin’ him in the ground and such. It’ll work out. Long about now, though, they tell me since you’re only sixteen, you’re gonna need a legal guardian. You want me to call your Momma?”

“Hell no, Uncle G. I ain’t movin’ to Kansa City and I ain’t living with her and that couillon greeting card artist she ran off with. That shit won’t never happen. Never.”

Carrie Louise Roche, the petite fifteen-year old girl in cutoffs and a faded tank top who’d been standing in the living room with Bobby when Dupont and the Sheriff knocked, opened her folded arms, put a hand on Bobby’s back. “Mom’ll do it, Bobby. She’s right next door, and my Aunt Lizzie an ‘em in Baton Rouge will run it through the system however we need. Mr. Dupont’s right. It’ll work out.”

“C’mon, Roche, your Daddy’s not so fond of me.” Bobby’s muffled voice sneaked out from between his head and Dupont’s chest. “Or my daddy or my used-to-be mom, us not ever bein’ Christian enough for him.”

“Daddy’s an ex-alkie tent revival coon ass who thinks Jesus pulled him out of the bottle when Catholics had foresaken him, and nobody is Christian enough. Particulalrly Catholics ’cause we’re all still idol worshipping drunks and fornicators as far as he’s concerned. Which, no offense, your ex-momma kinda was some of that, but forget him. My Momma says you and me, we’re the pair to beat in Houma, and she’ll do whatever for us. Daddy does exactly what she tells him ‘cause even snake handler Hell looks like a springtime garden in the French Quarter compared to my house if he don’t. And Momma’s been feedin’ you half the time anyways since your Momma took off and your Daddy was out on the rigs.” Carrie stopped, assessed the quality of her pitch, decided she was okay and went for her summation. “So we’ll ink it, and unless you fuck up royal and stop goin’ to school or do some other dumb shit, things’ll keep on bein’ how they’ve been.”

Dupont looked at the girl, nodded with approval, gave Bobby a squeeze. “Girl’s got herself a point, Bobby. Down the road there’s gonna be some money for you in all this. And Carrie Louise, since she’s gonna grow up and be a lawyer and all? I gar-own-tee she’ll sue her Momma, she don’t do right by you.”

*** 

Houma, Louisiana – Early July, 2005

“This is what we’ve decided is a prompt and fair offer for your Father’s untimely death while in our employ, Mr. Buisson.” The oil company lawyer from Baton Rouge, who Bobby figured smelled better and had softer hands than most women who went dancing on Saturday night or church on Sunday morning in Houma, set the papers on Bobby’s kitchen table. Carrie Louise immediately snatched them away and had a look.

“Five hundred grand? That’s it? You’re fucking kidding me. Uh, us. I mean our client.” Carrie skipped a beat before she let go of the line she’d practiced in front of the mirror countless times. “We’ve subpoenaed the OSHA reports, the witness statements and reports from your own company on their pathetic indifference to safety and lack of concern for their people. You can stick this where the sun don’t shine, Mr. Michaud. And we’ll see you in court.”

“And you would be?” The lawyer’s obvious boredom and indifference lit Carrie Louise’s fuse. Her mother put a hand on Carrie’s arm to shush her.

“She would be my daughter, Mr. Michaud. Unfortunately for us, she was born with the same Lawyer stamp on her forehead as you. However, I do agree with her sentiments, if not her language. As I’m Bobby’s legal guardian and my daughter is his legal watchdog, we can neither, in good faith and with Bobby’s best interests and future at heart, accept your offer without making further inquiries on his behalf.” She smiled like the edge of a sharp knife. “But if you would be so good as to leave us a copy of your offer, and your card?”

***

The Highway Patrol trooper who’d escorted the fuming lawyer and was supposed to have been an official witness to the signatory proceedings, eased out of the Buisson driveway and rolled down Bayou Black. “Not what you were expecting in there, I gather?”

“Mouthy little backwater bitch. She was mine I’d turn her over my knee and teach her some manners.”

“She was yours, and you did, she’d have me put you in handcuffs and every penny you’d ever made or will ever make would be headed straight into her bank account. Girl’s been that way since she was born. Sharp as a catfish whisker and a mouth like gator. Just like the rest of the women folk on her Momma’s side.”

“Well, they’ve got a fight on their hands if they think some scrawny, teenage gator mouth swamp monster wannabe lawyer and her Ice Maiden Momma are going to push Magnolia Production around. I’ll drop the offer to two-fifty, tell ‘em that’s it, see how they like it.”

“They already ain’t likin’ it at twice that, Mr. Michaud. Chew on this. That little swamp monster’s Aunt, the one helping her out with the ‘wannabe lawyer’ business? She’s Liz Vernier, runs Senator Guillon’s office.”

“Senator Francis Guillon, the pious Robin Hood reformer? Vernier as in Vernier, Leduc and Delome?”

“Daughter and senior partner and the Senator’s Chief of Staff. The one pushing his pious reformation ass right at the governor’s office. Yes sir.”

“Fuck.” Magnolia’s assistant chief counsel ripped the manila envelope with the unsigned payment contract and release into eighths, then ripped them up some more, scattered the whole mess out the window and watched them blow into the bayou. “You know what VL&D got from the tobacco companies and the refineries?”

“Yes sir, I do. And that right there was littering.”

“Arrest me.”

The trooper hit his grill and rear window lights, turned right onto the highway and pushed the cruiser up to 85. “No sir, not this time. If it’s all the same to you, Mr. Michaud, I’ll take you on back to your office in Baton Rouge. Where I reckon you’ll be a sight more miserable than you would be in jail, even in Houma.”

Looney Lunes #114

They Make Hardware for That

Low Riders in the Men’s RoomIn Looney #113LeggyPeggy responded about the length police. However length policing was somewhat ambiguous, as both ladies fashion history and who can use what public restroom in certain states was discussed. I just wanted her to know that hardware is already in place in Texas for the six inches above the ankle rule. One of them, anyway.

 

Visit Peggy and her Family’s site. It’s full of fascinating pictures and narrative of places and people and cultures we might not ever experience in person, without a subscription to National Geographic.

Looney Lunes #113

It’s How Long?

In 1922 the Beach Police made sure swimsuits were no more than 6 inches above the knee. Similar rules were applied to girl’s skirts when I was in high school. Today, North Carolina and a few other lucky states will be able to recycle the same tools and rules and personality types for enforcers who were worried in the Nineteen Twenties and Sixties to decide who can use which bathroom. Ain’t progress grand?

Thanks to Brad J. for the pic