Down and Out in Georgia
Merle had a monkey on his back and damn if he hadn't started snorting that fucking crystal again. His brother just couldn't keep his nose clean. Merle's habit and overall lack of good sense had cost him a years' time in the pen.
Daryl wanted to be pissed at his brother for screwing up again, and he did manage to be a little angry. But more than being pissed he was just plain down and depressed. Merle was also his only family and even though they fought like wild dogs they were brothers, when Merle wasn't around Daryl felt alone.
It was a little strange, his brother wasn't exactly a pleasure to be hang with, but when he was locked up Daryl felt disconnected. No matter how big an asshole Merle was capable of being the truth remained, without Merle around he felt like he'd lost part himself.
For lack of a better idea how to deal with his blues he decided to go to the Roundup Room and knock back a few. He'd been drunk enough times in his life to know it wasn't going to fix anything, it wouldn't solve any problems big or small, but it sure did deaden the pain for a while. For now that would just have to do.
He had a good job and all but he was feeling restless, like a ship without a rudder. He felt the need to take some kind of action and running seemed best. He was thinking maybe in a day or two, when he sobered up, he'd blow town. At least that might feel like he was doing something, even if it didn't make a lot of sense. He'd just hop on his bike and see where the road took him.
In the meantime, before he split and all, just for tonight, or maybe for the whole weekend, he had another plan in place. He slid up on the barstool and ordered himself a tall and cold one.
How in the heck did she let Maggie talk her into this stuff? Shoot, it was her own fault and she knew it, she had to learn to tell that woman NO. She had to quit going along with every harebrained scheme and ridiculous whim her sister had, and she told her so, "Okay but this is the last time Maggie and I mean it!" She didn't even manage to quite convince herself.
What she'd really wanted to do this Friday night was not much of anything at all. She'd had a big week at work and she was tired physically and mentally, and frankly she was feeling a little cranky. Or maybe she was feeling real cranky, she needed to get out of this frame of mind and she had her own ideas about how to accomplish that.
She'd planned to go right home and open a bottle of wine, turn some good music on, something soft and low, light some candles, fill the tub up with a million bubbles, get her book, slide in and just relax and forget everything.
But that sister of hers could be so gosh darn pushy. When she called Beth earlier that day she was particularly tenacious, she just wouldn't give up and she wore Beth down. It seemed Maggie had a real bad case of the hot and bothereds for some guy named Glenn who owned a bar downtown. It had a pizza kitchen and he did all the pizza making himself while some other guy worked the bar.
Maggie was always one to step in with both feet and she fancied herself deeply and forever in love with this pizza maker. Never mind that she'd only seen the guy once and had never even spoken a word to him. But Maggie had heard his whole life story from her friend Lori, and now her sister was convinced he was the end all and the be all of manhood.
Why the heck didn't Lori just go with her? Because Lori had be home with her handsome husband and two real cute kids, that's why. So Maggie appointed Beth as her chosen party pal, her wingwoman.
Just to add some additional insult to injury, the minute they walked in the Roundup Room Maggie left her standing there in the doorway while she hightailed it to find her future lover man. Beth just stood there a minute feeling exactly like the idiot she knew she was, an dang, they'd brought Maggie's car so she also felt a little stranded, now what? She slid up on a barstool, that's what.
The bartender set a beer down in front of the fellow next to her and when he did Beth ordered a glass of Cab. Then she took another look at her bar mate. He was just as handsome and yummy as could be. He had strong chiseled facial features and man, those sculpted arms. There wasn't a thing wrong with those arms, or his shoulders. But he looked miserable, like someone just kicked him and his dog both, right in their sensitive southern hemispheres.
She had to ask, "What's got you looking so down and out?" She was like that, she'd just strike up a conversation with some random person and start asking about things that were none of her business. Then she'd silently scold herself. She had to learn to think before she spoke, and maybe try minding her own darn business sometimes. That very well might happen someday, but apparently it wasn't going to happen today.
That seemed to be his line of thinking too, that she needed to mind her own business, because he didn't look up. He just replied in a real grouchy and harsh-sounding voice, "What's it to ya?"
Did that stop her? Heck no, that got her going more. "Well it's nothing to me really, I mean I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything but that's the truth and I'm sorry. Your problems have absolutely nothing to do with me and my problems. But since we were sitting here like old drinking buddies and all, and you look as miserable as dog that lost his bone, I thought you might want to cry on my shoulder and I thought I'd let you. If I concentrate on your troubles maybe I can forget my own cares."
That was when he finally looked up at her and damn if looks could kill, yeah that's right, she'd be dead, or at least badly wounded. "Do ya ever just shut up an drink? Cuz I'll tell ya what girl, that's what I'm here ta do, suck 'em up until I'm numbed up and worry about everythin' else tomorrow. So how bout ya just leave me the hell alone an let me get to it? Find ya someone else ta psychoanalyze."
"Because I've already started with you I can't just abandon you in your hour of need, after all we're friends now." Yep she just couldn't quit, and she wouldn't blame him if he pulled her barstool out from under her and told her to beat it. It wasn't like she didn't realize she was annoying as all get out, she just couldn't seem to stop. There was something about the grouchy guy that got to her, and for some reason she was just sure there was something more to him, a soft center under that hard exterior. Besides, now that she'd had a real good look at him the truth was, he was just plain sizzling hot. Lava is what he was. This evening was going to be more fun that she'd dared to hope.
"If I was ta buy ya a basket a them jalapeno poppers would ya shut up while ya ate 'em? Would that work?" She was cuter than a bug's butt but shit she had to be crazy. Although crazy did seem to look real good on her.
"Well that would be very thoughtful of you but I just can't eat those. They're very tasty but they're just a little too spicy for me. How about you get yourself the poppers and get me the mozzarella cheese sticks? That way we'll both have a really special Friday night dinner. How does that sound?"
She got him with that and he actually smiled, a small laugh even escaped from grouchy man. "Who the fuck are you girl? Is someone payin' ya ta harass me?"
"I'm Beth Greene and no, I provide these services completely free of charge, well except of course for the cheese sticks. That was your idea so those are on you."
That was when he finally gave up and resigned himself to the cold hard truth, he couldn't win this one. Shit, maybe he didn't even want to win. He called out to the barkeep, "Can ya set us up another round an we need a basket a cheese sticks an one a poppers too. Thanks man."
"Oh I'm so happy you asked me to dinner tonight because I was worried I wasn't getting anything to eat but this dish of stale peanuts."
"I gotta ask ya a question girl cuz I'm dyin' ta know, an after all we're gettin' all personal here an whatnot, what is it ya do for a livin'?"
"I'm a shrink." And then she started to laugh like she'd told the best joke ever. "Just kidding I teach 10th grade honors science."
"Yeah? Either one a them things sounds like a real shitload a fun ta me." There was that classic Dixon snarly sarcasm. He wished he'd think a minute before he spoke and he hoped he didn't sound too mean. He was starting to maybe, just a little, kind of like this crazy pretty woman.
"Well as a matter of fact I've had a very rough week however I'm not here to drown my sorrows. I had every intention of drowning them in a bubble bath tonight. Then I was dragged here by a very bossy sister who immediately and totally abandoned me. So what is it you do? Are you a brain surgeon or a comedian?"
And shit if she didn't make him smile again, "Well I used ta be both but I'm neither right now, I decided on a new career path. I work for the County Department of Water Management. I'll have ya know we're a serious group an I'm quotin' here when I declare our mission statement, 'ta deliver excellent customer service through a motivated, skilled, and empowered workforce and ensure professional stewardship of the city's drinkin' water, wastewater, stormwater, and natural systems.' That's right, I repair an replace municipal water piping and meters. Yep, I do real important shit like that." Two could play this game.
"Well that does sound pretty high fluting Daryl. I must say I'm very impressed, after all I'm quite a fan of water."
"How do ya know my name?"
"It's on a big embroidered emblem right there on your shirt."
And she had him laughing again, "Ya see there? I'm a brain ain't I?"
They'd eaten the poppers and the cheese sticks and they were halfway through their drinks when she asked, "Just how drunk are you Daryl?"
"Not drunk enough. I only had this half here an the one other. Why? Am I actin' drunk? Cuz all this time I thought that was you."
And now he'd made her laugh. "Well I just thought we'd get out of here, maybe go for a ride or something. I don't know about you but sitting around in bars isn't really my idea of a good time."
"Ya always go around pickin' up strange men in bars Beth Greene?" Now she was making him kind of nervous, oh who was he trying to kid, it was just that he couldn't quite believe this real pretty woman would want to spend time with him.
"No this is my first time. Even though you look and sound pretty rough and ornery I think that's just your cover, you know an act. Underneath all that crusty stuff I think you're kind of nice and sweet." And then she saw him turn red.
"Yeah I'm sweet all right if ya like vinegar." But again he smiled at her, "I got a motorcycle how ya feel about a ride on that?"
"I think I feel like I need some adventure in my life, so I think yes Daryl, let's you and I do this."
"Okay then teach, time ta get on with your bad self."
She'd never done anything crazy in her life. She was always the good girl of the family, Maggie was the one who made impetuous and sometimes pretty stupid decisions. Beth had to admit to herself she was a little scared and a little nervous. But she'd always been a good judge of character and she had a feeling he really was a good guy, he was just going through some kind of hard time. There was also the little truth, she was feeling an undeniable attraction to him. She'd decided what the hell, it was time for her to live a little.
When she got on the back of the big motorcycle and wrapped her arms around him she couldn't think of a better decision she'd ever made than to take a chance on, and a ride with, Daryl. She held on a little tighter and scooted herself a little closer, because darn he felt good.
He couldn't believe this was happening. Things like this never happened in his life. Shit, did they ever really happen in anyone's life? Not that he'd ever heard of. But he had no complaints because those arms that were wrapped tightly around him felt so damn good. As down and out as he'd been earlier, he actually felt pretty good right now. He realized it then, the feeling that had come over him was happiness, he actually felt happy.
She was the cause of it, Beth Greene. She was pretty, smart, clever, funny and she'd made a miserable man happy just by being her sweet and crazy self. He planned to tell her that because it felt like it was the right thing to do.
He'd driven them up to the lake and even though night had fallen the full moon was making the calm water glimmer. She climbed off the bike less than gracefully and told him her legs felt a lot like Jell-O. He laid his hand on her arm and suggested, "Move em around as best ya can, shake 'em an whatnot. You'll get the feelin' back soon, ya just ain't used ta ridin'." When he dismounted all she could think was darn, he even made that look good.
He reached in the saddlebag and took out a small blanket. He handed her a bottle of water, took one for himself and grabbed a flashlight. When he held a hand out to her she took it and they smiled at each other, "C'mon girl."
He led her down close to the water's edge and he spread the blanket out, "We can sit an look at the moon."
Then he just started talking and it surprised him the way he opened up to her. He told her about Merle, the trouble Merle had seen for years and his brother's most recent run-in with the law. "I's gonna call it a day. I's plannin' ta get my drink on real good tonight, black myself right out, then when I sobered up I was gonna hit the road. So I thank ya for ruinin' my plans Beth. That would have been real stupid."
"You're very welcome, I'm glad I did. Where were you going?"
"That's the crazy part, I didn't even know. I's just so down. Feels like ya know, everythin' had been goin' along alright for quite a while an then Merle slipped again. The thing is, I get why Merle does what he does, that's how he tries ta slay his dragons. But shit, sometimes it feels like my brother is always leavin' me. I ain't got no one else an I guess I get lonely without the big dumbass around."
"Ya brung me out of it tonight Beth. I thought you was nuts for a little while, when ya first started talkin' ta me an all. Now I know, ya seen I's struggling an ya was tryin' ta cheer me up in your own goofy way, guess what? It worked. Ya made me laugh an I ain't done that in I don't even remember when. If you was ta think you'd wanna see me again sometime I wouldn't ever leave town. I ain't never had so much fun with anyone an I sure ain't ever known a prettier girl."
"I knew it Daryl. You really are the sweetest man and heck yes! I want to see you again, and again and again. We're just getting started and I can't think of a reason to stop."
He smiled again, it was becoming a habit when he was around her. He put his hand to the back of her head, caressing it softly and carefully coaxing her to lay back. When she was laying there looking up at him, and he was leaning above her looking into those pretty blue eyes, he quietly asked, "Can I kiss ya Beth?"
"Oh yes please and don't stop kissing me for a very long time." And he did and he didn't.