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Last Nickel in the Nation Sack

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He weren't paying all those cluckers no account. Preacher talking to Dicy's mama about how she better off in heaven than with a walking musician like Bobby, playing his Devil's music. Dicy's sisters talking about how her love of snakebite whiskey took her down. Her friends talking about how if only she hadn't insisted on heading out every night to hear him at whatever tar-paper, tin-roof shack that would let him play. If only she hadn't taken an opened bottle from a stranger. Dicy's mama's mouth all a tumbling with words bout how Dicy were in a better place now.

His baby's bones in the ground and all her people could talk about was how she better off dead than in his arms.

No. He weren't paying a single copper on the ground for what they had to say. He wipe the tears from his face. He tune Lucille.

He wait round in the graveyard until it got good and dark. He walk his self through that graveyard to the crossroads on the far side. He dig a little hole like he'd heard he supposed to. He put her nation sack into the ground. It only got one nickel in it. He whisper, "Papa Legba, this is all I got, so I hope it's enough." He put the dirt over it and stood his aching back up.

He were expecting an old man with a cane. Some old fella with a wide brimmed hat. Papa Legba come alright, but he ain't old. He got horns like a bull. All black and tipped in white at the end. He's also bare assed naked and sporting the biggest damn cock Bobby's ever seen. He's about to protest that he won't. That he don't swing that way, but for Dicy, he's already come to the crossroads. That ain't nothing but a little tickle.

Papa Legba laugh from his belly and his cock bounce to the rhythm. "Relax fella. I only swing in the direction the door is hung." He circle round Bobby. "Although, you got some mighty fine wood on you." He squeeze Bobby's ass.

Bobby try not to cry out. Papa Legba laugh and it were the kinda laugh that put the jump on a July morning. "Now that you've brought me all the way out here," he rest his head on Bobby's shoulder. He all kinds of pressed up against Bobby, but Bobby don't flinch away. "What is it that you are looking for?"

Bobby pick up Lucille. He play, "Baby Done Left Me Going Down." He go through a full deck of chucka-chucka rhythm. Lucille wail his heart. He sing with her. When the last chord die, Papa Legba give him a hug.

He were the old man now that Bobby had expected. "Oh, that's a world of blues you got there." He slide his hand down Lucille's neck and it were all Bobby could do not to bat that hand away. "You done made perfect what I created." He wink at Bobby. "Not an easy thing to do." He laugh and this time it were the sound of high cotton in summer. "You sure you want this, boy?"

Bobby say, "Yes, sir. This is what I've got to do."

"Okay, then. Follow me." Papa Legba whistle and pat his leg. An old, liver speckled coon hound bound to his side. He set off a walking down that dark road.

Bobby follow him down through the tunnel of willow trees. Their long branches brush along his face like fingers trying to hold him from doing what he had to do. He push them aside like so many busy bodies.

They came on down to a wide river flowing lazy in the moonlight. A ricketty dock sticks out into the molasses dark water.

Papa Legba touch his hat to Bobby. "Hope it works out, son." He whistle for his hound and off he go off into the night.

Bobby don't have long to wait.

Agwe on a conch shell row on up. He put up his brightly colored oars and tap them against the shell. Bobby dip his handkerchief in the water and offer it to Agwe, who sniff at the offering. "Should be as I won't take you for such a paltry ass sacrifice."

Bobby get in the shell and tune Lucille up. He play, "Come on in My Kitchen" and no wall to corner load against, the sound go out over the water and were fair eat up by the river.

Agwe pick up his oars. "Now you shoulda just started with that and not wasted my damn time with a damn kerchief." He set to rowing. He even offer Bobby a little champagne from the bottle that he got cooling out in the water. Bobby drink a little. Weren't polite to refuse. He play a few more songs until the water was rocking with the sound.

When they reached the far side, Agwe give Bobby the bottle. "Sure you don't want to stick around. Ain't meant for the living where you're going?"

"No, but thank you." Bobby take the bottle to be polite and he set off down the road on the far side. The willow trees brush their long branches across his face and snag on Lucille like a whole load of busy bodies trying to keep him from what he got to do. He hold Lucille tight against his self and keep on his way.

Road open up to a small clearing and up he comes to a tar-paper shack with a roof made from flattened soup cans. There's a big old hound with three heads glaring with all six eyes at him from the porch. Its growl is enough to curl the hairs on the head of Bobby's great, great, great grandmama. Bobby ain't going to let it keep him back though. He play something he heard in a fancy concert hall up North. It's the dance of the Blessed Spirits and he hopes it blesses him.

That pooch gets to slobbering and swaying. It rest all three of heads on the porch and even let Bobby scratch its belly.

Bobby go into the shack. Place is crowded with dead folk just like a cow's thick with flies.

Someone as died a hundred year or more is up on a stage with a drum. That fella, he sing the old, old songs.

They serve moonshine whiskey in three different colors and rum that smell like dark water molasses. Bobby has himself a glass for courage and asked if anyone there abouts know a Dicy.

She find him first. She look all kinds of washed out. "Bobby, what you doing here? You can't be here."

"I've come to bring you back." Bobby try to take her hand, but Dicy pull away from him. Always a stubborn woman.

She look over his shoulder at someone behind him. "Bobby, I'm dead. I died with snakebite whiskey in my mouth. There ain't no coming back from that."

Bobby look to see where she was looking.

Baron Samedi sit calm as you please at a table off to the side. His top hat made of real silk and he got his colored glasses on with one eye poked out. He ain't looking at Bobby though. He watch this high yellow girl with her hair cut short and crinkled from an iron. She tracing shapes with a glass of rum on the table. She look so bored that boredom got a new name.

Bobby look at her. She all straight lines and not a single curve to her. Bobby think to his self, "She's the new." She the new music. She the new steps. The new everything. She just new. So, new, Bobby don't even know her name and he know all the names.

Dicy laugh. "Bobby, you can't even keep your eyes straight when you're rescuing me from the dead."

Bobby glare at her. "Woman, you've got to stop suspecting me of walking out on you. I'm just getting me an idea."

Dicy put her hands on her beautiful round hips. "You mean an idea like coming down into the realm of the dead."

Bobby take a quick squeeze of that soft round behind and she don't half but bat his hand, but hold it there. "An idea."

He walk up onto the stage and he give the singer there a glass of whiskey. He take down Lucille and he say, "I'm thinking we need to pitch a little boogie woogie."

Bobby play. He don't play the Blues. Chicago, Saint Louie, Delta or otherwise. The New don't want to listen to the Blues. The New want to listen to swing like they play up in Harlem.

The New look up. She laugh and her laugh were the sound of dawn on a spring morning. She take Baron Samedi by the hand and pull him out onto the sawdust floor and dance. When the song's over, the New don't look tired, so Bobby start up with another song. He play, "Oh! Red." He play, "Let's Get Drunk And Truck". He play "We Gonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie". He play until even the New look tired. Then Lucille still humming, he play "Terraplane Blues" nice and slow.

Baron Samedi pull the New close, but he watch Bobby over the New's shoulder. The New watch him too.

After Bobby let the last chord die. He put Lucille down. He has himself a long drink of rum, sweet as molasses.

Baron Samedi and the New come over. She talk first. "Why I don't know if I've ever heard anyone play quite like that." She lick her lips and run her hand up Baron Samedi's arm. "Ah, honey, let's keep him."

Baron Samedi laugh and his laugh puts the frost out in a January morning. "No, honey. I think our friend here must be going." Baron Samedi look at Bobby out over his glasses. "But on account of you giving us such a good time," He reached into his coat and pulled out two golden tickets that gleam in the dim light. He hold them out and then pull them back. "But you take these, you ain't coming back." He grin like a dead man will. "And one more thing. You look back once, the eyes in your fool head leave the road, then you come up snake eyes. Understand?"

"I understand." Bobby take the tickets so fast that they smoke with his taking them up.

He saunter out the front door, but what he find outside weren't what he'd found when he'd come there. What he see was a road all silvered with broken bottles.

A walking man, he walk on the glass and he think he can hear Dicy following behind. "Dicy. You there?"

She say a whole lot of nothing.

"Dicy, don't be like that." He plead, but she don't talk. The glass crunch under his feet. He look down and he make out the words on the bottles. Snakebite whiskey this was. There was still sips in cracked pieces. He start to strum on Lucille. He noddle. He try. Damn but he try. He keep hearing the crackle of them damned bottles under his feet. He don't hear Dicy. He plead with Dicy, "Just one little word, honey. Just let me know that you ain't taking another drink of that snakebite whiskey."

But she stubborn. She don't say nothing.

Finally, he just can't stand it. He just going to take a quick look. But there he is, holding one golden ticket. The other ticket so much Mississippi mud. Dicy, has to have one last word. "Bobby, you can't even keep your eyes straight when you're rescuing me from the dead."

Then she ain't nowhere. All he see were the road he's gone by and it's just so much crushed glass.

All he see were Papa Legba looking at him with a wide grin plastered all over his face. "Sure screwed the pooch on that one." Papa Legba's liver colored hound pant against his leg.

Bobby ain't rightly sure what to say to that. He hand Papa Legba his golden ticket.

He sling Lucille off his shoulder and he play the Blues. They walk down the road like that.

Bottles underfoot. Walking from the crossroads. Playing the sweet Delta Blues.