Before I begin the latest chapter of "Two Ships":
The bespectacled gentleman pictured above, next to the man dressed as Captain America, has more right than most to be photographed with the Captain. Joe Simon co-created Captain America, along with Jack Kirby. I just learned of Mr. Simon's passing, and wanted to mention it here. I'll be taking a much more involved look at the man in my next Comical Wednesday post.
We now return you to "Two Ships."
Thanks for your time.
* * * * *
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Art.
"I want to do another Hank Williams song, but not the way he did it." He looked at me skeptically. "Trust me. This crowd will like it."
Art stared at me seriously for a moment, then looked out at the nearby table where Millie was seated. He motioned for her to approach him. When she did, he leaned forward and said, "Go fetch Dobro for me, willya, honey?" I couldn't help noticing that he referred to the Dobro as if "Dobro" were its Christian name rather than just the word for the type of guitar it was... as if it were a pet, or an old friend. Probably a bit of both, I reasoned.
Millie grinned and rushed away toward the kitchen, as Art turned back to me and said "Okay, Woody, now what's on your mind?"
He handed me his guitar as I told him. He allowed a little smirk to form on his face as Millie returned with the antique beauty, its all-metal sound box cradled affectionately in her arms. She handed it to him and went to sit at the table I'd shared with Eve.
This time, it was my turn to address the after-dinner group. "This is another Hank Williams song, as later arranged for B.J. Thomas." Art was already strumming the opening; I joined him.
Did you hear that lonesome whippoorwill?
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
And I'm so lonesome I could cry
Did you ever see a night so long
When time goes crawlin' by?
The moon just went behind a cloud
And I'm so lonesome I could cry
Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
That means he's lost the will to live
And I'm so lonesome I could cry
The silence of a fallin' star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry
At the conclusion, I was so proud of myself. I'd nailed it, even the high part at the end. Even Art looked impressed. And as for Eve? Well... I wish I could describe the look on her face. She'd definitely liked it, that much was for sure.
Once the applause had died down, Art stared at me expectantly. "Okay, hotshot, now what?"
"Now..." I paused. "Actually, now I'd like to go outside for a cigarette."
"Now there's a good way to mess up that voice of yours."
"Well, last night I smoked the first one I've had in over two years. Tonight will only be my second."
"That's how it starts."
"Don't I know it," I agreed. I stood. "Do me a favor, Art. Make the next couple of songs something you don't think I'd like." He tilted his head (again!) as I explained, "So I won't mind missing them." He smiled as I said "There's a compliment in there somewhere."
I walked toward the exit, giving an appreciative wave to the diners. As I passed Millie and Eve, Eve looked at me questioningly. I placed the index and middle fingers of my right hand to my lips, as if I were puffing on a cigarette. At first she smiled impishly -- I suppose she thought I was playfully blowing her a kiss -- and then she frowned, realizing my meaning.
Art's son Lenny (I assumed) had not only shoveled the motel's walkways, but he had also cleared a path to the guests' cars, and cleaned off the cars themselves, somewhat. So it was easy enough for me to enter Julie's Corvette, where I'd left my cigarettes the night before.
It was fairly windy. I couldn't tell if it was still snowing, or whether the light snow in the air was being blown from the various nearby roofs. I stood in the cold, shivering -- I foolishly hadn't thought to bring my coat outside with me -- and lit the Winston Light.
I hadn't taken two drags before I heard Art's voice. "Can you spare one of those, Woody?"
"Now there's a good way to mess up that voice of yours," I told him, repeating his own statement word for word.
"Oh, hush, you. My last one was a heckuva lot more than two years ago."
I took the hard-pack from my pocket and proffered it to him; he gingerly plucked a cigarette from the pack and held it to his lips as I lit it.
"Want something to warm you up?" he asked. "I mean, seein' how you're dumb enough to come out in this cold without a danged coat?"
"Nahhh, I'm okay, thanks. If worse comes to worse, I could always climb into the car and..." I thought about Julie's crappy heater. "Uhhh... Scratch that thought."
"Oh. Okay. Your loss, though." I was more than a little surprised to see Art open and drink from a rather large bottle of some type of whiskey which he'd withdrawn from his coat. (His hand -- and the snow -- obscured the label, pretty much.) "Sure you don't want some?" he said, grinning.
"What is it?"
"What are you, fussy?" I tilted my head. Great, I thought, am I picking up his habits now? "Any port in a storm, right?"
"It doesn't look like port. It looks like whiskey."
"Very funny. You want some, or not?" I nodded, and he passed the bottle to me. It was Canadian Club. Not one of my favorites. "Hey, if it was good enough for Al Capone..." he said at one point. Plus, as Art had said, "any port in a storm," and we were experiencing a storm, after all...
As we drank, and smoked, Art told me a little bit about himself. His bald head made him look older than he actually was. He was only in his early sixties. Millie was approximately ten years older than he, as it turned out. They were both raised in West Virginia, where they met and married soon after Art had served in the Korean War. Their relocation to Iowa had occurred in the mid-1970s. If Art told me why they'd relocated, I don't recall it. Blame the C.C.
Added to the three beers I'd had earlier, I was feeling the effects of the evening's alcohol by the time we'd finished our second cigarette each. "This is the best, lousiest stuff I've ever had!" I gushed, to Art's amusement. By then, between the two of us, we'd emptied the bottle!
I was about to light yet another cigarette, when Art joked "Hey, Woody, if I were you, I wouldn't do that! We'd better be gettin' back to the restaurant, before someone sees that cute little lady of yours sittin' alone and decides to make a play for her! Heck, even my son Lenny might take a shine to her if he shows up!"
We both laughed, but I put the cigarette away, and with a shake of my head, admitted, "Yeah, good idea. I certainly don't want that! In fact," I drunkenly added, "I actually think I'm starting to fall in love with that woman!"
Art gave me a very strange look. "Now, that's an odd thing for you to say."
I was about to ask him why he thought it was odd, but stopped when my booze-addled brain provided me with the answer.
It's odd because she's supposed to be your wife, you idiot!