On the Road with a Motorcycle Gang and a Dancing Girl.

The neon lights of Memphis after dark.
The neon lights of Memphis after dark.

Several Years ago, I discovered that a long, winding bus ride through the South was not unlike living inside a novel. Old characters get off and new characters get on every time the bus stops. This is the story of my trip from Dallas to Atlanta. Part 6.

***

            In the corner of the Memphis bus depot – away from the crowd – sprawls a big man with a black beard and a black leather jacket and a black patch that proudly proclaims: I’m 100 percent Gayhawk.

He would look more at home on a motorcycle.

His bike’s broke.

And Gayhawk is on his way to Chicago to pick up another engine.

He looks mean.

His smiled isn’t.

“We ain’t gangsters,” he tells me. “Why, back in Mississippi we even have Easter parties for the kiddies, and at Christmas we take gifts out to the elderly.”

“What do they call you?” I ask.

He grins.

“Trouble Man,” he says.

“You get in much trouble?”

“Sometimes I get into confusion with people,” he says.

He’s calm.

He’s relaxed.

I feel braver than I did.

“Gayhawk is an unusual name for a motorcycle gang,” remark.

I hope his fists are as calm as his face.

He shrugs.

“People saw a bunch of guys always out riding together and got to thinking we was funny,” the biker says, “so we just changed our name to Gayhawk. They may still think we’re funny, but none of them laugh.”

“Are there any girls in the club?”

“There used to be.”

“What happened to them.”

Gayhawk sighs and shakes his head.

He knows the truth.

Truth hurts.

His eyes soften.

“They’re all home taking care of the babies,” he says.

The bus leaves Memphis and midnight behind.

The puffy lady glances at her watch and places a tired around around the little doll lying there amongst the paper dolls.

The four=year-old is singing himself to sleep.

The curly-haired stranger escorts the shy blonde to an empty seat at the back of the bus where there is nothing to disturb them except the occasional flushing of the toilet.

Apparently the bio-rhythm checked out all right for both of them.

She’s kind of pleased that he wants to harass her.

And he, God forbid, wants to do even worse.

A dancing girl in a tight sweater – her alabaster skin unblemished by the sun – falls into her seat and quietly watches the screaming yellow and blue neon slide by outside her window.

Her black hair falls below her shoulders.

It is straight.

And her face is pale in the light of the moon.

She is tall with long legs.

A beauty mark highlights her high cheekbones.

It was made by a brush.

The neon is throbbing outside on streets that never grow dark beside a cluster of buildings that never close.

Their doors may be locked.

They aren’t closed.

Within those honky tonks – she told her mother they were clubs – she had sought her fame and fortune, finding neither, but growing up and growing bitter and growing tired of the dream.

It faded.

Then busted.

She hadn’t dreamed in a while.

She was a dancer.

They wanted burlesque.

“I was offered two hundred dollars a day,’ she says, “and they paid a hundred more if I went topless.”

“What did you do?”

“I left.”

“Why?”

“I’m a dancer,” she says. “They weren’t interested in my dancing.”

She was just a country girl from South Georgia.

She was looking for the big time.

So were they.

The bigger, the better.

They wanted to judge her talent with a tape measure.

She could have done well.

Her dancing shoes are lying in her lap.

Somewhere on the road to Corinth, Mississippi, she opens the window and throws them out into the night.

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